Review: We Don’t Swim Here by Vincent Tirado

We Don't Swim HereWe Don’t Swim Here by Vincent Tirado
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of reading Vincent Tirado’s 2022-YA Horror debut, Burn Down, Rise Up.

First, let me say, if you are a YA Horror fan who enjoys stories involving urban legends, settings with a dark history, as well as a deep sense of place in the storytelling, you really should pick that one up.

I had a lot of fun with it and was instantly drawn in by Tirado’s creativity and writing style. I loved how quickly the action kicked off, no wasted time whatsoever.

Additionally, there was some fantastic horror imagery within that story that really got under my skin. Not too long after completing that book, I heard some buzz for Tirado’s latest release, We Don’t Swim Here.

I immediately made it my mission to get my hands on it.

I was so blessed to receive an early copy of the audiobook from Tantor Audio…

And I’m not even lying to you, when I say I listened to it twice this weekend. Explanation as to why I listened twice: I was on a long solo road trip and had a lot of steering wheel time and it was that good.

The narration of the audiobook is FANTASTIC. I absolutely recommend it as a format. The narrator, iiKane, was able to channel a overriding sense of urgency to the entire story. It had my pulse racing, even when nothing overtly scary was happening.

This story follows two cousins, Bronwyn and Anais. Their grandmother, LaLa, is in ill health and because of that, Bronwyn’s father, moves their family to the small Arkansas town, Hillwoods, where he grew up and into LaLa’s house, while she is in hospital.

Anais calls Hillwoods home. Her Dad and Bronwyn’s Dad are brothers, but because their two fathers have a strained relationship, Bronwyn and Anais, don’t know each other all that well, even though they’re cousins.

Bronwyn takes the move pretty well. She’s a good girl. Her biggest disappointment is that she was a really successful swimmer at her old school, and this school doesn’t have a swim team. In fact, in seems like there is no place to swim in the entire town.

While that’s a major bummer, as soon as she starts school, Bronwyn is more distracted by how weird everyone is acting to care too much about the whole swimming thing.

One overly-enthusiastic girl befriends her and seems to be hovering around like an annoying fly every time Bronwyn turns around. Additionally, other classmates are super strange and elusive. It’s like they’re all hiding something from her; some giant collective secret.

This story is fast-paced and it involves a lot. That’s why I didn’t mind listening to it two times in a row. I was sure there were little things I might have missed the first time through, in my haste to get to the bottom of what was happening in Hillwoods.

Overall, this is a solid read. It’s quite trope-filled, but honestly, for YA Horror, that’s what I’m here for. It did have some of my favorite things too.

There was a lot of local lore, missing outsiders, odd acting locals, the new girl, a found diary, a nosy reporter digging into the past and an older character guiding the younger ones, whilst also providing a bit of levity.

Mystery, intrigue, dark imagery, a spooky town, it has it all. It felt like a mix of the 90s movie, The Faculty, with Hex by Thomas Olde Heuvelt + diversity. It’s so freaking mysterious. I had no clue what was going on in the beginning and it had me disturbed.

My slight criticism is that it almost did too much. I could have delved more into certain areas, while leaving other areas out, if that makes sense. Digging deeper into certain aspects could have made it feel more tied up at the end; more focused.

This is just my opinion though and at the end of the day, I know nothing of writing and certainly could never have created what Tirado did here. Also, I read it twice and gave it four stars, so clearly, I still really enjoyed it.

For a sophomore novel, this showed growth and I’m super stoked that Tirado stayed in this lane. I’m so glad to have a new voice in the YA Horror space that I can obsess over.

Thank you to the publisher, Tantor Audio, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I definitely recommend this one, as well as Tirado’s debut.

Also, if you have enjoyed Tiffany D. Jackson’s Horror novels, I think you’ll enjoy this as well. The synopsis definitely got that comp right.

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Review: The Lake House by Sarah Beth Durst

The Lake HouseThe Lake House by Sarah Beth Durst
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Lake House follows three girls who have just embarked on a summer adventure they’ll never forget.

