House of Hollow by Krystal Sutherland

House of Hollow by Krystal Sutherland
Published: 4.6.21 by G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Genre: YA Paranormal Horror
Details: 304 Pages, Print, E-Book, Audio
Rating: 5 Stars
Series: Standalone

REVIEW

Disclaimer: I borrowed my audiobook copy from the local library. I read and reviewed this book voluntarily. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Content warnings at the end of the review.

“I’d realized there were scarier things in the world than the monsters that lived in my nightmares.”

I wanted nothing more than to find a book that I could immerse myself into. I asked everyone for recommendations on a book that would sweep me away. I was driving home and thought, maybe I should try the audiobook. So many people have told me that the audiobook is incredible and they were not wrong. Haunting, creepy, unputdownable. The prose is captivating and intoxicating, so much so that my husband listened with me and the binged it the next day. This is a story about love, loss, heartbreak, and the bonds that people share… what someone is willing to do for the ones they love. I will think for a very long time.

Something is wrong with the Hollow sisters. Iris, Vivi, and Grey disappeared without a trace, returning a month later with no memory, hair and eyes different colors, and a half moon scar at the base of their throats. Seventeen year old Iris spends her time attending her lavish private school, trying to stay away from the public eye, while her sisters rebelled. She becomes frightened as she’s being followed by a horned man (historically having stalkers due to their unsolved disappearance as children). When Grey goes missing under mysterious circumstances, Iris and Vivi begin following the increasingly bizarre trail of breadcrumbs left for them, unraveling the past that they desperately want to forget.

I seriously could not put this book down. Once I started, I realized how dark and atmospheric this book was going to be. The narrator, Eleanor Bennett, was phenomenal. I honestly don’t know if I will ever reread the physical copy of this because it is THAT good. I immediately felt connected to the Hollow sisters. Their shared pain, their dedication to one another, their love… Iris states many times that she would be nothing without them and you can tell that they all have a strange, yet beautiful obsession with one another. I really appreciated the conversational style Sutherland used. It’s rare that I read a book and think, “this is exactly what it would sound like if this were real…” It felt like real young adults having real young adult conversations and it helped me feel connected to the story. The narrator did an incredible job at controlling the tone of the story.

Side characters were well fleshed out and felt as if they all had their own places within this story. Cate, their mother, was overbearing, protective, and sometimes cruel in conversation with the sisters. Vivi and Grey both struggled with Iris’ blind loyalty to Cate. At one point, Vivi stated, “that’s a pretty heaven burden to bear, being everything for someone,” when Iris says she wants Cate to move with her when she goes to University. The horned masked stalker/villain had such an interesting back story that honestly I did not see that coming. And Tyler – what an addition to this twisting tale. So often we find significant others, co-workers, classmate etc being used as a throwaway plot device and I did not feel this way at all.

House of Hollow is by far the most atmospheric book I’ve ever read; Sutherland deserves five stars for world building alone. Once I started listening to the details of the story, I was hooked, whisked away to this creepy town. The author loved to use descriptive words, especially about the smell of things and places to really set the tone. Scent is such a huge factor in whether or not something is “grotesque” and she really understood that concept and used it to her advantage to make you believe you too could smell the rotting decay. It definitely is not for weak stomachs.

As far as horrors go, this wasn’t a book that made me feel like I couldn’t sleep but it was chilling enough to make me look over my shoulder when I was alone in the kitchen. This standalone YA paranormal horror really does mess with you mentally as you never are quite sure if the narrator is is reliable or not. If you are a fan of Stranger Things, a deep and rich prose, and world building that will make you question your own reality, then this book is for you.

Content Warnings: suicide and suicidal ideations, drug abuse, alcohol abuse, child death, parental death, self harm, stalking, violence, attempted rape, murder, gore


SPOILERS

Let’s talk about Cate for a second. At first, I thought – how could she be so cold to her children. How could a mother deny comfort and love. It broke me to pieces when she told Iris not to call her “mama” and to refer to her only as her first name… but you soon begin to understand why. I really appreciated the fact that she understood that her daughters were gone but she would rather have something rather than nothing, and she did remain dedicated to them (except for Grey 🌚)

The scene with Tyler reuniting with my sister was possibly the saddest scene in the entire story. I have to give mad props to Sutherland for making me feel this gut wrenching feeling about a side character and leaving it as one of the most memorable scenes. I also loved that Tyler was a Korean supermodel. I’m not biased or anything (okay I am because I am Korean), but the representation felt nice and not forced.

