2023 Monthly Themes (Continue a series or reread an author already read this year): Claim My Baby—Finished 3-31-23
Romanceopoly 2023! (Read a book where the main character works at or owns a bar)-About Love—Finished 4-1-23
Buzzword Reading Challenge 2023 (words in the title related to emotions, from happy to sad, smile to frown, pride to rage)—P.S. I Hate You—Finished 4-3-23
2023 Sami Parker Reads Title Challenge (a book with one of these words in the title: Sunny, Bright, Cloud or Rain): Brightest Shadow—Finished 4-6-2023
Cover Scavenger Hunt 2023 (a flower): A Spirited Manor—Finished 4-7-2023
The StoryGraph’s OnBoarding Reading Challenge 2023 (read one of the first 10 books you added to your to-read pile): The Night Swim—Finished 4-8-2023
The StoryGraph Reads the World 2023 (Italy): Find Me—Finished 4-10-2023
The StoryGraph’s Genre Challenge (a biography about someone you don’t know much about): Killing Kennedy: The End of Camelot—Finished 4-11-2023
Beat the Backlist 2023 (take place primarily in winter or a cold region): Tainted—Finished 4-19-2023
Scavenger Hunt TBR Book Challenge (go to the acknowledgments of the last book you read for this prompt. What name did you first see? Find a book written by an author with that name): Frost Burn—Finished 4-20-2023
Scavenger Hunt (Book I found that day): Delicate Ink—Finished 4-20-2023
Popsugar Reading Challenge 2023 (a book by a first time author): The Fifth Floor—Finished 4-21-23
2023 TBR Toppler (continue a series): Ten Thousand Lies—Finished 4-22-23
2023 Reading Challenge (book that has been on my TBR for the longest time): Purple Death—Finished 4-23-23
2023 ABC Challenge (D): Descendants—Carrying over to May
2023 TBR Prompts (A BookTok Favorite): The Song of Achilles—Carrying over to May
he next gut-punching, compulsively readable Kate McLaughlin novel, about a girl finding strength in not being alone.
When eighteen-year-old Dylan wakes up, she’s in an apartment she doesn’t recognize. The other people there seem to know her, but she doesn’t know them – not even the pretty, chiseled boy who tells her his name is Connor. A voice inside her head keeps saying that everything is okay, but Dylan can’t help but freak out. Especially when she borrows Connor’s phone to call home and realizes she’s been missing for three days.
Dylan has lost time before, but never like this.
Soon after, Dylan is diagnosed with Dissociative Identity Disorder, and must grapple not only with the many people currently crammed inside her head, but that a secret from her past so terrible she’s blocked it out has put them there. Her only distraction is a budding new relationship with Connor. But as she gets closer to finding out the truth, Dylan wonders: will it heal her or fracture her further?
Wake up. I snuggle deeper into the blankets, trying to puysh away the voice in my head.
Pieces of Me by Kate McLaughlin
When Dylan wakes up in an unknown apartment, she is freaked out. She has no idea where she is or how she got there. She is doubly freaked out when she calls home and realizes she has been missing for three days. Things go from bad to worse when Dylan attempts suicide and is hospitalized. She is soon diagnosed with Dissociative Identity Disorder. As she begins to accept her diagnosis, she realizes there is a reason why her alters were created. With the help of Connor, the man whose apartment she woke up in, Dylan begins to unravel the secrets to why her alters were created. Will she uncover the truth, and if she does, will she be able to start to heal? Or will the truth destroy her?
Usually, I would have left the trigger warnings where they are at the beginning of the review. But, in this case, I am going to list them. Listing the triggers with how raw this book is will help you decide on reading it. The triggers are:
Attempted Suicide: One of Dylan’s alters, Scratch, a protector alter, decided that the only way to help Dylan was to kill herself. Dylan woke up (for lack of a better word) right after Scratch’s attempt.
Childhood Sexual Abuse:Dylan created her alters to protect herself from years of sexual abuse from someone she knew.
Sexual Assualt: See above
Alcohol Abuse:Dylan abused alcohol regularly in high school.
Mental Illness:Dylan suffers from many mental illnesses, including anxiety and borderline personality disorder. She is diagnosed with Dissociative Identity Disorder after her suicide attempt.
If any of these trigger you, I recommend not reading this book.
As I mentioned in the previous paragraph, this is a raw book. I was unprepared for how raw it was and how it affected me. The emotions of Dylan, her family, and her friends came off the page and affected me to the point where I needed to put the book down. I couldn’t breathe because I was so upset with everything in the book.