Our main character is Claire. She’s excited to be going to the Lake House, an off-grid summer camp, but it’s definitely outside of her comfort zone.

On the boat ride to the remote location in Maine, Claire meets two other girls attending the camp, Reyva and Mariana. In fact, they’re the only campers on the boat. Although they’re quite different, they hit it off right away.

They get dropped at the dock and their escort, Jack, says his goodbyes. As he takes off, the girls realize this is it. He was their only connection with the outside world and he won’t be back for a long time.

This is it. It’s really happening. Their off-grid, roughing it, summer vacation has officially begun.

At this point, you may be wondering why these girls would sign themselves up for this? As it turns out, all of their parents were once campers at the Lake House and all highly recommended the experience.

Even though their motivations differ, each one of the girls has their own reasons for wanting to participate in the challenging summer excursion. You’ll hear a lot about those things over the course of the story. Be prepared.

As they make their way down the trail to the Lake House, all they discover is a burned out shell where the building once stood. Ashes all around, they find no one and worse, have none of the expected supplies that would aide in their outdoor survival.

After they find a dead body in the woods, they realize this was no accident. With no means of communicating with the outside world, and danger lurking around every corner, the girls will now learn the true meaning of survival.

Before I get into my thoughts on this story, can we all just take a moment and bow down at the alter that is this cover.

She is such a beauty; my favorite aesthetic. It’s giving me strong, dark 70s-Horror vibes and I am eating it up. I love the muted colors and haunting imagery. Honestly, I would hang this is as an art print above my bed, where I could behold its stunning glory daily.

Moving on though, we probably should get into my final thoughts.

I liked this. It’s good, but sadly, I was expecting more. I know a lot of people will love this. I wish I was one of them, but from the start, the set-up seemed off to me. It didn’t quite make sense. I had questions.

Around the 30%-point was my peak interest moment. There was some intrigue, after the girls find out their shelter has burned to the ground and they begin to really investigate their surroundings for the first time.

For a moment, it was channeling the same vibes I got in the early episodes of LOST. There was a lot of mystery and I was desperate to find out what was going on.

Unfortunately, for me though, while I wanted to dig more into that feeling, I kept getting distracted by the dialogue between the girls and the inner musings of Claire. I felt like I was a fly on the wall of a therapy session versus in the midst of a survival story.

There were a couple of interesting twists and I did appreciate the idea behind the Horror element, but for me there were holes that never got fully explored and as mentioned above, I kept getting kicked out of the story by the eye-roll inducing dialogue amongst the girls.

I know the above makes me sound bitter and maybe I am a little, because I was looking forward to this so much. I do want to be clear though, this is a good book. It’s a quick read and engaging overall.

I was just expecting a different, darker tone and wasn’t really psyched about what I ultimately got from this. Additionally, I may have enjoyed it more if I knew less about Maine, camping, or camping in Maine…

With this being said, just because it wasn’t a great fit for me, doesn’t mean it won’t be for you. If you are intrigued by the synopsis, you should absolutely give it a shot.

There’s a Reader for every book and book for every Reader. Please don’t let my slightly sour opinion sway you either way. I would love for you to come back and tell me why I’m wrong. I really want this to work for everyone else!

Thank you to the publisher, HarperTeen, for providing me with a copy to read and review. While this wasn’t a perfect match for my tastes, I really appreciate the opportunity to provide my opinion.

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Review: Four Found Dead by Natalie D. Richards

Four Found DeadFour Found Dead by Natalie D. Richards
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In Sandusky, Ohio, the once thriving three-story shopping mall is closed. Only the attached movie theater, Tempest Theaters, is still in operation, or was.

At the start of Four Found Dead, Tempest Theaters has just shown its final movies. It’s the last night of operation before it will join the rest of the mall in closing forever.

Jo and her six colleagues have locked the doors and their final clean-up at the theater has begun. It’s bittersweet, but the friends are looking forward to going out and grabbing pancakes together after they leave.

Unfortunately, an unexpected altercation, involving their super-buff, jerk of a manager, Clayton, ends up putting their pancake plans on hold. They just want to get the heck out of there, but Clayton is spiraling and he’s not letting them out.

