Photographer, book reviewer, mama, cat-lover in Seattle. Originally from England. I'm usually busy taking cat photos at a cat rescue or reading books...
I put my reviews up on Goodreads, Amazon, and Edelweiss+. I have MS so I'm tired a lot but it's a good excuse to have a lie-down and read! My Litsy handle is kamoorephoto
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This is a breakout bloody good book (pun totally intended), and if you don’t like blood, the idea of autopsies, or a lot of gore, I would stay far far away. But if you’re anything like me, and you don’t keel over at the thought of body parts being cut off (I know someone who does), and you’re looking for the most original dark fantasy this Fall (some would definitely call it horror), look no further.
In ‘Not Even Bones’, Rebecca Schaeffer has given life, as gory, twisted, and fantastical as it may be, to a sort of anti-hero we can’t help but rally behind, Anita, who not only is masterful when it comes to dissecting dead bodies, but who possesses magical capabilities (she’s able to turn her pain receptors on and off, and do amazing things like heal parts of her own body).
Nita and her mother have traveled the world working within the black market of selling body parts of other ‘unnaturals’; Nita’s mother does the killing and Nita does the dissecting, something she enjoys, but she uses the moral reasoning whereby ‘it’s all okay because she’s not actually doing the killing, her mom is’. She even has dreams of one day doing medical research and putting her skills to good use.
But then the day comes when Nita is betrayed and she ends up on the wrong side of the ‘Death Market’, and possibly will become body parts herself, and she really has to question all those good morals and boundaries she has set up for herself. She ends up putting trust in someone she’d never have imagined she’d have to, and doing things she’d sworn to herself she never would. And there’s a LOT of blood and guts along the way.
I don’t like making comparisons, and make a point of not doing so myself, but the one that has been made about ‘Not Even Bones’, and is right on its cover, is that it’s a mashup of ‘Dexter’ and ‘This Savage Song’ by V.E. Schwab. I could barely tear myself away from the TV show ‘Dexter’, I loved it to death, but this isn’t why I read this book (just look at the scalpel on the cover), and making comparisons like the one made here doesn’t give author Rebecca Schaeffer the true credit she should even give herself (Dexter is referenced in the book, so I know she loved the show too). I relished all the adventure and the gore, but I also found the writing and story captivating, and not worth comparing to anything else, especially once I got lost inside this new world and involved with the characters.
Above all, the questioning of Nita’s own existence, her morals, and her judgment in the situations that come up, was so fascinating to read, this book has levels beyond the ears and toes in jars of formaldehyde. It was so thought-provoking amidst all the horrifying bloodiness and excellent world-building, and that was so unexpected.
I’m definitely looking forward to seeing this series progress; the fate of Nita looked precarious at the end of the book, and I can’t wait for more blood and more magical ‘monsters’ to be cut up into tiny little pieces to make her strange future right again. One can only hope, and even if she doesn’t really ‘deserve’ it.
This is a wildly inventive and brave thriller, one that weaves ‘Sadie’s’ story, in which a teenage girl tries to find the man who has killed her beloved sister Mattie, together with a ‘podcast’ called ‘The Girls’. The two writing devices make this a refreshing read, and now with the podcasts actually streaming (yes, in real life), Courtney Summers and Macmillan have made this book a living breathing thing.
The book feels so 'alive', that you almost forget that Sadie (who has had a tough life: she has a stutter, her sister has been murdered, her addict mother has left) is missing. Author Courtney Summers opens the book with: 'Girls go missing all the time', so we may think of our main character as just a number, but then we are challenged when we are forced to get to know this young girl and so we start to have emotions towards her as we read the book.
Sadie wants to find the man who killed her little sister Mattie, and through both Sadie's perspective as she goes from buying a car so she can leave the tiny town of Cold Creek, to the shocking and emotional end of the book, along with 'The Girls' podcast as recorded by West McCray, this is a great big hunt; it's a hunt to find this man, a hunt to find Sadie, a hunt for the truth. There are lots of characters along the way that West speaks to, who knew the girls, their mother, who have made assumptions, as he tries to find the truth and get to Sadie, and he uncovers a tragic home life, and uncovers what likely many runaways and abused children go through each and every day beyond these pages. Sadie becomes more than just a vigilante seeking retribution for her sister; she is a tragic character who represents that 'lost little girl', the scared abused teenager on-the-run.
*Needless to say, many push-button issues come up in this book: child abuse, pedophilia, addiction, so there may be some readers who need to stay away for those reasons.
I left this book with a big hole in my heart, knowing that the issues contained within are real, even if the story isn't, even if Sadie isn't a real girl who went looking for her sister with all that love in her heart. The final two pages had me crying and smiling at the same time, and even with a bit of an open end (be warned, if you don't like those - I happen to love them), 'Sadie' finishes perfectly. Kudos to Courtney (and Macmillan) for bringing Sadie to life.
I first looked at this book and thought it would be a 'warring princess book', or something similar. I was so wrong. Books that challenge the way in which females are brought up to think of themselves, and encourage them to see the different sides of their true nature are brave, and necessary, and even if you read this and see none of that, 'Grace and Fury' is still an amazing book. Women can be graceful, and at the same time, be emboldened with fury, and I'm grateful for all the writers out there right now giving us readers so many strong female characters.
Thank you to Rockstar Book Tours for having me on this book tour, because Tracy has written a book with some inspiring 'ladies'; this one caught me by surprise, big time!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR, TRACY BANGHART
Tracy Banghart grew up in rural Maryland and spent her summers on a remote island in northern Ontario. All of that isolation and lovely scenery gave her the time to read voraciously and the inspiration to write her own stories. Always a bit of a nomad, Tracy now travels the world Army-wife style with her husband, son, cat, and sweet pupper Scrabble. She wrote Grace and Fury while living in Hawaii.
Tracy's beautiful website and links to all her other social media is *HERE*
ABOUT THE BOOK
Title: GRACE AND FURY
Author: Tracy Banghart
Pub. Date: July 31, 2018
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Formats: Hardcover, eBook
In a world where women have no rights, sisters Serina and Nomi Tessaro face two very different fates: one in the palace, the other in prison.
Serina has been groomed her whole life to become a Grace--someone to stand by the heir to the throne as a shining, subjugated example of the perfect woman. But when her headstrong and rebellious younger sister, Nomi, catches the heir's eye, it's Serina who takes the fall for the dangerous secret that Nomi has been hiding.
Now trapped in a life she never wanted, Nomi has only one way to save Serina: surrender to her role as a Grace until she can use her position to release her sister. This is easier said than done. A traitor walks the halls of the palace, and deception lurks in every corner. But Serina is running out of time, imprisoned on an island where she must fight to the death to survive and one wrong move could cost her everything.
My Review (previously posted):
I usually have a ‘thing’ about books with images of people on the cover (is that strange?), so when I first saw ‘Grace and Fury’ with the striking, and beautiful, photo of the two girls, who are the two main characters in the book - Serina (Grace) and Nomi (Fury) - I was a bit flummoxed. I’d heard good things, PLUS the caveat is that we only see half of their faces. I could continue!
