Review: The Night of the Storm by Nishita Parekh

The Night of the StormThe Night of the Storm by Nishita Parekh
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

The Night of the Storm is a debut novel from Nishita Parekh. Honestly, I’ve been a little scared to pick it up, because of the mixed reviews. However, I’m very happy to report that I’m part of Team Really Enjoyed It.

Sure, I see flaws, but at the same time, it worked for me. I found it entertaining. I loved the set-up that left me feeling claustrophobic and unnerved. I love complicated family relationships, and this checked that box extremely well.

In this story, we’re following Jia Shah, an Indian American woman who has recently separated from her husband and moved herself, as well as their 12-year old son, Ishaan, from the family home in Chicago to Houston, Texas.

This is a big deal in her traditional Indian family, and she’s definitely received blow-back stemming from her choices. In spite of other’s disapproval however, Jia did what she knew to be right for her son and herself. She wasn’t willing to live the rest of her life in an unhappy marriage.

It hasn’t been easy though, especially for Ishaan, who she worries about constantly. In fact, Ishaan has newly been suspended from school after being in a fight.

With all this going on, the last thing Jia needs to worry about is a mandatory evacuation order from their apartment building, but with Hurricane Harvey bearing down on the city, that’s exactly what they get.

Luckily, Jia’s sister, Seema, who lives in an fancy house not far away in Sugar Land, has invited them to stay with her and her family to ride out the impending storm.

Jia and Ishaan make it to the house just in time, where they join Seema, her husband, their daughter, Seema’s mother-in-law, as well as her husband’s brother and his wife. It’s a lot of people, but it’s also a big house. They’ll be okay.

Unfortunately, you put that many people together in a house, with severe weather blazing outside and no means of escape, you’re bound to see the tensions rise. Just as things start heating up inside the house, someone ends up dead…

Was it an accident, or is there a murderer amongst them?

For me, and this is completely my unprofessional opinion, I feel like this is more a case of people going into this expecting one thing and then getting another and feeling disappointed, than this being just a 3.21-star book.

I’ve been there many times myself. I get it. When you’re expecting an intense Thriller and you don’t get the thrills, or even necessarily the intensity, your disappointed, and potentially leave an average, or lower, rating because of it.

I really enjoyed this, but I went into it without any real expectations. I feel like this is an engaging Domestic/Family Drama, with an underlying Mystery subplot.

The gem in this for me was getting to know Jia and following along with her tumultuous journey. The storm and being trapped in the house were great bonuses, as I love those elements in any story, but yeah, the real hero of this is Jia.

She’s a woman who has made a very difficult choice and who has had fallout from that. She lost her home and her friends. She’s had to uproot her life.

She’s second-guessing her choices, while getting judged by everyone around her. She’s trying to do what is best for her son, and her own mental health, all while navigating the not always kind outside world. I think everyone can relate to this in one way or another.

When we meet Jia, with the storm moving in, she’s almost at wits end. Being trapped in the house, with these particular people, pushes her even further to the edge.

I like complicated families and this story definitely delivers in that area. I loved the set-up of the storm creating a forced proximity situation and I do feel like Parekh did a great job of revealing all the underlining things going on.

The murder mystery was interesting as well. There were quite a few people acting suspicious, so I did like being with Jia as she tried to figure it out. The more it progressed, the more unsettling it became, leading up to the wild conclusion.

For a debut, I think this was very well done. I think Parekh should be proud of their work and I will definitely be picking up whatever she writes next. Do I think this book deserves a higher-rating? Absolutely.

Thank you to the publisher, Dutton, for providing me with a copy to read and review. We love supporting new authors in this house, and I can’t wait for more from this one!

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Review: Plot Twist (The Hollywood Series #2) by Erin La Rosa

Plot Twist (The Hollywood Series, #2)Plot Twist by Erin La Rosa
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

Sophie Lyon is a Romance author with a big problem: Writer’s Block. After the great success of her first book, Sophie is truly struggling to get her second completed by the Publisher’s deadline.

There’s so much pressure, and she just can’t think of a way to finish it. Out at a karaoke bar one night, blowing off some steam, Sophie has too much to drink and has a breakdown with the mic in hand, confessing she’s never been in love.

The unflattering moment is caught on camera and goes ridiculously viral. How can Sophie write Romance novels if she’s never been in love?! It makes her look like a big fraud.

