Bad Man by Dathan Auerbach

Happy first day of school! Well, for me, at least. But I figure while I’m trying not to lose my mind at work, everyone should definitely lose their minds over this thrilling horror.

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Title: Bad Man {400 pgs}

Genre: Horror/Thriller

Publication Date: August 7, 2018

Summary:

Eric disappeared when he was three years old. Ben looked away for only a second at the grocery store, but that was all it took. His brother was gone. Vanished right into the sticky air of the Florida Panhandle.

They say you’ve got only a couple days to find a missing person. Forty-eight hours to conduct searches, knock on doors, and talk to witnesses. Two days to tear the world apart if there’s any chance of putting yours back together. That’s your window.

That window closed five years ago, leaving Ben’s life in ruins. He still looks for his brother. Still searches, while his stepmother sits and waits and whispers for Eric, refusing to leave the house that Ben’s father can no longer afford. Now twenty and desperate for work, Ben takes a night stock job at the only place that will have him: the store that blinked Eric out of existence.

Ben can feel that there’s something wrong there. With the people. With his boss. With the graffitied baler that shudders and moans and beckons. There’s something wrong with the air itself. He knows he’s in the right place now. That the store has much to tell him. So he keeps searching. Keeps looking for his baby brother, while missing the most important message of all.

That he should have stopped looking.

Review:

I usually try to have these reviews out before the book hits shelves, but life got in the way {as usual}. Still, I knew that I couldn’t let this book go by without me gushing about it to anyone who is willing to listen.

Ben has spent five years of his life searching for his little brother Eric, the same little brother who disappeared from the grocery store while in Ben’s care. Ben’s life has fallen apart since then: his step-mother only leaves the house to buy Eric’s birthday gifts – which they still celebrate, every year, without fail – and his father has hidden himself away deep inside his heart. Ben decides that the best way to help out is to get a job – at the same grocery store where Eric went missing. But this grocery store is not your average grocery store. And maybe this town is not your average town. Ben understands both of these things, and yet he still pokes and prods at every dark part, hoping that one will lead him to his brother.

I’ve been on a bit of a horror kick lately {I mean, I always am, but it’s been ramped up the last month or so}, and when this book fell into my lap, I picked it up right away. Bad Man is one of those stories that makes you believe anything is possible, and not in the happy, shiny, Disney way. The story takes place mostly at the grocery store at night, since Ben works the graveyard shift, and so the tone and the atmosphere is all dark corners, shifty looks, and the feeling that the store is absolutely alive. It reminded me a lot of old Stephen King novels, where if Auerbach revealed that the store had been eating children, I’d be like, well, yeah, of course it has {honestly, I had convinced myself of this very thing for a couple of chapters}.

Auerbach does that wonderfully beautiful thing of dropping hints as you move along in the story, so deftly and quietly that while you might pick up one, it means you might miss the other dozen or so that make up the trail to the end. There are red herrings galore and dead ends pathways littered through the novel. None of these things make Bad Man frustrating or annoying; it only adds to the suspense of finding out what really happened to Eric. Along with the mystery of a boy gone missing, the reader must also decide whether or not Ben is a reliable narrator, a feat that changes the story from chapter to chapter. I had a difficult time trusting Ben, but then suddenly, he seemed like the most trustworthy person in the whole book.

I’m telling you, Bad Man is going to make you lose your mind.

Confession time: kids really scare me. Not like I’d walk into a classroom and promptly freak out. But kids can be some of the creepiest, scariest creatures out there. Sometimes they seem otherworldly, a species entirely their own, and the children that populate Bad Man are no different. All I can say is watch the children, but don’t always listen to them.

I got this ARC through NetGalley, but the moment I finished reading it, I put in a preorder for the finished thing {I also just found out that Dathan Auerbach posts creepy stories on Reddit, so excuse me while I go read his entire catalog there}. This is a book that I’m going to pick up again and again, one of those stories that will be a Halloween staple because if there’s one thing that I love during the month of October, it’s scaring the living hell out of myself. Bad Man will definitely do the trick. Plus some.

Oh yeah, don’t read this book at night. Don’t make the same mistake I did.

Her Pretty Face by Robyn Harding

The temperature outside is going down {bit by slowly, glacier-moving bit}, and I thought that it would be a good time to mention the book that kept me cold through those hot, hot {HOT} nights.

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Title: Her Pretty Face {352 pages}

Genre: Mystery

Publication Date: July 10, 2018

Summary:

Frances Metcalfe is struggling to stay afloat.

A stay-at-home mom whose troubled son is her full-time job, she thought that the day he got accepted into the elite Forrester Academy would be the day she started living her life. Overweight, insecure, and lonely, she is desperate to fit into Forrester’s world. But after a disturbing incident at the school leads the other children and their families to ostracize the Metcalfes, she feels more alone than ever before.

Until she meets Kate Randolph.

