Social Media Icons

Thursday, March 31, 2022

Review: Murder Among Friends: How Leopold and Loeb Tried to Commit the Perfect Crime

Murder Among Friends: How Leopold and Loeb Tried to Commit the Perfect Crime
by Candace Fleming
Narrated by Angela Dawe

Thanks to PRH Audio for this gifted copy.

Publisher: Listening Library
Publish Date: March 29, 2022
7 hrs 22 min
Genres: Young Adult, True Crime

How did two teenagers brutally murder an innocent child...and why? And how did their brilliant lawyer save them from the death penalty in 1920s Chicago? Written by a prolific master of narrative nonfiction, this is a compulsively readable true-crime story based on an event dubbed the crime of the century.

In 1924, eighteen-year-old college students Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb made a decision: they would commit the perfect crime by kidnapping and murdering a child they both knew. But they made one crucial error: as they were disposing of the body of young Bobby Franks, whom they had bludgeoned to death, Nathan's eyeglasses fell from his jacket pocket.

Multi-award-winning author Candace Fleming depicts every twist and turn of this harrowing case--how two wealthy, brilliant young men planned and committed what became known as the crime of the century, how they were caught, why they confessed, and how the renowned criminal defense attorney Clarence Darrow enabled them to avoid the death penalty.

Following on the success of such books as The Rise and Fall of Charles Lindbergh and The Family Romanov, this acclaimed nonfiction writer brings to heart-stopping life one of the most notorious crimes in our country's history. 

My Review:

Like anyone who is interested in and fascinated by true crime, I've read about Leopold and Loeb many times. Psychopathic teens who killed a kid just because they felt like it.  Calculating, pompous, entitled and lacking in emotional maturity... or emotions in general, these two will always have a strong spot in the history of true crime.  And for good reason.

Perhaps you have heard of them too? Or have at least watched Murder by Numbers... a film loosely based on the two (which was just ok).  The audio is great - Angela Dawe is a fantastic narrator.  Even though I knew this story, it was fun to listen and get a little bit of a different view.  It was obvious that there was a lack of emotion - that they almost knew *how* they were supposed to act as opposed to naturally being this way.  Such began the journey to make sure they don't get the death penalty.  A turning point and start for the insanity defense.

Nature vs. nuture.  While both barely adults (at the age of eighteen) certainly had their differences, they were extremely loyal to each other.  Together as a team, they felt invincible.  Honestly, if you enjoy true crime, definitely pick this one up.  The story still fascinates me to this day.


Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Review: You've Lost a Lot of Blood by Eric LaRocca

You've Lost a Lot of Blood
by Eric LaRocca

Publish Date: March 11, 2022
236 Pages
Genre: Horror

"Each precious thing I show you in this book is a holy relic from the night we both perished-the night when I combed you from my hair and watered the moon with your blood.

You've lost a lot of blood . . ." 

My Review:

"Ambrose: It's a terrible story.  There's no point to it other than to disturb the listener. Martyr: Sometimes that *is* the point."

Uff. Love the conversations between Ambrose and Martyr.  I found them utterly fascinating and now want to take some of their conversations and forge them with friends of my own.  The tone that is set between them from pompous and condescending to almost pure intellect without the empathy... took a little getting used to but I found myself curious to get back to their part of the story.

Now, it's difficult enough to write a book within a book, but a novella within a novella? What? Just HOW.  Also, I LOVED the novella within.  I was very much into that story than the other side and I absolutely was thrilled beyond about where that went in itself.  You'll just have to read this for that part alone!

I was a bit lost as to how this was all going to come together.  It felt very disjointed and I wasn't quite as *into* this as I was with the last two novellas I read from this author.  However, that's probably more of a me thing than anything else.  Once I realized what was going, I was once again impressed with LaRocca's genius.  I want to live in his gray matter for a few days just to see how things work.  DISTURB ME.

I can see why this is either a hit or miss for readers.  But, for me, it was worth the journey to get to the end.  A part of it reminded me of a movie I can't mention or it'll just give it all away. And, as always, a pure mind fuck. I will read anything they write. ANYTHING.


Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Review: The Book of Cold Cases by Simone St. James #ATBR2022

The Book of Cold Cases
by Simone St. James

Thanks so much to Berkley for this gifted book.

Publisher: Berkley
Publish Date: March 15, 2022
Kindle Edition
352 Pages
Genres: Thriller, Mystery, Paranormal

A true crime blogger gets more than she bargained for while interviewing the woman acquitted of two cold case slayings in this chilling new novel from the New York Times bestselling author of The Sun Down Motel.

In 1977, Claire Lake, Oregon, was shaken by the Lady Killer Murders: Two men, seemingly randomly, were murdered with the same gun, with strange notes left behind. Beth Greer was the perfect suspect--a rich, eccentric twenty-three-year-old woman, seen fleeing one of the crimes. But she was acquitted, and she retreated to the isolation of her mansion.

