#tbt Scythe by Neal Shusterman

Oh my gosh, is anyone else very, very excited that it’s Thursday? Once we get through today, then it’s Friday and then it’s the weekend! I’d really like one of those, thanks.

Until then, this #tbt post features one of my absolute favorite books of 2017, Scythe. I really just want to gush about it since the second book in this series, Thunderhead, should be on my doorstep in a matter of hours.


Title: Scythe {435 pgs.}

Publication Date: November 22, 2016

Genre: YA Fantasy


A world with no hunger, no disease, no war, no misery. Humanity has conquered all those things, and has even conquered death. Now scythes are the only ones who can end life—and they are commanded to do so, in order to keep the size of the population under control.

Citra and Rowan are chosen to apprentice to a scythe—a role that neither wants. These teens must master the “art” of taking life, knowing that the consequence of failure could mean losing their own.


So, this book fell into my lap when one of my favorite authors, Maggie Stiefvater, tweeted about it. She can really do no wrong when suggesting new reads, so I jumped on Scythe. I’m so glad that I did.

Citra Terranova and Rowan Damisch live in the kind of utopian society that most people believe they want: a community free of all diseases, wars, misery, anything that could make life difficult. You want to jump off a building? No worries, because this society has a cure for that. “The Thunderhead,” a combination of nanites and medical measures, takes care of all the people it silently lords over.

But this means the population runs free, ballooning into incredible numbers since death isn’t on the table anymore. That’s where the Scythes come in, people tasked with the huge assignment of killing certain people in order to keep the population in check. The Scythes are not mere killing machines, however: they follow a strict code of commandments, have a quota that they must fill each year, cannot have families, cannot own any possessions, and they cannot glean {kill} any other Scythe. That doesn’t mean that a Scythe can’t self-glean, though.

They also take on apprentices, like Scythe Faraday, a special sort of Scythe who does things his own way. He is kind and compassionate, a very different breed than the politically ruthless scythes that Citra and Rowan come into contact with throughout the story.

The two main narrators are beautifully written, meant to compliment each other even when they’re being forced to compete against one another. While Citra is an overachiever, the kind of girl who is constantly proving herself, Rowan is as compassionate as he is ignored by his own family. They both have their own reasons for wanting a job that neither of them signed up for, but the real reason for adoring these two is that neither of them are willing to bend their morals for the Scythedom. While there is an undercurrent of romance, Rowan and Citra are intent on becoming the best they can be, while changing the world that they’ve always known. They understand the bigger picture here, and the electricity between them isn’t going to stop them.

If we’re being honest here, the YA dystopian genre has gotten really…old. I felt like I’ve read so much of it that I was wishing myself into these dystopian societies so I could escape the story. But Scythe was different, and I can’t put my finger on why exactly. Each character had their own voice, and that voice was shaped by the society they had grown up in. I guess it all felt real, well, as real as something like this can feel. Citra and Rowan could be any kid that I went to school with, and their struggles, while on a larger scale than most, were relatable. Striving for perfection? Wanting to be noticed by someone, anyone?

Well, I think we all understand those things.

Like I said before, this was one of my favorite books of the last year. I look over at it on my bookshelf and get these butterflies in my tummy, the kind of book hangover that lasts for months. Let’s just say that I’m going to try not to attack the delivery person later today, but I make no promises.

The English Wife by Lauren Willig

Oh, Tuesday. You’re not Monday, but you’re almost as bad because sometimes I think you’re Monday. That’s why I’ve decided to bring some sunshine into everyone’s lives {literally right now} with The English Wife.


Title: The English Wife {384 pgs.}

Publication Date: January 9, 2018

Genre: Historical fiction/Mystery


Annabelle and Bayard Van Duyvil live a charmed life: he’s the scion of an old Knickerbocker family, she grew up in a Tudor manor in England, they had a whirlwind romance in London, they have three year old twins on whom they dote, and he’s recreated her family home on the banks of the Hudson and renamed it Illyria. Yes, there are rumors that she’s having an affair with the architect, but rumors are rumors and people will gossip. But then Bayard is found dead with a knife in his chest on the night of their Twelfth Night Ball, Annabelle goes missing, presumed drowned, and the papers go mad. Bay’s sister, Janie, forms an unlikely alliance with a reporter to uncover the truth, convinced that Bay would never have killed his wife, that it must be a third party, but the more she learns about her brother and his wife, the more everything she thought she knew about them starts to unravel. Who were her brother and his wife, really? And why did her brother die with the name George on his lips?


If we’re being honest here, this book took a little while getting into. I kept putting my Kindle down and doing other things, even cleaning, before I would pick it back up again, because I knew I had to finish it. The first couple of chapters are introductions, and I absolutely hated Anne, the main character’s cousin, so it took me forever to power through her to get to the real meat of the story. Once I did, though, everything took off {I literally read the last half in a night because I needed to know what the heck was going on with this family} and I’m really glad that I didn’t abandon this book.

The English Wife is told in both the present and the past, with Janie and Annabelle as narrators. In Annabelle’s time, she tells us the story of her past life and how she met Bay, as well as their lives after their marriage and the secrets surrounding her husband that are revealed at rather inopportune times. When Janie takes over, the grand ball is over, Bay is dead, Annabelle is missing, and Janie knows that she must find the truth of what happened or else her niece and nephew will have their mother branded a murderess. She joins up with a newspaper reporter, a one Mr. Burke, in order to find justice for Bay, but not everyone is as they seem, not even Janie.

Look, I’m a sucker for Edith Wharton-era novels. I’ve read them all – most of them several thousand times – and I’ve always been on the lookout for the kind of novel that would transport me back to that time, with a certain kind of character, with a certain kind of atmosphere {not specific at all, right?}. The English Wife has it all: rich people who need a good slap, a spunky girl who defies societal standards, and secrets that need to be laid bare in order for everyone to begin living again. While some secrets were more obvious that others, Lauren Willig did a fantastic job at leading you down one path only to shove you off it once you thought you had your footing. I love these kinds of mysteries, the ones where I get cockier the more I read and then I’m slapped right down because I’m wrong, just so so wrong. In this case, being wrong was so much fun, since Bay constantly surprised me and Annabelle’s reactions were not what I expected IN THE LEAST, even though they really shouldn’t have.

