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Book Review: Echoes Between Us by Katie McGarry

Echoes Between Us

Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by the publisher, Frontlist via Edelweiss+ for an honest review.

Genre: YA/Contemporary/Romance/Mental Health-Addiction/Paranormal-Ghosts

Plot: Veronica sees ghosts. More specifically, her mother’s ghost. The afterimages of blinding migraines caused by the brain tumor that keeps her on the fringes and consumes her whole life haunt her, even as she wonders if it’s something more…

Golden boy Sawyer is handsome and popular, a state champion swimmer, but his adrenaline addiction draws him to Veronica.

A girl with nothing to live for and a boy with everything to lose–can they conquer their demons together?

Opinion:

If you feel like crying, you’ve come to the right place.

“The only reason people come to live in this small town is to hide or die.”

Veronica has always been labeled as the weird girl in school. Surrounded by her group of misfit boys, and always doing the opposite of what is to be expected, rumors and cruel words have always found their way to her ears. But Veronica doesn’t care what the popular kids think of her. She has amazing and supportive friends, and a dad who loves her more than anything. Only, she hasn’t been completely honest with her father. Dealing with piercing migraines from a brain tumor and talking to the ghost of her dead mother obviously isn’t normal, but she fears her father wouldn’t understand. If she could just find a way to tell him her secret, everything would be okay. That’s when Sawyer enters the picture. Sawyer is friends with the popular kids who have always teased Veronica, or otherwise pretending she doesn’t exist. But Sawyer’s life isn’t nearly as perfect as he lets on. He has an adrenaline addiction that pushes him to the edge of cliffs, and is expected to be the man of the house for his mother and sister. So when the two pair up for a senior project hunting ghosts, they begin to realize a haunting can be more than just a spirit not wanting to leave.

This isn’t a ghost story.

But then again, it kind of is.

Just hear me when I say, it’s only a small part of what this story is really about. And let me tell you – this story is saying A LOT. For the past two days I have been smiling so fiercely I want to slap myself, and crying so much that I keep randomly saying “oh honey” out loud, which for some reason only makes me cry more. This book is evil. If you would like to go through a roller-coaster of emotions where halfway into reading you question if you should be put into an insane asylum, because your behavior of high-highs and low-lows are extremely questionable and alarming: then you should totally read this. Because that is obviously what the author wants from all of us.

To smile beautifully while endless tears flow down our gorgeous faces.

Well congratulations Katie McGarry, I’m officially a mess.

Where to I even start? This book, completely touched my heart. It touches on so many important themes like addiction, co-dependency, mental health, sickness, and self-punishment. I came into this book expecting a fluffy tale where two teens fall in love and everything turns out all sparkly and perfect. But thankfully, this book isn’t like that. It’s realistic. It portrays the lives of two teens who are so incredibly different, but in so many ways, the same. They both carry burdens on their shoulders that I can’t even fathom dealing with at their age, but they have a resilience that makes my head spin. These teens feel deeply, think deeply. They are so introspective and honest about their struggles and hurts, and they look fear in the face and smile at it.

I…

*sigh*

…I f***ing love this book.

The characters, the message, the plot, the romance, the ghost stories, the diary entries.

EVERYTHING.

One of my favorite characters is obviously Veronica. She has all the snarky attitude of one Veronica Mars (we all know and love) but also this immense and alluring uniqueness that makes you drawn to her. She is considered the “weird kid” at her school because of the many things she does that aren’t the social norm. She decides holidays at random times of the year, even going as far as decorating her locker for Thanksgiving in July or dressing up in a costume for Halloween in January. She has a badass style of colorful striped tights, ripped shirts, combat boots and mini skirts. She is spunky and fearless, witty and positive. She is one of the sweetest characters I have come across in all my reading, and I simply adore her. Even though we get to know her so well while reading, I still find her completely mysterious.

Sawyer is the opposite of Veronica. He is SO hard on himself. He is constantly putting himself down for not being perfect, for not being the “man” of the house – a role his father unfairly placed on his shoulders at the age of eleven. He is such a lost young man and is in so much pain, and it was so sad seeing him struggle while having no one to turn to. I connected with him the most due to his tendency to never think he is good enough, or to always assume he should be doing better than he is. He is a compassionate, intelligent and fearless character. He is an amazing big brother to his adorable little sister Lucy (omg, she is too cute!) and a fantastic role-model. He does so much growing in this story, it’s amazing to witness.

The friends of both of these characters also play an incredibly huge role, and have given the reader that much more insight into who Veronica and Sawyer are. Veronica is surrounded by friends who are also social outcasts, but ones I wish I had in my life. The love and care for her so fiercely, it brings needle sharp pains to my eyes. They have a closeness and respect for one another that runs deep, and everything flows so easy between them. But Sawyer also have friends that stand right beside him and support him fully. The way the author created these characters is beautiful. Each person in this story has flaws and struggles, but their incredibly special personalities shine through so easily. It’s so hard not to love each and every one of them.

