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

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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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Binding of Bindings · Book Promo · New Releases · Upcoming Releases

Binding of Bindings #35: My Top 10 Anticipated January 2020 Book Releases

Dear 2019,
It’s been real. It’s been fun.
But I can’t say it’s been real fun.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

~* My 10 Anticipated January 2020 Book Releases *~

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

 

1. The Gray Chamber (True Colors) by Grace Hitchcock
Release Date: January 1, 2020
Genre: Historical Fiction/Mystery/True Crime

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Let’s start 2020 off with some historical fiction and true crime, shall we?

The Gray Chamber is one of many stories in the True Colors collection. The books are written by a number of different authors, but all center on one thing: Historical Romances and American Crime.

*puuuurrrr*

This little gem is set in New York in 1887, in a sweet little lunatic asylum where all the women are dutifully cared for and not put there by powerful men who tire of them. *cough*

It is the story of how Edyth Foster is thrown into a women’s Insane Asylum by her uncle, who is in control of her vast inheritance until her 25th birthday. So just days before she is to gain full rights to her father’s fortune, her uncle commits her, planning to leave her there to rot. Whilst inside, Edyth meets a woman who claims to be an undercover journalist hellbent on getting the true story of what goes on in the institute.

P.S. Have I told you guys that I, myself, was written into a novel about an Insane Asylum? It’s true. I’m a poor little lass, committed by my husband for being “too sad” after a miscarriage. What a guy, right? Read it here: Whispers of Bedlam Asylum

 

2. A Heart So Fierce and Broken (Cursebreakers, Book 2) by Brigid Kemmerer
Release Date: January 7, 2020
Genre: YA/Fantasy/Retelling

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A Heart So Fierce and Broken is the second installment to the ever popular Beauty and the Beast retelling – A Curse So Dark and Lonely, but comes from the POV of Grey.

Now, I STILL have not even read A Curse So Dark and Lonely, but in my defense – work is getting in the way! I have it waiting patiently for me on my shelf, staring at me every time I have a different book in my hands. But soon…SOON!

I have already read a few reviews on Goodreads and there are quite a bit of conflicting opinions, which makes me want to read it even more!

 

3. One of Us Is Next (One of Us Is Lying, Book 2) by Karen M. McManus
Release Date: January 7, 2020
Genre: YA/Mystery/Thriller

One of Us is Next FINAL cover.indd

I’m going to just say it: this is yet another sequel to a book I haven’t read yet, and it’s not going to be the last.

One of Us is Next is the sequel to One of Us is Lying, a hugely popular YA Mystery/Thriller about five teens who walk into detention, with only four walking out. It’s The Breakfast Club meets murder mystery, and it has STELLAR reviews from readers.

One of Us is Next centers on Bronwyn’s sister and two new characters. It’s a Truth or Dare app game that gets dangerous quickly, and the teens are completely on their own when it comes to survival.

 

4. The Night Country (The Hazel Wood, Book 2) by Melissa Albert
Release Date: January 7, 2020
Genre: YA/Fantasy

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The Night Country is the sequel to The Hazel Wood, and yes, another series I haven’t started. But, once I finish my current read, I am jumping into The Hazel Wood and then my ARC of The Night Country!!

The Hazel Wood is about a girl named Alice and her mother who are constantly trying to outrun their bad luck. But when her mother is abducted by a man who claims to originate from Hinterland, things turn curious. Hinterland is the supernatural setting for each of her grandmother’s dark fairy tale stories, which have gained quite the cult following. Alice enlists the help of a classmate named Ellery Finch, who also happens to be a fan of the stories.

In The Night Country, Alice and Ellery dive back into the magical world that has found its way into New York City. New characters and dark scenarios make up this little beauty, and I cannot wait to get started!

 

5. Scavenge the Stars (Book 1) by Tara Sim
Release Date: January 7, 2020
Genre: YA/Fantasy/Retelling

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Retelling Time!!!!

Scavenge the Stars is a retelling of The Count of Monte Cristo and the first book in a planned duology. It claims to be for fans of SJM, Sabaa Tahir and Leigh Bardugo…so yes, my interest has been captured.

In Moray, children are forced to bear the debts accumulated by their parents in the event of their death. For seven years, Amaya Chandra has been working to pay off her debts after being sold to a debtor ship. Her only goal is to enact revenge against the man who shattered her world. But when she rescues a stranger from drowning, she realizes it may cost her in the long run.