In an effort to get out ahead of it, and save her reputation, Sophie comes up with a plan to confess the truth on TikTok. Then she will meet up with all of her exes and talk to them about why their relationship didn’t work out.

First of all, great content. Secondly, Sophie is hoping that something in this process will help to break her Writer’s Block, and bring her closer to finishing off her novel.

Dash Montrose is from a successful Hollywood family. He’s a former teen heartthrob, who has since distanced himself from the limelight.

Dash’s sister, Poppy, is Sophie’s best friend. Dash also happens to be Sophie’s landlord. When he learns what Sophie is attempting to do, he offers to help her with her social media presence, as TikTok is a platform he is well-versed in.

Of course, he doesn’t tell her the reason he knows that platform so well is because he is a successful anonymous online crafter…

In fact, Dash has a lot of things he hides from the world and his family. The biggest being his struggles with alcoholism and the fact that he has been sober for the last 18-months.

There’s a lot of pressure within his Hollywood royal family, and he just tries to steer clear of stirring up any scandal. He lives a quiet life now, a bit of a recluse, and Sophie’s energy is sure to shake that up.

Will Dash be able to handle helping with Sophie’s exes project, while keeping a firm grip on his new found sobriety? It’s definitely a risk.

Nevertheless, the two form an unlikely secret alliance. As they grow closer, feelings and attraction begin to come into play.

Plot Twist is a solid Romance story, which plays off a friends-with-benefits scenario. This is the 2nd-book in Erin La Rosa’s Hollywood series, but you do not need to read Book 1 in order to read this one.

These are companion novels and nothing will spoil Book 1 for you if you read this one first. The MC in this novel, Sophie, is the sister of the MC, Nina, from For Butter or Worse.

I do like Contemporary stories that follow fictional celebrities. I know not everyone is crazy about that, but I find their lives interesting. The different issues that arise when someone has a certain level of fame always feels engaging to me.

Therefore, the Hollywood setting of these novels attracts me. I also enjoyed that Sophie was a author who was struggling. Her career wasn’t painted with rose-colored glasses, and Dash’s wasn’t either.

This turned out to be heavier than I was expecting, so I would caution Readers, if you are looking for a light, fun read, this may not fit the bill for you. While it does have some fun, flirty elements, the issues, particularly that Dash is going through, are fairly heavily.

Alcoholism and struggles in recovery aren’t something to be taken lightly and feel like La Rosa does a good job of representing that here, as best as can be done in a Romance story. Because of the serious topics though, it does bring down the overall tone of the story.

If this makes sense. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with tackling serious topics in a Romance novel, I just want Readers to be aware prior to picking this up.

Firstly, for the triggers, and secondly, just to rein in expectations. The cover looks so light and fluffy, I feel like it could lead to a mischaracterization of what this is all about.

I did enjoy learning about both Sophie and Dash’s characters. Additionally, I liked them together, although it did feel a bit too instalove for me. I was very surprised at how quickly things escalated to a point where I felt like that had been communicating for 2-days and then were hopelessly smitten with one another.

I did enjoy this one a bit more than the first book, which is why I decided to round up my rating. I am a Reader who enjoys some serious topics brought into my Contemporaries, so that aspect worked for me.

I also had fun watching Dash and Sophie work together on her exes project. They even go on a road trip where there ends up being a forced proximity element that was nice and sexy.

There’s definitely some steam in this. Not the exact type that I tend to go for, but it wasn’t bad. I only cringed a couple of times. Depending on your kinks, it could end up working well for you.

Thank you to the publisher, Canary Street Press, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I was entertained. Iff there are more books released in The Hollywood Series, I would def check them out.

I actually would love for Poppy to get her own installment!

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Review: A Dark and Drowning Tide by Allison Saft

A Dark and Drowning TideA Dark and Drowning Tide by Allison Saft
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A Dark and Drowning Tide is the upcoming Adult debut for beloved author, Allison Saft. I have loved all three of Saft’s previous YA Fantasy releases, with my favorite probably being, A Fragile Enchantment.

Saft’s writing is accessible and fluid. It’s magical and enchanting, but without feeling overly-done. Her plots never get drowned out by flowery writing. It’s easy to follow along and become emotionally attached to her characters, as well.

In this story we mainly follow Lorelei, who is a folklorist making her way through her academic career. At the start of the tale, she’s getting ready to set out on a serious expedition with her mentor and some peers.

