Dreaming Darkly by Caitlin Kittredge!

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Creepy fun! I thoroughly enjoyed Dreaming Darkly by Caitlin Kittredge!
Ivy’s mother recently committed suicide, so she’s going to live on the island of Darkhaven with her Uncle Simon and his housekeeper. Ivy soon learns about the Bloodgood family curse from the only other people living on the island, the Ramsey family. Veronica, the housekeeper, later explains the curse to Ivy. Uncle Simon also tells Ivy about the murders her great grandfather committed. He killed an entire household leaving only one Ramsey family member alive and then his twelve-year-old daughter walked in and saw him covered in blood. Supposedly this curse makes people crazy. Ivy does make a few friends and school isn’t too bad but living in the manor becomes stranger and scarier. Ivy sees skeletons, ghosts and finds a body covered in blood. She almost falls off the cliff but Doyle Ramsey happens to wake her just in time from her sleep walking. I would have liked a little more information about Ivy’s parents and the relationship they had but Dreaming Darkly is spooky fun with all the suspense and creepiness needed to make an edge-of-your-seat read, 5 stars!

The Escape Room by Megan Goldin

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Intense and clever!
Thanks to St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review The Escape Room by Megan Goldin!
The story opens as Miguel walks his night shift rounds in the empty, not-yet-open office building. He hears a scream and gunshots so he calls 9-1-1 and two policemen arrive. The police are skeptical until an elevator door opens and they start shooting. When Miguel finally gets a view of the elevator, he’s disturbed because he’s never seen that much blood before. The story then jumps back to thirty-four hours earlier when four people meet in an empty office building in the South Bronx on a Friday night. Next, Sylvie, Sam, Jules and Vincent are introduced to the story and they’re all on edge since the meeting was set up last minute and is interfering with their personal plans. The meeting appears to be an escape room challenge and as the four coworkers struggle to find clues, the story alternates with Sara as she’s interviewed, hired and works for Stanhope. Fresh out of college, Sara is thrown right into the devious nature of the career path she’s chosen and the financial and investment banker world takes a devastating toll on her entire life. Greed makes people cold and brutal and Sara learns firsthand how cruel people can be. She’s upset over the supposed suicidal death of coworker Lucy and questions Vincent when she feels that Lucy didn’t really commit suicide. She asks him if he thinks that maybe there was foul play. After that discussion, Sara’s berated about her work and her appearance and she eventually loses her job. The story alternates between Sara and her four elevator-confined coworkers. The escape room clues are interesting and we learn the reasoning behind them as the trapped four work them out. A solid suspenseful tale of greed, self-absorption and actions people might take to ensure that they come out on top, 4 stars!

Something Like Gravity by Amber Smith

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Tough situations handled well by author!
Thanks to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing and Margaret K. McElderry Books for the opportunity to read and review Something Like Gravity by Amber Smith!
First we meet Chris, who’s changed identities. Next is Maia who has lost her sister Mallory. Both main characters feel lost and, while Chris is struggling with the transformation of being transgender, Maia is trying to figure out the basics of who she is without her sister. The two of them work through some of their struggles together but Maia seems to be having a more difficult time adjusting personally than Chris. Transgenderism is handled perfectly from all perspectives, personal, family, friends and romantic relationships. Being transgender would be difficult enough as it is, but adding a relationship would make everything even more complicated. How and when do you tell your romantic interest or even just a new friend? They have a right to know, so their feelings are respected too. The author approaches these issues gently and respectfully for all sides involved. Losing a loved one is also part of this book and that’s something that all of us will have to deal with at sometime in our lives. These tough situations are handled well by the author, who also shares her own experiences with sexuality. I wish the cover was better though; I can see it being a deterrent for readers. 3.5 stars!

The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead

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Based on the true events of Florida’s infamous reform school!
Thanks to NetGalley and Doubleday for the opportunity to read and review The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead!
Historical fiction novel based on the real reform school that horribly mistreated the boys who resided there. Traumatized young men were left to deal with the abuse on their own. The story focuses on Elwood and we learn about other boys’ stories through his eyes as he witnesses them. The prevalent racism harbored hatred to the point of punishing innocent people and sending them to this terrible reform school where even harsher acts of racism occurred. The abuse went on for decades and through several headmasters. After reading this novel, I felt compelled to research the truth behind the story and was sickened at the amount of violence and abuse that young boys had to live through. Some didn’t survive. I truly don’t understand how the adults took part in or witnessed and kept quiet about any of the abuse. What’s their excuse? The Nickel Boys is tremendously powerful, enlightening and tragic, 4 stars!

8 Souls by Rachel Rust

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A haunting that just won’t stop!
Thanks to Entangled Teen and NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review 8 Souls by Rachel Rust!
Spooky and ominous from the beginning; I was instantly hooked! Mysterious and recurring dreams about a house haunt Chessie; they have since she was little. These dreams were part of her life, to the point that she drew the house for her elementary teacher after she gave the students the assignment of drawing their dream house. Little does she know that Chessie dreams of a house where murders were committed over a century before. When Chessie draws her dream house scene, the teacher is worried and notifies her parents. She then ends up being sent to a psychiatrist. Ever since then, Chessie keeps her dreams to herself, even when she’s hearing voices. She finally confides in someone else and the two of them share the struggle of solving the haunting. 8 Souls is well-written, contains awesome characters and a haunting that won’t stop until justice is complete; 5 spooky stars!

