A Danger to Herself and Others by Alyssa Sheinmel

I’m very claustrophobic. Like, if my boyfriend pulls a blanket over my head, I lash out. It’s not pretty. But I’m also not one of those readers who feel claustrophobic when reading a book set in a small space. Well, I guess I should say, I wasn’t one of those readers before I read this.

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Title: A Danger to Herself and Others {352 pages}

Genre: YA Mystery/Suspense

Publication Date: February 5, 2019

Summary:

Four walls. One window. No way to escape. Hannah knows there’s been a mistake. She didn’t need to be institutionalized. What happened to her roommate at her summer program was an accident. As soon as the doctors and judge figure out that she isn’t a danger to herself or others, she can go home to start her senior year. In the meantime, she is going to use her persuasive skills to get the staff on her side.

Then Lucy arrives. Lucy has her own baggage. And she may be the only person who can get Hannah to confront the dangerous games and secrets that landed her in confinement in the first place.

Review:

When I read the summary of this book, I was immediately interested. I thought that this would be a thriller that would leave me breathless. It did, but not in the way that a thriller would.

Hannah begins her story in a institution, pacing her tiny room while she wonders when her parents are going to take her out of there since she very obviously does not belong. Sure, her roommate fell out of a window and Hannah was the only one there, but that doesn’t mean Hannah pushed her. So she’s stuck in this institution with no way out, but then Lucy arrive and Hannah knows that she’s her out. Hannah can use her to show the doctors what a great friend she can be, and then they’ll send her right home. It’s the prefect plan, except for one thing: Lucy is the key to everything that will unravel Hannah.

It’s so difficult to talk about this book without giving away anything. I guess let’s lay down the basics: this is about mental health, Hannah is very troubled, and none of the horrifying situations that happen in this book are her fault. As her story unfolds, we learn about a rich Upper East side girl, the kind of girl that Gossip Girl had been made about. Her parents traveled all over the world, taking Hannah with them and leaving her for hours at a time in her own hotel room. She’s always had best friends, girls that she can mold into anyone she wants, and she’s never been the type to take no for a first – or even second – answer. Hannah is strong-willed and brilliant. Hannah is also beginning to understand herself better.

****SKIP TO THE END IF YOU DON’T WANT TO BE SPOILED****

When writing about the things that the brain does – and can do – to us, there’s this fine line of creating believable situations that will remain believable once the twist comes. In this case, once Hannah learns about her diagnosis, the reader goes back through the book to see the hints, like we’re trying to pick it apart so we can point to a black hole and tell the author that Hannah couldn’t have created these friends because look right here! But then you notice the fact that Lucy never speaks to anyone else. The doctor seems to ignore her completely when she walks into the room. Lucy escapes the hospital with little fanfare and makes it back inside. Even Jonah, who we only learn about through Hannah’s memories, doesn’t seem to interact with anyone other than her, even when he’s with his supposed girlfriend. Hannah has created a world so whole and real that there are no black holes that we can point to.

This was beautifully written, and not just the prose. Alyssa Sheinmel approached this topic with care, and never once did it seem like she was being unnecessary cruel to Hannah or her illness. She wove the story about Hannah and her illness, creating situations that seemed real and honest, while still remaining faithful to mental health. Hannah was not a cliché. She was the kind of teenager that we might encounter at Starbucks or see at school. But she’s sick, and that doesn’t always show outwardly. Does that make her different? Yes, but it doesn’t make her the kind of monster that others thought she was.

Basically, if you’re ready to cry and want to figure out a mystery at the same time, A Danger to Herself and Others is for you.

You Asked for Perfect by Laura Silverman

I’m always a sucker for YA books told in or around schools. Mostly because I loved school when I was younger and reading about it makes me yearn for the days when my biggest worry was a paper due by the end of the week. I wish I could say that this book made me remember the less stressful days of being a kid, but…yeah, no. My heart rate was through the roof reading about Ariel Stone.

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Title: You Asked for Perfect {288 pages}

Genre: YA Fiction

Publication Date: March 5, 2019

Summary:

Senior Ariel Stone is the perfect college applicant: first chair violin, dedicated community volunteer, and expected valedictorian. He works hard – really hard – to make his life look effortless. A failed Calculus quiz is not part of that plan. Not when he’s number one. Not when his peers can smell weakness like a freshman’s body spray.

Figuring a few all-nighters will preserve his class rank, Ariel throws himself into studying. His friends will understand if he skips a few plans, and he can sleep when he graduates. Except Ariel’s grade continues to slide. Reluctantly, he gets a tutor. Amir and Ariel have never gotten along, but Amir excels in Calculus, and Ariel is out of options.