But the real treat here, is obviously the romance.

“‘You’re crazy aren’t you?’ I say.

“Yes. Now let’s jump.”

Guys, protect your hearts.

Because this one feels so good it physically hurts.

“Soft fingers, a delicate touch and my entire body sparks to life. As if I had been in darkness-the world was black and white-and then the flip was switched into color.”

My gut is literally in pain right now from all of these feels. My eyes are puffy from crying, my hair disheveled from anxiously running my hands through it, and my overall demeanor is both elated and crushed. This romance is everything I have been wanting. It is breathtakingly beautiful and fragile. It makes my lip quiver just thinking about the gentleness and innocence. This is one of the most mature relationships I have EVER witnessed, especially for two teenagers. They are so raw with their thoughts and feelings towards one another and about their lives. From the very beginning they lay everything out on the table, being truthful and upfront about their past and present. They make me hopeful that true soul-crushing love outside of YA fiction is actually possible. Because that is all any of us really want, right? To have a fiercely blinding romance knife stuck into our chests?

But characters and romance aside, there is a lot happening in this book, and it’s perfect. Veronica has a brain tumor, and the way it debilitates her is…depressing to say the least. Sawyer has an addiction to anything that will give him an adrenaline rush, and mostly it’s in the form of jumping off cliffs. Sawyers family issues are deep, with his father basically deserting them and his mother allowing Sawyer to take the brunt of the responsibility of parenting his sister. These two teens have been through a lot in their short lives, and that trauma shapes the struggles they go through in this story. It gets so SO sad, but it’s worth the read.

Read this on a Friday or Saturday night in.

You’ve been warned.

4-5-stars

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Book Promo · Book Reviews · Netgalley · New Releases

Book Review: The Night Country (The Hazel Wood, Book 2) by Melissa Albert

The Night Country

Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by the publisher, Flat Iron Books, via Netgalley for an honest review.

Genre: YA/Fantasy

Plot: In The Night Country, Alice Proserpine dives back into a menacing, mesmerizing world of dark fairy tales and hidden doors. Follow her and Ellery Finch as they learn The Hazel Wood was just the beginning, and that worlds die not with a whimper, but a bang.

With Finch’s help, Alice escaped the Hinterland and her reclusive grandmother’s dark legacy. Now she and the rest of the dregs of the fairy tale world have washed up in New York City, where Alice is trying to make a new, unmagical life. But something is stalking the Hinterland’s survivors―and she suspects their deaths may have a darker purpose. Meanwhile, in the winking out world of the Hinterland, Finch seeks his own adventure, and―if he can find it―a way back home…

Opinion:

‘You still think you live in a world where girls will lie down for you and show you their throats.’”

‘Now lie down, and show me your throat.’”

After escaping The Hinterland and her story, Alice is back in New York with her mother, just trying to make a new life for herself away from the magic and fairy tales. But after time paces, Alice finds herself drawn back to the ex-stories of The Hinterland as random murders begin targeting those who have escaped. With no explanation as to why, Alice tries to hunt down the culprit. While worlds away, Finch is in the Hinterland and it is tearing itself apart. With so many stories leaving, black spots and wastelands begin consuming what is left of the magical and eerie world. As he looks for a way out, and possibly a way back to his world, Alice and Finch’s paths come closer and closer together to crossing again.

Little mouse

Scratch scratch

Hasten to your home

Lock and latch, do up the catch

And pray that you’re alone

Little spider

Twitch twitch

Run to steal the gate

Weave and sew, stitch stitch

Pray it’s not too late.

Alice is back, and things are as creepy as ever.

So it has been two years since Alice returned to the human world (is that what it’s called?) and she has turned her life into one of productive normalcy. She spends time with her mother Ella, works at a quirky bookstore and hangs out with her best friend Sophia. Well, technically Sophia is Hinterland and had that whole fun tale about stalking Death (you go, girl) but you get the idea-Alice has turned a new leaf. Gone is the angry, murderous, black-eyed frost princess! Or…so we think.

‘Look at me,’ I told him. ‘Look at your destruction.’”

In this installment, Alice is having difficulty completely forsaking her Hinterland side. As much as she wishes to leave that side of her life in the past, for her sake and Ella’s’, Hinterland seems to seek her out wherever she goes. Suddenly random murders begin happening, with each victim having a limb missing from their bodies. A left hand, a right hand, left foot, right foot, eyes. Oh yeah. Super fluffy stuff, huh? But what makes everything ten times worse, is that the killings begin to resemble traits from Alice’s old abilities of frost.

Dun Dun Dun.