If you’re looking for historical fiction that is also a mystery and a love story, then The English Wife is definitely for you. Don’t worry if you’re struggling with the introductions, because it gets infinitely better. But Anne isn’t cast out of the family and forced to live on an ice floe in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, sorry. That’s the only complaint I have.

Between the Blade and the Heart by Amanda Hocking


Happy New Year to all you wonderful book people out there! It’s been a long time away from this blog, and I’m so glad that I’m back today with a book that refuses to get out of my head {as if I wanted it out anyway}.


Cover Between the Blade and the Heart

Title: Between the Blade and the Heart {Valkyrie #1} {319 pgs.}

Genre: YA fantasy

Publication Date: January 2, 2018


When the fate of the world is at stake
Loyalties will be tested

Game of Thrones meets Blade Runner in this commanding new YA fantasy inspired by Norse Mythology from New York Times bestselling author Amanda Hocking.

As one of Odin’s Valkyries, Malin’s greatest responsibility is to slay immortals and return them to the underworld. But when she unearths a secret that could unravel the balance of all she knows, Malin along with her best friend and her ex-girlfriend must decide where their loyalties lie. And if helping the blue-eyed boy Asher enact his revenge is worth the risk—to the world and her heart.



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.


Buy Links:


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Social Links:

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

Twitter: @Amanda_Hocking

Facebook: @AmandaHockingFans

Author Blog

I feel that I read a lot of book in 2017 that dealt with some kind of mythology, but Between the Blade and the Heart was different. The people that populated this strange new world were somehow more real than most characters set in the here and now. Malin may be a Valkyrie, but she’s also a young woman trying to figure out her life. She juggles an ex-girlfriend who still loves her, a mysterious young man with revenge in his heart, a best friend who only wants Malin to be happy, and a mother who seems to be better equipped dealing with only herself. To top it all off, Malin also has her Valkyrie duties, returning certain creatures to the underworld. Now she has to deal with a rogue immortal, hell-bent on wreaking havoc and destroying as many lives as possible.

Not only was the writing beautiful, but each character felt so full and real. Even the ones that maybe could have been thrown in a dumpster for awhile {cough, Sloane, cough} felt like someone you’ve come across in your life.

The excitement also kept building and building until I felt like I was going to scream. Malin and her friends have stumbled into something messy, to say the least, and the strange creatures that they come across in almost every chapter leads to more pressure and mystery. It’s wonderfully crafted and keeps you reading until the very end, and then it just leaves you wanting more.

Don’t believe me? Let the book speak for itself:



The air reeked of fermented fish and rotten fruit, thanks to the overflowing dumpster from the restaurant behind us. The polluted alley felt narrow and claustrophobic, sandwiched between skyscrapers.

In the city, it was never quiet or peaceful, even at three in the morning. There were more than thirty million humans and supernatural beings coexisting, living on top of each other. It was the only life I’d ever really known, but the noise of the congestion grated on me tonight.

My eyes were locked on the flickering neon lights of the gambling parlor across the street. The u in Shibuya had gone out, so the sign flashed SHIB YA at me.

The sword sheathed at my side felt heavy, and my body felt restless and electric. I couldn’t keep from fidgeting and cracked my knuckles.

“He’ll be here soon,” my mother, Marlow, assured me. She leaned back against the brick wall beside me, casually eating large jackfruit seeds from a brown paper sack. Always bring a snack on a stakeout was one of her first lessons, but I was far too nervous and excited to eat.

The thick cowl of her frayed black sweater had been pulled up like a hood, covering her cropped blond hair from the icy mist that fell on us. Her tall leather boots only went to her calf, thanks to her long legs. Her style tended to be monochromatic—black on black on black—aside from the shock of dark red lipstick.

My mother was only a few years shy of her fiftieth birthday, with almost thirty years of experience working as a Valkyrie, and she was still as strong and vital as ever. On her hip, her sword Mördare glowed a dull red through its sheath.

The sword of the Valkyries was one that appeared as if it had been broken in half—its blade only a foot long before stopping at a sharp angle. Mördare’s blade was several thousand years old, forged in fires to look like red glass that would glow when the time was nigh.

My sword was called Sigrún, a present on my eighteenth birthday from Marlow. It was a bit shorter than Mördare, with a thicker blade, so it appeared stubby and fat. The handle was black utilitarian, a replacement that my mom had had custom-­made from an army supply store, to match her own.

The ancient blade appeared almost black, but as it grew closer to its target, it would glow a vibrant purple. For the past hour that we’d been waiting on our stakeout, Sigrún had been glowing dully on my hip.

The mist grew heavier, soaking my long black hair. I kept the left side of my head shaved, parting my hair over to the right, and my scalp should’ve been freezing from the cold, but I didn’t feel it. I didn’t feel anything.

It had begun—the instinct of the Valkyrie, pushing aside my humanity to become a weapon. When the Valkyrie in me took over, I was little more than a scythe for the Grim Reaper of the gods.

“He’s coming,” Marlow said behind me, but I already knew.

The world fell into hyperfocus, and I could see every droplet of rain as it splashed toward the ground. Every sound echoed through me, from the bird flapping its wings a block away, to the club door as it groaned open.

Eleazar Bélanger stumbled out, his heavy feet clomping in the puddles. He was chubby and short, barely over four feet tall, and he would’ve appeared to be an average middle-­aged man if it wasn’t for the two knobby horns that stuck out on either side of his forehead. Graying tufts of black hair stuck out from under a bright red cap, and as he walked ahead, he had a noticeable limp favoring his right leg.

He was a Trasgu, a troublemaking goblin, and his appearance belied the strength and cunning that lurked within him. He was over three hundred years old, and today would be the day he died.

I waited in the shadows of the alley for him to cross the street. A coughing fit caused him to double over, and he braced himself against the brick wall.

I approached him quietly—this all went easier when they didn’t have time to prepare. He took off his hat to use it to wipe the snot from his nose, and when he looked up at me, his green eyes flashed with understanding.

“It’s you,” Eleazar said in a weak, craggy voice. We’d never met, and I doubt he’d ever seen me before, but he recognized me, the way they all did when their time was up.

“Eleazar Bélanger, you have been chosen to die,” I said, reciting my script, the words automatic and cold on my lips. “It is my duty to return you to the darkness from whence you came.”

“No, wait!” He held up his pudgy hands at me. “I have money. I can pay you. We can work this out.”