Their goal is to find a fabled spring said to be a powerful source of magic. They’re being commissioned by the King, who believes the powers of this spring will help him better secure his reign of their embattled country.

Shortly after the group boards the ship however, the unthinkable happens. Lorelei’s mentor, their group leader, is murdered in the middle of the night. An ominous start.

Since the ship was sailing at the time, the suspects are limited. It has to be one amongst them. To me, Lorelei’s academic rival, Sylvia, is immediately suspicious.

She keeps popping up at strange times and places. A bit of a midnight wanderer, if you will…

But Lorelei feels she is innocent. Plus, the four others have equal amounts of motive. Honestly, it could be any of them.

It’s too late to turn back though, so Lorelei takes charge and hopes that they’ll be able to find the spring before the murderer strikes again. Unfortunately, dangers do not just lie aboard the ship, there’s dangers all around them.

The group knows they need to band together in order to survive, but that’s easier said than done. Tensions are high and tempers flare on a regular basis. Is anyone going to make it through this expedition alive?

Saft’s Adult Fantasy debut succeeded in transporting me to another time and place. I had a very good time reading this, although I will say, it definitely has a more serious tone than her YA stories. Nevertheless, it’s still as powerful.

This also had a slower build than her YA-stories, but I did like the introduction to the characters prior to them setting out on the expedition. Once they board the ship though, that’s when things really pick up.

I enjoyed the combination of the academic side of this story mixed with the dangerous Fantasy world. I thought that was a lot of fun. The expedition provided plenty of setting changes and you were seeing unique circumstances in each one, different terrain, magical creatures, etc.

The expedition group has a good mix of personalities and there’s a lot of tension running among them, which provided solid drama throughout. Some of them were fairly insufferable, but I love having characters to hate.

There’s also a light Romance element to this; an enemies-to-lovers trope that develops nicely over the course of the story. The Romance, IMO, isn’t the focus of the story, but it does provide a means for developing the two characters involved more deeply.

Saft’s character work is always top notch and happily, that carried over into this Adult release. There’s also a ton of action though, so Plot Lovers, you won’t be disappointed.

Overall, I think this is a sensational Adult debut, and I feel like so many Readers are going to absolutely adore it, and I know I’ll continue picking up Saft’s work regardless of what age category it falls into.

Thank you to the publisher, Del Rey, for providing me with a copy to read and review. This is a lush, exciting, engaging and entertaining read!

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Review: The Eternal Ones (Deathless #3) by Namina Forna

The Eternal Ones (The Gilded Ones #3)The Eternal Ones by Namina Forna
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**4 5-stars**

The Eternal Ones is the final installment in Namina Forna’s Deathless series. I’m walking away an emotional mess.

I wasn’t ready for this to end.

I’ll admit, this series intimidated me at first. It took me a while before I dared to pick it up, but once I did, Forna laid those fears to rest. With this being said, this is heavy and a bit complicated; it’s not an easy read by any stretch.

You need to be focused and paying attention at all times, but if you do, it pays off in spades.

I’m not going to say anything about the plot here, as I am seriously at a loss for how to describe this book without spoiling the events in the previous two.

My experience with this was very positive. I was a little nervous that it’s been a few months since I read The Merciless Ones, the 2nd-book, and I was concerned I wouldn’t remember enough about how that one left off.

Again, I should have trusted Forna’s skills more. She provided a perfect, natural-feeling recap that helped to jog my memory so well. I really appreciated that aspect. It was concise and gave just what I needed to get me back in the proper headspace for this series.

As mentioned above, this is complex, and by that, I mean the world is complex. You are being dropped into a fully-formed, beautifully-developed world and while I may have thought I knew everything about it by this point, I was wrong.

We had some great new developments here, with Deka and her friends traveling to the edge of the world and discovering a whole new realm. It’s there they glean some information needed for the final showdown and meet some promising new potential allies.

I was surprised by the emotional levels that Forna was able to bring to these books. In each one, I always felt for Deka, but in this one in particular my heart was with her. It was a roller coaster, for her and for me.

I just couldn’t imagine going through everything she had been through. It’s tumultuous. It’s like Deka can never catch a break, it’s one thing after another, but she had to travel the path she did. She really had no choice. I respect her courage throughout this series.

