Monday, September 13, 2021

Book Review | The Last Beautiful Girl by Nina Laurin

The Last Beautiful Girl is a young adult horror novel by Nina Laurin.

The Last Beautiful Girl by Nina Laurin

BLACK MIRROR meets Darcy Coates in this exploration of the dangerous, dark side of beauty in the digital age, with a gothic, haunted-house setting.

When Izzy is dragged from Brooklyn to a tiny town for her parents' new job, she's not thrilled. The silver lining is the gorgeous old mansion she's moved into: the former home of an artist's muse who died tragically in a fire. But the house has its quirks: whole floors are closed off, paintings are covered up, and cell reception is nonexistent.

Izzy throws herself into starting an Instagram fashion account using the gowns and jewelry she finds hidden away in the house. She looks perfect in the photos--almost unnaturally perfect--and they quickly go viral. Soon she's got a new best friend, a potential boyfriend, and is surrounded by a group of girls who want the photoshoots and fame for themselves. But there's a darkness in the house, and a darkness growing in Izzy, too. When girls start dying, it's clear that something--or someone--in the house is growing in power, with deadly intentions.

The beginning of The Last Beautiful Girl reminded me so much of Horrid by Katrina Leno. They had a very similar setup of a girl moving to a new school, everyone knowing the history of her house but not telling her what it is, and the weird dynamic with the mom. Unfortunately, I think the similarities pulled me out of The Last Beautiful Girl. I couldn't help but compare.

The Last Beautiful Girl did eventually stand on it's own, and I loved all of the references to The Picture of Dorian Gray.

I feel like this is one of those books that might work for other people where it didn't quite come together for me. There's supposed to be a change in the main character, but I had a hard time rooting for her because I wasn't really a fan of the character to begin with. This is actually true of all of the characters now that I think about it.

The cover of The Last Beautiful Girl is one of my favorites for the year, but the story sadly didn't make it on to my list.

⭐⭐
2/5 stars

Review copy provided by publisher

Jennifer

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Monday, August 30, 2021

Book Review | Run Walk Crawl: Getting Fit In My Forties by Tim Lebbon

Run Walk Crawl: Getting Fit In My Forties is a nonfiction book by Tim Lebbon.


At forty-one I was overweight and unfit. As I turned 50 I was thirty pounds lighter, having spent my fifth decade training for, and racing multiple Ironmans, marathons, and other crazy adventures. This account of that fitness journey through my forties includes broken bones, severe chafing, regular cursing, rubber and lycra, an element of masochism ... and cake.

From New York Times-bestselling writer Tim Lebbon comes his first non-fiction book, charting his fitness journey through his forties––funny, hopefully inspiring, brutally honest, this is a book for anyone trying to get and stay fit, at whatever age!
Run Walk Crawl: Getting Fit In My Forties is written by horror author Tim Lebbon. Interestingly, Run Walk Crawl isn't the first running memoir I've read by an author in the horror community. Back in 2014 I read (and enjoyed) Chasing the Dragon: Running to Get High by Mark Matthews. I love reading running books - especially memoir style - so I was excited to curl up and read about Tim Lebbon's fitness journey.

Run Walk Crawl is about more than just running. Since Tim Lebbon is an Ironman - the focus is on swimming, running, and biking. I loved that. I'm not very familiar with triathlon swimming, and I'm certain now I want to keep it that way! The washing machine of kicks and punches sounds pretty terrible to me.

This isn't a training book or a diet book so it's not one to pick up if you are looking for guidance or training plans on how to get fit in your forties (although you may get inspired). It's much more of a memoir style book with Lebbon walking the reader through his journey to get fit through his forties. If you love reading this style of book from athletes (like I do!), this is a great one to pick up. Lebbon is down to earth and perfectly touches on the best way to get fit - finding the thing you love that makes you move.

⭐⭐⭐⭐★
4/5 stars

Jennifer

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Monday, August 9, 2021

Book Review | Feral Creatures by Kira Jane Buxton

Feral Creatures is the second book in the Hollow Kingdom series by Kira Jane Buxton.

 

In this stunning follow-up to Hollow Kingdom, the animal kingdom's "favorite apocalyptic hero"is back with a renewed sense of hope for humanity, ready to take on a world ravaged by a viral pandemic (Helen Macdonald).

Once upon an apocalypse, there lived an obscenely handsome American crow named S.T. . . .
 
When the world last checked-in with its favorite Cheeto addict, the planet had been overrun by flesh-hungry beasts, and nature had started re-claiming her territory from humankind. S.T., the intrepid crow, alongside his bloodhound-bestie Dennis, had set about saving pets that had become trapped in their homes after humanity went the way of the dodo.
 
