Book Review

Go with the Flow- Book Review

Book Rating: ★★★★☆ (4 / 5 stars)

 It’s sophomore year and Sasha is starting at a new school; meanwhile, Abby, Brit, and Christine are looking forward to having the best school year yet! When Sasha’s period starts leaving an embarrassing stain on her clothes, Abby, Brit, and Christine come to her rescue…only to discover that…oh no! The school doesn’t have any tampons or maxi pads in their machines! The girls find this injustice utterly repulsive, and sends them down a journey to share the struggles menstruating facing individuals deal with every single day of their lives. 

This wonderful comic will help girls – young and old alike – realize that it is OKAY to talk about periods. It’s a part of the human body for almost all individuals assigned female at birth. But, it also shows how a small act of rebellion can go along way. Sometimes, just opening the floor up to discussion is all the world needs to make change. 

The comic also highlights the utter importance of having access to feminine hygiene products at schools…at no cost to the students. I can remember back to my own high school (and even college) years. Were the products readily available? No. Did the sports teams get new uniforms? Yes. 

Hopefully any young girl, or woman, will take this comic with a full heart. Together, we can implement change. Menstruation is unavoidable, and it impacts everyone differently in society. So if we work together to discuss it, to provide resources, then we can end the taboo.

That’s the message of this wonderful comic.

And it’s the message everyone should hold dearly. 

What’s it about?

Sophomores Abby, Brit, Christine, and Sasha are fed up. Hazelton High never has enough tampons. Or pads. Or adults who will listen.

Sick of an administration that puts football before female health, the girls confront a world that shrugs―or worse, squirms―at the thought of a menstruation revolution. They band together to make a change. It’s no easy task, especially while grappling with everything from crushes to trig to JV track but they have each other’s backs. That is, until one of the girls goes rogue, testing the limits of their friendship and pushing the friends to question the power of their own voices.

Now they must learn to work together to raise each other up. But how to you stand your ground while raising bloody hell?

Book Review

Sister of the Chosen One – Book Review

Book Rating: ★★★★☆ (4 / 5 stars)

Being a hero is tough.

So is being a hero’s sister. 

Valora and Grier Rigmore have a tenuous relationship; Valora is the chosen one, and Grier is her sister who can only create petty portals. But, with the threat of Erys on the rise, Valora is faced with the constant hurdle of her self-doubt, while Grier begins exploring her talents beyond measure. Can the two sisters come together to fight this evil? Or will the Chosen One and her Sister fail to protect the world?

In a wonderfully written story with two well defined heroines with distinct personality, we venture to Proctor Moor, a school reminiscent of Hogwarts where students of many abilities come together to hone in on their talents, and see the pressures that the Chosen One faces. Sister of the Chosen One does a fantastic job in displaying how high expectations often cause talented individuals to struggle, as is evident with Valora. But it also shows how having the attention placed on one child impacts their siblings. Grier is bitter towards her sister, but not out of jealousy; it’s the type of bitterness you see with siblings. They still love each other, but the wedge exists nonetheless. 

While I knew the message pretty early on behind the prophecy, the journey that Valora and Grier take is significant and well written. They have their ups and downs – from Valora kissing the boy Grier likes, to Grier using her talents to save Valora, and vice versa – but ultimately, their bond prevails. 

While parts of the story got a tad repetitive (Grier complaining about Valora and vice versa), and I wanted to know more about their friends and family (like Agnes, Leo, and Nan), ultimately the story is a fantastic tribute to super heroes, magic, and family. The twists didn’t really surprise me, but they were well done, and the groundwork was there in a masterful way. 

I do have to give kudos to the authors. Sometimes, when two authors work on a project, the narrative isn’t cohesive. Having two narrators, both with distinct personalities, worked in these authors favor though. Valora and Grier were different enough to keep me intrigued, while holding enough similar characteristics as sisters.

Honestly, if you enjoy superheroes, magical schools, and stories about family, then Sister of the Chosen One is right for you!

What’s it about?

