book reviews

Book Review | Almost Mortal by Christopher Leibig

Almost Mortal by Christopher Leibig

► Adult, Legal Thriller, Fantasy

► Release Date: 5/1/16

► ★★★★


➸ I was gifted a copy of this book by the author in return for an honest review.

Sam Young, an up-and-coming defense attorney with psychic abilities, finds himself caught up in the investigation of a serial killer when a young nun named Camille Paradisi approaches him outside the courthouse one evening. Camille also shares journal entries that have been showing up piecemeal at the church that she believes could have been penned by the killer. The journal begins in the 1940’s, Argentina, and tells the life story of a person who claims to have mind control and to be the descendant of fallen angels cast out of heaven by God. Identifying the killer could put the pastor at the church at risk if they can’t find the murderer before he kills again. 

When I was asked to read and review this book I was bit on the fence about it. Legal thrillers are not normally my jam but with the supernatural addition I thought it might be something I’d enjoy. To my welcome surprise I really, really liked this book. Our main character Sam is likable, funny, smart, and enterprising. As we follow Sam through the day to day of being a lawyer we are introduced to a multitude of diverse and interesting characters. At the time I thought that while interesting, meeting all these people seemed to be just filler and not actually necessary to the story. But I was quite wrong on that front. You don’t know it at the time but all the relationships Sam is cultivating with his clients become quite relevant later on in the book. I was actually impressed with the way the author brought the story full circle with details I didn’t even realize were important at the time. One of the major strengths of this novel is definitely the characters and being a character-driven reader this really appealed to me. 

A couple other aspects I really liked about this story was the writing style and expertise. The author, Christopher Leibig, is a criminal defense lawyer with a postgraduate degree in forensics and it really shows. He was able to make this story more realistic and interesting with his intimate knowledge on the subject. He also wrote in a way that didn’t bore the reader to tears with all the forensic jargon. I quite liked the time spent in court and talking about evidence; two things I never really thought were capable of entertaining me on any real level. On another note, I find that most books I really like usually have some humor in them so it’ll be no surprise that I found our main character to be pretty funny in a dry way. I found myself smiling a lot during the dialogue bits. 

So, what took off a star? In the beginning of the book when we are first being introduced to characters, I found that the authors way of describing women and overweight people to be insensitive and unattractive. When the nun, Camille, came into the picture the descriptions used to describe her were a bit too sexual for my taste especially given her life choice. He also emphasized her attractive and youthful appearance as if only old and unattractive women could be a nun. A short time later we meet an overweight woman who was described using words like “huge” and “colossal”. The main character did treat the women with empathy and caring but the insensitive way of describing them didn’t sit well with me and this may turn off some readers, especially those who consider themselves to be overweight. Looking back I really don’t think the author meant anything derogatory by the way these characters were written and hopefully his future books will be written with more sensitivity in that department. 

That is really the only criticism I have for this book. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this and will be picking up the sequel, Almost Damned, very soon. I’m very curious to see where this story will go next. I recommend this to both legal thriller and fantasy fans. And if you’re like me who normally wouldn’t read something like this but are intrigued? Give it a go! You won’t be disappointed.

Blog Tours, book reviews

Blog Tour | The Funny Thing About Norman Foreman by Julietta Henderson


➳ I was gifted an early copy of this book by Mira and Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

When reading a synopsis of a book each of us have buzz words or themes that jump out and indicate this will probably be a book you really enjoy. This book had a few of those for me, some I didn’t discover until I started reading, so let me share those with you here:

➳ adventure/road trip
➳ old man/grandfatherly character
➳ found family
➳ character-driven 
➳ humor

With a list like this there should be no doubt whatsoever as to why I loved this story. Norman is a lovely little boy with severe psoriasis who didn’t have many friends and definitely never had a best friend. That is until Jax came along. Jax managed to alienate every child in his class with his over-the-top behavior and potty mouth. So when he met Norman he knew he was likely his last chance at making a best friend and luckily Norman thought Jax was the best thing to happen to his class. 

They were “The Bloody Rolls-bloody-Royce of bloody best friends,” as Jax so eloquently put it.

Jax and Norman were 12 years old and had been fast friends for six years until a terrible tragedy struck and Jax died, leaving Norman with a gaping hole in his world that he didn’t know how to fill. Out of desperation to lift Norman’s spirits his mother, Sadie, blurts out that she would take Norman to the Fringe, a comedy festival that Norman and Jax had always dreamed of performing at. And even though they weren’t planning to go for 3 more years Norman jumps on the opportunity to honor is friend by living their dream; even if Norman was the not-funny one. 

Sadie, at a loss as to how she can possibly get her son a spot at the Fringe and also help him find his father, the second thing on his newly minted five-year plan list, she vents to her elderly friend, Leonard, about it who then decides he’s going to help Sadie and Norman make this dream come true one way or another. Sadie is worried that her son doesn’t have what it takes to get on the stage so Leonard arranges for Norman to perform at several open mic nights in various cities on their way to Edinburgh. But it turns out that Norman, Leonard, and Sadie learn a lot more than how to perfect a comedy show on this adventure full of hijinks, laughter, tears, and facing your fears.

“Hold on to your hat, Norman, old man! You’re going to the Fringe, Baby!”