Kate is everything Frances is not: beautiful, wealthy, powerful, and confident. And for some reason, she’s not interested in being friends with any of the other Forrester moms—only Frances. As the two bond over their disdain of the Forrester snobs and the fierce love they have for their sons, a startling secret threatens to tear them apart…because one of these women is not who she seems. Her real name is Amber Kunick. And she’s a murderer.

Review:

Man, poor Frances. Her son is her main job, and sometimes she just does not have the patience for her job anymore. Marcus is accepted into Forrester Academy, where he is bullied and promptly gets revenge on his bullies…except it leads to him being completely ostracized by the entire Forrester student – and parent – body. Frances feels the cold shoulders, too, until Kate Randolph walks into her life, taking Frances under her wing and shunning the cool mommies. Frances and Kate develop the kind of friendship that borders on dependency, But when new information  comes to light, both women know that their friendship will never be the same.

This book is told through three different voices: Frances, Kate’s teenage daughter Daisy, and DJ, a boy from the past who lives through his sister’s torture and murder by an older man and his girlfriend, Amber Kunik. In the flashback scenes, DJ weaves the story of his family: how they must sit through the trial and listen to Amber play the jury; how DJ wants to believe Amber, but knows that he can’t; how his family falls apart as Amber goes to jail and then gets out, only to marry her lawyer and continue to play America’s Sweetheart. When we jump into the future, we see Frances’s fragile life, and we learn about Daisy’s resentment for a mother who does not seem to love her. It’s the kind of resentment that drives Daisy to try dangerous stunts: drinking, drugs, going to a strange older man’s apartment by herself.

Yeah, I may have yelled at Daisy one or two or a million times.

Family drama, in the hands of Robyn Harding, is truly something to behold. She takes the mundane – like a party, like a friendship – and turns it completely on its head. Those little secrets and lies that have been stored up through the years? Yeah, none of those are safe. The look that your friend gave you when she was angry, that look that sparked her entire face? Yeah, that wasn’t just because she was angry; she’s probably a sociopath, too. Even though I had an inkling of who Amber Kunik was, I still had to learn the secret about the other woman and why she was so terrified to reveal all to her friends and her family.

And you thought you had problems with your life.

I think the only thing that bothered me about Her Pretty Face was David. He was…kind of random. Maybe I’m just angry at myself for thinking that David was someone else the entire novel, and then when it turned out he wasn’t who I thought…Well, I felt tricked. But isn’t that the sign of a good mystery? People aren’t always who they seem to be? Sure, but I’m allowed to be angry because David wasn’t who I wanted him to be. It didn’t make the book any less great and it didn’t make me want to throw the book {in this case, Kindle} against the wall {thank goodness}. But I am going to plan a reread soon to see if it makes more sense to me.

Lucky everyone, because this book is out today and now you can go read it and get the same chills that I did . And if you don’t get those chills, well, maybe you share some traits with Amber Kunik.

Just saying.

I’m Not Missing by Carrie Fountain

Oh, remember when summer meant carefree days and absolutely no responsibilities? When can I have that back? It’s been a crazy June, and now we’re in July, so fingers crossed that everything slows down, because I’ve read some awesome books and I need a minute to share them!

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Title: I’m Not Missing {336 pages}

Genre: YA Mystery

Publication Date: July 10, 2018

Summary:

When Miranda Black’s mother abandoned her, she took everything—the sun, moon, and stars—and Miranda found shelter in her friendship with Syd, who wore her own motherlessness like a badge of honor: Our mothers abandoned us. We won’t go begging for scraps.

When Syd runs away suddenly and inexplicably in the middle of their senior year, Miranda is abandoned once again, left to untangle the questions of why Syd left, where she is—and if she’s even a friend worth saving. Her only clue is Syd’s discarded pink leopard print cell phone and a single text contained there from the mysterious HIM. Along the way, forced to step out from Syd’s enormous shadow, Miranda finds herself stumbling into first love with Nick Allison of all people and learning what it means to be truly seen, to be finally not missing in her own life.

Review:

First off, that cover. Wowee, is that thing gorgeous or what? I saw it on NetGalley and knew I had to get it, whether that meant on NetGalley or waiting patiently at my bookstore every day until July 10. Luckily, NetGalley was nice enough to provide a copy for me {doesn’t mean I’m not waiting for my pre-order to come in to my bookstore!}.

Miranda has learned to live without her mom, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t miss her every day. Her dad helps relieve the pain somewhat, but not more than Miranda’s best friend Syd does. Syd brings Miranda into life, making Miranda feel like she belongs somewhere. When Syd runs away, Miranda feels like a boat without a captain and she’s been pushed out into the ocean. With the help of Nick Allison – the same boy who no-showed prom the year before – they discover the secrets Syd left behind. Miranda must decide if Syd is a friend worth having, or if she can let her go like their mothers let them go.

