Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward

I don’t read a lot of literary fiction. But when I do, I know I’m in for a thought-provoking read. This novel did not disappoint in that regard.

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Synopsis (Goodreads): Jojo is thirteen years old and trying to understand what it means to be a man. His mother, Leonie, is in constant conflict with herself and those around her. She is black and her children’s father is white. Embattled in ways that reflect the brutal reality of her circumstances, she wants to be a better mother, but can’t put her children above her own needs, especially her drug use.

When the children’s father is released from prison, Leonie packs her kids and a friend into her car and drives north to the heart of Mississippi and Parchman Farm, the State Penitentiary. At Parchman, there is another boy, the ghost of a dead inmate who carries all of the ugly history of the South with him in his wandering. He too has something to teach Jojo about fathers and sons, about legacies, about violence, about love.


Review: I feel like I’m going to fail to try to write this review because I don’t have the words to describe how this book made me feel. It made me feel A LOT. But I’m going to try anyways.

This is an an incredible novel for a lot of reasons. For one thing, the writing is absolutely brilliant. The author has a way of keeping the words simple but making them convey so much meaning. I loved that the author gave very realistic portrayals of everything in the book; not a single thing was downplayed or glorified. From the description of a long car ride to the intensity of a drug high, every minute was real. It allowed me to slip into the story and live it along with the characters.

With this story, we are given 2 perspectives. One is Jojo, a 13-year-old who watches everything and feels the need to protect his younger sister – especially from their mother. We also see through the eyes of Leonie, Jojo’s mother, who wants to do the right thing and struggles with being the good daughter and mother that she wants to be. Through their points of view, the author brings in the issues of race, family, and addiction. Now, these are all very difficult topics to raise; not only does the author not shy away from them, she also doesn’t pass any judgement. That’s what I loved about this narrative – there was nothing one-sided to it. Every issue is explored so deeply and through so many interactions that it soon becomes evident that there is no clear-cut way of looking at things. It is easy to dismiss things and label them to make life easier, but the author refuses to allow the reader to do that.

I also really loved how the author incorporated magical realism into this literary fiction novel. I’ve always been a big fan of magical realism, and when it’s done right, it can be the most wonderful thing in the world. It was done right here. Both Leonie and Jojo find themselves haunted by the ghosts of young boys; for Leonie, it is her brother who passed away as a teenager; for Jojo, it is a boy who died as an inmate and carries the ugly history of racism and slavery within him. Reading about these interactions made my heart pound, and I could feel my emotions running parallel to that of Leonie and Jojo. It was very well executed.

If you can’t tell already, this is a 5/5 star novel for me. The writing was gritty and engaging, the characters were vivid and emotionally-charged, and the story was haunting. If you haven’t read this novel, you should definitely change that right away!

Happy reading ~

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Best Friends Forever by Margot Hunt

I had a long day in the lab, and I’ve been meaning to really get through my reading list so I decided to start with this one. Other people who read it considered it a quick but good read, and I thought it would be perfect for me, especially since I’ve been on a thriller binge right now!

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Synopsis (Goodreads): Kat Grant and Alice Campbell have a friendship forged in shared confidences and long lunches lubricated by expensive wine. Though they’re very different women—the artsy socialite and the struggling suburbanite—they’re each other’s rocks. But even rocks crumble under pressure. Like when Kat’s financier husband, Howard, plunges to his death from the second-floor balcony of their South Florida mansion.

Howard was a jerk, a drunk, a bully and, police say, a murder victim. The questions begin piling up. Like why Kat has suddenly gone dark: no calls, no texts and no chance her wealthy family will let Alice see her. Why investigators are looking so hard in Alice’s direction. Who stands to get hurt next. And who is the cool liar—the masterful manipulator behind it all.


Review: While I didn’t find this story to have anything surprising to it, I must say I quite enjoyed this novel. Margot Hunt is the pseudonym for a bestselling author who has published 12 books before this one. And it shows because the quality of the writing is very strong. I couldn’t stop myself from flipping one page after the next because the writing style allowed for this novel to maintain a fairly fast pace (even though there wasn’t actually a lot happening) and be an easy read.

What made this novel really work is the characterization of the 2 female characters, which was great. The story is from Alice’s perspective and she is a great protagonist. Alice is a logician, and her logical mind is evident in her various interactions with other people. She is described quite a few times as being cold or too calm, and this has been attributed to her logical thinking … but reading from her point of view showed that this isn’t necessarily true. Alice feels a lot. She feels protective towards her family and friends, driven by her love for them to do whatever it takes to make them happy. She was a character I could really connect with, and I enjoyed reading from her perspective as she went from loyal defender of Kat to doubting their friendship.