Pieces of Me main storyline follows Dylan, her eventual diagnosis, her numerous alters, the treatment, her remembering of what happened, and what happens when she breaks her silence. I found the entire storyline heartbreaking. I was glad that the author chose to show Dylan’s memories of her childhood sexual abuse selectively. I don’t know if I could have dealt with reading what a grown man did to a 5-year-old. Some parts of the storyline felt unreal, like Dylan initially coming to her DiD diagnosis through a questionnaire her best friend found. But that aside, this storyline did keep me glued to the book.
I wasn’t too sure about how I felt about Dylan or her alters. I felt terrible because she was dealing with severe mental health issues. She came across as very immature during the book’s first half. But, I did see her character grow with her when she officially got her DiD diagnosis. The rules she set down for her alters were funny and sad at the same time. But I liked that her internal house (where her alters lived) also changed. The author spent time introducing the main alters and explaining their roles.
There were several secondary characters in Pieces of Me. I thought Dylan’s best friend was an alter until her brother started hooking up with her best friend. Speaking of her brother, I couldn’t stand him, but I got that he was so skeptical of Dylan’s diagnosis. Still, it didn’t excuse his behavior.
I wasn’t a fan of Dylan’s romance angle with Connor. I thought it was too fast, too soon. But he was good for her and did his homework when it came to being with someone with DiD.
Pieces of Me had a happyish ending. I say happyish because Dylan’s abuser was finally being brought to justice. But it caused a massive schism in her family. But the author did leave room for healing, and Dylan understood why a specific person in her life wanted to stand by her abuser. I liked how the alters was becoming accepting of integrating with Dylan. I almost wished there was an epilogue showing Dylan 5 years down the road and where she was in her journey.
I want to add that the author did post an author’s note at the end of the book. It explained the amount of research the author did on DiD.
I recommend Pieces of Me to anyone over 18. There is language, sexual situations (nongraphic), and violence. Also, see my trigger warning list above.
Many thanks to St. Martin’s Press, Wednesday Books, NetGalley, and Kate McLaughlin for allowing me to read and review Pieces of Me. All opinions stated in this review are mine.
If you enjoyed reading this review of Pieces of Me, then you will enjoy reading these books:
Francesca Flores’s The Witch and the Vampire is a queer Rapunzel retelling where a witch and a vampire who trust no one but themselves must journey together through a cursed forest with danger at every turn.
Ava and Kaye used to be best friends. Until one night two years ago, vampires broke through the magical barrier protecting their town, and in the ensuing attack, Kaye’s mother was killed, and Ava was turned into a vampire. Since then, Ava has been trapped in her house. Her mother Eugenia needs her: Ava still has her witch powers, and Eugenia must take them in order to hide that she’s a vampire as well. Desperate to escape her confinement and stop her mother’s plans to destroy the town, Ava must break out, flee to the forest, and seek help from the vampires who live there. When there is another attack, she sees her opportunity and escapes.
Kaye, now at the end of her training as a Flame witch, is ready to fulfill her duty of killing any vampires that threaten the town, including Ava. On the night that Ava escapes, Kaye follows her and convinces her to travel together into the forest, while secretly planning to turn her in. Ava agrees, hoping to rekindle their old friendship, and the romantic feelings she’d started to have for Kaye before that terrible night.
But with monstrous trees that devour humans whole, vampires who attack from above, and Ava’s stepfather tracking her, the woods are full of danger. As they travel deeper into the forest, Kaye questions everything she thought she knew. The two are each other’s greatest threat—and also their only hope, if they want to make it through the forest unscathed.
I slam the journal shut when a floorboard creaks downstairs, and listen closely for any more movement. Zenos must be awake now, which means he and my mother will come to my attic soon – and I’ll have to play the part of the perfect, obedient daughter.
The Witch and the Vampire by Francesca Flores
Ava has been confined to her room in her house for two years. She has unwillingly allowed her mother to steal her magic for two years. For two years, Ava had to hide that she was a vampire and was turned when vampires overran the town and killed her best friend’s mother. When her mother goes away on business and leaves her with her diabolical stepfather, Ava makes a break for the forest surrounding her village. Meanwhile, her best friend, Kaye, is channeling her grief into her Flame witch training. Fire is the only thing vampires are afraid of, and the villagers use it to their advantage, killing them with fire. Seeing Ava for the first time in two years, Kaye realizes she is a vampire. Channeling her rage and grief into capturing Ava, Kaye soon discovers the girl she was best friends with isn’t a heartless beast. Convincing Kaye that her only escape is through the woods, they travel. But they are being tracked by other vampires, vampire hunters, and Ava’s stepfather. Will Ava and Kaye make it through the woods? Will their friendship and budding romance rekindle? What truths will they find during their journey?
I was super pumped when I read the blurb for The Witch and the Vampire. I love fairy tale retellings and will go out of my way to read them. So when I read some reviews for this book and realized that it was a Rapunzel retelling, there was no way I wouldn’t read it. Have you read a good Rapunzel retelling? Well, until this book, neither did I.
