Monday, March 30, 2020

Book Review | The Empress of Salt and Fortune by Nghi Vo

The Empress of Salt and Fortune is a fantasy novella by Nghi Vo.

The Empress of Salt and Fortune by Nghi Vo

With the heart of an Atwood tale and the visuals of a classic Asian period drama The Empress of Salt and Fortune is a tightly and lushly written narrative about empire, storytelling, and the anger of women.

A young royal from the far north is sent south for a political marriage. Alone and sometimes reviled, she has only her servants on her side. This evocative debut chronicles her rise to power through the eyes of her handmaiden, at once feminist high fantasy and a thrilling indictment of monarchy.


I'm finding the most success with reading novellas and short stories right now. The Empress of Salt and Fortune is the perfect book for these times of being unable to focus. Not only is The Empress of Salt and Fortune novella length, each chapter is it's own little experience.

The Empress of Salt and Fortune is not strong on plot (which will be a blessing to some right now though I do usually prefer a stronger plot), but it's a beautiful book. The prose is gorgeous, and it makes for a wonderful read.

I would love to read more books by Nghi Vo.

⭐⭐⭐⭐★

Review copy provided by publisher

Jennifer

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Sunday, March 29, 2020

Recent Updates and Currently Reading | March 29

How is your reading these days? It has been a struggle for me especially this past week. I was finally in the mood to read yesterday, and it was nice to spend a whole afternoon and evening getting lost in books.

Please let me know how you are doing. My kids' online school started this past week, and I transitioned to work from home (as did my husband later in the week). It's constant chaos and stress, but I feel extremely fortunate.

I wasn't able to post an update last weekend so today's post will cover the last couple of weeks.

Finished Reading




The Bone Weaver's Orchard by Sarah Read ⭐⭐⭐⭐★ - This was an adult horror with a young adult atmosphere.

Fluent Forever by Gabriel Wyner ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ - I was glad to finally read this. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in learning another language.

The Empress of Salt and Fortune by Nghi Vo ⭐⭐⭐⭐★ - This was a beautiful book. If all goes well, I'll have a review out tomorrow.

Little Darlings by Melanie Golding ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ - I normally avoid child related horrors, but this is a Ladies of Horror Fiction favorite, and I was reassured I would be OK. (I loved it!)

Lumberjanes: Up All Night (Lumberjanes #1) by Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, Shannon Watters, Brooke A. Allen (Illustrator) ⭐⭐⭐⭐★ - I'm hooked on Lumberjanes!

All 4 and 5 ⭐s!

Currently Reading



I think I'm going to start reading Rules for Vanishing by Kate Alice Marshall later today.

Recent Acquisitions



Many thanks to Orbit for sending me a copy of The Book of Koli by M.R. Carey! I'm really, really excited to read this one.

Many thanks to Tor.com for sending me Night of the Mannequins by Stephen Graham Jones. I'm really excited for this one as well!

And thank you to Steve Stred for gifting me his new middle grade release The Boy Whose Room was Outside!

So what about you? Let me know what you're reading this week or leave me some links!


This post is being shared as part of Book Date's It's Monday! What Are You Reading? and Caffeinated Book Reviewer's The Sunday Post.

Jennifer

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Sunday, March 15, 2020

Recent Updates and Currently Reading | March 15

How is everyone doing? Are you OK? Do you need anything? My email is bookdenblog (at) gmail (dot) com if you need to reach out to me. I'm not work from home yet so things are just one day at a time for us right now.

Posted Last Week(s)


Book Review | The Boatman's Daughter by Andy Davidson ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Book Review | Inside a Marathon by Scott Fauble and Ben Rosario⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Book Review | The Festering Ones by S.H. Cooper ⭐⭐⭐⭐★
Book Review | Run to the Finish by Amanda Brooks ⭐⭐⭐★★
Book Review | Follow Me by Kathleen Barber ⭐⭐⭐★★

Finished Reading


Follow Me by Kathleen Barber Catfish Lullaby by A.C. Wise

Follow Me by Kathleen Barber - I've already posted my ⭐⭐⭐★★ review. The premise of an Instagrammer being stalked through her webcam is a terrifying one. I didn't have any trouble believing the premise, but I had a lot of trouble suspending disbelief regarding the characters themselves.

Catfish Lullaby by A.C. Wise ⭐⭐⭐⭐★ - I'm having such luck this year with books set in the swamp. I'll have a review out for this soon.