“This is not my decision to make,” I said as I pulled the sword from my sheath.

His eyes widened as he realized I couldn’t be bargained with. For a moment I thought he might just accept his fate, but they rarely did. He bowed his head and ran at me like a goat. He was stronger than he looked and caused me to stumble back a step, but he didn’t have anywhere to go.

My mother stood blocking the mouth of the alley, in case I needed her. Eleazar tried to run toward the other end, but his leg slowed him, and I easily overtook him. Using the handle of my sword, I cracked him on the back of the skull, and he fell to the ground on his knees.

Sigrún glowed brightly, with light shining out from it and causing the air to glow purple around us. Eleazar mumbled a prayer to the Vanir gods. I held the sword with both hands, and I struck it across his neck, decapitating him.

And then, finally, the electricity that had filled my body, making my muscles quiver and my bones ache, left me, and I breathed in deeply. The corpse of an immortal goblin lay in a puddle at my feet, and I felt nothing but relief.

“It was a good return,” my mother said, and put her hand on my shoulder. “You did well, Malin.”

I mean, come on. The first chapter caught my interest and I spent most of the night furiously reading to the last chapter so I could figure out what happened to everyone. Best sleepless night ever.

I’ve reviewed other books by Amanda Hocking, and that’s not only because she writes compelling and beautiful stories, but also because she’s pretty awesome. She took some time to answer some fan questions {always a plus in my book}.


Q&A with Amanda Hocking

Q: What or who was the inspiration behind Between the Blade and the Heart?

A: I have already written several books inspired by Scandinavian folklore, and I was always fascinated by Valkyries. But because I had already done in Scandinavian fantasy, I wanted to come at this one from a different angle. I imagined the Valkyries helping to police a gritty, diverse, cyberpunk metropolis, in a world filled with not just Norse figures but from many mythologies.


Q: What are the life lessons that you want readers to glean from your book?

A: That love is a strength, not a weakness.


Q: If you were given the chance to go on a date with one of your characters, who would you choose and what would you do together?

A: Oona. She doesn’t swing that way, but since I’m married anyway, it would be a friendship date. I think it would be fun to go to an apothecary with her and have her show me around the magic. Or maybe just veg out and watch bad movies.


Q: Would the essence of your novel change if the main protagonist were male?

A: Yes, it would be changed dramatically. For one, Valkyries are women. But I also think the book explores the relationships between mothers and daughters, and friendships between young women.


Q: What is your definition of true love in YA literature?

A: There has to be passion and desire – not necessarily anything physical, but so much of young love is about yearning. But I also think that true love is based on mutual respect and selflessness.


Q: What advice would you give to someone who wanted to be an author/start writing?

A: My biggest piece of advice is to just write. It’s so easy to get caught up in self-doubt or procrastination. There are lot of great books and blogs about the art of writing, but the most important thing is really to just do it. The best way to get better at writing is by doing it.


Q: What’s one book you would have no trouble rereading for the rest of your life?

A: It would be a toss up between Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli and Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut. I’ve read both of those books a dozen times already, at least, and I never get sick of them.


Q: How did you name your characters? Are they based on people you know in real life?

A: It’s combination of names I like and taking inspiration from the world itself. With Between the Blade and the Heart, the names were inspired both by the mythology they come from – many Valkyries have Norse names like Malin, Teodora, and Freya, for example – and the futuristic setting of the book, so I wanted names that seemed a bit cooler and just slightly different than the ones we use now.


Q: Alright, Amanda, I know you’re a movie buff. What are some movies your characters would pick as their all-time favorites?

A: That’s a tough one. Malin – The Crow, Oona – Pan’s Labyrinth, Quinn – Wonder Woman, Asher – Inception, and Marlow – Twelve Monkeys.


Q: Which mythological character is the most like you?

A: Demeter, because she’s pretty dramatic – she basically kills all the plants in the world when her daughter goes missing – but she’s also determined, and will stop at nothing to protect those she cares about.


Q: Who is your favorite character in this book and why?

A: Oona or Bowie. Oona because she’s so practical, supportive, and determined, and Bowie because he’s adorable.


Q: What is your favorite scene and why?

A: I don’t know if there is one particular scene that I loved more than the others, but I really enjoyed writing about the city that Malin lives in and all the creatures that inhabit it.


Q: What cities inspired the urban haven where the Valkyries live?

A: I was really obsessed with this idea of an overpopulated metropolis, and so I took a lot of inspiration from some of the biggest cities in the world, particularly Tokyo, Mexico City, Mumbai, and Manila. The city itself is actually a sort of futuristic, alternate reality of Chicago (one of my favorite cities in the world), and I wanted to incorporate that into it as well.


Q: What came first: The world, the mythology, or the characters?

A: I usually say the characters come first, and the world builds around it. But for this one, it really was the world that drew me into it. I knew I was writing about a young woman who was a Valkyrie, but that about all when I began building up the world and the mythology.


Q: I love that these characters are in college. What inspired this choice?

A: Because of the complex relationship Malin has with her mother, I knew I wanted some distance between them, so I thought putting her in college, living away from her mom, was a good way to do it. Plus, I thought it would be fun to explore the all the supernatural training that would be needed to do these specialized jobs that come up in a world where every mythological creature exists.


Q: What songs would you include if you were to make a soundtrack for the book?

A: This is my favorite question! I love creating soundtracks that I listen to while writing a book, and here are some of my favorite tracks from my Between the Blade and the Heart playlist: Annie Lennox – “I Put a Spell on You,” Daniel Johns – “Preach,” Halsey – “Trouble (stripped),” Meg Myers – “Sorry (EthniKids Remix),” and MYYRA – “Human Nature.”


Q: Was this book always planned as a series or did that develop afterwards?

A: It was always planned as a duology. I don’t want to go into too much or risk spoiling the second book, but I had this idea that one book would be above, and the other below.


Q: Your novels and characters are so layered. How do you stay organized while plotting/writing? Do you outline, use post-it notes, make charts, or something else?

A: All of the above! This one was the most intensive as far as research and note taking goes, and I also had maps, glossaries, and extensive lists of various mythologies. I think I ended up with thirteen pages of just Places and Things. I do a lot of typed notes, but I also do handwritten scribbles (which can sometimes be confusing to me later on when I try to figure out what they mean. I once left myself a note that just said “What are jelly beans?”) For this one, I really did have to have lots of print outs on hand that I could look to when writing.


