Review: None Shall Sleep by Ellie Marney

None Shall SleepNone Shall Sleep by Ellie Marney
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Emma Lewis is a rare survivor of a serial killer. She was actually held hostage by him for days prior to her escape.

Travis Bell is a U.S. Marshall candidate, whose father lost his life in the line of duty at the hands of a serial killer.

In addition to these odd circumstances, they are also both extremely intelligent. It’s because of all of this, the FBI decides to recruit Emma and Bell to interview juvenile killers and provide insight on cold cases.

The theory is that teen killers will be more willing to open up to other teens, as opposed to stiff old, fuddy-duddy FBI agents.

Both Bell and Emma agree to the assignment within the Behavioral Sciences Unit and move into the dorms at Quantico. They begin training with other recruits and start their teen killer interviews.

The first interview ends up going better than expected. The killer does seem to be more receptive to them and opens up about his crimes and motivations.

Concurrently, the BSU is working on an active, high-profile serial killer case where all of the victims are teenagers.

Trying to get to the bottom of this case, and catch the killer before another teen is killed, the BSU decides to turn to infamous teen killer, Simon Gutmunsson, for help.

Emma ends up interviewing Simon alone and this is where the strong The Silence of the Lambs vibes begin.

Emma and Simon’s relationship is very Clarice and Hannibal. The more they talk, the more Simon is able to draw out of Emma. Details she should not be confessing to him under any circumstances.

Simon is a masterful manipulator, who could strike with zero provocation.

Simon is revealing a lot to Emma as well and it begins to seem that he has a connection to the current case, but how?

This story was super intriguing from the very first chapter. Emma and Bell were both great characters to get to know.

Because of their history of trauma, they were both working through the effects of that; deciding how they wanted their lives to go. Channeling their pain into potential good for others, instead of letting it hold them back.

They hit it off right away and bonded quickly. I thought that made sense. They were the only people in that position, going through the same things. They had no one else.

Watching their relationship evolve over the course of the book seemed so natural. I am attached to them now and genuinely hope this is not the last we see of their characters.

I also loved all the scenes with Simon. He was chilling, much like Hannibal Lecter before him. The audiobook had incredibly creepy narration for his portions, so highly recommend that.

The cat-and-mouse interactions between Simon and Emma were so well-written. Additionally, Simon has a family member who plays a role in this story and their relationship was equally disturbing.

Overall, I thought this was an exceptionally tense and well-plotted YA Thriller.

Highly recommend to anyone who enjoys shows like Criminal Minds, or Mindhunter, as well as The Silence of the Lambs!!

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Review: For Better or Cursed by Kate Williams

For Better or Cursed (The Babysitters Coven, #2)For Better or Cursed by Kate Williams
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

For Better or Cursed is the second installment to Kate Williams, The Babysitters Coven trilogy. These comedic teen stories channel heavy Buffy vibes, with a dash of Adventures in Babysitting.

Witchy besties, Esme and Cassandra, are back and beginning to settle into their new lives as full-blown Sitters. They’re back at school, babysitting and continuing to learn under Coach Brian’s tutelage.

After their battles in the first book, Cassandra seems to be suffering from some lasting side effects, so they’ve been trying to figure that out as well. She’s blacking out and doing incredibly bizarre things during these spells.

The girls think she may have been cursed, so clearly, that’s not good.

In addition to all of this, they receive news that the Synod, the Sisterhood’s governing body, has called a Summit and it’s going to be in their hometown.

In fact, Esme and Cassandra are responsible for planning the grand finale party for the weekend. They’re so not prepared for that. Luckily, Brian’s interior design skills and expert social event knowledge will definitely come in handy.

I loved the Summit. It was attended by witches from all over the world. The introduction of some new characters was a lot of fun to read. They all stayed at the same hotel and attended classes where they learned more about Sitting and the many threats they are facing.

I thought this was a great plot device to build-out the concepts of this world. Incidentally, the girls learning more about Sitting allowed the Reader to learn more right along with them.

As with the first book, I loved the humor in this. It’s silly, completely ridiculous and over the top, and because of this, a perfect escape from the world.

I laughed so many times. Esme’s perspective is dry and hilarious. The most insane things happen during the course of this story. There’s never a dull moment. The scenes in the hotel room trying to capture the chicken; I was in tears.

Overall, I think this series, despite its minor flaws, is highly entertaining. It’s not perfect, but if you enjoy spoofy types of humor, you could really enjoy this.

As an aside, I did listen to the audiobook of this and I thought the narrator’s delivery was so strong. She definitely added to the level of humor with her performance!

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

I will absolutely be picking up the third book when it releases later this year!

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The Project by Courtney Summers

The ProjectThe Project by Courtney Summers
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

After a terrible car accident, which killed both of her parents, Lo Denham lies close to death herself.