Currently Reading


The Bone Weaver's Orchard by Sarah Read The Apocalpytic Mannequin by Stephanie Wytovich

I'm currently enjoying both The Bone Weaver's Orchard by Sarah Read and The Apocalpytic Mannequin by Stephanie Wytovich.

Recent Acquisitions


The Empress of Salt and Fortune by Nghi Vo Velocities by Kathe Koja The Bone Snatcher by Charlotte Salter
Elantris by Brandon Sanderson Age of Myth by Michael J. Sullivan The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow

Many thanks to Tor.com for sending me a copy of The Empress of Salt and Fortune by Nghi Vo. This will be my next read!

Meerkat Press recently sent me a copy of Velocities by Kathe Koja. I'm looking forward to diving into these stories.

After Steve Stred and I read Where the Woods End, we decided we both needed Charlotte's Salter's previous novel The Bone Snatcher. I'm looking forward to reading more of her work!

I took advantage of some audible sales and bought Elantris, Age of Myth, and The Ten Thousand Doors of January.

So what about you? Let me know what you're reading this week or leave me some links!


This post is being shared as part of Book Date's It's Monday! What Are You Reading? and Caffeinated Book Reviewer's The Sunday Post.

Jennifer

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Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Book Review | Follow Me by Kathleen Barber

Follow Me is a new thriller from Kathleen Barber.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/46408162-follow-me

From the author of Are You Sleeping—soon to be an Apple TV series—comes a cautionary tale of oversharing in the social media age for fans of Jessica Knoll and Caroline Kepnes’s You.

Everyone wants new followers…until they follow you home.

Audrey Miller has an enviable new job at the Smithsonian, a body by reformer Pilates, an apartment door with a broken lock, and hundreds of thousands of Instagram followers to bear witness to it all. Having just moved to Washington, DC, Audrey busies herself impressing her new boss, interacting with her online fan base, and staving off a creepy upstairs neighbor with the help of the only two people she knows in town: an ex-boyfriend she can’t stay away from and a sorority sister with a high-powered job and a mysterious past.

But Audrey’s faulty door may be the least of her security concerns. Unbeknownst to her, her move has brought her within striking distance of someone who’s obsessively followed her social media presence for years—from her first WordPress blog to her most recent Instagram Story. No longer content to simply follow her carefully curated life from a distance, he consults the dark web for advice on how to make Audrey his and his alone. In his quest to win her heart, nothing is off-limits—and nothing is private.

Kathleen Barber’s electrifying new thriller will have you scrambling to cover your webcam and digital footprints.

Follow Me includes an introduction by the author regarding cyber stalking. The thought of someone watching you through your computer is terrifying. Kathleen Barber set the stage for what kind of stalking can take place in the digital age. Cover your webcams, folks.

The main character in Follow Me is a famous Instagrammer with over 1 million followers. As far as I can tell, Audrey is famous for just being on Instagram. What she does and what she posts sounds pretty average to me, but in the world of Follow Me, she's Instagram famous.

In the beginning of Follow Me, Audrey moves to Washington, DC to take a museum job as the social media manager. Her best friend, her ex-boyfriend, and her internet stalker all live in DC so that makes for a hot bed of conflict for Audrey.

The chapters are told through the alternating viewpoints of Audrey, her best friend Cat, and her stalker "Him". I really liked this setup and change of perspective. It kept the pace moving, and since everyone had secrets from Audrey, I enjoyed all of the perspectives.

Unfortunately, I had trouble believing most of Follow Me. Why was Audrey *that* famous? Why was every man *that* obsessed with her? How did the personality traits of "him" even co-exist in the same person?

That being said, I enjoyed the writing, and I enjoyed reading Follow Me. I have a copy of Barber's Truth Be Told, and I'm looking forward to picking that one up next.

⭐⭐⭐★★

Review copy provided by publisher


Jennifer

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Monday, March 9, 2020

Book Review | Run to the Finish by Amanda Brooks

Run to the Finish: The Everyday Runner's Guide to Avoiding Injury, Ignoring the Clock, and Loving the Run by Amanda Brooks is a nonfiction book about running. I'm telling you guys - books about running have the longest titles ever.

Run to the Finish by Amanda Brooks

Inspiration and practical tips for runners who prioritize enjoyment over pace and embrace their place as an "average" runner

In her first book, popular runner blogger Amanda Brooks lays out the path to finding greater fulfillment in running for those who consider themselves "middle of the pack runners" -- they're not trying to win Boston (or even qualify for Boston); they just want to get strong and stay injury-free so they can continue to enjoy running.