In addition to the fabulous main character that Deka is, I also love her best friend, Britta so, so much. She’s like Samwise Gamgee level perfect sidekick.

Their friendship is actually one of my favorite aspects of this entire series; the way it is written. Like when it is just the two of them having a private moment, it’s so cute. In those moments, you can really see their humanity; just two teen girls caring about each other. Britta is just such a light to me, in an otherwise fairly dark narrative.

I also enjoy Keita, Deka’s love interest. Their relationship is sweet and definitely hit me in the feels.

He has been through a lot in his life, like Deka, so I think it’s easy for them to relate to one another and find solace in one another. Even though their experiences are very different, they can appreciate what they’ve each been through.

One of the most powerful scenes in this book, IMO, involves them returning to Keita’s family home. Y’all, you better have your tissues ready. There was something so moving and believable about that scene for me.

Lastly, the Found Family element, created over the course of the series, for me is shining its brightest in this book.

This group is tight, and with what they’re facing in the final scenes, it couldn’t have come at a better time. The camaraderie, the good spirits as a group and the ability to communicate well and work together, it’s so well done.

I’m sad this is over. Frankly, it’s such a beautifully-imagined world Forna’s created here, it’s a shame to use it just for these three books and never see it again…

That’s why I’m proposing a prequel following Deka’s Mom and White Hands. Forna, if you’re out there, we need this.

To the rest of you, write your Congressman, your mayor, pass around petitions, let’s make this happen!

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Review: Village in the Dark (Cara Kennedy #2) by Iris Yamashita

Village in the Dark (Cara Kennedy, #2)Village in the Dark by Iris Yamashita
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

Village in the Dark is the 2nd-book in the Cara Kennedy mystery series. Let it be known right outta the gate that I haven’t read the 1st-book yet.

That’s right, I’m picking them up out of order…

I know some of you may disagree with my pattern for doing this, but with Adult Mystery series, I sort of just pick up the ones that sound like they have the most intriguing mystery elements. Then if I really enjoy the characters and setting, I’ll go back and read the prior books.

I’m happy to report that I would love to go back and read the 1st-book, and any others that happen to come after this. I had fun with the mystery and did become attached to Cara and her intriguing personal story.

In this story, we do follow Cara Kennedy, who is a Detective in Anchorage, Alaska. We learn at the start that Cara is grieving the fairly recent loss of her husband, Aaron, and their young son, Dylan.

The boys went out on a camping trip and never returned. Their bodies were later found at the bottom of a cliff. It was believed an accident, but new evidence points to foul play.

Cara is devastated. She was upset enough believing they accidentally met their demise, but to learn someone else actually took them from her. She needs to find the truth.

We also get the perspectives of two other women related to the crime. It’s unclear for a good portion of the story how everything fits together, but as the pieces started to fall into place, that’s when it really picked up for me.

I loved the setting. There’s something about mysteries set in Alaska that just feel more dangerous and intriguing to me. The harsh landscape, the remote areas, it pushes the tension levels in really pleasing ways.

I definitely enjoyed Cara’s perspective the most out of the three, but I did enjoy how the three came together and I think overall, it was well-executed.

As mentioned above, I would absolutely pick up any more books in this series that are released. I do plan to go back and read the 1st-book, City Under One Roof, soon. I am interested to see if Cara’s husband and son are in that book, and if so, what those relationships were like.

I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys Adult Mystery series following Detective protagonists. Bonus points if you enjoy mysteries set in remote areas such as Alaska. I really enjoyed learning about Cara’s community and the surrounding areas; very interesting.

Thank you to the publisher, Berkley, for providing me with a copy to read and review.

I’m excited to have a new Detective to follow!

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Review: Dead Girls Walking by Sami Ellis

Dead Girls WalkingDead Girls Walking by Sami Ellis
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Dead Girls Walking is a recent YA Horror release. One that I had been very anxious to pick up. The publisher’s synopsis, as well as the intriguing cover, had my full attention.

It looks like this is a debut novel for author, Sami Ellis, and while I can appreciate the author’s creativity and ambition, the story did not work for me, unfortunately.

I considered giving it 3-stars, but I have to be honest about my experience. For me, a 3-star book is something I liked, but that didn’t blow me away and may have minor issues. I just don’t think this one reached that status for me.