Before I get further into the review, I do need to put up a trigger warning paragraph. The Witch and the Vampire do have a few trigger warnings. The trigger warnings are:
Blood (not surprising, this is a vampire story)
Death of a parent (Someone turned Ava’s father into a vampire, captured him, and then murdered him. Kaye’s mother was murdered also. Both are vividly remembered)
Animal death (Ava drank the blood of squirrels and rabbits to sustain herself)
Physical abuse (Ava by her stepfather, and it is graphic)
Torture (Ava by her stepfather during his experiments. Also what the Flame witches do to the vampires to get information. I considered both to be graphic)
Child abuse (Ava by both her mother and her stepfather. Her mother emotionally abused her and turned her into a vampire against her will. Her stepfather physically and verbally abused her when her mother was gone)
Vomit (Kaye threw up a few times but nothing overtly graphic)
Child death (off-page there were several murders of teens in the village and a preteen being used as a sacrifice)
Murder (so much murder)
If any of these triggers you, I suggest not reading this book.
The Witch and the Vampire is a fast-paced book. It took me no time to read because of how fast the plotline was. I enjoyed that!! It is a dual POV 3rd person storyline, which was great because I got to see what was going on in Kaye and Ava’s heads during the book.
The main characters in The Witch and the Vampire broke my heart. They both had suffered so much loss and had their innocence taken from them at an early age. I do wish that there were more flashbacks to when Ava was human. I would have loved to see more of her and Kaye’s interactions.
I liked Ava, and I loved that the author used her as a comparison to Rapunzel. Right from the beginning, I could tell that she was just done with being in the attic, and she was done with being used as a magical sippy cup for her mother. Ava’s main focus was survival for the first half of her storyline. Once she escaped from her house, she knew she had a limited time to get to the woods. Running into and getting captured by Kaye was not part of her plan. Her character growth throughout the book was terrific. I loved seeing her go from a scared child to a woman who wouldn’t be treated like she had been. Of course, the events in the last half of the book helped that along.
I feel bad admitting this, but Kaye annoyed me until almost just past the book’s climax. She refused to believe Ava about anything until it smacked her face (i.e., Ava and herself getting caught). Kaye made decisions based on emotion and not rational thought. She was a powerful witch, though. I also thought that her immediately putting Ava as her mother’s murderer was awful. But, like Ava, her character growth was remarkable. I liked seeing her misconceptions about vampires torn down. I also liked that she changed enough to admit she was wrong. That is when my annoyance with her disappeared, and I started to like her.
The lore in this book was unbelievable. I would have loved for there to have been a glossary with some of the more critical bits of lore added to it. Because I needed help keeping track of everything thrown at me, lore-wise. I also pray that there is book two because I have questions about the other lands mentioned in this one.
Kaye and Ava’s romance was very low-key until almost the end of the book. I liked that they had an adorable moment before everything went berserk. I also loved the flashbacks that showed how close they were friendship-wise and how close they were getting romance-wise. What happened at the very end of the book was an act of love by Ava. That was very clear to me, and Kaye knew it.
The storyline with the vampires, Ava, Kaye, and the journey to leave the woods was well-written and kept my attention. I couldn’t believe how vampires were treated and cringed reading those scenes. I also cringed at how Kaye treated Ava after capturing her. There was a very neat (and heartbreaking) twist to this storyline that I didn’t see coming. It involved Casiopea (the Queen of the Vampires) and how vampires were created. Again, I didn’t see it coming. Ava’s role in this was also a surprise.
The storyline with Ava, Kaye, the Flame witches, and Kaye’s mother’s murder was well-written and heartbreaking. Everything about this storyline was a twist. My heart broke for Kaye several times throughout this storyline. I also was a little mad that she couldn’t get her revenge.
The end of The Witch and the Vampire surprised me. There were deaths that I didn’t see coming and one that made me so angry that I had to put down my Kindle. I liked how the author wrapped up the storylines, and I had a huge smile when a certain someone got their just deserts. I hope the author writes another book in this universe because I would love to know more about what Kaye and Ava will do.
I would recommend The Witch and the Vampire to anyone over 21. There are no sexual situations or language. There is graphic violence. Please also see my trigger warnings.
Many thanks to St. Martin’s Press, Wednesday Books, NetGalley, and Francesca Flores for allowing me to read and review The Witch and the Vampire. All opinions stated in this review are mine.
