ARC Review: The Monsters of Chavez Ravine

TW: Suicide, Violence, Death

I love a horror story that takes place pre-modern technology. There are challenges that characters will have to face that are foreign to the modern world. But there are also things that are, sadly, very much the same. Brenda Castaneda brings a tale of family, home, and social justice in The Monsters of Chavez Ravine.

In the 1950s, the citizens of Chavez Ravine are trying desperately to keep their land from the clutches of the City of Los Angeles. Some citizens have taken low buyouts, but those that remain are steadfast in their resistance. Trini Duran is one who has moved on, but her father remains in Chavez Ravine, determined to die where he was born.

As whispers of strange happenings reach Trini, she returns to the Palo Verde neighborhood and soon learns that someone – or something- with stop at nothing to move the citizens from the land.

This is such a great story! Trini’s struggle with escaping her hometown, and then returning is something that a lot of us can identify with. She finds that she still has very strong ties to the community and that it will always be a part of her identity.

Castaneda also tackles issues of racism that are still prevalent with low-income primarily minority communities today. The City uses excuses that the houses are rundown and the roads are unpaved as a reason to push the citizens out, when the City itself denied improvements to the community.

I really enjoyed this book, and I look forward to reading more from Debra Castaneda! The Monsters of Chavez Ravine hits shelves on April 5, 2021.

I received an advance review copy for free, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.

ARC Review – Escape Book: Madam Mortell’s Haunted House

I’ve always loved puzzles. I’m not sure how many puzzle games I currently have on my phone, and every time I head out on vacation, I pack a couple of puzzle books. I like problem solving, I guess. I went to an escape room with my family a few years ago and we had a blast. I’m happy to report that we did escape. 🎉

When I got the opportunity to review Escape Book: Madam Mortell’s Haunted House by Arthur Tenor, I was very excited. Escape rooms? Monsters? Puzzles? This is right up my alley!

I felt so much nostalgia while reading this. Another thing I loved as a child was choose your own adventure books! Though in order to actually complete the story, readers actually have to take all the paths, Escape Book reads like a CYOA at times. For instance, readers are given a choice of which room to explore first at the beginning of the book, and whether to continue deeper into the haunted mansion, or return to the Entryway.

I also love the bright, colorful illustrations throughout the book. The monsters are campy, and not too scary. I enjoyed picking out all the little details in the scenes.

My nephew is a lover of problem solving like me, and I know he would get a kick out of this book. But I also know how easy it would be for him to cheat with the way the book is set up. I tried my hardest to follow the rules exactly and not skim to find the right answer, but it was difficult with the correct and incorrect solutions being on the same page and close together.

If you have a kiddo who likes to solve puzzles and likes monsters, this might be a fun book for them! Escape Book: Madam Mortell’s Haunted House will be released April 27th, 2021.

I received an advanced copy of this book for free, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.

Bookish Confessions: I Hate When Dogs Die in Books

Photo by Lisa Fotios on Pexels.com

Ok, it’s confession time. There are several thing I don’t like as a reader. I don’t like to call them “triggers” because I feel it minimizes the true trauma that some people can experience when reading or watching certain material. I have things I prefer to avoid in my reading. Reading tends to be an escape for me – there are certain realities of the world that I would rather not deal with when I’m trying to escape.

A big one for me is when animals are abused or killed. Though I love horror and thrillers, I’m really a big softie at heart. I don’t like reading about animals dying. It feels like a punch to the gut reading about it. I’ve had so many moments where I’ve been enjoying a book, and then – BAM – a character abuses an animal. It kills my enjoyment for the book. For example, I love My Best Friend’s Exorcism, but there was one moment in that book that sticks out in my mind more than any other – I can’t forget what happened to that poor dog. It doesn’t exactly help that my memory enjoys holding onto scenes like this and bring them up at inopportune times.

Though I have a much bigger issue with animal abuse in books, I have been known to sob when an animal dies of natural causes after living a long and happy life. I apparently just don’t enjoy dealing with animal death in my books.

