Social Creature by Tara Isabella Burton

Okay, people, listen up! Today I’ve got a doozy for you, so we’re just going to jump right into the dark, choppy waters.

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Title: Social Creature {320 pgs}

Genre: Thriller

Publication Date: June 5, 2018

Summary:

They go through both bottles of champagne right there on the High Line, with nothing but the stars over them… They drink and Lavinia tells Louise about all the places they will go together, when they finish their stories, when they are both great writers-to Paris and to Rome and to Trieste…

Lavinia will never go. She is going to die soon.

Louise has nothing. Lavinia has everything. After a chance encounter, the two spiral into an intimate, intense, and possibly toxic friendship. A Talented Mr. Ripley for the digital age, this seductive story takes a classic tale of obsession and makes it irresistibly new.

Review:

What did I just read?

Louise. Oh, little Louise. All she wants is to make it in New York. She wants to leave her old life behind and be someone new, someone who doesn’t have a past, someone who could really belong in this city of new beginnings. Someone like glitzy, beautiful Lavinia, the kind of socialite who would give 2001 Paris Hilton a run for her money. Glamorous operas, secret parties, Lavinia is that girl, the girl that runs around New York like she owns everything – and everyone – in it.

After “interviewing” to become Lavinia’s little sister’s tutor, Louise and Lavinia become quick friends. Lavinia introduces Louise to her quirky, elite group of friends, including Rex, the one-time love of her life, who she swears she doesn’t care about anymore; Mimi, Lavinia’s copycat who has her own sad past with the golden girl; Hal, the overbearing jerk who is only tolerated because his father is a Great Writer; and Athena Maidenhead, a woman-about-town who I couldn’t stop picturing as Mag Wildwood. They’re all stuck in their own little world, and their only common factor is Lavinia. And now Louise.

Louise makes her own spot in the group – mainly by being the kind of girl that everyone wants – and that’s where the troubles begin. Rex falls for her, Hal brings her close, and even Mimi starts to look at Louise as more than just a usurper. Lavinia might not be used to sharing the spotlight, especially not when it comes to Rex, and instead of calmly talking about her insecurities with her friend, Lavinia and Louise come to blows.

This is where Louise’s life gets interesting.

I’m going to be honest here: I was rooting for Louise. It doesn’t seem like a big deal right now, because Louise is portrayed as a scrappy little nobody. But once you read the book…maybe you’ll think a little differently about me. And that’s okay. Louise does terrible things, and so I have no idea why I skipped to the end to make sure that no one caught her. She destroys so many lives, even up to the very end, and yet. And yet. This book is a testament to Tara Isabella Burton’s ability to write compelling and dynamic characters. Everyone elicited such a strong response from me. There was no one who felt unnecessary or who I wished hadn’t been there. Everyone had a purpose, and, in truth, they were all kind of terrible people. Some more so than others.

I know Social Creature doesn’t come out for another month, but I finished it in two days and knew I had to share this wonderful story with anyone who would listen. The next step? Convincing everyone to preorder it. That means you awesome people.

So? GO PREORDER THIS BOOK!

From the Earth to the Shadows by Amanda Hocking {giveaway!}

Tuesdays are the best, aren’t they? They’re not Mondays, and they’re new book days! And what a new book I have for you today {even though, yes, it doesn’t come out until next week, but that’s okay. This is just to get you excited!}.

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Title: From the Earth to the Shadows {336 pgs}

Genre: YA Fantasy

Publication Date: April 24, 2018

Summary:

The epic conclusion to the thrilling Valkyrie duology by New York Times bestselling YA author Amanda Hocking, From the Earth to the Shadows.

While dealing with dark revelations about her life and her world, Malin finds herself with new allies–and new enemies. Her quest for the truth leads her to places she never thought possible, and she’s never been one to shy away from a fight. But for all her strength and determination, will it be enough to save the world before it’s too late?

Review:

Oh boy. I sped through this one. Like the first book in this duology, From the Earth to the Shadows has everything: romance, mythology, pissed off immortals. Malin and her friends are back, this time with a little bit of help from this guy you may have heard of, Odin. With the all-Father in their corner, there’s no way that they could lose…right? This rag-tag group of barely young adults race to destroy the forces of evil that are trying to take over the world, forces that are determined to make a world full of immortals. Malin might also be in a race to save the boy she cares about, Asher, even though she’s not entirely sure he wishes to be saved.