As I listed above some of my favorite things in books are old men and adventures and character-driven stories and this book hits the nail on all three heads and doesn’t miss. Leonard is the perfect grandfatherly character with his wise advice, steady demeanor, and determination. Not to mention that he’s just adorable- especially how he worships his lovely wife, Iris. He is exactly the type of friend Sadie needs in her life and on this trip. While Sadie loves her son more than life itself she is also a realistic and relatable mother. She isn’t perfect, stiff, and coiffed. She has flaws, makes mistakes, and tends to be a bit unorganized. She’s a person that all mothers can see themselves in even if they don’t want to admit it. And while we’re on the subject of realistic characters, Norman fits the bill perfectly. So many books and movies for adults present us with a carbon copy child that rarely acts like the way a real child would but that isn’t the case with Norman at all. He’s so well-written he practically stands up off the page. Characters are definitely one of Julietta Henderson’s many strengths. She really seems to understand the human condition. Along the way we meet many other characters, both fun and some not so much, but Leonard, Sadie, and Norman are the stars of the show.

This story had me smiling so big nearly the whole time and when I wasn’t smiling it’s because I was outright laughing… and sometimes crying. Another thing this author does exceptionally well is balancing tragedy with humor. Our characters are each dealing with their own set of hardships, some of them together and others alone, but they always manage to have a good time and laugh through the tears. Jax may have passed but he’s just as present in this story as if he was still right there beside this family. Both Sadie and Norman really loved Jax and deal with their grief in their own ways but one thing they have in common is thinking fondly on his crazy hijinks and using his outrageous advice and ideas to keep them going. I just love Jax and how full of life he was… so full of life that even after he was gone he still blinded both the characters and readers with his presence. 

Among everything else done well in this book I also thought the pacing was perfect. Just enough action to keep the momentum going until it rolls to a graceful stop at the end. This is a story of friendship, love, hope, and self discovery among a million other things. It may not have you on the edge of your seat and it may not be a literary masterpiece, But what it is is better than all that. It’s facing your fears and coming out the other side stronger. It’s accepting who you are and learning to love that person. It’s finding a place where you can think about the people you’ve loved and lost and smile instead of cry. It’s a story about a boy and his best friend and the people that love them.

I also want to mention that I was able to listen to a large portion of this on audio and I highly recommend it. The narrator does the three main characters voices beautifully and with aplomb. The nuances she added while reading, especially the funny parts, really elevated the reading experience. This story is great no matter how you consume it but if you like audiobooks you should add this one to your list!

Content Warnings: suicide (off page), death of a friend, death of a parent, bullying, grief, illness. 


About the Author

I was brought up in a book-loving family in the rainforests of North Queensland and I’ve been writing professionally for more than 25 years.

My work has appeared in books and publications in the US, UK and Australia. The Funny Thing About Norman Foreman is my first novel.

I divide my life between my home town of Melbourne, the UK and wherever else I can find winter!

Blog Tours, book reviews

Blog Tour | Her Dark Lies by J.T. Ellison

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | BookShop | Books-a-Million | Libro.fm | Audible | Kobo | Goodreads

Thank you to Netgalley and Mira for an ARC of this title. All opinions are my own.

Her Dark Lies takes place on the beautiful Isle Isola, Italy, where the Compton family owns an extensive villa. This is also where Claire will marry the love of her life, Jack Compton, and take her place in the very wealthy and prestigious family. Claire isn’t the first woman to wed the handsome Jack but the details surrounding the death of his first wife ten years earlier are a taboo subject with the Comptons-until they reach the island and suspicious things begin happening, leaving them no choice but to share the truth with Claire. What they don’t know is that Claire has some secrets of her own. 

“How romantic, how very gothic and creepy, and how very Compton to choose an island surrounded by sea monsters and exhausted birds to call their own.”

This is the first thriller to truly entertain and stump me in a long time. There are so many different aspects that I really liked about this book. First being the isolated island setting during severe storms that made leaving the island impossible. Not to mention that the hulking villa perched on the cliffs practically served as its own character with all its twists, turns, and surprises. There are a wealth of characters from the bride and groom and their families to the security and staff and they’re all fair game in this sordid tale of cat and mouse. 

“I have taken so many lives. The first time was the hardest. It gets easier after that.”

I knew who the antagonist was pretty early on but it’s not really meant to be a secret. What the reader is trying to discover is the HOW rather than the who and the fact that you never know who you can trust just adds another layer of suspense to the book. The chapters alternate between a few points of view, one being from the antagonist themselves who isn’t explicitly named but the information you’re given makes it clear that this person is in the villa and watching everything that’s going on and you are left trying to figure out how they are able to maneuver and know so many details without being seen. It’s a very clever storytelling device. 

“Our silences grew from two bent trees into a forest that provided shelter and safety.”

Some suspension of belief is necessary to make the ending and some other outcomes believable- but it was easy enough for me to do so. I was really hoping for a big AHA! moment but it never came resulting in the loss of a star. I felt that so much more could have been done to make the ending more twisty and shocking. As a whole I really enjoyed trying to guess what was happening and discovering the stories behind some of the juicier bits as they were slowly revealed. There was also a grandfather and two dogs in this book and those are two things I always enjoy in my stories. 

I recommend this book to anyone who likes a darker, more gothic mystery thriller with a large cast of characters, multiple points of view, and isolated settings. 

trigger warnings: Drug use (off page), domestic abuse, talk of suicide, loss of a loved one, grief.

All quotes used in this review were taken from an uncorrected proof and are subject to change.


About the Author

J.T. Ellison is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of more than 25 novels, and the EMMY® award winning co-host of the literary TV show A WORD ON WORDS. With millions of books in print, her work has won critical acclaim, prestigious awards, and has been published in 28 countries. Ellison lives in Nashville with her husband and twin kittens. Visit JT at FacebookTwitter, and Instagram for more insight into her wicked imagination.

Blog Tours, book reviews

Blog Tour | Honey Girl by Morgan Rogers


Thank you to Netgalley & Park Row Books for an advanced copy of this title. The following opinions are my own.