Speaking of representation, QUEER CHARACTERS! It was such an amazing surprise for me to find out that Iris was Bi and Vivi was a lesbian. I also loved that that was normalized and not used as a plot device or some part of a painful story regarding their sexuality.

The ambiguous ending leaves me BEGGING for more. It reminds me of the end of Stranger Things at each seasons end. You can close that book forever always wondering where your beloved characters go, or you can pick up with the little snippets left behind and write more stories. I want Tyler to come back!!!


Rachael

Small Favors By Erin A. Craig

Small Favors by Erin A. Craig
Published: 7.27.21 by Delacorte Press
Genre: YA Historical Fantasy, Horror, Paranormal Fantasy, Rumpelstiltskin Retelling
Details: 480 Pages, Print, E-Book, Audio
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Series: Standalone

REVIEW

Disclaimer: First and foremost, I would like to thank Penguin Random House Audio for providing me a complimentary audiobook of Small Favors in exchange for an honest review! Content warnings at the end of the review.

Ellerie Downing, a beekeepers daughter, lives in the quiet, isolated town of Amity Falls, where the townsfolk work hard at making sure everyone succeeds after early settlers fought off devilish creatures that lived in the woods. This dark, atmospheric, young adult horror opens up to a bloody end to a failed supply run, making everyone question the motives of the neighbors they’ve vowed to protect. Soon after, bad omens plague them; animals are maimed and deformed, crops are destroyed, and a catastrophic event sows mistrust within this community. Fearing starvation through the winter, lack of medical supplies, low ammunition, and a stranger appearing from the woods draws concerned feelings from the town. Being stuck within the borders of this creepy forest, with visitors being rare, makes the arrival of a strange boy all the more concerning. This book provides a very claustrophobic atmosphere which adds to the intensity of the plot. It also added psychological thrill which kept me listening until late into the night!

That being said, the character development and overall plot had some holes which made me lose some interest in the story. The behavior of Ellerie’s 8 year old sister was unconvincing, the narrator made her sound like she was 4 which frustrated me a bit as I always have trouble with authors/narrators not understand the tone of children they add to their stories. This being a Rumpelstiltskin retelling held true, with mystical creatures offering small favors in exchange for a little mayhem within the town, though we don’t learn much about the monsters until the very end, and even then it was slightly anticlimactic.

Overall, I enjoyed this story. My teenage self would give this a 3.5 star and would recommend this to anyone who enjoyed House of Salt and Sorrows, The Hollow Places, Rules for Vanishing, and other YA horror!

Content Warnings: pet/animal euthanasia, farm animal death, familial death, self harm/blood magic, fear of starvation, fire/severe burns


SPOILERS

Sam, Ellerie’s brother, was a throwaway character. He was extremely under developed and used as a plot device, even at the end. There was zero closure for his motives, leaving you with many questions about why he made the choices that he did. It frustrated me that there wasn’t much clarity for Ellerie and she was just okay with her brother being a jerk even until his death. Essentially going 🤷🏻‍♀️ immediately after his death scene (this was the same reaction Rebecca, his pregnant ex girlfriend had after learning that he’s dead). This frustrated me because it was completely for shock and it felt like having no emotional resolution for him (whether that be good or bad) was cheap. He was a character that the author could abuse and then forget about and critically, it just doesn’t sit well for character development.

The plot revolves around the townsfolk and how everyone works so hard to make sure they all succeed through the harsh winter, so when the town goes up in flames, Ellerie turns her back to the mayhem and then rides off to find her parents which were also used as a plot device and forgotten about as well.

