Gone Dark by Amanda Panitch

Her survival skills might keep her alive!

Zara’s father is a survivalist that lives on a compound. Zara and her mother used to live on the compound too, until seven years ago. Now she lives with her mother and attends public school far away from her father’s compound. Her father’s survival lessons are drilled into Zara’s head and she replays them often. When there’s a widespread blackout, Zara uses her survival knowledge to get away from a strange man chasing her, to find her mother and to help her friends. As they travel looking for safety and to reach her father’s compound for protection, they come across a lot of danger and strange, sometimes creepy situations, cult communities, religious communities, families stealing supplies from them and people that will do anything for self preservation. Interesting, unique dystopian story, 4 stars!

Turning by Joy L. Smith

A story that gives readers perspective!

Genie is a dancer who has lost the ability to walk. Ballet has been her life and was going to be her future but she fell and everything changed. Genie now uses a wheelchair to get around. She’s keeping a secret hidden from her family and she has more than one secret that’s pulling her down. Her ex-boyfriend is pushy and she has to force him to listen to anything she tries to say. This frustrates Genie tremendously and she wants to move on. She meets Kyle in physical therapy and he has his own tragedy that he’s struggling with. The two of them become friends. When her secrets are revealed, Genie will hopefully have the love and support she needs. A realistic fiction story that helps readers realize that troubles and struggles could be much worse. 4 stars!

The Hacienda by Isabel Canas

I did not want this book to end!

Beatriz marries Rodolfo. He’s a businessman and owns a large estate. He leaves to do business so Beatriz runs the estate in his absence. Juana, Rodolfo’s sister, believes she’s the one in charge and she treats everyone gruffly. Beatriz starts to feel like she’s being watched and things get creepier from there, to the point that she’s afraid for her life. She asks the local priests for help and all but one shun her. Padre Andres helps her under the guise of being a priest to help the estate workers. He has knowledge from his ancestors that can help exorcise evil. The house has an extremely powerful, angry spirit and it’s harmful. This is an elaborate and beautifully written horror story that I didn’t ever want to put down. I also didn’t want it to end. 5 stars!

The Last Beautiful Girl by Nina Laurin

Wonderfully spooky!

Isa moves from Brooklyn, where she loves her life, to a small community that doesn’t seem to have much to offer. Isa, her mom and dad move into the Granger House, which was elegant and decadent a century ago but has faded and become decrepit. The house also has deaths in its history. The community is in awe of the Granger House because of the mysteries surrounding it. Bodies have been found, supposedly homeless vagrants; a teenage girl has disappeared from there; and the home owners’ unknown endings. Isabelle Granger was a beautiful model who many artists painted portraits of. These portraits are all over the house. Isabelle’s husband was discovering new art forms dealing with photography but his shop was burned to the ground but no one knows what happened to him. Isa meets an aspiring photographer at school and together they recreate Isabelle Granger’s portraits through photography and post them on an Instagram account that becomes very popular. Isa’s personality begins to change and she becomes impatient, arrogant and self-important. Her family and friends notice and they try to intervene before tragedy strikes. This is a spooky, suspenseful book that I thoroughly enjoyed reading, 5 stars!

The Last House on Needless Street by Catriona Ward

Morbidly fascinating!

Weird. Psychologically twisted. Wow… This story is a mystery in itself because of the narrators. As I read, I was unsure if I could trust any of the narrators. They all seem unreliable in some way. Ted, the man with extremely odd behavior and lifestyle, Olivia, Ted’s cat, and Dee, a woman who moved into Ted’s neighborhood who’s secretly looking for her younger sister that’s been missing for years. Ted supposedly has a daughter, Lauren. It’s difficult to decipher her age and maturity. Also, it seems that Ted’s mother handicapped Lauren so she’s unable to walk. It took me a few chapters to get into the story but then I needed to finish it to figure it all out. By the time, I read the entire book, I was fascinated, albeit a bit morbidly. I completely appreciate the author’s notes at the end of the book, explaining everything and making sense of it all and her spoiler alert at the beginning of her notes. So, don’t read her notes until after you’ve finished reading the book. She shares her research also, which is impressive! I want to read more of Catriona Ward’s books now. She wrote an intricate and complicated story, The Last House on Needless Street, showing the fragility and capabilities we all have within us. 5 stars!

