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Friday, May 13, 2022

Review: Dark Lines by Jack Harding

Dark Lines
by Jack Harding

Thanks so much to DarkLit Press for this gifted copy.

Publisher: DarkLit Press
Publish Date: May 2, 2022
Paperback
Standalone
Genres: Horror, Short Stories

From the author of Ripper Country comes sixteen tales of psychological horror, each more frightening than the last. Venture into a dark and brooding world of twists and turns where things are rarely as they seem, and terror reigns supreme…

A mother is haunted by an apocalyptic vision…a husband banished to the couch is awoken by a bump in the night…a vampire catches up with an old friend…a brooding man-child suffers some unpleasant side-effects from a new medication…an office worker’s routine commute home turns out to be anything but…

Let Jack Harding take you on a perilous journey into the nightmare-inducing landscape he has crafted for your enjoyment. Dark Lines is a versatile and gut-wrenching collection that will stir your senses, and stay with you long after you’ve turned the last page. 

My Review:


What a fun horror collection!!  So many good ones here so definitely would recommend picking up.  As with all collections, some I liked more than others.  The one that will stick with me the most is the one about the spiders because NO... I can't do insects or arachnids - this is why I'll be cremated over being buried. Don't @ me. Hahah

But seriously folks, there's a lot to get out of this and there's definitely something for everyone so pick it up and enjoy it! Whether you do that in one sitting or devour a story at a time. Either way, keep those lights on. 

★★★★


Thursday, May 12, 2022

Review: Just Like Mother by Anne Heltzel #ATBR2022

Just Like Mother
by Anne Heltzel

Huge thanks to Tor Nightfire for these gifted copies.


Publisher: Nightfire
Publish Date: May 17, 2022
Hardcover
320 Pages
Standalone
Genre: Horror

A girl would be such a blessing...

The last time Maeve saw her cousin was the night she escaped the cult they were raised in. For the past two decades, Maeve has worked hard to build a normal life in New York City, where she keeps everything—and everyone—at a safe distance.

When Andrea suddenly reappears, Maeve regains the only true friend she’s ever had. Soon she’s spending more time at Andrea’s remote Catskills estate than in her own cramped apartment. Maeve doesn’t even mind that her cousin’s wealthy work friends clearly disapprove of her single lifestyle. After all, Andrea has made her fortune in the fertility industry—baby fever comes with the territory.

The more Maeve immerses herself in Andrea’s world, the more disconnected she feels from her life back in the city; and the cousins’ increasing attachment triggers memories Maeve has fought hard to bury. But confronting the terrors of her childhood may be the only way for Maeve to transcend the nightmare still to come…

My Review:


Hmmmm... Oh myyyyyyyyyyy.  For those who don't know, I absolutely HATE dolls.  Hate them.  Like decapitated my Barbies and threw various body parts in trash cans across my neighborhood so they couldn't reassemble and come after me.  Yes, yes... it's a wonder I've made it this far in life.  But hey, you must FACE YOUR FEARS right?  Not as if this cover watched me wherever I went. Nope. It DID NOT. *shiver*

Now, the cover is very apropos of this storyline and lemme just say... cult vibes with creepy lifelike dolls... how could I say no?  All my happy horror nerves were all a tingle.  But how, oh how, do I review this?  Ok. Lemme give it a go.  Maeve and Andrea grew up together in a nightmarish childhood and then were forced apart against their wills.  Growing into adulthood, they took two drastically different paths.  And what a bang their reunion ends up causing.

Uff.  I loved this book but also had some tiny issues with it.  I wasn't to shake Maeve so many times but if all characters made the best choices, where would all my entertainment go?  I felt like things were pretty obvious and knew where the story was going to go chapter after chapter.  But all of this also fascinated me so I was hungry to feed myself page after page.  All the red herrings filling me up and pointing the way to the obvious conclusion.  And surprisingly not *quite* as creepy as I expected it to be considering my attitude towards dolls though there are certainly a couple of scenes that will stick with me for quite some time.