Oregon, 2017Shea Collins is a receptionist, but by night, she runs a true crime website, the Book of Cold Cases--a passion fueled by the attempted abduction she escaped as a child. When she meets Beth by chance, Shea asks her for an interview. To Shea's surprise, Beth says yes.

They meet regularly at Beth's mansion, though Shea is never comfortable there. Items move when she's not looking, and she could swear she's seen a girl outside the window. The allure of learning the truth about the case from the smart, charming Beth is too much to resist, but even as they grow closer, Shea senses something isn't right. Is she making friends with a manipulative murderer, or are there other dangers lurking in the darkness of the Greer house?

My Review:

Hello! Good morning!  If you love atmospheric, suspenseful, eerie reads, you simply must pick up any of Simone's books. Every time I read something by this author, I think that I'm going to hear whispering rather than a dial tone every time I pick up a phone.  That maybe it wasn't I who turned on that faucet.  That those aren't branches knock, knocking on my window.  Oh no, she dives deeper than that and there's no where you can go to escape the goosies that pop up all over your body.  

If you're fascinated with true crime like I am, then this book will hit a lot of notes for you!  Shea, "Girl A", was a victim at a very young age.  As an adult, she became obsessed with true crime and started her own blog called "The Book of Cold Cases" - all unsolved crimes - one of which turns up unexpectedly for her in the case of Beth Greer.  Greer grants Shea the chance to interview her and well... sometimes you really do have to be careful what you wished for. 

Two parts to this story.  Two women with sordid pasts.  What's the truth and what will remain cold?  Y'all are gonna have to read this to find out.  Simone comes at us readers hard again with the supernatural elements that really do get under your skin.  I did feel that it slowed down a bit towards the middle, as most suspenseful novels tend to do... but then we are rewarded at the end. Definitely one to add to your TBR.  Another fave author of mine.  


Jessica's Review:

Another incredible book from St. James! THE BOOK OF COLD CASES is the perfect combination of true crime and eerie suspense plus the supernatural elements I loved from her previous book! A true crime junkie, a woman acquitted of murder, and a spooky old mansion are what wait for you inside this quick read. 

Shea is a bored receptionist by day and a passionate true crime blogger by night. Her main focus being on cold cases and trying to do as much research as she can to try and solve them. While at her day job, she crosses paths with Beth Greer, a woman that she recognizes but can't quite place, until it clicks. Beth Greer was acquitted of two murders back in the 1970s and then retreated into her mansion, but the two murders remained unsolved. Shea gets the opportunity of a lifetime and gets to interview Beth for her blog at Greer mansion. A spooky and eerie old house that Shea never truly feels at ease in. Is Shea getting in over her head?

I loved this book and the creepy and unsettling atmosphere that St. James creates for the readers that just sucks you in. Despite there being a small lull in the middle this book still went by really fast. I will continue to pick up whatever Simone releases in the future. A definite win for me!

4 stars

Saturday, March 26, 2022

Review: We Can Never Leave This Place by Eric LaRocca

We Can Never Leave This Place
by Eric LaRocca

Thanks so much to the author for this gifted copy.

Publisher: JournalStone
Publish Date: June 24, 2022
Kindle Edition
92 Pages
Genre: Horror

"When you're given a gift, something else gets taken away."

A precocious young girl with an unusual imagination is sent on an odyssey into the depths of depravity. After her father dies violently, young Mara is surprised to find her mother welcoming a new guest into their home, claiming that he will protect them from the world of devastation and destruction outside their door.

A grotesque and thrilling dark fantasy, We Can Never Leave This Place is a harrowing portrait of inherited grief and familial trauma.

My Review:

"From baby teeth to virginity, to live is to regularly suffer loss."

THANK FUCKING GOD.  Not at that quote, though that will stick with me for a while, but this whole story! Fuck.  LaRocca is high, HIGH on my favorite horror novella, short story writer EVER.  And this is HUGE for me. GINORMOUS.  

Reading this was like living my worst nightmare.  *SHIVER*  Are fever nightmares a category because that's where I would put this.  Grief horror.  Vivid depravity.  Charlotte and Mommy Dearest got NOTHING on this book.  Ok, ok, I should try to calm down.  I spent the majority of the book with a cringe look on my face because phew, these guests that were welcomed in are things I actively try to avoid.  Except for one... ok maybe two things.. but I digress.  Y'all don't want to hear about my phobias.  When it all starting clearing up at the end, I couldn't help but smile. Like huge, creepy smile as I was so satisfied with it all.  Though I also really need a shower now. Bless. 