‘Grace and Fury’ also turned out to not be your usual ‘princess’ tale, even though YA fantasy is inundated with them, and that was my worry going in. Quite quickly, the story of Serina and Nomi was turned upside down. Serina and Nomi live in a world where women basically have no rights, and they have few choices as to what they are going to do with their lives. Serina has spent her short life being groomed to become a ‘Grace’, basically a submissive concubine for the Heir to the throne. Nomi, her sister, smarter and more rebellious, is Serina’s handmaiden, and makes the mistake one day of being caught ‘reading’ while they’re at the royal palace, but Serina takes the fall for this, and is exiled to Mount Ruin as punishment, and Nomi remains as one of the chosen Graces; they’re both suddenly severely out of their element.
What Serina finds though, is that the women on Mount Ruin are used for, is basically entertainment for the guards there, fighting to their deaths like gladiators. And Nomi is trapped inside a life she didn’t want, inside the palace, where although she may not have to fight for her food, instead she’s ‘competing’ for a place at the side of the Heir, something she never wanted in the first place. She is in an environment where there are few people around her, and deception by those close to her feels likely in every conversation she has. They are both life sentences that they see no immediate way out of.
Both sisters try and hatch plans to escape and get to each other, and they don’t know who to trust, and what’s fascinating about this novel is seeing their individual growth and self-discovery, particularly Serina’s, as they are locked inside their individual new inescapable (and very lonely) hells. The world that is created by author Tracy Banghart is particularly brutal and some of the scenes that are written on the island of Mount Ruin are especially bloody and violent; the fighting that occurs between the women is at-once survivalist but forced by the guards, and the descriptions of it are very detailed. This book certainly isn’t your usual ‘princess in the palace fairytale’.
We are left with a grand cliffhanger and I’m fascinated to know what happens next, especially since the ‘supporting’ characters played a big part in creating a lot of intrigue and interesting storylines. ‘Grace and Fury’ surprised me and gave me a new ferocious, if not bloody, wake-up call to the princess fairytale; these two sisters are saying a big fat ‘NO’ to the patriarchy in this one and I hope it has as strong a voice in the sequel.
AND GUESS WHAT? There's a GIVEAWAY!!!!
3 winners will receive a finished copy of GRACE AND FURY, US Only.
Just head to the GIVEAWAY LINK by ENTERING *HERE*
And to follow the entire Grace & Fury Book Blog Tour here is the TOUR SCHEDULE
I hope you love it as much as I did; tell me if you have read it and if you plan to order it!! And I'll tell you how lovely Tracy is; my friend told her my birthday was coming up, when she was at a book signing, and Tracy surprised me by mailing a signed bookplate and card! How awesome is that? (I sooo want the pin next!)
Anyway, good luck with the giveaway, and HAPPY READING!
x ~ K
One of the most clever books I’ve read all year, and I don’t see author Gia Cribbs disappearing from the writing scene as a result, for an extremely long time (no WITSEC for her!). I chose this as my second book during a recent ‘readathon’ (I think I’d been subconsciously waiting for some excuse to be able to just lay there and read it without being bothered), and it really was the perfect choice for that.
The premise is entirely fresh, especially for a YA thriller, and I couldn’t wait to dig into this story about Sloane Sullivan (assumed new name and identity), who is just now starting at a brand new school in a small town in North Carolina. Sloane is almost 18 and this should be her last few months in the WITSEC (witness protection program), after spending just about 6 years under 19 assumed identities, before she can finally break free and go and live a ‘normal’ life and go to college. She lives with a Marshal under the witness protection program, Mark, who has pretended to be every sort of relative over the years to protect her while they have moved place to place on the run while in the WITSEC program: father, brother, uncle, and he is loyal to a fault, teaching her how to protect herself and how to remain anonymous.
Now that Sloane has found a new school, she is determined for it to be the last stop before freedom, but her usual plan to fade into the background so that no one notices her, goes awry almost as soon as she enters the building on the first day, when she realizes she has bumped into an old friend, the boy and best friend she dearly loved, the one she left behind many years ago. AND suddenly everyone wants to be her friend. But she can’t afford to start over this close to getting out of WITSEC, and keeps this from Mark, and hopes that Jason doesn’t recognize her.
So that’s the basic premise in my words. From there on out, and literally from the first page onwards, this book was nothing but engaging. Sloane still hasn’t pieced together everything that happened on the night that the crime that sent her and her family into witness protection, and her memories have been repressed for the longest time, so as they start to come out, she gradually realizes the danger of the memories of the past.
Losing her father and mother are integral pieces of her character; Mark has had to replace those figures in her life, and understanding the facets of Sloane’s personality and how they relate to the loss and detachment she’s had to endure as part of the program is quite heart-wrenching. All the time she is around her new friends and her long-lost best friend, it’s incredibly hard for her to assimilate those new people into new roles, and learn how to trust again, at the same time as hiding so much from them still. Author Gia Cribbs has done a fantastic job of writing these complexities of how Sloane would react in situations that would make her feel awkward, and actually how her past would give her the hallmarks of PTSD. Also, the way in which she relies on Mark is a very interesting relationship too. Cribbs has mastered all the depths of communication (particularly the young people in the book) and different relationships of her characters to make so much of this book work and it’s really remarkable.
Without going into the plot points, ‘Disappearance of Sloane Sullivan’ is flawless, as far as I could tell, in terms of story flow, and the flashbacks to the past, especially when revealing Sloane suddenly remembering pieces of the organized crime (murder) she witnessed, and they are seamlessly written in.
All the twists and turns that come in the novel kept me reading for more and more, right down to the way the other teenagers’ actions are unknowingly affecting Sloane’s grand plans and future. Plus the characters and the pop culture (cue the 80’s!) are so fun! And the penultimate twists at the end are just brilliant.
I’m so glad this book didn’t disappear into oblivion, and it didn’t just get seen by Gia’s daughters (as she mentions in her acknowledgements in the back); this, and every book that I hope Gia has up her sleeve, deserves to be read, and on bookcases everywhere. Especially mine.
PS. It’s totally worth entering preorder giveaways when you send in receipts for preorder incentives when you buy your book, because I won a prize pack for this one! It was awesome! (This is no way shaped my opinion of the book, by the way)
*You will all have to read the book and find out how those movies fit!
‘The Brilliant Death’ just quite simply is a beautiful book. It defied and exceeded my expectations for it, and I could barely put it down once I started. I didn’t actually even mean to read it right now, and what I mean by that is, my plan was just to ‘read a little bit’, ie. The Prologue, and well…suddenly, I’d read the whole book.
The premise of the book rolls some themes together but once you start reading ‘The Brilliant Death’ you find it’s more than a sum of shape-shifting magic plus warring Mafia-style crime families.
The story revolves around this wonderful character Teodora, and the book opens with her remembering the first time she saw her father kill someone, in order to protect ‘his family and his mountains’. She learns early on that her father is a powerful man.
Teodora di Sangrò is the daughter of the ‘great Niccolo di Sangrò’, who has control of the Uccelli region and heads a loyal family. One day Niccolò is suddenly poisoned by a letter he receives from the Capo, who has taken over the governance of all of Vinalia.