While I wish this wasn't as predictable as it was for me (and had one pet peeve moment of mine....), I definitely had a fun time reading it and look forward to reading more by Heltzel. Suspend the belief and have yourself a good time.  And keep an eye out... they're EVERYWHERE.

★★★★

Jessica's Review:


Here is a book where the cover absolutely sets the tone for the book before you even open it. That baby doll head is super unsettling and I definitely had this book face down on the nightstand. JUST LIKE MOTHER by Anne Heltzel was a quick read and while there are definite horror elements, I would probably classify this as more of a psychological thriller. There was plenty of suspense and tension to go around and who doesn’t love a good story about an extreme cult?

Maeve and her cousin, Andrea, were two young girls raised in what was called the Mother Collective. A cult that Maeve was able to escape and ultimately cause it’s undoing. Ever since that day, Maeve has never stopped thinking about and longing for her cousin and best friend, but was never successful in finding her. Fast forward twenty years, Maeve is mostly isolated in the city and keeps her casual kind-of boyfriend at a distance but after doing an at-home DNA kit she gets an email from a woman claiming to be Andrea. They meet and their bond is almost instant – who wouldn’t want to hold onto the one bit of flesh and blood family they had left? Maeve quickly learns that her cousin is an incredibly successful business woman that is the CEO of a groundbreaking startup called NewLife.

When Andrea invites her to spend her birthday weekend at their new historical mansion in the Catskills she agrees without hesitation. Why not spend the time with her cousin again and repair the bond that was broken when the cult was broken up? The newest project they’re unveiling soon at NewLife is the Olivia doll – an incredibly, and almost creepily, lifelike doll that women can take care of to either prepare them for motherhood or to help in the grieving process for those that have lost children. Just the description of these dolls was unnerving, like I understand the sentiment and how they could greatly help the women in need, but dolls still creep me out.

Well, without going into too much detail, Maeve begins discovering secrets and unsettling things about Andrea and those around her. I will say that I had some things figured out fairly early but that didn’t take away from the fun of it. I was able to guess some of the events but I wasn’t sure how they were going to unravel, so that kept the suspense up for me. In the end, I’m definitely convinced I’d be seen as a Bloody Mary, so I’m glad this isn’t based off a true story. I will definitely be looking for more from Heltzel!

5 stars


Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Review: One Hundred Percent Me by Renee Macalino Rutledge

One Hundred Percent Me
by Renee Macalino Rutledge
Illustrated by Anita Prades

Thanks so much to Bloom Books for Young Readers for this gifted copy.

Publisher: Bloom Books for Young Readers
Publish Date: May 3, 2022
Hardcover
32 Pages
Standalone
Genre: Childrens

A heartwarming story about the joys of multicultural families and being mixed race. One Hundred Percent Me takes readers (ages 4 to 8) along as a young girl explores and accepts her unique identity.

It can be confusing to be a child of mixed race. As the little girl moves through daily life in the big city, she hears some people say she looks more like her Puerto Rican dad, while others claim she takes after her Filipina mom. Should she favor one identity over the other? No! In fact, honoring every facet of her identity equally becomes the main character’s favorite affirmation. This beautifully illustrated book about celebrating differences, claiming our belonging, and acknowledging our heritage encourages all readers to embrace the fact that we are all 100% ourselves.

My Review:


I know what you're thinking? Chandra? With a children's book? 🤯  That's right.  I sometimes even surprise myself.  I LOVE seeing more and more of these multicultural books popping up these days.  I absolutely had to pick this one up as it completely spoke to me.  I wish I had a book like this when I was a kid.

This is a very short book with adorable illustrations and reminded me of the talks I had as a kid.  "What are you?" "Where are you from?" "You have your mother's eyes." etc.  But ultimately I always tried to be whoever the person talking to me wanted me to be.  Too Korean for the US. Too American for Korea. As I've gotten older I've become extremely proud of my heritage and while yes, my family is from here and there and I am of mixed heritage... through it all I'm ONE HUNDRED PERCENT ME and this book just exemplifies how important that is. Love.