The main villain was easily defeated, in a very unrealistic way (yes I know this is fantasy but there are certain things that you just shake your head at) and didn’t provide many answers to Ellerie’s desperate questions. Ellerie also makes choices that are completely useless and just made the book seem to drag. The paranormal elements of the book seemed disjointed within the story and was more-so confusing than it was revealing. The “small favors” parts of the book were not explored, just explained quickly – we don’t really get to see/read about WHAT the small favors actually were or why, just that it was happening. There were little instances like this that turned me off a bit when it started off with great potential.


Rachael

#LetsGetLitBookClub – Ready Player One

This month for the #LetsGetLitBookClub over on Instagram we read Ready Player One by Ernest Cline! This book was published in 2011 by Crown Publishers and was made into a live action film in 2018. Most people I know state they love the movie more than the book and I have a feeling that I may enjoy it in that format as well. I read the book mostly via audio, which I did enjoy. Wil Wheaton is a great narrator!


—–[SYNOPSIS]—–

9969571. sy475 IN THE YEAR 2044, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he’s jacked into the virtual utopia known as the OASIS. Wade’s devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world’s digital confines, puzzles that are based on their creator’s obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them.

But when Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize. The race is on, and if Wade’s going to survive, he’ll have to win—and confront the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape.



The beginning of this book totally caught my attention. I loved the Willy Wonka style “find the egg and my fortune is yours,” plot. I did grumble thinking, this dude is a billionaire… he could help some of the people in this dystopian world instead of awarding one random person your riches… but whatever haha! It opens up with Wade finding a key and the rest is his quest to find the egg.

I had heard so many amazing things about this book, about how it would bring me back to my childhood with all of the 1980’s nostalgia… but unfortunately, I felt like the nostalgia was being forced upon me. For a book that focuses so much on the idea of an “Easter egg,” it would have made it much more exciting for the throwbacks to be randomly throughout, making you go, “OH! I know that!!” instead of on every page. At one point I found myself rolling my eyes.

I really loved the puzzles Wade had to figure out and I enjoyed the friendships he made along the way.  Overall, I liked this book. I really loved Wade’s character, however I did have some issues with his behavior, especially in regards to Artemis. When she stated she no longer wanted to see him he continuously invaded her space and did not respect her wishes. I think there’s a fine line between wanting to win someone back and sulking and stalking someone LOL.

I also did not appreciate the way that the author presented Artemis at the end. She isn’t some prize possession to be won. I know that she was self conscious about her face, but come on… facing away… hands in her lap… hair over her face, shoulders slumped. No. I think that it’s a poor way to represent someone and for her to only feel okay when Wade calls her beautiful. Like bruh, he loved her before he even saw her, no reason to make her this timid little girl who is waiting for her prince. This isn’t Shrek okay. She’s fine.

I gave this book a 3.5/5 star rating. I think it’s hard to transfer some of the ideas instead Ernest Cline’s head onto page, which is potentially why the movie did so well. I think I am in the minority here with how I feel about this book, most people I know OBSESSED over it, and that’s okay! I’m glad that this book sparked so much joy for so many people! It was definitely action packed and full of adventure. So many twists and turns and really exciting SCIFI stuff, but it did fall just a little flat to me.


Join us next month for the #LetsGetLitBookClub where we are reading Scythe by Neil Shusterman!

Don’t Read the Comments by Eric Smith

Don’t Read the Comments by Eric Smith
Publication Date: January 28th, 2020
Publisher: Inkyard Press
Genre:
YA Contemporary
Rating:
5 Stars

Don't Read the Comments

Synopsis:

Divya Sharma is a queen. Or she is when she’s playing Reclaim the Sun, the year’s hottest online game. Divya—better known as popular streaming gamer D1V—regularly leads her #AngstArmada on quests through the game’s vast and gorgeous virtual universe. But for Divya, this is more than just a game. Out in the real world, she’s trading her rising-star status for sponsorships to help her struggling single mom pay the rent.

Gaming is basically Aaron Jericho’s entire life. Much to his mother’s frustration, Aaron has zero interest in becoming a doctor like her, and spends his free time writing games for a local developer. At least he can escape into Reclaim the Sun—and with a trillion worlds to explore, disappearing should be easy. But to his surprise, he somehow ends up on the same remote planet as celebrity gamer D1V.