Alice is a bit more tame in The Night Country, but we get to see some of her old side spark back to life as well. I’m not going to lie, I do miss the old sassy and fairly angry Alice who wanted to scratch everyone’s eyes out, but this version is nice…if you like that “tame and reformed” type of thing. Basically the entire book follows Alice as she struggles with her identity and tries not to get killed. Sinister creatures from Hinterland now run rampant through New York, toying with humans and going unseen. But no matter what Alice does, she can never escape Hinterland. Because she IS Hinterland.


Though there are Hinterland creatures where Alice is, we really don’t get to witness a lot of the magical and strange imagination that comes from that world. Thankfully, the story flips over to Finch and we get to partake in his world jumping. As Hinterland starts to crumble, and people begin to panic to find a way out, Finch meets a traveler who promises to help him get back to his world after they do a bit of world jumping. He agrees, and THIS is where we really get to see the creative side of this author again.

There were patches of sky where the stars moved like living fireworks, creeks where girls with corpse-colored skin and dirty hair sang like bullfrogs and watched him through hungry eyes.”

I am still so impressed with how the author comes up with tales within a tale, and ties everything together so flawlessly. It is so much fun picturing these worlds and strange creatures in my mind. A place of huge walls of books that contain thousands of stories, and gadgets like a pen that sends messages right to the desired recipient or a mirror that would show you what your true love was looking at. The world building through each door is so creative and wondrous, and all I want is to see these stories come to life in movies!

Without giving too much away, I’d have to say this was a very enjoyable sequel to The Hazel Wood. Though Urban Fantasy isn’t really my thing, which is more what this book falls under, I found it to be a great story but not as addicting as the first book. Don’t get me wrong though, it was full of eerie and creepy happenings and I was loving the dark atmosphere that New York found itself in. It was twisted and murderous, which I love. But, I still think The Hazel Wood was my favorite of the two because it was like diving straight into a fairy tale.

I’ll leave you with this gem:

I’d opened my eyes and found Finch standing in front of me, looking at me like I was a door, too.

The kind he wanted to walk through.”

4-stars

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Book Promo · Book Reviews · Netgalley

Book Review: The Hazel Wood (Book 1) by Melissa Albert

The Hazel Wood.jpg

Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by the publisher, Flat Iron Books, via Netgalley for an honest review.

Genre: YA/Fantasy

Plot: Seventeen-year-old Alice and her mother have spent most of Alice’s life on the road, always a step ahead of the uncanny bad luck biting at their heels. But when Alice’s grandmother, the reclusive author of a cult-classic book of pitch-dark fairy tales, dies alone on her estate, the Hazel Wood, Alice learns how bad her luck can really get: her mother is stolen away―by a figure who claims to come from the Hinterland, the cruel supernatural world where her grandmother’s stories are set. Alice’s only lead is the message her mother left behind: “Stay away from the Hazel Wood.”

Alice has long steered clear of her grandmother’s cultish fans. But now she has no choice but to ally with classmate Ellery Finch, a Hinterland superfan who may have his own reasons for wanting to help her. To retrieve her mother, Alice must venture first to the Hazel Wood, then into the world where her grandmother’s tales began―and where she might find out how her own story went so wrong.

Opinion:

Alice and her mother Ella have been on the run from bad luck since she was a child. Never able to stay in one place for too long, Alice had grown accustomed to the constant bag packing and switching of homes, schools and cities. Of course, sometimes the bad luck would creep in too closely. Like Alice being kidnapped by a man in a blue Buick at the age of 6, promising her a meeting with a grandma she had only known by name, only to have Ella find her and take her back. But no matter where they went, Alice always felt an anger eating away at her.

So when her mother suddenly disappears, she is forced to turn to the one person Ella has kept her away from her entire life: her grandmother, Althea Proserpine – a famous writer of dark fairy tales about a world called The Hinterland. Now, Alice must learn all she can about The Hinterland and how to find it and the estate that her grandmother lived in before her death: The Hazel Wood.

But Alice will quickly learn that she is chasing more than just fairy tales, and that even her story is yet to be finished.

Look until the leaves turn read,

sew the worlds up with thread.

If your journey’s left undone,

fear the rising of the sun.”

Where do I even begin?!

The Hazel Wood is the YA Fantasy story for fairy tale obsessed readers who like an unconventional tale. This may not be the fluffy sort of story most are accustomed to, by way of beautiful Disney Princesses and romantic happy endings. There isn’t just one evil-doer, and there are more than just poison foods that can kill you in a flash. No, this is definitely not a tale of good fortune. It’s The Brothers Grimm meets Once Upon A Time, and it is wickedly good. The characters are oddities in their own right, with addictive quirks and flaws aplenty. It is set in a world of ruthless caliber with threats of death at every turn, and it is written like classic dark folklore with descriptions and haunting poems that twist your gut while making your heart sing.