Valora Rigmore understands pressure. As the Chosen One (resident telekinetic, superstar and model girlfriend) her life revolves around it. According to an ancient prophesy, Valora is destined to fight Erys, a terrifying individual with the power to control monsters. Valora is worshipped at school, in the press and by her parents, but as the battle with Erys looms near, the cracks in her perfect façade are beginning to show.

Her twin, Grier Rigmore understands disappointment. A curvy bookworm perpetually in the shadow of her sister’s legacy, Grier’s life is one long humiliation after another. However, as Valora’s fandom reaches an unbearable fever pitch, an interesting new boy and a clever teacher spark Grier’s curiosity about her own powerful gifts.

When Grier’s star begins to rise, so do more questions, like: who is truly the Chosen One, and will two sisters at odds survive long enough to understand the answer?

Best described as Harry Potter meets Mindy Kaling, Sister of the Chosen One is a darkly funny, female empowered YA epic about siblings struggling to connect with each other, free themselves of labels and save the world in the process.

Book Review

The Tangled Wood – Book Review

Book Rating: ★★☆☆☆ (2 / 5 stars)

Reginald, quite frankly, does not have high expectations for most things. A ruthless film critic with his marriage in crisis, he already is dreading his trip to the Poconos with his wife and kid. The entire trip is dry, and his expectations are undoubtedly low for the whole endeavor. In fact, the trip becomes so harrowing and annoying, it might even be a nightmare! And the pain, the anger, and the suffering…might just be what Reginald needs.

Honestly, I wasn’t sure how to feel about this story. The message is clear: a man going through the motions of life, wanting something more, even if it means getting beaten to a pulp. It ends on a terrifying note, where he discovers the body of a man he encountered earlier that day. This very well could be the tipping point to get Reginald to change.

But overall, I found the story cumbersome and boring. Reginald wasn’t likeable at all. While the conclusion of the story might be what gets him to change, something tells me he won’t. Which, honestly, might have been the point of the story. Some people want more, sometimes people die in the process, and they won’t change. 

But we won’t know.

I can’t say that the message is bad, just the execution didn’t work for me. There are much better stories out there with the same message. 

Although, some of it could be due to the length of the story overall. Either way, it wasn’t for me. 

What’s it about?

He went on the road expecting the worst of America, but what if the worst of America was also in him? This is the unsettling story of a man in a midlife crisis and his unexpected awakening, by award-winning writer Emily Raboteau.

Poison-tongued film critic Reginald Wright is known for his creative insults and intolerance for the garbage culture, insufferable rudeness, and thoughtless racism of predictably common people. Now, against his better judgment, and with a marriage in crisis, he’s attempting a getaway in the Poconos that quickly fulfills his every low expectation. In fact, it’s becoming a nightmare. And that’s just what Reginald needs to wake up.

Emily Raboteau’s The Tangled Woods is part of Dark Corners, a collection of seven heart-stopping short stories by bestselling authors who give you so many new reasons to be afraid. Each story can be read in a single sitting. Or, if you have the nerve, you can listen all by yourself in the dark.

Book Review

Oak Avenue – Book Review

Book Rating: ★★★★☆ (4 / 5 stars)

Ana didn’t want to move to this town, but she couldn’t say no to her husband, Edwin. Now cooped up in an old home with a haunting past, she swears there are ghosts out to haunt her. But with her husband away most of the week, and a town not willing to give up its secrets, can she prove that she isn’t going crazy?

In a haunting tale about a young mother trying to make a home for her family, we are transported to Oak Avenue, whose past clings to the house with twisted fingers, after being buried away beneath the earth. The fear is real, the emotion palpable, and the rumors even worse. The reader feels for Ana, waiting for her to uncover this distant mystery.

The mystery is never fully solved, as with many terrorizing nightmares. The ghosts and warnings of Oak Avenue will always remain. They will linger forever, and the readers will feel that hanging in the air even as the story draws to a conclusion. Will Ana be okay? Will Edwin return to normal? What are the secrets that remain in Oak Avenue? 