Ariel may not like Calc, but he might like Amir. Except adding a new relationship to his long list of commitments may just push him past his limit.

Review:

I’m going to be the first to admit that I was not an ambitious student. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with the rest of my life, and so I kind of dabbled in everything, not really concentrating on college prep courses or AP classes. Most high school characters in books today are in mostly AP classes or are dealing with a thousand tests to get into a high-ranking college, but they were all put to shame by one Ariel Stone.

On paper, Ariel is perfection. His grades are impeccable, he’s extra-curriculars are extraordinary {I’m giving Ariel my perfection}, and he does all this while appearing effortlessly unstressed. But it’s all an act. When he fails one test, everything suddenly spirals out of control, and Ariel throws himself deeper into studying. When he realizes that studying all night a few times a week (four times a week is a few, right?}, he decides to get a tutor. And so enters Amir. Beautiful, beautiful Amir who had me – and, really, Ariel – at hello. Amir and Ariel learn to work together in order to get Amir’s life back on track, but how much can one teenager take on before he’s pushed to the breaking point?

This book will make you absolutely paranoid that you have a million things to do and aren’t doing them because you’re reading this book. I would honestly get up a few times during a reading session and look around the house, wondering what I hadn’t done, because there couldn’t be something that didn’t need attention in my house. This is Ariel’s life. He is in a constant state of paranoia, because he doesn’t just want to become valedictorian and get into a good school, he needs to. His parents are always bragging about him and where he’s going to go, and how he’s the perfect son. Ariel knows that he can’t let them down, so he pushes himself to the very limit until he breaks. It’s hard to read sometimes. I kept flipping the pages, knowing that I was getting closer and closer to a breaking point and then…I did. And when I did, it was not what I was expecting, because it was even more heartbreaking.

Adults put so much pressure on children, and we explain it by saying that it’s in their best interest. I work with tiny kids, and whenever parents come to ask if their three-year-old can be in activities that will keep them busy for hours each day after school, I know my job is to sign them up. Still, I can’t stop myself from pointing out their child’s age and suggesting – oh so gently – that maybe they should wait a little while before signing up their toddler for private piano lessons.

So even though I didn’t live through Ariel’s story, I felt it so hard.

When we stepped away from the stressful nature of high school – those rare moments – we got a glimpse of Ariel and Amir being just teenagers. They hang out, listen to music, act like kids. Ariel helps his friends in a band. Amir takes pictures of his sister’s soccer games. They’re sweet and good and normal. But even their personal lives are tainted by the stress they feel from school and the outside world. But still. They’re absolutely adorable, and that’s what we should focus on. For right now. Before we have to get started on that to-do list that never ends.

You Asked for Perfect is beautiful and sweet and completely real. Laura Silverman has this amazing voice that makes me wonder if she’s secretly a teenager. Her characters are real and flawed, and they live their lives in a way that is so effortlessly honest.

She also wrote Rachel, Ariel’s little sister, and someone who can write Rachel can never go wrong. I love Rachel with my whole heart and I will fight anyone for her.

 

The Everlasting Rose by Dhonielle Clayton

Whoa, February, what happened to you? One minute, it was the first of the month, and now it’s…not. But I am definitely not sad that February is over, because that means March is right around the corner, and do you know how many good books are coming out in March?

This is only one of them.

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Title: The Everlasting Rose (The Belles #2) {352 pages}

Genre: YA Fantasy

Publication Date: March 5, 2019

Summary:

In this sequel to the instant New York Times bestseller, Camille, her sister Edel, and her guard and new love Rémy must race against time to find Princess Charlotte. Sophia’s Imperial forces will stop at nothing to keep the rebels from returning Charlotte to the castle and her rightful place as queen. With the help of an underground resistance movement called The Iron Ladies-a society that rejects beauty treatments entirely-and the backing of alternative newspaper The Spider’s Web, Camille uses her powers, her connections and her cunning to outwit her greatest nemesis, Sophia, and restore peace to Orléans.