She’s young though and ultimately pulls through, but with lasting repercussions.

Lo’s older sister, Bea, abandons her after the accident, leaving Lo in the care of their Aunt.

Lo, understandably curious about why her sister would leave, only knows that Bea has joined a mysterious group called The Unity Project.

The Project has deeply embedded itself within a few towns in Upstate New York through extensive charitable works and community outreach.

Even with their good deeds enhancing their image in the eyes of some, many assume The Project is a cult, led by a charismatic leader, Lev Warren. Lo is one of those who believes something is not normal about the group.

Years later, when a good friend of her boss loses his son, Jeremy, to suicide, he blames The Project for driving him to his death. It turns out Jeremy had been a member and as such was purportedly kept from his family and friends.

Looking through photos of the man’s son, Lo stumbles upon one with Bea and Jeremy together. Lo has been desperate to be in contact with her sister again and vows to do whatever it takes to make that happen.

Lo works for a magazine, currently in an administrative position, but she dreams of being a writer. Getting the scoop on The Project could not only help her find her sister, but also help her to reach her goals.

She infiltrates and things progress from there.

The Project is a slow burn. Unfortunately for me, one that fizzled out rather than ignited.

The last quarter of the book started to intrigue me more, but prior to that I felt nothing for it; no passion, no intrigue, no curiosity, it was just sort of meh.

As always, Summers includes a lot of hard-hitting subject matter and that’s important.

I love her examination of difficult familial relationships. Lo, as a character, is really struggling to find her place and meaning for her life. Her need to reconnect with Bea is palpable. My heart did ache for her.

However, I did struggle with some of the back and forth between perspectives and timelines, as the narrative shifts from Lo to Bea at different times.

I would often forget whose perspective I was reading from, as I didn’t find them particularly distinct, as odd as that may sound.

Also, the timelines that it switched between were all fairly close together, for example 2012, 2017, 2018, and I am just not used to that type of format.

I think I am used to larger gaps in time, say for example from 2000 to 2020, but that is a me problem, not a book problem, however it did impede my enjoyment.

Since I was so highly anticipating this, I am left with a sense of disappointment. Even though it is a good book, there’s nothing wrong with it, for me it fell flat. I wanted it to go darker, the atmosphere to be more ominous, and I wanted more suspense.

With all this being said, there’s a Reader for every book, so please do not let my slightly unenthusiastic review stop you from picking this one up. If the synopsis intrigues you, absolutely pick it up and try for yourself!

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

I appreciate the opportunity!

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Review: The Ghost Tree by Christina Henry

The Ghost TreeThe Ghost Tree by Christina Henry
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars**

The town of Smith’s Hollow has suffered quite a few tragedies over the years. The eerie part is, no one seems to remember.

When two girls from out of town are found slayed in a backyard, literally cut to pieces, it does grab everyone’s attention. At least momentarily.

Lauren has grown up in Smith’s Hollow and now, just shy of her Freshman year in high school, she begins to sense something is severely wrong with their quiet town.

For one thing, her father was murdered in the woods just last year. His heart cut out of his body.

When she hears about the murdered girls, she doesn’t hold much hope for the police finding the culprit. They never solved her Dad’s murder.

Everyone just seemed to move on, but Lauren remembers and she wants to get to the bottom of it.

The thing I loved the most about this story was the atmosphere. The setting of Smith’s Hollow, that eerie small town vibe where you can instantly tell something is off.

Additionally, I found Lauren to be a likable character and the relationships within her family were interesting.

Since her father passed, her mother has been struggling and seems to take a lot of her frustrations out on Lauren. Nothing she ever does is right, her mom is always nagging at her.

Then there is Lauren’s little brother, Danny, who she loves dearly, but he’s a strange kid. He seems to know things he shouldn’t and he says the oddest things.

When Lauren begins to have visions as well, of a horrible monster and the murdered girls, she starts to investigate.

What is going on in Smith’s Hollow and what is her connection to it? Her first stop is her Grandmother’s house and boy, does she have a tale to tell!

There’s witches, there’s curses, there are sacrifices that need to be made.

Lauren sees it as her job to put an end to the madness. Along with a friendly policeman, a cute next-door neighbor and a roving reporter, Smith’s Hollow had better watch its back.

Throughout this story I was reminded of other stories. I felt Sawkill Girls, Strange Grace, The Devouring Gray and The Wicked Deep all rolled into one.

It was fun, I’m glad I read it. I love how Christina Henry’s mind works, but this isn’t my favorite of her books.

Lauren’s best friend, Miranda, drove me batty. I was hoping she would be the first victim, but unfortunately that didn’t happen.

