Book Reviews · Netgalley · New Releases

Book Review: The Gray Chamber by Grace Hitchcock

The Gray Chamber

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

Genre: Historical Fiction/American Crime/Romance

Plot: Will Edyth prove her sanity before it is too late?

On Blackwell Island, New York, a hospital was built to keep its patients from ever leaving.

With her late father’s fortune under her uncle’s care until her twenty-fifth birthday in the year 1887, Edyth Foster does not feel pressured to marry or to bow to society’s demands. She freely indulges in eccentric hobbies like fencing and riding her velocipede in her cycling costume about the city for all to see. Finding a loophole in the will, though, her uncle whisks Edyth off to the women’s lunatic asylum just weeks before her birthday. Do any of Edyth’s friends care that she disappeared?

At the asylum she meets another inmate, who upon discovering Edyth’s plight, confesses that she is Nellie Bly, an undercover journalist for The World. Will either woman find a way to leave the terrifying island and reclaim her true self?

Opinion:

Etiquette, propriety, courting, and men who don’t think much of women.

It’s like a Jane Austen novel, but with an asylum!

The Gray Chamber is set in the later part of the 1800’s in high society, following a young woman named Edyth Foster as she nears her twenty-fifth birthday. Though Edyth has grown up privileged and accustomed to playing the role of a lady, she is a quirky woman who lives her life by her own set of rules. She wears relaxed dress-wear without the bother of a corset, and prefers beating men at fencing to sitting on a cushion looking primped and puffed for eligible suitors. And with the fortune her parents left her becoming available to her on her birthday, she is able to forgo the stress and pressures of securing a husband.

That is until her uncle throws her in an insane asylum.

I LOVE a historical fiction tale just like the next Jane Austen lover. There’s just nothing more romantic than a woman being courted using proper English and gentlemanly manners. Mix in beautiful gowns, arrogant men, tittering females and a mental institution…and you’ve just opened up the gates of heaven to me. I found this story to be thoroughly addicting and positively riveting. The language was perfectly on point, the time-period was well-portrayed and it showcased how easy it was during that time for men to dispose of “problem women”. Anyone who didn’t fall in line with society or do as a man said was at risk of being thrust aside.

Corset forbid any of these ladies have some individuality!

When we meet Edyth she is enjoying her life in leisure and comfort. She goes to the fencing club where her crush Bane is the instructor, sketches and paints in her free-time, is carefree with a sunny disposition, and even houses her Uncle and his new bride. Though the relationship with her uncle SEEMS fine to begin with, we obviously know it’s not. Unbeknownst to Edyth, her uncle brings doctors from Blackwell Island, the infamous Women’s Insane Asylum nearby, to have her evaluated for her eccentricities and “odd behavior” in order to have her committed so he can steal her fortune. But once she is shipped off, things got a little sour for me.

After Edyth arrives at Blackwell Island, she began to turn me off a bit. Gone was this strong and independent woman with a humble head on her shoulders, and in her place was a character who whined like a teenager and stomped her foot. Granted, the poor dear HAS just been committed and fears she will spend the rest of her days there…but come on. She acted like a spoiled child who had spent her entire life with a silver spoon in her mouth, and didn’t understand why she wasn’t getting her hair done. Seriously. She asked if a chambermaid would be coming in to do her hair. In an insane asylum.

*sigh*

But her time locked up wasn’t all sunshine and daisies. The orderlies were brutal to all of the patients, and there seemed to only be one nurse that actually had a soul. The women were all washed in the same disgusting bath water, were given food that was barely considered food, dressed in thin pieces of fabric that did nothing to keep them warm, and were sleeping in horrid conditions. It sounded dreadful, and Edyth attempting to escape the institution gave me SUCH anxiety as she was running through the halls trying to flee! 

I liked where the author took the story and how she threw in a few twists and blindsides. I found Bane to be a dreamy and perfect romantic interest for Edyth, but I do wish the poor guy would have realized she was a gem BEFORE deciding so after seeing her in a fancy gown and with makeup on. *facepalm* But even so, their relationship was very sweet and gave me little flutters. Bane’s determination to find Edyth was so pure, and it really showed how strong of a friendship they had that he knew something was up as soon as she missed their date. How things tied up with them was perfect, innocent and very romantic.

All in all, I really liked this American Crime/Historical fiction tale. It kept my attention, the setting and dialogue felt authentic to the era, and it showcased the atrocities that some women were subjected to. I do think the last 15% of the story was a bit unnecessary and was dragged out a little more than was needed, but it didn’t bother me enough to make me stop reading until the very last word. This was my first read from this True Colors series, so I definitely want to read the other stories and see how the other authors constructed their tales.

3-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.