Gambling, rich elitists and a badass female with a desire to kill?

I’m game.

 

6. Just Breathe by Cammie McGovern
Release Date: January 7, 2020
Genre: YA/Contemporary/Health-Mental Health

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Grab the tissues, I think this one is going to make us weep.

David Sheinman has everything. He’s popular, senior class president and well-liked by his peers. But he also has cystic fibrosis, a hereditary disease that attacks the lungs and digestive system. Jamie Turner is unlike David. After her father’s suicide and a lack of friends to reach out to, she is caught in a deep depression which soon becomes unmanageable for her.

Just Breathe is the story of how David and Jamie’s worlds collide at the hospital, where an unlikely friendship and support system is formed. If this doesn’t give me Me, Earl, and The Dying Girl or The Fault in Our Stars vibes…I’ll just have to cry harder.

 

7. Beyond the Shadowed Earth (Beneath the Haunting Sea, Book 2) by Joanna Ruth Meter
Release Date: January 14, 2020
Genre: YA/Fantasy

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Beyond the Shadowed Earth is the sequel to Beneath the Haunting Sea, but it is a book that can be read without reading the first. So basically, it’s totally fine that this is yet another series I haven’t started.

In Beneath the Haunting Sea, Sixteen-year-old Talia and her mother are exiled from the Emperor’s court to a distant sea-side estate after her rival seizes power. On the voyage across the Northern Sea, Talia begins to hear something beneath the waves, calling to her. When she arrives at her estate of exile, she meets a boy who also claims to hear the music of the ocean.

Dun. Dun. Dun

However, in Beyond the Shadowed Earth, we are given an entirely different plot and lead character, but set in the same fantastical world.

Eda has dreams of becoming empress, and will do anything to get what she wants. So she makes a deal with the gods by bargaining away the soul of her best friend in order to attain power. Years later when he friend dies, she becomes overcome with guilt for what she had done. So she sets off to find the god that she made the deal with, in the hopes of reversing it.

 

8. Echoes Between Us by Katie McGarry
Release Date: January 14, 2020
Genre: YA/Contemporary/Romance

Echoes Between Us.jpg

Hello young love!

Please break my heart.

But is this also a Paranormal/Fantasy?!

Echoes Between Us is the story of a girl who surrounded by loss, and a boy with a bright future.

Since the death of her mother, Veronica has been seeing the ghost of her mother with every piercing migraine that consumes her. Suffering from a brain tumor, which is the exact way her mother died, Veronica is beginning to feel as if she may be going crazy. But when Sawyer enters her life, things begin to change. Sawyer is popular and has a bright future ahead, with a life that seems perfect. But as the two become closer, they both realize that not everything one sees on the surface is reality.

 

9. Follow Me to Ground by Sue Rainsford
Release Date: January 21, 2020
Genre: Fiction/Fantasy/Magical Realism

Follow Me to Ground

Follow Me to Ground promises to be weird AF, and I am all sorts of here for it.

Ada and her father have been blessed with the ability to heal illnesses, and they do so for local villagers by cracking open their damaged bodies and burying them in a dirt that revives them…or something. Ada then falls in love with a man that her father disapproves of and…that’s basically all I know.

The description says Ada is a being both more and less than human“, and I’m just like…

Wtf does that even mean?!

Give it to me.

 

10. Seven Deadly Shadows by Courtney Alameda & Valynne E. Maetani
Release Date: January 28, 2020
Genre: YA/Fantasy

Seven Deadly Shadows

THIS one, is going to be epic.

Seven Deadly Shadows is about a girl named Kira, who battles demons who attack her shrine in search of an ancient artifact. With the help of Shiro, a half fox/half boy, they learn that the only way to defeat a demon-lord and find said missing artifact, is to enlist the help of seven death gods.

I mean…

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Stay Witchy

 

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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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Binding of Bindings · Book Promo · Book Reviews · Books

Binding of Bindings #34: 10 Chilling Reads from 2019

10 books that will make you want to shed your own skin, cut out your own heart, and cry until the pain and truth of a cold reality escapes you.
These books are going to hit you where it hurts and leave you so cold, you’re burning hot.

