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.


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

Genre: YA Historical Fantasy

Publication Date: October 2, 2018


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?


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.


Title: After the Fire {464 pages}

Genre: YA Contemporary

Publication Date: October 2, 2018


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.


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.

Sadie by Courtney Summers

Look. I’m about to suggest a book to all of you lovely people out there and it’s going to make you angry. It’s going to make you so incredibly sad. But it’s also going to keep you reading ferociously until the very last word.


Title: Sadie {311 pages}

Genre: Young Adult

Publication Date: September 4, 2018


Sadie hasn’t had an easy life. Growing up on her own, she’s been raising her sister Mattie in an isolated small town, trying her best to provide a normal life and keep their heads above water. 

But when Mattie is found dead, Sadie’s entire world crumbles. After a somewhat botched police investigation, Sadie is determined to bring her sister’s killer to justice and hits the road following a few meagre clues to find him.

When West McCray—a radio personality working on a segment about small, forgotten towns in America—overhears Sadie’s story at a local gas station, he becomes obsessed with finding the missing girl. He starts his own podcast as he tracks Sadie’s journey, trying to figure out what happened, hoping to find her before it’s too late.


I love podcasts. My love for them began as a want to love audiobooks, but I just couldn’t do it. I don’t know what it is, but audiobooks can’t keep my attention. But podcasts. Oh man, those things can keep me going for hours. Sadie combines my two biggest loves – books and podcasts – into one sad, fascinating novel.

On one side of the story, we have Sadie Hunter, a nineteen-year-old girl who has left home after the death of her sister, thirteen-year-old Mattie. Sadie knows more about her sister’s murder than she’s told anyone, and she’s not about to let the Cold Creek police – if they even have any – take over. Her story takes us across the United States, from small towns to larger suburbans, in a quest to find the person responsible for her sister’s murder. Sadie Hunter is on the road to revenge, and she won’t stop until she gets exactly what she wants.

On the other side is West McCray, a host at a radio station who decides to report on Sadie’s story after Sadie’s surrogate grandmother begs him to hear her out. From May Beth’s words, West creates the podcast The Girls, part Sadie’s story and part his own, but he doesn’t know that yet.

The first book of Courtney Summers’s that I read was All the Rage. I won it from Goodreads and was like, what the heck, let’s give it a try. It ended up ruining me for a good month. I then devoured all of her other books, and those ruined me pretty good, too. Sadie is no different. The kind of writing that comes from Courtney Summers is ridiculous, because I’m falling in love with this tiny hamlet of people through a podcast, and I’m wanting to physically reach through the book to get Sadie out of danger. Summers just makes me care so damn much to the point where I’m like, you know what, this hurts too much to read, let’s put it down. But I don’t. I read Sadie in a day. I refused to put it down until I found out what happened to Sadie.

If you’ve read any other Courtney Summers books, then you’ll know exactly why I waited so long after the ending to write this.

I don’t even know how to handle my love for this book. I got a copy from NetGalley, and the moment I finished reading it, I preordered a copy. I read that one, too, just because I wanted to. Sure, some foolish part of me thought that maybe certain events were different in the finished copy, but it wasn’t too big of a part of me. Jut my whole heart.

I love Sadie, and even that feels incredibly inadequate to say. This book hit me deep in my soul, and I know this is the part where I tell you how hard I cried and all that, but I didn’t cry. Not once. Mainly because I was too frozen by what Sadie and Mattie went through, because it’s something that girls go through all the time. This book is fiction, but it’s also not. And that’s why I’m probably going to read it again, and that’s why I’m going to recommend it to everyone I come across, and that’s why I’m going to pass this book down my daughter if I ever have one.

We should talk more about Courtney Summers because she writes stories that are too important to keep silent.

So, go off, what are you waiting for? Buy Sadie, curl up with a blanket and an animal {real or stuffed, whichever}, and read. Read until you reach the end and then flip back to the first page and read it again.