Review:

Unless you were living under a rock last year – and that’s no judgment, I get it, last year was a mess – then you’ve heard of The Belles. I don’t know how Dhonielle Clayton managed to fit so much gorgeousness into one book, but she did, and she did it beautifully. Quick recap: The country of Orléans lives for the Belles, beautiful young woman whose job is to make the gris – people born with gray skin – into whatever they want, as long as they can pay for it. Camille Beauregard wants to be the Favorite, the best Belle of them all and the personal Belle of the queen. Camille eventually gets what she wants, but it’s not what she expected, and while falling in love and dodging a crazy queen-in-training, Camille finds herself in the middle of a deep conspiracy surrounding the crown. She manages to escape with a few of her sisters and Rémy, a palace guard.

Which brings us to The Everlasting Rose.

Camille is trying any way she can to find her sisters and to right the wrongs that she has committed. She also wants to take down Sophia before she can declare her sister dead and take the throne for herself. Along the way, Camille learns of heartbreak and love, of deception and truth, of broken bonds and true loyalty. She must learn how to stand on her own two feet before she can save the entire world.

The Everlasting Rose is a lot darker, description-wise, than The Belles, and that makes sense. Camille is going through a lot, and she doesn’t have a lot of down time. She’s running all over the country searching for her sisters and trying to avoid capture, and so I didn’t expect a lot of mouthwatering descriptions of the delicious food that they all eat. But Dhonielle Clayton manages to sneak in a few pieces of chocolate and pies into Camille’s busy schedule.

Really, though, I was more invested in trying to figure out who to trust. I love Edel – even from the last book – but it was so difficult to see these characters in the same light as I did in The Belles. No one was who they seemed, and that was an important part to Camille’s growth. She had relied on her sisters and her mothers for so long that she didn’t know what to do if she was left alone. She had to grow up before she could become what she wanted to be.

I have no comments about Camille and Rémy, because if I start talking about them, this will turn into a giggle fest, and we can’t have that.

But for reals, how adorable were they? Like, those two took care of each other, and they did what was best for the other. When Rémy was in a tough spot, there wasn’t even a moment of hesitation before Camille risked everything to save him. Did this love come out of nowhere? Sure, a bit. But not when you’re me, and you were winking at the both of them throughout The Belles.

I guess my only complaint would be how rushed the ending felt. Camille gets close enough to Sophia, and then a whole slew of problems arise at the same time. But they’re solved within a few pages, and I wish that more time had been given to some, like Amber and Camille. I was honestly invested in their relationship, because they felt the most like real sisters, and when they finally came face to face again, it was just…I guess anticlimactic? This might be the revenge part of me, but I wanted more suffering. Camille had been through so much and when she finally gets what she wants, it’s so quick.

I don’t know, maybe I’m crazy and I just needed the absolute revenge because that’s what Camille deserved.

The ending didn’t take anything away from the book. It’s a strong sequel, and I’m not sure if this was the last of the Belles, but I really hope not. There’s too much to be done now, and I would hate for Camille’s story to be over. So, fingers crossed for a third one, but if there’s not, you know, I can use my imagination. But it won’t be as pretty as Dhonielle Clayton’s writing.

An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

I’m making my way through my backlog of books I read during Thanksgiving break, and I can’t believe that I haven’t shared this one yet. It’s a thriller for a thriller reader, the kind that keeps you up at night with more questions than answers.

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Title: An Anonymous Girl {375 pages}

Genre: Thriller

Publication Date: January 8, 2019

Summary:

Seeking women ages 18–32 to participate in a study on ethics and morality. Generous compensation. Anonymity guaranteed.

When Jessica Farris signs up for a psychology study conducted by the mysterious Dr. Shields, she thinks all she’ll have to do is answer a few questions, collect her money, and leave.

Question #1: Could you tell a lie without feeling guilt?

But as the questions grow more and more intense and invasive and the sessions become outings where Jess is told what to wear and how to act, she begins to feel as though Dr. Shields may know what she’s thinking… and what she’s hiding.

Question #2: Have you ever deeply hurt someone you care about?

As Jess’s paranoia grows, it becomes clear that she can no longer trust what in her life is real, and what is one of Dr. Shields’ manipulative experiments. Caught in a web of deceit and jealousy, Jess quickly learns that some obsessions can be deadly.

Question #3: Should a punishment always fit the crime?

Review:

2018 was my big year of thrillers, mysteries, and horror, and I’m happy to report I didn’t read one book that I disliked. Amazing, I know. Still, out of all those books that I did read, An Anonymous Girl stood out, because, frankly, it made my brain hurt.

I cannot be the only one who reads mysteries and thrillers and shouts out every new accusation that pops into my mind, right? Good, because I did a lot of yelling during An Anonymous Girl. It was one twist after another, but with great hindsight, the twists were always there, I just chose to ignore the truth laid out in front of me. Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen take you by the hand and lead you down a path, showing you the sights, giving you hints, until you’re ready to declare that you know everything. Then they shove you violently off that path and you’re left in the dark, wondering how you didn’t see this coming. They gave you all the clues, remember?