They’re literally unable to leave, as Clayton is the only one with the keys to the exit doors. After they finish their tasks, they quietly try to figure out what is going on with him. Maybe he has finally lost it? He seems dangerous.

Oh, also, the icing on the cake, Clayton’s no phones on shift rule, allows him to lock-up all of their phones in the office safe at the start of the night and he isn’t opening it now. Thus, the friends have no means of communicating with anyone outside of the theater.

As the tension and anxiety continues to rise, the power goes out. They are left in almost complete darkness. Then the screams begin.

One dead body in the employee locker room starts it all. It’s clear it wasn’t an accident.

The girl whose blood-curdling shrieks brought the others to the locker room to make the grisly discovery, is barely coherent. They can’t get anything out of her, but they all know who did this…

The remaining coworkers, Jo, Hudson, Quincy, Naomi and Summer, need to find a way to escape. Clayton is lurking in the dark. Their only possible way out just might be through the boarded up, abandoned shopping mall.

I started this book on Sunday morning and finished it Monday. I could not put it down. I considered calling in sick to work, LOL. I haven’t devoured a story like that in a while. It’s such a compulsive read.

I loved the setting of the theater and abandoned mall. It was easy to picture every single scene in my mind. The lack of power, boarded up doors and stores made in particularly eerie. I felt like Richards did a great job portraying that.

Personally, I think this would make a fun movie. I would love to see a Netflix or Hulu adaptation. There’s certainly plenty of abandoned malls around for them to film at…

I also really enjoyed the pace. The tension continued to build throughout as the characters became more and more desperate for escape.

Jo was an interesting main character, as we learned a bit about her past, which included another traumatic and terrifying event that truly shaped who she had become as a person. There was a lot for her to prove to herself in the current circumstance.

The entire drama has a real survive the night feel and while it isn’t mysterious per se, I definitely second-guessed some things and some character motivations.

What this is though, is definitely a high-stakes, action-packed, drama-fueled Thriller. I found it entertaining as heck and am so glad I had the chance to read it already.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Sourcebooks Fire, for providing me with a copy to read and review. This is the exact kind of story I have been craving lately!

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Review: I Know What You Did Last Summer by Lois Duncan

I Know What You Did Last SummerI Know What You Did Last Summer by Lois Duncan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another nostalgic read from one of the pioneers in YA Thrillers, Lois Duncan!!

Originally published in 1973, Lois Duncan’s I Know What You Did Last Summer paved the way for all the YA Thrillers that have come after.

Most of us are familiar with the 1997-film adaptation starring Jennifer Love Hewitt and Sarah Michelle Gellar. Honestly, that was one of my go-to movies in the 90s and 2000s, yet I didn’t even know it was adapted from a book until a few years ago.

I bought a copy and have been meaning to read it forever…

Recently, I listened to the audiobook for another of Duncan’s novels, Killing Mr. Griffin, and I had so much fun with it. It was quick, nostalgic and drama-filled. I knew when I was done with that, it was finally time for me to read this one.

I decided to listen to the audiobook in this case as well. It was read by the same narrator and I liked his style.

After reading this, I gotta say, they did a great job with the adaptation. It closely followed the source material, yet with the right amount of modern twists, to make it believable and fun. I’m in love with the casting, perfection.

I am so happy that I finally took the time to read this one. I’m super into nostalgic reads right now, particularly those of the Horror and Thriller variety, so this was exactly what I was looking for.

If you are a fan of the movie, I definitely recommend you check this one out!!

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Review: Tell Me What Really Happened by Chelsea Sedoti

Tell Me What Really HappenedTell Me What Really Happened by Chelsea Sedoti
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Five friends go into the woods, only four make it out alive. You may think you know this story, but I assure you, you’ve never heard it told like this!

In this story we’re following five high school friends, Nolan, Petra, Maylee, John and Abigail. It’s a sort of Breakfast Clubby set-up, with each character falling into a particular stereotypical role.