If you enjoyed this review of The Witch and the Vampire, you will enjoy reading these books:
The StoryGraph’s Onboarding Reading Challenge (read a book from your StoryGraph recommendations)—Beautiful Demons—Finished 3-10-2023
The StoryGraph Reads the World (Cuba)—Of Women and Salt—Finished 3-12-2023
The StoryGraph’s Genre Challenge (a sapphic romance)—She Who Became the Sun—Finished 3-22-2023
Beat the Backlist 2023 (about dragons or robots)—The Glow of the Dragon’s Heart—Finished 3-22-2023
Scavenger Hunt TBR Book Challenge (what is the most common letter in the title of the last book you read for this challenge. Find a book with a title that starts with that letter)—Even the Moon has Scars—Finished 3-23-2023
Scavenger Hunt (the prettiest book in your TBR)—The Watchmaker’s Daughter—Finished 3-23-2023
Popsugar Reading Challenge 2023 (A book about a vacation)—The Swap—Finished 3-24-2023
2023 TBR Toppler (the first book in a series)—The Last Artifact—Finished 3-26-23
2023 Monthly Themes (March of the Memoirs)—In the Dream House—Finished 3-1-23
2023 Reading Challenge (A book in a series you already started)—Catching Fire—Finished 3-27-23
In a gripping novel perfect for fans of Sadie and A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder, two best friends start a true crime podcast—only to realize they may have helped a killer in the process.
In August of 1999, dazzlingly popular cheerleader Clarissa Campbell disappears from a party in the woods outside the rural town of Oreville, Washington and is never seen again. The police question her friends, teachers, and the adults who knew her—who all have something to hide. And thanks to Clarissa’s beauty, the mystery captures the attention of the nation. But with no leads and no body, the case soon grows cold. Despite the efforts of internet sleuths and true-crime aficionados, Clarissa is never found—dead or alive.
Over twenty years later, Oreville high-school juniors and best friends Blair and Cameron start a true crime podcast, determined to unravel the story of what—or who—happened to this rural urban legend. In the process they uncover a nest of dirty small-town secrets, the sordid truth of Clarissa’s relationship with her charismatic boyfriend, and a high school art teacher turned small-town figurehead who had a very good reason for wanting Clarissa dead. Such a good reason, in fact, that they might have to make him the highlight of their next episode…
But does an ugly history with a missing girl make him guilty of murder? Or are two teenage girls about to destroy the life of an innocent man—and help the true killer walk free?
Imagine this: A fairy-tale summer, blue and wild. Skinny-dipping in the Salish Sea with a trail of phosphorescence in your wake, sunburnt sholders, salt-sticky hair drying in the twilight as the stars come out.
Missing Clarissa by Ripley Jones
The disappearance of Clarissa Campbell shook the town of Oreville, Washington to its core. Her disappearance also intrigued the nation. A beautiful cheerleader with her life ahead of her disappears after a bonfire captivates the nation. Twenty years later, there are conspiracy theories and finger-pointing, but the case has gone cold. That is when Blair and Cameron (or Cami) come in. As part of a project for their journalism class, they decide to start a true crime podcast exploring her disappearance. As they start digging, they discover more about the case than what was reported. And what they ultimately uncover might kill them.
When I read the blurb for Missing Clarissa, I wasn’t impressed with it. I should have known not to judge the book by the blurb (or the cover if I am going to go there). This book was a great read. It kept me up late reading it. I was concerned about Cami and Blair (and their investigation), and I wanted to know what happened to Clarissa.
Usually, I would write the trigger warning at the end of the review, but I felt that these trigger warnings might be triggering more people. The trigger warnings are:
Adult/minor sexual relationships (off page-Clarissa plus other girls with her art teacher).
Sexual assault (off-page).
Gun violence (Cami and Blair).
Homophobia (off page, told by Clarissa’s boyfriend about what he did to a gay classmate).
If any of these trigger you, I recommend not reading this book.
What I liked the most about this book was how real it felt. The girls weren’t natural-born sleuths; they bumbled through the investigation with almost no tact (well, Cami did, Blair tried). They made enormous (and sometimes nearly catastrophic) mistakes. It made the book so much more enjoyable to read.
The main characters, Cami and Blair, were as opposite as they could get. Cami was brilliant, had no filter or tact, and tended to bulldoze her way through life. On the other hand, Blair was brilliant in her way, was cautious when approaching things, and moved along her lifepath cautiously. Their dynamic was perfect for the book. Together and separately, they clarified their investigation that made the book for me. Brilliant Cami made that final connection, and Blair figured out where Cami had gone and who she was with when Cami went missing.
I loved that the author made podcasts the book’s central focus (along with Clarissa’s disappearance). Again, Cami and Blair were not tech geniuses who knew how to set up their podcast. It was the opposite. Their podcast sounded like it was recorded in the bathroom, and they had zero editing skills. But even with that, they still got a decent following. I liked that the author included excerpts from the podcast at the end of the chapters. It tied everything together for me.