“I know who I am, but who are you? I woke up during the sunrise, and your hair and your skin and the freckles on your nose glowed like gold. Honey-gold. I think you are my wife, and I will call you Honey Girl.”

And so begins the sapphic romance between Grace Porter and Yuki Yamamoto; two lonely souls who found each other in the desert. Grace and her two roommates and best friends, Ximena and Agnes, are on a mini vacation in Las Vegas to celebrate Grace’s PhD in Astronomy. On their last night in the city Grace meets a girl with rose-pink cheeks and pitch-black hair. When she wakes up the following morning in her Las Vegas hotel room she finds a photo, a business card, and a note on the bed next to her. These are the only items she has connecting her to the woman she drunk-married the night before. She doesn’t remember her name but she can’t forget how the beautiful girl made her feel. With only these memento’s and snippets of a champagne-bubble dream, Grace and her girlfriends get on a plane and fly back to Portland, Oregon, where Grace must once again face her stark reality. The only thing Grace knows for certain is that she doesn’t want to give up her wife, whoever she is, or the connection they inexplicably have.

I’ll admit that this book started out on a bit of a bumpy course for me. The story felt a little disjointed and the prose didn’t seem to flow well. Dialogue didn’t smoothly segue into thought. Unfortunately when I read a book that starts out this way I have a hard time deciphering whether it’s the book or just me. I also felt the pacing was a little off with the first 40% of the book following Grace and her friends from day to day and then in the second half there were quite a few time jumps. This was necessary for the progression of the story but the book would have benefitted from a more consistent timeline. All in all these are pretty minor infractions. Where the book really shines is in the characters and their growth throughout the story. 

Grace’s mother lives in Southbury, Florida where Grace grew up among the trees in their orange grove. Grace’s father, the Colonel, took Grace and moved to Portland when she was quite young. Growing up in an unfamiliar city with only her father and lovely stepmother, Sharone, Grace slowly built her own family- an eclectic group of colorful humans that love and support one another above all else. Her two roommates, Agnes, the girl with claws and sharp teeth, and Ximena, the Spanish goddess who is the glue that holds them together, lean on one another and pick each other up when they need it. 

Grace works at the Tea House owned by the lovely Indian family that has adopted Grace as their own. Meera is the calm and supportive sister-figure, while Raj plays the role of big brother and protector. Baba Vihaan, their father, lovingly embraces Grace as if she is his own. Later, we meet Yuki, the gorgeous Japanese storyteller that Grace married in the desert along with her 3 roommates. Sani, the Native American MMA fighter, Dhorian, the dark-skinned resident doctor, and Fletcher, the silly and loving school teacher. 

The diversity in both ethnicity and sexuality make this a decadent and vibrant story. Different cultures and beliefs are touched upon throughout the book in subtle ways. Biracialism is front and center; Grace is half black and half white. The struggles she faces in both her life and her career are heartbreaking and appalling. Intersectionality also plays a big role in this book. The Colonel is both black and disabled; he lost a portion of his leg in the war. Grace is not only biracial but suffers with mental illness as well. And she isn’t the only one. Agnes is thriving with Ximena and Grace but she’s still battling with her illnesses. 

“I am here, says the darkness inside Grace. I am listening.”

Both Grace and Raj are buckling under the weight of their father’s expectations but in very different ways. While the Colonel is extremely strict and refuses to give an inch, Baba Vihaan is loving and warm but their culture demands the eldest son take over the family business when the patriarch dies whether Raj wants that life or not. 

When Grace decides to take some time for herself after eleven grueling years of non-stop education and job rejections that are based on her race and sexuality rather than her above board and absolutely stellar resume, she does so against the wishes of her very strict father. For the first time in her life she is making a decision for herself rather than someone else. Little does she know that flying to NYC and getting to know her wife will become the catalyst she needs to finally face her fears, confront the people that have hurt her, and begin the arduous task of freeing herself from many self-inflicted burdens. 

Grace is a brilliant astronomer, vastly knowledgable, and has the degrees and doctorate to prove it but when it comes to knowing her inner-self, the things she needs to make her happy, she is woefully inept. Following along on her journey of self-discovery is both heartbreaking and inspiring; I have a feeling her story will resonate with many people of color, especially women. These beautiful humans can read this story and feel seen. Whether the reader is black, biracial, Indian, Spanish, Japanese, Native American, disabled, Buddhist, lesbian, bi, gay, or straight- this story is a love letter to you. That being said I highly recommend reading an own-voices review; a review from someone who has shared the experiences of our main character. I suggest the following reviews for your perusal: Mina Reads & Ahtiya (BookinitWithAhtiya).

If you’re someone who loves diversity, strong female leads, found-family, or self-discovery in your stories than look no further. Morgan Rogers did a phenomenal job representing so many marginalized people. This is a novel that I read with google open on my phone to search all the new things I discovered while reading, whether it was about culture, food, or ethnicity. This is an absolute feast of a book!


You can also find me here:  bookstagram | twitter

The quotes used in this review were taken from an uncorrected proof and are subject to change upon publication.


About the Author

Morgan Rogers is a queer black millennial. She writes books for queer girls looking for their place in the world. She lives in Maryland and has a Shih Tzu named Nico and a cat named Grace that she would love to write into a story one day. Honey Girl is her debut novel.

book reviews

Book Review | You Have a Match by Emma Lord

You Have a Match by Emma Lord

☾ Young Adult, Contemporary

☾ Release Date: 1/12/21

☾ My Rating: ★★★★★


Thank you to Wednesday Books and Netgalley for an early copy of this book. The following opinions are my own. 