Maylee is the Queen Bee of the group, a wannabe influencer, snapping shots of herself whenever and wherever she can. It’s her idea to go on this ill-fated camping trip.

Petra is Maylee’s best friend, a smart girl, who tells it like it is. She’s the only person who doesn’t bow down to Maylee. Petra loves her, but she’s not going to be steamrolled by her.

The other campers include Nolan, Petra’s step-brother, an outcast with a penchant for cryptid lore, who always manages to say the wrong thing; Abigail, the poor girl-next-door, who isn’t really part of the group, and John, Maylee’s boyfriend, the jock with a heart of gold.

The trip begins with stress and ends very much the same way, x10. They’re at each other’s throats from the start and it’s clear that something is going to go wrong.

The shining star of this book is hands-down the format. Told strictly through police interviews, I was blown away by how much tension Sedoti was able to create with that.

Each chapter begins as a question asked by the investigators. The subsequent meat of the chapter is the various players answering that question.

Most interesting to me was how that initial question, at the header of each chapter, is the only question revealed, but you can feel the characters filling in subsequent questions.

I’m not quite sure how else to describe it. It’s definitely something you need to experience for yourself. I was super impressed with how clever this was.

Sedoti not only set the entire stage, but filled it in just by flawlessly placing answers to a few questions. It had to be perfectly arranged in order for it to flow well and make sense. I think she did a phenomenal job with that.

Overall, I found this to be a very fun read. It was grand how this unique format could create such a super quick and tense read. The characters drew me in. They felt believable and genuine in their distress.

It’s not a groundbreaking story as far as the plot goes. Sadly, I even sort of felt like the conclusion was a bit anti-climatic in comparison with the build-up. Nevertheless, this was still a very engaging reading experience and I would definitely recommend it to fans of YA Thrillers.

Thank you so much to the publisher, SOURCEBOOKS Fire, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I was impressed with this and look forward to picking up more from this author!

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Review: Killing Mr. Griffin by Lois Duncan

Killing Mr. GriffinKilling Mr. Griffin by Lois Duncan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Killing Mr. Griffin is an absolute classic Teen Thriller. I actually read this years ago, like in the 80s, but everything is a little hazy from the 80s.

I’m happy for the reread. This was fun!

Recently, while reviewing a list of books published in the year I was born, ((cough)) 1978 ((cough)), I stumbled across this one and it jogged some memories.

Lois Duncan books were a staple of my childhood, along with author’s such as Christopher Pike and R.L. Stine. Although I have read a lot of these author’s works, I would be hard-pressed to recall any details. It’s been a minute.

This one got me thinking, what would it be like to read one of these books again. Would I still have fun with it? Would I be able to recall more details once it got going? Would it stand the test of time?

Yes, a little bit and for the most part, yes!

This story follows a group of high school kids, David, Susie, Jeff, Betsey and Mark, who are having some issues with their English teacher, Mr. Griffin.

Mr. Griffin is notoriously tough and as they see it, unfair. After a particularly rough morning in his class, the kids come up with a bold plan to get back at him.

They want to kidnap him and give him a real scare. They feel like if they can scare him enough and convince him they’re doing it because he is a bad teacher, maybe he will change his ways and their grades.

Unsurprisingly, it doesn’t go quite as they expected and the kids end up in over their heads. With the resident pyschopath leading the charge, things spiral quickly.

It seems like an over-the-top premise, but is it really? As you read, you begin to see how teens could make such bad choices, especially when being pushed into it. It does happen. In fact, crazier things happen.

I think for the most part, this story stands up. The writing is a little less complex than you find today and the story itself, more linear and simple, but it was still a fun time.

For this version of the audiobook, they did add some modern touches, such as cell phones and google, which took me by surprise. I wasn’t aware of that going in and was expecting the story to be set around when it was published.

I actually wish they hadn’t changed it. It seemed really obvious to me, but maybe if I hadn’t know when this was originally published, I wouldn’t have noticed.

Another thing that struck me, which I am not sure I would have thought about the first time around, was what a good and caring teacher Mr. Griffin was. It actually made me sad.