I’m not going to say anything about the plot. Please read the synopsis for more info. I barely understood what was happening and had to refer to the synopsis multiple times to try to get my bearings. Because of this, I feel I have nothing further to add in that regard.

And here we come to the heart of the issue for me. I found this narrative style confusing as heck. It felt like being dropped off at a movie halfway through, taking multiple bathroom breaks, and still being expected to understand what’s going on. Spoiler Alert: I didn’t.

It never succeeded in grabbing my attention. Additionally, the cast of characters, besides our MC, Temple, all blended together for me, and by the end, I just wanted it to be over.

With this being said, just because this one didn’t work for me, doesn’t mean it won’t work for you. I have seen some great reviews, I just feel like it was a miss for my tastes.

Thank you to the publisher, Amulet Books and RB Media, for providing me with a copy to read and review.

I am interested it picking up more from this author in the future. I feel like maybe a different concept could help me engage more with their writing style.

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Review: Star Wars (The High Republic): Defy the Storm by Justina Ireland and Tessa Gratton

Defy the Storm (Star Wars: The High Republic)Defy the Storm by Tessa Gratton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Defy the Storm is another action-packed installment to the High Republic era of the Star Wars Canon.

Known as the Golden Age of the Jedi, the High Republic era predates all previously released Canon materials.

This is a YA story, co-written by two veteran Star Wars contributors, Justina Ireland and Tessa Gratton, and is considered part of Phase III of the High Republic roll-out.

To put it in basic timeline order, at this point, the Nihil have destroyed the Starlight Beacon and have erected a barrier, the Stormwall, around territory they are now claiming as their own, an area known as the Occlusion Zone.

I got to know many of this era’s recurring characters more intimately through this novel, which I appreciated.

We follow multiple different perspectives, including Avon Starros, one of my favorite characters, Jedi Knight, Vernestra Rwoh, former frontier deputy, Jordanna Sparkburn, and the human physicist, Xylan Graf.

Efforts are made by this group to cross the Nihil Stormwall, in order to save any Republic members trapped on the other side. A top priority for rescue is Vern’s Padawan, Imri Cantaros, once thought lost on the Starlight Beacon.

I’ve read quite a few of the High Republic releases. Not all of them, but many. Enough to recognize the full cast of characters presented here and I loved being back with them.

Seeing them come together to work towards a common goal, fighting back against the Nihil, was very satisfying.

I particularly enjoyed the personal journeys that Avon and Vern went on over the course of the story. I feel like they both grew so much and learned a lot about themselves.

As mentioned above, Avon is one of my favorite characters and I easily stick by that after this installment. She’s still working to get out from under the shadow of things her mother, a former Galactic Empire Senator, has done and I just feel for her so much.

Avon’s mother is now on the side of the Nihil and it’s because of her actions they were able to successfully strike down the Starlight Beacon. I don’t blame Avon for wanting nothing to do with her anymore, still, that’s tough for a kid.

I had the pleasure of listening to the audiobook and as always, I would ABSOLUTELY recommend that format. If you’ve never listened to a Star Wars audiobook before, particularly the newer ones, you just have to do so.

It’s such an incredible listening experience. The sound effects, music and voice-work bring these stories to life. In fact, this one had so much action, it had be jumping at some of the intense sounds and moments.

Thank you to the publisher, Disney LucasFilms Press and Disney Audio, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I’ve been impressed with all of the High Republic materials that I have read.

It’s amazing to me how the authors for this era continue to bring all the heart to plots that are mainly action. It’s really interesting how much I am feeling for these characters and I love it. I can’t wait for more!!

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Review: Didn’t See That Coming by Jesse Q. Sutanto

Didn't See That ComingDidn’t See That Coming by Jesse Q. Sutanto
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Didn’t See That Coming is a companion sequel to Jesse Q. Sutanto’s 2022-YA Rom-Com, Well, That Was Unexpected, a book I loved with my whole freaking heart.

It ended up being my favorite Romantic Comedy of that year, and in fact is probably my favorite ever. In fact, I stated in my review that I would fall on a sword for it. I stick by that.

I just want to get it out of the way early that I am a huge Jesse Q. Sutanto fan. If you frequently read my reviews, you probably know this already, and may even be sick of hearing me singing her praises.

Too bad, I say, because if she keeps cranking out wildly-enjoyable stories like this, those praises are going to continue raining down for a long time to come.