Run to the Finish is not your typical running book. While it is filled with useful strategic training advice throughout, at its core, it is about embracing your place in the middle of the pack with humor and learning to love the run you've got without comparing yourself to other runners. Mixing practical advice like understanding the discomfort vs. pain, the mental side of running, and movements to treat the most common injuries with more playful elements such as "Favorite hilarious marathon signs" and "Weird Thoughts We all Have at the Start Line," Brooks is the down-to-earth, inspiring guide for everyone who wants to be happier with their run.

Last month I dnf'ed a judgmental running book within the first few pages, and I'm so happy to have picked up Run to the Finish instead. If you run, you are a runner. Full stop. In Run to the Finish, Amanda Brooks acknowledges that on the bell curve of running capabilities, most of us are going to fall somewhere in the middle.

What I absolutely love about this book is it shows the mindset of a runner. Runners are such great people, and I think she nails the passion and the lack of judgment that you will find with the majority of runners.

It took me a while to figure out who this book was intended for. At first I thought it was for someone who was considering becoming a runner. I felt like the first 10% was spent convincing me to become a runner even though I already was one. But then the next 20% made running sound so painful I felt like the people she convinced to run in the first chapter would already be ready to quit!

Thankfully she mentioned running isn't actually supposed to hurt before she dove into injuries and prevention.

In the second half of the book, she took a look at training plans and gave advice on nutrition, clothing, etiquette, and more for race day.

I love that the author is passionate about running and is sharing her experience and knowledge with anyone interested in being a runner. I think the best audience for this book is probably the beginning runner who is looking for insight into what it means and what it takes to be a runner or the runner who would like some insight into entering road races.

⭐⭐⭐★★

Review copy provided by publisher

Jennifer

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Thursday, March 5, 2020

Book Review | The Festering Ones by S.H. Cooper

The Festering Ones is a horror novella by S.H. Cooper.

The Festering Ones by S.H. Cooper

A monster lurking in the mountain.

A mysterious cult seeking a doorway.

An otherworldly evil waiting to be unleashed.

Faith York was a young girl when she saw her father dragged into the ground by a spider-armed woman, never to be seen again. Twenty years later, the events of that day continue to haunt her, and her need for answers has only grown stronger with time. After her estranged mother's death forces her to return home, old wounds are reopened and Faith finally decides to face her demons. What started as a search for closure soon pits her against a shadowy cult known as The Gathered and the eldritch beings they worship. With reality becoming more blurred by the day and the thousand eyes of an alien deity fixed on her, Faith must decide if the dark secrets of White Crow Mountain are really worth losing herself over.

I read The Festering Ones last month in celebration of Women in Horror Month (although every month is WiHM around here). It was such a perfect start to kick off the month.

The novella length is one of my favorite formats for a horror story. One of the complaints I often see regarding novellas is there's not enough time for development. The Festering Ones is a great example of how well a story can be developed in this format if it's done right.

I'm not even sure how to describe The Festering Ones, but if you like cults and monsters, this one's for you! I'm happy to hear there's going to be a sequel because I'm here for it.

⭐⭐⭐⭐★

Jennifer

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Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Book Review | Inside a Marathon: An All-Access Pass to a Top-10 Finish at NYC by Scott Fauble and Ben Rosario

Inside a Marathon: An All-Access Pass to a Top-10 Finish at NYC is a nonfiction book by Scott Fauble and Ben Rosario.

Inside a Marathon: An All-Access Pass to a Top-10 Finish at NYC by Scott Fauble and Ben Rosario

Inside a Marathon gives readers an all-access pass into the mind of a coach and an athlete as they work together to prepare for one of the world's most prestigious races, the New York City Marathon. Follow along from two different perspectives as Scott Fauble and Ben Rosario share all of the highs and lows over the course of the 18 weeks leading into NYC. Fauble and Rosario take an unprecedented dive into what exactly goes into professional marathon training, and they tell a compelling story along the way.

I know this feels like a pretty random review for my blog, but I have two reasons for wanting to post it. 1) I'm trying to get in a habit of reviewing every book that I read. 2) I really loved it so I want to put some thoughts out into the world.

I think the best way to explain what this book is about is to pull this paragraph from the chapter 1:

"That brings us to what this book is—in the simplest terms, this book is a training log. It’s a record of the training that is going to happen between this moment, as I sit in a coffee shop after absolutely inhaling a burrito, to November 4, when I cross the finish line of the New York City Marathon. While “training log” may be an accurate description of this book, my hope is that it is not sufficient to describe what follows. My hope is that the word, “journal,” better describes the contents of the following pages. So with the goal of sharing the most complete record of this season possible, I have decided to partner with my coach/friend/designer of the semi-regular suffering that informs my life, Ben Rosario. We’re going to be sharing this journey with you as authentically, completely, and accurately as possible."