The Capo has summoned ‘the heirs of the five families’ as these poisonous letters have left the fathers for dead (except Niccolò, who is barely grasping onto life), to his home in Amalia, but Niccolò had wanted his second son, Luca, to become the heir.
Before Luca sets off on his trip to Amalia, Teodora/Teo catches the ruthless eldest son Benaimo, brother to them both, skinning Luca alive, so she dares reveal her greatest secret to them both, which is how she’s managed to carry out her ‘work' (ridding the kingdom of ‘bad people’) for her family for so long without a drop of blood being shed: Teo is a strega, and she has been turning nasty human beings into (mostly) inanimate objects for years. This time though, she manages to turn her brother into a vicious owl.
Luca and Teo set off on their journey to Amalia, set on finding an antidote to their father’s poisoning and to fulfill the Capo’s Summons, with a plan in mind, and luckily they meet another dashing and knowledgeable strega, Cielo, which means they have hope.
I don’t want to reveal much more of the plot beyond that because once Teo, Cielo, and Luca start their journey to Amalia, the story really gets going and it’s hard not to become fully invested after that point.
The storyline builds from the journey that the trio take, and this involves Teo learning more of her magic (and her self-discovery), to a novel that involves the deception and intrigue we often see in a royal court. Yet this time, these ‘families’ who are convening are basically feared mobsters in an Italian-style court of old, and the lush world-building that the author Amy Rose Capetta has conjured up for them is vivid and so different from every other court or castle I’ve read of lately.
The magic that is central to this book is a very special kind of magic, it’s shape-shifting, and that’s important to the most wonderful, surprising, and probably groundbreaking part of this novel: Teo (and Cielo) learns to change from a girl to a boy, and back (as a strega), and the conversation about how she/he feels in that body at different times. The power to change the body, and how Teo learns to harness magic is a fascinating part of this book, and Capetta approaches it with a delicateness, and at the same time, boldness, which makes the ‘gender-bending’ so unique and so wonderful to read.
The love story that is wrapped up in the magic, as well as the danger and adventure, is so original, that it’s hard to describe. I found myself loving these ‘odd’ characters, and even though I found a few holes to pick at and a few slight issues with pacing (slight rushed parts), the writing is beautiful; my eyes didn’t want to leave the page, plus I enjoyed the different sections Capetta used to divide the book up with.
This is an absolute stunner of a fantasy for this coming Fall (the cover even stands out in its lush Autumn tones), and this is sure to capture lots of peoples’ attention with its enthralling magic, and uniquely wonderful gender-bending love-story. A ‘Brilliant Book’.
I jumped at the chance of getting on this blog tour the second that I could! This book is so up my alley I can barely get the words out quickly enough (and I’m not sure I can get them all out).
Having worked on horror movies in the past (more about that below) there’s no way I could have passed this book by, and neither should you! It’s genius, in that it’s funny, endearing, clever, thought-provoking, and just brilliantly-written.
So read on…especially since there’s a giveaway at the bottom!
Thank you so SO much to Rockstar Book Tours for including me on this one!!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR, DEREK MILMAN
Derek Milman was born in New York City, but grew up in Westchester, NY, where he wrote and published a successful underground humor magazine that caught the attention of the New York Times, who wrote a profile on him at the age of 14.
Derek studied English, Creative Writing, and Theater at Northwestern University. He began his career as a playwright (his first play was staged in New York City when he was just out of college), and earned an MFA in acting at the Yale School of Drama.
Derek has performed on stages across the country, and appeared in numerous TV shows and films, working with two Academy Award winning film directors.
Scream All Night is Derek's debut YA novel. He currently lives in Brooklyn where he is hard at work on his next book ('Night Flight').
ABOUT THE BOOK, SCREAM ALL NIGHT
Pub. Date: July 24, 2018
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Formats: Hardcover, eBook, audiobook
A darkly hilarious contemporary realistic young adult novel about growing up and finding your place in the world, perfect for fans of Me and Earl and the Dying Girl and Running With Scissors.
Dario Heyward knows one thing: He’s never going back to Moldavia Studios, the iconic castle that served as the set, studio, and home to the cast and crew of dozens of cult classic B-horror movies. It’s been three years since Dario’s even seen the place, after getting legally emancipated from his father, the infamous director of Moldavia’s creature features.
But then Dario’s brother invites him home to a mysterious ceremony involving his father and a tribute to his first film—The Curse of the Mummy’s Tongue. Dario swears his homecoming will be a one-time visit. A way for him to get closure on his past—and reunite with Hayley, his first love and costar of Zombie Children of the Harvest Sun, a production fraught with real-life tragedy—and say good-bye for good. But the unthinkable happens—Dario gets sucked back into the twisted world of Moldavia and the horrors, both real and imagined, he’s left there.
With only months to rescue the sinking studio and everyone who has built their lives there, Dario must confront the demons of his past—and the uncertainties of his future. But can he escape the place that’s haunted him his whole life?
BUY THE BOOK!
**AND I will point out NOW how easy it is to go and PRE-ORDER the book TODAY; go to THIS LINK because there are both the links to where you can BUY THE BOOK (Amazon, Skylight Books, B&N.com ) and for the PREORDER GIVEAWAY (FEATURING MOVIE POSTER SWAG FROM THE BOOK)!**
PS. The preorder giveaway ends at the end of today (7/20) so order RIGHT NOW!
And of course, it's NOW MY TURN....
Now that you have read the synopsis, I know you must be intrigued, and honestly, I feel like this is one of the most unique and original YA novels that I’ve read in some time, particularly in terms of setting (does it even have to be listed as such, just because the characters are young? This is unique, period).
Dario, our ‘lead’, is both witty, and tragic, and I found it hard not to fall for him in terms of wanting things to work out as he’s finding his way through all the craziness: his brother Oren, his father, the studio, his past, reuniting with his ‘lost’ love Hayley. He’s real and honest, and it’s tough to read some of the sections of the book about him and his mom because he’s had to deal with a lot of sadness.
That said, this is a ‘coming-of-age’ story, one where hard decisions about life have to be made, but it’s also a darkly comedic one; there’s so much humor, so much vivid imagery, and it hit the right tone with the ‘difficult’ spots, as well as the lighter ones. Milman is able to shift easily with this writing to make this both a poignant but funny and clever book.
Describing film/movie making is really hard to do, since you’re discussing a world within a world (and it’s so visual), and Milman has created this whole Moldavia Studio ‘world’ and then had to also translate as much as he can about filmmaking while keeping it easy to ‘get’. He has film terms and crew positions in there that maybe some people won’t understand (but I got a real kick out of; I could absolutely imagine this stuff) but nothing that made it confusing. *If you’re in the biz though, it’s just a bonus.
**EXTRA PERSONAL NOTE:
A quick word about why I jumped on this book like Vincent Price on a bare neck: you see, while I didn’t actually live in a castle like Moldavia Studios, which is where the book’s lead character Dario grew up, where dozens of cult classic horror movies got made, I did get close enough to my own version of this slice of craziness quite a few times. I have my degree in film and video production (and even got to take a brilliant 3 credit class all on vampire movies one summer), and spent a good decade or so working on feature films (and TV, commercials, etc), as continuity/script supervisor.