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~*10 Chilling Reads from 2019*~

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1. The Cold Is in Her Bones by Peternelle van Arsdale
Genre: YA/Fantasy/Retelling

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This is a Medusa retelling that is strange, eerie and weirdly sentimental. It has been months since I read it, but I am still blissfully disturbed by it.

The Cold Is in Her Bones tells the story of Milla as she spends her days doing chores and never leaving her home, despite her wishes to wander freely. But when the arrival of a family comes to live beside her home, she meets the first girl her own age that tells her of a curse. The curse comes to young women in the village, and is one of demonic possession.

This isn’t going to be the story you’re expecting, and I really recommend it to anyone that wants something different. Because it is VERY different. It touches on themes of kindness, not judging others, friendship and loyalty. It is a STRANGE story, but one that is so original and unique.

(See my review here)

 

2. A Danger to Herself and Other by Alyssa B. Sheinmel
Genre: YA/Contemporary/Mental Health

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THIS. STORY. IS. EVERYTHING.

You’re going to assume this book is going to go down a certain path, but you’re going to be dead wrong. The turn it takes is shocking and heart-shattering, but also so beautiful and soul-touching.

A Danger to Herself and Others is about a girl who finds herself placed in an institution after an accident that happened with her roommate during a summer program. Hannah is a very focused student and only wants to return to her life, so she does everything in her power to prove to the staff that she is completely sane and can go home.

*sigh*

Just thinking about this book makes me need to take a deep breath.

Your soul wants you to read this.

(See my review here)

 

3. Girls with Sharp Sticks (Book 1) by Suzanne Young
Genre: YA/Contemporary/Sci-Fi/Feminism

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I just received an ARC of book two (Girls with Razor Hearts) in the mail from Simon & Schuster, and guys…it is taking all of my self-control not to devour it right now. It doesn’t release until March 17, 2020, so I need to wait a little bit. But I am seriously struggling.

Innovations Academy is an all-girl boarding school where math and science courses are non-existent, and growing beautiful gardens and being obedient is at the top of everyone’s to-do list. The girls of Innovation Academy are sweet, docile and humble creatures. Or…are they?

I literally cannot say more, but just know…Girls with Sharp Sticks is the most beautiful and sorrowful feminist Sci-fi/Fantasy ever.

(See my review here)

 

4. The Best Lies by Sara Lyu
Genre: YA/Contemporary/Mystery/Thriller

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If you’re looking for a book that will leave you feeling lost, confused, unsure of your current relationships, angry, sad and utterly devastated

you’ve come to the right place.

The Best Lies is about toxic relationships, mental health, obsessive behaviors, manipulation, family dynamics, love, friendship and lies. It is a mystery/thriller but really, it should be categorized in the “Allow me to rip your heart out through your eye sockets“ genre.

This is one of the BEST books I have read in 2019.

It tells the tale of Remy Tsai as she recounts how her best friend Elise killed her boyfriend Jack. It’s a twisted web of intense love and loneliness, and one that I have been begging everyone to read.

(See my review here)

 

5. Wilder Girls by Rory Power
Genre: YA/Mystery/Horror/LGBT

Wilder Girls

“My other eye’s dead, gone dark in a flare-up. Lid fused shut, something growing underneath.

It’s like that with all of us here. Sick, strange, and we don’t know why. Things bursting out of us, bits missing and pieces sloughing off, and then we harden and smooth over.”

Wanting your heart to lurch and your skin to shift?

Read this.

Wilder Girls is the hauntingly beautiful and soul-dismantling feminist horror that you need. A virus breaks out at a private school located on an island, leaving the inhabitants to fend for themselves as the Tox takes hold of them. With each breakout comes a new torture for each girl. From bruising from the inside out, second spines and hearts, and a silver scaled hand to skin lesions and bubbles that grow worse by the day.

These girls are walking nightmares, but they look at each other with a dizzying amount of love and respect.

(See my review here)

 

6. The Surface Breaks by Louise O’Neill
Genre: YA/Fantasy/Retelling/Feminism

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“…I sewed my own mouth shut in the hopes that a boy I barely knew could kiss it open again.”

The Surface Breaks is a Little Mermaid feminist re-imagining, and it’s going to shatter your soul into pieces.

My poor heart, is still breaking in two and filling over the brim from the sadness and strength I got from this book! This rendition is dark, gritty, and gets real AF. This isn’t a fluffy twist on mermaids and young love. It hits you where it hurts, yanks those heartstrings, and makes you rethink how much of yourself you are willing to shred apart in the name of love.