I’m Not Missing reminds me of a Sour Patch Kid: there’s a sweet side to the story and then a very sour side to it. The sweet: Miranda befriends Nick and they discover each other in a way that only first loves can. They help each other navigate this new world without Syd, because they’re both affected by her leaving, and never once do they question each other’s devotion to the cause. The sour: Syd left behind A LOT of secrets, secrets that have the potential to destroy people in their little community. Syd, with all of her talk about moving on from her mother’s abandonment and going to Stanford, seemed hellbent on staying on a path that could hurt her, too. Through both the sweet and the sour, the two girls must learn to understand each other, and Miranda must learn what a true friend is.

As weird as it might sound, my favorite relationship in this book was that between Miranda and her father Peter. Miranda’s mother left them both to join a “religious group” {read: cult}, and the two are trying to rebuild their lives as best as they can without a matriarch. Peter and Miranda love each other, and they make mistakes along this bumpy path, but that love never once wavers. Peter trusts his daughter, and he knows that she’s making the choices that are right for her. He has to be the mother and father, and he does so well, even when he tells Miranda that he’s messing up. Being a daddy’s girl myself, it was so lovely reading a relationship between a father and daughter that was healthy and open. It relieved some of the anxiety I felt whenever Miranda dug herself into a hole, because I knew that she could always go to her father for help, even if she took the long way round.

Okay, Miranda and Nick are adorable, too. Like, too adorable. I could read an entire book about those two going on dates and having a good time. I could read an entire series of those two being dorks together. They’re disgustingly cute.

I’m Not Missing is such an excellent mystery. There are red herrings and twists and turns, and I was never frustrated with any of the false leads. There are also so many little mysteries wrapped inside the bigger mystery, and each question seems to lead to another question. It’s the kind of mystery that had me saying, Okay, last chapter, and then for reals, I’m going to bed, and then it’s morning and holy cannoli, what did I do with my life?

Yeah, it was that good.

Bring Me Back by B.A. Paris

Okay, I took the day off because Wednesday’s are meant to be celebrated {hump day and all}. Now it’s Thursday, and I have my final review of this week, but no worries! I’ll be back next week with another review or two, and then we’ll be back on track.

Keeping with the creepy theme of the week, I thought that this would be an excellent book to go out on.

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Title: Bring Me Back {336 pages}

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Publication Date: June 19, 2018

Summary:

A young British couple are driving through France on holiday when they stop for gas. He runs in to pay, she stays in the car. When he returns her car door has been left open, but she’s not inside. No one ever sees her again.

Ten years later he’s engaged to be married; he’s happy, and his past is only a tiny part his life now. Until he comes home from work and finds his new wife-to-be is sitting on their sofa. She’s turning something over in her fingers, holding it up to the light. Something that would have no worth to anyone else, something only he and she would know about because his wife is the sister of his missing first love.

As more and more questions are raised, their marriage becomes strained. Has his first love somehow come back to him after all this time? Or is the person who took her playing games with his mind?

Review:

So. This one took a few days to grow on me. Sometimes I read a book and I’m in love with it even before I finish, but this one was…strange. This was a weird book with weird twists and turns and weird characters. It was weird. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t like it. I did. A lot. It just took my brain a little time to get around to it.

Finn fell in love twelve years early with a young woman named Layla. She was beautiful and exciting and loved him as much as he loved her. Then she disappeared one night, and Finn had to learn how to move on with his life. When he meets Ellen, Layla’s sister, he thinks that maybe he could love again. Ellen is nothing like Layla, but she makes him happy and the love he feels for her might be different than the love he felt for her sister, but it’s still love. He thinks.

But then Layla comes back into their lives, and Finn doesn’t know what he feels. Then the truth about that night comes out, and everything is spiraling out of control.

The ending to this book is a mind-bender. I honestly had to go back and skim through the book, rereading certain parts where I was sure I’d catch the author in a sleepy state. But I never did. The answers are right there for the reader to find, but it seems so improbable that you don’t catch anything. It’s also so heart-breakingly sad that all I wanted to do after I finished was cry. I wanted to cry for Finn and Ellen and Layla and the lives that they had harmed and for the harm that had been done to them. None of them had escaped unscathed from their lives before, and those that remained would never be the same again.

This was the kind of mystery that was still a mystery even after I finished reading it. There were so many questions that I had that were answered, but they just gave me more questions.

I just realized how difficult it is to write about this book without giving anything away.

All you need to know about this book is that it’s sad, mysterious, and completely confusing. But not in a bad way. It’s a book that’s really going to mess with your head and it’s going to linger for awhile. You’re going to want to reread it, and then after you’ve done that, you’re going to want to re-reread it because you’re going to be sure that there are some things that you missed. Chances are, there are a lot of clues that you missed, and it’s going to take multiple readings before you’re completely sure you know what the heck is going on.

Basically, read this book until it falls apart. It’ll never get boring, trust me.

Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier

Oh, Tuesday. You’re not the worst day of the week, but you certainly are not the best. But that’s okay, because I’m back with a book that’ll make you think Tuesday is the best day ever!

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Title: Jar of Hearts {320 pages}

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Publication Date: June 12, 2018

Summary:

This is the story of three best friends: one who was murdered, one who went to prison, and one who’s been searching for the truth all these years . . .