I was on the blog tour for Emma Lord’s debut Tweet Cute last year. I really liked Emma’s writing style and decided to request an early copy of her sophomore novel as well. And…WOW. You Have a Match was excellent. Emma put on display her total mastery of the art of storytelling in this book. I liked her debut but it can’t hold a candle to her second novel in my opinion. 

You Have a Match opens with Abby Day and her best friends, Leo and Connie, submitting a DNA test for an anthropology paper they’re working on. When the results come back revealing that Abby has a full-blooded older sister she is in complete shock. And when she realizes her older sister is the instagram Influencer Savannah Tully and that she lives only 30 minutes away she can’t turn her back on the opportunity to meet her and to possibly uncover the truth of the why behind her secret sister’s existence. 

It’s so hard to decide where to start with a book that encompasses SO MUCH. You’ve got wholesome and 100% fleshed-out characters, you’ve got a lovely doggy sidekick, a wonderful and warm grandpa (in memory), friend groups you’ll downright envy, organic character growth, love interests with ALL THE CHEMISTRY, a summer camp setting with huge skies and bonfires and nature that will bury you in nostalgia, and the family-owned coffee shop lending its smells and cozy atmosphere to the story. There is photography and foodie wars and so much more. I wanted to LIVE in this story. After the third time I lost count how many times the tears ran down my face- these characters just touch your heart so deeply. 

Where Twitter was the foundation of Tweet Cute its Instagram in You Have a Match. Savvy’s adoptive parents are quirky and rich and absolutely obsessed with health and wellness. In an attempt to make something that can be all-consuming into something fun Savvy and her best friend Mickey started an Instagram account highlighting all the ways to incorporate healthy living into your life while also making it enjoyable. She’s also very open with her sexuality on her account, not shying away from the fact that she likes girls. Throughout the book we see how something that starts out as fun can become all-consuming and mean that you’re missing out on important experiences happening all around you and how it can be hard to juggle being an influencer and also being just human.

Instagram also plays a part in Abby’s life; not only does she take staged photos of Leo’s amazing food creations for his account, but Leo himself created an instagram for Abby’s photography and takes it upon himself to share her best photos there. Abby is too shy to share her work so Leo does this in an attempt to show her how wonderful her photos truly are. Abby is also too shy to tell Leo how she really feels about him, especially after an embarrassing incident happens and changes their friend group dynamic. Connie also plays a part in the miscommunication that’s running rampant between the friends. 

“I breathe in the sticky warmth of the air, the pine and the electricity and the ache of something deeper than I can name, knowing that no view I can capture will ever compare to this feeling-seeing it through my eyes while seeing it through his, letting us both bleed into a world where those two thing can be the same.”

Savvy and Abby’s worlds collide when they go to the same summer camp with the goal being to uncover as much as possible of their shared past. But when Abby discovers that Leo and Savvy already know each other from this camp it truly becomes a merging of all their lives and the drama unfolds from there. 

Emma Lord does a fantastic job with this storyline, incorporating both current times and nods to the 1990’s/2ooo’s that’ll ensure that every reader no matter the age will find this book inclusive and fun. She is also the queen of metaphors; some made me literally laugh out loud.

“Savvy ducks her head down so Mickey can untangle the tag from her wet ponytail, but the two of them are cracking up so hard at how ridiculous Savvy looks with her head upside down and her arms extended out like she’s about to burst into the world’s most aggressive jazz hands that they aren’t making much progress.”

This probably isn’t as funny without the context behind it and I could share a million more like it but each reader should experience the wonder of Emma’s writing themselves. All of the characters are significantly different from one another- some are goofy, some are witty, some are shy- but the one thing they all have in common is how lovable they are. You’ll find yourself rooting for them while also wishing you could give them all a hug. Go ahead and get yourselves a box of tissues when you settle down with this book because there is no way you won’t tear up a time or two as you watch these characters bear their hearts to one another and help each other heal. It’s just so damn good. 

“…I hear Poppy’s voice in my head-If you learn to capture a feeling, it’ll always be louder than words. I don’t know if I’ll ever feel one louder than this.”

After reading both of Emma’s books she is definitely on my auto-buy list and that’s really saying something coming from me as I don’t normally love YA contemporary and rarely buy from this genre. But there is no denying that this is an author to watch and I can’t imagine anyone giving this book less than five stars. 

Quotes shared in this review were taken from an uncorrected proof and are subject to change upon publication. 

Blog Posts, Blog Tours

Blog Tour | Pretending by Holly Bourne

Book Depository | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

“I hate men” seems to be a well-worn phrase used by many heterosexual women. The work it takes when looking for a romantic partner, from dating to dolling yourself up, just to be let down yet again in the end, becomes a tiring exercise that eventually convinces a lot of women that there are no good men left. Add a previous sexual assault to the mix and the idea of finding a good man becomes even harder to believe.

Holly Bourne’s Pretending follows April, a sexual assault victim and charity worker, who’s been desperately searching for the man of her dreams but finds that all the men she meets are completely predictable, eventually scattering her hopes and breaking her heart. Until she decides she’s done being the vulnerable, nice girl and brings “Gretel”, her alter-ego, to life.


Please enjoy an excerpt from Pretending by Holly Bourne:

I hate men.

There, I’ve said it. I know you’re not supposed to say it. We all pretend we don’t hate them; we all tell ourselves we don’t hate them. But I’m calling it. I’m standing here on this soapbox, and I’m saying it.

I. Hate. Men.

I mean, think about it. They’re just awful. I hate how selfish they are. How they take up so much space, assuming it’s always theirs to take. How they spread out their legs on public transport, like their balls need regular airing to stop them developing damp. I hate how they basically scent mark anywhere they enter to make it work for them. Putting on the music they want to listen to the moment they arrive at any house party, and always taking the nicest chair. How they touch your stuff instead of just looking; even tweak the furniture arrangement to make it most comfortable for them. All without asking first—never asking first.