Ruin of Stars by Linsey Miller

All right, let’s start a week of too many book reviews. Like I said, I’ve read some really great books in my absence, and now they’re all building up inside of me and I’m ready to explode.


Title: Ruin of Stars {416 pages}

Genre: YA Fantasy

Publication Date: August 28, 2018


The thrilling conclusion to the Mask of Shadows duology that weaves a tale of magic, shadows, and most importantly, revenge.

As one of the Queen’s elite assassins, Sal finally has the power, prestige, and permission to hunt down the lords who killed their family. But Sal still has to figure out who the culprits are. They must enlist the help of some old friends and enemies while ignoring a growing distaste for the queen and that the charming Elise is being held prisoner by her father.

But there’s something terribly wrong in the north. Talk of the return of shadows, missing children, and magic abounds. As Sal takes out the people responsible for their ruined homeland, Sal learns secrets and truths that can’t be forgotten.


So. No one told me that this was the final book in a duology. I WAS NOT READY.

Our scrappy Sal is back, and now that she’s the official Opal, she has all the resources necessary to exact her revenge on those who took her land and her family from her. She hunts them down until she finds a tangled web of lies and deceit. Her beloved Elise is being held captive by her father, one of Sal’s targets, and now Sal only has a few people that she can rely upon. Then Sal stumbles into something bigger than her, something that could have the power to ruin the entire world. Refusing to give up on her original plan, Sal takes the blows and tumbles that are dealt, and she becomes the hero that everyone needs.

Sounds epic, right? I don’t even do it justice here.

There is so much happening in this book. Sal is the Opal now, but she doesn’t waste time on courtly living or what it means to be the Queen’s Right Hand. She heads out right away to find the people who she promised to kill, and she brings dread and destruction wherever she goes. There is the little problem of missing children, as well as the fact that the kingdom does not take kindly to people like Sal: people who cannot be separated into one of two categories, ma’am or sir. Magic, that elusive beautiful thing that has been banned since the Queen has taken the throne, is suddenly back, or has it ever really left? Sal even comes across someone she has prayed to in another life.

Like I said, there’s a lot happening.

In trilogies, we have plenty of time to get to know characters and form a bond with them. It almost feels like one of those friendships that you curate through high school, the friend that turns into your best friend by the end of those four years. By the time the third book/movie rolls around, we feel like these characters are our friends, our family. In a duology, it’s the same deal, but the bonds that we form with the characters are made quicker, but they feel stronger. Imagine duology characters as the friends you make in college: it might have happened one drunken night, but you two are welded together for life. Even if we only get to know them within a few chapters, suddenly that one character is our new best friend. Which makes it even more devastating when that characters is yanked away from us.

No spoilers. That was just to prepare you.

If you came here today because you were wondering if Ruin of Stars is really worth it, let me be the one to tell you: it definitely is. This was the perfect ending to Sal’s story, and even though I was angry while reading the ending, I get it. Sal’s life could have gone no other way. Linsey Miller is now one of those authors that is on my immediate read list. She’s so good at weaving a story and keeping you in it until the very last word.

So definitely read both Mask of Shadows and Ruin of Stars. Just don’t start crying and then say I didn’t warn you.

I Do Not Trust You by Laura J. Burns and Melinda Metz


Oh, come on, you know I had to.

But it has been about a thousand years since the last time I posted. I’ve read so many great books since then and I’m trying to get them all up here. Give me this weekend and then you’ll be sick of me, I promise.

I’m back today for I Do Not Trust You, a world-travelling adventure story that combines mystery, fantasy, and a little bit of romance. My favorite cocktail.

I Do Not Trust You_cover image

Title: I Do Not Trust You {320 pages}

Publication Date: September 11, 2018

Genre: YA Mystery/Thriller/Adventure


Memphis “M” Engle is stubborn to a fault, graced with an almost absurd knowledge of long lost languages and cultures, and a heck of an opponent in a fight. In short: she’s awesome.