The main storyline of Missing Clarissa is the story of Clarissa’s disappearance. What I liked most was that it wasn’t cut and dry. It also showed that the investigation into her disappearance was bungled. I enjoyed watching it unravel as the girls tracked down witnesses, friends, and family. Each little bit of information gleaned was exciting. Of course, it did take a dark turn when the girls uncovered things about the sheriff, the former art teacher (who wasn’t as loved as he thought he was), and how that tied into the investigation. I wasn’t surprised at what was revealed (with the sheriff). To mess up an investigation that badly, there had to be outside forces in play. But I was surprised by what was revealed when they looked into the art teacher. I shouldn’t have been, considering the clues dropped and the sweep-it-under-the-rug mentality at schools in the 90s. What I was surprised about was the outcome of the investigation. I did not expect it to end as it did or the multiple investigations it spawned.
Several secondary storylines revolved around Blair, Cami, and their various relationships. I loved the one between Cami and her crush/soon-to-be girlfriend. Her coming out to her mom was hilarious. I was laughing my butt off that entire scene. Blair’s relationship with her boyfriend annoyed me. He was a jerk the whole book, and that scene towards the end gave me such satisfaction.
The end of Missing Clarissa was impressive. The twist on Clarissa’s missing person case and its fallout were well written. I did not see any of it coming. Several big revelations made me go, “No way.” It wasn’t a happy ending per se, but there was closure for many people and vindication for a man wrongly accused.
I would recommend Missing Clarissa to anyone over 21. There is violence, language, and nongraphic sexual situations. Also, see my trigger warning paragraph.
Many thanks to St. Martin’s Press, Wednesday Books, NetGalley, and Ripley Jones for allowing me to read and review Missing Clarissa. All opinions stated in this review are mine.
If you enjoyed reading this review of Missing Clarissa, then you will enjoy reading these books:
Andrea Hannah’s Where Darkness Blooms is a supernatural thriller about an eerie town where the sunflowers whisper secrets and the land hungers for blood.
The town of Bishop is known for exactly two things: recurring windstorms and an endless field of sunflowers that stretches farther than the eye can see. And women—missing women. So when three more women disappear one stormy night, no one in Bishop is surprised. The case is closed and their daughters are left in their dusty shared house with the shattered pieces of their lives. Until the wind kicks up a terrible secret at their mothers’ much-delayed memorial.
With secrets come the lies each of the girls is forced to confront. After caring for the other girls, Delilah would like to move on with her boyfriend, Bennett, but she can’t bear his touch. Whitney has already lost both her mother and her girlfriend, Eleanor, and now her only solace is an old weathervane that seems to whisper to her. Jude, Whitney’s twin sister, would rather ignore it all, but the wind kicks up her secret too: the summer fling she had with Delilah’s boyfriend. And more than anything, Bo wants answers and she wants them now. Something happened to their mothers and the townsfolk know what it was. She’s sure of it.
Bishop has always been a strange town. But what the girls don’t know is that Bishop was founded on blood—and now it craves theirs.
The land had always been parched but its thirst for blood was learned.
Where Darkness Blooms by Andrea Hannah
Bishop is a town haunted by sunflowers, windstorms, and missing/murdered women. The most recently missing women, a trio of best friends, left behind four daughters: Delilah, Whitney, Jude, and Bo. They are surviving the best they can, but they all want answers to two crucial questions: Where are their mothers, and why are so many women being killed? As they dig into Bishop’s history, they realizesomething isn’t right with the town. The closer they get to the truth about Bishop, the more danger they are in. What is Bishop’s secret? Why are women getting killed and going missing? Will the girls find out the truth, and at what cost?
I admit it; I mainly accepted the publisher’s invitation because of the cover. I usually don’t get books purely based on their covers, and this was a rare expectation to that rule. I am glad I did because this book was one of the creepier ones I have read this year. It was sufficiently scary and made me want to know why the author made sunflowers so evil.
Where Darkness Blooms storyline centers around the town of Bishop and four abandoned girls: Delilah, Whitney, Jude, and Bo. It explores the aftereffects of child abandonment and trauma gritty and raw way. But this book also showed that most people rise under extraordinary circumstances (in this case, the town and a madman out for their blood). I was equally saddened and amazed at what these girls could do while their mothers were gone.
The town of Bishop was creepy. It was blocked off from the rest of Kansas by unending fields of sunflowers. Those sunflowers always seemed to be watching the town. The fields were where the murdered women were found and where the girls’ had a memorial to their mothers. Bishop started getting weirder and weirder as the book went on. Even though it was fictional, the wind started driving me nuts. I couldn’t figure out how the wind and the sunflowers were connected until the end of the book. Everything (and I mean everything) was explained at the end of the book.
