Posted in Audiobooks, Book Reviews

REVIEW: When the Sky Fell on Splendor by Emily Henry

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*No Major Spoilers*

Almost everyone in the small town of Splendor, Ohio, was affected when the local steel mill exploded. If you weren’t a casualty of the accident yourself, chances are a loved one was. That’s the case for seventeen-year-old Franny, who, five years after the explosion, still has to stand by and do nothing as her brother lies in a coma.

In the wake of the tragedy, Franny found solace in a group of friends whose experiences mirrored her own. The group calls themselves The Ordinary, and they spend their free time investigating local ghost stories and legends, filming their exploits for their small following of YouTube fans. It’s silly, it’s fun, and it keeps them from dwelling on the sadness that surrounds them.

Until one evening, when the strange and dangerous thing they film isn’t fiction–it’s a bright light, something massive hurdling toward them from the sky. And when it crashes and the teens go to investigate…everything changes.

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First off, I have to say that when I saw the cover of this novel at the library, I fell in love with this beautiful book cover. When I finished reading When the Sky Fell on Splendor, I can say that the story is just as beautiful as the cover.

“How many billions of things had to happen just right to give me this ordinary life.”

Emily Henry, When the Sky Fell on Splendor

I love how the characters were relatable and had depth. Franny and her brother Arthur grew up living in their older brother’s shadow. After the steel mill explosion and their brother Mark ends up in a coma, Franny’s mom and dad divorce and Franny and Arthur continue to live in the background of their depressed dad’s life.

We don’t get much from the other characters other than what is on the surface that Franny has observed. One of the key facets of their friend group is to not talk about emotional stuff. Even though some of the signs of the parents’ issues have clearly effected their kids in subtle ways.

Franny had grown close to one of the other boys in their group, and during an emotional moment he shared about how his mom’s doomsday prepping quickly spiraled into hoarding after the accident. He even took up a job at the local Walmart just so he could support his ailing mom and how he had become the sole breadwinner after his dad died in the accident.

I personally would’ve loved more insight on Sophia. I think she was left out when it came to emotional weight. She was the smartest one of the group and wasn’t an outcast like the others. She wanted to be a lawyer after a weekend with her grandmother watching Law and Order: SVU. She seemed to have a great relationship with her mom, and doesn’t understand why Franny started keeping her at arm’s length.

I read this book being compared to The Serpent King and Stranger Things as well as Super 8. I personally haven’t read or watched any of these, but they seem to have similar themes to When the Sky Fell on Splendor. So if you are familiar with any of these popular stories, I would recommend this novel for you.

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Posted in Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Novels

REVIEW: The Vanishing Girl (Daphne and Velma #1) by Josephine Ruby

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*No Major Spoilers*

Popular Daphne Blake and über-nerd Velma Dinkley are not friends. They aren’t enemies either, but they don’t have any reason to speak to each other, and that’s how they prefer it. The two girls grew up together—they’d been best friends since pre-K—but when they hit middle school, Daphne dropped Velma and never looked back.

These days, Daphne’s deep in the popular crowd, daughter of the richest family in town, while Velma’s an outsider, hiding from the world behind her thick glasses. When they run into each other in the halls of Crystal Cove High, they look the other way.

But then Daphne’s best friend, Marcy—who happens to be Velma’s cousin—goes missing. A century ago, there was a wave of disappearances in Crystal Cove, and many local people believe that supernatural forces were behind it. Now the whole town believes those same forces are back…and up to no good.

Daphne and Velma may be the only ones who can solve the mystery and save Marcy—if they can trust each other enough to try. Especially since the truth might be stranger—and scarier—than either girl can imagine…

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If you are a fan of the Scooby-Doo franchise, the fan service is all here. You have references to fan-favorite characters, as well as characters the author created herself. So let’s see how The Vanishing Girl stands up to the typical Scooby-Doo formula.

This novel handles a lot of difficult topics in a very realistic way. Daphne is dealing with the hurt of her parents being divorced and co-parenting. Velma is dealing with being an outcast to everyone around her while her dad is suffering from crippling depression and her mom is the manager at the local theme park. Not only that, but Velma is also working at the same amusement park just to help her family make ends meet.

I felt the issues were handled as any teenager would handle something they couldn’t see the big picture of. Wounds take time to heal, and this novel shows us this throughout the unraveling mystery. After so many hurtful words and actions between Velma and Daphne, they’re not going to be going back to being BFFs overnight.