Reading this as an Adult, his perspective made total sense to me. I would have hated what they did to him at any age, I abhor bullying of any type, but I could really understand his choices and motivations this time through.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading this again. I’m actually planning to reread another Duncan book, I Know What You Did Last Summer, very soon. I am hoping to enjoy that one just as much.

Who knows, 2023 could be the year I reread all my childhood favorites…I’m looking at you, ‘Salem’s Lot. This could be an exciting endeavor!

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Review: Five Survive by Holly Jackson

Five SurviveFive Survive by Holly Jackson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

Five Survive is the latest release from beloved author, Holly Jackson, well known for her hugely-successful A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder series.

While Five Survive has a completely different feel than AGGG, it still showcases Jackson’s fluid and engaging writing style. This story is a YA-Action Thriller that takes place over the course of a single night.

It’s Spring Break and 18-year old, Red, and her five friends, Maddy, Oliver, Reyna, Arthur and Simon, are traveling from Pennsylvania to the Gulf Coast of Florida in an RV.

You can tell from the start that Red is recovering from a trauma that has happened in her life. Since she can’t afford to fly anywhere for break, her best friend, Maddy, actually suggests the RV trip. Good-naturedly, everyone else agrees.

It will be fun. It’ll be a real adventure.

And you know, it does start out that way. People are in good spirits. They’re excited for the trip to get underway, but then they get lost.

It sucks getting lost in a 31-foot vehicle. It’s not always easy to navigate smaller roads, let alone turn around. When your tires are shot out, it gets especially challenging.

That’s right. There’s a sniper out there lurking in the dark and they have their sights set on our six friends, who are now trapped in their disabled vehicle. There’s no cell service. They’re far from help. What can they do?

Once they begin communicating with the individual holding them hostage, it becomes clear, this person knows them. How did they end up here? Was this entire thing planned? This can’t be a coincidence.

Things become chaotic. The mood is panic, as you would expect. The sniper claims one of them has a secret that can save them all, but who!?

As the tension climbs, the people inside the RV begin turning on each other. Will they all be able to make it out of this alive, or will only five survive?

I liked this one. I really had no expectations going in, Action stories can be hit or miss for me. I personally felt this was a compelling, though very-OTT, Action Thriller.

I seem to be stumbling across quite a few of these lately and this one was pretty fun in comparison to some others. At times I was rolling my eyes, but at other times I was absolutely glued to the pages.

The audiobook was super solid. It kept me going, wanting to know the answers. There were a lot of reveals I wasn’t expecting and some super unlikable characters, which are always fun for me.

Yeah, I don’t know. I don’t know how long this one will reside in my brain, but it was a good time. A solid weekend read. Super quick, highly improbable circumstances, but engaging nonetheless.

I definitely recommend this to YA Readers who enjoy tense, claustrophobic Action Thrillers. I will certainly continue to pick up anything Holly Jackson writes!

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Review: She Is a Haunting by Trang Thahn Tran

She Is a HauntingShe Is a Haunting by Trang Thanh Tran
My rating: 3 of 5 stars


She Is a Haunting is a YA-story following a girl named, Jade Nguyen, and her experiences at her father’s haunted house in a remote area of Vietnam.

Jade, who lives with her Mom and siblings in the United States, is getting ready to start college and is concerned about money. School is expensive and she can’t ask her Mom, who has sacrificed so much for them and works so hard, to contribute any more.

Thus, Jade is in a bit of a pickle. Her estranged father, who abandoned them and moved back to Vietnam, has the money. He offers it to her on the condition that she and her little sister, Lily, go and live with him for the summer.

The thing is, Jade is really angry at her Dad, like really, really angry. After he walked out on them, they never dealt with that trauma. They don’t even talk about. It’s sort of pushed under the rug, the reality of it all.

Unfortunately, Jade feels like she has no other option. She can make this work. It’s like 5-weeks. She can suffer through anything for that amount of time, or can she?

Along for the journey with Jade and Lily are their Mom and younger brother. Their Mom and younger brother are going to be staying with their Mom’s family in a different city though, so it will just be Jade and Lily forced to stay at their Dad’s place.