I liked Delilah. She came across as the group’s mother hen and was determined to look after the other girls. Her relationship with Bennett was different. I don’t know if I could stand to be with someone whose touch hurt me. But, somehow, she managed, even though she liked someone else. I felt terrible for her because while she missed her mother, she figured her mother had voluntarily left her. She was so sad, yet so strong.
Whitney was a huge factor in determining why their mothers left. But, when things started coming to light, Whitney was the one who did the leg work. She went and interviewed her ex-girlfriend’s grandmother in the nursing home. She was also the one that put two and two together about the town founder. All while fighting an attraction to a nurse’s aide who helped her and running from the bad guy.
Jude is Whitney’s fraternal twin. I didn’t have an opinion of her until her past with Bennett was discussed. Then I had an “oh crap” moment when I realized it was Delilah’s Bennett. I found Jude a little mopey and somewhat obsessive over Bennett. But she could do what she had to when push came to shove.
I wasn’t a fan of Bo. She was so angry and self-destructive for almost the entire book. It was hard to imagine her as happy in any form. I got at least some of her anger. I would have been pissed, too, if my mother had just disappeared. But, it was clear from the beginning that her anger was more than that. I would love to say she was helpful, but I felt she hindered more than helped. Her temper gets her into some trouble towards the end of the book.
I was shocked at who the villains turned out to be. Well, one of them, I was surprised at who it was. The other two, I had a feeling they were bad news. Coupled with what they could do with the wind, I wasn’t surprised that they played with the girls as long as they did. Of course, why they did it was also explained, and it made me so mad!!
The end of Where Darkness Blooms wasn’t what I expected. I can’t get much into it, but I wasn’t very excited when certain things happened. I was expecting one thing, and the complete opposite happened. But it was that last chapter that made the book for me. I was pleasantly surprised by what the author revealed and then by what the author had that character do.
I would recommend Where Darkness Blooms to anyone over 21. There are language, violence, and sexual situations. See also the trigger warning section at the top of the review.
Many thanks to St. Martin’s Press,Wednesday Books,NetGalley, and Andrea Hannah for allowing me to read and review Where Darkness Blooms. All opinions stated in this review are mine
If you enjoyed reading this review of Where Darkness Blooms, then you will enjoy reading these books:
Eighteen-year-old Zarela Zalvidar is a talented flamenco dancer and daughter of the most famous Dragonador in Hispalia. People come for miles to see her father fight in their arena, which will one day be hers.
But disaster strikes during their five hundredth anniversary show, and in the carnage, Zarela’s father is horribly injured. Facing punishment from the Dragon Guild, Zarela must keep the arena—her ancestral home and inheritance —safe from their greedy hands. She has no choice but to take her father’s place as the next Dragonador. When the infuriatingly handsome dragon hunter, Arturo Díaz de Montserrat, withholds his help, she refuses to take no for an answer.
But even if he agrees, there’s someone out to ruin the Zalvidar family, and Zarela will have to do whatever it takes in order to prevent the Dragon Guild from taking away her birthright.
An ancient city plagued by dragons. A flamenco dancer determined to save her ancestral home. A dragon hunter refusing to teach her his ways. They don’t want each other, but they need each other, and without him her world will burn.
My mother died screaming my name.
Together We Burn by Isabel Ibanez
I had been hearing a lot of hype around the blogoverse about Together We Burn before I got the invite to review it. With everything I had been hearing, I was very interested in reading it. So curious that I went and put it in my To Read pile. So when the publisher sent me the invite, I jumped on it. I am glad I did. This book was a great read!!
Together We Burn had an exciting plotline. Zarela is a flamenco dancer who lost her mother, a famous flamenco dancer when the dragon her father was fighting went rogue and burned everyone in the arena. Disaster strikes again when, during the 500th-anniversary show, another dragon broke free of his bonds and rained carnage on the arena. One of the dragon’s victims was Zarela’s father. He wasn’t killed but was severely injured. That left Zarela to deal with the backlash. Convinced it was sabotage, Zarela starts an investigation. She is also determined to return her family’s arena to its former glory. Her investigation into that day and her quest to bring the arena back are merged when she realizes that the attack was not random. Failing to convince the Dragon Guild that there was foul play behind the attack, Zarela is left with no choice but to fight the dragons herself. But, she only has days to learn. Can Zarela find out who is behind the attacks? Can she save her family’s arena? And more importantly, can Zarela learn to fight dragons and not get killed?
The plotline in Together We Burn moved slowly during the book’s first half. On the one hand, I liked it because it let me learn about Zarela’s background, the background of dragon fighting, and the tragedy of her mother’s death/the arena carnage. But on the other hand, the book started dragging by 40% of the book. But, after Zarela hires Arturo, the book picks up speed. By the end of the book, the plotline was super fast.