Also, there were some subplots I wasn’t as interested in and I found those portions dragging for me. I think I could have enjoyed it a lot more if those had been shaved back a bit, including the racist neighbor.

Overall, this is a solid story. I would recommend it to readers who enjoy a dark atmosphere with some gruesome deaths steeped in mystery.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Berkley Publishing, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. I adore Christina Henry and will continue to pick up anything else she writes!

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Review: The Haunted by Danielle Vega

The Haunted (The Haunted, #1)The Haunted by Danielle Vega
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up **

Hendricks and her family move to Drearford to escape a dark chapter in her young life.

Her parents purchase a dilapidated old house to renovate and for her part, Hendricks is hoping to lay low and heal her scarred heart.

Unfortunately, Steel House, their new home, has other things in mind.

Unbeknownst to them, they have inadvertently moved into the most infamous house in Drearford, with a frighteningly violent history.

While at school, Hendricks is quickly accepted into the popular crowd, even catching the eye of a local heartthrob, at home she is harassed and terrified.

It doesn’t take long for the house, and the spirits trapped there, to express their deep-seeded need for vengeance.

This is a classic haunted house story, with a well-executed Teen Scream element.

I enjoyed Hendricks as a character, as well as her new friends. They were all fun to get to know, especially Eddie, but we’ll get to him later.

I was pleasantly surprised, and impressed, by the imagery of the horror elements. I was seeing everything Hendricks was seeing and I’ll tell you, some of it really creeped me out.

Even though it seems initially that the major site of the paranormal activity is located in the cellar, eventually it permeates through the entire house. Nowhere Hendricks goes is safe. I was genuinely afraid along with her.

Hendricks knows she has to get to the bottom of the haunting, or else risk the lives of everyone in her family.

Along with her brooding neighbor, Eddie, who has his own dark ties to Steel House, the two band together to try to exorcise it of its demons.

It all builds up to an epic showdown that kept me glued to the pages.

There were a couple of details towards the end that I wish hadn’t been included. They sort of pushed it pass the line of solid paranormal into eyeroll territory.

With this being said, however, I did enjoy this enough that as soon as I finished it, I ordered the second book.

I need to know what happens to Hendricks next. I want so much more time with her character. Well played, Danielle Vega. Well played.

Original:

Synopsis:
YA’s answer to Stephen King…

That’s a fairly lofty statement, but I’ll bite.
Plus, my 80s-loving heart feels the vibe of this cover.

Let’s do this.

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Review: Burn Our Bodies Down by Rory Power

Burn Our Bodies DownBurn Our Bodies Down by Rory Power
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

I feel like one of the few people left in the YA book world who hasn’t read Wilder Girls.

I own it, of course. Have you seen the cover!? I have added it to many TBRs, but have yet to pick it up.

When I received an early copy of Rory Power’s sophomore novel, Burn Our Bodies Down, I was shocked and excited.

I couldn’t wait to pick it up and then, I just didn’t. Long story short, I am a horrible reviewer, but you read my reviews, you probably know that.

I finally decided to give this one a shot over my week-long Christmas vacation. I am kicking myself now because I really enjoyed this. Why didn’t I read it months ago!?

Burn Our Bodies Down is equal parts weird, disturbing, suspenseful and heartbreaking. Some of my favorite characteristics to find in a book.

The story follows teen, Margot, who has lived with just her mother her entire life. She knows of no other family and any time she presses her mother for info about their past, or where she came from, her mother loses it.

Her mom is extremely unstable and their relationship is quite contentious. Margot has never felt wanted, or loved, and lives her life walking on eggshells.

Just as Margot gets to the end of her rope, she discovers a clue. The only hint she has ever had in regards to her mother’s early life.

It’s a photograph, tucked into a family bible, signed by who she believes is her grandmother. In addition to a phone number, the photo also indicates a town name: Phalene.

She’s shocked. Phalene isn’t even that far away. She decides to go there, find her grandmother and finally get some answers.

Arriving in town, Margot meets a couple of local teens she tries to needle information out of. While she is with them, they receive news of a fire on her grandmother’s farm.

The kids rush to check out the scene and end up finding the fields in flames and a body.

Upon further inspection, they discover the body is a girl, about their age and she looks exactly like Margot.

Thus begins the head-scratching drama that surrounds Margot’s family’s farm.

I can’t even begin to tell you how confused and intrigued I was by what was going on in Phalene.

She meets her Grandmother, Vera, and stays with her, but continues to be brushed off when she tries to get definitive answers about her mother’s childhood, or where she came from.

Margot learns many things in her first few days in Phalene, including the existence of family members she never knew about, including her mother’s twin sister, Katherine. During her investigation, she also ends up making a couple of friends along the way.

There is a dark feeling of unease that spans this entire novel.