★★★★★


Review: Seasonal Fears by Seanan McGuire

Seasonal Fears
by Seanan McGuire
Narrated by Amber Benson

Thanks so much to Macmillan Audio and NetGalley for this gifted copy.

Publisher: Macmillan Audio
Publish Date: May 3, 2022
Audiobook
16 hrs 28 min
Series: Alchemical Journeys #2
Genres: Fantasy, Science Fiction

Melanie has a destiny, though it isn’t the one everyone assumes it to be. She’s delicate; she’s fragile; she’s dying. Now, truly, is the winter of her soul.

Harry doesn’t want to believe in destiny, because that means accepting the loss of the one person who gives his life meaning, who brings summer to his world.

So, when a new road is laid out in front of them—a road that will lead through untold dangers toward a possible lifetime together—walking down it seems to be the only option.

But others are following behind, with violence in their hearts.

It looks like Destiny has a plan for them, after all….

My Review:

I should've listened to the lot of you telling me over and over and over again to read Middlegame.  But did I?  No.  Did I know Seasonal Fears was the second book in the Alchemical Journeys series?  Also, no.  Did I listen to all 16+ hours anyways because it was absolutely fascinating? YES.

I have no reference as to whether or not you need to read Middlegrade before this one.  However, I am a big person who likes (and strives) to read series books in order (do I always succeed? clearly not).  I do feel like this read very easily as a standalone.  I do think that maybe I would've gotten a *little* more out of it had I read the first one? *shrug*  But it's really hard to say.  What I DO know is that McGuire is a freakin' genius and I love the world in SEASONAL FEARS.  Two teens, in love and destined in their connection?  Summer, Winter. Sometimes you just cannot stop what you're meant to be.

Now, I admit wholeheartedly that I got lost a few times. There's SO much happening and it was hard to keep up at times.  What with the various names and the intricacies of the seasons, etc. etc.  I could go on and on and on about what I couldn't comprehend.  But once I stopped thinking too hard about it and just accepted it, I could sit back and enjoy Benson narrating the story.

I definitely need to go back and read Middlegame. And I hear there's a rumor there's going to be more books in this series so count me on that train ride!!  Also, please give me a one way ticket into Seanan's brain please and thank you.

 ★★★★



Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Review: The Survival of Molly Southbourne by Tade Thompson

The Survival of Molly Southbourne
by Tade Thompson

Publisher: Tordotcom
Publish Date: July 9, 2019
Kindle Edition
126 Pages
Series: Molly Southbourne #2
Genres: Horror, Science Fiction

Who was Molly Southbourne? What did she leave behind?

A burnt-out basement. A name stained in blood. Bodies that remember murder, one of them left alive. A set of rules that no longer apply.

Molly Southbourne is alive. If she wants to survive, she'll need to run, hide, and be ready to fight. There are people who remember her, who know what she is and what she's done. Some want her alive, some want her dead, and all hold a piece to the puzzles in her head. Can Molly escape them, or will she confront the bloody history that made her?

My Review:

Emily (@exorcismofemilyreed) introduced me to this series a while back and I simply LOVED the first book, The Murders of Molly Southbourne.  And what a concept!! Every time Molly bleeds, her blood makes more Mollys and they are NOT nice.  So Molly spends her days and nights trying not to hurt herself while simultaneously fighting off her own "clones" who are hell bent on killing her. Phew - what's a girl to do?!

Somehow I missed this second installment so when the third, The Legacy of Molly Southbourne landed on my doorstep, I knew I had to come back and read this one ASAP in anticipation. Now, I don't know if it's because it's been so long, or maybe this has a little bit of that "second-book-in-a-series curse" as a filler to kind of trudge through for a culmination of sorts in the third book. 🤷  I just didn't find myself as engaged in this one.  Though I did enjoy getting to learn a bit more of how Molly came to pass.