When she was sixteen years old, Angela Wong—one of the most popular girls in school—disappeared without a trace. Nobody ever suspected that her best friend, Georgina Shaw, now an executive and rising star at her Seattle pharmaceutical company, was involved in any way. Certainly not Kaiser Brody, who was close with both girls back in high school.

But fourteen years later, Angela Wong’s remains are discovered in the woods near Geo’s childhood home. And Kaiser—now a detective with Seattle PD—finally learns the truth: Angela was a victim of Calvin James. The same Calvin James who murdered at least three other women.

To the authorities, Calvin is a serial killer. But to Geo, he’s something else entirely. Back in high school, Calvin was Geo’s first love. Turbulent and often volatile, their relationship bordered on obsession from the moment they met right up until the night Angela was killed.

For fourteen years, Geo knew what happened to Angela and told no one. For fourteen years, she carried the secret of Angela’s death until Geo was arrested and sent to prison.

While everyone thinks they finally know the truth, there are dark secrets buried deep. And what happened that fateful night is more complex and more chilling than anyone really knows. Now the obsessive past catches up with the deadly present when new bodies begin to turn up, killed in the exact same manner as Angela Wong.

How far will someone go to bury her secrets and hide her grief? How long can you get away with a lie? How long can you live with it?

Review:

About five years ago, I read a thriller that stayed with me for awhile. It was dark, creepy, and heart-pounding, the perfect mixture to make a perfect thriller. I put the author on my always-to-read list, but unfortunately, I never got around to reading her other books. When I requested Jar of Hearts on NetGalley, I did so because of the description, because it sounded dark, creepy, and heart-pounding.

Do you see where I’m going here?

Five years ago, it had been Jennifer Hillier’s Creep that had reignited my love for mysteries and thrillers. Because of that one book, I kept picking up the spine-tingling novels, the ones that kept me up a little later at night because I couldn’t turn the light off just yet. And now it’s five years later, and Jar of Hearts is going to give me a few more nights of bright lights.

Georgina Shaw has it all: a rich fiancé, a hot job, a cool car, and the rest of her life ahead of her. That is, until her best friend from high school, Kaiser, comes stomping into her life, arresting her for the murder of their best friend, Angela Wong. Geo accepts her part in Angela’s death, and she takes her five-year prison sentence with grace. When she is released, she thinks that she’ll get her life in order, get a job, reconnect with her father. What she doesn’t think is that she’ll be haunted by her past by murders in the present, murders that are uncannily similar to Angela’s. Someone is hunting down women and their children, killing them and dismembering the mothers, much like how Angela was dismembered. There’s only one difference: the eyes of the women have been scooped out, and a message on the children’s bodies ask someone to See Me.

There is a lot happening in this book, and for good reason. It’s told from alternating points of view, from Geo to Kaiser, and it gives us a glimpse of the life they both used to lead before Angela’s death. Geo remembers the night that Angela died, the night that part of her died, as well. Kaiser, on the other hand, gives us some insight into the relationship between the two girls, the jealousy, the subtle fighting. Combined, the reader begins to understand a bit more about Geo, Angela, and Kaiser, and even more about how, sometimes, we see what we want to see.

Jennifer Hillier has a neat way of making things really obvious and then throwing you at the last second. For the entire book, I knew that the killer wasn’t who they thought it was. I didn’t know who it was, but it wasn’t the guy everyone was pointing fingers at, I knew that much. And then, right when I was feeling smug and brilliant, a wrench gets thrown into the plan, and I’m back at square one, because of course this person is the killer, how could I be so blind? But she also writes in a way that involves you completely, and you’re left with little time to wonder who could be committing these heinous crimes. You are so consumed with the story and the characters, that you almost forget that there’s even murders happening around them. When she sends Kaiser out to a crime scene, I was like, oh, right! My poor babies have to deal with this on top of everything else.

What’s the moral of this review? Well, mainly that I’m going to start reading more Jennifer Hillier, and that’s not an empty promise. I’m going to revisit Creep so I can move onto Freak, and then I guess I’ll move onto every piece of writing that she has ever done and my entire life is going to be consumed with Jennifer Hillier books.

Oh, look. That’s the kind of dark, creep, heart-pounding stuff I was talking about.

Tell Me No Lies by A.V. Geiger

This week is going to be filled with book love, because I’ve read so many good books lately. I’ve been trying to parcel them out slowly, but who am I kidding? I’m just going to throw them all at you, because it’s 2018 and you deserve a good book – or two or three or eighty – this week.

So, let’s start out with a fun one.

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Title: Tell Me No Lies {Follow Me Back #2} {336 pages}

Genre: YA Mystery/Thriller

Publication Date: June 5, 2018

Summary:

Love. Obsession. Jealousy. Murder.

No one knows what happened to pop icon Eric Thorn. His Twitter account? Frozen. His cell phone? Cracked and bloody, buried in the snow. 

Agoraphobic fangirl Tessa Hart knows the truth, but she’s finally left her #EricThornObsessed days behind. She has no intention of ever touching her Twitter app again. But Snapchat… That’s safer, right?