All of this couldn’t be answered in this short story, which is often the case for mysteries in the real world. Some people may find this frustrating though.

Just remember…don’t dig up doors from your backyard. They might just be haunted. 

What’s it about?

A young wife and mother—new to this town and to its secrets—learns just how much she doesn’t know in this tingly tale of all the things hiding in the dark at the top of the stairs, from bestselling author Brandi Reeds.

While renovating her Victorian home, Ana Clementine finds an ornate door buried under forty years of earth. Once she restores it to the attic, she starts hearing whispers, her loving husband becomes a stranger, and her baby daughter learns a chilling new word. Maybe Ana has unlocked the house’s secrets. Or maybe she’s becoming just a little unhinged herself.

Brandi Reeds’s Oak Avenue is part of Dark Corners, a collection of seven heart-stopping short stories by bestselling authors who give you so many new reasons to be afraid. Each story can be read in a single sitting. Or, if you have the nerve, you can listen all by yourself in the dark.

Book Review

Between Worlds – Book Review

Book Rating: ★★★★☆ (3.75 / 5 stars)

Alexis and Molly are best friends. No, they’re even closer than that. They are almost sisters, in a way! But when Molly goes missing, Alexis is determined to find her. Yet, as weird individuals pop up throughout town, with warnings about the fae on their lips, Alexis is suddenly thrust into the world of the fae. But who can she trust? And can she get her and Molly out alive without being harmed?

In an well-written adventure about two best friends, journey with Alexis into the realm of the fae, where she learns there is more to herself and the world than meets the eye. I love stories that are about two friends, especially where someone sacrifices the life they know to find their best friend. Even more, it’s great when it is two young women who love each other without a doubt. This is Alexis’s guiding principle through the story: everything she does is for Molly.

Alexis is relatable, especially to insecure teenagers who aren’t sure about their weight or aren’t quite so outgoing. This story isn’t just about Alexis finding Molly. It’s also about Alexis finding herself. 

The characters pop from the page: between Alexis’s internal conflict, Molly’s bubbly personality, Jynx’s hijinks, Jaxith’s silent demeanor, and Keir’s flirty one. Each character has their own unique goals, which really make the world of the Fae all the more interesting. Even the minor characters, such as Molly’s other friends or the villains, stand out. It’s these characters that make this story shine.

It is a bit slow in pace, especially in the beginning, but that isn’t the primary reason why I’m giving this 3.75 stars instead of 4. I decided to knock off a fraction of the rating due to a personal preference. I realized, while reading this, that I am not a big fan of the tropes surrounding the fae: the marking, the manipulation, the age differences, etc. While Keir is sexy and likeable – and I completely understand why Alexis would not mind being marked by him – the idea that he marked her without permission made my stomach crawl. Granted, Alexis also does not shy away from saying that to him, which is a saving grace. This is by no fault the author, but a common trope in the fae lore. 

Despite that though, I think I will adventure into the world of the fae again with Alexis and Molly in book two. Jennifer Ridge is a talented author and definitely one to watch. 

So if you like the fae, like a bit of romance, and also two best friends who will do anything for each other…definitely check out Between Worlds

What’s it about?

Do you believe in faeries? Alexis does, but not instinctively. She prefers a logical explanation for her friend Molly’s disappearance. But after coming up with only dead ends, she wonders if the impossible could be possible.

Is Molly lost in the Faery Realm? Determined to find her friend, Alexis makes a deal with one of the fae to bring her into the Faery Realm. But it is dangerous, and if Alexis isn’t careful, Molly won’t be the only one who needs saving. 

Book Review

Kiki’s Delivery Service – Book Review

Book Rating: ★★★★☆   (4.5 / 5 stars)
Audio Book Performance: ★★★★☆ (4 / 5 Stars)

As a witch, Kiki is expected to venture off into the world after her thirteenth birthday in order to come of age. Her goal: settle down in a town or city that needs a witch in order to help. But, when Kiki arrives in a city that is devoid of witches, she finds that people are not welcoming, but fearful. With only her cat Jiji at her side, can she find a way to assimilate into the city, especially when the only she is good at is…flying (and even that isn’t perfect)? 