If you’re like me and have issues such as this, I have a recommendation. I’ve started checking every book on https://www.doesthedogdie.com. It not only gives information on the fate of our furry friends, but also on other possible uncomfortable situations you may encounter in reading or watching. It’s been a super useful resource for me. And no, this post is not sponsored – I just wanted to share this useful tool with you.

So, there’s my first bookish confession. Do you agree? Are there any uncomfortable situations you try to avoid in your reading?

Book Review – Shriekers: Episode One “The Scarecrow Man” by Jess Jay

“There’s no place that’s home…”

Jess Jay delivers a twist on the apocalypse/zombie novel and I am here for it! Her MC is an orphan, and doesn’t remember the world before the Green took over. In fact, Thea is sure she’s the last living person in the world, until she meets a little girl.

The Shriekers are a terrifying new take on the zombie, and Jay does a great job painting a picture of the monsters. I get chills thinking about vines coming from sightless eyes.

I wanted more background on everything: the Green, where Thea came from, what the Pasture actually is…maybe readers are limited by Thea’s knowledge, and what memories she has blocked out, but I could have used more details. Perhaps the story will unfold in the next episode.

If you’re looking for a new twist on the zombie story, this is for you!

I received a review copy for free from the author, and am leaving this review voluntarily.

3 Books I Will Read Over and Over Again

Given that I have an endless TBR, it may be a bit surprising that I love to re-read books. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve revisited the Harry Potter series at this point, and I read Deborah Harkness’s A Discovery of Witches twice last year.

But there are a select few books that stick out in my mind as definite old friends. Books I can turn to when I’m in a slump or I need to bounce back from a particularly difficult read. So here are 3 books I will read over and over again:

1. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

Just typing this paragraph makes me want to go pick up my tattered paperback copy of The Hobbit and let Gandalf whisk me away on an adventure. Maybe I have a soft spot for this book because secretly, a hobbit’s life sounds pretty sweet. They’re a pretty laid back folk, they like to eat, and they stay home. Yep, a hobbit’s life for me.

2. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

I remember exactly where I was the first time I ever read this book. My 6th grade science class, while others were working on makeup work, I was curled in the corner of the room by the bookshelf, devouring Dickens’ classic. I read this book every year, rather I gig out my physical copy, or listen to Tim Curry’s fantastic reading. For some reason, A Christmas Carol holds Christmas magic for me, and I keep it in my heart as the years go by.

3. Dracula by Bram Stoker

Though I’m not sure when my love of horror came about, I think Dracula had something to do with it. I checked out a copy of this book in high school that nearly gave me nightmares – the illustration of the deadly Count had eyes that seemed to follow me around the room. Stoker’s book is a classic horror tale that sneaks its way onto my reading list every fall.

So there you have it, my 3 book BFFs. Are there any books that you’ll read over and over again?

Book Review: Eden

TW: Sexual Assault, Self-harm, Suicide, Sexual Exploitation of Children, Drug/Alcohol Abuse

Eden is a book full of dark secrets and the lengths to which a town will go to keep them buried.

Evelyn left Eden, LA a long time ago and has tried to forget that tragedy that befell her family. In fact, in a haze of booze and prescriptions, Evelyn finds that she has gaps in her memory. Her world is turned upside down when a call comes from Eden telling her that her sister’s body has been found. Evelyn returns to Eden, and discovers that she can’t trust her memory as much as she thought.

I enjoy a dark mystery, and small town, buried secrets always intrigue me. I liked the different character perspectives, and the journal entries. I always felt like I was starting to understand what was happening, until Schwartz gave more information and I would be lost again.

If you’re a fan of Karin Slaughter or Gillian Flynn, I think you’ll enjoy Eden.

I received a copy of this book for free and am writing this review voluntarily.

Book Review: Bad Girls Don’t Die

Alender brings the chills.