Q: You’ve said that pop culture and the paranormal both influence your writing. How do these things intersect for you?

A: In a way, I think they’re both about how humans choose to interpret and define the world that surrounds us. So many mythologies come from humans trying to make sense of the seasons and the chaos of existence, and even though we’ve moved past a lot of the scientific questions, pop culture is still tackling our existence. Even when looking at shows made for kids, like Pixar, they handle a lot of difficult concepts, like what it means to love someone else, how to be a good friend, facing your fears, and overcoming loss. These are things that mythologies and stories have been going over for centuries.


Q: Did you choose the title first, or write the book then choose the title?

A: It depends on the book, but I will say with this one that it took a very, very long time to come up with a title. It was already written and edited, and we were still bouncing around different names.


A: How many more books can we expect in “Between the Blade and the Heart” series?

A: One more! From the Earth to the Shadows will be out in April 2018.


Q: What scene from the book are you most proud of (because of how you handled the atmosphere, characters, dialogue, etc)?

A: I don’t want to say too much or risk spoiling it, but there’s a scene near the end of the book where a confrontation leaves Malin reeling. I wrote it in an almost present tense, stream-of-consciousness way because I thought that was the best way to capture the raw intensity of her emotions.

So, as always, run out right now and grab this book. At work? Tell them you’re sick. {Don’t really do this.} But get your hands on this book as fast as possible. Really. And the fun doesn’t stop there. Go on over to my Twitter {@breemariegarcia} where you could win a paperback copy of Between the Blade and the Heart!

2017 Wrap Up

Happy December everyone! In case you forgot, I’m Bree and this is my blog dealing with all things books.

I know, the silence is my fault.

November was dedicated to NaNoWriMo, and I got a little caught up in it. November is usually my busiest month, at least, at the beginning, because of sprint cars and trying to get down 10,000 words to make sure that the story I’ve come up with is…something. This year, I was working on my second draft of a story I wrote a few years ago, and it was kind of stressful. Then, as soon as November was over {hallelujah!}, I did the most Bree thing ever: I sprained my ankle. Like, urgent care and not moving {or trying not to} for the last week sprained.

So. That’s been fun.

Now it’s almost the end of 2017 {thank god, am I right?}, and I’m trying to get everything in order for a more organized 2018. I’m lucky because in about two weeks, I get two weeks vacation, so I’m going to be using that time to work on the blog, bake cookies, make sure the cat doesn’t hate me, and taking care of my boyfriend’s sister’s dog. I also have about a thousand other things written down on my to-do list.

It’s going to be an interesting two weeks.

The blog work isn’t going to be extreme. I’m going to change some things, maybe add some things, but I’m going to try for two posts a week, and not all of the books I review are going to be new. I started in on my TBR shelf last month and this one, and there are some books that I’ve read that I’m bursting at the seams to talk about. Basically, this blog is going to get back on track by me talking about books. I started this blog for two reasons: I wanted to help myself remember the books I had read {because I really have a terrible memory once a sequel comes along} and to share my love of books with a truly terrific community of readers.

I don’t think I did really great at either of those, so 2018 is going to be different. I’ve slowly been more active on social media, I’ve been broadening my book options, and I’m trying more than ever to not be so scatter-brained and unorganized. I’ve heard bullet journals are amazing, but I get so frustrated when mine isn’t as cute as the ones I’ve seen. I’m not artistic. I’m just not. But I might try it this year. Just to see what works for me and what doesn’t.

Don’t worry, though, everyone: I’m still going to make mistakes. I’ll probably skip a blog or two here and there. I’m going to be working on a manuscript of mine on vacation, and it’s going to go well into 2018, so I’m sure that might mess with my head a little. But I’m more determined than ever to make this year great, maybe because the last year wasn’t so great {I mean, I had a swell time sometimes, but there’s always this great, big, orange death cloud hanging over my head…I wonder what it could be?}.

So, for whatever you do for the rest of this month, have a great December. Eat some cookies. Be with loved ones. Hug a cat, even if it’s not yours {just be careful}. I’ll be back here on January 2 with a fantastic book that I think everyone will love.

Happy holidays, and have a great {and safe!} New Year’s!

Bonfire by Krysten Ritter

Oh, Tuesday. How I wish you were Friday. But beggars can’t be choosers, so I’m going to make the best out of Tuesday. Bonfire is the perfect recipe for making the best out of a bad day.


Title: Bonfire {288 pgs.}

Genre: Suspense

Publication Date: November 7, 2017


It has been ten years since Abby Williams left home and scrubbed away all visible evidence of her small town roots. Now working as an environmental lawyer in Chicago, she has a thriving career, a modern apartment, and her pick of meaningless one-night stands.

But when a new case takes her back home to Barrens, Indiana, the life Abby painstakingly created begins to crack. Tasked with investigating Optimal Plastics, the town’s most high-profile company and economic heart, Abby begins to find strange connections to Barrens’ biggest scandal from more than a decade ago involving the popular Kaycee Mitchell and her closest friends—just before Kaycee disappeared for good.

Abby knows the key to solving any case lies in the weak spots, the unanswered questions. But as Abby tries to find out what really happened to Kaycee, she unearths an even more disturbing secret—a ritual called “The Game,” which will threaten the reputations, and lives, of the community and risk exposing a darkness that may consume her.

I guess I should get this out of the way: Krysten Ritter is an actor. Shocking, I know, especially to those people who don’t own TVs and have never seen any shows whatsoever, because Krysten Ritter seems to be everywhere. As she should be, because she’s a pretty awesome actor {seriously, I hated her for years after Breaking Bad, and that’s meant in the best way possible}. Now, I do tend to roll my eyes whenever actors come out with books, and there’s a good reason for it. They’re usually not very good. Sorry actors-turned-writers. But this pleasantly surprised me.

This story did not go the way I thought it would. Abby comes home to work on a case that takes her against Optimal Plastics, the kind of company that has bought the town of Barrens {what a perfect name} and given it whatever it needs, except for clean water and a safety net for certain young adults. I honestly thought that this would be an Erin Brockovich-esque story, and so I was not prepared for the path that Krysten Ritter took me down.