If you like exciting, edge of your seat action and mythology sprinkled through your never-ceasing attacks, then this is the book for you. Did I just include everyone in that description? I should have, because this book is for everyone.

Also, in case you missed it earlier, this is a duology, which is fine, really, it’s fine. Except it’s not. I need more Malin in my life. I need more Quinn and Oona and Atlas and everyone else in this book, even the bad guy jerks that have been banished to the end of time. Malin is so relateable, even if I can’t imagine a life as a Valkyrie. Still, she goes through the normal stuff, too: falling in love, losing friends and family, trying to live a normal life. You understand her on a basic level, even when she’s fighting chupacabra’s in the jungle.

Need more convincing? Take an excerpt from the first chapter of the book and then try to tell me that you don’t need this book in your life:

 

ONE

The air that fogged around me was thick enough that I could taste it—earthy and wet, with a trace of salt. It stuck to my skin, which was already slick with sweat, and that only seemed to attract more insects. They buzzed around me, leaving burning little bites in my flesh. I wanted to swat them off, but I couldn’t. I had to stay perfectly still, or the Kalanoro would spot me too soon.

The oversaturation of green in the jungles of Panama had been a strange adjustment from the smog and bright lights of the city. Out here, it was an endless emerald sea: the plants and trees, the rivers, were all varying shades of green—even the sky was blotted out by a thick canopy of leaves.

This wasn’t where I wanted to be, crouched motionless in the mud with a giant millipede crawling over my foot. Not when Asher was still gone, held captive in Kurnugia by the underworld goddess Ereshkigal and her mad centaur boyfriend, Gugalanna. Not when the fate of the world felt heavy on my shoulders, with Ereshkigal attempting an uprising that would unleash the underworld on earth.

It had only been three days since I’d gone to the Gates of Kurnugia, along with Oona, Quinn, Asher, and Atlas to aid me. I’d wanted to avenge my mother—and I had killed the draugr that had killed her—but all of that may have set off a chain of events that would bring about the end of days.

And I had lost the guy I … well, not loved. Not yet. But I cared about him. All I wanted to do was rescue him. But I couldn’t. There was too much at stake. I couldn’t let my heart get the best of me. I had to hold it together, and follow my orders.

After Gugalanna had pulled Asher down into the underworld where I could not follow, the rest of us had gone to Caana City in Belize. It was the safest city near the Gates of Kurnugia, and Oona needed medical intervention to survive. She was on the mend now, and that’s why I had left her behind, with Quinn and Atlas.

I didn’t want to risk losing them the way I had Asher, and I was on a special assignment, coming directly from the Valkyries’ highest authority—Odin.

Odin had found me outside of the hospital where Oona was being treated. I had never met him before, and, like most of the Vanir gods, he changed his appearance to suit his needs, so I hadn’t recognized him.

He towered over me in his tailored suit, with his left eyelid withered shut. He had a deep rumble of a voice, with a softly lilting accent, and a grim expression. His large raven, Muninn, had been watching over me, but when I tried to press him for a reason why, he had told me that there wasn’t time to explain.

“I need you to go deep into the heart of the jungle, where no man dares to live,” Odin explained, as we had stood in the eerily silent parking lot in Caana City. “You must retrieve something for me.”

“Why can’t you retrieve it yourself?” I asked bluntly. I wasn’t being rude, but the reality was that Odin was a powerful god, and I was just a young mortal Valkyrie-in-training. He had far more knowledge and power than I could ever hope to have.

“I’m not allowed to meddle in the affairs of humans or any of the other earthly beings,” Odin clarified.

“But…” I trailed off, gathering the courage to ask, “What is this you’re doing now, then? Isn’t directing me to get something for you the same as meddling?”

A sly smile played on his lips, and he replied, “There are a few loopholes, and I think it’s best if I take advantage of one now. If you want to save your friend, and everyone else that matters to you, you need to act quickly.”

“What is it that you need me to get?” I asked, since I didn’t seem to have a choice.

“The Valhallan cloak,” he explained. “It was stolen centuries ago by a trickster god—I honestly can’t remember which one anymore—and he hid it with the Kalanoro of Panama.”

“The Kalanoro?” I groaned reflexively. Having dealt with them before, I already knew how horrible they were.

If piranhas lived on land, they would behave a lot like the Kalanoro. They were small primate-like creatures, standing no more than two feet tall, and they vaguely resembled the aye-aye lemur. The biggest differences were that the Kalanoro were tailless, since they lived mostly on the ground, and they had razor-sharp claws on their elongated fingers and a mouth of jagged teeth they used to tear apart the flesh of their prey.