My love he wooed me

My love he slew me

My love he buried my bones

His love he married

His love I buried

My love now wanders alone.”

The center of this story is Alice’s dear grandmother Althea, whom she has never had the pleasure of meeting. When we meet Alice, we learn that she knows of her grandmother and her legacy. She is a famous writer of a collection of fairy tales called The Tales of The Hinterland, and she lives on an estate called The Hazel Wood, where her mother Ella grew up as a child. Though Alice has only ever once come across one copy of any of the elusive and ultra-rare stories, she had been forbidden by Ella to ever read any of the tales her mother wrote about. She is also warned to stay away from her grandmother’s crazy obsessed fans, who seem to always track Ella and Alice down, begging for information about Althea and The Hinterland. Naturally, we need to know WHY!

So when Ella disappears and Alice is left all alone, she turns to a schoolmate that is the closest thing she has to a friend. Ellery Finch is a strange boy she knows from school, but one who shows her kindness…even if he does know who her grandmother is. It turns out, Finch is one of those crazy obsessed fans Alice is supposed to stay away from, but she enlists his help as he is the only one that has any information on her grandmother. Together they begin searching for clues as to the whereabouts of The Hazel Wood manor, all the while trying not to be killed by strange creatures.

The Hinterland is, well, wicked. It is dark and seedy, magical and dangerous, and alluring yet completely frightening. It is crawling with eerie beings who are both human and not, and I can only visualize it as Wonderland dropping into The Upside Down. The book is basically little fairy tales put into one giant fairy tale. It reads just like the dark folklore that makes your skin crawl while tickling your fancy. There are strange and curious characters at every turn, like a grandmother moon or  Twice-Killed Katherine. There are stories of a spoiled girl who makes a deal with the Night Women, a young woman who kills to seek death, and a princess born with black eyes.

It is such an incredibly strange tale, but one I am completely enraptured with. I have already began reading book two, The Night Country, and I can say that I am just as hooked. Though I did find that The Hazel Wood was a little slow at times, it wasn’t enough to make me want to put it down or sway my interest. I’m addicted to the odd and gritty nature of the book as a whole, and it just feels like a story I have been patiently waiting to be written. It is for the readers who, like me, want a little darkness poured into their magical teacups and just want to get lost in the woods.

Though I can’t say much else without giving everything away, I highly recommend this read for those of you who haven’t already read it. It is exactly what a YA Fantasy should be, and it is written like a dream with ripples of fog blurring the edges. I cannot wait to see what happens next!

5-stars

 

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Book Promo · Book Reviews · Netgalley · New Releases

Book Review: Love, Heather by Laurie Petrou

Love, Heather

Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by the publisher, Crooked Lane Books, via Netgalley for an honest review.

Genre: YA/Contemporary/Mental Health

Plot: What you see isn’t always what you get.

Stevie never meant for things to go this far. When she and Dee–defiant, bold, indestructible Dee–started all this, there was a purpose to their acts of vengeance: to put the bullies of Woepine High School back in their place. And three months ago, Stevie believed they deserved it. Once her best friend turned on her, the rest of the school followed. Stevie was alone and unprotected with a target on her back. Online, it was worse.

It was Dee’s idea to get them all back with a few clever pranks, signing each act Love, Heather–an homage to her favorite 80’s revenge flick. Despite herself, Stevie can’t help getting caught up in the payback, reveling in every minute of suffering. And for a while, it works: it seems the meek have inherited the school.

But when anonymous students begin joining in, punishing perceived slights with increasingly violent ferocity, the line between villain and vigilante begins to blur. As friends turn on each other and the administration scrambles to regain control, it becomes clear: whatever Dee and Stevie started has gained a mind–and teeth–of its own. And when it finally swallows them whole, one will reemerge changed, with a plan for one final, terrifying act of revenge.

Opinion:

The high school cafeteria. The great leveler of high school movies. It’s where the entire mass of beauties and weirdos come together to eat and do so much more: try to fit in, wish lunch would end, laugh with friends or stare at people they have crushes on. It is universally different and the same…”

Nothing really seems to be happening, but everything matters.”

Things at Woepine high school have gotten out of control. What started as a few harmless pranks to get back at few bullies and ruthless popular kids, quickly turned into a full-on war where anyone could be next. It wasn’t just the Haves vs. the Have Nots anymore, anyone can be a target and anyone could be taken down. But things weren’t supposed to go this far. Dee said that they just needed to be taught a lesson. That once they knew what it felt like to be cast aside and stepped on, that it would end. But Dee took things too far, and Stevie let her. But when Stevie finally becomes the target of a callous prank at a party, it is everyone who will feel the force of this final act of revenge.

No one will tell. No one says anything.

I didn’t do anything, they’re thinking.

They did everything.

They did nothing.”