Abby had been best friends with Kaycee Mitchell, the most popular girl in school before she was the most popular girl in school. Once Kaycee became popular, she dropped Abby, but it’s not as simple as that. They didn’t drift away from each other because of popularity. There’s more to it than that, including a dead dog and pornography selling father. When Kaycee claims to be sick, her friends quickly follow suit, and when they admit that they had been lying for attention, Kaycee is the lone girl who continues coughing up blood. This sickness – real or fake – leads Abby to push against the truth she was handed, and she now pushes against her business partner because she knows that Kaycee Mitchell is an integral part of their case.

Abby’s not wrong, but she’s not entirely right, either.

In between all this, Abby runs headfirst into her past, including characters such as Condor, the bad boy in high school who is just trying to make a life for himself now; Brent, the hot popular boyfriend of Kaycee, the kind of guy that’s so smooth that you don’t know whether he’s sweet or slimy; and Misha, Kaycee’s right-hand woman in high school, the friend who went out of her way to torture Abby. Now Misha is the vice-principal and her whole life is turned around. Or so she wants everyone to believe.

In the center of this whole mystery is “The Game,” a sick, twisted ritual that makes me happy I was never popular. The teenagers of Barrens need something to do, and The Game is what helps them with their boredom, and also helps them believe that they could, maybe, get out of town one day.

Long story short, this is an amazing suspenseful novel. Abby walks through her hometown like she’s in a dream, because it’s always weird to come back to the home you’ve been running away from for years. Although I wanted a different ending {I mean, come onnnnnnn}, I understood why it all had to happen the way it did. Abby is not the same kind of girl that we’ve come to expect from suspense novels. She doesn’t want a happy ending, because she doesn’t expect one. She knows that even if things tie up nicely, they’re never going to stay tied for long. In other words, she’s realistic, and sometimes being realistic means walking away from something that could be really good for you, because what if it ends up that it’s not?

Bonfire comes out today, so consider this one more in a long line of {hopefully} rave reviews. Krysten Ritter really brought the mystery and the drama for her debut novel, and it all twists so well together. Grab this on your way home today or this weekend, and then hunker down, because this is a book that you won’t want to leave on your bedside for long.

Alone by Cyn Balog

Happy Halloween! It’s the most wonderful time of the year {sorry, Andy Williams, you were singing about the wrong holiday}, and before I lose myself in scary movies and bite sized candy, I wanted to share this book because it’s perfect to read in an empty house, with the lights turned low, and the windows all open.


Title: Alone {278 pgs.}

Genre: YA Thriler/Mystery

Publication Date: November 7, 2017


This must-read for lovers of Stephen King’s The Shining will leave readers breathless as Seda and her family find themselves at the mercy of a murderer in an isolated and snowbound hotel.

When her mom inherits an old, crumbling mansion, Seda’s almost excited to spend the summer there. The grounds are beautiful and it’s fun to explore the sprawling house with its creepy rooms and secret passages. Except now her mom wants to renovate, rather than sell the estate—which means they’re not going back to the city…or Seda’s friends and school.

As the days grow shorter, Seda is filled with dread. They’re about to be cut off from the outside world, and she’s not sure she can handle the solitude or the darkness it brings out in her.

Then a group of teens get stranded near the mansion during a blizzard. Seda has no choice but to offer them shelter, even though she knows danger lurks in the dilapidated mansion—and in herself. And as the snow continues to fall, what Seda fears most is about to become her reality…

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Cyn Balog photo

Cyn Balog is the author of a number of young adult novels. She lives outside Allentown, Pennsylvania with her husband and daughters. Visit her online at http://www.cynbalog.com.

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I was hoping to hold onto this book until it was closer to Halloween, but I ended up devouring it in about two days, way before Halloween. With a story so creepy and mysterious, I had to know what was going to happen. Even better, about halfway through, I got all cocky and confident and told myself that I knew the ending already, and…I didn’t. I didn’t at all.

Seda is not having a very good time living in the mountains in an old murder mystery hotel. But once her mom gets these ideas in her head, there’s no talking her out of it, so Seda has to make the best of it for herself and her four younger siblings. Maybe if she had a twin like her siblings, a twin that was real, a twin that wasn’t in her head telling her to do terrible things.

Then a group of teenagers stumble into Seda’s life, and everything she knows is turned upside down by a friendly game that Seda’s mother creates to make everyone forget that they’re snowed in and can’t leave the house for any reason whatsoever. You know, one of those relaxing games of catching a murderer. A fake one, of course.

Well, it had been fake, at least, until the teenagers start popping up in the strangest places, dead and mutilated.

Seda is trying to keep everyone safe while also trying to figure out if she had a hand in any of these murders. Well, not Seda exactly, but Sawyer, her twin that never really left, her twin that whispers constantly in her ear, her twin that tells her that maybe doing bad things could be fun.

I told you that this was a book for the holidays.

What I loved most about Alone was the way Cyn Balog wrote it, how she sucked you into the story and made you feel the loneliness pervading through the old house. You feel the walls closing in on you. You begin to understand Seda in a way that you might not want to, and then comes the moment when you put yourself inside the house. You wonder, would I have done the same thing? The answer is going to scare you no matter what, and that is the mark of fantastic writing. Cyn Balog is a master at creating this kind of atmosphere, and her other books are very much the same way, but Alone stands by itself as the creepiest and most jaw-dropping that I’ve read from her. From anyone, for quite some time, to be honest.

Don’t believe me that this book is that good? First of all, you really should. I don’t lie about books. That’s rude. And second, here’s something other amazing reviews for this book:

“Even careful readers will be caught off guard by twists and unexpected but divine surprises. This first-rate thriller delivers everything a thriller should, and adds more. With a wink and a nod to Stephen King’s The Shining, Balog provides a shocker for the young adult crowd.” –VOYA Magazine, VOYA Perfect 10 Review

“This is the perfect premise for a chilling tale, and Balog fills every inch with classic horror references, red herrings, and uncertain motivations. As Balog gradually builds tension and paranoia, she manipulates reader expectations to set up several possible endings, yet still manages to end with a shocker. This is fantastically creepy psychological horror.” Booklist

“A bloody, wonderfully creepy scare ride.” –Kirkus Reviews

In case you’re not sold on it yet {and who are we kidding, you’re already preordering it, I know you}, I’ve got a little teaser to get you started on your journey into Seda’s messed up life:

Sometimes I dream I am drowning.