“What is the Valhallan cloak, and how will I find it?” I asked Odin.

“You’ll know when you see it. It’s an oversized cloak, but the fabric looks like the heavens. The rumors are that the Kalanoro were attracted to the magic of the cloak, though they didn’t understand it, so they took it back to their cave,” Odin elaborated. “They apparently have been guarding it like a treasure.”

“So I have to go into the treacherous jungle, find the man-eating Kalanoro, and steal their favorite possession?” I asked dryly. “No problem.”

Which was how I ended up in the jungle, alone, in the heart of Kalanoro country—at least, that’s what the nearest locals had purported. In front of me, on the other side of a very shallow but rapidly moving stream, was the mouth of a cave. The cave I hoped was the home of the Kalanoro, but I was waiting to see one for official confirmation.

Sweat slid down my temples, and a large dragonfly flew overhead. The trees around me were a cacophony of sounds—monkeys and frogs and birds and insects of all kinds, talking to one another, warning of danger, and shouting out mating calls.

Back in the city, beings and creatures of all kinds lived among each other, but there were rules. The jungle was not bound by any laws. I was not welcome, and I was not safe here.

I heard the crunch of a branch—too loud and too close to be another insect. I turned my head slowly toward the sound, and I saw movement in the bushes right beside me. Tall dark quills, poking out above the leaves, and I tried to remember if the Kalanoro had any quill-like fur.

I didn’t have to wonder for very long because a head poked out of the bushes, appearing to grin at me through a mouthful of jagged fangs and a face like an alien hyena. The leathery green skin, mottled with darker speckles, blended in perfectly with the surroundings, with a mohawk-like row of sharp quills running down its back.

It wasn’t a Kalanoro—it was something much worse. I found myself face-to-face with a Chupacabra.

TWO

The Chupacabra—much like dolphins, dogs, and quokkas—had the uncanny ability to appear to be smiling. Unlike those contemporaries, there was nothing adorable or friendly about this Chupacabra’s smile. It was all serrated teeth, with bits of rotten meat stuck between them, and a black tongue lolling around his mouth.

“You don’t want do this,” I told the beast softly, even though he probably didn’t understand English.

I kept my gaze locked on the Chupacabra, but my hand was at my hip, slowly unsheathing my sword Sigrún. The name came from my ancestors, as had the blade itself. It had been passed down from Valkyrie to daughter for centuries.

Sigrún was a thick blade made of dark purple crystal, so dark it appeared black, but it would glow bright brilliant purple when I was working. It was short and angled, like it had been broken off in battle. Maybe it had—the full history of my blade was unknown to me.

But the handle was a black utilitarian replacement. It had been my mother’s gift to me on my eighteenth birthday. Her final gift to me, well over a year ago.

The Chupacabra stared at me with oversized teardrop-shaped eyes and took a step closer to me, letting out a soft rumble of a growl.

Valkyries weren’t supposed to kill anyone or anything they were not specifically ordered to kill. The one exception was self-defense. Since I was on an unsanctioned mission into territory I had no business being in, this would all get very messy if I had to kill a Chupacabra.

But the hard truth was that I was beyond worrying about my career as a Valkyrie. I would do whatever I needed to do.

When the Chupacabra lunged at me, I drew my sword without hesitation. Since this wasn’t an official “job,” my blade didn’t glow purple, but it sliced through the leathery hide as easily as I knew it would.

I didn’t want to kill the creature if I didn’t have to—after all, he was merely going about his life in the jungle. So my first blow was only a warning that left him with a painful but shallow cut across his shoulder.

He let out an enraged howl, causing birds to take flight and all sorts of smaller animals to go rushing deeper into the underbrush. From the corner of my eye, I spotted several Kalanoro darting across the stream back toward their cave. They had been watching me.

The Chupacabra had stepped back from me, but by the determined grin on his face I didn’t think he was ready to give up yet. He circled around me, and I turned with him, stepping carefully to keep from slipping in the mud.

“This is stupid,” I said, reasoning with the animal. “We should both go our separate ways, and you can go back to eating … well, I think you mostly eat the Kalanoro and birds.”

Apparently growing tired of my attempts at talking, the Chupacabra snarled and jumped at me again. I dodged out of the way, but he kicked off of the tree behind and instantly dove at me. I didn’t move quick enough this time, and he knocked me to the ground.