His home is actually a French-style villa left over from the colonial era that he is currently converting into a B&B. The renovation is going strong when they arrive and their Dad actually expects their help.

Jade’s assigned task is to get a sleek and modern website up and running for info and reservations. As you can imagine, she’s thrilled to be doing her father’s bidding.

Helping her with the site, is the daughter of one of her Dad’s business partners, a local girl named, Florence, who Jade is immediately intrigued by. Maybe this won’t be so bad.

Then the weirdness kicks in. Strange happenings at the house, visions, dreams, sounds, sleep paralysis; Jade is convinced the house is haunted, but no one believes her. Perhaps with a little help from Florence, they can make them believe.

This is an intriguing story and I did enjoy Trang Thanh Tran’s writing style. Jade was an interesting character. She is very angry, so being in her head isn’t always a comfy, relaxing place to be, but she’s certainly allowed her feelings.

I respected the author allowing her to sort of live in the negative spaces in her mind, without trying to cure her of anything. She’s been through things, she’s allowed to hold that grudge, particularly against her estranged father.

I enjoyed the set-up, the reason for Jade traveling to Vietnam and the reason she needed to stay there. Additionally, some of the imagery, including descriptions of body horror, bug scenes and sleep paralysis were really well done, quite creepy.

However, I did grow a little bored with it. It was just so slow. I don’t mind a slow burn, and I would definitely classify this as one, however the payoff needs to be worth it.

Personally, I felt the ending of this got a little too chaotic and slightly confusing for me to necessarily consider the slow burn worth it.

I did enjoy and appreciate a lot of the topics examined here, including the different relationships Jade had with her family members, the impact and repercussions of colonialism, Jade’s family history and sexuality.

The brightest lights for me was the love and respect that Jade had for her Mom, as well as the investigation Jade started into the history of the house.

Overall, I do think this is a compelling, though slow paced, haunted house story. I did enjoy my time with it, even though it tended to drag in certain places. I appreciate the author’s attention to detail, creativity and spooky imagery.

Thank you to the publisher, Bloomsbury YA, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I would absolutely be interested in picking up future work from Trang Thanh Tran!

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Review: Delicious Monsters by Liselle Sambury

Delicious MonstersDelicious Monsters by Liselle Sambury
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

She’s stretched her legs. She’s tied her sneakers and she is off, in the running for my favorite book of 2023!!!

Although there’s a long road ahead, I know Delicious Monsters has serious staying power. This was a darkly delicious story, which now lives rent free in my brain.

This story follows two young women, Daisy and Brittany, 10-years apart. Daisy comes first and I would say she is decidedly the star of this show.

Brittany is a host and co-creator of a popular web series, Haunted, who is interested in featuring a property owned by Daisy’s family on her show. Brittany would win the award for ‘best supporting actress’.

When the story begins, Daisy and her Mom, Grace, are living together in a small apartment in Toronto. Daisy has recently been dumped by her boyfriend and she’s admittedly struggling with moving past that.

It seems almost too good to be true then, when just when they need it most, Daisy’s Uncle passes away and leaves the family mansion to Daisy’s Mom, Grace. After a brief discussion, the two decide to pack up everything and move. Bye-bye city, hello, wide open spaces.

Set in a remote location, that’s extremely challenging to get to, the property is steeped in mystery. Grace refuses to enter the mansion, so the two actually take up residence in a bunkie, a smaller home on the property.

The goal though is to run the big house as a B&B, and Grace sets out to accomplish that right away. Daisy helps out, explores the property and even makes a couple new, intriguing friends.

As they settle in though, Daisy begins having disturbing experiences that make her question the history of the property and her mother’s story regarding it all.

Brittany’s sections are interspersed amongst the Daisy sections. It’s a mystery precisely why she is so interested in the property, like what exactly happened there, but you know it’s not good.

As things escalate with Daisy’s timeline, it feels like it is leading towards a violent end. From there you watch as the two timelines merge and all is ultimately revealed.

Delicious Monsters is a wild freaking ride. I was buckled in for it all and absolutely adored it start-to-finish.