Overall a decent installment but I'm guessing the third book is going to make it all worth it.  And if you ever see yourself coming after you.... RUN.

★★★


Thursday, May 5, 2022

Review: One of Us is Dead by Jeneva Rose

One of Us is Dead
by Jeneva Rose

Thanks so much to Booksparks & Blackstone Publishing for this gifted book.


Publisher: Blackstone Publishing
Publish Date: April 26, 2022
Kindle Edition
354 Pages
Standalone
Genre: Thriller

Opulence. Sex. Betrayal … Sometimes friendship can be deadly.

Meet the women of Buckhead—a place of expensive cars, huge houses, and competitive friendships.

Shannon was once the queen bee of Buckhead. But she’s been unceremoniously dumped by Bryce, her politician husband. When Bryce replaces her with a much younger woman, Shannon sets out to take revenge …

Crystal has stepped into Shannon’s old shoes. A young, innocent Texan girl, she simply has no idea what she’s up against …

Olivia has waited years to take Shannon’s crown as the unofficial queen of Buckhead. Finally, her moment has come. But to take her rightful place, she will need to use every backstabbing, manipulative, underhand trick in the book …

Jenny owns Glow, the most exclusive salon in town. Jenny knows all her clients’ secrets and darkest desires. But will she ever tell?

Who amongst these women will be clever enough to survive Buckhead—and who will wind up dead? They say that friendships can be complex, but no one said it could ever be this deadly.

My Review:


Holy hell was this a fun fucking ride!! It's like Big Little Lies meets Desperate Housewives and the only person I could imagine as Olivia was that woman, Christine, from Selling Sunset.  These women are delightful, mischievous, full of secrets, wants, desires... and most of them are rich and in need of a daily blow out, mani/pedi and make up.  Oh to live the life.

For pure adulterous entertainment, this one greatly delivers.  GIVE ME ALL THE DRAMA.  And as much as Olivia was a pure bitch through and through, I couldn't help but like being in her head sometimes - for someone so very full of herself, some of the snarky things she said were quite hilarious.  Shannon... oh Shannon - there were times I was wanting to pull her back from some of her actions but at the same time I could understand her.  Honestly, I grew to love all the women - except for Olivia but damn did I love to hate on her.

Is this *actually* a 5 star read? For me, yes on pure refreshing amusement.  I could NOT put this book down. I was highly entertained for the duration.  Yes, it's high drama.   Yes, it's a bit over the top.  And yes, for those of us who love these kinds of reads - it hits the bullseye.  There are definitely some eye rolling parts.  There's definitely some suspending of belief.  But if you like Desperate Housewives on crack, this will satiate  you for quite some time. You're either gonna love it or hate it but either way, these women will stay with you.

★★★★★

Review: Siren Queen by Nghi Vo

Siren Queen
by Nghi Vo
Narrated by Natalie Naudus

Thanks so much to Macmillan Audio and NetGalley for this gifted copy.

Publisher: Macmillan Audio
Publish Date: May 10, 2022
Audiobook
8 hrs 43 min
Standalone
Genres: Sci Fi & Fantasy

It was magic. In every world, it was a kind of magic.

“No maids, no funny talking, no fainting flowers.” Luli Wei is beautiful, talented, and desperate to be a star. Coming of age in pre-Code Hollywood, she knows how dangerous the movie business is and how limited the roles are for a Chinese American girl from Hungarian Hill—but she doesn’t care. She’d rather play a monster than a maid.

But in Luli’s world, the worst monsters in Hollywood are not the ones on screen. The studios want to own everything from her face to her name to the women she loves, and they run on a system of bargains made in blood and ancient magic, powered by the endless sacrifice of unlucky starlets like her. For those who do survive to earn their fame, success comes with a steep price. Luli is willing to do whatever it takes—even if that means becoming the monster herself.

'Siren Queen' offers up an enthralling exploration of an outsider achieving stardom on her own terms, in a fantastical Hollywood where the monsters are real and the magic of the silver screen illuminates.