Ashwin Sood is a little too posh for her tastes, a member of an ancient cult (which she’s pretty sure counts for more than one strike against him), and has just informed Memphis that her father who she thought was dead isn’t and needs her help. 

From the catacombs of Paris to lost temples in the sacred forests, together they crisscross the globe, searching for the pieces of the one thing that might save her father. But the closer they come to saving him—and the more they fall for one another—the closer they get to destroying the world.


Look, The Mummy used to be one of my absolute favorite movies because it was action and hot guys and sometimes some cheesy dialogue. Take out the cheesy dialogue and insert a girl who knows what she’s talking about, and you have I Do Not Trust You. When M’s father is revealed as being alive and being held hostage by crazed archaeologists – how Ash describes them to the first time, which I loved – her entire world is turned upside down. M and Ash must scramble around the world trying to find pieces of Set, the Egyptian god, before an evil cult finds them. This trek takes them from the United States to Egypt to Bali to Thailand to the deepest jungles of South America. M and Ash only have their wits – and M’s mysterious friend Mike – to guide them. Along the way, they learn that they must trust one another if they’re going to save the world.

Plus, maaaan, are M and Ash adorable together.

I love history. I love people digging up old things and then telling me about them, because it’s absolutely insane to me that our world is millions upon millions of years old and we can just stumble across bones of people who lived that long ago. The one thing that pushed me over the edge in this book was each and every time M explained anything about some old artifact. She’s so knowledgeable, and it was pretty refreshing to read about the girl being the know-it-all.

Since whatever book gods above apparently love me, I’m lucky enough to be able to share a sneak peak with each and every one of you. Yeah, I know, I’m awesome.

“You should’ve seen Miss Memphis here get into it with Nick last period,” Brianna said, squeezing in between M and Inez at their usual spot in the cafeteria. “She shut him down with her crazy ancient cultures voodoo.”

“He’s an ass. He’s lucky he’s hot,” their friend Ayana commented, waving her spork in Nick’s direction.

M shrugged. “I wouldn’t try to debate him in Physics. I just know more about Rome than he does.”

“What about AP Chem? Would you debate him in that?” Inez asked in a fake-serious voice. “Would you debate him in German class?”

“She’d debate him in German, in German,” Brianna joked. “And if he tried to fight back, she’d switch to Greek.”

M threw a French fry at her. “I can’t help it. I grew up speaking different languages.”

“And learning about pharaohs. And becoming well versed in the history of the Etruscan people,” Ayana said, putting on a fake accent that was probably supposed to be British. “Oh, and setting broken bones in the bush.”

“That only happened once,” M muttered. Her friends laughed.

“Anyway, it was epic. Thanks,” Brianna said. “I can’t stand fighting with people, and Nick always goes after me.”

“He knows you hate it,” M pointed out. “That’s why he does it.”

“An ass, like I said.” Ayana shrugged.

“You think he’s coming to the party tonight?” Brianna asked.

“Probably. Everyone else is,” Inez replied. “Even Memphis.” M made a face. “Anything to get out of the house. Bob and Liza would expect me to play board games with them otherwise.” Her friends exchanged a glance. M winced. “No offense.”

“Oh, were you offending someone?” Nick piped up from behind her. “Good girl.”

Immediately Bri looked down, while Ayana rolled her eyes. Inez just smirked, glancing back and forth between M and Nick.

“I was not offending anyone. I only meant I don’t like parties,” M said. She didn’t bother to turn toward him. It didn’t matter; he inserted himself onto the bench next to her anyway. A little tingle ran up her spine as the scent of his co- logne hit her nostrils, spicy and warm.

“Mmm, they’re boring. Everyone talking about the prom or the senior trip or whatever. I’m over it,” Nick said.

Me too, thought M, wishing she didn’t agree with him. She loved her friends, but even they were all about high school. M just didn’t care. High school was nothing more than what she had to get through before she could leave. After the crash, after the shock of Bob and Liza becoming her guardians, she’d asked if she could go off to college early, either Boston University or the University of Sheffield in England. Both had the kind of archaeology program she wanted and would’ve let her in with no questions. They knew her father. They knew high school was a waste of time for someone like her.