How It Feels to Float by Helena Fox

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Original, thought-provoking story!
Thanks to Bookish First for the ARC of How It Feels To Float by Helena Fox and Dial Books. I received the book as a Bookish First winner!
Elizabeth, Biz, sees and hears her dad even though he’s been dead for many years. Biz lives in Australia with her single mother and younger twin siblings. She has a best friend named Grace that’s loyal to the point of vandalizing, on Biz’s behalf. They both receive warnings from the police even though Grace keeps saying that Biz was innocent. Grace’s family sends her away and Biz becomes more withdrawn. So, Biz starts therapy and a photography class. Her therapist advises Biz to stay in the moment and acknowledge her feelings and live. She meets new people and makes new friends as she spreads her wings. She also acknowledges the problems that have been buried deep inside. How It Feels to Float was a therapeutic read for me and I relished the professional advice given to Biz. I can see how this book might be triggering, especially if the reader is dealing with similar struggles. I really cannot sum this book’s effect in one word because it’s somewhat enigmatic.,thought-provoking, eye-opening and uniquely unusual! The revealing of the cause of Biz’s struggles was jittery and not explained as well as I expected it to be. I would have appreciated more explanation and feel that this would be more healing and helpful to those that have experienced the same traumas and for this reason, I rate this book 4 stars!

 

Prom-Wrecked by T.H. Hernandez and Jennifer DiGiovanni!

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Event after event of chaos!
Thanks to NetGalley and Entangled Teen for the opportunity to read and review Prom-Wrecked by T. H. Hernandez and Jennifer DiGiovanni!
The opening, showing the ragged and imprisoned state of the teen prom attendees, made me curious and the book didn’t let me down. The group of prom planners and prom goers dealt with a mountain of tumultuous events before the prom ever started and then prom was eventful with completely different issues. The characters are realistic, overwhelmed and anxious, just like real teenagers. Drama, of course takes a part in this story but so does maturity, loyalty and perseverance. Riley, Catherine and Owen are the three main characters, each with distinct personalities and Owen is in the middle of all the action. Fun and with a message of prevailing justice makes Prom-Wrecked an interesting read, 5 stars!

The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein by Kiersten White

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Introspective retelling!
Thanks to NetGalley and Delacorte Press for the opportunity to read and review The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein by Kiersten White!
The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein is a fresh and unique retelling of Mary Shelley’s classic story. I love the female protagonist, Elizabeth. Her background has been lonely and she’s always struggling to secure her place in the world, much like women of the time period the story takes place in. The mystery intrigued me and after Elizabeth’s background was set, the action and mystery picked up the story’s pace. Tragedy seems to strike all too often around the Frankenstein manor where Elizabeth was taken in as a young girl. Her favorite companion has always been Victor Frankenstein and he claims ownership and complete companionship of Elizabeth. The story becomes darker as it progresses, which makes it even more interesting to read. Historical fiction, horror, and a retelling earn 5 stars! Kudos to Kiersten White for her remarkable retelling!

When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore

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Truly original fantasy!
I read When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore as a buddy-read event for Dragons & Tea Book Club. Thanks to NetGalley and Thomas Dunne Books for the opportunity to read and review this book by providing the ARC!
This is a unique story that pulls from deep-seated cultural roots and a little deception. Sam and Miel share trust, loyalty and a special relationship. They also share their community with a group of sisters that could be considered mean girls, with a power they’ve grown so used to, that they do not want to lose it and will do whatever it takes to keep it. Wow! Aracely’s background revelation was something I was not expecting! Sam struggles with the decision of who (what gender) he wants to be in the near future. He’s struggling to the point of desperation. Miel blames herself for the loss of her mother and brother. She thinks the river might give them back to her. The fantastical elements are kind of difficult to understand in this story but I do enjoy the flow of the author’s writing. As usually is the case, the author’s notes are enlightening! They are also helpful in understanding Miel’s fears and Sam’s struggles. I appreciate that Anna-Marie McLemore shares such personal experiences and revelations with her readers! 4 stars for this unique fantasy!

Smoke and Key by Kelsey Sutton

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Unusual supernatural story!
Thanks to NetGalley and Entangled Teen for the opportunity to read and review Smoke and Key by Kelsey Sutton!
The story opens as the main character awakens in a cramped space, then feels a falling sensation. She discovers that she’s fallen into Under, which is a place where some people go after they die. Others start being terminated by being burned by a murderer. The only way Under residents die is through being burned because they are already dead. A strange story about the people who reside in Under and what happens when they gain their memories back. My favorite part of the book details the relationship memories of Smoke and Key. A little bit of magic used in the inappropriate way and revenge fuels the plot. Being slow at times and the unusual world-building earn 3 stars!