This Heathers re-imagining shares a theme with the 1988 film of taking down bullies and giving them a taste of their own medicine, but that’s where the similarities end. Love, Heather is a gritty story about the complicated workings of teenage life in high school, and what drives a human to unspeakable acts when threatened or cast out by their peers. It touches on incredibly important issues of bullying, rape culture, social media witch hunts and the effects of social isolation. I came into this story expecting a lighthearted contemporary packed with drama and some epic payback, but what I got was a punch to the gut and a wicked threat to my tear ducts.

The only thing this school has ever made me feel is different. Weird. A Freak. I tried to fit in, and then I tried to change that place, and neither worked. And so, I’ll do things my way. I am an artist. A Maker. I’m not like anyone else. I am different.”

For most of this book, I was reveling in the creative pranks that went from juvenile to borderline felony-worthy. I love an underdog story. One where a quiet or less socially-inclined individual (or individuals) rises up to put an arrogant bully in their place. To show them what it feels like to have their physical and spiritual identity shredded to pieces because it doesn’t fit into a specific social construct. It’s a feeling most of us can identify with and have experienced, so naturally, I love when the “Weirdo” or “loner” rises up.

But let me tell you, this book goes from “Tuesday afternoon read” to “sitting in your room alone, staring off into the darkness for hours contemplating your feelings” really quickly.

Throughout the story there are little hints as to how our main character, Stevie, feels about her friends and her home life. Her parents are divorced and she lives with her mother, who she feels is a close friend to her. They would spend so much time together watching movies and talking, and when her mother suddenly gets a new boyfriend, Stevie is brushed to the side. At home, she feels forgotten and isolated. Gone are her coveted mother-daughter moments of bonding. But to make matters worse, Stevie’s best friend turns on her as well. Lottie and her go from being inseparable, to barely speaking, in yet another case of Stevie being left behind. Lottie is inducted into a crowd of more popular kids, but they deem Stevie to be less than worthy of a position among them. They begin to bully Stevie, and Lottie sits back and does nothing to defend her friend. Stevie is left alone with no one to turn to, and no one to have her back.

I try to be myself, but no one wants that.”

But when Dee enters the picture, everything changes. Dee is everything that Stevie isn’t. She is sure of herself and her beliefs. Her convictions are strongly rooted inside her and she speaks her mind. She is fearless, strong, assured, alluring and infectious. And she sees Stevie and takes her under her wing, giving her a hand to hold onto. A voice to speak through and a friend to confide in.

I hid from you, but you found me.”

She gives Stevie the confidence to take charge and make a difference in her life, and so together, they begin the “Love, Heather” movement: a series of pranks that are left with a message saying “Love, Heather”, to those who have hurt others or deserve a little payback. And just as fast, other kids in the school begin adopting the signature and performing their own acts of rebellion against the people who have wronged them. Eventually, the entire school is flipped upside down and nobody is safe.

It feels like this author dipped their hands into my heart and head and pulled out every spec of heartbreak, fear and social guideline that I ever found myself in. Laurie Petrou perfectly showcases the strange nuances in teenage life. The pressure to feel included and seen by your peers. The irrational importance of high school etiquette of what to say, think, and wear. She highlights the minuscule things we would latch onto and obsess over – a strategically placed period in a text or seeing someone from your school and pretending you don’t know each other. The struggles to fit in and the awkward encounters in this story feel so real and raw, and it left me feeling anxious with flashbacks from my own experiences in high school.

Even if you have never seen or heard of the movie Heathers, I beg you to read this book. Give it to a teenager or a sibling, or just read it yourself and basque in the memories of how torturous teenage life was. But above all, remember this message and speak up when others are being bullied.

Sometimes all someone needs is a knowledge that they matter.

4-5-stars

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Book Reviews · Netgalley

Book Review: The Life of Death by Lucy Booth

The Life of Death.jpg

Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by the publisher, Unbound, via Netgalley for an honest review.

Genre: Fiction/Fantasy

Plot: One soul. One pact with the Devil. One chance at love.

Elizabeth Murray has been condemned to burn at the stake. As she awaits her fate, a strange, handsome man visits her cell. He offers her a deal: her soul in return for immortality, but what he offers is not a normal life. To survive Elizabeth must become Death itself.

Elizabeth must ease the passing of all those who die, appearing at the point of death and using her compassion to guide them over the threshold. She accepts and, for 500 years, whirls from one death to the next, never stopping to think of the life she never lived. Until one day, everything changes. She – Death – falls in love.

Desperate to escape the terms of her deal, she summons the man who saved her. He agrees to release her on one condition: that she gives him five lives. These five lives she must take herself, each one more difficult and painful than the last.

Opinion:

I am the woman you most want to see in those final seconds you live on this earth. I have been wives, daughters, best friends. I have been a beloved nurse, a primary school teacher. Your first love. I am the ultimate mother.