I quickly fell into Jess. She’s a hardworking twentysomething with bills to pay and a family that needs her help. When she stumbles – sort of – across an opportunity to make a little extra cash, she jumps on it. When that opportunity turns into something more, with a promise of a bigger payout, of course Jess is going to take it. It’s such a simple thing – running a few errands, answering some questions, making a few questionable moves – that it seems almost too good to be true.

And what’s that saying about something that’s too good to be true?

Jess ends up tangled in a world of lies and deceit, and she has no idea who to trust. She wants to continue working with Dr. Shields because the money is fantastic and it’s not like Dr. Shields is asking her to hurt anyone. Or, at least, that’s what Jess believe for awhile. Even when Jess meets Noah, she believes that she’ll be able to continue working for Dr. Shields and maybe cultivate a relationship with the cute boy from the bar. Of course, she’s going to have to tell him her real name for that to happen.

What’s even worse is that the reader is pulling into this tangle, too, and so trusting any of the characters you come across seems like a bad idea. And yet. Jess only wants to make some money so that her parents don’t have to take on the heavy load of caring – and paying exclusively – for their disabled daughter. Dr. Shields seems like she’s trying to do good in this world by setting firm boundaries regarding morals. Thomas, her estranged husband, although introduced badly, appears to be trying to make a better life with his wife. In reality, none of them are doing a bit of good, and there are some points in the story where none of them seem to care about the damage that they’re inflicting on the ones that they supposedly love.

Let’s be honest here, though: Noah is the only one of the bunch that deserves all of our praise.

Everyone in this world of An Anonymous Girl is dangerous and looking for the upper hand. Jess appears to be caught in the middle of the strangest, most dangerous tug-of-war in history, but that’s what I love most about her: she might just end up with the entire rope.

The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi

Ahhh, 2019. Here you are. You started out a little rough, but nothing we can’t handle. Besides, there are too many good books coming out this year for you to be terrible. The Gilded Wolves is one of those and such a start to the new year.

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Title: The Gilded Wolves (The Gilded Wolves #1) {464 pages}

Publication Date: January 15, 2019

Genre: Fantasy

Summary:

Paris, 1889: The world is on the cusp of industry and power, and the Exposition Universelle has breathed new life into the streets and dredged up ancient secrets. In this city, no one keeps tabs on secrets better than treasure-hunter and wealthy hotelier, Séverin Montagnet-Alarie. But when the all-powerful society, the Order of Babel, seeks him out for help, Séverin is offered a treasure that he never imagined: his true inheritance.

To find the ancient artifact the Order seeks, Séverin will need help from a band of experts: An engineer with a debt to pay. A historian who can’t yet go home. A dancer with a sinister past. And a brother in all but blood, who might care too much.

Together, they’ll have to use their wits and knowledge to hunt the artifact through the dark and glittering heart of Paris. What they find might change the world, but only if they can stay alive.

Review:

First off, go back up the page and take another look at that cover. Is that not the most gorgeous cover you’ve ever seen? I passed it on NetGalley, took a second look, took a third look, then finally checked out the summary. I had already been in just by the cover, and the summary pushed me over the edge.

Now, come on back down and we’ll jump right into the meat of the book.

Séverin, a young man hellbent on revenge against the Order of Babel. Enrique, his historian who wants to finally be home. Zofia, an engineer with a heart of steel, or at least that’s what she wants everyone to think. Laila, the kind of dancer that can bring men to their knees. Tristan, Séverin’s adoptive brother who wants nothing more than for his friends to be family. These are our gilded wolves, the kids who run the streets from behind the scenes. When they connect with Hypnos, the heir to House Nix, all hell breaks loose, but that’s the only kind of life that these wolves know.

I’m a sucker for fantasies, no matter how many times I’ve told myself I was going to stay away from them, and any fantasy set in France {or a French-like atmosphere, let’s be honest here} is a for sure in my book. The Gilded Wolves is so much more than a sumptuously told story in a beautiful locale, but imagining these gorgeous characters slinking through the shadows of France is too good to pass up.

Let’s get this out of the way, first: Séverin and Leila. Wooooo. {Imagine me fanning my face with a feather fan.} Whenever those two were in the same room together, I was honestly surprised that Roshani Chokshi’s next sentence wasn’t, And then the room burst into flames by the pure sexual tension pouring from these two. Like, for reals. There were times when I felt like I should ask if I should leave the room, because they were obviously so in love and they both knew they couldn’t do anything about it.