Each chapter of the book is broken in half with one half being a journal from coach Ben Rosario and the other half being a journal from runner Scott Fauble. I have to admit to completely geeking out over both the idea of this book and the execution. I imagine this book was a ton of work (at over 450 pages), but I would kill for them to do it again through the Olympic Trials this year (and dare we say Olympic Games).

I'm not sure how wide of an audience this book is meant for, but if you are interested or geeking out in any way, I highly recommend it.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

And since I have a strong habit of not reviewing any of the nonfiction books that I have read, some other running books I have loved include:
One thing I know for sure: running books have long titles!

Jennifer

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Monday, March 2, 2020

Book Review | The Boatman's Daughter by Andy Davidson

The Boatman's Daughter is a southern novel of horror fiction by Andy Davidson.

The Boatman's Daughter by Andy Davidson

A "lush nightmare" (Paul Tremblay) of a supernatural thriller about a young woman facing down ancient forces in the depths of the bayou

Ever since her father was killed when she was just a child, Miranda Crabtree has kept her head down and her eyes up, ferrying contraband for a mad preacher and his declining band of followers to make ends meet and to protect an old witch and a secret child from harm.

But dark forces are at work in the bayou, both human and supernatural, conspiring to disrupt the rhythms of Miranda's peculiar and precarious life. And when the preacher makes an unthinkable demand, it sets Miranda on a desperate, dangerous path, forcing her to consider what she is willing to sacrifice to keep her loved ones safe.

With the heady mythmaking of Neil Gaiman and the heartrending pacing of Joe Hill, Andy Davidson spins a thrilling tale of love and duty, of loss and discovery. The Boatman's Daughter is a gorgeous, horrifying novel, a journey into the dark corners of human nature, drawing our worst fears and temptations out into the light.

I mentioned in my review of Where the Crawdads Sing earlier this year that five star reviews can be so hard for me to write sometimes. I don't always have the words to capture the "feeling" of what I'm reading. And that feeling is what I seek when I lose myself in a book. When I tagged The Boatman's Daughter as read on Goodreads, I posted in my review space "Eeek. This feels impossible to review right now." It still feels that way.

After loving In the Valley of Sun so much, I was really looking forward to reading The Boatman's Daughter and entering one of Davidson's worlds again. This time I was a more experienced reader and knew to slow down and savor what was inside.

Davidson's books are an amazing mix of prose, setting, and character, and I highly recommend that you lose yourself in one of them.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Jennifer

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Sunday, March 1, 2020

February Wrap Up and Currently Reading

Hi everyone! I hope you had a great February and an amazing weekend this weekend. This month was pretty busy so I'm doing a monthly wrap up instead of my normal weekly update today to catch up!

I thought I wanted to read less this year, but I think what I really wanted was to just find a better balance. I feel like I'm taking a lot more time to do non-reading things this year so I'm happy about that. I'm also trying to give in to mood reading more than I have in the last year or two.

Posted Since My Last Update



Books Read in February


The Festering Ones by S.H. Cooper Inside a Marathon by Scott Fauble and Ben Rosario The Bride Test by Helen Hoang
The Boatman's Daughter by Andy Davidson The Chill by Scott Carson Where the Woods End by Charlotte Salter
Finna by Nino Cipri Run to the Finish by Amanda Brooks


Reviews:
The Bride Test by Helen Hoang ⭐⭐⭐★★
The Chill by Scott Carson ⭐⭐★★★
Finna by Nino Cipri ⭐⭐⭐⭐★
Where the Woods End by Charlotte Salter ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Upcoming Reviews:
The Festering Ones by S.H. Cooper ⭐⭐⭐⭐★
Inside a Marathon by Scott Fauble and Ben Rosario ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
The Boatman's Daughter by Andy Davidson ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Run to the Finish by Amanda Brooks ⭐⭐⭐★★

Currently Reading


Follow Me by Kathleen BarberPoetry Magazine February 2020 The Hidden Girl and Other Stories by Ken Liu

Follow Me by Kathleen Barber - The main character of this thriller is a popular Instagrammer. I'm enjoying it so far!

Poetry Magazine February 2020 - I meant to finish this one before the month was up so hopefully in the next day or two!

The Hidden Girl and Other Stories by Ken Liu - This is my first Ken Liu, and I'm loving it!

