Review: Perfectly Nice Neighbors by Kia Abdullah

Perfectly Nice NeighborsPerfectly Nice Neighbors by Kia Abdullah
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Perfectly Nice Neighbors is an A++ Legal Thriller featuring major Neighborhood Drama from Kia Abdullah.

This is my second novel from Abdullah and I have given both 5-stars. I think it’s fair to say, I’m a huge fan!

As far as Thrillers with a Legal bent go, I don’t read a lot of them, only a few a year, but the ones I read, I do tend to enjoy. I feel like Abdullah brings such substance to her stories though, they almost go above and beyond.

In this story we follow two families. Salma, Bil and their son Zain, who are the new family on the street, and Tom, Willa and their son Jamie, long-time neighborhood residents.

It is important to note, Salma’s family is Bangladeshi, while Tom’s family is white. Also, please note, each family has a dog and the dogs are also involved in the drama.

You have been warned now about these two aspects. In other words, you may read things in this book that will make you uncomfortable. You may read things in this book that will make you angry, or emotional, but I promise, you’ll walk away with a lot of thoughts and it will be memorable.

Basically, Salma and Tom get into it. They get into it deep. This is a neighbor feud for the freaking record books. Just when you think it can’t get any worse, it does.

As events escalate, the tension really amps up. I was squirming in my seat. It feels very unsafe, like a ticking time bomb, but how far will the battle be taken?

Y’all, I am always down for the drama. But this is a different sort of neighborhood drama than I’m used to. This was on a different level than most.

I appreciated how quickly Abdullah got to the action. She didn’t waste a lot of time on build-up. We meet Salma and her family, basically as they’ve just moved into their new home. It seriously takes no time at all for the event that leads to the initial confrontation to take place.

After that, each subsequent run-in just digs both families into their position deeper and deeper.

The snowball keeps rolling until the point where I was feeling emotionally drained. I don’t mean this as a bad thing, because hey, at least I was feeling something.

In fact, one of the things I love most about Abdullah’s stories is that she sets her Readers up with space to do some critical thinking. The way she frames her stories, it explores both sides, instead of hammering home with one character’s perspective. It’s so engrossing.

I feel like her style is a great platform for Readers to have some real self-reflective, as well as shoe-on-the-other-foot, moments. It feels written with such intention and what’s not to appreciate, and respect, about that.

I would definitely recommend this book to people who enjoy tense neighborhood dramas that explore current societal issues. I know this won’t work for everyone, but for the Readers who do end up enjoying it, I think they’ll walk away feeling like they’ve had a memorable reading experience.

Thank you so much to the publisher, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I can’t wait to see what Abdullah comes up with next!

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Review: You’re Not Supposed to Die Tonight by Kalynn Bayron

You're Not Supposed to Die TonightYou’re Not Supposed to Die Tonight by Kalynn Bayron
My rating: 3 of 5 stars


You’re Not Supposed to Die Tonight is a solid effort in the YA Horror space for well-loved author, Kalynn Bayron.

Admittedly, it was a bit of a mixed bag for me, with some aspects that I really enjoyed and others, not so much, but enjoyable nonetheless.

I have been saving this one for Spooky Season since its release. The cover is giving me all the 1980s-Slasher vibes that I could possibly want. I couldn’t wait to dive in.

I picked it up as my 1st-read for the Spooky Smart Bitch Readathon, hosted by the devilishly-delightful, Jordaline Reads, that I am participating in this week. It fit with the first prompt and that was all the nudging that I needed.

In this story we follow a group of teens, lead by Charity Curtis, who work at a full-contact terror experience called, Camp Mirror Lake.

The location is fittingly the actual filming location of a cult classic Slasher film called, Curse of Mirror Lake and the staged experience plays out well-known scenes from that movie. Charity’s role in the experience is that of Final Girl and she takes pride in her work.

On the last weekend of the season though, things begin to go horribly awry. Charity and friends are no longer fighting their way through a simulation, they’re fighting their way through a real-life Slasher.