That is, dear reader, until S.T. stumbled upon something so rare—and so precious—that he vowed to do everything in his power to safeguard what could, quite literally, be humanity's last hope for survival. But in a wild world plagued by prejudiced animals, feather-raising environments, new threats so terrifying they make zombies look like baby bunnies, and a horrendous dearth of cheesy snacks, what's a crow to do?
 
Why, wing it on another big-hearted, death-defying adventure, that's what! Joined by a fabulous new cast of animal characters, S.T. faces many new challenges plus his biggest one yet: parenthood.

I laughed, I cried, I fell in love.

Told through the POV of animals in a post-apocalypse trying to save the last human on Earth, Feral Creatures was an absolute joy to read.

Feral Creatures is fantasy, scifi, and horror all rolled into one. It's a rare and beautiful book. The first book in the series Hollow Kingdom was one of my favorite books of 2019, and I have zero doubts Feral Creatures will be in my top books of the year list this year. (I have such a book hangover now!)

If you haven't read Hollow Kingdom, I highly, highly recommend you pick that one up and continue on with Feral Creatures. This series is such a gift!

⭐⭐⭐⭐
5
/5 stars


Review copy provided by publisher

Jennifer

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Sunday, August 8, 2021

Recent Updates and Currently Reading | August 8

Hi all! I'm been so long since I've posted an update! I'm not even going to attempt to catch up.

Ladies of Horror Fiction Awards

Did you see the winners and nominees in the Ladies of Horror Fiction Awards? So many amazing books!

My kids go back to school this week, and it's an absolute nightmare out there. Please stay as safe as you can. 🙏


Posted Last Week


Inheriting Her Ghosts by S.H. Cooper

Book Review | Inheriting Her Ghosts by S.H. Cooper ⭐⭐⭐⭐★ - Inheriting Her Ghosts turned out to be such a comfort read for me.

Finished Reading


Feral Creatures (Hollow Kingdom #2) by Kira Jane Buxton
Feral Creatures (Hollow Kingdom #2) by Kira Jane Buxton - I loved this book so much. Stay tuned for my review tomorrow.

Currently Reading


Dragon Mage (Rivenworld #1) by M.L. Spencer
A Psalm for the Wild-Built (Monk & Robot #1) by Becky Chambers

Dragon Mage (Rivenworld #1) by M.L. Spencer - I'm listening to Dragon Mage on audio, and I'm obsessed. It has such a classic fantasy feel to it.

A Psalm for the Wild-Built (Monk & Robot #1) by Becky Chambers - I started reading this last night. Everything Becky Chambers writes is a delight.

Added to the TBR


The Dead and the Dark by Courtney Gould
Billy Summers by Stephen King

The Dead and the Dark by Courtney Gould - I've very excited about this YA horror debut.

Billy Summers by Stephen King - Constant Reader.



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, August 5, 2021

Book Review | Inheriting Her Ghosts by S.H. Cooper

Inheriting Her Ghosts is a horror novella by S.H. Cooper.


Inheritance often comes with strings attached, but rarely are they as tangled as those hanging over High Hearth.

When Eudora Fellowes learns she's the sole heir of her estranged great-aunt's seaside manor, she believes it will be the peaceful escape she's longed for. What awaits, however, is a dark legacy shrouded in half a century of secrets, and it doesn't take long before Eudora realizes she's not the only one to call High Hearth home.

I love reading books by S.H. Cooper.

I'm not always a fan of Gothic stories, but Cooper's writing style works so well for me in Inheriting Her Ghosts. This book is filled with ghosts, dogs, and a strong woman MC among other things, but that's really all I need.

Inheriting Her Ghosts turned out to be such a comfort read for me. When I need a hug from something scary, I will reach for this book again. Recommended!

⭐⭐⭐⭐★
4/5 stars

Jennifer

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Thursday, July 29, 2021

Mini Middle Grade Horror Reviews

I am behind on my reviews and have some catching up to do! Here are a few of the middle grade books I've read recently!

Crater Lake by Jennifer Killick


Who is the mysterious bloodstained man who stops their coach? Why is no one around when Lance and the rest of Year Six arrive at the brand new Crater Lake activity centre? But this is just the beginning of the school trip from hell; a fight for survival that sees five pupils band together to save their classmates from an alien fate far worse than death. But whatever happens, they must Never. Ever. Fall asleep!

I cannot get enough of middle grade horror, and Crater Lake is scifi horror! This book was a lot of fun, and I adored that it had a big scifi element to it. I need more of that in my life.