I fell in love with his writing after reading THINGS HAVE GOTTEN WORSE SINCE WE LAST SPOKE.  I absolutely LOVED that book and all it's WTFness.  And just bought YOU'VE LOST A LOT OF BLOOD. Seriously y'all.  If you can stomach it, you HAVE to read their books!

Also, I love Mara.  The end.


Thursday, March 24, 2022

Review: Parachute by Holly Rae Garcia

by Holly Rae Garcia

A huge thanks to the author for this gifted copy.

Publisher: Easton Falls Publishing
Publish Date: May 20, 2022
120 Pages
Genres: Horror

Angela Rodriguez and her friends aren’t sure what they want out of life now that they’ve graduated high school, but they think there is plenty of time to figure it all out. When a trip to an abandoned elementary school leads to a break-in, they discover an old gym parachute.

Raising the fabric above their heads, the group expects it to balloon out around them like it did when they were younger. But instead, the parachute reveals alternate universes and terrifying worlds.

There’s only one rule…


My Review:

Garcia gave me feelings about Bigfoot in The Easton Falls Massacre Bigfoot's Revenge I read a couple years ago so when given the opportunity to read her latest, PARACHUTE, I jumped at the chance. JUMPED!  (honestly, no pun intended.. parachute, jump.. get it?  Yeah, I'll see myself out.... (ahem).  I LOVE it when a book brings back childhood memories and I had completely forgotten about the Parachute game from my childhood gym class.  Do they even do this anymore??? I mean, they SHOULD... but maybe not so much in the way this novella shows it. 😉

Could you imagine? Every time you lifted the parachute to be in this cute and fun air bubble with your friends, you're instead sent to varying worlds... and none of them seem that pleasurable the further you go along.  You think you figured out the rules but maybe it isn't as clear cut as you thought.  PHEW! I felt the heaviness of the gravity of it all in varying ways.  I understood the plight to want and need to go back and back and back and.... I'm also so curious as to how many other adventures lay waiting underneath the thick, colorful cloth. 

The more I read, the more I wanted more.  And that ending... it was a *bit* abrupt ... I have feelings and wants about it all.   But what a fun, FUN novella!!! I'm going to heed the author's advice in the acknowledgments and "just,  you know, try to avoid old gym parachutes."  Though, knowing me, if I ever came across one..... 😏


Monday, March 21, 2022

Review: Fear by Natasha Preston

by Natasha Preston

Thanks to PRHAudio for this free audiobook.

Publisher: Penguin House Random Audio
Publish Date:  March 1, 2022
8 Hrs 54 min
Genres: Young Adult, Thriller

Don't be afraid. Be terrified.

It’s just a stupid meme that’s going around their small fishing town in the dead of winter—people reposting and sharing their biggest fear. But when her classmates start turning up dead—dying in the way that they said scared them the most—Izzy knows it’s no joke.

With each death hitting closer to home, Izzy sets out to try to stop the killer. Could her older sister’s friend Tristan have something to do with the deaths? He’s given her some strange vibes. Or what about his brooding cousin, Axel? But he’s in her classes at school. He’s not a murderer . . . is he? Izzie’s soon on a path that will lead her right to the killer . . . and her own worst nightmare.

My Review:

Welllllllllllll,  I liked the premise.  There are far too many trends going on these days that can cause irreparable harm and nothing is more harmful than death. Ahem.  Have you ever thought about how you would die or what you would fear the most?  Fire over Cold? Accident prone? There are a gazillion ways we can die and while dying is not something most people look forward to, there are also things that scare us more than others.  And what if someone took that fear and made it come true?  Right? Great premise!

Unfortunately, this one just didn't work for me.  I should have reread the synopsis as for some reason, I did not think this was YA so was not expecting that point of view.  However, even with getting used to the idea that teenagers are "on the case", this one got a bit jump sharky in my opinion.  And that ending... Um, why? I can't decide how I exactly feel about it.

In the long run, it was an easy listen but I found the characters whiny and naïve.  Exactly what you would probably expect from the young and, ahem, *innocent*.  Maybe I just wasn't in the right mood for this one.  Or maybe I'd moved past YA thrillers? meep.  It has definitely reinforced my rolly eyed tendencies toward weird social media trends.  Stay safe out there, folks.


Wednesday, March 16, 2022

Review: Sundial by Catriona Ward #ATBR2022

by Catriona Ward

Huge thanks to TorNightfire for these gifted books!

Publisher: TorNightfire
Publish Date: March 1, 2022
304 Pages
Genre: Psychological Horror

Sundial is a new, twisty psychological horror novel from Catriona Ward, internationally bestselling author of The Last House on Needless Street.

You can't escape what's in your blood...

All Rob wanted was a normal life. She almost got it, too: a husband, two kids, a nice house in the suburbs. But Rob fears for her oldest daughter, Callie, who collects tiny bones and whispers to imaginary friends. Rob sees a darkness in Callie, one that reminds her too much of the family she left behind.