Oh, the stubbornness of former heirs and present dancers.

Enrique, Tristan, and Hypos were all fine boys. Sweet and cunning and smooth and severely extroverted, the three of them ran the gamut of characteristics. But we’re not here in this paragraph to talk about them. No way, we’re here to talk about the wolf of my heart: Zofia. The small girl whose inventions were breathtakingly original, whose life was hanging by a string held by her beloved sister, whose social skills were the same as a loose nail sticking up from a stair. She kept the wolves safe, but the real joy was watching her trying to interact with her friends, or the people that kept calling themselves her friends. She seemed to have no idea of camaraderie, because she only had her sister in her life, and even that relationship was upside down. Zofia was not so much a sister as a mother trying to keep her sister afloat and happy. But, oh, Zofia, how I love you. You made me smile and laugh by just being you, and I’m waiting patiently for The Gilded Wolves 1.5: All About Zofia.

Characters aside, the story surrounding these wolves was stressful and thrilling. Roshani Chokshi weaves the kind of tale that comes to life before your eyes, and you can practically smell the smoky dancing hall and taste Laila’s delicious desserts. With just a few words, Chokshi manages to wrap the wolves’ troubles around you, squeezing tighter and tighter until you feel like these are your problems now. She keeps the twists coming, all the way until the very end. By the time I reached the end of this novel, I was spent, torn between so many different emotions that I honestly sat there for five minutes trying to get my brain back together.

Yeah, The Gilded Wolves is that good.

What You Hide by Natalie D. Richards

Oh, happy December! November did not go as well as planned. Did I complete NaNo? Nope, for the first year in, like, ten years. I did not realize how much my new job wipes me out by the time I get home. At least I ended up getting sick during Thanksgiving break while I was home, so…that’s a good thing? I did get through a good chunk of my Goodreads reading challenge, so be prepare for an onslaught of reviews this month.

Let’s start with What You Hide, shall we?

cover145421-mediumTitle: What You Hide {384 pages}

Publication Date: December 4, 2018

Genre: YA Thriller

Summary:

Mallory didn’t want to leave home, but it wasn’t safe to stay. So she sleeps at her best friend’s house and spends the rest of her time at the library, doing her online schoolwork and figuring out what comes next. Because she’s not going live in fear like her mother.

Spencer volunteers at the library. Sure, it’s community service for a stunt he pulled, but he likes the work. And it’s the perfect escape from his parents’ pressure to excel at school, at ice hockey, at everything. Especially after he meets Mallory.

Then there is a tragic death at the library. Suddenly, what was once a sanctuary turns sinister. Ghostly footprints, strange scratching sounds, scrawled messages on bulletin boards and walls… Mallory and Spencer don’t know who or what is responsible, but one thing is for sure:

They are not as alone—or as safe—as they thought.

Review:

I’ve read one other book by Natalie Richards {We All Fall Down} and right after I finished it, I immediately went to Goodreads to see what else she’s written. She writes the kind of thrillers that lure you in with the sweet romance between the two main characters and then clamps down on your leg with the creepy atmosphere that surrounds everyone inside the story. These are the kinds of books that you can finish in a day, because you don’t want to be reading it at night. You’ll be checking your windows and doors if you keep reading her books after dark.

Mallory and Spencer’s story is no different. Mallory finds herself on the streets after her stepfather’s dangerous behavior kicks up a notch and her pregnant mother refuses to leave. She takes refuge in the library {which, I mean, wouldn’t we all?} and tries to get her life back in order now that she knows she only has herself to rely on, and that she’s going to have to help her baby sibling when they enter the world. Spencer, the boy with the silver spoon in his mouth, constantly tries to spit it out. He loves climbing, which is why he decided that climbing the outside of the library would be a good idea, even if the cops didn’t seem to think so. He gets off light, with community service working at the library, where he happens across Mallory.

But then things get weird. Like, black footprints on the floor, dead girl in the stacks, and late-night crying weird.

The two teenagers have to solve the mystery of who – or what – is haunting the library, because Mallory needs a safe place to stay and Spencer wants to be able to see her every day. But with so much against them, the task seems impossible.