After months of living under the radar, Tessa emerges from hiding, forced to face the deadly consequences of her past. But in the interrogation room, answers only lead to more questions in the pulse-pounding conclusion to the Follow Me Back duology.

Review:

I was lucky enough to score an early copy of Follow Me Back, the first book in this series, and let me tell you, I loved it. This series is the type of guilty pleasure that isn’t really a guilty pleasure because after you read it, you’re telling the whole world about it. In the first book, Tessa Hart had the chance to meet Eric Thorn, the biggest heartthrob in the world, and not only did they meet, but they fell in love, and Tessa seemed to be on her way to living the kind of life only available in fanfics. But the ending of that book was, shall we say, not so much of a happy ending.

Or was it? {Cue dramatic mystery music.}

***WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD***

Tessa has been in hiding for months, without her meds, without her therapist, without her agoraphobia running her life, living in a small RV with none other than Eric Thorn himself. After so long of being in the spotlight and hating most of that time, Eric had decided to get away from it all, and Tessa wholeheartedly helped. But once they’re discovered, Eric knows that in order to protect Tessa from her crazy stalker, he’ll have to go back to the life that he hated. This time around, though, Maury, Eric’s manager, keeps his only client busy, so busy that Tessa is slowly being pushed into the background. But when Tessa is put in harms way, Eric realizes what he has to do, and he has some help from the last place on earth that he would imagine he would find it.

I mentioned in my post about Follow Me Back that Twitter is pretty scary. I take that back. Twitter is downright terrifying. There are horrible people on there, people who seemingly have nothing better to do with their lives than tear other down. Eric knows this firsthand, and even an account dedicated to him seems to be at the forefront of wanting Eric Thorn to fall flat on his face. I don’t pretend to understand the obsession with celebrities, and I understand the obsession with hoping they fall from grace even less. This whole series is dedicated to the kind of “fan accounts” that are only there to watch their “favorite” celebrity have run-ins with the law, fall on their faces, and generally lead horrible lives. It’s completely understandable that Eric Thorn fakes his own death and leave the country for awhile. Celebrity obsession has reached an alarming new high {new low?}, and Eric Thorn wants nothing to do with it.

Mental health issues are also at the very center of this novel. In the first book, Tessa suffered from severe agoraphobia, living inside her house and inside her mind. Twitter was a place for her to feel like she was in the real world, until it became all too real. Although he is never officially diagnosed, we can see that Eric Thorn is a ball of anxiety, and Tessa sees this too, knowing all too well how anxiety can rule your life. A.V. Geiger writes about these issues as if she knows them, too. Never once does Tessa seem to forget about her anxiety or agoraphobia, like can happen with certain authors and their characters. Even while Tessa and Eric grow, their anxiety and agoraphobia and brains are always there.

In short, I read this book too fast and didn’t realize it was a duology. Here I was, thinking that Tessa and Eric would be back in a matter of time, ready to thrill me with a new adventure. I liked the ending of this one, because it was open enough to allow for a third book, if ever {IF EVER}, but also the kind of ending that let me imagine what happens to the characters. I like those, because that means everyone gets a happy ending. And these characters definitely deserve that.

Bruja Born by Zoraida Córdova

The best laid plans, am I right? I have so many books to write about, but did you know there’s only 24 hours in a day? And I want to sleep for 20 of those hours? Now that all of my preparations for summer school are done {HA!}, I should have some time to get these reviews done. And what a book with which to come back.

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Title: Bruja Born {Brooklyn Brujas #2} {336 pages}

Genre: YA Fantasy

Publication Date: June 5, 2018

Summary:

Three sisters. One spell. Countless dead.

Lula Mortiz feels like an outsider. Her sister’s newfound Encantrix powers have wounded her in ways that Lula’s bruja healing powers can’t fix, and she longs for the comfort her family once brought her. Thank the Deos for Maks, her sweet, steady boyfriend who sees the beauty within her and brings light to her life.

Then a bus crash turns Lula’s world upside down. Her classmates are all dead, including Maks. But Lula was born to heal, to fix. She can bring Maks back, even if it means seeking help from her sisters and defying Death herself. But magic that defies the laws of the deos is dangerous. Unpredictable. And when the dust settles, Maks isn’t the only one who’s been brought back…

Review:

Labyrinth Lost, the first book in this series, has been in my TBR pile since forever. Latina bruja sisters living in modern day Brooklyn? Yes please. When NetGalley so graciously gave me Bruja Born, I knew Labyrinth Lost had just been bumped up in the pile. While I ran screaming through that book {OH MY GOD, IT’S THE BEST}, I jumped into Bruja Born, wanting more of Alex and her struggle with becoming one of the most powerful brujas in the world.

Imagine my surprise when I realized Lula, Alex’a sister, was the main character of Bruja Born.

I’ll be honest: I was disappointed. I wanted Alex, because I had grown so happy with her, and she still had so much more adventure to give. But that disappointment lasted about a chapter, right up to the part where Lula’s school bus crashes and a pole impales her and her ex-boyfriend.