At home, Divya and Aaron grapple with their problems alone, but in the game, they have each other to face infinite new worlds…and the growing legion of trolls populating them. Soon the virtual harassment seeps into reality when a group called the Vox Populi begin launching real-world doxxing campaigns, threatening Aaron’s dreams and Divya’s actual life. The online trolls think they can drive her out of the game, but everything and everyone Divya cares about is on the line…

And she isn’t going down without a fight.


DISCLAIMER:
This book was sent to me for free by Inkyard Press in exchange for an honest review. This in no way sways my review, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

There is also usage of mature language but if you’re a gamer, you 100% would be okay with it (it isn’t often). I would let a 14 year old read this.

TW: mention of abuse, depiction of assault, harassment, online bullying


NON SPOILERY REVIEW

And now I’m going to set this world on fire.”

Just as the synopsis says, Divya is now my queen. She is smart, sassy, independent, strong, and all around a badass non-princess who most definitely does NOT need saving by anyone.

I essentially inhaled this book in one sitting. It hit me right in my nerdy gamer girl heart. All of the nods to current pop culture really made me feel like these characters were real. The level of conversations they had with each other was so authentic. Aaron’s relationship with his little sister might be my favorite part of the story. The romance was sweet, didn’t feel forced, and added that blushing edge to this story. It didn’t overshadow it, but I enjoyed the addition of it to the plot!

As a WOC, it really made me feel seen with both MC being brown. The relationships they had with their parents are so similar with POC across the board ranging from working your ass off to help pay for rent to the expectations of being a doctor and the pressures of a high paying career.

“My Armada! I love you!”

One of the things I loved about Divya was that she was a streaming diva who built an empire all on her own but gave credit to her best friend and her fans at every turn. She knew she would not be where she was without them and it helped me root for her as she was not a spoiled, entitled brat like the antagonist of the story. There is a scene in this book that moved me to tears! Side note: I seriously wish Reclaim the Sun was a real game!

Thank you for making me feel seen, you made gaming and streaming important in a novel, and who gave us a nerdy chick who is Mario and not Princess Peach.

This book will be available on January 28th, 2020 and is available at most retailers for preorder!

connect with me

Instagram | Twitter | Goodreads | E-Mail

Mood Monday – Happy New Year!

I took a little hiatus for posting and slowed my social media down a lot over the holiday so I could focus on being with family. Chase goes back to school tomorrow and I am so excited to get my house back in order and get my routine together. I haven’t been reading much either, which honestly feels kind of good. I don’t plan on speeding through as many books as I did last year, I want to go back to enjoying what I read.

What I’ve Been Reading Lately: Elantris by Brandon Sanderson
Thoughts So Far: It’s a Sanderson… so I’m loving it… LOL but seriously, I am enjoying the world so far. It’s far more political than I thought, but the characters are really moving this story forward. Raoden is a straight up cinnamon roll, I totally love him and his sense of responsibility. I think what he is doing for the people of Elantris is just so heartwarming and selfless. I definitely recommend this book for people wanting to dip their toes into epic fantasy.

What’s Up Next:
I have quite a few book reviews coming up, some book tours, and some cover releases! I plan on cross posting my Instagram to my blog for these. I was asked to be on the Lunar Chronicles #TeamCinder crew, host a giveaway from MacMillan for All the Stars and Teeth, and do a blog tour for Foul is Fair! I feel like all of my hard work is finally paying off and it’s both exhausting and exhilarating!

I hope you all have an amazing Monday! My new planner gets in today and I am excited to organize my life. I have a book planner that I LOVE but I need one for all of my daily activities for my family. Life is good!

connect with me

Instagram | Twitter | Goodreads | E-Mail

Wild Wednesday – WWW

 

This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and brought back by Taking on a World of Words.

Rules are to just answer three questions:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?


Currently reading: Well Met by Jen DeLuca
This book is CUTE. I am only a few chapters in and I am such a sucker for those steamy, adult romcoms! I’ve already found myself laughing. It’s giving me Fix Her Up vibes with it’s character driven, spicy romance that I am a sucker for!