“’And the pain?’” I ask. ‘Will that go away?’

‘Oh no,’ she replies. ‘But women are meant to suffer.’”

(See my review here)

 

7. The Liar’s Daughter by Megan Cooley Peterson
Genre: YA/Contemporary/Religion-Cults

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The window is no more than two feet wide and maybe half a foot tall. I can’t squeeze through it. It’s meant to let in sunlight, not hope.”

Piper has one dream: to make her Father proud and to finally be initiated into the community as an adult. She has spent her entire life breathing in his teachings and doing anything in her power to make him proud. The outside world is toxic, and they are humanities only chance at survival. She knows the government seeks to control its people with pharmaceutical drugs and lies, pumping bodies full of toxins in order to keep them spending money. But Piper knows the truth.

The Liar’s Daughter is the story of Piper’s time in a cult. It is sad and upsetting, but it focuses on a survivors experience. The confusion, anger, sadness and betrayal that comes from learning the truth.

All I ask before you read this, is don’t look at the book description. It gives away the entire plot, and it angers me to no end.

If you want to experience the true sorrow of this story, just open it and start reading.

(See my review here)

 

8. Love, Heather by Laurie Petrou
Genre: YA/Contemporary/Re-Imagining

Love, Heather

Love, Heather is a book I read in October and loved, but still haven’t written a review for. Ugh…I know.

It’s about two girls (Stevie and Dee) who enact revenge on the bullies of their high school by playing a few pranks, and signing them with Love, Heather. But what starts out as innocent retaliation, quickly turns into a violent mess as students start to join in by pulling their own vicious pranks. But as things start to spiral out of control, and Dee begins to take things too far, Stevie fights to get out before it takes her under.

This is a Heathers re-imagining and it is SO GOOD!

 

9. I Know You Remember by Jennifer Donaldson
Genre: YA/Mystery/Thriller

I Know You Remember

I participated in a Spooky Reads Campaign that Random House hosted in October, and my book to read and review was I Know You Remember.

I tells the story of Ruthie Hayden moving back to Anchorage, Alaska and seeking out her former best friend Zahra. But when she returns, she finds that Zahra is missing and everyone suspects foul-play. Ruthie takes it upon herself to go searching for his best friend and to bring home the only person who ever truly understood her.

This book, is twisted and so damn good. My mouth dropped open, and stayed open, as I sat in my reading spot wondering wtf I just read and how I didn’t see that ending coming.

(See my review here and a few mood boards and my dream casting)

 

10. Songs from the Deep by Kelly Powell
Genre: YA/Fantasy/Mystery/Historical Fiction

Songs from the Deep

For fans of The Wicked Deep and sirens – you’re going to love Songs from the Deep.

The story centers on an island that is plagued by fear of the sirens that lurk in the waters. As children, islanders are taught to never go into the ocean, but Moira Alexander has always had a deep fascination for the frightening beauties of the deep. When a boy turns up dead on shore and the sirens are blamed, she takes it upon herself to find the true culprit.

This is a totally Gothic and eerie Tim Burton-esque tale that is dripping in mystery. It’s as creepy as it is beautiful, and a book I wish was series instead of a stand-alone.

(See my review here)

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Stay Witchy ❤

 

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Book Promo · Book Reviews · Reviews

Book Review: The Lies They Tell by Gillian French

The Lies They Tell

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

Genre: YA/Mystery/Thriller

Plot: Everyone in Tenney’s Harbor, Maine, knows about the Garrison tragedy. How an unexplained fire ravaged their house, killing four of the five family members. But what people don’t know is who did it. All fingers point at Pearl Haskins’s father, the town drunk, who was the caretaker of the property, but she just can’t believe it. Leave it to a town of rich people to blame “the help.”

With her disgraced father now trying to find work in between booze benders, Pearl’s future doesn’t hold much more than waiting tables at the local country club, where the wealthy come to flaunt their money and spread their gossip. This year, Tristan, the last surviving Garrison, and his group of affluent and arrogant friends have made a point of sitting in Pearl’s section. Though she’s repulsed by most of them, Tristan’s quiet sadness and somber demeanor have her rethinking her judgments. Befriending the boys could mean getting closer to the truth, clearing her father’s name, and giving Tristan the closure he seems to be searching for. But it could also trap Pearl in a sinister web of secrets, lies, and betrayals that, once untangled, will leave no life unchanged . . . if it doesn’t take hers first.