I know, right?

Bruja Born is Lula’s story, along with Alex, as well as their little sister, Rose. Then it becomes her parents’ and Nova’s and everyone else in the Brooklyn community that these girls have grown up with or picked up along the way. The three girls must navigate their world after Lula’s big mistake creates casimuertos, or the bruja version of zombies. New York is suddenly overrun by teenagers wanting nothing more than to eat the hearts of humans and create a larger army of casimuertos. Lula struggles with the knowledge that she created this disease because she wanted to save Maks, the love of her life, turning him into the first casimuerto. Along the way, Lula gathers her sisters, her parents, the infuriatingly charming Nova, a vampire, and a boy whose orders are to arrest Lula for creating this mess for the supernatural community. But, most importantly on her journey, Lula discovers that there’s more to her than just powers and a pretty face marred by scars.

I’ll admit it, I didn’t really like Lula in Labyrinth Lost. She was the typical older sister, the typical pretty girl, the typical everything. She was annoying and rude, and she pushed Alex to the brink because she was angry. Sure, she had a right to be angry, but she never stopped to think of Alex, only caring about herself. But that’s one of the things that makes Lula Lula, and it wasn’t until Bruja Born that I learned to appreciate it. Lula only thinks of herself, and that’s why she tried to bring Maks back. She only thinks of herself, and that’s why she tried to stop the casimuertos. Do you notice a trend here? Lula thinks about herself and, in the process, does good for others.

Can I also admit that I’m more than psyched for the next book in the series? Because if it follows the trend, then that means we get Rose’s story. Rose was nothing more than the little sister in Labyrinth Lost and even a little bit in Bruja Born, and then suddenly…she wasn’t.

Also, Dad. What the heck. What’s going on there?

Both of these books are beautifully written. They’re full of lively characters and lush landscapes, and it’s the kind of realistic fantasy that the book world is severely lacking right now. The other good news is that Bruja Born comes out tomorrow {TOMORROW, PEOPLE}, so you barely have to wait to get your hands on it.

Lucky. Ducks.

BN: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/bruja-born-zoraida-cordova/1127405584?ean=9781492650652 

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Bruja-Brooklyn-Brujas-Zoraida-Cordova/dp/149265065X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1528083351&sr=1-1&keywords=bruja+born

Indiebound: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781492650652 

Furyborn by Claire Legrand

2018 really is the year of great books. Every book I pick up seems to be my new favorite, and Furyborn is no exception.

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Title: Furyborn (The Emporium Trilogy #1) {512 pages}

Genre: YA Fantasy

Publication Date: May 22, 2018

Summary:

When assassins ambush her best friend, the crown prince, Rielle Dardenne risks everything to save him, exposing her ability to perform all seven kinds of elemental magic. The only people who should possess this extraordinary power are a pair of prophesied queens: a queen of light and salvation and a queen of blood and destruction. To prove she is the Sun Queen, Rielle must endure seven trials to test her magic. If she fails, she will be executed…unless the trials kill her first.

A thousand years later, the legend of Queen Rielle is a mere fairy tale to bounty hunter Eliana Ferracora. When the Undying Empire conquered her kingdom, she embraced violence to keep her family alive. Now, she believes herself untouchable–until her mother vanishes without a trace, along with countless other women in their city. To find her, Eliana joins a rebel captain on a dangerous mission and discovers that the evil at the heart of the empire is more terrible than she ever imagined.

As Rielle and Eliana fight in a cosmic war that spans millennia, their stories intersect, and the shocking connections between them ultimately determine the fate of their world–and of each other.

Review:

I think I’ve said this before, but there was a time last year where I was burned out on the same old YA fantasy story. I wanted something new, something fresh, something exciting. I didn’t it know it then, but what I wanted was this story.

Rielle and Eliana are badass. There is no other word for them. Rielle, a close friend of the royal family of Celdaria, must stand by while the love of her life Audric marries their best friend Ludivine. But that doesn’t stop Rielle from saving Audric’s life, and in the process, outing herself as one of the two possible queens of a prophecy. Rielle has to pass a series of tests to prove that she is the Sun Queen, the good queen, and not the Blood Queen, the one that will bring death and destruction. As she goes forward in these tests, she is aided by her friends and a voice which only she can hear, a voice of a creature named Corien, a creature that could be her downfall.

Eliana is a trained assassin who works for her kingdom, all so she can keep her family clothed and fed. She must shut down her heart in order to fulfill her duties, and that makes Eliana, in simple terms, one tough cookie. When her mother is kidnapped – one among many – Eliana sets out to get her back, making a pact with the dangerous Wolf, an elusive figure with his own seedy reputation. Eliana and her younger brother Remy must quickly figure out who to trust and who to fight if they ever want to see their mother again.