Kat’s character was also very interesting. I could tell right away why she wasn’t to be trusted…. but also why she was so easy to be best friends with. Heck, even wanted to be friends with her! I enjoyed reading about the relationship between Kat and Alice and how it may have seemed like a tight bond at first, but was just a manipulation by Kat.

The conclusion of the story, while predictable, was still quite good because the author really stuck to the theme that she had introduced from the start. This is a story about what it means to be a friend, and how friendship can be manipulated. I’m giving this a solid 3/5 stars and would recommend it to anyone who likes thrillers!

I received this novel as an advance copy from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

Happy reading ~

The Night Child by Anna Quinn

Don’t judge me but I selected this book because the cover was so intriguing and pretty. The premise was interesting, too, but I am definitely one of those people that go after books with pretty covers. I had an inkling of what I thought the story would be about … but I was completely taken aback when I started reading it! Here is my review:


Synopsis (Goodreads): Nora Brown teaches high school English and lives a quiet life in Seattle with her husband and six-year-old daughter. But one November day, moments after dismissing her class, a girl’s face appears above the students’ desks — ”a wild numinous face with startling blue eyes, a face floating on top of shapeless drapes of purples and blues where arms and legs should have been. Terror rushes through Nora’s body — the kind of raw terror you feel when there’s no way out, when every cell in your body, your entire body, is on fire — when you think you might die.”

Twenty-four hours later, while on Thanksgiving vacation, the face appears again. Shaken and unsteady, Nora meets with neurologists and eventually, a psychiatrist. As the story progresses, a terrible secret is discovered — a secret that pushes Nora toward an even deeper psychological breakdown.


Review: I don’t know what I was expecting but it certainly wasn’t this! I want to start this review by giving a trigger warning: this novel deals with child abuse and may be disturbing for some readers.

I thought that this novel would be a terrifying read based on the synopsis, but I did not expect it to be as emotionally evocative as it was. This is a book that deals with the way the human mind deals with trauma, and how it protects you from your own memories. This was a dark and gripping story, and you would be hard-pressed to not be affected by the things you read. The author did an absolutely fantastic job of weaving the past and the present together, and illustrating how memories can be distorted. This novel delivers on so many levels, and it took me by surprise from the start. If anything, I would want the story to be a little longer to explore the issues mentioned in the book further. This is a solid 4/5 star book and I would recommend this to anyone who is looking for a dark and emotional psychological story (but keep in mind the trigger warning)!

Thank you to NetGalley and Blackstone Publishing for this ARC in exchange for my honest review.

Happy reading ~

The Reluctant Queen by Sarah Beth Durst – Queens of Renthia #2

I loved the first book in this series Queen of Blood and I knew I had to get my hands on the second one. As soon as it came out, I went and bought it. But that’s where I made the mistake. You see, when I buy books, I get really excited to read them… but then they end up on my bookshelf and never get read. I get so overwhelmed by ARCs and books I’ve borrowed from the library so I prioritize those over books I’ve bought. I tell myself I’m going to get to it eventually … but I never do. This time, however, I tricked myself (sort-of!); I bought the book but also placed a library hold on it. When the library hold came through, I took the physical book from my bookshelf. I outsmarted myself …  I think! Either way, the book has been read so here is my review:

Just 6 months ago, Daleina used her strength and skills to survive the spirits and become Queen. Since then, she has worked hard at keeping the peace between the spirits and humans. However, she is hiding a terrible secret: she is dying. And if she dies before an heir is chosen, the spirits will take over her realm and kill everyone. Naelin is a woodswoman who could be the heir Daleina so desperately needs – but she doesn’t want to be Queen. Her world consists of her two children, her husband, and the remote village she lives in. But when Ven, the Queen’s champion, passes through, Naelin’s boastful husband can’t help but let slip of his wife’s abilities. For Ven, this is the best news; he can find someone to help Daleina through this difficult time. Yet for all his appeals to duty, Naelin is a mother, and she knows her duty is to her children first and foremost. Only as the Queen’s power begins to wane and the spirits become emboldened—even as ominous rumors trickle down from the north—does she realize that the best way to keep her son and daughter safe is to risk everything.