I already have a copy of the sequel. (It was a must read preorder for me.) I can't wait to check it out.

⭐⭐⭐⭐★
4/5 stars



The Stitchers (Fright Watch #1) by Lorien Lawrence


The start of a spine-chilling new horror series about the eerie happenings in a small town
 
Something strange is happening on Goodie Lane . . .
 
Thirteen-year-old Quinn Parker knows that there’s something off about her neighbors. She calls them “the Oldies” because they’ve lived on Goodie Lane for as long as anyone can remember, but they never seem to age. Are they vampires? Or aliens? Or getting secret experimental surgeries? Or is Quinn’s imagination just running wild again?

If her dad were still around, he’d believe her. When he was alive, they’d come up with all sorts of theories about the Oldies. Now, Quinn’s determined to keep the investigation going with the help of Mike, her neighbor and maybe-crush. They’ll have to search for clues and follow the mystery wherever it leads—even if it’s to the eerie pond at the end of the street that’s said to have its own sinister secrets. But the Oldies are on to them. And the closer Quinn and Mike get to uncovering the answers, the more they realize just how terrifying the truth may be.

I'm excited about this series! The Stitchers is a fun - what is going on with the old people in this neighborhood - spooky delight.

I can't wait to see what spooky adventure comes next for these kids. I'll be there!

⭐⭐⭐⭐★
4/5 stars
 



The Nefarious Necklace by K.A. Evans


Ghosts are pesky things, and ten year old Gaby Brown would like to get rid of hers. After Gaby touches an old necklace at her local museum, the menacing spirit of an ancient Egyptian girl named Kesi appears. The ghost wants something. And she wants it now! When Kesi threatens Gaby’s family, Gaby knows she must do something. But what? How can she stop a ghost? Gaby and her friend, Jacob, delve into Egypt’s past and realise there’s more to the necklace than they thought. Can they unravel the clues and help Kesi before the ghost gets REALLY angry?

The Nefarious Necklace reminds me of Magic Treehouse books! When Gaby touches an ancient Egyptian necklace, she is transported to ancient Egypt and must help a restless spirit. I think kids that have grown up reading Magic Treehouse would love to graduate into reading The Nefarious Necklace.

The horror is slow to emerge in this one, but it does definitely show up by the end. I would follow Gaby on more quests.

⭐⭐⭐
3/5 stars
 


Jennifer

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Monday, May 3, 2021

Book Review | The Last Flight by Julie Clark

The Last Flight is a thriller novel by Julie Clark.


The Last Flight by Julie Clark

Claire Cook has a perfect life. But behind closed doors, nothing is quite as it seems. That perfect husband has a temper that burns as bright as his promising political career, and he's not above using his staff to track Claire's every move. But what he doesn't know is that Claire has worked for months on a plan to vanish.

A chance meeting in an airport bar brings her together with a woman whose circumstances seem equally dire. Together they make a last-minute decision to switch tickets ― Claire taking Eva's flight to Oakland, and Eva traveling to Puerto Rico as Claire. But when the flight to Puerto Rico goes down, Claire realizes it's no longer a head start but a new life. Cut off, out of options, with the news of her death about to explode in the media, Claire will assume Eva's identity, and along with it, the secrets Eva fought so hard to keep hidden.


I missed out on reading The Last Flight last year. When the April Book of the Month selections came out last month, I wasn't in the mood for any of the options so I went back and added The Last Flight to my BOTM box instead. I'm so glad I did. The Last Flight was exactly what I was in the mood for. I don't read enough thrillers so I'm always thrilled when I find one that sucks me in and keeps me entertained. I had a bit of a book hangover when I finished.

The Last Flight alternates between two women who are attempting to escape from the lives they've been dealt. One is escaping an abusive husband, and the other is fleeing from a life just as dangerous.

I loved two things about this book - 1) I didn't want to put it down and 2) I loved the friendships. I'm finding more and more friendships in my adult fiction, and I love it. There's not any earth-shattering content that makes this thriller stand out above the rest - it's just a really solid thriller that I enjoyed.

I read The Last Flight during a weekend down at the beach. It's a great choice for a summer/vacation read.

⭐⭐⭐⭐★
4/5 stars
 

Jennifer

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Monday, April 19, 2021

Book Review | The Low, Low Woods by Carmen Maria Machado

The Low, Low Woods is a horror graphic novel by Carmen Maria Machado


The Low, Low Woods by Carmen Maria Machado

 

When your memories are stolen, what would you give to remember? Follow El and Vee as they search for answers to the questions everyone else forgot.