I’m going to be honest: the link between the two women is pretty immediately known, although the rest of their backstories is not. I think I figured out who they were within the first couple of chapters, but that didn’t stop me from devouring this book. It’s not about who Eliana is, or her connection to anyone, but the journey these two young women must go on before they can understand themselves. There might also be some sexiness during their journey, and that’s just something that they’re going to have to deal with.

And, oh, boy, do these women deal with it.

Since we’re talking about sexiness for a moment: the honesty in the book is refreshing. Rielle and Eliana have lovers, and the sex scenes are kind of explicit, and as weird as it sounds, it was nice to read. I’ve never been one for the fading out sex scenes, or the ones where it ends with a coy smile and a wink. We know what’s going to happen next, and if the scene gives us more insight in the relationship between the two characters, then go for it. Audric and Rielle are hot, and by the end, I knew I needed more than just a chaste kiss or two between them. Eliana believes she has no heart, but that doesn’t stop her from falling into bed with her hot assassin friend Harkan. She’s honest with what they are about, and neither of them are expecting more.

It’s fresh and new and that’s terribly sad to think about.

These women are fighting for their lives against crazed men who have nothing better to do with their lives than put women through trials and tribulations. Rielle has a legitimate excuse to kill every man around her, and Eliana doesn’t wait for the excuse. I mean, sign me up, right? These two are amazing, and it only makes sense that there’s going to be a hundred books about both of them. Oh? No? Well, I guess I’ll have to live with three.

You have exactly one week to pre-order this and then wait at your mailbox for it to come. Seriously, that’s how good this book is. You honestly won’t even care that you missed school/work/graduation/your own wedding for this book.

The Favorite Sister by Jessica Knoll

The weather has gotten ridiculously warm, and I guess this is the part where I make a cute joke about things heating up outside and in my reading realm. But really, warm weather sucks and The Favorite Sister decidedly does not.

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Title: The Favorite Sister {384 pages}

Genre: Mystery

Publication Date: May 15, 2018

Summary:

When five hyper-successful women agree to appear on a reality series set in New York City called Goal Diggers, the producers never expect the season will end in murder…

Brett’s the fan favorite. Tattooed and only twenty-seven, the meteoric success of her spin studio—and her recent engagement to her girlfriend—has made her the object of jealousy and vitriol from her cast mates.

Kelly, Brett’s older sister and business partner, is the most recent recruit, dismissed as a hanger-on by veteran cast. The golden child growing up, she defers to Brett now—a role which requires her to protect their shocking secret.

Stephanie, the first black cast member and the oldest, is a successful bestselling author of erotic novels. There have long been whispers about her hot, non-working actor-husband and his wandering eye, but this season the focus is on the rift that has opened between her and Brett, former best friends—and resentment soon breeds contempt.

Lauren, the start-up world’s darling whose drinking has gotten out of control, is Goal Diggers’ recovery narrative—everyone loves a comeback story.

And Jen, made rich and famous through her cultishly popular vegan food line plays a holistic hippie for the cameras, but is perhaps the most ruthless of them all when the cameras are off.

Review:

To say that I didn’t like any of the Goal Diggers wouldn’t be enough. None of them were good people, none of them had any redeemable qualities, and all of them made for good TV.

Because of their lack of likeable personalities, I want to concentrate on the questions this novel raises, mainly about feminism, the morality of lying, and reality television.

The purpose of the show Goal Diggers is to give young businesswomen a platform to establish themselves and their businesses. Ideally, the women work together, support each other, and boost each other up in something like a feminist Shark Tank. Stephanie is the only one to question how feminist Goal Diggers really is, because the show also thrives on putting these women in dramatic situations. They cannot boost each other up in these conditions, Stephanie believes. But this is exactly when we should be supporting each other the most. Brett and Jen are in the same industry – health – and they are at each other’s throats. I understand competition {TRUST ME} but in this world, in this climate, shouldn’t we women be helping each other out? Now, if there are women out there supporting people or an agenda that goes against women {side-eyeing the US Government right now}, then maybe we should band together and figure out what to do.

In a perfect world, right?

Speaking of perfect worlds, let’s jump into lying and morals. Spoiler alert: everyone lies in this book. Some are little white lies, while others could destroy the Goal Digger world. But every character believes she is lying for the god of someone – or something – else. All these lies to is create more problems and drama both behind the scenes and in front of the camera. But it’s not the drama that caught me. It was the ease and normalcy with which they all lied. Our society has become one where we all encounter a lie – or many – on a daily basis. These women lied for many reasons: fame, family, love. But their lies came so easily and frequently that when one finally started telling the truth, she was branded the crazy bitch.

It hit a little too close to home to be funny.

That’s the perfect segue into reality television. Look, I am not immune to the charms of reality TV. I love Cops. But while all that show does is make me want to catch some bad guys, shows that we actually think of when someone says reality TV can be a bit more harmful. Brett, Jen, Lauren, and Stephanie admitted that they became hideous people because they were determined to stay on Goal Diggers. They knew what the audience wanted and they gave it to them. I don’t know when everyone decided that they wanted to be famous, but those people are terrifying. But what happens after you finally get that reality show? What happens when everything of yours is suddenly laid out for the entire world to see?