The mystery of who or what is haunting Crystal Cove is your typical Scooby mystery, a case that seems complex but actually, once solved and explained, is pretty simple. However, since it’s primarily Velma and Daphne working on the case, Shaggy, Scooby, or Fred make many appearances throughout the story.

Even though I was able to solve the mystery before Velma and Daphne, I felt the emotional ride the author took us on was more important and more valuable than the mystery itself. I had to take small breaks at points in the novel to keep myself from getting upset. So get those tissues ready when you read this one!

Overall, as easy as it is to write this off as glorified fanfiction, I really enjoyed The Vanishing Girl. The mystery is well thought out and the drama feels genuine and realistic. I would highly recommend this novel to fans of the Scooby-Doo franchise, fans of female detectives, and young adult readers alike.

Read more of my Scooby-Doo reviews if you enjoyed this review.

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Posted in Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Novels

REVIEW: The Babysitters Coven (The Babysitters Coven #1) by Kate Williams

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*No Major Spoilers*

Seventeen-year-old Esme Pearl has a babysitters club. She knows it’s kinda lame, but what else is she supposed to do? Get a job? Gross. Besides, Esme likes babysitting, and she’s good at it.

And lately, Esme needs all the cash she can get, because it seems like destruction follows her wherever she goes. Let’s just say she owes some people a new tree.

Enter Cassandra Heaven. She’s Instagram-model hot, dresses like she found her clothes in a dumpster, and has a rebellious streak as gnarly as the cafeteria food. So why is Cassandra willing to do anything, even take on a potty-training two-year-old, to join Esme’s babysitter’s club?

The answer lies in a mysterious note Cassandra’s mother left her: “Find the babysitters. Love, Mom.”

Turns out, Esme and Cassandra have more in common than they think, and they’re about to discover what being a babysitter really means a heroic lineage of superpowers, magic rituals, and saving the innocent from a seriously terrifying evil. And all before the parents get home.

Since it’s the Halloween season, and this happened to catch my interest, I thought this would be a lovely book to read to get me into the spooky season. So let’s begin my review of The Babysitters Coven!

I feel like the Young Adult genre is a hit or miss, in my opinion. I’ve read some good, bad, mediocre and everything in between. I understand that it’s the same for any group of novels. However, I would place The Babysitters Coven in the four stars category.

This novel reminded me of how integrated texting lingo has become. The characters often said LOL and OMG. I found it annoying, but then I had to remind myself that even I talk that way occasionally.

Even though the characters are younger than me, I could somewhat relate to Esme. She overthinks everything and hates gym class. Seeing her gain her confidence through learning about her newfound powers made me happy.

I didn’t like Cassandra though, she abuses her powers and doesn’t seem to care how it affects her or those around her. For instance, she and Esme go to a department store and Cassandra sets small fires to distract the employees so she can steal some name-brand jeans. Esme felt guilty even though she protested what Cassandra was doing throughout her crime.

However, I am interested to see if Cassandra learns the consequences of her magical mischief, or is she becomes a “bad guy” of her own. Whatever way Ms. Williams chooses will suit me just fine.

I won’t spoil the ending, but I guessed 1/2 of the mystery. So the other half surprised me and kept me engaged in the story overall. I love how this novel ends on a good note and leaves just enough to continue the story.

Overall, I enjoyed this novel. I found the story overall to be creative, and I felt the characters were real people and not cardboard. If you are fans of Young Adult paranormal, enjoy novels about witches, or just want an entertaining read, then I’d highly recommend The Babysitters Coven.

Read other Young Adult Reviews Here

Posted in Audiobooks, Book Club Reads, Book Reviews, Novels

REVIEW: Asylum (Asylum #1) by Madeleine Roux

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*No Major Spoilers*

For sixteen-year-old Dan Crawford, New Hampshire College Prep is more than a summer program—it’s a lifeline. An outcast at his high school, Dan is excited to finally make some friends in his last summer before college. But when he arrives at the program, Dan learns that his dorm for the summer used to be a sanatorium, more commonly known as an asylum. And not just any asylum—a last resort for the criminally insane.

As Dan and his new friends, Abby and Jordan, explore the hidden recesses of their creepy summer home, they soon discover it’s no coincidence that the three of them ended up here. Because the asylum holds the key to a terrifying past. And there are some secrets that refuse to stay buried.

This was this month’s Book Club read. I voted for it solely from the title alone. Just to be finished with the Gone Girl clones and Stephen King novels was a major factor in my decision for voting for this novel.