I hate how they think their interests are more important than yours—even though twice a week all most of them do is watch a bunch of strangers kick a circle around a piece of lawn and sulk if the circle doesn’t go in the right place. And how bored they look if you ever try to introduce them to a film, a band, or even a freaking YouTube clip, before you’ve even pressed Play.

I hate their endless arrogance. I hate how they interrupt you and then apologize for it but carry on talking anyway. How they ask you a question but then check your answer afterward. I hate how they can never do one piece of housework without telling you about it. I hate how they literally cannot handle being driven in a car by a woman, even if they’re terrible drivers themselves. I hate how they all think they’re fucking incredible at grilling meat on barbecues. The sun comes out and man must light fire and not let woman anywhere near the meat. Dumping blackened bits of chicken onto our plates along with the whiff of a burp from their beer breath, acting all caveman, like we’re supposed to find it cute that we may now get salmonella and that we’re going to have to do all the washing up.

I hate how I’m quite scared of them. I hate the collective noise of them when they’re in a big group. The tribal wahey-ing, like they all swap their IQs for extra testosterone when they swarm together. How, if you’re sitting alone on an empty train, they always come and deliberately sit next to you en masse, and talk extra loudly about macho nonsense, apparently to impress you. I hate the way they look at you when you walk past—automatically judging your screwability the moment they see you. Telling you to smile if you dare look anything other than delighted about living with stuff like this constantly fucking happening to you. 

I hate how hard they are to love. How many of them actually, truly, think the way to your heart is sending you a selfie of them tugging themselves, hairy ball sack very much still in shot. I hate how they have sex. How they shove their fingers into you, thinking it’s going to achieve anything. Jabbing their unwashed hands into your dry vagina, prodding about like they’re checking for prostate cancer, then wondering why you now have BV and you still haven’t come. Have none of them read a sex manual? Seriously? None of them? And I hate how they hate you a little just after they’ve finished. How even the nice ones lie there with cold eyes, pretending to cuddle, but clearly desperate to get as far away from you as possible.

I hate how it’s never equal. How they expect you to do all the emotional labor and then get upset when you’re the more stressed-out one. I hate how they never understand you, no matter how hard they try, although, let’s be honest here, they never actually try that hard. And I hate how you’re always exhausting yourself trying to explain even the most basic of your rational emotional responses to their bored face.

I hate how every single last one of them has issues with their father.

And do you know what I hate most of all?

That despite this, despite all this disdain, I still fancy men. And I still want them to fancy me, to want me, to love me. I hate myself for how much I want them. Why do I still fancy men so much? What’s wrong with me? Why are they all so broken? Am I broken for still wanting to be with one, even after everything? I should be alone. That’s the only healthy way to be. BUT I DON’T WANT TO BE ALONE. I hate men, that’s the problem. GOD I HATE THEM SO MUCH—they’re so entitled and broken and lazy and wrong and…and…

Hang on…

My phone.

HE MESSAGED BACK!!!

WITH A KISS ON THE END!

Never mind.

Forget I said anything. It’s all good.

Excerpted from Pretending by Holly Bourne, Copyright © 2020 by Holly Bourne. Published by MIRA Books. 


About the Author

Holly Bourne is a bestselling and critically acclaimed UK-based YA and Adult Fiction author and is an Ambassador for Women’s Aid. Inspired by her work with young people, and her own experiences of everyday sexism, Holly is a passionate mental health advocate and proud feminist. In 2019, she was an Author of the Day at the London Book Fair, and was named by Elle Magazine’s weekly podcast as one of “Six Female Authors Changing the Conversation in 2019”. Pretending is her US debut.

Blog Tours, book reviews

Blog Tour | Mayhem by Estelle Laure

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Goodreads

At night when I’m holding on to my mother because she’s trying to get away from you so she can have a few hours of peace, I think about ways you might die. I’d love to stab you, to pull your dreamy blue eyes from your head. I’d love to hear you scream, too see you beg for your life and then take it from you anyway. You’re a plague and pestilence, and the way you carry your manliness likes it’s a permission slip from God to act like you rule everything and everyone in your path, like you can do whatever you want-well, I think the guillotine is a good option. I’d love to watch your head roll across the grass.


Mayhem and her mother, Roxy, find themselves back in Santa Maria, California, after Mayhem’s abusive stepfather takes things too far. After the death of Mayhem’s father, Lucas, many years before, Roxy packed her daughter in her car and left Santa Maria, her twin, and her mother, with no intentions of ever looking back. Until now. It’s quite clear to Mayhem that there is more to this town, old house, and family, than meets the eye and she is determined to uncover the legacy her mother ran from all those years ago and to finally take her own place in in the Brayburn family. 

A diary exists in which the Brayburn women have added their own stories and experiences in the hopes that it would help the next generation own their power while also staying true to themselves. Mayhem finds this diary and the reader learns alongside her about the magic in her family. Throughout the book we are given glimpses into this diary and learn quite a bit about where the Brayburn Legacy originated and why. The magic of the Brayburn women was ultimately born of powerlessness. Starting with the rape of Mayhem’s great-great-grandmother, the brayburn magic manifests in the water found in a cave near their home. While the water loves Brayburn blood and the strength of the magic varies for each person, it is not required that you be a Brayburn to consume the water and adopt the power from it. Although, it is said that if you’re not a Brayburn the water will eventually drive you mad. 

Drink the water.

Find true love.

Embrace your fate.

Protect Santa Maria and you protect yourself.

And never, ever tell another about the spring. 