You better have a great puppet master like the Goal Diggers do.

All of this is to say: I liked this book. Any book that gets me going like this is either really good or really terrible. Thankfully, with The Favorite Sister, it’s the former. This is definitely going to be one of those books that makes you think long and hard after reading the last word, but it’s going to be worth it, I promise. Stick with the horrible people and the situations they put themselves in. You might even discover a few things about yourself along the way.

Fat Girl on a Plane by Kelly deVos

Happy May, my lovely book nerds! Are we sick yet of Justin Timberlake telling us it’s going to be May? Maybe I should have ended that question after Timberlake. But today is not about Timberlakes or overused memes! Today is about fat girls and skinny girls and what happens when those girls are the same girl.

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Title: Fat Girl on a Plane {304 pages}

Genre: Young Adult

Publication Date: June 5, 2018

Summary:

FAT.

High school senior Cookie Vonn’s post-graduation dreams include getting out of Phoenix, attending Parsons and becoming the next great fashion designer. But in the world of fashion, being fat is a cardinal sin. It doesn’t help that she’s constantly compared to her supermodel mother—and named after a dessert.

Thanks to her job at a fashion blog, Cookie scores a trip to New York to pitch her portfolio and appeal for a scholarship, but her plans are put on standby when she’s declared too fat too fly. Forced to turn to her BFF for cash, Cookie buys a second seat on the plane. She arrives in the city to find that she’s been replaced by the boss’s daughter, a girl who’s everything she’s not—ultrathin and superrich. Bowing to society’s pressure, she vows to lose weight, get out of the friend zone with her crush, and put her life on track.

SKINNY.

Cookie expected sunshine and rainbows, but nothing about her new life is turning out like she planned. When the fashion designer of the moment offers her what she’s always wanted—an opportunity to live and study in New York—she finds herself in a world full of people more interested in putting women down than dressing them up. Her designs make waves, but her real dream of creating great clothes for people of all sizes seems to grow more distant by the day.

Will she realize that she’s always had the power to make her own dreams come true?

Review:

Fat Girl on a Plane is one of those stories that lives hidden deep down in my heart. Every time I get on a plane, every time I’m sure the belt won’t buckle, every time I cross my legs as tightly as I can so I don’t bother the person next to me, this story gallops through my veins like a thousand wild horses. Now, I’m not as big as Cookie, so I don’t understand the daily harassment she goes through, but I get the gist of it. Mostly because, like Cookie, the worst of the worst comes from myself.

But Cookies “turns her life around,” as the saying in celeb magazines goes. She loses weight – the “right way” – and believes that everything is going to be okay. So it comes as a complete surprise to her that skinny people have just as many problems as fat people {shock, I know}. Not only does her best friend not drop his obnoxious and cruel girlfriend, but Cookie is still being ignored by her supermodel mother and stabbed in the back by those people who promised to help her. Cookies has to grow up a little and realize that she can still have everything she wants, even if she’s not a size six. At the risk of sounding like a Disney movie, Cookie could have achieved her dreams all along.

This book felt a little like a Disney movie, except, well, with some sexy scenes involving Cookie and the extremely handsome designer Gareth Miller. Cookie lives in rags most of her life. Well, no, cut that. She lives in Cookie Vonn originals, clothing she has made because, as all of us plus-size girls know, clothing out there for us sometimes really sucks. But Cookie perseveres and does things her own way, and even then she gets shunted aside for skinny, rich Kennes Butterfield. Kennes takes the high school by storm and tries to get Cookie under her thumb.

You can guess how Cookie takes that.

Now skinny, Cookie lives out her dreams and fantasies, believing that now that she can comfortably fit into a plane seat, her entire life will be sunshine and rainbows. But life still sucks sometimes, no matter what size you are. You can either let it consume you, or you can fight back and make your mark.

You can guess what Cookie chooses.

The story is sweet, the message even sweeter, and the ending the sweetest. Cookie is ferocious and strong, and she makes mistakes all over the place, making her even more real. The icing on the cake is Piper, Cookie’s best friend that she met at fat camp. Piper is the president and CEO of “giving no fucks,” and she is truly a sight to behold. I didn’t enjoy Piper’s boyfriend story, but I got why the loser was there. Still, if I could have thrown Brian and Kennes into rushing waters, I would have. In a heartbeat. Does that make me a bad person? No, because they were both terrible people and I’d be doing this world a favor.

Oh, let’s toss Gareth and Tommy in there, too, because Cookie doesn’t need them in her life, either.

This story is all too relevant right now. And this is only one example of the kind of this kind of discrimination. I don’t know when it happened that people started to classify fat people as different. It’s disgusting and wrong, and not only that, but it’s mean. Fat Girl on a Plane reminded me how mean people can be to those who are different from them, and I cried steadily throughout the fat parts of Cookie’s story. So, if you take anything from this, please let it be this: read this book, challenge you way of thinking, and remember to always be kind. That is definitely something that this world could use a little more of.