Recent Acquisitions


You Are Not Alone by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen Stealing Thunder (Stealing Thunder #1) by Alina Boyden Incredible Women of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League by Anika Orrock
Splash! by Howard Means Total Olympics by Jeremy Fuchs Brave Enough by Jessie Diggins with Todd Smith

You Are Not Alone by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen - This was my Book of the Month selection for February.

Stealing Thunder (Stealing Thunder #1) by Alina Boyden - Thank you so much to Ace for the eArc of Stealing Thunder. "Protecting her identity means life or death in this immersive epic fantasy inspired by the Mughal Empire."

Incredible Women of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League by Anika Orrock - Many thanks to Chronicle Books for this illustrated book about the women in baseball as told by the players.

Splash! by Howard Means - Thank you to Hachette Books for the human history of swimming!

Total Olympics by Jeremy Fuchs - Many thanks to Workman Publishing Company for "Every Obscure, Hilarious, Dramatic, and Inspiring Tale Worth Knowing". I'm super excited about reading this leading up the Olympics.

Brave Enough by Jessie Diggins with Todd Smith - "Travel with Olympic gold medalist Jessie Diggins on her compelling journey from America’s heartland to international sports history, navigating challenges and triumphs with rugged grit and a splash of glitter." Thank you to Univ Of Minnesota Press!

I am clearly in a MOOD. ❤️

So what about you? Let me know what you're reading this week or leave me some links!


This post is being shared as part of Book Date's It's Monday! What Are You Reading? and Caffeinated Book Reviewer's The Sunday Post.

Jennifer

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Thursday, February 27, 2020

Book Review | Where the Woods End by Charlotte Salter

Where the Woods End is a middle grade horror by Charlotte Salter.

Where the Woods End by Charlotte Salter

In a forest filled with treacherous beasts, the thing to be most afraid of is closer than you think in this middle grade horror fantasy.

Kestrel, a young huntress, lives in a seemingly endless forest crawling with dangerous beasts. But the most dangerous beasts of all are the Grabbers—beings that are born when you are and stalk you throughout your life, waiting for the perfect moment to snatch and eat you. No one has ever defeated their Grabber once attacked, and those that die from accidents or other creatures are considered "lucky." Kestrel has been tasked by her mother, a powerful and controlling spell-caster, to hunt down the Grabbers in an effort to protect their village in the forest. Accompanied by Pippit, a hilariously bloodthirsty weasel, she hones her skills as she searches for a way out of the forest--and away from the judgmental villagers who despise her. But her own Grabber is creeping ever closer, and nothing in this forest is what it seems... including her mother's true motivations.

I picked up Where the Woods End after my friend Steve Stred sent me a picture and asked if I'd read it yet. We were pretty excited by the sound of it and decided to do a buddy read.

First of all, this book encompasses a lot of what I love about MG. It was so imaginative, and I was captivated by it from the start. Second of all, Where the Woods End is the creepiest middle grade horror I've ever read! For some kids it may be a little too creepy. For me, it was awesome.

I spent the majority of the book assuming it was an allegory that I wouldn't understand, but it all came together in the end. I loved it!

This was a perfect buddy read, too. Steve and I were constantly guessing and demanding answers. It was a lot of fun. Be sure to check out Steve's review, too.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Jennifer

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Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Book Review | Finna by Nino Cipri

Finna is a science fiction novella by Nino Cipri.

Finna by Nino Cipri

When an elderly customer at a big box furniture store slips through a portal to another dimension, it’s up to two minimum-wage employees to track her across the multiverse and protect their company’s bottom line. Multi-dimensional swashbuckling would be hard enough, but our two unfortunate souls broke up a week ago.

Can friendship blossom from the ashes of a relationship? In infinite dimensions, all things are possible.


Finna was such a fun story to live in. There was basically an Ikea with wormholes in it, and someone's grandma disappeared. Obviously the employees needed to go track her down.

It took me a little bit to connect to the writing in this one so I was a bit disconnected from the story at first. That said, everything did eventually fall into place, and I no longer had trouble with the writing at all.

This was my first book to read by Cipri. I loved their imagination and their characters. I would love to read more from them in the future. Being a novella, Finna is the perfect size for an afternoon (or two) of "multi-dimensional swashbuckling".

⭐⭐⭐⭐★

Review copy provided by publisher

Jennifer

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Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Book Review | The Dead Girls Club by Damien Angelica Walters

The Dead Girls Club is a coming of age horror/thriller mashup from Damien Angelica Walters.



A supernatural thriller in the vein of A Head Full of Ghosts about two young girls, a scary story that becomes far too real, and the tragic--and terrifying--consequences that follow one of them into adulthood.