We are none of us invincible. We are all of us made of flesh and bone.

It is for us alone to carry.

I am fascinated by this concept. Estelle Laure created this interesting magic system set in a contemporary world where women who are so often powerless are given this unimaginable power and they use it to fight the injustices visited upon them. Over the years it becomes the duty of the Brayburn’s to protect their town and the people within it are grateful and show their thanks by leaving gifts at their home. Laced within this story there is also a serial killer on the loose and the constant threat of Lyle returning to take Roxy back to their old life. Meanwhile, Mayhem is learning where she fits into the family and is starving for details of her past, especially of her father, but her mother is self-medicating leaving Mayhem to learn what she can from her Aunt Elle and her aunt’s adoptive kids. Roxy and Mayhem’s relationship irked me at times. So many situations arose that I wish had been dealt with differently by both of them and I also wasn’t sure what relevance the author was attempting to portray by having Mayhem call her mother by her given name. This detail created a divide between mother and daughter that I didn’t think was realistic considering that the two of them only ever had one another for love and protection and I’m not convinced that a relationship cultivated in that type pf environment would leave room for such a thing between them. I don’t consider this a fault of the story; I love that this book leaves so much room for interpretation from the reader and this is just one small example of that. At the conclusion of the story I found Roxy and Mayhem’s relationship and the moments they experienced to be pretty accurate of what a mother/teen might experience. 

There is so much to unpack from this story. Mayhem is not for the feint of heart. It deals with many heavy topics and while there is an underlying theme of hope, it’s still very much a dark tale. There are a lot of contradicting personalities, especially from the group of kids that Mayhem meets when she first arrives in Santa Maria. I found Neve to be especially abrasive and didn’t care for her character much. Here is a book about women taking their power back and yet no one ever challenges Neve or her behavior in a meaningful way and I felt this contradicted the purpose of the story. I also would have liked if Elle was a stronger character. This story would have benefitted from a strong matriarchal presence and Elle had so much potential to fill that roll but then sort of fell flat when faced with any sort of challenge. Most of the characters are really fleshed out and I was able to connect with them as the story progressed but for some reason I didn’t have that same connection with Kidd. I kind of felt that her character was unnecessary and sometimes annoying. All in all these are small criticisms that didn’t affect my enjoyment of the book in any substantial way. 

I would definitely recommend this book to fans of Summer of Salt, The Wicked Deep, and Sawkill Girls. Mayhem is set in the 1980’s but definitely has that seaside, magical feel with an underlying theme of darkness, similar to the settings of the titles I’ve listed above. Also make sure to be aware of extensive trigger warnings (taken from Estelle Laure’s website): 

➽Rape: the Brayburn family’s backstory centers around the matriarch’s rape and explores the ensuing generational trauma and its effects on the women within its lineage. The rape is on page but is not graphically depicted. 

➽Suicide: a suicide takes place off page.

➽Drug use: there is one scene in which multiple adolescents take hallucinogenic mushrooms. There is much use of pills and alcohol by one of the adults in the story as a coping mechanism for chronic pain and trauma. 

➽Serial kidnapping and murder: part of the story centers around an active serial kidnapper and killer. There is also murder depicted throughout, sometimes on the page and sometimes off, including the murder of two of the children’s parents, which takes place in dialogue and is not explicitly on the page. 

➽Child abuse: central to the story is a depiction of violence experienced by a child.

➽Domestic violence, intimidation, and emotional abuse: also central to the story is long-term domestic violence and its attendant cycle. This is mostly off stage, however there are several scenes of emotional manipulation and intimidation, and one scene that contains stalking and breaking and entering and a physical altercation. 

✦ The quotes used in this review were taken from an uncorrected proof and are subject to change upon publication.✦ 


About the Author

Estelle Laure (pronounced lore/lor) is the author of critically-acclaimed books for young people. She is best known for her novel, This Raging Light, which has been translated into twelve languages. She has five forthcoming young adult novels, including Disney’s City of Villains series (book one fall 2021) and Mayhem (July 14, 2020) with Wednesday Books/St. Martin’s. She is also very pleased to be fulfilling a dream by stepping into the world of picture books, the first of which will be out with HarperKids in 2021. In addition to writing her own stories, Estelle is an editorial consultant, writing coach, and educator.

book reviews

Book Review | Survivor Song by Paul Tremblay

Survivor Song by Paul Tremblay

♫ Adult, Horror

♫ Release Date: 7/7/20

♫ My Rating: 4.5/5★


Thank you William Morrow for sending me an early copy of this book. The following opinions are my own. 

Survivor Song is unlike any other book I’ve ever read. Here are a couple of things that this story is not:

This is not a zombie novel. 

This is not an apocalypse novel. 

This book follows Dr. Ramola Sherman and her best friend, Natalie, after an outbreak of a super rabies illness. This illness is unlike the rabies we know and love where the symptoms can take several weeks to appear and we have all kinds of time to treat it before it becomes fatal. The super rabies has an incubation time of an hour or even less in some cases. Once it passes the brain barrier there is no hope of return. 

Natalie calls Ramola when her husband is viciously attacked and killed by an infected neighbor and shares the news that she, too, has been bitten. Natalie is due to give birth in 15 days. As Natalie pulls into the driveway of Ramola’s home the clock starts ticking. The two women head out determined to get Natalie treated before the illness can do permanent damage and kill her friend and possibly her child. 