Shudder-to-Think, Pennsylvania, is plagued by a mysterious illness that eats away at the memories of those affected by it. El and Octavia are two best friends who find themselves the newest victims of this disease after waking up in a movie theater with no memory of the past few hours.

As El and Vee dive deeper into the mystery behind their lost memories, they realize the stories of their town hold more dark truth than they could've imagined. It's up to El and Vee to keep their town from falling apart...to keep the world safe from Shudder-to-Think's monsters.

Collects issues # 1-6.


It's been a while since I've been sucked into a graphic novel. I've read a few lately that just didn't work for me. The Low, Low Woods has reminded me how much I enjoy reading comics.

The Low, Low Woods isn't perfect. It's strange (in both good and bad ways), and it's meta enough to mention deus ex machina. But the strong female characters, friendship, and really great body horror have me recommending that you pick it up next time you are looking for a good horror graphic novel.

⭐⭐⭐⭐★
4/5 stars
 

Jennifer

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Monday, March 29, 2021

Book Review | Be Wary of the Silent Woods by Svetlana Chmakova

Be Wary of the Silent Woods is the first book in the Weirn Books series by Svetlana Chmakova.

Be Wary of the Silent Woods by Svetlana Chmakova

In the Night Realm, vampires, shifters, weirns, and other night things passing for human prowl the streets... but they still have to go to school! Ailis and Na'ya are pretty average students (NOT losers), but when a shadow starts looming and a classmate gets all weird, they are the first to notice. It gets personal, though, when Na'ya's little brother D'esh disappears-It's time to confront the secrets of the forbidden mansion in the Silent Woods!

Join the acclaimed author of Awkward, Svetlana Chmakova, for an outing into her favorite fantastical world full of magic and adventure!


This is a catch up review from last year! Be Wary of the Silent Woods was one of my favorite books of last year. I featured it on my Favorite Books of 2020 post, but I never posted a proper review for it.

2020 was an amazing year for middle grade books, and Be Wary of the Silent Woods was another home run for me. Be Wary of the Silent Woods is the first volume in the The Weirn Books series. It's a graphic novel, and I adored it.

A weirn is a witch born with a demon guardian spirit bound to them for life.

The guardian spirits reminded me of the daemons in the His Dark Materials series. They did not have a big role in this first volume which makes me really excited to see what comes next. I would love to know more about them. This first volume focused mostly on the kids, the night school, and the mystery of the creepy old house in the silent woods.

Even though this is just volume one, we are treated to a full story here. I cannot wait for the next volume in this series! Svetlana Chmakova wrote a previous series set in this same world called "Nightschool: The Weirn Books". I'm going to need to track those down along with her other series to tide me over. 

⭐⭐💫
4.5/5 stars

Jennifer

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Sunday, February 28, 2021

Book Review | Alone by Megan E. Freeman


  Alone is middle grade survival story by Megan E. Freeman.

Alone by Megan E. Freeman

When twelve-year-old Maddie hatches a scheme for a secret sleepover with her two best friends, she ends up waking up to a nightmare. She’s alone—left behind in a town that has been mysteriously evacuated and abandoned. With no one to rely on, no power, and no working phone lines or internet access, Maddie slowly learns to survive on her own. Her only companions are a Rottweiler named George and all the books she can read. After a rough start, Maddie learns to trust her own ingenuity and invents clever ways to survive in a place that has been deserted and forgotten. As months pass, she escapes natural disasters, looters, and wild animals. But Maddie’s most formidable enemy is the crushing loneliness she faces every day. Can Maddie’s stubborn will to survive carry her through the most frightening experience of her life?

I'm back with some more middle grade horror today! I was really excited when I discovered Alone because it sounded dystopian to me, and I couldn't remember having read anything like it. I instantly preordered because I was so intrigued! I didn't realize at the time that Alone was written in verse. To be perfectly honest, I was worried when I found out. I have DNF'ed several middle grade books over the years that were written in verse, but I had absolutely no problems with the writing or the structure of Alone. I think that format enhanced Alone!

I was also excited that the main character had a dog as her companion. (This is one of the reasons that I read Alone this month - Barb is hosting her annual puppy love challenge to read a book in February featuring a dog.)

Overall I really enjoyed Alone. I felt like I was on this survival adventure right along with Maddie. I loved her as a character, and I loved her rottweiler George. The premise is Maddie wakes up to find herself entirely alone in her world. She has to figure out how to gather supplies and survive on her own. I think kids who like survival stories would enjoy this and find it to be quite unique. The first night I started reading Alone, I had nightmares about my youngest child being left behind to survive on his own.