Kiki’s Delivery Service is the inspiration for the Studio Ghibli movie by the same name. Unlike the movie, the story is much more a “slice of life” type of tale, taking us through Kiki’s jobs over the course of a year. There isn’t as much conflict, except for Kiki’s determination to grow older and succeed in her tales, in contrast to  the movie.

I actually had never seen the movie. After finishing the book, I rented it for comparison’s sake. The essence of both stories are the same, but the movie focuses much more on Kiki’s earlier turmoil, trying to fit in and show that witches aren’t “evil.” In the book, Kiki doesn’t lose her magic or give up, generally optimistic for the most part! I think it was important for the movie to focus on a larger conflict rather than these episodic problems, otherwise audiences would lose interest. 

The book itself is cute, with an endearing message about growing up. Children, and adults alike, will connect with Kiki’s journey of self-discovery. The only reason why I give it 4.5 stars instead of 5 is because I lost interest in a few of the stories at a time, since ultimately they were a tad predictable.

This is one of the rare circumstances where I think I enjoyed the movie more than the book though. Both are wonderful, but the movie has a deeper message with a bit more substance. (This is in contrast to how I felt regarding Howl’s Movie Castle, another Studio Ghibli movie). Either way though, if you enjoyed the movie, the book definitely adds a bit more to the movie, and vice versa.

Overall, it is worth the read! 

What’s it about?

NOSTALGIC FANS OF THE HIYAO MIYAZAKI FILM AND NEWCOMERS ALIKE – SOAR INTO THE MODERN CLASSIC ABOUT A YOUNG WITCH AND HER CLEVER CAT THAT STARTED IT ALL!

Half-witch Kiki never runs from a challenge. So when her 13th birthday arrives, she’s eager to follow a witch’s tradition: choose a new town to call home for one year.

Brimming with confidence, Kiki flies to the seaside village of Koriko and expects that her powers will easily bring happiness to the townspeople. But gaining the trust of the locals is trickier than she expected. With her faithful, wisecracking black cat, Jiji by her side, Kiki forges new friendships and builds her inner strength, ultimately realizing that magic can be found in even the most ordinary places.

Blending fantasy with the charm of everyday life, this enchanting new translation will inspire both new and dedicated fans.

Book Review

Hannah-Beast – Book Review

Book Rating: ★★★★☆ (4 / 5 stars)

Hannah Talbott’s death has haunted Amanda for 34 years. Halloween in particular brings back these memories; after all it was just supposed to be a prank! No one was supposed to get hurt! But now, Hannah Talbott is engrained in the town’s local history, and children dress up as “Hannah-Beast” every year, never allowing for Amanda to escape the nightmare. But this Halloween feels different; is Hannah finally out to seek her revenge? And will Amanda pay the price?

In a heartbreaking tale about bullying and guilt, we follow two stories: Amanda as she tries to survive another Halloween. But this time, she is balancing her daughter’s teenage angst without her husband by her side. It is obvious from the beginning that something is haunting Amanda, and her own trepidation is evident throughout the narrative: she can’t stand the Hannah-Beast costumes, and each time one rings the bell for candy, her memories drag her back into that fateful night. The second narrative is Hannah’s, 34 years ago, showing a young girl longing to fit in, and how really…she was never a beast. Just a victim of bullying, blamed for the destruction of a barn, who didn’t see any way to escape…like a beast, trapped in a cage. 

As a note: if you do not like violence, death, or suicide, this story won’t be for you. It does not have a happy ending, and it drags the reader through Amanda’s own paranoia in a remarkably vivid way. The horror is within Amanda, not in a beast. 

While most of us have never caused someone’s death (whether directly or indirectly), I am sure we have all had a moment in our life that haunts us. Hannah-Beast plays on that, and most of us might start reflecting on a moment where we wish we could have spoken up, wished we hadn’t caved to peer pressure, and wished we could forget about that day. 

Hopefully, it won’t lead us to Amanda’s fate. 