Red Lady, Red Lady, show us your face...

In 1991, Heather Cole and her friends were members of the Dead Girls Club. Obsessed with the macabre, the girls exchanged stories about serial killers and imaginary monsters, like the Red Lady, the spirit of a vengeful witch killed centuries before. Heather knew the stories were just that, until her best friend Becca began insisting the Red Lady was real--and she could prove it.

That belief got Becca killed.

It's been nearly thirty years, but Heather has never told anyone what really happened that night--that Becca was right and the Red Lady was real. She's done her best to put that fateful summer, Becca, and the Red Lady, behind her. Until a familiar necklace arrives in the mail, a necklace Heather hasn't seen since the night Becca died.

The night Heather killed her.

Now, someone else knows what she did...and they're determined to make Heather pay.

The Dead Girls Club is told through dual timelines, and I think it works really well.

One timeline is set back in the 80s when the Dead Girls Club would get together and tell scary stories and do spooky stuff. It reminded me a lot of my spooky childhood when my friends and I were obsessed dark shit. Those were the days, and I loved reliving some of that through reading The Dead Girls Club. This timeline was my favorite, and it read like a dark Goosebumps novel.

The other timeline was the "now" which read more like an adult thriller. It was fun to have that mix working in the same novel, and I think Damien Angelica Walters did a great job with it.

If you need a recommendation for Women in Horror Month, I think The Dead Girls Club would be the perfect choice.

⭐⭐⭐⭐★

Jennifer

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Monday, February 17, 2020

Book Review | The Chill by Scott Carson

The Chill is a thriller by Scott Carson (aka Michael Kortya).

The Chill by Scott Carson

In this terrifying thriller, a supernatural force—set in motion a century ago—threatens to devastate New York City.

Far upstate, in New York’s ancient forests, a drowned village lays beneath the dark, still waters of the Chilewaukee reservoir. Early in the 20th century, the town was destroyed for the greater good: bringing water to the millions living downstate. Or at least that’s what the politicians from Manhattan insisted at the time. The local families, settled there since America’s founding, were forced from their land, but they didn’t move far, and some didn’t move at all…

Now, a century later, the repercussions of human arrogance are finally making themselves known. An inspector assigned to oversee the dam, dangerously neglected for decades, witnesses something inexplicable. It turns out that more than the village was left behind in the waters of the Chill when it was abandoned. The townspeople didn’t evacuate without a fight. A dark prophecy remained, too, and the time has come for it to be fulfilled. Those who remember must ask themselves: who will be next? For sacrifices must be made. And as the dark waters begin to inexorably rise, the demand for a fresh sacrifice emerges from the deep...

The beginning of The Chill had a wonderfully dark and creepy tone. It was awesome, and I was excited for the ride I was about to take.

Unfortunately, the first 20% turned out to be more of a hook instead of a promise. The Chill got bogged down in information and turned into an entirely different book.

The reviews have been great for The Chill so I think most people will be able go along with the turns and changes, but I am terrible with broken promises. The Chill weighs in at 450 pages. Combine that with the struggle of the story not matching what I expected it to be, and it just turned into a tough read for me.

⭐⭐★★★

Review copy provided by publisher

Jennifer

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Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Book Review | The Bride Test by Helen Hoang

The Bride Test is a contemporary romance novel by Helen Hoang.

The Bride Test by Helen Hoang

Khai Diep has no feelings. Well, he feels irritation when people move his things or contentment when ledgers balance down to the penny, but not big, important emotions—like grief. And love. He thinks he’s defective. His family knows better—that his autism means he just processes emotions differently. When he steadfastly avoids relationships, his mother takes matters into her own hands and returns to Vietnam to find him the perfect bride.

As a mixed-race girl living in the slums of Ho Chi Minh City, Esme Tran has always felt out of place. When the opportunity arises to come to America and meet a potential husband, she can’t turn it down, thinking this could be the break her family needs. Seducing Khai, however, doesn’t go as planned. Esme’s lessons in love seem to be working…but only on herself. She’s hopelessly smitten with a man who’s convinced he can never return her affection.

With Esme’s time in the United States dwindling, Khai is forced to understand he’s been wrong all along. And there’s more than one way to love.

Subjective review alert! The Bride Test was this month's selection for my book club.

First I'm going to explain why The Bride Test was a great read. I think the representation of autism was my favorite aspect of The Bride Test. One of the main characters was autistic, and this aspect was handled so well. The writing was really compelling, too. If I didn't have to take care of my family, I'm certain this would have been a one sitting read. Even with commitments, it was still only a one day read for me.