I am Death.”

Death is not the hooded figure you’ve heard about in stories. Death does not lurk in the shadows with a sadistic twinkle in it’s hollow skull, awaiting bloodshed and cruelty. Death does not take a life out of selfishness or evil. Death is a woman, and she only comes when she is called. She comes to those who are reaching their life’s end, to be a guide into their afterlife, wherever that may be. And for the last 500 years, Lizzie has been Death. She has been a familiar and loving face to those who are nearing their end, and she takes pride in helping others. But when Lizzie comes across a man named Tom, she is stricken with a love she never thought she’d have. Desperate to end her time as Death and to be able to have a life with Tom, He agrees to release her from her contract on one condition: she must kill five people of His choosing.

In 1590, I sold my soul to the Devil.”

After being accused of witchcraft, Elizabeth Murray is sentenced to be burnt at the stake. But as she awaits her impending doom in the dungeons, she is visited by Him – the Devil. He comes to her with an offer. He promises her, in exchange for her soul and complete ownership over her, she can “live” as Death. Naturally, she makes the deal. And so, for 500 years, Lizzie lives as Death. Constantly moving around the world, guiding souls across the veil between the living and the dead. She only comes when needed, as a means of comfort to the soul that is dying to ensure they go in peace and happiness. She does not take the lives she guides into Death, she only arrives as a servant in the circle of life.

Lives are given to me – I never take them. Never.”

This depiction of Death always takes the form of a woman, but her face changes to match the wants of the person dying. Whether someone wants to see their mother, sister, daughter, or aunt, Death becomes them. She is given the memories of the woman she becomes, and speaks with the person as they begin to enter the afterlife. But what is really interesting, is that some people are able to actually see Death for who she is, and keep her at arms length. Of course when this happens, it is utterly depressing to witness because those people go into a totally hysteria and shock as they realize what is happening to them. But Death has a job to do, and she does it well. She is a woman of a billion faces.

This is no place for a woman, I’ve heard it said.

I’ve never seen a place a woman was more needed.”

This is honestly one of the coolest and most unique stories I have ever come across. The outlook on death that this author possessed was truly special. She gave death a gentle and feminine quality that makes you feel comfortable with its presence. It is delicate and sweet, rather than a cold and fearful entity that we all seem to shrink away from. This author gives the reader an intimate introduction to an idea of death that almost brings peace and quiet. It is sensitive, caring, heart-achingly beautiful and truly one of a kind.

It is so seldom that a book can reach into my soul with such ferocity and gentleness.

But this book did that.

It crushed me.

This entire story feels like a poem written just for me. Like the author knew I would need this, and I am confident that I am not the only person who will feel this. The Life of Death is a love song, a sonnet. A message in a bottle that has traveled through storms of anger and eerie calm, only to wash up at the feet of its desired recipient. The writing is so descriptive and perfect. I was lost in this story, feeling waves upon waves of emotions for Lizzie and these fleeting characters.

It’s breathtaking.

But as soon as I began to see that this story was one of beauty and acceptance of death, the author drove a knife into my heart and cut the ties on the dam that was holding my tears in. DEVASTATION. Unending, literal, soul-crushing, weep-worthy devastation. And all I can say is, why? WHY?! Why did you fill me up with so much love and assurance, and then just cut me at the knees and leave me in a pool of my own despair?? Couldn’t we just let this be a story of happiness and good fortune?

Of course we couldn’t, this is the story of Death, after all. And in all reality, this isn’t the bright and happy story that I am making it out to be. It is a dark and gritty tale once Lizzie begins killing the people that He decides upon. Because each of these people are innocents. They aren’t supposed to die, but they must in order for Lizzie to be released from her contract with the Devil. And the worst part? Lizzie has to use other people to do the killings. So not only is she taking the lives that the Devil tells her to take, but she is also forever altering the lives of those she takes control of to do the deed.

This isn’t a fluffy tale.

It’s a tale about Death.

But even so, I can’t help but hold it close to my heart as a book that I will forever think fondly of. It’s just beautiful, in all of its depressing and dark glory. I highly recommend it to any reader that is looking for something truly different from the normal stories currently out there. It will give you a whole new outlook on death, and honestly, its for the best.

Fade to black.”

5-stars

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Book Reviews · Netgalley · New Releases

Book Review: Good Girls Lie by J.T. Ellison

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Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by the publisher, Harlequin – Mira, via Netgalley for an honest review.

Genre: Mature YA/Mystery/Thriller

Plot: Goode girls don’t lie…

Perched atop a hill in the tiny town of Marchburg, Virginia, The Goode School is a prestigious prep school known as a Silent Ivy. The boarding school of choice for daughters of the rich and influential, it accepts only the best and the brightest. Its elite status, long-held traditions and honor code are ideal for preparing exceptional young women for brilliant futures at Ivy League universities and beyond. But a stranger has come to Goode, and this ivy has turned poisonous.

