Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Author Spotlight: M. Verano

Cover art courtesy of Goodreads
Here's the first of hopefully many author spotlight posts! Upon reading two books of his, I had to go a little more in depth on the mystery and books surrounding author M. Verano.

I've read 2 of Verano's 3 Diary of a Haunting books, the first one Diary of a Haunting, and the upcoming third one Book of Shadows. These books are definitely not for the faint of heart, and you really need to love thrillers to even pick them up (how about those creepy covers huh?). The premise behind these novels is that they are diaries detailing horrific paranormal events, the first following a family that lives in what seems to be a possessed house and the third following a group who engages with a demonic book. I really enjoy horror/thrillers, so I was immediately drawn to these books.

Cover art courtesy of Goodreads
The first, the original Diary of a Haunting, was pretty good. Paige, her brother, and her mother recently moved into an old house and things start to go wrong, and fast. The ending of this book was a crazy twist, and overall earned a 4 star rating from me.

The third, Book of Shadows, followed 4 teenagers, Melanie, Caleb, Lara, and Lucas, as they entangle their beginner practices of witchcraft with a powerful demonic Book of Shadows and all hell breaks loose. This was definitely not as good as the first. I didn't connect with the characters as much, and the writing left something to be desired, so I only gave it 3 stars.

The second book, Possession, is still on my radar to read!

Cover art courtesy of Goodreads
That leaves the author, the mysterious M. Verano, who is supposedly a professor of history and a purveyor of the paranormal at the University of Idaho. But Verano is also a character in his own books...so are they fiction or nonfiction? Obviously fiction, but then who is the author? From the beginning I knew M. Verano had to be a pen name, and after a little digging I found I was right. M. Verano is actually Amy Ross, and it doesn't appear that she's released anything other than these 3 books. Not sure how I feel about the whole pen name bit, because although I love the mystery surrounding it, I always end up disappointed when I find out who the real author is.

Have you read any of the Diary of a Haunting books, and what did you think?

Thanks so much to Edelweiss+ and Simon Pulse for the advanced digital copy of Book of Shadows! Book of Shadows was recently released on September 19th!

Monday, September 25, 2017

There Are No Vampires in This Book by Megan Bailey

Cover art courtesy of Goodreads
'Tis the season for creepy reads! The cover and title of this book immediately drew me in, and I devoured this novel in just a few hours. There Are No Vampires in This Book by Megan Bailey follows twenty-something Taryn and her two friends Aiden and Kenzie. Taryn's life is anything but normal after she witnessed her parents being brutally killed by a vampire at a young age. 

Now, Taryn is dead-set on getting revenge. After pretending to get over the incident to resume a normal life, she spends all her spare time preparing: working out, doing graveyard sweeps, etc. to be ready for the day she finally meets her parents' killer, and she insists on dragging her two best friends along for the ride.

Upon finding who she believes to be the guilty vampire, Taryn drags her friends through a series of adventures as they stalk his every move, from a bar fight to an impromptu tattoo session, until she finally has the opportunity to get revenge for her parents' death. Here, with Taryn about to kill who she has prepared to face her whole life, the story comes to a head and a very unexpected ending.

I really enjoyed this book. It was a quick read with a great plot. My biggest complaint is that it wasn't longer! I wanted more of Taryn, Aiden, and Kenzie. I also think it ended too quickly, with Taryn being more accepting of the truth than I think was realistic. Overall I definitely recommend this book if you're looking for a fast, fun fall read!

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Thanks to the author, Megan Bailey, for sending me a copy of this great story to review!

Monday, September 18, 2017

Alone by Cyn Balog

Cover art courtesy of Goodreads
WHAT A RUSH. This book was insane! Alone by Cyn Balog follows Seda, her 4 siblings, and her mother. The family lives in a secluded mansion at the top of a hill, which Seda's mother had inherited and originally set out to refurbish and sell. The kicker here is that the mansion was previously a murder mystery inn, with props, hidden passageways, and secrets lurking around every corner, and now Seda's mother is thinking of keeping it and living there...permanently.