But her guardians said no. They said she needed stability and normalcy after losing her dad. Never mind that traveling the world and taking care of herself was normal for her. While she and Dad technically lived in Boston, she’d never spent more than a few months there during the school year. They traveled. Half the year spent on digs. She missed it.

“What’s with this thing, anyway? Is it to fight off bad guys?” Nick teased, finding an excuse to touch her. He reached for M’s collapsible bo staff, tucked in the inside pocket of her jacket like always. But before he touched it, be- fore his flirty smile registered in her mind, M had already grabbed his hand, twisted it back to the breaking point, and used the pain to push him off the cafeteria bench and onto the floor. With her other hand, she whipped out the stick and shoved it up against his throat.

M froze. He’s just hitting on you. Her friends were aghast, and everyone nearby watched, openmouthed. Nick’s eyes were wide with panic.

“Sorry.” M stood up, leaving Nick on the floor. “I’m really sorry.”

“Freak,” he muttered, climbing to his feet. He glanced around, noticing the barely concealed laughter from onlook- ers. “Jeez, I just wanted a fry,” he joked, as if he hadn’t been humiliated, then hurried out of the cafeteria.

“What. The. Hell?” Inez asked. “He was flirting with you and you beat him up!”

“I know.” M groaned, shoving her staff back into her pocket. “I didn’t mean to. It was just reflex.”

Her friends were silent. She’d freaked them out. Should she explain the years of self-defense and martial arts training? That she and Dad ended up in some rough places? Her friends lived in a city, they understood danger. Sort of. In a nice, upscale Boston kind of way.

M sighed. There was no point in trying to explain. No- body understood her life.

“You kinda push all the guys away,” Brianna pointed out quietly. “Maybe not like that, but still . . .”

“I don’t do romance,” M replied. She was done with love, period. She’d loved her parents, and they were both gone. Love hurt too much. It was better to steer clear of it.

They all ate in silence for a minute.

“I mean, he is an ass,” Ayana said finally. And everybody laughed.

M: You up?

MIKE: It’s a 12 hr time difference. Of course I’m up.

M: Like you never sleep in on weekends.

MIKE: Fine, your text woke me.

M: I don’t think that glyph is a lotus. It’s bending the wrong way.

MIKE: It has to be a lotus. If it’s not, the whole phrase is wrong.

M: The rest of the phrase never sat well with Nefertum anyway.

MIKE: Your dad said it was a lotus.

And that, my friends, is all. But trust me, you’ll want to pick this one up and keep reading, because it’s addicting. I’ve been going to sleep later and later each night as I got closer to the end.


Lucky duckies that you all are, I Do Not Trust You comes out next Tuesday, which means you practically have nothing to wait. Whatever time your nearest bookstore opens, make sure you’re first in line for this book. You won’t be sorry.

Bad Man by Dathan Auerbach

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


Title: Bad Man {400 pgs}

Genre: Horror/Thriller

Publication Date: August 7, 2018


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

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

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

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

That he should have stopped looking.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Her Pretty Face by Robyn Harding

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


Title: Her Pretty Face {352 pages}

Genre: Mystery

Publication Date: July 10, 2018


Frances Metcalfe is struggling to stay afloat.

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

Until she meets Kate Randolph.

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


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

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

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

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

And you thought you had problems with your life.

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

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

Just saying.

I’m Not Missing by Carrie Fountain

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


Title: I’m Not Missing {336 pages}

Genre: YA Mystery

Publication Date: July 10, 2018


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Yeah, it was that good.

Bring Me Back by B.A. Paris

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

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


Title: Bring Me Back {336 pages}

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Publication Date: June 19, 2018


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier

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


Title: Jar of Hearts {320 pages}

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Publication Date: June 12, 2018


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Do you see where I’m going here?

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

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

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

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

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

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