In a world where appearances are everything, as long as students pretend to follow the rules, no one questions the cruelties of the secret societies or the dubious behavior of the privileged young women who expect to get away with murder. But when a popular student is found dead, the truth cannot be ignored. Rumors suggest she was struggling with a secret that drove her to suicide.

But look closely…because there are truths and there are lies, and then there is everything that really happened.

J.T. Ellison’s pulse-pounding new novel examines the tenuous bonds of friendship, the power of lies and the desperate lengths people will go to to protect their secrets.

Opinion:

Goode perches like a gargoyle above the city’s small downtown…It is quiet, dignified, isolated. As are the girls who attend the school; serious, studious. Good. Goode girls are always good. They go on to great things.”

After the unexpected deaths of her scion father and mother, Ash Carr arrives at Goode – a private college preparatory school for teenage daughters of the elite. Goode breeds exceptional ladies who go on to top schools, and who become leaders in their industries. As a sophomore, Ash is quickly thrust into the strange dynamics of these powerful and privileged girls. Keeping up with the honor code of the school and high intensity academics is one thing, but navigating the ways of her classmates is an entirely different game. But things for Ash have never been easy, so why should her time at Goode be any different. After the sudden death of her roommate turns Goode upside down, Ash fights to keep her name cleared of any involvement. But things are beginning to unravel, and no secret is safe, not even hers.

I love a good murder mystery/thriller, but a murder mystery in a private school of privileged girls? Psh. Cancel my evening and clear my schedule, because I am THERE! One series that has been a personal favorite of mine for years is Private by Kate Brian. It’s a YA drama-fest of secrets, lies, murder, backstabbing, secret societies and boatloads of privilege. Needless to say, when I came across Good Girls Lie, I needed it in my hands immediately.

And it was all I could have asked for

and then some.

This book is oozing with secrets made of manipulation that have been dipped in lies, doused in deception, coated with blindsides, and sprinkled with levels upon levels of twists. Think you know where this is going? Think again. Think it’s over? THINK AGAIN! J.T. Ellison keeps the reader drowning in psychological torment until the very last page. So much so, that you’ll even find yourself reading the acknowledgments just to get a deeper look inside the head of this author.

I was unimaginably hooked on this story and the character of Ash. I needed to know her deep dark secrets, and the secrets of all these strange girls at Goode. Because they aren’t just rich girls thrust into a top school because their daddy knows a guy. Oh no. These girls are brilliant, border-line geniuses in their fields. Whether it is art, business, computers or writing – these girls excel in every subject. They are cunning and devious, sure, but also surprisingly honest and mostly decent to one another. And yeah, they’re a little crazy, but that’s to be expected.

It’s a bit like entering a prison, only here, the inmates are upstanding teens with daddy issues.”

Goode is the typical private bordering school that we have seen and read about. There are the popular head girls who rule over the school, secret societies and hazing, and a whole lot of sneaky things going on in the shadows. But the real star of this story is Ash Carr and her journey to Goode. Before her father suddenly dies of a drug overdose, and her mother commits suicide shortly after finding his body, Ash is told that she will be attending Goode in two months time. But after the death of her parents, and with her inheritance tied up until her twenty-fifth birthday, Ash is granted a scholarship into Goode by the dean of the school.

But naturally, Ash’s past is much more complex than one could ever guess.

They say her name, an unbroken chain of accusation and misery.”

Ash.

Ash.

Ash.

Ash is such an interesting character to have tell this story. My initial reaction upon learning that she is harboring a dark secret made me watch her closely, but her character is so intricately created that you forget to look at her as anything but a teenager. She keeps to herself at school, doesn’t make any quick and strong relationships with any of the other girls, and simply focuses on her studies and staying under the radar. She is the embodiment of a girl who has seen tragedy and hurt throughout her life, and I felt such a sense of sadness for her. But naturally, there are instances throughout this story that makes you question her and the motives of every single girl around her.

Lies will flow from my lips, but there may perhaps be some truth mixed up with them; it is for you to decide whether any part of it is worth keeping.” – Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own

I have been reading a TON of thrillers lately, so I had a pretty good idea of where this was going. But NOT AT ALL to the extent that it went! Every time I made a conclusion on how this book would end, something would happen that would force me to rethink everything. And even when I finally got all the answers, ANOTHER blindside was waiting for me! This is the kind of thriller I have been needing. One that makes my face hurt while giving me a weird sense of envy that I was never shipped off to a boarding school and tapped into a secret society.

Woe is me.