One snowy night, a few stranded teenagers show up seeking shelter, and Seda tries her best to turn them away, knowing things about herself and the house that mean danger for the group. But she fails, and soon the group, along with Seda and her siblings, are immersed in a murder mystery scavenger hunt that soon turns deadly.

I absolutely adored this book. It was a great blend of The Shining and Halloween, with a little Friday the 13th mixed in. It was fast-paced and thrilling, with a creepy, gripping plot that wouldn't let me put it down. And what a plot twist! I never would have seen that ending coming in a million years, and I love that it wasn't predictable. Seda was an incredibly fascinating, albeit twisted, character, and her awkward interactions with others were spot on. The murder mystery premise was great, as were the vivid descriptions of this creepy old house. And without spoilers (you'll know what I mean when you read it) OMG THE FREEZER!

My biggest complaint was that too much time was spent leading up to the murder mystery scavenger hunt, and not enough time on the hunt itself. Also, as much as I loved the ending something about it seemed a little too unrealistic for me. It was incredibly graphic as well (which I don't mind at all), but if you're squeamish this might not be the book for you. But overall, this was a great thriller with a phenomenal cast of characters and a plot that's to die for...literally.

Alone by Cyn Balog hits shelves on November 7, 2017!

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

A huge thanks to Sourcebooks Fire for sending me an ARC of this book!

Friday, September 15, 2017

Fierce Kingdom by Gin Phillips

Cover art courtesy of Goodreads
I chose Fierce Kingdom by Gin Phillips as my August Book of the Month with high hopes. It follows Joan and her son Lincoln as they get trapped in a zoo at night during a shoot out and have to figure out a way to survive. Hiding in an empty porcupine enclosure, they narrowly avoid the shooters, then later are united with some other lone survivors to await rescue.

Unfortunately, this book left much to be desired. I haven't felt this strongly about a book negatively (that I finished anyway) in a long time. First, it's unrealistic. The son Lincoln is supposed to be 4 years old, but the vocabulary he uses is insane (the kid actually uses the words vile and assassination in sentences). Smart or not, it completely contradicts the immaturity that Lincoln shows throughout the book. Secondly, the main character Joan REALLY bothered me. I'm not sure if she was just stupid or what, but her actions throughout the entire incident were horrible. She yelled at the girl who tried to save her by bringing her into a safe hiding spot. She went to the FULLY ILLUMINATED snack machines to get snacks for her son (who while he has the vocabulary of an SAT student, can't stand being hungry without screaming). The whole time I really disliked both Joan and her son, which is not something you want to feel about the main characters of a book. Third, this entire book only spanned about 3 hours of time, and I think trying to drag this story out into a full length novel was unnecessary. It could have been a great short story or novella, but it spent way too much time on virtually nothing to fill length. And the ending? Totally anticlimactic and SUPER ambiguous with a lot of questions still remaining. 

What I will say about this book was that the writing was great, and the overall idea behind the plot was incredible. I also liked how you got multiple points of view, even though it primarily followed Joan. The cover art for the book was beautiful, even though that doesn't count for much. I think Phillips did a good job addressing a really challenging topic: young boys feeling hurt by the world looking to do some damage as revenge. I imagine writing in the point of view of the shooters for those few sections of the book were incredibly challenging, and even though I was disappointed in this book overall, some of those scenes really made my spine tingle.

You win some, you lose some, and unfortunately this book was a loss for me. It seemed marketed as a thriller but was really more about the mother/son relationship, which left me disappointed. I am still giving it 2.5 stars, because I think some people might really enjoy it, and overall the premise was good.

Overall Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

We All Fall Down by Natalie D. Richards

Cover art courtesy of Goodreads
*lets out a sigh* So this book. It's taken me a while to really think about what to say about this book, because I don't know if I liked it or not. And I'm not sure I fully understood everything that was happening either. Is that good? Is that bad? No idea. But I'll try my best to give you my spoiler-free review anyway.