Sometimes I dream of bloated faces, bobbing on the surface of misty waters.

And then I wake up, often screaming, heart racing, hands clenching fistfuls of my sheets.

I’m in my bed at the top of Bug House. The murky daylight casts dull prisms from my snow globes onto the attic floor. My mom started collecting those pretty winter scenes for me when I was a baby. I gaze at them, lined neatly on the shelf in front of my window. My first order of business every day is hoping they’ll give me a trace of the joy they did when I was a kid.

But either they don’t work that way anymore, or I don’t.

Who am I kidding? It’s definitely me.

I’m insane. Batshit. Nuttier than a fruitcake. Of course, that’s not an official diagnosis. The official word from Dr. Batton, whose swank Copley Square office I visited only once when I was ten, was that I was bright and intelligent and a wonderful young person. He said it’s normal for kids to have imaginary playmates.

But it gets a little sketchy when that young person grows up, and her imaginary friend decides to move in and make himself comfortable.

Not that anyone knows about that. No, these days, I’m good about keeping up appearances.

My second order of business each day is hoping that he won’t leak into my head. That maybe I can go back to being a normal sixteen–year–old girl.

But he always comes.

He’s a part of me, after all. And he’s been coming more and more, invading my thoughts. Of course I’m here, stupid.

Sawyer. His voice in my mind is so loud that it drowns out the moaning and creaking of the walls around me.

“Seda, honey?” my mother calls cheerily. She shifts her weight on the bottom step, making the house creak more. “Up and at ’em, buckaroo!”

I force my brother’s taunts away and call down the spiral staircase, “I am up.” My short temper is because of him, but it ends up directed at her.

She doesn’t notice though. My mother has only one mood now: ecstatically happy. She says it’s the air up here, which always has her taking big, deep, monster breaths as if she’s trying to inhale the entire world into her lungs. But maybe it’s because this is her element; after all, she made a profession out of her love for all things horror. Or maybe she really is better off without my dad, as she always claims she is.

I hear her whistling “My Darlin’ Clementine” as her slippered feet happily scuffle off toward the kitchen. I put on the first clothing I find in my drawer—-sweatpants and my mom’s old Boston College sweatshirt—-then scrape my hair into a ponytail on the top of my head as I look around the room. Mannequin body parts and other macabre props are stored up here. It’s been my bedroom for only a month. I slept in the nursery with the A and Z twins when we first got here because they were afraid of ghosts and our creepy old house. But maybe they—-like Mom—-are getting used to this place?

The thought makes me shudder. I like my attic room because of the privacy. Plus, it’s the only room that isn’t ice cold, since all the heat rises up to me. But I don’t like much else about this old prison of a mansion.

One of the props, Silly Sally, is sitting in the rocker by the door as I leave. She’d be perfect for the ladies’ department at Macy’s if it weren’t for the gaping chest wound in her frilly pink blouse. “I hate you,” I tell her, batting at the other mannequin body parts descending from the rafters like some odd canopy. She smiles as if the feeling is mutual. I give her a kick on the way out.

Despite the morbid stories about this place, I don’t ever worry about ghosts. After all, I have Sawyer, and he is worse.

As I climb down the stairs, listening to the kids chattering in the nursery, I notice the money, accompanied by a slip of paper, on the banister’s square newel post. The car keys sit atop the pile. Before I can ask, Mom calls, “I need you to go to the store for us. OK, Seda, my little kumquat?”

I blink, startled, and it’s not because of the stupid nickname. I don’t have a license, just a learner’s permit. My mom had me driving all over the place when we first came here, but that was back then. Back when this was a simple two–week jaunt to get an old house she’d inherited ready for sale. There wasn’t another car in sight, so she figured, why not? She’s all about giving us kids experiences, about making sure we aren’t slaves to our iPhones, like so many of my friends back home. My mother’s always marching to her own drummer, general consensus be damned, usually to my horror. But back then, I had that thrilling, invincible, first–days–of–summer–vacation feeling that made anything seemed possible. Too bad that was short lived.

We’ve been nestled at Bug House like hermits for months. Well, that’s not totally true. Mom has made weekly trips down the mountain, alone, to get the mail and a gallon of milk and make phone calls to civilization. We were supposed to go back to Boston before school started, but that time came and went, and there’s no way we’re getting off this mountain before the first snow.


I peer out the window. The first dainty flakes are falling from the sky.

Snow. Oh God. Snow.

Creepy, right? And it only goes downhill from there.

Sourcebooks Fire is also super awesome {like super awesome}, so they sent along a raffle for you to win a copy of Alone, and I might just enter in myself, because I want to fill my house with this book. But in case I don’t win, here’s the link for all of you!


I’m not kidding when I say that this is one of my favorite scary books of 2017. It’s creepy and claustrophobic, and it keeps you guessing until the very last moment. So have a Halloween in November, and curl up somewhere dark and quiet, and have a great time scaring yourself. I sure did.



I Never by Laura Hopper

Oh, another Monday, another eight million degree day in California. But today is different because it also brings whipping winds and the kind of heat that makes it hard to breathe! Hooray! I needed a fun book today, and that would be I Never.


Title: I Never {288 pgs.}

Genre: YA Fiction

Publication Date: November 7, 2017


Janey King’s priorities used to be clear: track, school, friends, and family. But when seventeen-year-old Janey learns that her seemingly happy parents are getting divorced, her world starts to shift. Back at school, Luke Hallstrom, an adorable senior, pursues Janey, and she realizes that she has two new priorities to consider: love and sex.

This book was cute in the way that makes old people like me think about their high school years and thank whoever that those years are over. The description compares it to Judy Blume’s Forever, and I think that’s the best comparison.

Janey’s whole life is turned upside down by her parents getting a divorce and her father moving out. But it’s not like she starts skipping down some path of self-destruction or anything. There’s a lot of crying, a lot of wondering what’s going to happen to her life now, but she doesn’t let the divorce become a stormcloud over her life. But it’s always there, and it’s always reminding her that the life that she knew before is no more.

But she has Luke Hallstrom to keep her busy.