Immediately, I was struck by how fantastic Sambury’s writing is. I knew this going in, but it’s been a while, so I guess I had forgotten a bit.

Let me tell you about it. Sambury’s writing is fluid as heck. It’s beautiful without being so flowery that it loses all semblance of a coherent narrative. It’s emotional, it’s dark and it doesn’t shy away from examining difficult topics.

The character development is excellent. Daisy, in particular, is so compelling. You’re in her head a lot and it’s not necessarily a comfortable place to be, but you grow to love her and have such empathy for her journey.

Additionally, there is great mystery to this story, as well as some truly haunting imagery. As you race towards the conclusion, things, I believe intentionally, start to get a little addled. You won’t be sure what’s up, what’s down, what’s real and what’s not. It was intense and a real page turner.

This was such a fun reading experience for me. It’s one of those books where I wish I could go back and read it again for the first time. It’s that good. It’s stunning, crushing, hope-inducing and toe-curling. It’s everything.

I would absolutely recommend this to anyone who enjoys Horror, YA Horror, Haunted House stories, or Dark Fiction in general. There are quite a few sensitive topics explored though, so I urge you to seek out the author’s review, as she includes a full list of content warnings.

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

I have been anticipating this book since July of 2021, when I first heard of the initial concept. It did not disappoint in the slightest. This is a phenomenal story!

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Review: Burn Down, Rise Up by Vincent Tirado

Burn Down, Rise UpBurn Down, Rise Up by Vincent Tirado
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I recently learned about this novel via a Book Riot article on the 13 Best “Good For Her” Horror books.

Click here if you would like to see the full list:

Good For Her Horror Recs

I knew right away from the blurb that I was interested. After reading the full synopsis and a couple of reviews here on Goodreads, I couldn’t wait.

I found the audiobook through my library and immediately downloaded it. I love a sudden mood read like that and this one paid off big time. Not only did I really enjoy this, but I’ve found a new author to follow.

This story starts out with an absolute bang and before I forget, the audiobook, I absolutely recommend it. Okay, so yeah, the beginning. You’re following a boy who has had something happen to him. You aren’t sure what, but you can tell he is sick, scared and seeking medical attention.

He enters a hospital and finally gets some help, but things do not end well. He takes off and subsequently disappears.

Our MC, Raquel, her Mom works at that hospital and is on duty at the time the boy comes in. Unfortunately, after her interaction with him, she’s infected too and falls into a coma. With her Mom fighting for her life, Raquel has to stay with her Dad at his place.

As if this isn’t stressful enough, the Bronx, where Raquel lives has been plagued recently by disappearances that barely get noticed. Raquel has tried to ignore that, pretend it’s not even happening, but when her crush’s cousin goes missing, she suddenly has to pay attention.

In fact, Raquel promises her crush, Charlize, that she will help her try to find her cousin.

What the girls discover is chatter about a horrifying local legend called the Echo Game. It’s said that if you play the game it’s possible you can get trapped in a sinister world underneath the city.

They believe Charlize’s cousin may have played it and that the game is connected to his disappearance. With this in mind, there’s only one choice really. They need to play.

I had so much fun with this. From the very start, the scene at the hospital, I was hooked. I had to know what was happening. It was disturbing, which we love.

I really enjoyed the writing style. The writer’s imagination and ability to create some truly startling horror imagery were on full display within this work. It was getting under my skin and left me wanting more.

Burn Down, Rise Up felt like a Love Letter to the Bronx disguised as a Horror story. I feel like it’s really special in that way. It actually made me want to go out and research the history of that area.

This concept is actually something I really love in my dark fiction. More specifically, I always enjoy when the history of a place influences the Horror elements of a story. It’s like the place holds onto trauma, whether it be collective or singular, and then channels that into the present events.

I thought that was done so well here. Additionally, I enjoyed going along with Raquel as she fought so hard not only her family and friends, but for her community as a whole.

Overall, I am so happy that I picked up this book. I was really impressed by it and cannot wait to read more from Vincent Tirado. If this book is any indication, I am going to love them all!

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