I tell you this because some of my favorite film-making memories were of making horror movies. My most fun times, as hard they were, were standing on snowy mountains seeing ‘someone getting slashed’ and hung on the ski-lift. And not many people have images of actors having their lunch with ice picks sticking out of their backs, or in bloody nightgowns but with grins on their faces. And even though I’ve even seen a house set on fire at the end of a film shoot and more fake blood than I can fathom, it doesn’t make me lose my love for the great horror classics.
I love horror movies (and books), and have taken great fascination into the old Hammer Studio movies in the past. The campy gore, the cult classics. And having Derek Milman put this into a book as a backdrop was an absolute delight, right down to all the movie names he cleverly came up with.
I absolutely can’t wait to see what Derek comes up with for his next book, although I think before that, it would be fantastic to sit down and make either a campy horror movie (it’s been a while!), or have a Hammer-Horror movie marathon!
Congrats on the new book, Derek! It’s genius.
THE BOOK GIVEAWAY
Everyone who enters the Rafflecopter giveaway at the link below has a chance to win a copy of the book and swag!
**1 winner will win a signed finished copy of SCREAM ALL NIGHT & swag, US Only.
Enter by clicking HERE
And you can follow the whole book blog tour by following this link:
This was a really fun book to read and I'd love to hear if anyone preorders it or reads it, as it comes out just next week! It's a real scream!
This amazingly creepy story from debut author Zoje Stage has got a lot of bite. The ‘Daddy’s Little Girl’ complex takes center stage as Hanna, a seven-year old (supposedly) mute girl plays nice-nice in her father Alex’s company, but when she is the company of her mother Suzette, she just about unleashes horns on her head and a devil’s tail.
I’m exaggerating a little bit: there are no supernatural horns or tails although it’s way to easy to imagine them on this devil child that Zoje has so well-written for this novel. And somehow Hanna only manages to talk, now suddenly in French, just in her mom’s company, never so her dad can hear.
For years, Suzette has had to sacrifice her career by staying at home to homeschool Hanna, as she has been thrown out of preschools for bizarre and nasty behavior, but it’s behavior that her parents felt she would grow out of, and that once she was school-age, she could be handled better by an elementary school. Suzette also struggles with Crohn’s disease, which often keeps her bedridden and very ill, but it’s something that Hanna only has so much patience for but luckily her husband Alex has been sensitive to over the years.
Hanna persists in showing only one side to her father, who is Swedish to a fault, following Swedish holidays and traditions, which is something Hanna loves, including the special names Alex gives her, like Lilla Gumman, and she delights in little things like jumping in this lap and bedtime stories, shows of affection she reserves only for her father.
Alex and Suzette have not ignored Hanna’s lack of speech and antisocial behavior over the years though; they’ve taken her to specialists and had tests done, MRIs and other scans but there are no medical reasons for these behaviors. The answers start to become clearer especially to Suzette, as the behaviors become more pronounced; she questions herself, her parenting, whether Hanna is possessed, but she starts to realize this is just Hanna.
Reading Hanna’s side of it (as the novel goes -effectively - back and forth between what is going on for Hanna and Suzette, as if they are making an argument for their case) is just so incredibly disturbing. As she makes ‘plans’ for things she is about to do, and as she reasons ‘why she should’ do things, you’re allowed to see inside a very sad and twisted mind. As the book progresses so does her negativity towards her mother, and her need to push her mom out of the way to get closer to her father becomes greater.
The methods she does it by made me literally gasp out loud and sent my own child running (with questions for me), so that’s a good sign for me when it comes to a book.
In terms of how Suzette and Alex were able to handle Hanna: I will say that if you’re not a parent, you may have the view that it would have been easy to think ‘call the police’, or do certain other drastic things at times, but once you’re a parent, your perspective changes. You try everything else first. You want to try and help your child and do what you can, or you don’t believe they’re doing these behaviors. Your love for your child makes you run through all other avenues of help first, or in Alex’s case, stay in denial or in oblivion.
For many readers, this book may have gone too far; I know of many reviewers who passed on it because of the subject material, and it wasn’t for them. But it was totally right for me. I had been waiting for a book to be this daring for a while, and if it turns some people away, then you’ve at least elicited a visceral reaction to your work, whatever it is. In this case, it was because it was something that was going to make them feel uncomfortable or scared. I’d read that some people also got the wrong idea about the book, that it contained sexual abuse: it’s a shame people jump to conclusions before they actually have any real information.
Even if I didn’t know that the author Zoje used to work in film (as I also did) I probably could’ve guessed, as this would hold up so incredibly well as a movie; I had so many scenes in my head when I was reading this! Pure magic for the camera. Especially with the right Hanna.
The characters were so fascinating, and well-written, and I loved all the little bits about Sweden, Zoje did a fine job making these characters unique, especially for a thriller in a crowded genre. But then again, the whole book is unique, right down to the crushed lollipop on the front of the book.
And since at the center of this book is the ‘Daddy’s Little Girl/Electra’ complex, I found this fascinating. I don’t think I’ve seen a book personally written about this to this degree. It made Alex so blind to his daughter’s behavior, although it also made me question whether the ending was realistic.
The ending did kind of peter out a bit but I was satisfied with it; overall the book was such a page-turner, and kept me so enthralled, it was thoroughly ‘unputdownable’. I want more of this from Zoje!
*Warning: it might make some people question whether they want a ‘Little Girl to spoil’ after reading.
**Thank you to St. Martin’s Press for my early copy!
This book was a pick for my Litsy horror postal book club, and the second in a row that had the theme of a haunted house (this came on the back of the classic 'The Haunting of Hill House', which almost isn't fair, since that book is so well-known, and it was hard not to think of it).
'The Grip of It' was on my radar for a while after I noticed its cover, which is covered in the 'drawings' that show up mysteriously inside the house that the young couple, Julie and James, buy when they move to a small town outside of the city. There are lots of things that mysteriously go on inside the house (or do they?), after they move in, and the couple learns of the family that used to live there (or was it next door?), and they have so many questions that they start to run together...and largely are unanswered. ALL the way through to the end of the book. That was ultimately my biggest problem with 'The Grip of It': not ever feeling like questions were answered. The two main characters were also so similar (and weak, in my opinion), that their perspectives ran together, so the storytelling device of different chapters being their alternating different voices was ineffective. Whether or not this was intentional or not as a device to show that they were becoming of 'one mind' as the house took over, it was very confusing to read as the book continued.
I mostly enjoyed the literary prose and new approach to a 'horror' novel but occasionally I was a annoyed with the short sentences, which broke up some very beautiful writing, and very quotable prose.
And like most horror stories, the couple, Julie and James do frustratingly keep going back to this house that is obviously causing them to drift apart and for Julie to become ill (ergot poisoning? seizures?), yet the house sells quickly, so even though it seems that in general we have a no-nonsense 'literary' horror novel, we still have these silly tropes that don't make sense after all.
And what on earth happened to Rolf? ?
Still, I read this quickly, and it was a page-turner, it kept me engaged. It just could've been so much better.
So Excited. That's been me since I discovered one of my most favorite thriller authors back when I read 'Final Girls', with its flashy red and black cover, back in the first week of July of 2017. I now like to pretend that author Riley Sager is releasing his books in time for my birthday each year, even though this time I was one of the lucky ones to get to read the book early.