Hopefully, we won’t be scared when a little girl says “boo!”

What’s it about?

The fate of a lonely girl becomes part of a town’s shameful secret history in Thriller Award winner Jennifer McMahon’s terrifying story of guilt, retribution, and one tragic Halloween night.

Thirty-four years ago, on October 31, poor Hannah Talbott took part in a scavenger hunt gone violently wrong. The mean girls made sure of it. To this day, for a haunted local mother, the most unsettling Halloween costume of all is an urban legend they call Hannah-Beast. It’s a reminder of the past she can’t forget. Especially tonight when it’s come back, so close to home.

Jennifer McMahon’s Hannah-Beast is part of Dark Corners, a collection of seven heart-stopping short stories by bestselling authors who give you so many new reasons to be afraid. Each story can be read in a single sitting. Or, if you have the nerve, you can listen all by yourself in the dark.

Book Review

Foreverywhere – Book Review

Book Rating: ★★★☆☆   (3 / 5 stars)
Audio Book Performance: ★★★★★ (5 / 5 Stars)

Mote is the last unicorn in Anyville, dubbing himself as “the Finalcorn”, and is hunting for a group of new friends. How? By forming a band of course! But, becoming an awesome band is harder than it seems. First he needs to recruit…and then he needs to keep his band members together through thick-and-thin! This is way more difficult than he though, especially as his guitarist – the talented Princess Rainbow – faces problems at home. Can they come together to put on a rocking show for Anyville? Or will they be a one-hit-wonder?

In a cute story about friendship and “rocking out”, we go on this adventure with Mote as he chases his dreams. The message is clear for children and adults alike: hard work and passion will make your dreams come true…as long as you’re having fun at the same time. And Mote, Rick, Betsy, and Princess Rainbow sure do have a lot of fun! 

Overall, this cute story is a load of fun, reminiscent of some cartoons (my mind immediately went to Adventure Time) and kid’s movies. This story really is for children though, and while I think children will have a ton of fun with it, I did find that it lacked some conflict and overall was a bit “boring.” If it was any longer, I might have lost interest entirely. I am not saying this is how children will feel about it, of course, but as an adult who reads/listens to a lot of children/middle-grade novels, this one probably won’t stick with me to the same extent.

Despite that, it was fun, with a phenomenal performance cast. Children will love it, and who knows…maybe they’ll want to form a band too! 

What’s it about?

Foreverywhere tells the tale of a young unicorn (perhaps the last unicorn in existence?!) and his quest, along with a Giant named Rick, a spider named Betsy and the guitar-shredding Princess Rainbow, to form the best band in the fantastical world of Anyville. But first, they’ll have to contend with the increasingly strange weather that seems to follow Princess Rainbow everywhere, and a rival band determined to bring them down. Will this group of misfits be able to rise above? 

Book Review

The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle – Book Review

Book Rating: ★★★★★  (5 / 5 stars)

Aiden has no memory of his past; all he knows is he woke up in the forest, screaming the name “Anna.” But the players are in place, the game is set. And Aiden Bishop has to recall the rules and play the game over eight days as he occupies different hosts, to determine who in fact killed Evelyn Hardcastle. But, with a man in a plague doctor mask, a mysterious footman out to kill him, and a woman named Anna stuck in a similar loop, Aiden has to solve this murder while also saving his own life. Otherwise, the loop will start again in perpetuity. 

In a fascinating “who-done-it” mystery, with a twist of “Quantum Leap”, we are thrown into a unique story about a man trying to right a crime…without any recollection as to why. Each host Aiden occupies has it’s own characteristics, funneling there way into his personality, so sometimes even the reader cannot tell each person apart. It’s done masterfully and with purpose, and part of me wishes I took notes while reading this book, because each clue was laid out with precision. 

To be fair, when I love a book like this, it is so hard to write a review. The message is clear: everyone is given a chance to rewrite their destiny. That is the message of Blackheath, lying beneath the floorboards and waiting. This is not just a story about a murder; it’s not just a story about rehabilitation; it’s a story about change, for everyone. Good, bad, or in between. 