Watching Luke and Janey fall in love is sweet and slow, just like a first love should be. They discover each other and themselves while trying to navigate high school life. Luke loves Janey just for herself, and while she may find this difficult to believe, she tries hard to accept it, because she loves Luke, too. Because, you know, Luke is handsome and popular, and Janey doesn’t understand what he sees in her. If this makes you roll your eyes like it did me, just wait. There’s an actual reason as to why she think this way, I believe. She’s not a girl who wears glasses, obscuring the gorgeousness that we know is there if she would just take off her glasses. She’s not a girl from the wrong side of the tracks. She’s none of those stereotypical girls who are always surprised when the popular jock falls in love with her. Nope, I’m pointing the accusatory finger at Janey’s best friend Brett.

To put it mildly, Brett is a jerk. I honestly have no idea why Janey is friends with him. She tells him about Luke being interested in her, and he warns her that Luke is just a “worthless, arrogant guy who’s going to treat you like shit.” Like, okay, Brett. Thanks for not being a complete and totally ass about things. In case you think it’s just a case of him being jealous because she didn’t tell him {not because she’s his type because he very clearly tells her, “You’re not my type”}, later, Janey tells him how she felt super insecure when she saw a pretty girl talking with Luke. Instead of making her laugh or doing anything that a best friend should do, Brett tells her that she’s right to feel that way because Luke is “weak” and “if a pretty girl is willing to make herself available,” Luke wouldn’t “ignore it.”

I really could have done without Brett in this book.

Sure, he does come around, but it’s a case of too little, too late. He’s a buttface, pure and simple, and I don’t know why Janey didn’t just kick him out of her life.

Another thing that bothered me about this book was how it seemed like you couldn’t be a functioning woman while also wanting to have sex. At one point, Janey walks in on her newly single mother having afternoon sex with a man. This shakes Janey to her core, which I get, but later, she marvels that her mom is “single and horny,” but can also be the “doting, generous, sentimental” mother that she’s always known. Well, yeah. You can be horny and still be a good person. Like, obviously?? Then there are the times when Janey is so distracted by Luke and his handsomeness that she can barely function. I get that Luke is probably her first boyfriend, but she had such a stable head on her shoulders before him that I doubt she would lose it for a smile and good hair.

Like I said, this book is cute and one of those novels that will take you back to a simpler time of first loves and jerk friends. It’s a quick, fun read that will make you really think about high school, and maybe realize that you’ve put on rose-colored glasses when it comes to those four years. Janey is sweet and goofy, and she’s the perfect narrator to take you through this journey.

Berserker by Emmy Laybourne

Happy Monday! I know, those are two words that don’t go together usually, but it’s October and it’s not a thousand degrees, so it’s pretty happy.


Title: Berserker {288 pgs.}

Genre: YA Fantasy/Historical Fiction-y

Publication Date: October 10, 2017


Are Hanne’s powers a gift from the old Norse gods, or a curse?

Her brother Stieg swears their powers are a gift from the old gods, but Hanne Hemstad knows she is truly cursed. It’s not Stieg’s fault that their father is dead, their mother has left, and their brother Knut has been accused of a crime he didn’t commit.

No, the fault lies with Hanne and her inability to control her murderous “gift”–she is a Berserker. When someone she loves is threatened, she flies into a killing state. The siblings must leave Norway for the American frontier or risk being brought to justice.

Aided by a young cowboy who agrees to be their guide, Hanne and her siblings use their powers to survive the perilous trail, where blizzards, wild animals, and vicious bounty hunters await.

Will they be able to reach their uncle, the one man Hanne believes may be able to teach her how to control her drive to kill?

To say that I’m a bit into Norse mythology would be like saying that I’m sort of into reading. The stories, the gods, the goddesses, the absolute messes that these beings get into…it’s all so magical and frustrating and bloody, so it’s not wonder that tiny Bree devoured whatever books she could find on Norse mythology.

Poor Hanne. She didn’t ask to be a berserker, and she didn’t ask to kill those who want to harm those she loves. But she this is what she does, and one traumatic kill forces the family to move to America. Her two brothers, Stieg and Knut, and little sister Sissel pack up as much as they can, hop on a boat, and are dumped off in America, where they travel halfway across the country to the Montana territory to try to find their uncle, also a berserker, who can maybe help her control her gift.

Yes, that’s all in the summary, but what the summary doesn’t tell you is about Rolf and Ketil, two men dispatched from Norway to find the Hemstad children. Their boss, a man who “collects” the Nytteson {people who have these certain gifts}, wants to protect the children. At least, that’s what he tells Rolf, his oldest friend and a man who only wants to do right by the old gods. Then there’s Ketil, and I would honestly throw him in the dumpster if I could, but he’s a fictional character. The problems of reading a book, I swear. But Ketil is Rolf’s constant partner – not by Rolf’s request – and his idea of getting information out of people is to kill first and ask questions never.

Ketil is the worst.

Then there’s also Owen Bennett, a cowboy trying to make a living for himself since he’s the bastard son of a wealthy rancher and his cook. Owen wants nothing of the farm where he grew up, so he decides to become a cowboy, something that he’s actually good at. He comes across the Hemstad’s at their lowest moment, and he offers his services, hoping to get a little bit of money and a new life out of this.

This is where the movie trailer man comes in: But Owen gets so much more than he bargained for.

Is it wrong for me to say that I loved Hanne berserker? Everyone talked about how thin she was, how tiny, and then she rips apart a man within half a breath. Like, come on. It’s pretty awesome. But there wasn’t really a character in the book that I didn’t have some kind of strong reaction to. Stieg only wants the best for his brother and sisters, and he puts them before himself, always. Knut, sweet baby Knut, is a huge giant, but couldn’t hurt a fly. Sissel is the typical little sister: whiny, annoying, and in need of a good whack every now and again. Owen is fantastic, even when he’s having his moments where he feels left out and angry {something, as the youngest child, I totally understand}. I even wanted to hold an old German couple close to my chest, even though they were only in two or three chapters. The characters are all so alive, and the way that each of them react to this adventure in America speaks volumes about them.

Oh, also, Ketil is the WORST.

Berserker comes out tomorrow, so go on out to the bookstore {online is great, too – and the library!} and grab this book. It’s entertaining, terrifying, and heartwarming all in one go. Really, isn’t that the best kind of book, though?

We All Fall Down by Natalie D. Richards

This Monday already sucks, so while you’re in between reading the news and helping everyone that need to be helped {I know you}, let me give you a bright ray of sunshine in an awesomely creepy, but still quite lovely, book.