I really loved this sequel, perhaps even more than the first book. This novel had everything I have ever wanted from a fantasy story: adventure, magic, strong characters, and lack of cliches. I loved how the story was more mature this time; the characters aren’t children anymore. They’re adults making difficult decisions about life, death, safety, and duty. Everything was perfectly balanced: the adventure, the romance, the tension, the mystery. I loved all of the new characters that were introduced and I loved how well they interacted and played their part in this story. As a reader, I love when you get characters that have depth to them, and this was the case here. I also found the story itself compelling, and I literally could not put this book down for a minute! I think that this is a real gem of a fantasy series that more people need to be aware of; it is fast-paced, well thought out, and it will leave you wanting more! 5/5 stars from me!

Happy reading ~

Hekla’s Children by James Brogden

I actually began this novel a while back but had to stop because of my workload. The novel stayed in the back of my mind and I’m glad that I finally got the chance to read this book now. So here is my review:

10 years ago, teacher Nathan Brookes was supervising 4 students on a walk … when they all vanished. Only one returned, Olivia, and she was starving, terrified, and unable to recollect where she had been. And Nathan has been haunted by this event ever since. When a body is found in the same ancient woodland where the kids disappeared, it is immediately assumed that it is the body of one of the missing children. However, it is soon identified as a Bronze Age warrior. While others may be able to move on from this archaeological curiosity, Nathan finds himself having horrific visions of his students being trapped. Then Olivia reappears, desperate to put the warrior’s body back into the Earth. For he is the only thing keeping a terrible evil at bay.

This novel was both a hit AND a miss for me. The beginning was intriguing and it really grabbed my attention; that’s why I kept thinking about it even when I stopped reading the novel! The author did a great job setting the scene, and I got really invested in Nathan’s character. I suspected that the author would lean towards the fantasy-horror genre combination, and I was pleased to see that my prediction was true. I liked the introduction of the Bronze Age warrior and really wanted to see where the author was going to go with that. Very quickly, the author switched from having Nathan as a main character, to someone else …. and then it switched again to Nathan … and then went back to someone else. That part was a little baffling because it made me feel like I wasn’t reading a continuous story but rather two different stories happening within the same timeline. It worked in the sense that it added more intrigue to the story but it also failed by making things more confusing and muddled. The story itself grew more complex but it had its flaws. A lot of details were skimmed over and could have used some more buildup, and it lost some of its horror feel near the end. The way certain characters were connected didn’t really work for me, and some of the conclusions that were drawn were a bit too unbelievable for my taste. By the end of the novel, I felt like I had read a really complicated and intriguing novel … but one that lacked a consistent flow. Since there were elements that I still enjoyed about this novel, I’m giving it a 3/5.

Happy reading ~

Bird Box by Josh Malerman

On my quest to find really good horror stories, I have been disappointed many times. The beginning may start off well but most often, something lets me down. All I’m going to say about this novel is: it didn’t let me down.

There is something out there. If you look at it, you will be driven to deadly violence. No one knows that it is or where it came from. Every country, every part of the world has faced this. Now, 5 years since it began, there are only a handful of scattered survivors, including Malorie and her 2 young children. They live alone in an abandoned house near the river. Malorie has done whatever she can to keep her children safe: she has trained them to rely on their sense of hearing over their eyes, and has repeatedly blindfolded them so that they have never glimpsed the outside world. All Malorie longs for is to be able to escape from this house and go somewhere safe. Now that the children are grown up, she finally thinks they can make the treacherous journey 20 miles downriver in a rowboat. They will have to do this blindfolded; there is still no clue as to whether the terrible creatures are out there or not. They have nothing to rely on but her wits and the children’s trained ears. One wrong choice and they will die. But were they ever truly safe in the first place?

The scariest part of this novel is the fact that you never find out what exactly it is that people see that causes them to become suicidal. The author leaves the “creature” to the reader’s imagination, so we can each create our own perfectly scary horror monster. The story goes between different periods of time, and I really felt that the author did a great job with that. There is a part in the story when it becomes unclear what is the present and what is the past, and it was such a cool effect that it made me like this novel even more (that’s all the details you get!). The concept for this novel was really good and it was executed well, so I was very pleased with this story. A word of warning: this is a very open-ended story; the author doesn’t give too much and a lot of the descriptions are things your imagination has to put in. While I enjoyed that aspect, I know there may be readers who would prefer more details. Overall, a great horror story that really did justice to the genre!

Happy reading ~