Fortunately, I fell on my back, with one of his feet pinning me and his claws digging into my shoulder. I put one hand around his long, slender throat, barely managing to hold him back as he gnashed his teeth.

With one of my arms pinned, he was too strong for me, and I wouldn’t be able to throw him off. As his thick saliva dripped down onto me, I knew there was only one thing I could do if I wanted to survive.

I drove my sword up through his breastbone, using all my might. He howled in pain, but only for a second, before falling silent and slumping forward onto me. I crawled out from underneath him, now covered in mud and his thick green blood, along with my own fresh red blood springing from the wounds on my bare arms and shoulder.

In the mouth of the cave across from me, two dozen or so beady little green eyes glowed. The Kalanoro were crouched down, watching me. So much for the element of surprise.

My hair had come free from the braid I’d been wearing, and it stuck to my forehead. I reached up to brush it back, and the Kalanoro let out a squawk of surprise, and one darted off into the woods.

That’s when I realized the Kalanoro were afraid of me. I glanced over at the Chupacabra—the Kalanoro’s number-one predator, and I had left it dead and bleeding into the stream. They were right to fear me.

I tested my new hypothesis and stepped closer to the mouth of the cave, and the Kalanoro screeched and scattered. Most of them ran into the woods, but a few went deeper into the cave. My fight with the Chupacabra had left them far more skittish than I had anticipated, and I doubted that I would need my sword for them, so I sheathed Sigrún.

I unhooked my asp baton from my hip and pulled my flashlight out from my gear bag. I took a deep breath and walked toward the cave, hoping that this wasn’t a trap where they would all pounce and devour me the second I stepped inside.

As I walked into the cave, I heard them chittering and scurrying, but it reminded me more of a rat infestation than man-eating primates. Once my eyes had adjusted to the darkness, I shone the flashlight around the narrow cavern. The beam of light flashed on a few pairs of eyes, but they quickly disappeared into the darkness.

The entrance of the cave stood well over eight feet, but as I walked, the ceiling height dropped considerably. Very soon I had to crouch down to venture farther.

The ground was slick with Kalanoro droppings and bat guano, and it smelled like a musty cellar that doubled as a litter box. Tiny bones of partially digested meals crunched underneath the heavy soles of my boots.

My flashlight glinted on something, and I crouched down to inspect it. It was an old pocket watch, the face broken and the gears rusted, but it had once definitely belonged to a human. Near the watch was another trinket—an old walkie-talkie.

That’s when I realized it was a trail of treasures, piling up more as I went deeper into the cave. Old car parts, a titanium hip replacement, and even what appeared to be a wedding band. The Kalanoro apparently loved hoarding shiny things.

On the ground a few feet ahead of me, I spotted something particularly sparkly. It looked like stars, shimmering and glowing from a puddle on the floor. By now I had to crawl on my knees, since the ceiling was so low.

As I reached for those stars, a Kalanoro leapt out from the darkness. Its rows of teeth dug painfully into my right arm, and I beat it back with my asp baton. It took three hits before it finally let go and ran off screaming.

I grabbed at the stars, picking up a satiny fabric. The way it glimmered, it looked exactly like the night sky, and I now understood what Odin meant by looking “like the heavens.” This had to be the Valhallan cloak. I hurriedly shoved it into my gear bag. The Kalanoro couldn’t be happy about me stealing their treasure, so I had to get out fast.

I raced out of the cave and gulped down the fresh air. Around me, the trees had changed their tune, from the normal song of the jungle to something far more shrill and angry. I could hear the Kalanoro growling and screeching at each other, sounding like high-pitched howler monkeys. They were enraged, and they were chasing after me.

It was a ten-kilometer hike downhill, through thick forests, to the nearest village. There I would be able to clean up and catch the hyperbus back to Caana City. Back to meet Odin. The Kalanoro were now alerting the entire jungle to my presence, and even as I hurried ahead, deftly moving through the trees, I could hear them following me.

I ran down the hill, skittering through the mud and branches, swatting back giant bugs and the occasional surprised snake. My legs ached and my lungs burned but I pressed on, running as fast as I could. I had to make it to the town before dark, because I doubted the Kalanoro would let me out alive.

Copyright © 2018 by Amanda Hocking in From the Earth to the Shadows and reprinted with permission from Wednesday Books.