She decides to take Callie back to her childhood home, to Sundial, deep in the Mojave Desert. And there she will have to make a terrible choice.

Callie is worried about her mother. Rob has begun to look at her strangely, and speaks of past secrets. And Callie fears that only one of them will leave Sundial alive…

The mother and daughter embark on a dark, desert journey to the past in the hopes of redeeming their future. 
My Review:

Jacks and Robs and Callies and Annies and dogs and maggots... oh my! 
Ward is 2 for 2!  If you haven't read The Last House on Needless Street - or you tried and gave up, try try again!! Now I know not every book is for every reader but Ward is DEFINITELY the author for me!  Like with Needless Street, Ward dishes up a lively concoction of suspense and craziness that had me confused for the majority of the read.  Then WHAM, BAM, femur over the head - yesssssssss - bloody goodness!
I did get confused a little bit on who was who with the dolls and what not but not gonna lie, once my brain kicked in, I kinda wish there was a doll of me somewhere.. (no, no I don't).  The sisterly love, competitiveness, twin awareness, secret languages... it's all here and dangggggg these characters are all a bit wonky.  I only cleverly (pats back) figured out one part of the book but I was NOT expecting it to go in the direction that it did.  I felt like I was on the best acid trip of my life - even if the subject matter was a bit solemn and WTF-y.  But damn do I love Ward's mind. I especially looooooooove books that touch on nature vs nurture.  I can read about this ALL THE TIME.  And the way the author brings this to light is quite interesting for sure.
This is another one where you'll need to stick with it to the end to really get a full grasp on the storyline and feel for all the confusion you might encounter along the way.  But damn, the journey is quite worth it in my opinion.
Every time Cielo was mentioned I kept thinking it was referring to the night club I got kicked out of once... but that's a whole different story.  READ THIS BOOK.
Happy, smiling face. 😀

Jessica's Review:

So last year I picked up The Last House on Needless Street because Chandra had told me it was incredible and that the ending was worth the build. Well, she wasn't kidding because it was a surprising five star read for me and that ending just sticks with you long after you've finished. The same goes for Ward's newest book, SUNDIAL.

Another book that had me completely mesmerized from the start yet also mildly confused, which of course piques the curiosity to continue to see where this could possibly be going. Despite the slower pacing (at times) it is another one that is worth holding out until the ending. The characters are incredibly flawed in their own ways and nothing is ever as it seems, especially when you're out in the middle of the desert. I love how dark Ward's mind is because I need more of her books ASAP.

If you love horror and psychological suspense then you just need to do yourself a favor and get this book (and Needless Street while you're at it). Of course, with the horror genre there are always elements that might not be for everyone, so definitely keep that in mind. Creepy, atmospheric, bleak, bloody, family dysfunction, multiple POVs, and plenty of suspense to keep you glued. Highly recommend both of her books and she has now cemented herself as a new autobuy author for me.

5 stars

Review: Recitatif by Toni Morrison

by Toni Morrison
Narrated by Bahni Turpin
Intro Narrated by Zadie Smith

Thanks to PRH Audio for this gifted audiobook.

Publisher: Random House Audio
Publish Date: February 1, 2022 (first published 1983)
1 hour 53 minutes
Genres: Short Stories, Literary Fiction

A beautiful, arresting short story by Toni Morrison--the only one she ever wrote--about race and the relationships that shape us through life, with an introduction by Zadie Smith.

Twyla and Roberta have known each other since they were eight years old and spent four months together as roommates in the St. Bonaventure shelter. Inseparable at the time, they lose touch as they grow older, only to find each other later at a diner, then at a grocery store, and again at a protest. Seemingly at opposite ends of every problem, and in disagreement each time they meet, the two women still cannot deny the deep bond their shared experience has forged between them.

Written in 1980 and anthologized in a number of collections, this is the first time Recitatif is being published as a stand-alone hardcover. In the story, Twyla's and Roberta's races remain ambiguous. We know that one is white and one is black, but which is which? And who is right about the race of the woman the girls tormented at the orphanage?

Morrison herself described this story as "an experiment in the removal of all racial codes from a narrative about two characters of different races for whom racial identity is crucial." Recitatif is a remarkable look into what keeps us together and what keeps us apart, and about how perceptions are made tangible by reality.

My Review:

Let me just start by kicking myself for never reading Morrison before now. I know, I KNOW!  Zadie Smith narrates the introduction to this short story and her voice is butter - I could listen to her ALL DAY LONG.  So very soothing.  Which led to how it was a little jarring when Bahni's voice came over my ear buds because I felt like I was almost in a trance from listening to Zadie!  Both are amazing narrators though (and yes, I still need to read Zadie too!). Anyhow.....