Will Charity still be able to end up the Final Girl?!

With her girlfriend, Bezi, and many other friends’ lives on the line, she’s hoping not. She needs them ALL to survive.

I feel like this is an interesting take on the Teen Scream Slasher. I liked how modern it felt by having the setting be a live-action terror experience. I really enjoyed the initial set-up and that the Horror elements kicked in rather quickly.

Bayron wasted no time getting us to the action segment of the narrative.

I liked a lot of the elements, the setting, friends, the tension that builds and the history of the camp. However, with this being said, IMO it moved a little too quickly.

Because of the speed, it didn’t leave much time for development, both of plot, or character. It’s a short book, and because of this, it ended up feeling very surface level. I could have done with more substance all around.

I also feel like the story was one note. It could have been a better experience for me had it been even more campy. That may sounds strange, but I would have enjoyed some humor, or even just more witty banter.

This is 100% a taste issue though and regardless of my personal preferences, I can still recognize the effort and skill that Bayron brought to this story.

I actually hope she remains in this YA Horror lane. I can feel she is a true fan of the genre and I would love to see what else she could create in this space.

I would recommend this to anyone looking for a fun, fast-paced Teen Scream to help kick off the Spooky Season.

It has some great social commentary and a diverse cast of characters. Additionally, I listened to the audiobook and it’s fabulously narrated.

It definitely set the tone that I’m looking to keep for the next few months!! Well done!

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Review: Night of the Living Queers: 13 Tales of Terror & Delight, Editors — Shelly Page and Alex Brown

Night of the Living Queers: 13 Tales of Terror & DelightNight of the Living Queers: 13 Tales of Terror & Delight by Shelly Page
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Night of the Living Queers: 13 Tales of Terror & Delight is a fun, spooky-time YA-Anthology full of great representation and diverse stories.

This is the perfect collection to get you in the mood for Fall!!

Editors, Shelly Page and Alex Brown, did an incredible job bringing together a great assortment of authors to contribute to this collection.

I loved how each story takes place on Halloween night, when there is a rare Blue Supermoon. It’s thought this special occasion could open up our world more easily to all sorts of supernatural and creepy occurrences.

It was fun to see how each of these authors took that prompt, that setting, if you will, and created something unique and engaging, all of their very own.

Anthologies can be tough sometimes, because it’s rare to connect with each and every story equally, but for me, this was well-rounded and exciting enough to keep me hooked throughout.

Of course some stories fit my personal tastes more than others, but I can absolutely see how every single Reader will be able to find something within this collection to enjoy and connect to.

I really enjoyed so many of these of stories and cherished how different they all were from each other. It never felt repetitive, or overdone.

Some of the standouts for me were: The Visitor by Kalynn Bayron, A Brief Intermission by Sara Farizan, The Three Phases of Ghost Hunting by Alex Brown and Nine Stops by Trang Thanh Tran.

My favorite story overall was Anna by Shelly Page. This one just had everything I love to get myself geared up for a solid spooky season. It had a babysitter, twins, a ouija board, an attic and a ghost. I mean, what is not to love about that!?

Finally, I will just say how much I appreciate the thought and care these editors and authors put into this collection. The vast and inclusive representation is so important and I feel like they all did a great job creating super fun and creepy stories, while also being mindful of the original intent of the collection.

I would absolutely recommend this anthology as a way to get yourself in the mood for the Spooky Season. It’s the most wonderful time of the year and books that showcase that are my favorite kinds!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Wednesday Books, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I’d love to read more from every one of these authors!

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Review: Vampires of El Norte by Isabel Cañas

Vampires of El NorteVampires of El Norte by Isabel Cañas
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars rounded up**

Set in 1840’s Mexico, Vampires of El Norte is a love story a lifetime in the making. It’s more than just a love story between two people though. It also speaks to the love of the land, one’s home and culture.