Recently finished: The Christmas Pact by Vi Keeland
This book was on my radar because again.. sucker for fast, cute romance! It was a free audible membership listen for December!  This was an enjoyable fast paced Christmas novella and is definitely an adult read in language and content! I really enjoyed the characters and I already miss them! This was perfect for my desire to read a little holiday book!

Overall Story : ⭐️⭐️⭐️✨
Characters: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Steam Level: 🔥🔥
Audio Narrators: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Reading Next: The Bromance Book Club by Lyssa Kay Adams
This book was sent to me by my friend Erin (IG: @story_hoarder). Her and I send each other books and ARCs to read and she said this one would be perfect for me! I am so excited to finish up Well Met to start on this one! Here is the synopsis from GoodReads!

The first rule of book club:
You don’t talk about book club.

Nashville Legends second baseman Gavin Scott’s marriage is in major league trouble. He’s recently discovered a humiliating secret: his wife Thea has always faked the Big O. When he loses his cool at the revelation, it’s the final straw on their already strained relationship. Thea asks for a divorce, and Gavin realizes he’s let his pride and fear get the better of him.

Welcome to the Bromance Book Club.

Distraught and desperate, Gavin finds help from an unlikely source: a secret romance book club made up of Nashville’s top alpha men. With the help of their current read, a steamy Regency titled Courting the Countess, the guys coach Gavin on saving his marriage. But it’ll take a lot more than flowery words and grand gestures for this hapless Romeo to find his inner hero and win back the trust of his wife.”




I hope you all have a wonderful Wednesday and get a lot of reading done!

connect with me

Instagram | Twitter | Goodreads | E-Mail

Mood Monday – I’m feeling BLAH!

Happy Monday! I woke up feeling energized only to be hit with some serious laziness. I made the mistake of giving Chase Benadryl last night for his allergies and he woke up around 9:30am, groggy as hell so I let him stay home.

I turned on Muse of Nightmares that I’m buddy reading with Amanda (@bibliomaniacamanda) and I had forgotten how much heartbreak this book has. I know that Strange the Dreamer is rough, but the two new protags, Nova and Kora, and the insight to Minya just cracks your heart in two. I’m halfway through Part II and I know so much more awaits me.

The rest of this week will be spent trying to push through Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson. I absolutely love his writing but with the House Cup Readathon going on the last few months I kept pushing it back. Now we changed the way points are tallied so I’d love to just knock it out!

I have a few book reviews to write, I recently read Rules of Vanishing and honestly I am so upset with how this book unfolded.. but that’s for another post!

I hope you guys have an amazing week!

connect with me

Instagram | Twitter | Goodreads | E-Mail

 

Soulwalkers by Cassidy Thomas

Soulwalkers by Cassidy Thomas
Publisher: Little Big Books
Publication Date: December 3rd, 2019
Genre: YA Urban Fantasy
Rating: 4 Stars

Synopsis:

Kia LaStrauss can see into your soul with the touch of her hand. She can see your fears, desires, wants. She can see your past. Your present. Your future. She is a Soulwalker. 

New Orleans is the city Kia calls home: a city of revelry, jazz, wonder, and magic. She grew up listening to stories of magic and mysticism, but they were just stories… or so she thought. After experiencing two visions of the future, Kia learns of the existence of Soulwalkers, and that she is one of them. With the help of her mentor Ian, she begins to learn what she is capable of, and the consequences of her newfound power. But even Ian cannot prepare her for what she will discover. 

Kia is thrown into a world once unimaginable, where the touch of a hand could kill her and every new discovery can change the course of her life forever. 


DISCLAIMER:
Thank you Cassidy Thomas for this free finished copy to read and review. This is no way shapes my opinions, all thoughts expressed are my own.


REVIEW

I really enjoyed this YA urban fantasy! I love stories that center in New Orleans because the world-building is always so rich. Within this world, we have Soulwalkers, people who can see your soul with a touch… however, there is a balance to this magic system. This adds a level of stress to this ability, throwing me for a loop when you learn about Kia’s first walk. This book explores more magic than soul walking but I don’t want to say too much and spoil the surprises! This book has many twists and turns, some totally unexpected! This is a super quick, exciting read and I would recommend this to anyone who likes books you can devour in a sitting!