In this book we are following Kiki, who is the cousin of Sharlot, the leading lady from Well, That Was Unexpected. Kiki is attractive and popular, just your typical teen girl in Jakarta, except Kiki has a secret.

She’s a fabulous gamer, but no one in her real life really knows how good she actually is. After running into hugely sexist attitudes in the gamer community, Kiki changed her username to one where all of her teammates and opponents will think she’s one of them, a bro.

Playing anonymously has allowed her to just play, instead of having people treat her differently because she is a girl. She’s even made some good friends, in particular, one boy whose username is Sourdawg.

When Kiki’s parents make her transfer schools to an elite private school, her world is flipped upside down. Once the popular girl with a horde of IRL friends, Kiki is now at the bottom of the pecking order.

The school’s golden boy even singles her out, gives her the atrocious nickname of Crazy Kiki and ends up harassing her every day. It’s terrible. Kiki can’t believe that the other kids just sit back and let this little despot control them all.

She ends up turning to her now normal interactions with Sourdawg for comfort during this difficult transition period. Then the unexpected happens. As it turns out, Sourdawg, who she thought lived in an entirely different country, actually lives in Jakarta and goes to her new school!

But who is he? And what will he do when he finds out that Kiki is Kiki, a girl! He’s opened up to her, thinking she was just a bro. It’s too late for her to come clean, she’s in too deep. He’ll hate her. This throws Kiki into a tailspin, as over the months, she’s fallen for him hard.

I really enjoyed my time with this story. It had actually been so long since I first read the synopsis, I had forgotten that it was a companion novel. I was very happy to be with Kiki again, because I thought she was so dynamic and fun in Well, That Was Unexpected.

I listened to the audio and highly recommend that format. The narration was very well done and brought Kiki to life for me. I felt like I was listening to her tell me her story.

Additionally, this ended up being a lot more than a light and fluffy Rom-Com. It surprised me the level of thoughtful substance Sutanto brought to the page.

I would love to hear Sutanto talk about her inspiration and process for this one. As I feel like this story, as far as the gaming elements, the sexism experienced as a female player, really came from the heart. I’m left wondering how much of her own experiences she channeled into this.

Sutanto’s signature humor and style were still here on full display, but it also tackled some fairly serious topics. I feel like Kiki’s story, read at the right time, by the right Reader, could hit real hard.

Overall, I found this to be a super cute, engaging story of a girl trying to find stability and her place in an entirely new landscape. The romance was well paced and I’m so happy with the ultimate outcome.

I’d love to see another companion novel in this series. The setting of Jakarta is fun and I love just this entire group of characters. I definitely think there are more stories to tell among this group of young people!

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Review: You Know What You Did by K.T. Nguyen

You Know What You DidYou Know What You Did by K.T. Nguyen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars rounded up**

You Know What You Did is an intensely-suspenseful Mystery/Thriller debut from a hot up-and-coming author, K.T. Nguyen. And what a crackling debut it is!!

This story follows a fascinating-MC, Anh Le, who goes by Annie. She’s married, and the mother of a teenaged daughter. Annie is also an artist, although she’s feeling unsatisfied with her career lately.

In fact, a few aspects of Annie’s life are beginning to derail after the passing of her Mom, a Vietnam War refugee, who Annie had a contentious relationship with.

Annie’s mother had been residing in an out-building on their family property, so she had been a fairly constant presence in Annie’s life.

The loss impacted Annie in a lot of unexpected ways. Her severe-OCD comes roaring back and the dark fixations of her mind seem to be morphing into her reality.

When Annie’s most wealthy patron goes missing, shortly after Annie visited her home, the police come knocking.

The disappearance is shocking and it has Annie questioning everything, even herself. She can’t seem to keep current events straight in her mind.

She’s confused about many things and it’s scary. She begins to distance herself from her family and friends.

With Annie’s husband traveling for work, and her daughter off to summer camp, Annie is left to her own devices. As you can imagine, that doesn’t go well.

Waking up in a hotel, with a lifeless body beside her, Annie has officially hit rock bottom. The police are back and she doesn’t have answers that make sense, not even to herself.

Y’all, I loved this. I found it completely engaging, creepy and thought-provoking. K.T. Nguyen delivered all the tense, claustrophobic, desperate, unreliable narrator vibes that I could ever hope for.