WYH is the kind of creepy story that makes you put the book down every now and again because you swear that you just heard something in the other room. Living with a boyfriend, dog, and cat, I’m always hearing things {some of it welcome, some of it definitely not}, but while reading this – alone, during the day – I could have sworn that there was more noise than a boyfriend, dog, and cat could make. Was that footsteps? Or maybe a whisper of a voice? Oh, no, that’s just my paranoia having a field day because of this book.

The writing is fast paced and weaves romance and thrills together so seamlessly that you actually feel the disappointment of Mallory and Spencer. Just as they start to get close, maybe a nose brushing against another nose, a quick glance at the lips, and then…oh, was that a book falling down? I’ll admit it: I jumped a few times in this book, and that speaks volumes of Natalie Richards. I don’t jump. While reading thrillers or horror, I’m always anticipating the next scare around the corner. But in WYH, I was so invested in Mallory and Spencer, especially when they were together, that when the next scare did come, I was not prepared.

After I finished WYH {like, right after, the second I put down my Kindle}, I bought her two other books, even though I’ve already read We All Fall Down. It doesn’t matter. I’m going to reread it and I’m going to read One Was Lost right after it. This is my plan for Christmas break, and it’s honestly the best way to spend time at home.

So rush forth, get your hands on all the Natalie D. Richards that you possibly can. Put her on top of your authors that you will always read list. You can come back anytime  to let me know that I was right.

Salt by Hannah Moskowitz

Happy Halloween! I know I should share something spooky and kind of creepy, but this book came out yesterday and I can’t keep my mouth shut about it.

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Title: Salt {268 pages}

Genre: YA Fantasy

Publication Date: October 30, 2018

Summary:

Even though their parents disappeared during a hunt three months ago, seventeen-year-old Indi and his siblings, Beleza, Oscar, and Zulu, continue to roam the Mediterranean on their sailboat and hunt down monsters–but Indi yearns for a more settled life for his family, and he hopes that his parents’ journal with its tantalizing hints of a treasure, will provide them all with the means of escape from their nomadic and dangerous life before it is too late. 

Review:

Confession: I’m absolutely terrified of the ocean. If I can’t see into the water that I’m diving into, no thanks, hard pass. Once, I fell into a river and promptly started crying. I wasn’t even a kid. But reading Salt made me want to quit my job and become a pirate {only because of Hura, my love, my dream}.

Salt is an adventure story about four siblings who hunt monsters in the deep blue seas. Really, though, this is a story told my Indi, the oldest brother, about how he and his orphaned siblings are making a life for themselves after their parents’ disappearance. Indi, practically born on the water, is beginning to realize that being a sicario – a monster poacher – might not be for him, but god luck telling his older sister Beleza about another life away from their tiny ship.

I’ve never read a Hannah Moskowitz book before {I knoooow, what’s wrong with me?}, even though I own one and I’ve followed her on Twitter for awhile now. Her writing style is different and beautiful, the kind that flows from sentence to sentence, making you believe that you’re right alongside the siblings on their boat. Each chapter felt like a short story contained inside a bigger body of work. While I wanted more from the adventure, I understand that the story wasn’t solely about the adventures these kids were having. This is a story about a broken family trying to find their way in a big world of water. It’s about a lost boy torn between his own wants and doing what’s best for his family.

The characters were all too real, and maybe this is just because I’m the baby of my family, but Beleza was simultaneously the worst and the saddest. She is exactly how you would picture a big sister who suddenly finds herself a parent. That’s not to say that I wouldn’t give her hell if I had been there, but I get where she was coming from. The dynamics between the four siblings was so honest and funny, and I want more of them. Like, not even another story, if that’s what it comes down to. Just more of their banter, more of their arguing, more of their love.

Now that I’ve finished Salt, I’m trying to figure out where to go from here. I now want to devour absolutely everything that Hannah Moskowitz has written, but I don’t know where to start. All of her books sound gorgeous, so I’m honestly going to close my eyes and point to one at random.

We’ll see how this goes.

The Exes’ Revenge by Jo Jakeman

Wow, who forgot to tell me that October was going to be a crazy month? Who forgot to remind me that I’d get sick for about two weeks and be completely exhausted? I mean, it did give me an excuse to watch scary movies and sit around and be lazy, but now I’m paying for it, and NaNo is right around the corner. Which is why the next few weeks here are going to consist backlogged books. But still, books!

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Title: The Exes’ Revenge {342 pages}

Genre: Thriller

Publication Date: September 11, 2018

Summary:

Divorces are often messy, and Imogen’s is no exception. Phillip Rochester is controlling, abusive, and determined to make things as difficult as possible. When he shows up without warning demanding that Imogen move out of their house by the end of the month or he’ll sue for sole custody of their young son, Imogen is ready to snap.