You know, deep in your heart, that something is very wrong in Phalene and Margot’s family is at the heart of it, but what!?

I would classify this as an Ecological Horror Novel, a genre I have been enjoying quite a bit lately.

I personally loved Power’s writing style, although I did think some of Margot’s musings eventually bordered on repetitive. With this being said, Power’s ability to write body horror is top-notch; that cannot be denied.

I would recommend this one to Horror readers, particularly if you read and enjoyed Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s, Mexian Gothic. I would say the two stories channel a lot of similar vibes.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Delacorte Press, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. I appreciate the opportunity to provide my opinion and will definitely be picking up Wilder Girls now!

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Review: I Am Still Alive by Kate Alice Marshall

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

**4.5-stars**

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I will absolutely be reading more from this author!

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Review: Even If We Break by Marieke Nijkamp

Even If We BreakEven If We Break by Marieke Nijkamp
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I don’t even know what to say. This book was a huge disappointment for me.

I knew going in, the reviews were not the greatest. Regardless of the super interesting synopsis, it seemed a lot of readers were not enjoying it.

Frequently, I find myself in the minority opinion on polarizing books, however, so I still wanted to give it a shot.

I love slightly cheesy, teen slashers, particularly with weekend getaways or gaming elements. This book sounded like it would be a great fit for my tastes.

We follow five friends, who I believe are in high school, who head off to a cabin in the Arizona mountains for a weekend getaway playing a RPG they created.

There are costumes, a murder mystery to solve and things go south fairly quickly. Before you know it, we have a real life murder mystery on our hands.

I would surmise that incorporating a high fantasy RPG into a narrative story would be a complicated task, and I think I’m right, because I found it confusing AF.

I was still sort of intrigued, but then it went off the rails.

The big baddie was super obvious, so no real suspense there and then the drama to reach the conclusion was ridiculous. I’m sorry, but it was.

There was also a lot of hard-hitting contemporary topics sprinkled throughout that seemed oddly out of place. It made the overall intent of this novel confusing.

There were some diverse characters in here, which I love to see, but in a way, it felt overplayed; like it was just an effort to get them in there for that sake alone.

I don’t know, it didn’t come off as genuine? Perhaps because they were portrayed so one dimensionally.

This is just my opinion, of course, and I would love to see OwnVoices reviews on this story.

If you are unaware, this novel features trans-rep, nonbinary-rep and disability-rep. I also would really like to see reviews from individuals who actually participate in RPG; I would love to hear people’s opinions on how that was represented here.

Without belaboring the point, I didn’t like this. If you pick it up and enjoy it, or even love it, I am so happy you had that experience with it.

Sadly, it just wasn’t the right fit for me. On to the next!

Original:

1. A Weekend Getaway.
2. A Game.
3. Deadly Secrets.

I will
never
skip a book with these buzzwords.

Sign me up!

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Review: Five Total Strangers by Natalie D. Richards

Five Total StrangersFive Total Strangers by Natalie D. Richards
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

Mira lives in California, while her mother lives in Pittsburgh. It’s Christmas and Mira wants nothing more than to be over on the other Coast with her Mom.

Last year, her Aunt, her Mom’s sister and closest friend, passed away. They both took it hard, but her Mom really struggled.

Mira is concerned about her mother’s mental health as she tries to cope with that loss around the holiday.

So, when her connecting flight from New York to Pittsburgh gets canceled due to inclement weather, Mira needs to find another way to get home to her.

Luckily, the girl she was sitting next to on the plane, Harper, is renting a car, along with three of her college friends, Brecken, Josh and Kayla.

There is room and they are heading in the same direction, so Harper offers Mira a ride. It would sure beat any of the other options, like sleeping at the airport.

Mira accepts, but she has her reservations. She doesn’t know these people at all.

As they hit the road, the weather gets progressively worse. They see a lot of accidents and even have a few close calls themselves. As you can imagine, the stress level in the car is ratcheting up.

They’re now at each other’s throats and it’s not pretty.

Anything that could possibly go wrong, does for this group. Conditions get to the point where they are barely able to drive at all.

They make a few pit stops and yep, you guessed it, those don’t go well either!

I had fun with this one, y’all. Richards did a great job or bringing your typical Teen Scream to the page.

The cast of characters played well off of one another and it definitely kept me guessing. There’s some uncertainty as to what people’s motives are and I enjoyed that element a lot.

The suspense continues to build throughout the story. Items start to disappear from the car and it feels threatening rather than accidental.

Although there were some plot holes, and I wasn’t sold on the ending, I did have fun with it. I think if you don’t take it too seriously, it’s quite an enjoyable read.

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

Blizzard Scares are some of my favorite scares, so I am definitely happy that I had the opportunity to read this one. It’s perfect for this time of year!!

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