This entire book, with the exception of the ‘postlude’ at the end, spans several hours as Ramola desperately tries to get Natalie to a hospital and a vaccine before it’s too late. On this journey through a chaotic Massachusetts that’s been set upon by the outbreak, everything that can happen does. It becomes a survival of the fittest type of situation and Ramola is willing to do just about anything to save her best friend. The chapters alternate between Ramola’s and Natalie’s point of view and the reader starts waiting with bated breathe to see if Natalie will mentally deteriorate like those all around her or if she was vaccinated in time to save her. One thing is for sure, though. They must deliver the baby by emergency c-section to save the child’s life in the event Natalie does not survive. Ramola doesn’t spare a single thought for anything else other than Natalie and her unborn child.

The story was gripping the whole way through. At every turn the two women face another challenge and you never know what they will do to meet it. They find themselves face to face with infected people and animals, conspiracy-believing zealots, car crashes, and two teenage boys who become more entangled in the story than expected. It’s a wild ride from beginning to end. This book goes a bit deeper than that, though. What I saw when reading this was the love and loyalty these women shared and what they were willing to do to help each other. I saw a doctor who is extraordinarily compassionate and held on to her morals with an iron fist no matter what. So while this is a horror novel about rabies-infected humans going around chewing on each other, it’s also a story about resilience and hope and I couldn’t put it down.

Some other aspects of the book I really liked were the creepy pages with the gothic writing peppered throughout and I also loved that the main character, Ramola, is a half white, half Indian, asexual woman with a British accent. Her character represented these qualities, not to further the plot, but just because that’s who she was. She has a really interesting background story that features her parents who are in an interracial relationship. I’d love to see more of this representation in books just for the sake of being there and not because it’s the focus of the story. 

There are only a couple small criticisms I have as far as this book goes. One being that the chapters, especially Rams (Ramola), are very long. This doesn’t hurt the story and luckily this is a very fast-paced read so those long chapters don’t drag like they sometimes do in other books. I just prefer shorter chapters. And the second being that I don’t understand what the purpose was behind the decisions the teenage boys, specifically Luis, made after leaving Romola and Natalie. I thought that was an odd addition to the story and it felt like it didn’t fit. I think I would have enjoyed that part more if specifics from their background had been revealed and we could have learned what their secret was in more detail. 

Do I recommend this book? Absolutely. I enjoyed this infinitely more than The Cabin at the End of the World. If you weren’t a fan of that book but want to give Paul Tremblay another shot or if you haven’t read anything by him and want to then I’d definitely pick this one up when it releases in July. I love Paul’s writing. It’s really fantastic, and I felt that way when reading the previous book as well. But here the storytelling and writing are in sync to create an awesome book. 

Beware of some triggers for: blood/gore, violence, loss of a spouse/loved one, animal deaths, and xenophobia.

You can also find me here: goodreads | bookstagram | twitter

Blog Tours, book reviews

Blog Tour | This Is How I Lied by Heather Gudenkauf

ARC provided by Park Row and Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

25 years ago Maggie’s best friend Eve Knox was brutally beaten and left to die in the local caves that run under the small town that they live in. Worse yet, it was Eve’s unusual little sister, Nola, and Maggie herself, that found her. Police Chief Kennedy, Maggie’s dad, did everything he could to find Eve’s killer but the case eventually went cold with no arrests made.

Now 25 years later a new piece of evidence has been found and Maggie is the detective on the case. She is determined to see if new technology can pick up anything they missed all those years ago so that she can put her friend to rest at last. Everyone involved closely in this case has a different idea of who did what and they all have more than just Eve in common. They all have secrets too, some uglier than others. 

Reading this book was like watching a drama unfold before my eyes. Even though this book didn’t have any really seriously shocking twists it was still gripping and I really had no idea which one of them was the killer. It helped that all the people in this book were twisted in their own way and could easily have been the culprit. Maggie didn’t have much personality but I only really noticed that in the beginning when there wasn’t a whole lot to focus on. Eve’s sister Nola is as weird as weird gets. The neighbors are creepers. Eve’s ex boyfriend is a jerk. And they all have secrets that are slowly uncovered as the story unfolds. 

Throughout the book we are following Maggie in current day and also flashing back to the few days before, and of, Eve’s murder. My favorite aspect of this was following from Eve’s POV during these flashbacks as we got closer and closer to her time of death. We are also following Nola in both the current story and flashbacks. So, as we’re reading the book we are also slowly following Eve up to the fateful moment of her death and I thought this part was extremely well done. It kept me right on the edge of my seat the entire time, especially knowing that we would eventually see her death through her eyes, rather than be told what happened from an outside party. This really enhanced the book in my opinion.

I also really loved the very accurate dementia representation in this book. Maggie’s father has dementia and therefore can remember things quite clearly from years ago but has a very bad short-term memory. This added another layer of suspense to the story because he was the original detective on the case and you get the idea that he might know something that he’s keeping close to his chest but on the other hand you can’t trust anything he says due to the dementia. This was a great aspect to throw into the story for a little added mystery. It also shows the hardships that families dealing with dementia deal with and how truly devastating this disease can be for them. This aspect of the book touched close to my heart as I am deeply familiar with the disease and can therefore judge its authenticity in this book and I found it to be really well done and realistic.

For me what made this book a real gem wasn’t the shocking reveals but the unfolding of the story and drama involved. Even though I wasn’t shocked to find out who the killer was I still really enjoyed the journey to that moment. What really made me drop a star from my rating of this book was the fact that some things had to work a bit too perfectly for some important scenes to pan out and it really pulled me out of the story. There was also an element of the book that was never revealed. This element wasn’t a massive part of the book but it was present enough that I wanted to discover the truth and was disappointed when it was never explained in the end. I also would have liked to know more about Nola and what she was up to. It’s alluded to, of course, but I really wanted more where she was concerned. 