There's so much to be said about this short story.  You know there are two girls who meet at the age of 8.  You know one is Black and the other is White.  But you never know which one is which.  Roberta and Twyla.  At odds with each other from the very beginning and yet someone strongly bonded to each other. As a reader, did I find myself trying to figure out who was who?  I surely did but I wonder had I not read the synopsis or listened to Zadie's essay, would I have?  Probably... but can't say that 100%.  However, I find myself still marveling at how genius Morrison was in writing a short story in a way that leads you wondering.  It's a testament in how incredibly talented she is but also shows us, the reader, that while we all have our differences, at the core we are all just human.

If you haven't already read this, take a moment to do so.  I need to run and pick up some Toni and Zadie reads now - any recommendations?


Tuesday, March 15, 2022

Review: If I Had Your Face by Frances Cha

If I Had Your Face
by Frances Cha

Thank you PRHAudio for this gifted audiobook.

Publisher: Random House Audio
Publish Date: April 21, 2020
8 hours 10  minutes
Genre: Contemporary

A riveting debut novel set in contemporary Seoul, Korea, about four young women making their way in a world defined by impossibly high standards of beauty, secret room salons catering to wealthy men, strict social hierarchies, and K-pop fan mania.

"Even as a girl, I knew the only chance I had was to change my face... even before a fortune-teller told me so."

Kyuri is a heartbreakingly beautiful woman with a hard-won job at a "room salon," an exclusive bar where she entertains businessmen while they drink. Though she prides herself on her cold, clear-eyed approach to life, an impulsive mistake with a client may come to threaten her livelihood.

Her roomate, Miho, is a talented artist who grew up in an orphanage but won a scholarship to study art in New York. Returning to Korea after college, she finds herself in a precarious relationship with the super-wealthy heir to one of Korea's biggest companies.

Down the hall in their apartment building lives Ara, a hair stylist for whom two preoccupations sustain her: obsession with a boy-band pop star, and a best friend who is saving up for the extreme plastic surgery that is commonplace.

And Wonna, one floor below, is a newlywed trying to get pregnant with a child that she and her husband have no idea how they can afford to raise and educate in the cutthroat economy.

Together, their stories tell a gripping tale that's seemingly unfamiliar, yet unmistakably universal in the way that their tentative friendships may have to be their saving grace.

My Review:

If you're looking for a very plot driven book, this will not satiate your needs.  But if you're looking for a very character driven novel of friendship, Korean culture, societal norms, gender roles and trying so hard to keep up with unrealistic beauty.. well, dive on in.

Cha's writing is very in your face, which I didn't mind at all...and not meant to be punny considering the title... ahem.  Cha gives us a reality check in how women's beauty standards are way too unfathomable and the women who are doing every thing they can to meet them. It's exhausting. Creased eye lids, smaller noses, more defined cheek bones, lashes, eye color - it never ends.  We are all aware of the popularity of Korean beauty products, k-dramas and k-pop.  Now imagine being a Korean women, looking for a husband, being told they need to change this or that... what's the sense in all of this? And yet it is ingrained in our culture - most every culture in fact.

Sidebar: do you remember that article years ago about the Chinese man who divorced and sued his wife he couldn't understand why his daughter came out so ugly and didn't resemble the parents.  HE WON. She spent thousands upon thousands of money on plastic surgery.  Judge agreed he got married under false pretenses. Sigh. Y'all.... 

Anyway - I wanted a bit more from these characters.  I enjoyed their struggles and relationships - we all need support.  But I did feel it all ended a bit abruptly and I wanted a bit more. Honestly, I have mixed feelings about the whole thing.  It's brilliant in its own right - especially as a debut.  But it didn't *quite* give me that punch I was expecting.


Sunday, March 13, 2022

Review: Smile and Look Pretty by Amanda Pellegrino

Smile and Look Pretty
by Amanda Pellegrino

Thanks so much to Park Row for these gifted books!

Publisher: Park Row
Publish Date: March 8, 2022
Kindle Edition
349 Pages
Genre: Contemporary

A whip-smart, piercing debut novel, Smile and Look Pretty follows four assistants who band together to take on their toxic office environments in the ultimate comeuppance.

Online they're the Aggressive One, the Bossy One, the Bitchy One and the Emotional One. In real life, best friends Cate, Lauren, Olivia and Max all have one thing in common--they're overworked, overtired and underpaid assistants to some of the most powerful men in the entertainment industries. When they secretly start an anonymous blog detailing their experiences, their posts go viral and hundreds of other women come forward with stories of their own. Confronted with the risks of newfound fame and the possibility of their identities being revealed, they have to contend with what happens when you try to change the world.

Gripping, razor sharp and scathingly funny, Smile and Look Pretty is a fast-paced millennial rallying cry about the consequences of whistleblowing for an entire generation, and a testament to the strength of female friendship and what can be accomplished when women come together. 