This time I had to save my review for this tour, and deliberately chose this date (Friday the 13th), since it's the end of the tour, and so I could play around with some horror movie and books in my post. How could I not, when the plot of the book is set at summer camp in the woods, just like one of the most iconic horror movies of all time?!
And I'll unashamedly say right now that after finishing this book, the first two words out of my mouth (and originally onto social media, along with 5 stars), were 'Holy ***p, so you can probably tell I love the book. So with no surprise I can tell you now that the book is already on the New York Times Bestseller list, and has been optioned by Amazon Video to be made into a miniseries (at time of writing). I’m thrilled for Mr. Riley Sager!
My post for you below will be a review PLUS a ‘quick chat’ about some of the best horror/thriller novels that have been made into movie adaptations, thanks to the above news. I hope you can dive into the book recommendations! AND GOOD LUCK with the GIVEAWAY!!
ABOUT RILEY SAGER, THE AUTHOR
Riley Sager is the pseudonym of a former journalist, editor and graphic designer who previously published mysteries under his real name.
Now a full-time author, Riley's first thriller, FINAL GIRLS, became a national and interna-tional bestseller and was called "the first great thriller of 2017" by Stephen King. Translation rights have been sold in more than two dozen countries and a film version is being developed by Universal Pictures.
Riley's second book, THE LAST TIME I LIED, was published July 3rd. It was inspired by the classic novel and film "Picnic at Hanging Rock" and one horrible week Riley spent at summer camp when he was ten.
A native of Pennsylvania, Riley now lives in Princeton, New Jersey. When he's not working on his next novel, he enjoys reading, cooking and going to the movies as much as possible. His favorite film is "Rear Window." Or maybe "Jaws." But probably, if he's being honest, "Mary Poppins."
Riley's website is HERE
ABOUT THE BOOK, 'The Last Time I Lied' by Riley Sager
Publisher: Dutton Press
Release Date: July 3, 2018
Genre: Adult, Mystery, Suspense, Thriller
Two Truths and a Lie. The girls played it all the time in their tiny cabin at Camp Nightingale. Vivian, Natalie, Allison, and first-time camper Emma Davis, the young-est of the group. The games ended when Emma sleepily watched the others sneak out of the cabin in the dead of night. The last she--or anyone--saw of them was Vivian closing the cabin door behind her, hushing Emma with a finger pressed to her lips.
Now a rising star in the New York art scene, Emma turns her past into paintings--massive canvases filled with dark leaves and gnarled branches that cover ghostly shapes in white dresses. The paintings catch the attention of Francesca Harris-White, the socialite and wealthy owner of Camp Nightingale. When Francesca implores her to return to the newly reopened camp as a painting instructor, Emma sees an opportunity to try to find out what really happened to her friends.
Yet it's immediately clear that all is not right at Camp Nightingale. Already haunted by memories from fifteen years ago, Emma discovers a security camera pointed directly at her cabin, mounting mistrust from Francesca and, most disturbing of all, cryptic clues Vivian left behind about the camp's twisted origins. As she digs deeper, Emma finds herself sorting through lies from the past while facing threats from both man and nature in the present. And the closer she gets to the truth about Camp Nightingale, the more she realizes it may come at a deadly price.
NOW IT'S MY TURN....
So by now, you have had the chance to read the synopsis of the book, and even better, may have already read the book. Usually for my blog tour posts, I do straight reviews, and immediately my response for the book, upon finishing it, I was blown away, and couldnt even write my review as soon as I had finished. I was speechless, and I then uttered a few curse words because Sager has written yet another bloody brilliant book.
In FINAL GIRLS, Sager blew us out of the water with a thriller that focused mainly on two girls , and the very concept that they were the final girls left from slasher killings (even without the book revolving around the killings themselves) was enough to get into the reader‘s psyches and make us all terrified. In THE LAST TIME I LIED, he manages yet again to take the reader to a very vulnerable place, alongside the main character Emma, this time back to when she was a teenager, self-conscious and needing to be accepted, but how could it be worse than back then?
Going back to the same camp as an adult where your friends went missing and you were accused of being responsible for it, that’s how. But Emma is going to figure out what really happened at Camp Nightingale all those years ago (Jason Voorhes had nothing to do with it). The book is absolute brilliance, in terms of pacing, use of different timelines (and we see this as a writing device a lot, but not always done well), depth of characters, and ultimately, the story has the best plot twist I could (never) imagine. One of my best (sorry, Sir Sager) compliments is that I could swear Riley is a female author because he writes female voices so well. I don’t know how he does it.
So I never went to summer camp - this is something kids in America do, I learned this from watching movies and reading teen novels (I grew up up in Hong Kong and England; I’m a Brit, if you don't know this yet), so this American custom fascinated me when I was younger. I definitely didn't play two truths and a lie. Somewhat ironically though, my parents did send me away to boarding school all the way back in England while we lived in Hong Kong (actually at my request).
But I had an early fascination with ghosts and creepy stories, and actually chose my boarding school because of the history of the school, and because I was sure there would be ghosts there; I chose Battle Abbey, the building built by William the Conqueror on the site of his conquest in 1066. My fascination has continued to this day...
And so I wanted to talk about movies AND books (I just so happen to have a film degree and once upon a time, used to work in film production). As I mentioned, I also just happened to have heard the insanely awesome news that THE LAST TIME I LIED has been acquired by Amazon Video to be made into a series, and I couldn't be more excited.
I truly believe some of the best horror and thriller movie adaptations came from the best books that have been written so I want to make some recommendations to end this tour. Especially now that Riley has joined these ranks! Read the book AND watch the movie…
~ A little bit before going away to Battle Abbey back in the UK, I went to a sleepover and I saw a movie (adapted from a book) that changed me to no end (and made me want to bail and go home). I also just saw that Riley is a big fan of this one too, PICNIC AT HANGING ROCK by Joan Lindsay. About girls at a Victorian boarding school in rural Australia, several girls go missing to never be found ever again when a group goes on a picnic one day out at this huge rock formation. It terrified me. This is a must see and read.
~ Several books on this list will not be a surprise, perhaps because the films are so notorious (as is the author), but that's the thing - go and read the book and you will find out why they were able to make such a successful film: the book was good. You may have seen CARRIE by Stephen King, but have you read it? It's pretty short, just 305 pages (my copy), but the 'Carrie' you read may end up giving you a whole different perspective. First of all, did you know this was Stephen King's first novel?! Such immense talent from the get-go. And another author who was able to connect with his feminine side agnd create a female character that will NEVER be forgotten!
~ Another King book to read that was then filmed (by one of the best directors of all time, Stanley Kubrick), THE SHINING. To get lost in the depths of this book, is to get lost in the recesses of Jack Torrance's mind. The film has been dissected and mimicked, and has now become part of popular culture, but the novel came out a good 3 years before the film; why not read it and see what you make of it today? It reads differently from the film, but you can see why Kubrick (plus the excellent cast, and everyone from production design to location scouts) made couldn’t have gone wrong with this one.