As a whole, I loved Good Girls Lie. Why yes, there were a bit of unnecessary PG-13 (R?) rated scenes that I didn’t see any point to. And yes, the constant drastic age differences in these romantic relationships did make me slightly uncomfortable. But, what is life, right? All in all, this is a really addicting story about secrets and the need for freedom. It’s sad, it’s dark and it is even a bit sweetsort of. My only true qualm is that this is a stand-alone, when all I really want is about ten more of these books.

“Mmm. Death tastes so good.”

4-5-stars

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Book Promo · Book Reviews

Book review: The Door to January by Gillian French

The Door to January

 

Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by the author, Gillian French, for an honest review.

Genre: YA/Mystery/Paranormal/Sci-Fi

Plot: It’s a nightmare. And it’s killing her.

Ever since sixteen-year-old Natalie Payson moved away from her hometown of Bernier, Maine, she’s had nightmares. And not just the usual ones. These are inside her, pulling her, calling her back, drawing her to a door, a house, a place, a time. Full of fear, full of danger. So this summer, Natalie’s going back to Bernier to face up to a few things: the reason she left town in the first place, the boy she’s trying hard not to trust, and the door in her dreams.

But once she steps through the door, into a murky past, she’s entangled in someone else’s world. And only Natalie can help right the wrongs of both the past and the present.

 

Opinion:

As Natalie moved closer to the door, she heard whispers.

Girls’ voices hissed around the frame. ‘Natalie,’ the said. ‘Natalie.’

She opened the door to blackness colder than the pits of January.”

Natalie Payson has been plagued with strange nightmares for the past two years, where voices call her to a house – a door. She has no idea what to make of these dreams or why it whispers to her in her sleep. A house as cold as ice, with frost and snow raining down within and a door that leads to…where? To find out, Natalie must go back to Bernier, Maine – the place she and her family moved away from after a traumatic event in the woods. With her cousin Teddy in tow, Natalie finally enters the mysterious house to get answers and to make the nightmares finally stop. But Natalie’s presence in Bernier sparks more than just a dark history within a farm house, and suddenly more truths that she was prepared for begin to emerge. Truths from both the past and present.

As usual, Gillian French is grabbing her readers by the collar and yanking them into a world of perfectly expressed emotional trauma and deep imagination. The Door to January is the perfect winter read that will chill your spine and frost your windows. It captures the innocence and strength between two young people, Natalie and Teddy, as they begin to experience paranormal phenomena in a farm house in their town, while still dealing with an event from two years prior that changed their lives forever. This book showcases a hopefulness and sweetness coated in dark grit and sorrow that will leave you wanting more. You’ll come for the ghosts, but you’ll stay for the epic twist.

We are the weavers. We are the shearers.

And you are the darning needle.”

If you think you know where this story is going to go, you’re going to be wrong. One of the things I love about this author, is that she gives you just enough detail to know what you may be getting into, but the ride she takes you on is never what is expected. This book has a paranormal/fantastical ghost story element, as well as a large mystery/thriller aspect that makes it almost disturbingly realistic. These are two genres of books I love, and Gillian French has meshed them together in a YA novel that makes me soul sing!

All I want to do now is find an abandoned house in the snow and discover its secrets.

Seance, anyone?

Natalie is your typical sweet and caring sixteen-year-old girl who has a close relationship with her cousin Teddy. She works hard at her Aunts’ restaurant, follows rules, and is highly respectful and just good-natured. Teddy is very smart and shy, and would most easily be described as a quiet brainiac type. The relationship between Teddy and is cousin is immensely pure and portrays so much loyalty and affection, I was almost weeping of jealousy for not having a Teddy of my own to watch my back! Together the two begin entering the house with a tape recorder to see if they can catch voices of ghosts or spirits within the house. As they do, Natalie begins to experience flashbacks into moments of history inside the home and on the property.

As this story-line unfolds, another one begins to unravel as the reader continues. It explains the events that took place before Natalie moved away, and basically why she moved in the first place. More characters are introduced from that time as well, and a few of them are of the unsavory sort. I don’t want to go into any detail about them though, because that will give away some of the secrets involved in this AMAZING mystery. Just know that things get dark real fast and you’re going to need a safety blanket and a nice cup of tea to hide behind.

The way that these two story-lines reveal themselves turned out to be something I really enjoyed. There wasn’t a lot of boring moments between the “good stuff” happening, because everything was a hint towards what was eventually going to be unmasked. I was not expecting the nightmares and the house to go in the direction it did, but I am so impressed with the creative way it was orchestrated. It was such a quick read because I needed to know what was going to happen, and honestly, I could do with at least 3 more books following Natalie and Teddy.

All in all, this is a chilling tale that I highly recommend for readers who are looking for another Wintery tale to end the year with, or to go into 2020 with. Of course, please be aware that this book does get dark and touches on some serious issues that may be sensitive to some readers – but nothing too graphic, it is YA after all. If you’re looking for a tale that will make you shiver, read this! 

4-5-stars

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