My Review:

What's the worst thing your boss/ex-boss ever done to make you feel like crap? Or that was just totally outside your job description?  I once had a lawyer ask me to cut his meat up for him - and that is NOT a euphemism. And that was just a small taste of how entitled he was - I lasted a whole 2 months at that job. You can't pay me enough to be treated like trash.  I've gotten a manager fired for sexual harassment, have caught bosses staring at my ass or been handsy.  I think probably most, if not every, woman has gone through something like this in their work life at some point... tragically.

SMILE AND LOOK PRETTY brings us four female assistants in their mid-twenties who work their ass off just to get looked over... over and over again.  Reading their experiences, some were somewhat shocking but still I could see them happening. No assistant EVER should be put in a position where they can tally how many times they've seen their boss's penis. WHAT.  They decide to put out a blog called Twentysomething that allows women who have been treated terribly in their positions to vent and talk about their issues anonymously.  And, of course, this goes VIRAL.  

As we have seen through the #metoo movement, and possibly through our own experiences, most of the time harassment of this kind can be washed over or there are little to no consequences.  But what WOULD happen if so many people just said NO.  Demanded the respect they deserved?  NOT be scared at how easily replaceable they could be and how there are thousands, if not millions, of people readily available to take their place with a snap of the fingers.  The manager I got "fired", I found out later, was just transferred to a different restaurant.  Um, that doesn't really solve the problem, now does it? 

In any case - this book gives us pure millennial anger and power.  But let it be known that this doesn't just happen to the younger women... or to *just* women in general - men and them are also harassed or treated poorly on the daily.  I loved this book as it just hit home, unfortunately, in too many ways.  Was it a little too neat at the end? For me, yes but fuck it.  I would 1000000% watch the adaptation to this and could see Zoe Kravitz, Jennifer Lawrence, Zendaya and Olivia Munn as the leads for some reason.

Loved the friendship between these four women.  Remember y'all, there's not only powers in numbers, there's power in YOU.


Jessica's Review:

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when starting this book but I was pleasantly surprised and found a new author to keep on my radar. SMILE AND LOOK PRETTY is a solid debut for Amanda Pellegrino and revolves around four friends that start a blog venting about their day-to-day lives in their professions but when it gets bigger than they ever imagined possible there comes the obstacle of keeping anonymous for as long as possible!

Cate, Lauren, Olivia, and Max are all assistants for some powerful men in the entertainment industry – which as we can only imagine comes with high stress situations, outrageous demands, and unfortunately some mistreatment in the workplace. Cate is an assistant to the head of a major book publisher, Max is an assistant at a news station and ordered around by the lead anchor, Lauren is an assistant on a show, and Olivia is an actor’s assistant. All of them are subjected to sexual harassment, demeaning comments, being used for personal errands, and all while having their dreams dangled in front of them. The meet for drinks every week to vent to each other about their horrible bosses and that’s when Twentysomething is born – a blog where they can vent about their day-to-day treatment but must use nicknames (due to NDAs) and remain as anonymous as possible. Well, things get complicated when their blog goes viral. Should they remain anonymous or should they go public and face the inevitable?

I loved the writing and thought all the characters were really well-developed. I felt for them all and shared in their frustrations with how they were being treated and I just wanted them to get the revenge they deserved to enjoy. I thought this had a great pacing to it and will definitely be keeping an eye out for more from Pellegrino in the future!

4 stars

Saturday, March 12, 2022

Review: Love, Decoded by Jennifer Yen

Love, Decoded
by Jennifer Yen
Narrated by Annie Q

Thanks so much to Razorbill and PRHAudio for these gifted books.

Publisher: Penguin Random House Audio
Publish Date: March 8, 2022
9 hrs 7 min
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult, Retelling

High school junior Gigi Wong strives to be the best: the top student, the perfect friend, and the ideal daughter. But it’s tough when there's always someone who is just a little bit better. With college applications looming, she can't help but worry that she won't make the cut. Thankfully, her best friend Kyle never fails to find the right words--and the perfect bowl of ramen--to cheer her up.

After her teacher, Ms. Harris, announces she'll be nominating students for an app writing contest, Gigi is determined to be picked. After all, first prize is an exclusive tech internship, sure to make her application stand out. There's only one problem: she doesn't have a winning program. It isn't until transfer student Etta admits she's struggling to fit in at Superbia that Gigi stumbles on an idea. She'll use her coding skills--and the matchmaking experience she's gotten from weekends with Auntie Rose--to create a friend matching app! Etta will meet new people, and Gigi will guarantee her acceptance into college. It's foolproof.

What Gigi doesn't expect is for her app to go viral around school. Soon, she finds herself at the center of a scandal—and at odds with both Etta and Kyle. Can Gigi fix what went wrong, or will her desire to be perfect cost her the people she cares about most?