What I loved about this book was that the author included a glossary of the different types of dragons and other guilds in Hispalia. I can’t tell you how many times I used that glossary, and I wish every author would do something like that. I found it helpful while reading.
I liked Zarela. Even though she was devastated by what happened to her parents (and remember, it was two different occasions), she rose to the occasion. She was willing to do whatever it took to keep the arena afloat. That included learning how to fight dragons so she could keep her family’s arena. And that meant hiring a dragon hunter/ex-dragon fighter to teach how to survive in the arena. While doing that, she was also investigating what happened at the arena. I found her to be a very well-rounded character who surprised me.
Arturo didn’t become a central character until the middle of the book. He wanted nothing to do with Zarela at first. But, her stubbornness and resolve won him over. He was hard on her, which didn’t surprise me. He needed to teach her the basics of dragon fighting before the event that could save the arena. He also reluctantly became involved with her investigation into the events at the arena. He was instrumental in several key scenes towards the end of the book. The author wiped away doubts about him before the arena scenes at the end of the book.
Several memorable secondary characters breathed life into the book. They added additional depth to the storyline. I will not go into each one, but I enjoyed the flair they each added.
I loved how the author portrayed the dragons. She went from seeing them as ferocious creatures who lived to kill and maim to creatures who were misunderstood and wanted to be left alone. I loved it!!
The storyline with Zarela and the investigation was well written. I didn’t figure out who was behind everything until the author revealed that person. I was completely surprised by who it was and the reasons behind it.
The storyline with Zarela, Arturo, and learning how to fight dragons was interesting. I liked how Zarela convinced Arturo to work with her (the girl is stubborn). But, I also liked how Arturo showed Zarela a different side to dragons. The lessons made me wince, and Arturo was rough on Zarela. But considering she could die, he wasn’t harsh enough. And the twist to that plotline (what Zarela and Arturo figured out and used) was amazing!!
There was a romance angle in Together We Burn, but I was kind of meh about it. I liked that Zarela and Arturo got together but did the author need to discuss it? In my opinion, no.
The fantasy angle in Together We Burn was well written. I liked how the author chose to portray magic (both good and bad) along with dragons. That alone made me want to see more books written in this universe.
The end of Together We Burn was good. There were no twists (other than the dragon fight), and everyone did have their HEAs.
I would recommend Together We Burn to anyone over 16. There are sex and sexual situations (not graphic) and violence.
Scarlett’s life is pretty average. Overly protective mom. Great friends. Cute boy she’s interested in. And a father she’s never known – until she does.
When the FBI shows up at Scarlet’s door, she is shocked to learn her father is infamous serial killer Jeffrey Robert Lake. And now, he’s dying and will only give the names and locations of his remaining victims to the one person, the daughter he hasn’t seen since she was a baby.
Scarlet’s mother has tried to protect her from Lake’s horrifying legacy, but there’s no way they can escape the media firestorm that erupts when they come out of hiding. Or the people who blame Scarlet for her father’s choices. When trying to do the right thing puts her life in danger, Scarlet is faced with a choice – go back into hiding or make the world see her as more than a monster’s daughter.
Kate McLaughlin’s Daughter is a novel about trying right deadly choices that were never yours to begin with.
Dayton Culver was well aware he was trespassing when he and his golden retriever, Lulu, veered off the path in the woods.
daughter by kate mclaughlin
When I first saw Daughter on NetGalley, I was mildly intrigued. But, at the time, I didn’t request it. I figured that if the book gods wanted me to read this book, they would make it happen. Well, it happened. I got the invite from SMP, and I was pretty excited to read it. But I got it at a pretty bad time. I had some personal things going on and had to push this book to the back burner. It sat on my TBR for almost two months, and during that time, I kept seeing reviews for it everywhere. Nearly all were favorable, and that kept me amped to read it. I was blown away when I read it. It lived up to my internal hype and the hype I kept seeing.
Daughter had an exciting plotline. Scarlet is your typical seventeen-year-old. She has a great group of friends, a boy that she is interested in, and a mother who is beyond overprotective. That is blown away when Scarlet finds out that her life is a lie. She has been in hiding her entire life. Why? She is the daughter of a serial killer. That same serial killer is dying and wants to talk to Scarlet. The FBI is hoping that he tells Scarlet about his remaining victims and hopes to keep her identity under wraps. But that is blown when pictures of Scarlet and her mother are leaked to the press. Overnight, Scarlet’s life is ruined. She is stalked by the paparazzi and groupies of her father. Most of her friends turn on her. But Scarlet feels connected to her father’s victims and is determined to find her way through this mess. What will Scarlet do?