This is the latest release from Isabel Cañas. It’s a beautifully told Historical Romance story with well-blended Horror elements. We’re talking creepy vampires!

Having loved The Hacienda, I was so excited for this release. Not only did it sound amazing, but the cover is easily one of my favorites of all time.

While this started a little slow, taking me about a week to make it through the first 10%, after I got through the initial build-up, I couldn’t put it down.

In this story, we are following two young people, Nena and Néstor. Nena is the daughter of a wealthy rancher and Néstor was her childhood best friend.

The two were inseparable as kids, even past the point where it was considered appropriate. They would sneak off and slowly, over time, they began to grow sweet on one another.

During one of their secretive late night rendezvous, Nena was attacked by a mysterious monster. Néstor races her to help, but believing Nena dead, he promptly flees the area. He’s been on the run ever since, wracked with grief, moving from ranch to ranch working as a vaquero.

When the heart of our story begins, nine years have passed since that terrifying night of Nena’s attack.

Nena has remained on her parent’s ranch, training with Néstor’s Grandmother to become a curandera. When war threatens to spill over their borders, the locals gather together and form a cavalry to fight back against the invaders from the United States.

Nena’s father is in charge and she convinces him to let her travel with the group as their healer. Men will be getting sick and injured and she knows she can prove herself useful.

Preparing to travel to the battlefields, Nena and Néstor are reunited with very mixed feelings. Néstor has lived the past 9-years feeling guilty for Nena’s presumed death and Nena has lived the past 9-years feeling abandoned by Néstor.

Good ole’ fashioned romantic miscommunication ensues.

As frightening and dangerous as war is, the nightmares from Nena and Néstor’s past still lurk in the shadows and they’re about to become more threatening than ever.

Forced to work together, will Nena and Néstor be able to put their misunderstandings aside long enough to rid their country from their enemies, both human and non-human?

As I mentioned above, this did take me a little bit to really become invested in. Once Nena and Néstor were reunited though, I was hooked. I loved their chemistry.

The journey of their relationship, as well as what was happening in the plot was just so satisfying. I really enjoyed them getting to know one another as adults.

The side characters, as well, added a lot. Both of them had family members still rather prominent in their lives and it was interesting watching all those dynamics play out.

I am not a Historical Fiction reader generally. It’s definitely not a genre I gravitate towards, however the way Cañas expertly blends in convincing Supernatural Horror elements really sells it for me.

I love the imagery she creates. These vampires are definitely not the sparkly kind. I also appreciate the vivid settings and how much culture plays a role in the story. You really get a sense of place and time from her writing.

Overall, I just had a really great time with this. I felt transported. This was the perfect type of romance story for me. I will remember this one for a long time.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Berkley, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I cannot wait to see what Cañas delivers next!!!

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Review: I Feed Her to the Beast and the Beast Is Me by Jamison Shea

I Feed Her to the Beast and the Beast Is MeI Feed Her to the Beast and the Beast Is Me by Jamison Shea
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

I Feed Her to the Beast and the Beast Is Me is a debut YA Horror novel from Jamison Shea.

This story explores the uber-competitive world of professional dance; specifically, ballet. The setting is Paris and our MC, Laure Mesny, is just finishing up her training and is beginning her professional career.

Even though she has consistently been top in her class, Laure is constantly overlooked and she feels like she can never stop proving herself.

As a Black girl in a vastly White girl profession, Laure doesn’t fit the mold of what society expects its ballerinas to look like. Because of this, she has to fight extra hard for every achievement. She’s used to it, but that doesn’t make it less emotionally draining.

Unbeknownst to her, Laure is about to find a way to change her position. She’s going to gain a power that will help her achieve everything she’s ever dreamed of.

Lured by a new friend, Laure ventures deep into the heart of the infamous Paris Catacombs and strikes a deal with a primordial river of blood.

((Cue Danse Macabre))

As she passes her bitter peers is status and fame, Laure keeps in mind the way they treated her before. She hasn’t forgotten and trust, she certainly hasn’t forgiven.