In a moment of madness, Imogen does something unthinkable–something that puts her in control for the first time in years. She’s desperate to protect her son and to claim authority over her own life.

But she wasn’t expecting both Phillip’s ex-wife and new girlfriend to get tangled up in her plans. These three very different women–and unlikely allies–reluctantly team up to take revenge against a man who has wronged them all.

Review:

Look, we have all dated some really terrible people. But I have never had the unfortunate experience of dating – let alone marrying – someone like Phillip Rochester. He’s controlling and abusive and knows all the buttons to push to make a woman feel small. He eats power like Cheerios, and he uses it to his ever advantage. Imogen feels like she escaped practically unscathed, and with a darling son to show for it. But now Phillip has moved onto Naomi, a young woman who already felt lost in this world. When Phillip doesn’t come home from Imogen’s house one day, Naomi makes her way over to see what happened. Add in Phillip’s first ex-wife Ruby, and you have a cocktail for disaster.

This is one of those thrillers where you know what happens to the bad guy from the very first page, but that doesn’t change the fact that, as you read, you want the very worst thing to happen to Phillip at every moment in the novel. He’s truly a terrible person with no redeeming qualities, and even when it’s revealed why he’s doing what he’s doing, you don’t feel bad. You’re actually happy that he’s getting all this dung piled on top of him, especially considering where he is throughout most of the novel.

Even though we know what happens to Phillip, that doesn’t make any part of the novel any less stressful. The entire time, I’m thinking that maybe the girls are going to get away with what they’ve done, and then something throws a wrench in the plan. I was pretty much on edge from the moment Imogen ~does things~ until the last page. I kept expecting for the hammer to fall, for the moment when I’d be told that the first chapter was just a dream.

To me, this novel felt like a real testament to the horrors that women go through on a daily basis, and yet, we’re still here. Phillip puts these women through hell, and they fight back in the best ways that they can, no matter how long it takes them. The absolute resilience of women is beautiful and awe-inspiring. Imogen never gave up her search for what happened to her one night, and even in the face of her own mortality, she fought back. The Exes’ Revenge is the type of novel that has you cringing in fear one minute, and then cheering wildly the next.

I actually read it again right after I finished it, and it only got better the second time around. This is a thriller that will get your heart pumping and your mind racing. It’s the kind of thriller to keep you up all night because you have to figure out what happens next. You’ll be exhausted the next day, but trust me, it’ll be worth it.

The Spy with the Red Balloon by Katherine Locke

Okay, October is really going now. It’s chilly outside, Evil Dead is on TV right now, and my tea is seeping as we speak {as I write?}. It’s definitely time for some excellent books.

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Title: The Spy with the Red Balloon {368 pages}

Genre: YA Historical Fantasy

Publication Date: October 2, 2018

Summary:

Siblings Ilse and Wolf hide a deep secret in their blood: with it, they can work magic. And the government just found out.Blackmailed into service during World War II, Ilse lends her magic to America’s newest weapon, the atom bomb, while Wolf goes behind enemy lines to sabotage Germany’s nuclear program. It’s a dangerous mission, but if Hitler were to create the bomb first, the results would be catastrophic.

When Wolf’s plane is shot down, his entire mission is thrown into jeopardy. Wolf needs Ilse’s help to develop the magic that will keep him alive, but with a spy afoot in Ilse’s laboratory, the letters she sends to Wolf begin to look treasonous. Can Ilse prove her loyalty—and find a way to help her brother—before their time runs out?

Review:

There are some books that, once you finish reading them, you know for a fact that you’re going to read it again. And soon. Both books in the Balloonmakers series are like that. The Girl with the Red Balloon was sweet and smart, and it made my heart ache during my reading and especially after. The Spy with the Red Balloon is no different. I thought I would be upset that Katherine Locke didn’t continue the story of Ellie and Kai, but once I met Ilse and Wolf, I knew I wouldn’t be upset for long.

Ilse is a genius, a girl who lives and breathes science and magic. Wolf, her brother, is smart, but he knows he’ll never understand as much as Ilse does. He only knows that their blood can perform magical feats, and he understands that the war is closer than he thought. When the siblings are recruited for a secret mission involving Hitler and a nuclear bomb, they know that nothing will ever be the same between them. Ilse is whisked off to the picturesque hills of Tennessee while her brother is shipping off to Germany, right in the middle of the danger. The two must fight against time, racism, and a spy determined to get their way.