Luckily, I can happily recommend this book to all the mystery and suspense lovers out there. I really enjoyed my time reading this but just beware of some potential triggers: loss of a parent, loss of a friend, loss of a sibling, domestic abuse (both mental & physical), hoarding, assault, rape, miscarriage, animal dissection, murder (described from the victims POV as she died).


About the Author

Heather Gudenkauf is the Edgar Award nominated, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of The Weight of Silence, These Things Hidden and Not A Sound.

Heather was born in Wagner, South Dakota, the youngest of six children. At one month of age, her family returned to the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota where her father was employed as a guidance counselor and her mother as a school nurse. At the age of three, her family moved to Iowa, where she grew up. Having been born with a profound unilateral hearing loss (there were many evenings when Heather and her father made a trip to the bus barn to look around the school bus for her hearing aids that she often conveniently would forget on the seat beside her), Heather tended to use books as a retreat, would climb into the toy box that her father’s students from Rosebud made for the family with a pillow, blanket, and flashlight, close the lid, and escape the world around her. Heather became a voracious reader and the seed of becoming a writer was planted.

Heather Gudenkauf graduated from the University of Iowa with a degree in elementary education, has spent her career working with students of all ages and continues to work in education as a Title I Reading Coordinator.

Heather lives in Iowa with her family and a very spoiled German Shorthaired Pointer named Lolo. In her free time Heather enjoys spending time with her family, reading and hiking. She is currently working on her next novel.

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The Reading Rush Tag & TBR

Many People are now familiar with the annual Reading Rush read-a-thon hosted by Ariel Bissett and Raeleen Lemay every year. It’s become one of the most popular read-a-thon’s out there and it’s a lot of fun! Inspired by our continued isolation, the creators of The Reading Rush have decided to host a mini Stay Home read-a-thon from 4/16-4/19. They’ve also created a tag! I’m going to answer the questions and then share my mini TBR with you all!


Q1 How is your reading going staying at home?

There hasn’t been much of a change in my reading since the quarantine started. I work in healthcare and am considered essential so my life really hasn’t changed all that much! I can say my reading has been a bit slower this year and that hasn’t changed, unfortunately.

Q2 What have you been reading at home?

I don’t think think my reading tastes have been affected much. My latest reads include: Docile by K.M. Szpara, Love and Other Words by Christina Lauren, Daytripper by Fabio Moon, and A Sky Painted Gold by Laura Wood. All of which I gave 4 or 5 stars. There’s been less fantasy lately but I plan to rectify that as soon as possible. ; P

Q3 What is the best book you’ve read during isolation?

I read and loved Us Against You by Fredrik Backman, the sequel to Beartown. Fredrik Backman can’t write a bad book. Or at least that’s been my experience and I’ve read many of his books now. I can’t recommend this author enough and I also think he writes extremely versatile books as well. Anyone can read them regardless of genre preference.

Q4 What is your favorite feel-good book?

I struggled a bit trying to think of an answer to this question. “feel-good” isn’t my go-to when looking for a book to pick up. I really prefer the dark and twisted stories, whether it be fantasy or contemporary. But a great book that I did read recently that definitely falls under the “feel-good” category is A Sky Painted Gold by Laura Wood. I never expected to love this book as thoroughly as I did. I do love how the 1920’s setting feels and it was because of the time period and the stunning cover that I picked this book up. It didn’t disappoint. It’s one of those books you enjoy like a dessert, savoring every page. I highly recommend it!

Q5 What book do you wish you could buy or borrow from the library if it’s not available?

Oh man, this I can answer very easily! Although, the reason I don’t have the book/s is not because I can’t buy them or because they’re not available. One of my favorite series of all time is the Nevernight series by Jay Kristoff. Unfortunately, by the time I discovered these books the UK hardbacks for both Nevernight and Godsgrave were long out of print. This broke my heart because I so badly wanted to own them in the UK editions. Needless to say, when Illumicrate announced that they would be working with the publisher to do a one-time-only reprint of the first two books I was literally hysterical. I vowed right then and there that I would get a set of those books even if I had to crawl to the UK to get them. I did end up getting a set and waited not-so-patiently for the shipping date in March to arrive. When the books showed up at Illumicrate’s warehouse, they noticed a finishing touch was missing from the books and they had to send them back. Am I grateful that their attention to detail means I will get the best possible quality book? Absolutely! Am I dying a little inside because I just want to have them in my hand? YEEEESSSS. As of right now we are still waiting for a new shipping date. Ho hum.

Q6 Who is an author that you want to shout out right now?

First I want to give a shout-out to all the authors out there offering up free e-copies of their books during this time of crisis, and also to companies like Scribd who are giving away free service so people with no access to books can still read while in isolation. I think it’s wonderful to see the community come together in this way to help each other!

As for an author I’d like to shout out… well I have several favorites that I could choose from, but the first author that came to mind when I read this question wasn’t one of my favorites, but a newly discovered author. Tessa Bailey. I want to shout her out for writing and releasing Reborn Yesterday because it’s literally been so much fun reading this book! I’m not quite done with it but I am loving it, and right now I’m very grateful for that! When I heard that a popular contemporary romance author was releasing a vampire love story, I was all-in! And let me tell you.. it’s been a fun ride!


And now for the long-awaited (probably not) TBR. There are four prompts to choose books for and they are:

  1. Read a book with a house on the cover.

2. Read a book in the same room the whole time.

3. Read a book set somewhere you wish you could go.

4. Read a book that will make you smile.

The books I chose:

Dead Voices by Katherine Arden (1 & 2)

Reborn Yesterday by Tessa Bailey (2 & 4)

Instatravel by Aggie Lal (2 & 3)

That’s it! I hope you enjoyed this post and please stop in again (no, really, I’m begging you) for more bookish content soon!