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~* My 10 Anticipated January 2020 Book Releases *~

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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

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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

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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…

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Stay Witchy

 

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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

The SUrface Breaks 2

“…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

The Liar's Daughter.jpg

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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Blog Tour · Book Promo · Books · New Releases · Penguin Random House · Reviews

Spooky Reads Blogger Campaign: I Know You Remember by Jennifer Donaldson

Happy November 1st my Witchy readers!
Today I have a very special post for you! I have teamed with with Penguin Random House for their Spooky Reads Blogger Campaign, where each blogger picked a candy that corresponded with a surprise spooky book!
My candy was Kit Kat (yum!) and my book turned out to be I Know You Remember by Jennifer Donaldson!!
I was beyond excited to receive this book and put this post together, so be sure you read my review below, take a look at my Dream Casting and maybe even head over to my Bookstagram to check out my photo of the book!
@Jenacidebybibliophile
(You can also see my unboxing of this book and some amazing extra goodies in my highlights under “Bookmail“)

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~* Book Review *~

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I Know You Remember

Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by the publisher, Penguin Random House, for an honest review. 

Genre: YA/Mystery/Thriller

Plot: Zahra Gaines is missing.

After three long years away, Ruthie Hayden arrives in her hometown of Anchorage, Alaska to this devastating news. Zahra was Ruthie’s best friend–the only person who ever really understood her–and she vows to do whatever it takes to find her.

Zahra vanished from a party just days before Ruthie’s return, but the more people she talks to, the more she realizes that the Zahra she knew disappeared long before that fateful night. Gone is the whimsical, artistic girl who loved books and knew Ruthie’s every secret. In her place is an athlete, a partier, a girl with secrets of her own. Darker still are the rumors that something happened to Zahra while Ruthie was gone, something that changed her forever…

As Ruthie desperately tries to piece together the truth, she falls deeper and deeper into her friend’s new world, circling closer to a dangerous revelation about what Zahra experienced in the days before her disappearance–one that might be better off buried.

In her stunning follow-up to Lies You Never Told Me, Jennifer Donaldson once again delivers a propulsive thriller with a masterful twist, skillfully creating a world where nothing is quite as it seems.

Opinion:

If this book doesn’t leave you feeling a little unhinged, I don’t know what will.

Oh.

My.

Days.

That was twisted.

It has been three years since Ruthie and her mother left their hometown of Anchorage, Alaska to escape Ruthie’s alcoholic father. But following the sudden death of her mother, Ruthie is being sent back to Anchorage to live with her now sober dad and his new family. Things aren’t all bad though, because Ruthie will finally get to see her best friend Zahra again. Except when Ruthie arrives at her new school, news that Zahra has gone missing is announced, and all signs point to Zahra’s boyfriend. Now, Ruthie puts all her energy into finding Zahra and uncovering what really happened the night she disappeared. But along the way, Ruthie realizes that Zahra isn’t the same girl she knew. Once a thoughtful, creative and timid girl, Zahra’s friends describe her as secretive, sometimes moody, and a big partier. As Ruthie comes closer to finding out the truth, buried secrets are dug up and the horrifying realities are uncovered.

I love nothing more than a story that gives me a physical reaction while reading.

And to say my mouth dropped open, would be a vast understatement to the reality of what shape my face contorted into after this ending.

Though I had a strong suspicion of how this story would turn out, and I was more or less correct in my assumption, I am still SO impressed with how the author kept me questioning my opinion until the very end. I have read one or two books that have a similar twist in them, and the clues as to where the story was shifting was really subtle, but it was all in the characters!

This story is told in the point of view of Ruthie as she comes back to Anchorage and begins searching for Zahra. Though, in the three years that Ruthie has been away, their interactions have been limited. Ruthie reminisces on their time together in the summer before she moved, and how they spent their days devouring books and creating stories where they were the heroines who triumphed over evil. She describes their friendship of one of imagination and creativity, and portrays Zahra as a beautiful and special girl that she was more than lucky to call her best friend. But as Ruthie begins to learn more about who Zahra is now, she begins to discover that she may not be the same girl she once knew.

“Part of me, of course, just wanted to find her. But part of me wanted to find her here. Because that would mean it still matters. That the world we created together is still meaningful to her.”

For most of this book, the reader is learning who Zahra is by how she is described by her friends and family. There are little snippets and trails of information that you can pick up to form a vague portrayal of who she is, but the reader never truly gets an in depth look at her until the end of the book. Because the author chose to keep her shrouded in secrecy, my imagination was going wild the entire time I was reading. Ruthie begins to discover that Zahra has episodes where she will shutdown and not talk to anyone, or where she falls into deep depressions ranting about how she wants to die and that she is a horrible person. Which instantly makes you think, did she run away?