Cold the Night, Fast the Wolves by Meg Long

A wonderful mix of dystopian, science fiction and adventure awaits!

Running from someone she stole from, Sena ends up accidentally hiding inside a feral wolf’s cage. She’s caught by the den boss, Kalba, so he makes a deal with her that she’ll pay her debt by healing the wolf. The wolf’s name is Iska. Kalba named his prized fighting wolf after Sena’s mom. This irritates her horribly. She agrees to help heal Iska but she gets sidetracked more than once with trying to steal enough to pay her way off the ice planet. After a few misadventures, Sena ends up with a racing team that’s planning scientific studies of the exocarbon that the planet is known for. Sena is angry with herself because she vowed that she would never race. She learns how much she can truly handle and how teamwork helps tremendously with problem solving. I enjoyed this read, even through Sena’s pessimism and stubbornness. A wonderful mix of dystopian, science fiction and adventure awaits readers who want to plunge into another world, 5 stars!

The Forest of Stolen Girls by June Hur

Love the historical aspects of this story!

A young woman disguises herself as a man to look for her missing father. She visits the sister she hasn’t seen in five years and there’s still much animosity between them. The sisters have a history in the forest. When they were younger, they were lost and then found unconscious in the midst of a crime scene. Now the sisters work together to find out what’s happened to their father after he went searching for thirteen missing girls in the forest. The mystery surrounding the missing girls and their father twists and turns until the sordid truth is unraveled. Based on the forced sacrifices of young women of Korea around the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, the historical aspects are the most fascinating parts of the story and the danger builds suspense. 3.5 stars!

At the End of Everything by Marieke Nijkamp

Thought-provoking dystopian!

Teens at a juvenile detention center are deserted by the adults, warden, guards and caretakers in one day. A group of teens leaves for the nearest town only to be stopped by soldiers at the town’s edge. The soldiers tell them everything is on lockdown and a sickness is going around. The soldiers instruct the teens to head back to the center. They do only to break into two groups; those leaving and those staying. A sickness soon breaks out at the center and teens start dying. The sickness starts with a cough and turns into a bloody cough. Each teen is dealing with their own problems and reasons for being sent to the center which is a good chunk of the book. I can see dystopian readers devouring this book, especially because the pandemic is so close to our current reality. Though-provoking dystopian for young adult readers, 3 stars!

The Companion by Katie Alender

Creepy, suspenseful fun!

Margot is the sole survivor of a tragic family car accident. She ends up at the Palmer orphanage until a rich family chooses her as their ward. When she first arrives at the mansion, Mr. and Mrs. Sutton are kind and treat her as if she’s special. Margot is soon told about their daughter Agatha who doesn’t speak or show emotion. Agatha used to be a normal teenager but then she became angry and eventually shut down. Mrs. Sutton tells Margot that doctors believe a brain infection caused damage to her frontal cortex and changed her personality. Margot meets Agatha’s brother, Barrett. He’s protective of his sister but eventually warms up to Margot. The longer she’s in the Sutton home, the more strange things she discovers and the foreboding keeps growing. I like Margot and rooted for her throughout the book. Creepy, suspenseful fun, 4 stars!

Heartless by Marissa Meyer

Intrigue, mystery, and adventure!

Catherine loves to bake and wants to be a professional baker but her parents think that baking is servants’ work and they want her to marry the king, even if it’s against her wishes. The king seems very interested in Catherine’s baking and possibly for marriage with her. She’s not remotely interested. Jest, the new joker, fascinates Cath and the two of them develop a relationship. The Jabberwock continues to terrify and attack the people and Cath tells the king that he should be doing something about it. The king happens to be more interested in parties and happy thoughts than the safety of the kingdom. This fairytale retelling is full of intrigue, mystery and adventure as we learn the story of the Queen of Hearts from Wonderland. Enjoyable, suspenseful and heartbreaking, 5 stars!