I’m a relatively new lover of the horror genre. I’m a big chicken when it comes to scary things – not too long ago, I would bury my head and cover my ears whenever a preview for the newest horror flick came on TV.But something’s changed for me in the last few years, and I’m so glad that I can enjoy a creepy book and the occasional spooky flick.

My latest journey into the land of the macabre is Katie Alender’s Bad Girls Don’t Die. In this YA horror, narrator Alexis is a high school outcast dealing with a dysfunctional family, a doll-obsessed little sister, and her inability to fit in with any group. Little sister Kasey is beginning to act stranger than ever – speaking differently, stealing, and apparently losing chunks of time in her memory. Could it have something to do with the new friend she’s found?

I love a good spooky story around cursed objects and possession. I’m fascinated with the idea that an item can hold on to a piece of its former owner’s soul. I think Alender does a good job of handling the possession angle. Kasey is so darn likable that when she’s acting out, it’s so creepy. Creepy kids are just such a great addition to any horror story. I love it.

I will definitely read on in this series, and I hope Alender keeps bringing the chills!

My March Bingo Card

One of my favorite people on Litsy hosts “Bookspin Bingo” every month. Basically you put together a list of 20-25 books on your TBR, and on the 2nd of each month, she draws the numbers to create the Bingo card.

I’m participating in several reading challenges this year, so my list is usually made up of a mix of books for those (Daphne du Maurier for #AuthorAMonth) and free spaces for the random books I’m bound to pick up.

This bookish event is always so much fun for me, and it helps me plan out my reading for the month. Plus, I’m a sucker for a Bingo board!

If you’re ever on Litsy, you should check out Bookspin Bingo!

Book Review – Murder Most Pemberley

I have a confession – I have never read Pride and Prejudice. I have never read any of Jane Austen’s works. I did see a lovely community theatre production of P&P, so I know the basics of the story. But unlike the author, I have never dreamed of walking the halls of Pemberley. With that being said, I don’t believe a lack of pre-Austen reading diminished my enjoyment of this book one bit.

Eliza Darcy, namesake of Lizzy Bennet Darcy, is off to England for a family reunion, packing her beloved Agatha Christie novels and wool socks. She meets a dashing stranger on the plane, and in moments that can only happen in Hallmark movies and cozy mysteries, meets him once again at Pemberley. But there’s a mystery afoot at Pemberley, and Eliza is only too eager to follow in the footsteps of Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple.

I really enjoyed this mystery. It made me laugh out loud a few times, and I completely understood how Eliza could find comfort in her books with cracked spines and wool socks. Add a cup of tea and that is a mood. Aunt Iris, the slightly crazy aunt who is always up for an adventure, is an absolute hoot. For me, the eccentric characters make a cozy mystery work, and Iris definitely plays an important role for comic relief and sage advice.

I would say that readers of Jane Austen are more likely to enjoy this book since they will get all the references, but even a casual reader can get a kick out of Murder Most Pemberley.

I received an advance review copy of this book for free, and am leaving this honest review voluntarily.

The Introductory Post

I have to admit, this is scary. I like to read. I’ve always been a reader, way back to when I would just stare at the pictures in The Monster at the End of This Book and pretend that I was reading along with the adventures of furry old Grover. I’ve collected stacks of books, carried bags of books everywhere I’ve traveled, and lived a thousand lives vicariously through the pages. I’ve even reviewed a book or two in my time.

But this is the only space that I’ve ever had that is truly my own to pour out my love of books – and that’s a bit intimidating to me. What do I have to offer in this space that isn’t already out there in droves? What can I bring to the reading universe that is uniquely me?

Well, all I can say is we’re going to find out together. If you’ve found your way to my blog, I hope you enjoy it. I hope you find something that speaks to your reader soul, gives you a giggle, makes you reminisce, or maybe just doesn’t make your day worse. Lofty goals I have here.

My first few posts will probably be some book reviews I’ve done recently, just to get the ball rolling. All right, let’s get this adventure started!