Opinion:

A quadruple homicide, rich Summer boys, a drunk father and unattainable love.

Pearl Haskins is about to have the summer of her life.

The Lies They Tell documents Pearl’s time working the summer at the Tenney’s Harbor Country Club as a server to the rich and dismissive families of the elite. As a lower-class working townie, Pearl is wellaware of the divide between the Summer crowd and those who reside in TH year-round. The summer boys come from extreme wealth, and they have reputations for starting flings with townie girls and discarding them by the end of summer. Having resided there all her life, and her father working as a caretaker for the homes of these families, Pearl has always known to keep her distance and to not get involved.

So naturally when Bridges, one of the summer boys who is close friends with Tristan Garrison, asks Pearl out, I was instantly screaming DON’T DO IT! He’s playing a trick on you! He just wants sex! HAVEN’T YOU SEEN CARRIE?! But don’t worry guys, she doesn’t get murdered or assaulted on their first outing, or even the one after that.

* whew *

The story takes the reader through Pearl’s summer as she gets to know the boys she has always seen at a distance.

For Pearl, she justifies her time with them as a means to get closer to Tristan in order to learn the truth of the murders, and in turn, hopefully redeem her father’s reputation (which had been soiled by rumors that he was drunk on the job on night of the murders). But as she gets closer to Bridges and his friends, she begins to see a new side of them. They seem genuine and caring, and she even begins to enjoy the friendships that begin to blossom.

Of course, my favorite character in this story has to be Pearl. She embodies the anxieties and stresses that being an eighteen-year-old girl represents. She is sassy and has quick remarks to protect herself, but deep down she just wants to feel accepted and desired like everyone else. I was constantly smirking at her quick wit and ability to adapt to the situations she was thrown in. The girl is sharp and knows how to handle herself, and I love her for it! When it comes to the summer boys, this girl can hold her own, but when it comes to her best friend Reese

*sigh*

That boy deserves to be slapped for the way he treats her in this, and that’s all I am going to say.

But the real focus of this story is Tristan and the death that surrounds him. After losing his entire family, for some reason he comes back to TH to spend the summer with his friendsdoing way too much cardio and barely eating. Soon after the murders he was brought in by the police as a suspect, but the charges were dropped after he provided an alibi and proof that he was hours away at the time of the crime. Due to the trauma that he recently had to endure, it’s not surprising that he acts distant and prefers to be alone. But what is really intriguing about him is the thick fog of mystery that surrounds his character. The author does an excellent job of making you dissect everything he says and does, because you aren’t sure if you are supposed to love or hate him.

He seems constantly lost in his thoughts and gives off the impression of not paying attention to anything around him, but its actually the opposite. He is sharp and opinionated, but not in a malicious or cruel way. His intelligence shines through and it is so easy to see the positive qualities in him that draw others in. And to be honest, he is just begging to be drooled over! With his uninterested facial expressions, quiet and closed-off demeanor, and resident tortured bad-boy aura – it was impossible not to fall in love with him. Tristan is the sorrowful beauty of a male who goes from king of the ball to social pariah overnight, and that’s just the beginning of his intrigue.


The author pulls you into the lives of the characters in such a natural and realistic way. She perfectly showcases the awkward encounters between boys and girls, the pressures and expectations that are put on you by your peers, and the person you have to morph into the fit in. These characters decisions are dictated by a look of expectancy or by a tension in the air that whispers prove yourself, prove that you are worthy. It made me angered and sad for what it means to be a teen, but it also gives me a thrill for how well French was able to shed light on how it truly is.

I was hooked on this story from the first page until the last, staying up into the wee hours of the morning to devour it. It’s a steady-paced YA mystery that gives subtle hints throughout the story, but keeps the reader completely in the dark until the end. As a true crime fanatic, I gravitate towards stories that slowly blossom and give insight into the human psyche. I want to know how the characters act to trauma or heated situations. I want to witness their reactions, read their body language and dissect the words and phrases they choose. I want to decide who is at fault by the evidence presented, and Gillian French allowed me to do just that.

In my book, this was a win and I absolutely love that it ended with answers shrouded in even more mystery.

4-stars

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