~ One of my all-time favorites is next: this novel was actually more popular than the film, selling over 4 million copies, making it the best selling novel of the 1960’s, where the success would help launch the "horror boom", where horror fiction would achieve enormous commercial success. Do you know what it is? ROSEMARY’S BABY by Ira Levin. This was Ira's second novel and he knocked it out of the ballpark with a story about a couple who move into a Gothic Revival style New York City apartment building, and end up finding out they are living next to leaders of a Satanic coven. I won't go further than there. I will then say that Roman Polanski's film, made just a year later, in 1968, starring Mia Farrow, is utter movie perfection. Ironically (or not), my son's name is Roman.
~ Last classic to read that has been adapted that basically needs no explanation or introduction, is PSYCHO by Robert Bloch (I choose this over THE EXORCIST, also by Bloch; as much as I love that film, this is a quieter book and film, and the methods by which the directors got their performances were very different, ie. Hitchcock vs. Friedkin).
It’s a much shorter book, and I think most readers will find a this a more satisfying read. Maybe play the soundtrack in the background while reading. That might be more infamous than the books or film for some people.
And since it's Friday the 13th, you should guess what I’ll suggest you should watch, even though it’s one of the cheesiest horror flicks out there...that’s right, switch over to Hulu tonight and watch the ‘campy’ horror flick from 1980 that started off a whole slew of horror movies in the same vein, the one and only original, starring Kevin Bacon himself, FRIDAY THE 13TH.
It actually makes me laugh even though it still makes me jump (number 2 is better, when Jason starts doing the killings - sorry if I spoiled anything). But it will get you in the mood for Camp Nightingale and Riley’s excellent thriller in the woods.
I don’t know what Riley Sager will come up with next time but I’m super appreciative the books release in time for my birthday, and even more so, that we have one of the best thriller writers of our generation right here, right now. Even Stephen King said so, not just me.
Now enter to win the book....
* This time there's no Rafflecopter or anything like that; there's 1 finished copy per blog— that's right, you can WIN A COPY OF THE BOOK RIGHT HERE! Thank you to Dutton Books.
* US/Canada Only— sorry!!!
* Note: winners may only be chosen ONCE for the tour, meaning each person can only win from one blog and if they win on another blog they are to turn it down or be disqualified completely (you can enter on another blog but only win once).
* Ends: July 20th.
* All I would like you to do TO ENTER is a) FOLLOW MY BLOG
and b) COMMENT below with what your favorite HORROR OR THRILLER MOVIE adaptation IS!! (is it one of these???)
*You can follow all the Book Blogs on the tour HERE: The Last Time I Lied Blog Tour SCHEDULE
BUY 'The Last Time I Lied' (and 'Final Girls', while you're there)...
*Buy the book on AMAZON
*Buy the book at B&N.com
*Buy the book via Indiebound
I love feedback and I can’t wait to read your answers (I’ll be drawing a winner on the 20th)! Let me know what your favorite book is too, if you like.
And HAPPY READING, guys!!
I’ve read a lot of great thrillers lately, and despite the fact that this has a great premise (young girls accused of murdering their best friend five years ago, reunite back in the small town that still calls them the ‘Monsters Of Brickhouse Lane’), it just falls short. Putting it another way, this was a thriller that really did end up feeling broken.
Five years ago, the case against Mia and Brynn is dropped, and Owen was acquitted in court, after they were accused of brutally killing their friend Summer in what looked like a ritualistic murder. Now that a memorial has brought them back together, the three of them (along with their new tag-along friend, and so-called YouTube fashion sensation Abby), plus Brynn’s second cousin Wade, are now going to solve the murder.
This plot reads immediately like it has been done before and only recently (I do not like comparing to specific books so I won’t).
I will however, point out how the girls’ obsession with the book ‘The Way Into Lovelorn’ (‘fan fic’ made me do it!), and the similarity of this obsession we see in the real life ‘Slender Man’ killings came off as all too familiar, and so it didn’t seem original or clever for me very early on. I also found myself wanting more from these passages from ‘Lovelorn’ as they gave me few answers as to why I should believe any behaviors should come from this book. As the crux of ‘Broken Things’, these passages needed to be way stronger for me to be convinced that it had anything to do with the killing, the girls’ obsession, and their friendships.
Lauren Oliver is an established and fluid writer; conversations flow well, nothing really seems ‘wrong’ in terms of how the story ‘works’, but I had a hard time getting myself through this, and at times the story seemed to be meandering. Aside from the fact that Summer, the murdered ‘best friend’, seemed to be a nasty piece of work anyway, so I didn’t really care that the others may well have bumped her off, the twist and subsequent Scooby-Doo ‘unmasking’ gave me zero payoff. I felt badly that the characters hadn’t been given more action, especially with how long the book is.
Many will enjoy this thriller but sadly I have to say it’s too long, and has too much jumping around between the two main characters, Brynn (who I just can’t believe would get away with ‘living’ in rehab like she did), and Mia, and the two timelines. The relationships are half way there, and the general ambiance is generally right, but this is a very full genre right now, so I had much higher expectations for this one.
*Plus a cat was killed.
When I first heard about this book ‘The Cheerleaders’ from Liberty on Book Riot, my ears perked up at it being a new thriller from Kara Thomas (plus Liberty said it’s awesome). Then I saw the amazing bare-bones cover with the cheerleading skirt, and that absolutely convinced me. A thriller with cheerleaders? Bring it on!!
Cheerleaders have been an iconic feature in American culture since the sport of cheerleading became popular for teenage girls in high schools and colleges (rather than it previously being a male sport) in the 1950’s. There’s really no mistaking what a cheer uniform represents in terms of status when one is donned; the cheerleaders in high schools seem to occupy their own certain bewildering stratosphere in the hierarchy of school cliques, and it’s hard to describe the ‘cheerleading effect’ (although it’s done really well in the hilarious movie ‘Bring It On’). Cheerleaders have long made perfect fodder especially for movies (particularly of the horror variety), TV, and books, because of the stereotypes that befall girls who become them.
In this book,'The Cheerleaders' of Sunnybrook have either been killed, or they’ve had to become the not quite as high-flying dance squad, so there's not much cheerleading going on. After the deaths of five cheerleaders (two dead from hitting a tree in a car crash, two brutally murdered by the man who lived net door to them, and one by suicide, the squad is disbanded. Monica, whose sister Jen died by her own hand, is now on the dance team, and even though it's five years on, she doesn't have the answers she needs about her sister's death, especially after she comes across her sister's cell phone in her stepad's (the cop) desk. She also has a new friend at school who really pushes to find out what really happened, and to see if the deaths are connected.
Now there's a lot about this novel that I really loved: a seasoned writer like Kara Thomas means the reader gets to enjoy clear voice for our protagonist Monica, who is surrounded by friends and family, but still seems rather lonely, having lost her sister Jen some five years prior (and we have some chapters told from her perspective too), and she leads us through this thriller/mystery. Opening with what clearly is her having to deal with the aftermath of an abortion, thanks to an unplanned pregnancy, this is something pivotal to the plot, and something that may turn a few readers unnecessarily away (Thomas isn’t afraid of that though).