I could really feel Maddie's loneliness while reading Alone. I think being written in verse, it was a perfect vehicle to express a lot of Maddie's emotions. There's a section at the end that includes one of my favorite poems of all times - The Summer Day by Mary Oliver. I think that section is just so beautiful.

As much I did enjoy Alone - I have some complaints. Everyone left in the middle of just one night. Not just in Maddie's town but in the surrounding towns, too. Everyone left their cell phones and all of their pets behind. The only reason was convenience to the plot. I know a lot of my followers have trouble with animal death. These pets were left behind in cages and in homes. There is also a bad guy in Alone, and this is proven via a kitten. Any reason the author could have given for everyone to leave especially without their cell phones or their pets would have been better than the one we got.

When it comes to middle grade horror, I pass any books that I like on to my kids, and I donate the rest. Despite my complaints, I will pass this one on to them. I have no doubts they will have the same issues, but it's still a book that really sucks you in and makes you care. If you have kids in your life or in your class who love survival stories, I still say add this to your collection. They will fall for Maddie and George, and they will likely enjoy the unique way this story is presented through verse.
 
⭐⭐⭐
3/5 stars

Jennifer

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Monday, February 22, 2021

Book Review | Lakewood by Megan Giddings

Lakewood is a debut horror novel by Megan Giddings.

Lakewood by Megan Giddings

A startling debut about class and race, Lakewood evokes a terrifying world of medical experimentation—part The Handmaid’s Tale, part The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.

When Lena Johnson’s beloved grandmother dies, and the full extent of the family debt is revealed, the black millennial drops out of college to support her family and takes a job in the mysterious and remote town of Lakewood, Michigan.

On paper, her new job is too good to be true. High paying. No out of pocket medical expenses. A free place to live. All Lena has to do is participate in a secret program—and lie to her friends and family about the research being done in Lakewood. An eye drop that makes brown eyes blue, a medication that could be a cure for dementia, golden pills promised to make all bad thoughts go away.

The discoveries made in Lakewood, Lena is told, will change the world—but the consequences for the subjects involved could be devastating. As the truths of the program reveal themselves, Lena learns how much she’s willing to sacrifice for the sake of her family.

Provocative and thrilling, Lakewood is a breathtaking novel that takes an unflinching look at the moral dilemmas many working-class families face, and the horror that has been forced on black bodies in the name of science.

I read Lakewood with the Ladies of Horror Fiction Goodreads group. I didn't realize Lakewood was being compared to The Handmaid's Tale. I also see now appropriate comparisons to Catherine House. I'm not a fan of either of those works so I want to start out by saying I'm probably not the right audience for Lakewood.

The exploration of medical experimentation and race in Lakewood was chilling, and I loved Megan Gidding's writing style.

I like there to be a strong balance between plot and character development, and I felt both of these were lacking in Lakewood (as well as in The Handmaid's Tale and Catherine House).

If you are someone who likes to focus more on the narrative than on the plot, Lakewood might be the right fit for you. I think this is a strong debut, and I will keep my eye out for Gidding's next release.

⭐⭐⭐
3/5 stars


Jennifer

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Friday, February 19, 2021

Book Review | Hide and Seeker by Daka Hermon

Hide and Seeker by Daka Hermon is a middle grade horror novel.

Hide and Seeker by Daka Hermon

One of our most iconic childhood games receives a creepy twist as it becomes the gateway to a nightmare world.

I went up the hill, the hill was muddy, stomped my toe and made it bloody, should I wash it?

Justin knows that something is wrong with his best friend.Zee went missing for a year. And when he came back, he was . . . different. Nobody knows what happened to him. At Zee's welcome home party, Justin and the neighborhood crew play Hide and Seek. But it goes wrong. Very wrong.

One by one, everyone who plays the game disappears, pulled into a world of nightmares come to life. Justin and his friends realize this horrible place is where Zee had been trapped. All they can do now is hide from the Seeker.


Hide and Seeker by Daka Hermon absolutely blew me away. Not only is it a scary middle grade novel - this is a straight up MG horror - it has a lot of heart. Friendship, family, terror. You guys have seen me praise a lot of middle grade horror lately, and this is one I highly, highly recommend. Put it in your classrooms, put it in your libraries, buy it for your kids, buy it for yourself. I was an absolute mess reading this book. Books like Hide and Seeker are exactly why I read - and will continue to read - middle grade. I haven't found an adult book with this kind of heart in a long time.


5/5 stars

Jennifer

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