Now I'll explain my three-star rating. It's a contemporary romance, and I'm just not a romance reader. I pretty much need plots that aren't possible.

I think folks who like sweet and sexy romances would probably dig The Bride Test. though.

While The Bride Test was a step completely outside of my wheelhouse (which is exactly why I'm in a book club), I enjoyed the representation of autism and recommend it to folks who love reading  contemporary romance.

⭐⭐⭐★★

Jennifer

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Monday, February 10, 2020

February 2020 Book Releases in Fantasy, Horror, Science Fiction, and Thrillers

I'm a little late with this post this month, but better late than never! It's really never too late to get excited over books, right? These are the February release books I'm most looking forward to reading:

The King of Crows (The Diviners #4) by Libba Bray

The King of Crows (The Diviners #4) by Libba Bray
Expected publication: February 4th 2020 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

The breath-taking finale to the epic New York Times bestseller, The Diviners, from Printz winner and beloved author, Libba Bray.

After the horrifying explosion that claimed one of their own, the Diviners find themselves wanted by the US government, and on the brink of war with the King of Crows.

While Memphis and Isaiah run for their lives from the mysterious Shadow Men, Isaiah receives a startling vision of a girl, Sarah Beth Olson, who could shift the balance in their struggle for peace. Sarah Beth says she knows how to stop the King of Crows-but, she will need the Diviners' help to do it.

Elsewhere, Jericho has returned after his escape from Jake Marlowe's estate, where he has learned the shocking truth behind the King of Crow's plans. Now, the Diviners must travel to Bountiful, Nebraska, in hopes of joining forces with Sarah Beth and to stop the King of Crows and his army of the dead forever.

But as rumors of towns becoming ghost towns and the dead developing unprecedented powers begin to surface, all hope seems to be lost.

In this sweeping finale, The Diviners will be forced to confront their greatest fears and learn to rely on one another if they hope to save the nation, and world from catastrophe...



Age of Death (The Legends of the First Empire #5) by Michael J. Sullivan
Age of Death (The Legends of the First Empire #5) by Michael J. Sullivan
Expected publication: February 4th 2020 by Riyria Enterprises LLC

Winter blankets the land, and more than just hope has died. Prevented from invading the Fhrey homeland by the tower of Avempartha, the western army seeks a way across the Nidwalden River before the fane obtains the secret of dragons. As time runs out for both humanity and the mystic Suri, the only chance for the living rests with the dead. Having made their fateful choice, can a handful of misfits do the impossible, or are they forever lost to an inescapable grave? Do gods truly exist? Is it possible to know the future? And what lies beyond the veil of death? In the tradition of Virgil’s Aeneid, Dante’s Divine Comedy, and Milton’s Paradise Lost, the most epic of tales transcend the world of the living. It’s time to see what lies in Elan’s Age of Death.

From Michael J. Sullivan (New York Times, USA Today, and Washington Post bestselling author), comes the second to the last installment in the epic fantasy series, Legends of the First Empire. The series chronicles a pivotal point in Elan’s history when humans rise against the Fhrey who they once saw as gods. Set 3,000 years before the Riyria tales, Legends is a standalone fantasy series which is independent of all other Elan stories. That said, if you do read the other books, you’ll see lies revealed and the truth about historical figures unmasked.



The Haunting by Lindsey Duga

The Haunting by Lindsey Duga
Expected publication: February 4th 2020 by Scholastic Press

A dark family secret prompts a ghost to wreak havoc in this spooky novel in the spirit of Mary Downing Hahn.
The only life 12-year-old Emily has ever known is the cold, unloved existence of being an orphan. But everything changes when the Thorntons, a young couple from London, adopt Emily, whisking her away to a new life at their grand estate.

At first, life at Blackthorn Manor is wonderful. But as Emily explores the grounds and rooms, she stumbles upon a mysterious girl named Kat, who appears to be similar in age, and the two become fast friends.

That's when things take a turn for the worse. Kat seems to know a curious amount about the estate, and strange things happen whenever she's around. In one case, Emily narrowly avoids getting toppled by a bookcase in the library; in another, the fire erupts in the fireplace, nearly burning Emily's hands. It's almost as if someone -- or something -- wants Emily dead.

Emily must find out what happened to the Thorntons and, more important, how Kat is connected to these strange goings-on at Blackthorn Manor before it's too late!



Mazes of Power (The Broken Trust #1) by Juliette Wade

Mazes of Power (The Broken Trust #1) by Juliette Wade
Expected publication: February 4th 2020 by DAW

This debut work of sociological science fiction follows a deadly battle for succession, where brother is pitted against brother in a singular chance to win power and influence for their family.