Title: We All Fall Down {368 pgs.}

Genre: YA/Mystery

Publication Date: October 3, 2017


Theo’s always been impulsive. But telling Paige how he feels? He’s obsessed over that decision. And it’s time. Tonight. At the party on the riverbank, under the old walking bridge, site of so many tales of love and death.

Paige has had a crush on Theo since they first met, but she knows her feelings are one-sided. She’s trying to move on, to flirt. A party at the river is just what she needs. Except a fight breaks out, and when Paige tries to intervene–Theo’s fist lands in her face.

All Theo and Paige want to do is forget that fateful night. But strange events keep drawing them back to the bridge. Someone, something is determined to make them remember…and pay for what they each did.

When I read that synopsis, my immediate thought was a YA thriller, which are really too few and far between, but this leaned more toward the mysterious, the supernatural. And trust me, I was not complaining.

Paige and Theo’s friendship is something to behold. Both of them have their own issues – Paige has anxiety and Theo has ADHD, among other troubles – but they’ve come together to form the kind of friendship that everyone wants: they accept each other, warts and all. But one fateful night, it all changes, because while Theo wants to tell Paige how he really feels about her, she wants to hang out with Chase, the cool guitar playing guy who is, unknowingly, the catalyst for what happens later that night.

The punch had been a mistake, Theo aiming for Chase instead of Paige. But because of that miscalculation, Theo and Paige are pulled away from one another, both of them trying to convince themselves that it’s for the best. But something doesn’t want them to forget that night.

So, without spoilers, I felt like this book really was written for me. I’m not a teenager and I don’t have ADHD {anxiety, on the other hand…}, but there was one aspect of this story that made me nod so hard that I almost hurt my neck: the locks on the bridge. The party Theo and Paige attend is near a bridge where people put locks, like the love locks on the Paris Bridge. While I always thought this sentiment sweet, I was also very creeped out about them. I can’t put into words why they freak me out, but this book put my worst nightmare into very real words, and I was like, well, yeah, this could totally happen {it really probably can’t, but still}.

I was also of two minds about Paige and Theo’s friendship. It was beautiful and dark, and they helped each other through their lowest days. They understood each other {maybe the only ones in their town that tried to}, and they accepted one another as they were. But the adult inside me sometimes agreed with their parents. Their relationship could be dangerous, and I would probably do the same thing that Paige’s parents did, at least for awhile, especially when she came home from the party without some teeth. But the romantic part of me won out, because Paige and Theo were not as codependent as Paige’s parents thought they were. They held each other up, and keeping them apart only killed a part of each of them. They only wanted to bring out the best in each other.

I loved these characters, the realness of them. Watching Paige spiral down into an anxious tornado was terrifying and all too relatable. Theo’s absolute helplessness involving Paige and her parents was something that we’ve all felt once in our lives, maybe about a friend, maybe about a family member, maybe even about ourselves. These two don’t need each other to have a normal, happy life, but they do make that idea easier to find.

Anyway, it’s October, so we’re all ready creepy books for the next 29 days. Definitely pick up We All Fall Down, and get your October started right. But just a hint: don’t read this at night. Not alone in your bed. Especially not when the lights are out and your Kindle is the only light you have. Trust me, I have a sleepless night to prove how bad an idea this is {but do it anyway}.

The Hanging Girl by Eileen Cook

Having a cold is the worst, but having a cold when it’s warm out and – now – a fire pretty close…that is the very worst. But a little bit of tea, a little bit of soup, and a lot of bit of DayQuil and Alka-Seltzer…I’ll be okay. For today, though, I have a book that I read awhile ago and couldn’t sit on any longer.


Title: The Hanging Girl {320 pgs.}

Genre: Mystery YA

Publication Date: October 3, 2017


Skye Thorn has given tarot card readings for years, and now her psychic visions are helping the police find the town’s missing golden girl. It’s no challenge—her readings have always been faked, but this time she has some insider knowledge. The kidnapping was supposed to be easy—no one would get hurt and she’d get the money she needs to start a new life. But a seemingly harmless prank has turned dark, and Skye realizes the people she’s involved with are willing to kill to get what they want and she must discover their true identity before it’s too late.

I wanted to wait to read this book until it was closer to Halloween, because this feels like a very fall kind of book, but on one of the hottest days of the summer, I was pulling out my laptop and reading furiously. This was obviously not a book that wanted to wait.

Poor Skye. It’s hard being the daughter of the town psychic. Her mother has given readings and predictions to bored housewives for years, but Skye wants more than that. She wants to move out of her ridiculous little town and into New York, where she can live with her best friend, reinvent herself, and…well, the rest will come to her when she gets there. But Skye’s biggest problem is how to get there: New York costs money, and the Thorn’s are not exactly rolling in it. Even with multiple jobs and giving tarot card readings, Skye never seems to have enough money, mainly because her own mother’s salary doesn’t cover the bills that are due NOW. What’s a fake psychic to do?

When the prettiest, most popular girl in town goes missing, and Skye begins having strange visions, this seems like the opportunity she’s been looking for to make some extra cash. But how far is she willing to go to make her dreams come true?

This book was serious fun. It becomes pretty obvious early on that Skye knows more than she’s telling people, but the twist from there is a RIDE. Skye is smart, but she gets dragged into something she’s not really ready for, and someone smarter than her uses Skye as a puppet. Skye has to keep her life from falling apart if she wants to get through this, but it’s difficult when she’s trying to keep the truth and her bucketful of lies separate. When something goes definitely not according to plan, Skye has to scramble to figure out how she’s going to save herself and those around her.

The mystery of the book was the best part, but the little jumps and scares made it all that more interesting. I loved watching Skye peek around every corner, because I felt like I was doing the same. I was always expecting the worst to come, and even when it did, I was not prepared. Eileen Cook’s writing made sure that I was always on edge, always ready for the next twist, but when it comes, you weren’t expecting it. That’s honestly the best way I can describe the mystery of this book. You’re preparing yourself, and then it’s there, and you realize you were preparing for the wrong thing.

It’s the end of September, which means October {aka, the best month of the year, right behind April} is right around the corner. It’s time for horror movies and scary books and haunted mazes. It’s time to be scared. The Hanging Girl is the perfect pick for the beginning of October: a mystery with little jump scares that will get your heart going and your mind racing.