Each of these characters has the right amount of detail to make you feel like you know them, but just enough mystery to make you question each expression and action. One of my favorite things about thrillers is that it makes me pause my reading to decipher what is going on, where I think the clues will lead, and who I think is guilty of what. But the clues in I Know You Remember are so faint and expertly entwined into the words and mannerisms of these beautiful characters, that you’ll miss it all if you blink even once.

The backdrop for this mystery is really what seals the deal for me and brings in the creep factor. Anchorage, Alaska with its beautiful scenery and huge wooded areas make it the perfect location for a young girl to go missing and/or the possibilities of a deranged killer being on the loose. But my favorite aspect of all, was the abandoned playground that Zahra and Ruthie had claimed as their territory for that magical summer three years prior. Rusted play structures, a lonely swing-set and a place they could create their magical stories and let their imaginations run wild.

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Of course…it gets much creepier toward the end of the book…*cough cough*.

I REALLY wish I could say more and give out every spoiler this is, because it is killing me keeping it all bottled up! This story is twisted, manipulative, secretive, and will make you question more than just where Zahra went. And best yet, I just found out that this is a follow-up to Jennifer Donaldson’s other novel Lies You Never Told Me. Obviously I Know You Remember can be read as a standalone (since I just did that) but now I must get my hands on “Lies”, because I need more!

I highly recommend this for readers who are still looking for some spooky reads, because Halloween season is year-round and we aren’t done being weird yet, are we? For those of you who get scared easily, don’t you worry your pretty little heads. This isn’t horror, it’s thriller! You’ll be juuustttttt fine.

4-5-stars

 

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~* Dream Casting *~

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Ruthie

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Ruthie was pretty hard to pinpoint as far as looks, because there isn’t a whole lot of detail surrounding her appearance. I mostly had to go off the cover which only shows the back of her, and I just let my imagination do the rest.

My top pick is the beautiful Taissa Farmiga.

Taissa

If you’re like me and love American Horror Story, then you would have fallen in love with Taissa in the first season. She is aloof and slightly mysterious, but has just the right amount of innocence and allure to pull you in – Just like Ruthie.

My other two picks for Ruthie were Kaitlyn Dever and Maude Apatow.

Kaitlyn Dever has proven her wide range of acting skills over the years, and there is something about her that makes me think she can switch her personality from sweet to horrific in .02 seconds.

Maude Apatow is a newer to the acting scene, but the little I have seen from her – I LOVE! I would be so interested to see how she’d make Ruthie come to life, and to be honest, I think she would absolutely kill it.

 

Zahra

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Zahra is also another tough character to pinpoint on looks, because her description is also on the more vague side. So again, this is my going off of the cover and the very little information I was given while reading.

I had a few picks for Zahra, but it always came back to Riele Downs.

Rielle downs

I just can’t get over how stunning this girl is! Zahra is described as a girl that people seem to be drawn to. Someone that is easy to confide in and trust, and who is beautiful inside and out. Riele Downs exudes that perfect amount of confidence and friendliness that I think would be perfect for Zahra.

 

Tabitha

Tabitha’s character is an interesting mix of bitchy mean girl and really devoted friend, so it was a challenge finding the right person to portray here. So, I’ve narrowed it down to two raidant reheads!

Ellie Bamber and Rosie Day are not only stunning with that red hair, but they also have a sharp edge to their looks that make you want to be careful around them. Tabitha comes off as a snippy, bitchy and fierce character most of the time, but when it comes down to itgirl is a little gem

 

Ben Peavy

Ben is described as having Native heritage, dark eyes, a full mouth, and black hair that is short on the sides and longer on top. For some reason though, there is a very small pool of young Native actors to choose from.

So I had to get creative for this one…

I give you, Vito Basso.

Some Guy

Pretty sure this beautiful specimen is a model and not an actor, but c’mon…we could convince him to switch careers, couldn’t we?

 

Seb Collins

Immediately, and I mean immediately after Seb was described, two people popped into my head. First was the majorly talented Timothée Chalamet, who I just adore to pieces.

Timothée ticks off every box there is for the pale, skinny, sharp feature description..but he is also a little too clean-cut for this character.

But you know who would have been perfect?!

The late, amazing, wonderful Anton Yelchin.

Anton

Seb is described as a little shaggy and scruffy, and Anton Yelchin was definitely able to play this part. Unfortunately he passed away a few years ago, which is positively tragic, because he was an immensely talented actor.

 

Bailey Sellers

Bailey is one of the youngest pivotal characters in this book, and is described as being a poor and skinny fourteen-year-old girl who is physically abused at home. She is fast and has a bit of a temper, but at the end of the day, she is just a lonely little girl looking for a friend.

My pick for Bailey is the oober talented Mckenna Grace.

Mckenna

This girl astounds me every time I see her in a movie. She is versatile and immediately grabs your attention! Her as Bailey is a no-brainer!!

 

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As always, thanks for reading and stay Witchy! ❤

 

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