The cavern city of Pelismara has stood for a thousand years. The Great Families of the nobility cling to the myths of their golden age while the city's technology wanes.

When a fever strikes, and the Eminence dies, seventeen-year-old Tagaret is pushed to represent his Family in the competition for Heir to the Throne. To win would give him the power to rescue his mother from his abusive father, and marry the girl he loves.

But the struggle for power distorts everything in this highly stratified society, and the fever is still loose among the inbred, susceptible nobles. Tagaret's sociopathic younger brother, Nekantor, is obsessed with their family's success. Nekantor is willing to exploit Tagaret, his mother, and her new servant Aloran to defeat their opponents.

Can he be stopped? Should he be stopped? And will they recognize themselves after the struggle has changed them?



The Boatman's Daughter by Andy Davidson

The Boatman's Daughter by Andy Davidson
Expected publication: February 11th 2020 by MCD X Fsg Originals

A "lush nightmare" (Paul Tremblay) of a supernatural thriller about a young woman facing down ancient forces in the depths of the bayou

Ever since her father was killed when she was just a child, Miranda Crabtree has kept her head down and her eyes up, ferrying contraband for a mad preacher and his declining band of followers to make ends meet and to protect an old witch and a secret child from harm.

But dark forces are at work in the bayou, both human and supernatural, conspiring to disrupt the rhythms of Miranda's peculiar and precarious life. And when the preacher makes an unthinkable demand, it sets Miranda on a desperate, dangerous path, forcing her to consider what she is willing to sacrifice to keep her loved ones safe.

With the heady mythmaking of Neil Gaiman and the heartrending pacing of Joe Hill, Andy Davidson spins a thrilling tale of love and duty, of loss and discovery. The Boatman's Daughter is a gorgeous, horrifying novel, a journey into the dark corners of human nature, drawing our worst fears and temptations out into the light.



The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James

The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James
Expected publication: February 18th 2020 by Berkley

The secrets lurking in a rundown roadside motel ensnare a young woman, just as they did her aunt thirty-five years before, in this new atmospheric suspense novel from the national bestselling and award-winning author of The Broken Girls.

Upstate NY, 1982. Every small town like Fell, New York, has a place like the Sun Down Motel. Some customers are from out of town, passing through on their way to someplace better. Some are locals, trying to hide their secrets. Viv Delaney works as the night clerk to pay for her move to New York City. But something isn't right at the Sun Down, and before long she's determined to uncover all of the secrets hidden…



Bent Heavens by Daniel Kraus

Bent Heavens by Daniel Kraus
Expected publication: February 25th 2020 by Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)

Liv Fleming's father went missing more than two years ago, not long after he claimed to have been abducted by aliens. Liv has long accepted that he's dead, though that doesn't mean she has given up their traditions. Every Sunday, she and her lifelong friend Doug Monk trudge through the woods to check the traps Lee left behind, traps he set to catch the aliens he so desperately believed were after him.

But Liv is done with childhood fantasies. Done pretending she believes her father's absurd theories. Done going through the motions for Doug's sake. However, on the very day she chooses to destroy the traps, she discovers in one of them a creature so inhuman it can only be one thing. In that moment, she's faced with a painful realization: her dad was telling the truth. And no one believed him.

Now, she and Doug have a choice to make. They can turn the alien over to the authorities...or they can take matters into their own hands.



The Hidden Girl and Other Stories by Ken Liu

The Hidden Girl and Other Stories by Ken Liu
Expected publication: February 25th 2020 by Gallery / Saga Press

From award-winning author Ken Liu comes his much anticipated second volume of short stories.

Ken Liu is one of the most lauded short story writers of our time. This collection includes a selection of his science fiction and fantasy stories from the last five years—sixteen of his best—plus a new novelette.

In addition to these seventeen selections, The Hidden Girl and Other Stories also features an excerpt from book three in the Dandelion Dynasty series, The Veiled Throne.



Finna by Nino Cipri

Finna by Nino Cipri
Expected publication: February 25th 2020 by Tor.com

When an elderly customer at a big box furniture store slips through a portal to another dimension, it’s up to two minimum-wage employees to track her across the multiverse and protect their company’s bottom line. Multi-dimensional swashbuckling would be hard enough, but our two unfortunate souls broke up a week ago.

Can friendship blossom from the ashes of a relationship? In infinite dimensions, all things are possible.



What February releases are you most looking forward to reading this year?

Jennifer

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