Quickly though, the reader is given the back story about how the cheerleaders died and why Monica becomes so adamant on finding the truth. But this is also where I find the major flaw: I really did want more ‘cheerleaders’, and more action than just at the end (the twist is still good, although a few times I’d got bogged down in too many details, and got lost in the information given). The book gave me an entirely sad feeling as a takeaway; after ‘solving the mystery’ I came away with such a profound sense of loss for these characters, which I didn’t expect. There’s some closure but it doesn’t balance how much I wanted a bit more of a bloody thriller, much like the blood splatter on the cheerleader skirt on the cover suggests, instead of a sad mystery.
This is a solid mystery from Kara Thomas, well-written and with an unexpected twist. Just very sad, and with a lot of amateur sleuthing (instead of cheerleading).
This book about a ship full of fierce, brave, loyal women ready to take on any battle on the high seas, is definitely an adventure with a strong girl-power message (as promised).
Captain Caledonia Styx takes charge of the ship Mors Navis after losing her family to a corrupt and vicious warlord, Aric Athair, and his fleet of ships who he fills with ‘Bullets’, boys and men who he doses up with the drug Silt. Caledonia vows to avenge her loss, and all those of her ‘sisters’, and leads them on mission to find her two brothers, who she finds are still alive (and also now Bullets), after capturing one ‘boy’ called Orna.
The characters on the Mors Navis are tight friends and fighters, loyal to the end, and they are all written with fascinating idiosyncrasies (and names!). What is so great about this book in general is that this is a story about family, friendships, the importance of bonds and loyalty, and how that carries these self-professed sisters through such adversity together.
Parker has written the book with a lot of sailing lingo (I just read that she grew up in a Navy family), so that took a bit of getting adjusted to, but is totally necessary for it to feel authentic. It’s interesting that she has chosen to have the book read as though it’s in some sort of past, but it’s written with talk of the ‘Old World’ and there is some interesting tech, ie the electromagnetic field around the Bullet ship.
The conflict that Caledonia has within herself, that makes her so hardened, is most interesting; I struggled with it a little though, in connecting with her, but it would be appropriate since that’s how it would be in reality. Other characters are also just as fascinating, and Parker will hopefully develop these further when this adventure continues. The pacing was a bit slow in parts, but when I think about that, I think about how the crew has to actually wait as they sail on the high seas, and would spend time preparing to reach their next port or venture.
Overall, this is an exciting take on a sea adventure, and I expect the reader will end up gunning for the crew of Mors Navis like I did. And unsurprisingly, the ending has left the reader with a major cliffhanger.
I'm so excited for the release of this book, and I'm thrilled to be on the blog tour because of how amazing the book is. This was an easy 5-star read for me; as soon as I put the book down when I was finished, I was engulfed with strong (all good!) feelings for it; I’ll share more in my review!
Thanks again to the amazing Fantastic Flying Book Club for having me on this blog tour; I’m especially grateful to have been on this one!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: DEMETRA BRODSKY (she's amazing, by the way)
Demetra Brodsky is an award-winning graphic designer & art director turned writer. She has a B.F.A from the Massachusetts College of Art and Design and lives in Southern California with her family of four and two lovable rescue dogs. Dive Smack, her debut novel, is dedicated to Pumpkin, the monarch butterfly she once saved from the brink of death. Once you read the book, you’ll understand why. She is a first generation Greek-American and a member of International Thriller Writers. Dive Smack is a 2018 Junior Library Guild Selection.
CONNECT & BUY THE BOOK!
***You can find all her links to connect with her *HERE* and EVERY single link to PREORDER and BUY her book (via Amazon, B&N, Target, Powells, iBooks, EVERYWHERE, ie, you have NO excuse). There are some great preorder incentives (yes, I've already got my order in!).
There is also an audiobook sample, a book excerpt, and even a Dive Smack Spotify playlist!
You can find her on Twitter as demetrabrodsky!
Category: Young Adult, Contemporary
Release Date: June 19th, 2018; Tor Teen
Theo Mackey only remembers one thing for certain about the fire that destroyed his home: he lit the match.
Sure, it was an accident. But the blaze killed his mom and set his dad on a path to self-destruction. Everything else about that fateful night is full of gaping holes in Theo’s mind, for good reason. Maybe it’s better that way. As captain of the Ellis Hollow Diving Team, with straight A’s and solid friends, he’s only one semester away from securing a scholarship, and leaving his past behind.
But when a family history project gets assigned at school, new memories come rushing to the surface, memories that make him question what he really knows about his family, the night of the fire, and if he can trust anyone—including himself.
So it was quite easy to give this twisty and exciting psychological YA thriller a 5-star review. It has been harder to put into words every single thing as to why, because I was so taken by surprise by Demetra’s brilliant debut novel. It seems as though from the moment I laid eyes on the beautiful cover for ‘Dive Smack’ (the flames above a young man plunging into the water), I needed to read it. And then I was immediately lost inside this book from the opening two quotes, particularly this one from Carl Jung,
"Your vision will become clear when you look inside your heart. Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakens."
What a way to start the book!
If you read the synopsis of the book above, you'll know by now that it’s about Theo Mackey, a high school springboard diver who has had both of his parents pass away tragically, and then he starts to question the memories he has of the fire that killed his mom, particularly as new ones surface as he researches a family project for school. Theo luckily has some great friends he can count on, but he lives with his alcoholic grandfather (GP), and he's starting to find his home life and new stressors are affecting his usually perfect diving, something he can’t afford to screw up, being the captain of Team Monarch. And the big school family project is what really starts to mess with Theo’s understanding of the fire, his family, and this makes him question what’s going on in his head. It seems he’s gradually losing his grip. That’s really what leads him to get more help from Dr. Maddox, a family friend and psychiatrist.
*Note: I’m leaving a LOT of story/plot out, so there are no spoilers.
Now that’s a very basic overview of what you are getting yourself into with this, but it goes from being a book about this likable guy on the diving team at a high school (and I now know so much more about springboard diving beyond my watching the Olympics every four years), to being a very clever, psychological thriller with details and twists I never expected. Demetra has employed some very clever writing devices that make this a standout: I love the way she begins each chapter with a diving term that correlates to the part of the story that it contains (note that Dive Smack is pretty painful), which is absolute genius. Her writing is also very fluid, and weaving interludes with the past and other ‘voices’ are done seamlessly. Also, since this is a thriller, the pacing builds up steadily to an eventual crescendo, within an ending where all the tense energy flows throughout the end chapters.
Theo is such a well-fleshed out character (as are Chip, Iris, Amy, and others), that you really get a feel for who this guy is; Demetra has created so many endearing things about about him, that you can’t help but root for him the whole way through: we know he has two moles on his face, his car is called Bumblebee after the Transformer, he likes classic rock, and of course, he's an orphan. And he likes to use puns.
But the real treat in this book is how it ropes you in (it gets better and better the deeper you dive in: pun intended), how it becomes way more than a book about a few high schoolers; it becomes about a sensitive young man uncovering his past and the deception that is swirling around him. Then the massive and very dark twist at the end takes the reader, and Theo, by surprise, making this precisely what earns this book its top marks. It left me tearful, it made me laugh, AND gasp. I can’t wait to see what comes from Demetra next, especially if it’s another thriller as riveting and original as this one.