 

AUTHOR BIO:

Amanda Hocking NEW--credit Mariah Paaverud with Chimera Photography

Amanda Hocking is the author of over twenty young adult novels, including the New York Times bestselling Trylle Trilogy and Kanin Chronicles. Her love of pop culture and all things paranormal influence her writing. She spends her time in Minnesota, taking care of her menagerie of pets and working on her next book.

 

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Buy Links:

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Books-a-Million

IndieBound

Powells

 

Social Links:

Author Website: http://www.worldofamandahocking.com/

Twitter: @Amanda_Hocking

Facebook: @AmandaHockingFans

Author Blog

 

Preorder this book. Shake down your local bookstore clerk. Wait patiently for it outside of your library on April 24. Basically do whatever you can to make sure that you read this book. You won’t regret it. But you will want more, and that’s where you can head over to Amanda Hocking’s social media to find more of her titles {spoiler alert: they’re all good. Just so so good.}.

If that’s not enough for you, head over to my Twitter where I’ll be running a giveaway where you could win a finished copy of From the Earth to the Shadows!

Sometimes I Lie by Alice Feeney

Note to future self: never move. Ever. It really digs into your reading time. Good news: I had a few books lined up before I moved, and I manged to finish them all. Bad news: I’m just getting around to putting up reviews.

But after I read Sometimes I Lie, I knew I had to write something about it.

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Title: Sometimes I Lie {258 pgs}

Genre: Thriller/Mystery

Publication Date: March 13, 2018

Summary:

My name is Amber Reynolds. There are three things you should know about me:
1. I’m in a coma.
2. My husband doesn’t love me anymore.
3. Sometimes I lie.

Amber wakes up in a hospital. She can’t move. She can’t speak. She can’t open her eyes. She can hear everyone around her, but they have no idea. Amber doesn’t remember what happened, but she has a suspicion her husband had something to do with it. Alternating between her paralyzed present, the week before her accident, and a series of childhood diaries from twenty years ago, this brilliant psychological thriller asks: Is something really a lie if you believe it’s the truth?

Review:

This book messed with my head bit. Okay, a lot. I read the first couple of chapters, completely confident that I could figure out the mystery before I was even halfway through, and while I’m proud to say that I was sort of right {I mean…kind of, a little…}, the rest of it came as a shock. I even tried to write my own little summary, like I do, and I couldn’t, because I realized how much I’d have to give away just to explain certain things.

This is told from different times: at Amber’s time in the hospital, the time before her accident, and glimpses from her childhood told through diary entries. In each chapter, we learn a little more about Amber and the life she leads. We learn that her husband has practically moved out of the house into the cottage outside where he can write. We learn about her job as a radio co-presenter and the boss that makes her life a living hell, until Amber decides to fight back. We learn about the kind of childhood she had, about the friends she made, about the decisions that haunt her. The threads seem different at first, but then they weave together to tell the kind of story that makes you question absolutely everything that you read.

Seriously. I had to read it twice, and I’m thinking about diving into it a third time.

Alice Feeney gives Amber the kind of voice that makes me simultaneously want to trust her and also to slap her because I know she’s lying through her teeth. But Amber is so believable while she’s laid up in the hospital. Who am I to question the story of a woman in a coma? But somewhere in the middle of the book, I got it. Amber might tell lies, but to her, their truths. Compared to others, she’s lived a charmed life. Her parents loved her, her husband Paul is a good man, and she has an adorable niece and nephew that adore her. But the bad things in her life are really bad. Like an old boyfriend who suddenly shows back up in her life, an old boyfriend who really should have been laid to rest years ago. Like a perfect sister who is wiling to do anything to maintain her perfect lifestyle. Like a few dark secrets of her own, secrets that could eat up her insides and take down those she cares about most.

This is a pretty quick read, and thank goodness for that, because you’re going to want to read it again and again. There are always new hints that you pick up, new threads that seem like nothing the first time around. Alice Feeney is impressive – her writing, her voice, her innocent way of wrecking you for life – and she’s going to be on my list of authors that I’m always going to pick up.

Quick sidenote: Now that I’m back, I’m back for good. I’m going to post at least once a week, if not twice. I have a ton of books on my NetGalley shelf, and I’ve walked into a couple of surprises when I visit Barnes and Noble. {My new job is within walking distance…which means I go there pretty much everyday. Someone save my wallet.} I’m getting back into the routine, so bear with me here, okay?

Thank you. You’re all the best.