My Review:

Ok, this was such a super cute book!! Was it a bit cheesy? Well yes, but I expected that.  And apparently this is a retelling of Emma? Never read it so don't know but in case you did.... 😉 Auntie Rose's matchmaking technique gave me Indian Matchmaking vibes (sidebar: I can't wait for season 2!).  And like most younger generationals (not a real word but work with me here), Gigi thinks she can streamline it/adapt it with her coding! And, of course, she's right!  But don't knock old school ways either.. .just sayin'.

Honestly, I really love Gigi - she's blinded by her determination but quickly learns all her lessons.  It's nice to see the "less popular" crowd sticking up for each other.  Gigi also has the greatest intentions but sometimes goes about things in not the best manner.  A huge heart... I liked her dynamics with Etta, Kyle, her aunt, etc... she just seemed like a really REAL teen if that makes sense.  And an Asian cast repping various Asian cultures? YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS.

I want to point out that Annie Q did an amazing job narrating this book.  I'm starting to learn the audiobook ropes now. 🤣  This is my first Yen but I'm gonna run and grab A Taste for Love.  Dang, Asian centered books always make me so hungry!! Hey Kyle, can you run to Ippudo for me and bring me some ramen?  Yes, the spicy kind... k, thanks!

Seriously y'all, this is a treat of a book and exactly what I needed right now.  Go snag yourself a copy.


Tuesday, March 8, 2022

Review: The Accomplice by Lisa Lutz

The Accomplice
by Lisa Lutz
Narrated by Lisa Flanagan

Thanks to Ballantine Books and PRHAudio for this book.

Publisher: PRHAudio
Publish Date: January 25, 2022
8 hours
Genres: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense

Everyone has the same questions about best friends Owen and Luna: What binds them together so tightly? Why weren't they ever a couple? And why do people around them keep turning up dead? In this riveting novel from the 'New York Times' best-selling author of 'The Passenger', every answer raises a new, more chilling question.

Owen Mann is charming, privileged, and chronically dissatisfied. Luna Grey is secretive, cautious, and pragmatic. Despite their differences, they begin forming a bond the moment they meet in college. Their names soon become indivisible — Owen and Luna, Luna and Owen — and stay that way even after an unexplained death rocks their social circle.

They're still best friends years later, when Luna finds Owen's wife brutally murdered. The police investigation sheds some light on long-hidden secrets, but it can't penetrate the wall of mystery that surrounds Owen. To get to the heart of what happened and why, Luna has to dig up the one secret she's spent her whole life burying.

'THE ACCOMPLICE' examines the bonds of shared history, what it costs to break them, and what happens when you start wondering if you ever truly knew the only person who truly knows you.

My Review:

Finally! A book where the leads are friends that don't turn into lovers. REJOICE!  Luna is quite the character with her idiosyncrasies and past traumas.  But I do so love her attitude and how the author shows that typical sway of how men are interested in those who just don't give is a shit over a girl is way too over available.  Le sigh.

But alas, do YOU like people? Here's the question that starts their entire friendship and I was riveted... until I wasn't.  I love that suspenseful feel we get through the entire read but I think I was expecting that beat to drop and when it came down to what should've felt like an explosive part, it just kinda fizzled.  I think the ending may have tried a little too much. *shrug*

This is my third by this author and I would absolutely recommend The Swallows as it is currently my favorite by Lutz.  This, and the Passengers, were fun reads and Lutz does a fantastic job of bringing the reader in.  Unfortunately, I felt the air go out of this balloon with this ending.  

Friendships, family trauma, secrets... it's all in here.  If you prefer the character driven part where we learn about Luna and Owen and how their friendship develops and maintains over time, I'd definitely recommend this.  If you're looking for explosive twists that leave your head spinning... well, it's not going to happen here.


Monday, March 7, 2022

Review: The Violence by Delilah S. Dawson #ATBR2022

The Violence
by Delilah S. Dawson 
Narrated by Hillary Huber

A huge thanks to PRHAudio and Del Rey Books for these gifted copies.

Publisher: Del Rey Books & Random House Audio
Publish Date: February 1, 2022
18hrs 22 min
Genres: Horror, Thriller, Science Fiction, Dystopia

Three generations of abused women must navigate their chilling new reality as a mysterious epidemic of violence sweeps the nation in this compelling novel of self-discovery, legacy, and hope.

When Chelsea Martin kisses her husband hello at the door of their perfect home, a chilled bottle of beer in hand and dinner on the table, she may look like the ideal wife, mother, and homemaker - but in fact, she’s following an unwritten rulebook, carefully navigating David’s stormy moods in a desperate nightly bid to avoid catastrophe. If family time doesn’t go exactly the way David wants, bad things happen - to Chelsea, and to the couple’s 17-year-old daughter, Ella. Cut off from all support, controlled, and manipulated for years, Chelsea has no resources and no one to turn to. Her wealthy, narcissistic mother, Patricia, would rather focus on the dust on her chandelier than acknowledge Chelsea’s bruises. After all, Patricia’s life looks perfect on the surface, too.