*And just so you know - Dive Smack: When a diver under or over rotates or twists on a dive, hitting the water with enough force to cause pain or physical injury.
Hardcover copy of DIVE SMACK by Demetra Brodsky & Prize pack of necklace, bracelet, signed bookmark, & signed book plate! US only, ends 6/26.
Click *HERE* to enter the giveaway. Good luck!!
To continue following the tour, this will take you to the DIVE SMACK BLOG TOUR SCHEDULE.
That was a long one, I hope you read it all! If you go back to the first post on the tour you can read a great interview with Demetra (surprisingly she is NOT a diver, and I was so stoked to find out she also loves Teen Wolf).
I hope you add this to your TBR, and buy this book! Happy reading!
I read this book just about at the perfect time; after reading seven dark thrillers, mysteries, and moody fantasies, I needed something to cleanse my literary palette and get me back to 'bookish square zero'.
This really was a delightful read, taking me to all the right places that I hoped a book like this would. It revolves around Jolie Peterson, who is sixteen, in high school, and has an underbite, which is medical termed as 'mandibular prognathism' (I didn't even know that, and my dog has the most severe underbite; he was my motivator for requesting an early copy of this book - yes, really). Jolie has spent her entire life NOT wanting the spotlight before of her teeth, but also preparing for surgery to 'fix her face' so that she can end the headaches, chew properly, and stop feeling like she's different from everyone else. She wrestles with the questions of what makes someone beautiful, just like a lot of young people do, whether they have a misaligned jaw or not, and it takes her a long time to realize that many people worry if they're good enough, smart enough, pretty enough.
While she prepares for this long-awaited surgery, so many things come up for Jolie, and it may seem like you're reading a book with all the high-school literary tropes crammed into it. But it's DONE SO WELL. She is dreading the surgery and creates a list of things she must do in case she dies under anesthesia, and these naturally include doing things like finally kissing a boy. But she also dares to try out for the school musical, and guess what, she is amazing when she auditions and she gets the lead. She also has the best of friends since kindergarten and one that happens to be a guy, Derek, and she's just now realizing he's hot. This always presents a massive problem.
You may think you have read this before but the author, Kerry Winfrey, writes ALL these scenarios and these characters with so much sincerity and originality, that they are not ones that I'd met before. The male high school boys are ones with honest concern for their female counterparts. The female high schoolers are smart, and Winfrey didn't see it necessary to play the 'mean girl' card, or have Jolie really bash herself into the ground to come to her final conclusions about self-esteem and beauty (although she does a lot of natural questioning and normal comparisons). Characters acknowledge their mistakes in ways that make sense, without being preachy, and I love the tone of the writing throughout the novel because of this. I also totally enjoyed the TV obsessions of the family, and the 'Terrible Movie Night' Jolie and Derek share.
This is a light and funny book, with some bigger issues like self-esteem, and dealing with grief and changing friendships within it, but it's ultimately about Jolie's chance to shine, to change, to grow. Her voice is charming and heartfelt, and the book left me in such a great place, feeling like I knew all these great people!
Ruth Ware has done it again! 'The Death of Mrs. Westaway' is even better than her last book, 'The Lying Game', and for me, that's saying quite a bit. I completely fell for Ware's writing and storytelling with that book (bonus points were given for taking me back to my boarding school days in Sussex), and I knew I had found my new favorite mystery author.
'The Death of Mrs. Westaway' takes the reader to Sussex again, this time to 'sunny' Brighton, where Hal - Harriet Westaway - has a job as a tarot card reader on the pier, which is what her mother used to do before she was killed suddenly by a car, leaving her alone and scraping by. As the bills are piling up and the dodgy 'bill-collector' keeps popping up, so does a letter saying that she has inherited a large sum of money by a mysterious and very old Mrs. Westaway. Although Hal realizes there is some mistake with the connection to her and her mother, she decides to go to the funeral at the Trespassen House out by Penzance. She wants a chance at just a bit of that money, and to figure out some family secrets that she feels her mum left behind.
Now that's a very rough, short synopsis. Since I'm from England, I have the fortune of reading Ruth Ware's books and imagining the English countryside, the Brighton pier, the foggy desolation around the abandoned mansion that is Trespassen House. But what is so glorious about Ware's writing is that she is able to create such atmosphere and mood, that she can conjure up imagery (I'm pretty sure) so effectively that it envelopes the story entirely, without having had to have been over there. In 'Westaway', the mansion and the grounds basically become a character of their own, and the gothic and dark images of Trespassen House are so well-written they come alive.
What also makes this novel so successful are the other family members make for a great ensemble, the secrets that swirl around slowly reveal themselves throughout the novel at the perfect pace, and Ware shows the reader what happened in the past without seeming contrived. It all fit so perfectly. And I never saw that ending coming! My biggest complaint was that I read it too quickly because once I picked the book up, I couldn't put it down.
It’s no coincidence that the current ‘Mistress Of Mystery’ has been so heavily influenced by Agatha Christie (and Daphne du Maurier) because Ware feels like the Christie of today.
It was a breath of fresh (ghostly) air to read this, even though I’m far from being in the target middle-grade reading group, but 12-year old me read it anyway (and lined up at Yallwest for 45 minutes for an early copy).
Cassidy Blake, a self-professed nerdy tween, has parents who have just about the coolest jobs: they are ‘The Inspectres’, a ghost-hunting team, and they have just been given a round-the-world TV gig, that starts in Edinburgh, to hunt down ghosts in haunted cities.
But that’s only part of what makes Cassidy a fascinating main character for Schwab’s new book; Cass once drowned, and because she came back from near-death, she came back with her very own ghostly sidekick and now, best friend, Jacob. Cassidy can see him and other ghosts, and go beyond ‘The Veil’, and she only comes to truly understand what this all means when she gets to Edinburgh.
The book is endearing, funny, and clever throughout, and contains enough appropriately-scary scenes and ideas for the age group it’s written for. I would have been clamoring for this book when I was younger. The scary scenes beyond ‘The Veil’ and with the Red Raven are expertly written, and are creepy enough to only leave the reader with a chill but not scare beyond their wits. There are also some other minor characters written, like the young girl Cassidy meets in Edinburgh, Lara, who teaches her a lot about ‘what’ she is actually is, an ‘In-Betweener’ and even the city of Edinburgh feels like a character of its own.
Victoria Schwab has crafted a near-perfect book, middle-grade or otherwise, which blends reality with fantasy, and gives the reader characters who are identifiable and likable. I felt like Cassidy was written for a younger version of myself (or is that still me?); I was obsessed so much with ghosts at that age of around 11-12, that it influenced my choice of boarding school, and Cassidy is also walking around with an old camera around her neck, and with her cat Grim by her side (a camera AND a cat?!) . And the glorious part where she tries British fish and chips for the first time; Schwab was after my soul. Our ghostly friend Jacob has emotion sweeping about him and makes the idea of having a spirit for a sidekick (especially if they’ll save your life on a whim), incredibly appealing.
The excitement around this book is warranted, and I hope the adventures of Cassidy (and Jacob) continue. This may well be a book written for 12-year old girls, but the actual readers will surely span ages and other reader groups. Just such a special, unique, and thrilling read.