“If someone tells you you’re crazy enough times, eventually it becomes true. It’s that old psychiatrist’s joke: insanity’s all in your head.” – Madeleine Roux, Asylum

From all the sleepless nights I’ve spent watching Ghost Adventures, Paranormal State, to several paranormal podcasts, most asylums are preserved as historical sites. Mostly to show how the mentally ill were treated and for Zac Bagans (from Ghost Adventures) to show how “macho” he is.

The subject of psychology and mental health is something near and dear to my heart. Not only do I have an associate’s degree in psychology, but I have always wanted to learn about people and how they think, feel, and react to stressful situations.

Nevertheless, let’s move on to my review.

Besides the fact that any asylum would be converted into a dormitory for a university would be highly improbable. But hey, this is a young adult fiction novel, let’s just go with this idea. It’s not like this novel gets any more ridiculous (insert sarcasm here).

Dan is a relatable character to me. High school was the worst years of my life, but for somewhat different reasons than Dan. So I can understand his excitement at the prospect of making new friends while he’s at this new place.

As weird things start to happen, I start trying to solve the mystery. I think in another life, I could’ve been an FBI agent. Always trying to solve the mysteries that are presented to me. However, I will proudly call myself an “armchair detective”.

I found the mystery and how it affects Dan and his friends intriguing. Who can you trust? The police don’t believe you, so you have to figure it out for yourself. Dan’s grip on his sanity towards the end was understandable. The mysteries and horrors of the asylum are terrifying. Those walls hold the emotions and energies of those who lived and worked there.

This story scratched my itch for a good haunted house story. Even though it was slightly ridiculous, I still enjoyed it all the same. The ending is somewhat predictable, so that was frustrating to me. But hey, what can you do? *shrug*

Overall, I enjoyed this story. There’s horror, psychological horror, murder, and a boy who is losing his sanity the longer he stays at the university. If you’re looking for a decent horror story, then I would recommend this one.

Posted in Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Novels

REVIEW: Daughters Unto Devils by Amy Lukavics

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*No Spoilers*

When sixteen-year-old Amanda Verner’s family decides to move from their small mountain cabin to the vast prairie, she hopes it is her chance for a fresh start. She can leave behind the memory of the past winter; of her sickly ma giving birth to a baby sister who cries endlessly; of the terrifying visions she saw as her sanity began to slip, the victim of cabin fever; and most of all, the memories of the boy she has been secretly meeting with as a distraction from her pain. The boy whose baby she now carries.

When the Verners arrive at their new home, a large cabin abandoned by its previous owners, they discover the inside covered in blood. And as the days pass, it is obvious to Amanda that something isn’t right on the prairie. She’s heard stories of lands being tainted by evil, of men losing their minds and killing their families, and there is something strange about the doctor and his son who live in the woods on the edge of the prairie. But with the guilt and shame of her sins weighing on her, Amanda can’t be sure if the true evil lies in the land, or deep within her soul.

“You are stronger than you think you are. You are not your thoughts. The only devil inside of you is the one you created yourself.”-Amy Lukavics, Daughters Unto Devils

I found this novel at my local library. After enjoying Rot & Ruin by Jonathan Maberry, I thought I might give the Young Adult genre another chance. Now let’s see if Daughters Unto Devils will meet my expectations.

I am into the paranormal, I enjoy listening to ghost stories even though I scare easily. This novel is full of mystery and spooky tension. What made this better was the fact of how this reminded me somewhat of The Donner Party.

I felt like this book was hammering home the message of the spiritual war that is always going on. I felt bad for Amanda in the fact she had no control over her circumstances. She fell in love, and he abandoned her when she told him she was pregnant.

Overall, I felt like this was a good creepy historical fiction that chilled me. It not only had me question Amanda’s sanity but the whole prairies’. Once innocent things turned into demonic terrifying entities by the end.

I enjoyed this novel, I felt like the creepiness was made all the better in the fact that this was when we were still expanding west. Back then, mental illnesses were seen as demon possessions and other demonic entities.

If you enjoy HorrorHistorical Fiction, and Young Adult Novels then I think you will enjoy Daughters Unto Devils. This novel doesn’t have much action, it’s mostly tension and suspense until the climax. I hope my readers will like this novel as much as I had.

Read My Review of Rot & Ruin HERE

Check Out Other YA Novels I’ve Reviewed HERE