We All Fall Down by Natalie D. Richards is a YA novel that follows Theo and Paige, two teenagers seemingly bound together by a lifelong friendship, a terrible accident, and a bridge. When you pick up this book, at first glance it may seem like horror, but it was so much more than that, and it was scary for unexpected reasons. That's because Theo and Paige both have mental disorders. Theo has ODD and ADHD and Paige is crippled by anxiety. Throughout the story these conditions dramatically impact the course of the plot as Theo and Paige get wrapped up in their illnesses, each other, and what is happening to them.

After a traumatic accident at a local bridge, Paige and Theo spend the summer apart, with Paige in a summer science program and Theo working construction with his uncle. Mysteriously, the two are drawn back to one another as flashbacks from that fateful night begin to haunt them. Voices,  strange items, and danger become more prevalent the nearer they are to the bridge (where Theo has a construction project and Paige is testing water samples). These paranormal happenings draw the couple together again while simultaneously tearing them apart, culminating in an event that will end it all for good.

I enjoyed how this book was split into the point of view of both Paige and Theo, and it was a quick read that kept me on-edge the entire time. The ending was a little anticlimactic, so I was disappointed by that. And I'm still not completely sure which parts were actually paranormal vs which parts were mental health related. In addition, I had some unanswered questions about two of the minor characters, Melanie and Gabriel. I think I may need to reread this one to really put my finger on how I feel about it overall.

I will add that I LOVED this book as an advocate for the importance of mental health and caring for yourself. Seeing the characters (Paige especially) struggle with their conditions helps the reader understand what life is like for someone with a mental illness. As a diagnosed sufferer of anxiety myself (although not nearly as crippling as Paige), it was nice to see the truth represented of how anxiety can make anything seem like the truth, no matter how far-fetched or unrealistic it may seem to an outsider.

We All Fall Down by Natalie D. Richards hits shelves on October 3, 2017!

Overall Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Thanks to Sourcebooks Fire for an advance copy of this book to review!

Monday, September 11, 2017

Gold Dust Woman: The Biography of Stevie Nicks by Stephen Davis

Cover art courtesy of St. Martin's Press
Anyone that knows me knows that I'm a die hard Stevie Nicks-aholic. I gobble up info on Stevie like it's going out of style, and even have a crescent moon tattoo on my wrist dedicated to the original Sister of the Moon. I was lucky enough to see her live a few months ago, and have never been the same. This is why when I had the opportunity to have early access to the newest Stevie biography I jumped at the chance to absorb even more information on this musical queen.

Gold Dust Woman by Stephen Davis is yet another unauthorized biography on Stevie, but it is filled with so many wonderful quotes and stories that there's really no way to tell. She has reportedly said in the past she would write an autobiography of her own, but has since nixed the idea due to not wanting to expose and hurt those around her. I went into this biography expecting to know most of the information already as a self-proclaimed Stevie addict, but I was pleasantly surprised to learn things I hadn't known before, and to get more detail on some of the things I did already know.

Like your typical biography, it starts with Stevie (or Teedie as her friends and family called her) as a child, detailing how she came to discover music (through her grandfather) and the early years of the soon to be rock goddess. There it moved on to her meeting Lindsey (Buckingham that is) and embarking on a career she couldn't have imagined in a million years. Through her time with Fleetwood Mac (the good, the bad, and the ugly) to her self-discovery as a solo artist in her own right, to battles with drugs and exes, Gold Dust Woman gives great insight into the life and mind of Stevie, up until this past year.

I loved many things about this book. First, it didn't read like a typical biography in the sense that it was fast-paced and easy to get through. Normally nonfiction in general is harder to read, with an abundance of details that make it difficult to wade through, but this was different and I flew through this book (the subject matter definitely helped with that as well!). I liked how it tied current events into Stevie's life, like Kennedy's election and Hurricane Katrina, and how all of these things impacted her both personally and musically. 