My Review:


Oh what a wonderful sci-fi, fantasy tale Vo weaves!  This is the story of Luli.  Chinese American.  Dreams of stardom but at what cost?  A tale as old as '30s Hollywood - where racism, misogyny, queerphobia, work place inequality - MONSTERS!

I thoroughly enjoyed the fantasy and sci-fi portions creating this story that touches on some very important topics while also giving us this character driven novel of a woman going against the grain and not backing down.  Coming into her own in a variety of ways all the while dealing with the atrocities that come with the entertainment field.

While this is very character driven, I didn't feel that oomph from Luli that I would expect.  I enjoyed her attitude.  I loved that she went to play monsters over the glorified typical beauties most women are put into.  Preening her scales deliciously.  And the narrator was fantastic, which I think helped with the story.  I felt like that last portion kinda had me scratching my head a little but I was along for the ride. And the sex scenes - me-owwwwwwwwww.  

Somebody  make me a Siren Queen. 😉

★★★★


Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Review: Hidden Pictures by Jason Rekulak

Hidden Pictures
by Jason Rekulak

Thanks so much to Flatiron books for this gifted copy.


Publisher: Flatiron Book
Publish Date: May 10, 2022
Hardcover
384 Pages
Standalone
Genres: Horror, Thriller, Paranormal

Fresh out of rehab, Mallory Quinn takes a job in the affluent suburb of Spring Brook, New Jersey as a babysitter for Ted and Caroline Maxwell. She is to look after their five-year-old son, Teddy.

Mallory immediately loves this new job. She lives in the Maxwell’s pool house, goes out for nightly runs, and has the stability she craves. And she sincerely bonds with Teddy, a sweet, shy boy who is never without his sketchbook and pencil. His drawings are the usual fare: trees, rabbits, balloons. But one day, he draws something different: a man in a forest, dragging a woman’s lifeless body.

As the days pass, Teddy’s artwork becomes more and more sinister, and his stick figures steadily evolve into more detailed, complex, and lifelike sketches well beyond the ability of any five-year-old. Mallory begins to suspect these are glimpses of an unsolved murder from long ago, perhaps relayed by a supernatural force lingering in the forest behind the Maxwell’s house.

With help from a handsome landscaper and an eccentric neighbor, Mallory sets out to decipher the images and save Teddy—while coming to terms with a tragedy in her own past—before it’s too late.

My Review:


Oh hi there. Chandra with her five-head here to tell you alllll about HIDDEN PICTURES.  Ok. Yes. Yes. I loved this book. I don't know what the ebook would look like, but for the sake of the illustrations, which play a HUGE part in this story, I highly recommend getting the printed version. Yes, do that.  Immediately.

Teddy, the young boy Mallory is sitting for for the summer.  Such a kid! And I adore him!  I loved his relationship with Mallory and just how good she is with him.  Then we get to see the story ramp up as the child like illustrations start to take on a life of their own.  And then on page 189, with one of the illustrations, I pointed at it and yelled, out loud, "I KNEW IT!" and of course... that was the first sentence on the next page.  Mallory and I were seeing the SAME THING. 🤣 I simply love it when a book gets me involved this much!

Then we get to the last 15% or so and boy does it ramp up.  Maybe even goes off the rails just a bit much and I spy plot holes but I'll gladly hop right over them because I was having so much fun with the story.  And while epilogues can make or break a book sometimes, I was really happy with the way this ended.  It got me right in the feels.  BAM.

This story didn't go where I thought it would.  I consider this more of a light horror read from the paranormal aspect but ultimately it's a thrilling good ride. Love.

★★★★★


Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Review: The Reyes Incident by Briana Morgan

The Reyes Incident
by Briana Morgan

Thanks so much to NightWorms for this gifted review copy.


Publish Date: April 30, 2022
Kindle Edition
Standalone
Genre: Horror

A local legend gone haywire.

A small-town cop.

An impossible eyewitness testimony.