She’s not the only one with claws though and these dancers are willing to fight back. How far will Laure go, and what price is she willing to pay, to achieve ultimate power?

I liked this. I think as a debut this shows a lot of promise. The topics explored were compelling and the level of creativity was impressive.

I did find some areas of the narrative to be a little confusing, particularly in the second half and there were moments that slowed way down, which I didn’t find quite as interesting.

Overall, I do think this is a strong debut though. The descriptions were vivid and I enjoyed going along with Laure on her journey. She did undergo quite a transformation over the course of the story.

There is a romantic subplot that I could have done without as well. I would have preferred if it had remained focused on ambition and the relationship dynamics between the female characters, but that is 100%-personal taste.

I would be interested to see, if there is another book, where it goes from here. There’s definitely a lot of possibilities following this ending.

Thank you to the publisher, Macmillan Audio, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I’m looking forward to reading more from Jamison Shea!!

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Review: Black Boy Joy: 17 Stories Celebrating Black Boyhood edited by Kwame Mbalia

Black Boy Joy: 17 Stories Celebrating Black BoyhoodBlack Boy Joy: 17 Stories Celebrating Black Boyhood by Kwame Mbalia
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I absolutely adored every moment I spent with this collection. I highly recommend the audiobook format, as the narration is so fun. Each story was unique and well-written.

Mbalia pulled together an incredible group of authors to contribute to this important and heart-warming Middle Grade anthology. I could feel the intention, integrity and passion each and every one of these author’s poured into these works.

This should be in every public school and local library in the United States. There’s so much here to celebrate. 10-out-of-10 recommend to Middle Grade Readers!!


I respect Kwame Mbalia and his work so much. I’ve been meaning to get to this collection since it was released, and honestly, I feel like now is the perfect time for it.

I need something uplifting and joyful!!

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Review: Guardians of the Dawn: Zhara by S. Jae-Jones

Guardians of Dawn: ZharaGuardians of Dawn: Zhara by S. Jae-Jones
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Guardians of Dawn: Zhara is the start of a new YA Fantasy series from S. Jae-Jones, author of the Wintersong duology.

I have been awaiting this release for a while and the wait was worth it. I really enjoyed this and read it so quickly.

In this story, we meet Jin Zhara, an apothecary’s apprentice, who spends her days trying to control and hide her magic, caring for her visually impaired younger sister and appeasing her cruel stepmother’s every whim.

Magic is forbidden in her society and magicians have been blamed for certain tragic events over the years, rightly or not. When a new plague hits the streets, transforming magicians into monsters, abominations, Zhara’s world becomes more tumultuous than ever.

A chance encounter with an attractive young man, Han, also shakes up Zhara’s life. It exposes her to a whole new hidden world, including a secret magical liberation society called the Guardians of Dawn.

What Zhara has no way of knowing though, is how big a role she will come to play within this group.

It’s believed a demon is responsible for the new round of abominations and Zhara, along with her recently-met friends, must come up with a plan to weed out the demon and destroy it. Only then can balance be restored. If they fail, their society may be left in ruin.

I read this via audiobook and really, really enjoyed it. The narration brought these characters to life. I thought it was so well performed. I was sucked in from the start.

I thought the world-creation was very well done. I enjoyed how it felt historical, yet modern at the same time. Additionally, the story had the perfect balance between light and dark elements.

I enjoyed both Zhara and Han, as well as their blossoming relationship and rapid-fire banter. I liked getting both of their perspectives and watching how they each contributed to the over-arching plot.

From the moment of their meet cute, I wanted them to grow closer. They were both so endearing, yet also a bit clumsy.

I loved that. I thought it worked well as they progressively grew closer and the secrets they had been hiding from one another were revealed.

Their personalities balanced each other out.