But the façade crumbles when a mysterious condition overtakes the nation. Known as the Violence, it causes the infected to experience sudden, explosive bursts of animalistic rage and attack anyone in their path. The ensuing chaos brings opportunity for Chelsea - and inspires a plan to liberate herself and her family once and for all. 

My Review:

You think COVID is bad, wait until you get THE VIOLENCE.  Welcome to the post-COVID world where anyone can get THE VIOLENCE.  A disease that causes its victim to kill whomever is in their way.  They have no recollection of it and come out of an episode in a haze.  If you're reported with The Violence, then you're sent to a camp.  You want to vaccine?  That'll be $10,000 please and thank you.  'Cause you know, we ALL have that kind of money hanging around.  Once again, the world helps the rich... sounds all too familiar, eh?

While this disease is definitely a major point of the story and plays its own part, the main focus is on Chelsea's family dynamic and what they are enduring.  While it may seem much for three generations to go through the same abuse... it's also quite truthful in how the dynamics we see as children can bleed into our adult lives.  I fell in love with the kids, Ella and Brooklyn and my favorite arc was of a character I won't mention but that I was happy to see.

Now, regardless of the title, I didn't think there was *too* much violence within the pages - at least not for the 500+ pages that we get.  But I also read a lot of horror so my idea of a lot of violence is probably different than yours.  Not to say that some scenes may shock you so those with a low tolerance may find it a bit gruesome.  I did kind of have to laugh at the VFR - which is basically pro wrestling for those with The Violence and while that might have been a little shark jumpy, let's be real - I could absolutely see people doing this because unfortunately... that is how this world works.

The narrator was amazing and for such a long book, I was riveted from the very beginning and well worth the 18+ hours of listening.  Come for The Violence, stay for all the underlying themes and domestic suspense.


Jessica's Review:

When picking up THE VIOLENCE by Delilah S. Dawson, I will say that I was mildly intimidated due the 500+ pages and most books I read lately are in the 300 page range. Let me tell you, don’t let it deter you from starting because it went by so fast! There weren’t any lulls and everything had its purpose in the book – which is refreshing because a lot of times longer books can usually cut out some unnecessary things.

We have a new virus sweeping the nation being called The Violence. Why is it called that? Well, those infected with it can go into bouts of intense rage and can kill anyone that gets in their way then they wake up from a haze. Meanwhile, we meet Chelsea and her family. For multiple generations they have been stuck in a horrible cycle of abuse but this new virus might be presenting a unique opportunity for Chelsea and her kids. I think the synopsis gives the perfect amount of information without spoiling anything.

I loved the writing and this is so different from the other books I’ve read with Dawson cowriting (the Tales of Pell series, which is a fun series of funny fairytale adventures). If you’re not a fan of gore and blood then this might not be for you, because I feel like it’s pretty obvious to say there are some violent and gruesome scenes. I can’t wait for more from Dawson!

5 stars

Friday, March 4, 2022

Review: Waif by Samantha Kolesnik

by Samantha Kolesnik

Publisher: Grindhouse Press
Publish Date: December 1, 2021
Kindle Edition
122 Pages
Genres: Horror, Queer, Novella

Angela has everything she thought she ever wanted—a successful husband, a lavish house, and a bottomless fortune.

But the sight of a strange man in a grocery store one night reawakens her dormant sexuality and soon Angela embarks on a dangerous descent into the world of underground pornography and back-alley plastic surgery.

As the stakes get higher, long-buried memories resurface and Angela finds herself enamored with Reena, a fetish film performer. With some help from a queer gang called The Waifs, Angela is forced to make the decision between her unhappy upper-class life and the treacherous world of underground film.

My Review:

What the hell.... How did it go from there to THERE?!  I'm not quite sure what I just read but I kinda like it... I think. Angela doesn't seem to know who she is but she knows she hates her husband, Matt, with his robotic pumping and his very hairy inner thighs.  What she wants is a Ben who likes marshmallows.  She knows she can make him the happiest - not his tanned, very pregnant wife. Nope. 

Who is really the dominant one in this marriage? Maybe she won't do anything and everything to save it but he will most certainly try and that sets off a chain of events that went completely wonky and bizarre and somehow reminded me partially of an episode of AHS Freaks but then also so very unique of how past trauma can create weird new situations.  And how you can get used to ANYTHING if you have to.  Humans are quite freakin' resilient. You just gotta dig deep... even if it's within bloody bodies.

Is this story about trauma? Survival? Awakening sexuality? Bizarre surgeries and fetishes? Yes, yes it is.