Let’s be honest: right now, we definitely need a heroine like Ilse. She’s strong, brave, smart, and willing to stand up to those who try to come between her and her principles. She only wants a better world to live in, one where people can be themselves and be happy. She’s idealist in that way, but she understands that this world is not kind to people like her – Jewish, queer – but she knows enough to want to change that.

Then there’s Wolf. Sweet, sensitive Wolf. This war hasn’t only been waged against his people, but it’s also torn his best friend Max from him. Once overseas, he’s sure of two things: he wants to stop Hitler and he wants to make it back home so he and Max can be together.Along the way, he learns about heartbreak and betrayal, and he sees exactly what is worth fighting for.

In a nutshell: these two siblings are badass.

Katherine Locke writes in such a way that makes me yearn for the characters to be happy while being blindingly angry at the atrocities this world has offered innocent people. She blends reality and fantasy so seamlessly that sometimes I’m like, well, yeah, of course this is how it happened, with magic balloons. She’s detailed and thorough, bringing the world alive around you. And the way she writes the characters! Ilse and Wolf are just two people on paper, but I would die for them. I want to wrap them in the softest blankets and tell them I’m sorry for what the world has done to them. I’m not usually like this with characters, but these two are adorable and have been through far too much for their young ages.

In case you’re not getting it, let me say it simply: The Spy with the Red Balloon should be read by everyone and anyone because it’s beautifully wonderful.

After the Fire by Will Hill

IT’S OCTOBER. Do you know what that means? Colder weather, warmer drinks, horror movies, and HALLOWEEN. I wait all year for this month, and it’s almost more exciting than my birthday {ALMOST}. I’m reading some new books this month, but I also want to highlight some of my favorite scary book, because come on. I live for this nonsense. So come on back through October, and prepare to be terrified.

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Title: After the Fire {464 pages}

Genre: YA Contemporary

Publication Date: October 2, 2018

Summary:

Before, she lived inside the fence. Before, she was never allowed to leave the property, never allowed to talk to Outsiders, never allowed to speak her mind. Because Father John controlled everything—and Father John liked rules. Disobeying Father John came with terrible consequences.

But there are lies behind Father John’s words. Outside, there are different truths.

Then came the fire.

Review:

Wow, this book. This book. I usually go for anything published by Sourcebooks Fire, and this was no exception. I honestly went into it sort of blind, because I only read a quick blurb about it, and to say that this book surprised me would be an understatement.

Moonbeam has only ever known one life: the one inside the fences of the Lord’s Legion with her Brothers and Sisters, led by the convincing Father John. Her father is dead, her mother is Gone, and the only true friend she has is Nate, a man who challenges Moonbeam to rethink her beliefs. When a fire tears apart the Lord’s Legion, Moonbeam awakens in a hospital, surrounded by Outsiders who only want one thing: for her to tell her story about what she saw inside the fence.

So I didn’t know that this book was about cults. Let me tell you a thing: cults are my jam. Does that sound weird? Yes it does, and it should. Since I was a kid, I’ve been terribly interested in cults, how they work, why they’re around, how people are lead into the desert/forest/wherever by one person. They’re scary, yet fascinating. Usually, most of the books about cults that I read are told from the outside: researchers or journalists telling us, after the fact, about what went on inside the compound. In After the Fire, we hear Moonbeam’s story from before and after the fire, so we get a rare glimpse inside a cult {because that is most definitely what the Lord’s Legion turned into} from the perspective of a member.

It’s terrifying and lonely and absolutely heartbreaking. I wanted to reach through the pages and shake some of the kids who followed Father John, but a shake is not what they needed. They needed help, and while the doctors were trying to give them all they needed, sometimes even that wasn’t enough. There were parts that were hard to read, and other parts that I wanted to relive forever because Moonbeam was actually happy at some points.

My favorite part was the end, and while I don’t want to spoil it, I want to say that the thing about this ending was how real it was. Most endings in books like this are too happy, the sugar sticking between your teeth and leaving a bad taste. But this ending felt like one that could really happen, one that is happening right now, and that made Moonbeam feel more real, too.

After the Fire is the perfect book to start Spooky October, and not because it’s just spooky. It’s real and scary and the kind of story that makes you think long after you turn the final page. I’m still thinking about it, even as I write this, because I know there’s more that I want to say. I’m going to be thinking about this book for the rest of the year, because I’m going to find something new in the next read and the third read and the millionth read. And it still won’t be enough.

So. Happy reading, October friends.