One thing I always enjoy about S. Jae-Jones writing is the dark imagery she brings to the page. Even though quite a bit of this story is fun and light, cute and bright, there are darker elements running throughout and when the monsters come, look out! They’re not so cute.

I also really enjoyed and appreciated the cultural richness that can be felt throughout this story. And as mentioned before, I felt those influences were both historical and modern, as I was feeling a touch of BTS in this.

Watching Zhara mature over the course of this story, as well as learning to harness her powers more, was so satisfying. I also liked learning about this secret society and think there is a lot of room for that element to continue to be built out.

I am absolutely continuing on with this series as it goes and am really looking forward to it. I would recommend this to anyone who has enjoyed stories like The Keeper of Night, Stars and Smoke and even Cinder.

Thank you to the publisher, Wednesday Books and Macmillan Audio, for providing me with a copy to read and review. This was definitely worth the wait.

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Review: Abeni’s Song by P. Djèlí Clark

Abeni's SongAbeni’s Song by P. Djèlí Clark

Abeni’s Song is the Middle Grade Fantasy debut of beloved and award-winning SFF-author, P. Djèlí Clark. I love reading Middle Grade and have found a lot of joy over the years within the genre.

As soon as I heard about this, I knew I had to read it. I’ve really enjoyed Clark’s writing in the past and was super interested to see what he would do in the MG-space.

In this story we follow Abeni, a young girl, who on Harvest Festival day, loses everyone in her village to raiders and a man playing a cursed flute. The villagers are marched away, lured by the song, to ghost ships set for distant lands.

Abeni isn’t sucked in by the spell though. Instead she is whisked away by the old woman who lives in the forest abutting her village, reputed to be a witch.

Although Abeni feels like the witch’s prisoner, she has in a way been saved and her unwanted magical apprenticeship begins. Still, even though she isn’t being harmed, Abeni is distraught and heartbroken over what happened to her village and her loved ones.

Over the course of the story, Abeni learns about magic, history and herself, all while focusing on her mission to rescue her people and bring them home.

Abeni’s Song is a solid story, with plenty of room to grow as the series continues.

I love and respect P. Djèlí Clark tremendously as a Fantasy writer. He’s incredibly imaginative and I love some of the dark imagery he conjures up through his stories. There’s definitely some of that beautiful, darker imagery here.

I am also excited he’s branching out into the Middle Grade space for the first time. It’s important to have this type of representation and culturally-influenced stories for young people to discover, but overall, this one was just okay for me.

IMO, this didn’t feel like a Middle Grade Fantasy. It read more like an Adult Fantasy with a young protagonist. The chapters were quite long and more heavy-handed in the settings, descriptions and inner thoughts of our MC, than with action, witty dialogue or fantastical elements.

Because of this, I didn’t find myself enjoying this as much as I have some other Middle Grade Fantasies. It’s still a great, well-developed story, with strong character work, but just in comparison with other stories in the space, it was a little more challenging to work through.

With this being said, there is so much to love about this book. Abeni is a memorable character, who really matured over the course of the story. I know so many Readers are going to love and connect with this.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Starscape and Macmillan Audio, for providing me with copies to read and review. Clark is such a phenomenal writer and I look forward to picking up more of his work in the future!

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Review: Their Vicious Games by Joelle Wellington

Their Vicious GamesTheir Vicious Games by Joelle Wellington
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Applause for days. Wellington knocked this out of the park.

Let’s talk about it, shall we?

In Their Vicious Games we follow Adina Walker, a Black teen, who has just graduated from Edgewater Academy, a prestigious private high school in New England, attended by super-rich, mostly white, students.

Adina’s parents both work at Edgewater and she was able to attend via scholarships. Because of this, she’s always known she had to work twice as hard as the other students to keep herself above reproach. Her life under a microscope.

All her work seemed to be paying off when she received her acceptance letter to Yale. Unfortunately, another student with her sights on Yale wasn’t accepted and decides to take out her failure on Adina. A fight ensues, which gets blamed, of course, on Adina.