I liked the multiple points of view as I’m always wondering what everyone is thinking other than the MC. It just gives a book more depth to me.

***could be considered spoilery***

I enjoyed the romance aspect as I’m a total romance sucker. The only thing I think can be worked upon is the term of endearment. Ian would call Kia kid when they had a “mentor/student,” relationship but once it was more it seemed a bit demeaning. Calling the person you’re interested in as “kid,” isn’t for me, but honestly I think it could just be my own opinion! Other than that, I was totally rooting for the characters!

This book is available for preorder on Amazon and will be available 12/3!

img_6811-2

connect with me

Instagram | Twitter | Goodreads | E-Mail

 

Wild Wednesday – WWW!

This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and brought back by Taking on a World of Words.

Rules are to just answer three questions:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?


Currently reading: Soulwalkers by Cassidy Thomas
This book is an urban fantasy set in New Orleans! Kia learns that she is a Soulwalker; she can see the past, present, future, hopes, wants, dreams, etc in a person’s soul… but that doesn’t mean anything is set in stone. I am about halfway through and I am enjoying it! I really like the setting as I love NOLA! We don’t have enough stories written in that place. I am already finding myself attached to some of the characters but I have a feeling the author is not going to give us much mercy! This hits the shelves December 3rd, 2019 and you can pre-order the Kindle edition right now for $1.99!

Recently finished: The Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw
The Wicked Deep is a story about three sisters who were drowned after being accused of being witches. The sisters posses the body of young women in the town and lure men to their death by drowning as revenge for what happened to them. This book has plot twists all over the place and it was perfectly witchy for October. I wrote about some of the problematic themes in my Tuesday post but other than that, I felt like it was a decent read! Solid 3.5!

Reading Next: The Tenth Girl by Sara Faring
I’ve been seeing this book around Bookstagram for a while now so I think it’s time for me to dig in.

Synopsis:
Simmering in Patagonian myth, The Tenth Girl is a gothic psychological thriller with a haunting twist.

At the very southern tip of South America looms an isolated finishing school. Legend has it that the land will curse those who settle there. But for Mavi—a bold Buenos Aires native fleeing the military regime that took her mother—it offers an escape to a new life as a young teacher to Argentina’s elite girls.

Mavi tries to embrace the strangeness of the imposing house—despite warnings not to roam at night, threats from an enigmatic young man, and rumors of mysterious Others. But one of Mavi’s ten students is missing, and when students and teachers alike begin to behave as if possessed, the forces haunting this unholy cliff will no longer be ignored.

One of these spirits holds a secret that could unravel Mavi’s existence. In order to survive she must solve a cosmic mystery—and then fight for her life


I hope everyone had a marvelous Wednesday! Tomorrow I’ll be talking about some of the upcoming releases I am excited for!

img_6811-1

CONNECT WITH ME

Instagram | Twitter | Goodreads | E-Mail

Mood Monday – New Week/New TBR!

How can it be the second week of October already? This week will be a whirlwind for me as I’ll be headed off to LA with my mom on Saturday morning for a quick trip to KoreaTown! Words cannot express how excited I am! It’s also the last week of the #housecupreadathon19 for October over on Instagram! I’m excited to see who is in the lead!

I am starting off this week with a brand new TBR! I am going to be reading The Wicked Deep and Blackbirds! Kelli (@starlightfaerytale) is going to the Morristown Book Festival soon so we are trying to read books from authors going to that event (Chuck Wendig). I’m also trying to fit in a few short books (Soulwalkers) and write some reviews! Lord only knows where I’ll find the time!

This weekend I read Carmilla by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu (gothic novella) which was Narrated by David Tennant, Rose Leslie, and Phoebe Fox! This audio drama was SO STINKING GOOD y’all! I mean it was legit like listening to a movie. The voice acting was just phenomenal! It’s a super short audible original, the book is about 100ish pages. This was written in 1872, 26 years before Dracula! The female vampire is in love with another woman! Yay LGBT in the 1800s!! I totally recommend this novella via audio!

I hope everyone has an amazing week!