I will admit, I am a true crime junkie. I watch everything and anything on serial killers. But I have never seen anything that discusses what the families of the serial killers go through. I have seen plenty of speculation but never what their trauma was and how they coped with it. So, reading a book from the perspective of a serial killer’s daughter was interesting.
The author chose to interweave news articles, web forums, and podcasts throughout the book. It made me upset and very uncomfortable to read those articles. I also got mad that one outlet released Scarlet and her mother’s home address, city, and state. I also was a little irritated by how cruel some of those articles/forums/podcasts were. Scarlet was a baby. She had nothing to do with her father’s crimes and was actively helping the FBI. What else did they want her to do?
Scarlet was a powerful young woman. Her reaction to what her mother and the FBI told her was nothing short of what I would expect from a teenager. She handled everything else with grace. I did think what the FBI asked of her was a little too much. But she was a boss when it came to talking with her father. She couldn’t have handled it any better. I also loved her idea of honoring the victims. I thought it would be healing not only for Scarlet but for the loved ones the victims left behind.
Jeffery Lake was an absolute monster. My skin crawled when I read his interactions with Scarlet, and I wanted to throw up when he told Scarlet the reason behind her “real” name. And what he did after he died, I have no words.
The thriller angle of Daughter was a bit slow at times, but it was there. It did ramp up when Scarlet and her mother traveled to Raleigh—not knowing what Lake would do or say added to that.
The suspense angle of Daughter was excellent. I never knew what direction their conversations would take. Would he give her another name, or would he play mind games with her? It was that part of the book that kept me glued to it.
The end of Daughter was a bit anti-climatic. I was waiting for the other shoe to drop or something to happen (different than the storage unit deal). Nothing happened, though. I liked seeing how Scarlet and her mother were thriving now that Lake was dead. The legacy he had left was awful, but they both were learning to live with it.
I would recommend Daughter to anyone over 21. Drug use, alcohol use, language, description of necrophilia, language, sexual situations, and mild violence.
Lyrical and haunting, Hannah Capin’s I Am Margaret Moore is a paranormal thriller that tests the hold of sisterhood and truth.
I am a girl. I am a monster, too.
Each summer the girls of Deck Five come back to Marshall Naval School. They sail on jewel-blue waters; they march on green drill fields; they earn sunburns and honors. They push until they break apart and heal again, stronger.
Each summer Margaret and Rose and Flor and Nisreen come back to the place where they are girls, safe away from the world: sisters bound by something more than blood.
But this summer everything has changed. Girls are missing and a boy is dead. It’s because of Margaret Moore, the boys say. It’s because of what happened that night in the storm.
Margaret’s friends vanish one by one, swallowed up into the lies she has told about what happened between her and a boy with the world at his feet. Can she unravel the secrets of this summer and last, or will she be pulled under by the place she once called home?
It is summer again and we are alive.
i am margaret moore by hannah capin
When I got the email from NetGalley that I Am Margaret Moore was available to “Read Now,” I jumped on it. I had this book on my TBR since I saw that Hannah Capin was publishing it. I had loved Foul is Fair and had high expectations for this book. Well, I Am Margaret Moore fell short of my high expectations.
I Am Margaret Moore is the story of Margaret and her friends. The summer before, Margaret was involved in a scandal with another camper and was sent away. This summer, she was going to move past the drama and enjoy her summer. But things don’t go the way she wants. Her friends want the truth about what happened last summer, and Margaret isn’t telling them. Because if she tells the truth, she’s afraid no one will believe her. What happened that night?
I will be very blunt; I wasn’t a fan of how the author wrote this book. There are no chapters. Instead, once a scene ended, some headers separated them (example: The Girls with paragraphs describing Margaret’s friends). I get why the author chose to write the book she did, but I like cut-and-dry chapters.
The flow of I Am Margaret Moore was choppy, and the timeline jumped around a lot. I couldn’t tell if I was in the past or present. Again, I get why the author did this, but for me, it didn’t work.
I wasn’t too sure about how I felt about Margaret. During the first half of the book, I couldn’t connect with her at all. But, by the second half of the book, I did start to like and pity her. Yes, pity. She had so much happened to her in a short amount of time.
Margaret’s friends were the true backbone of the book. They were determined to find out what happened to Margaret. That led to disciplinary action from the naval school, but that didn’t deter them.
There are a couple of twists in the plot that I saw coming. I guessed the first one right away, and once certain events happened in the second half of the book, I figured that out too.
I wasn’t a fan of the end of I Am Margaret Moore. Again, it was choppy, with events playing out of order—the choppiness and the fact that the HEA seemed thrown on as an afterthought.
I would recommend I Am Margaret Moore to anyone over the age of 16. There is implied sex, some kissing scenes, mild language, and mild violence.