Just like that, Adina watches her future slip away. Her acceptance to Yale is revoked, along with her chance to enter any other Ivy. Adina is devastated, she’s furious, she’s shocked, she’s a lot of things, but a quitter isn’t one of them.

There’s one more chance. An extremely-mysterious competition called The Finish, hosted by the wealthiest of the Edgewater families, the Remingtons.

Twelve girls, hand-selected by the family, are brought together at the family estate to compete in three different challenges. These girls must show exceptional promise to even be picked, as the winner is granted entry into the Remington family, where all doors are opened to them.

Adina, catching the eye of the Remington’s youngest son, is granted an invitation. This is it. Her one chance to get her life back. Adina will stop at nothing to win, or at least that’s what she thinks going into the competition.

The truth is, Adina could have never imagined how high the stakes are, or how vicious the play would actually be. Look out Mean Girls, you’ve got nothing on Their Vicious Games!!

Y’all, I can’t even express to you how much I loved this. I am probably doing a terrible job at even trying to sum it up, because I’m just so excited about it.

I feel like Wellington absolutely nailed what she was trying to achieve here. I was hooked from the very first chapter, invested in Adina and her future like she was my own darned child. I loved how quickly this kicked off and I feel like it was really easy to get into it.

The whole set-up was fantastic. I loved how the girls actually got to live at the estate. They had no contact with the outside world while there. Literally, all rules, laws, and social conventions had gone right out the window.

Adina had a roommate, Saint, who ended up being one of the highlights of the story for me. I loved her character so much and the relationship that developed between Saint and Adina was hero/sidekick gold.

I also loved the actual competition elements. Wellington wasn’t pulling any punches with this one. It got brutal and I was there for every toe-curling minute of it.

I love how Wellington committed to the concept and took it all the way. She didn’t try to make the Reader comfortable. I respect that so much.

In my opinion, this was also really well-constructed just in its general story-telling quality. It was completely engaging, intense and the biting social commentary was chef’s kiss level good.

I loved it. I’m not sure what else to say.

If you enjoy brutal, cunning, manipulative characters hell bent on destroying one another via an organized competition, than this one is for you. Maybe you love Social Horror, or books that have something to say, than this one is also for you.

I had a blast with it and am so impressed with this as a debut novel. Well done, Joelle Wellington. I certainly hope this book gets all the praise it deserves!!!

Thank you so, so much to the publisher, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. I have a strong feeling this is going to find its way onto my Best Books of the Year list.

I cannot wait to read more from this author!!!

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Review: Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin

Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and TomorrowTomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’m going to keep this short and sweet for there is nothing I can say about this book that hasn’t be said before.

Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow first came onto my radar because of the stunning cover. It’s because of that cover it ended up on my shelves.

This book was everywhere you turned in 2022. There was a lot of hype and if fact, it won the Goodreads Award for Best Fiction. I avoided it initially. I didn’t want to be disappointed after hearing this was basically the best thing ever.

Additionally, Literary Fiction is not my comfort zone. It’s not my go-to, not even in my top-5, genres. This story spans over 30-years. Also, something that is definitely not my jam.

In spite of all that, this story succeeded in capturing my heart. It captivated me. It made me feel things I had no anticipation of, or desire to, feel.

It actually shocked me how connected I felt to these main characters; how much empathy and true emotion I felt for them throughout the various stages of their lives.

Dark Fiction, and I’m talking DARK, is my comfort place, but every once in a while it’s nice to read outside that lane.

This book is the perfect example of why. It’s the kind of story that reminds you of what it means to feel alive. Full of raw emotion and beautiful character work. This story made an impact on me.

The audiobook is fantastic. I definitely recommend that format. The final day I was reading it, I think I was around the 80% point and I was on my morning commute to work, this is actual footage of me:

Honestly, crying in the car that morning was not how I saw that day starting off. Thanks for the surprise, Gabrielle Zevin. I can’t wait to read more of your work!!

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