Which is easier to believe—that killer mermaids exist, or that one person is worth risking everything for?

My Review:


GIVE ME ALL THE KILLER MERMAIDS! Yes, yes, yes!  Remember Rolling in the Deep and Into the Drowning Deep?  I fell in love with killer mermaids in those two related books and could NOT turn down THE REYES INCIDENT.  Can you hear the sirens??? 😉

Bloody delightful, Morgan brings us yet another spectacular novella.  This time we get a small-town cop who is on the case talking with Liv - the seemingly only survivor from her and her friends trip to an abandoned bunker that tells the tale of three mermaids trapped inside.  Sure, it sounds like a GREAT idea to go, right?  I mean, would YOU?  I think that I would but also I've read enough horror books to know this is not going to probably end well at ALL.

Honestly, I think I side with the mermaids in this one.  I could've done without the multiple outbursts of love and Andie's weird moves as a cop.  But the deathly visuals and blood spurts made it A-Ok for me!  I'm also going to need a sequel (ahem, ahem, ahem) because WHAT.  W H A T?!  It's like she high fived me down low and I was too slow. I'm legit not quite sure how I feel about this ending. However, what I DO know is that mermaids (killer or not) freaking rule and I'll read about them ALL DAY LONG. Uff, can't wait to see what Morgan has for us next!!

★★★★

Review: The Children on the Hill by Jennifer McMahon

The Children on the Hill
by Jennifer McMahon

Thanks so much to Gallery/Scout Press for these gifted copies.

Publisher: Gallery/Scout Press
Publish Date: April 26, 2022
Hardcover
352 Pages
Standalone
Genre: Horror

A genre-defying new novel, inspired by Mary Shelley’s masterpiece Frankenstein, which brilliantly explores the eerie mysteries of childhood and the evils perpetrated by the monsters among us.

1978: at her renowned treatment center in picturesque Vermont, the brilliant psychiatrist, Dr. Helen Hildreth, is acclaimed for her compassionate work with the mentally ill. But when she's home with her cherished grandchildren, Vi and Eric, she’s just Gran—teaching them how to take care of their pets, preparing them home-cooked meals, providing them with care and attention and love.

Then one day Gran brings home a child to stay with the family. Iris—silent, hollow-eyed, skittish, and feral—does not behave like a normal girl.

Still, Violet is thrilled to have a new playmate. She and Eric invite Iris to join their Monster Club, where they catalogue all kinds of monsters and dream up ways to defeat them. Before long, Iris begins to come out of her shell. She and Vi and Eric do everything together: ride their bicycles, go to the drive-in, meet at their clubhouse in secret to hunt monsters. Because, as Vi explains, monsters are everywhere.

2019: Lizzy Shelley, the host of the popular podcast Monsters Among Us, is traveling to Vermont, where a young girl has been abducted, and a monster sighting has the town in an uproar. She’s determined to hunt it down, because Lizzy knows better than anyone that monsters are real—and one of them is her very own sister.

The Children on the Hill takes us on a breathless journey to face the primal fears that lurk within us all.

 My Review:


Ohmyghoulish did I love this story!! We spend a lot of time in Vi's head, so at times I questioned if that made it more of a YA novel, but if it was then it certainly didn't feel very YA and the I scolded myself for even having this conversation. Yeah, ahem. Vi is a very precocious girl with a love for monsters. So much so that she has created her own Monster Club, has kept an illustrated journal of anything monster - from facts to various types. I mean, how cute is THAT?!?!

There are a couple of timelines we go through, and one thing McMahon is genius at is getting that atmosphere suspensefully delicious. You're always going to want another bite. We get notes of experimentation, Frankenstein vibes, historical maliciousness and the power of the innocence of childhood. I dunno. It just really hit me right in the feels. Did I find this scary at all? No. But I did absolutely feel all the eerie vibes and wasn't expecting how it all ended up coming together.

My favorite McMahon so far. And no, I haven't read The Winter People yet, but it is burning a hold on my bookshelf.

★★★★★