In addition, it gave so much more depth and detail in relation to the band dynamic of Fleetwood Mac than I'd ever seen before. I had no idea how much they walked all over her, and I was proud to see the parts in her life where she finally started to assert herself and exercise her star-power as the cash cow of the band. I was also shocked to find out some of the details that Gold Dust Woman revealed about Lindsey and how he treated Stevie (and the band). I have always been one of those to promote the great Stevie/Lindsey love affair, but after learning more about it I'm glad that Stevie was able to escape the control and abuse that came with a relationship with Lindsey. And finally, I loved the detail that Davis went into on Stevie's relationship with Joe Walsh. Of all her boyfriends over the years, I didn't realize until now how much Joe really meant to her, and that he truly was her one great love.

Overall this biography was a phenomenal read. Gold Dust Woman by Stephen Davis paints the life of Stevie Nicks as glamorous, if not difficult, and her well fought-for (and well-deserved) fame as something to be admired. In the man's world of music, Stevie was able to fight and claw her way to the top with a raw talent and drive that proved she had what it takes to earn (and maintain) her celebrity status. This book further solidified my love of Stevie Nicks and her ambition, and reminded me once again, in Stevie's own words, to continue to "walk like a queen."

Gold Dust Woman: The Biography of Stevie Nicks by Stephen Davis hits shelves on November 21, 2017.

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Thanks to St. Martin's Press for providing me an advance copy to review! All opinions are 100% my own.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Thoughts About Classics

Let's talk about classics. Books like The Great Gatsby, Moby Dick, and Great Expectations have long survived the test of time. They're the subject of many a high school English class, and as such are typically touted as books that people hate because they were "forced to read them." But why?
Why do people appreciate classics when they are read voluntarily but would alternately hate the exact same book if it was read for an assignment?

I've read many a classic, both back in school and voluntarily, and I think this all boils down to the fact that we don't really understand them. Classics are hard to read, simple as that, and because of that being forced to read them makes them seem even worse. The language is different, cultures and traditions are different, and it's hard for us to relate to the characters simply because we can't relate to their time period. Because of these things, we have to focus a lot harder while reading to understand what is going on and really grasp the concepts and the story line.

But I don't think it has to be this way. I love SO many classics, and I try to read a new one every month or two, not only to experience more books but to educate myself and learn. You can't go into reading a classic and expect it to be like picking up something like Harry Potter...you have to be mentally prepared for it. But if we start looking at classics for what they are, I think we can really learn to enjoy them and get more out of the overall reading experience.

Not into classics? Here are a few of my favorites for you to try that are easy to read, for either the writing itself, the length, or an amazing story that just sucks you in!
  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
    • It's short and the writing is easy to read, plus the story is incredible!
  • The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
    • Another short one with an easily-relatable story!
  • Lord of the Flies by William Golding
    • Short and an INSANE story!
  • Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
    • Ok, so this one is long as hell and hard to read, but the plot makes it worth it!
And here are some classics I have on my TBR because they look amazing:
  • Animal Farm by George Orwell
  • Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut
  • Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
What are your thoughts on classics, and do you have any favorites?

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

September 2017 TBR

I can't believe it's September already! Where has the year gone?! I have to say, I'm so happy that fall is here! I love everything about the fall: the cooler temps, the festivals, the holidays, and pumpkin everything! Plus this fall, I'm getting married! Only 33 days left until the big day and I'm SO excited! Hopefully with all the last minute tasks, I can still get a lot of reading done this month. Here's my somewhat ambitious TBR list for September:

  • Fierce Kingdom by Gin Phillips
  • Gold Dust Woman by Stephen Davis
  • Girl Logic by Iliza Shlesinger
  • The Doll House by Phoebe Morgan
  • Emma in the Night by Wendy Walker
  • The Thousandth Floor by Katharine McGee
  • More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera
Fingers crossed I get to all these exciting reads this month!