I found it so easy to connect with Annie. I felt everything she was feeling. It made me incredibly anxious, but in a good, entertaining way, if that’s possible. There were times that I was crawling out of my skin of anticipation.

I was sympathetic to Annie’s character from the start, particularly since I couldn’t stand her husband, or her daughter. It often felt like they were ganging up on Annie and were just not giving her any slack.

I was happy when they both left, so Annie could be alone. Although it definitely didn’t help her mental state.

It’s funny, I was Buddy Reading this with a friend and she mentioned, like how much is what Annie is relaying to us about her husband and daughter true? Could it be her paranoia? Part of her mental spiral? Or were they really being that rotten to her?

It’s so funny, I didn’t even consider that before she said it, but yeah, Annie’s mental state definitely added so much to the suspense of this story. It was an exceptionally well-executed unreliable narrator situation.

I absolutely loved Nguyen’s writing. The character work in particular, I was so impressed. I enjoyed not only the suspense and mystery of this story, but Nguyen also chose to tackle some difficult topics, such as the immigrant experience and mental health.

I enjoyed the levels of depth that these topics added to the story. This is more than just your standard Popcorn Thriller. This story has meat and I enjoyed every bite.

I would absolutely recommend this to anyone who enjoys a taut, engaging and emotional Mystery/Thriller. Particularly, if you enjoy an unreliable narrator.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Dutton, for providing me with a copy to read and review. If this is her debut, I cannot wait to see what Nguyen delivers next!!!

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Review: The Forest Demands Its Due by Kosoko Jackson

The Forest Demands Its DueThe Forest Demands Its Due by Kosoko Jackson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

❤️💚🖤❤️💚🖤❤️💚🖤❤️💚🖤❤️💚🖤❤️

The first thing that attracted me to The Forest Demands Its Due was the stunning cover. It’s 100% my go-to aesthetic.

The colors, the imagery, even the font, I had to know what it was about. After reading the synopsis, I wanted it ASAP.

In this story, set in Winslow, a small town in rural-Vermont, we follow Douglas Jones, a recently enrolled student at the prestigious Regent Academy.

Douglas differs from the other students. He’s there because his Mom works there and he got in a bit of trouble elsewhere. He’s a scholarship kid. He’s not rich like the other kids, and really doesn’t expect to get the same experience out of Regent as they do.

Douglas simply wants to keep his head down and quietly make it through the year. Unfortunately, some of his peers are bound to make that goal challenging.

Douglas is on edge at Regent as it is, but after the mysterious death of a fellow student, one which only he seems to remember, Douglas is more sure than ever that something is off at the ivory-towered school.

When he meets Everett, the groundskeeper’s son, and discovers that Everett remembers the murdered boy too, Douglas decides he needs to find the truth. What in the heck is going on at Regent?

In his search for answers, Douglas uncovers a giant horde of secrets kept by the locals. Not only that, he’s awakened the horrific entity hiding at the heart of the forest surrounding the school.

Will Douglas be able to harness his inner power and defeat this formidable enemy before all of Winslow is destroyed?

He doesn’t know, but he’s certainly going to try and his new friend, Everett, plans to be with him every step of the way.

This isn’t a perfect book, but I did enjoy a lot of what the author created here. Douglas was great MC to follow and learn about. I loved his narrative voice. Additionally, the ideas behind the Horror elements were strong.

I enjoyed the blending of Social Horror with the Folk Horror-evil forest elements. The private school setting was well done and Jackson successfully set an ominous tone from the start. I think this truly deserves a higher overall rating, which is why I decided to round up.

At the beginning, it was giving me heavy We Don’t Swim Here vibes, which I enjoyed a lot, so that really helped to grab my attention early. The way Douglas was noticing things at Regent that other people either weren’t noticing, or weren’t admitting to noticing, was hella intriguing.

It felt menacing and heavy. What was going on?

I will admit, some of the plot was hard to track, particularly towards the end when the pace increased. I think some of the confusion came from the magical elements. I never felt like I had a full grasp on the magic system.

Overall though, I felt like the characters and setting were well done, and I enjoyed thinking about the different social topics explored.

I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys YA Social Horror, or Haunted Forest stories. Also, if you are looking for a Diverse, or Queer YA Horror read, this is a strong recommendation.

Thank you to the publisher, Quill Tree Books, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I am looking forward to reading more from Kosoko Jackson.

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