There’s an ambiguity that remains as well. We are left with questions about one of Aiden’s “competitors”, about the foundation of Blackheath, and whether this is a sci-fi or fantasy tale. Do the answers to these questions matter? No at all. It is left in the air so we can decide. And that ambiguity is a clear message: sometimes things aren’t exactly as they seem, as is obvious with the overall outcome.

I’m definitely going to consider going back to read this book again, possibly taking notes in the process. Stuart Turton wrote everything with such care, I can’t imagine the time it took to plot this novel out!

Please, if you enjoy a good mystery, definitely pick up this book! It’s utterly fascinating, unique, and compelling! 100% recommend. 

What’s it about?

Aiden Bishop knows the rules. Evelyn Hardcastle will die every day until he can identify her killer and break the cycle. But every time the day begins again, Aiden wakes up in the body of a different guest at Blackheath Manor. And some of his hosts are more helpful than others. With a locked room mystery that Agatha Christie would envy, Stuart Turton unfurls a breakneck novel of intrigue and suspense.

For fans of Claire North, and Kate Atkinson, The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is a breathlessly addictive mystery that follows one man’s race against time to find a killer, with an astonishing time-turning twist that means nothing and no one are quite what they seem.

This inventive debut twists together a thriller of such unexpected creativity it will leave readers guessing until the very last page.

Book Review

Beezer – Book Review

Book Rating: ★★★★☆   (4 / 5 stars)
Audio Book Performance: ★★★★★ (5 / 5 Stars)

Beelzebub: prince of demons.

His path was laid out for him; one day, he would take over his father, Lucifer’s, reign. 

Well, so he thought, until his father banished him to the human world. 

Now, Lucifer is stuck as a human with an adopted family, forced to live out the rest of his days. But can he figure out a wall back to the underworld without alerting his humans, thus proving to his father how worthy he is for the crown? Or will he be stuck in the mortal realm forever? 

In a fun, heartwarming story about found-family, we follow Beelzebub (or Beezer, as his family calls him) as he navigates life as a pre-teen in the modern world. Filled with a cast of unique characters – from his dog Tony Pepperoni (and host to a demon), to his siblings Lucy and Dash, as well as his adopted mother Jessica – there is no reason not to fall in love with the family. Beezer himself is a relatable character: he’s a preteen who just wants his father’s love, but really what he needs is a caring family…and to love himself. 

While the story is predictable, it has all the best elements that both adults and children will adore. The full-cast of this audio novel makes it all the better, letting you picture each of the characters without description. Lucy is precocious and outgoing, Dash is silly but somewhat shy, and Beezer, well, he is the kid trying too hard to be “punk” or a “rebel.” 

Ultimately, it is this performance that makes the story shine. Without it, the overall tale might not be all that compelling, and kind of repetitive overall. But I actually had a ton of fun listening to this audio drama! 

If you want a quick audiobook to fill your day that will warm your heart like the fires in the underworld, definitely check out Beezer. It’s fun. That’s all I can really say. 

What’s it about?

A lovely coming-of-age tale of Beezer navigating the pre-teen angst of family, feelings, and friends. So what if he’s a demon? For ages nine and up.

Beelzebub, the prince of demons, is bored. It’s his destiny to one day rule the dark underworld known as the Red Realm, but it’s sooo boring down there. All he wants to do is lay around all day in the lava pits (ahhh), boss everyone around (rude!), and maybe play a cruel prank (or two). But Beelzebub’s father has had it with his son’s nasty attitude. No one talks back to the Red King. NO ONE.

A disgraced Beelzebub is banished by his father and cursed to spend his days in the worst place either of them can imagine: EARTH. Now Beezer (his new name… which he hates) has to navigate a family (way too nice for his liking) that doesn’t know the truth behind where he really came from. Oh, and his human body? Not a fan. Too many feelings! And it makes weird sounds.

What would Beezer do to get back home and reclaim his rightful place next to his father? Anything it takes. That is unless, he finds a new path (ugh, work).