Thursday, January 21, 2021

The Initial Insult by Mindy McGinnis

 The Initial Insult, 5/5

Pages: 384
Book Number: 1 of 2
Genre: YA, Mystery, Thriller

Summary by Author: Welcome to Amontillado, Ohio, where your last name is worth more than money, and secrets can be kept… for a price.

Tress Montor knows that her family used to mean something—until she didn’t have a family anymore. When her parents disappeared seven years ago while driving her best friend home, Tress lost everything. She might still be a Montor, but the entire town shuns her now that she lives with her drunken, one-eyed grandfather at what locals refer to as the “White Trash Zoo,” – a wild animal attraction featuring a zebra, a chimpanzee, and a panther, among other things.

Felicity Turnado has it all – looks, money, and a secret that she’s kept hidden. She knows that one misstep could send her tumbling from the top of the social ladder, and she’s worked hard to make everyone forget that she was with the Montors the night they disappeared. Felicity has buried what she knows so deeply that she can’t even remember what it is… only that she can’t look at Tress without having a panic attack.

But she’ll have to.

Tress has a plan. A Halloween costume party at an abandoned house provides the ideal situation for Tress to pry the truth from Felicity – brick by brick – as she slowly seals her former best friend into a coal chute. With a drunken party above them, and a loose panther on the prowl, Tress will have her answers – or settle for revenge.

In the first book of this duology, award-winning author Mindy McGinnis draws inspiration from Edgar Allan Poe and masterfully delivers a dark, propulsive mystery in alternating points of view that unravels a friendship . . . forevermore.

Opinions: Heart-wrenching, shocking, and eye-opening are the only words to describe The Initial Insult. "Where did the author find inspiration? What are the themes of the work? Why did the ending leave such a large mark on the reader?" These overused questions from 7th Grade English class have never been so pertinent. Although fiction, McGinnis punches a whole in the reader's heart with the use of current affairs and, since there is no better word to describe it, "pop culture." The bullying as teenagers, the substance abuse from adults, racial motifs and a status-divided community is all too real for this book to be labeled as "a fun read." The Initial Insult will make you laugh out loud, cry from memories of mean girls, and scream at the bad decisions your least favourite characters persuade your favourite ones to make. My biggest takeaway from reading The Initial Insult is the confidence that teenagers facing similar challenges will learn from the protagonists of this book before they make the same mistakes. In short, read this book because it will not be forgotten. 

My Favourite Thing: I am impressed with the abundance of themes in The Initial Insult but, more importantly, the evidence of said themes: the characters! Without them and their unique personalities and opinions about society, we would not be holding the same book in our hands. All of their decisions were driven by motive, giving readers something close to tangible to ponder on. All of their friendships were viewed differently by each friend, allowing readers to question their own relationships. All of their past experiences were slowly revealed, forcing readers to treat everyone around them as if they don't know what's happening behind closed doors (which they don't). Without these characters, readers would not set down the book a better person as they picked it up. 

My Least Favourite Thing: Despite the themes that surface from the pettiness and immaturity of the protagonists, it does get monotonous to read. Oh... what a surprise, Tress is mad at Felicity... again! In my opinion, if there was just a bit more action or a few less pages, The Initial Insult would've been perfect.

Recommended For and Similar Reads: The Initial Insult is a thought-provoking and tear-jerking read for teens who love gossip, payback, and off-the-beaten-path stereotypes. You should try McGinnis' The Initial Insult if you have read and loved Teen Killers Club by Lily Sparks, The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, Black Helicopters by Blythe Woolston, We Were Liars by E Lockhart!

Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Edition: Kindle
Publication Date: February 23, 2020
ISBN: 0062982427
Per FTC regulations, please know that I received this title for free for review from the original author, the publisher, publicist, or a third party. I am honest in my reviews, meaning the fact I received the book for free does not alter the rating I give it. 

Monday, January 11, 2021

Branded by the Pink Triangle by Ken Setterington

 Branded by the Pink Triangle, 5/5

Pages: 155
Book Number: 1 of 1
Genre: Nonfiction, LGBTQ, History

Summary by Author: Before the rise of the Nazi party, Germany, especially Berlin, was one of the most tolerant places for homosexuals in the world. Activists, including Thomas Mann and Albert Einstein, campaigned openly for the rights of gay men and women, and tried to repeal the old existing law against homosexuality. But all that would change when the Nazis came to power and existence for gay people turned into one of fear. Raids, arrests, prison sentences and expulsions became the daily reality. When the concentration camps were built, homosexuals were imprisoned along with Jews and any other groups the Nazis wanted to suppress.

The pink triangle, sewn onto prison uniforms, became the symbol of the persecution of homosexuals, a persecution that would continue for many years after the war. A mix of historical research, first person accounts, and individual stories bring this time to life for readers. Stories of bravery in the face of inhuman cruelty, friendship found in the depths of despair in the camps, and the perseverance of the human spirit will both educate and inspire.

Opinions: I cannot express how much this book needs to be in school libraries - or any libraries, for that matter. Everybody is taught about the Holocaust, where 6 million Jewish people died under Hitler's ruling. If you pursued history past middle school, you might know that another 5 million asocials were murdered for "rejecting" the ideal German lifestyle. Branded by the Pink Triangle is the first easy-to-read, heartbreaking, reliable resource about the conditions LGBTQ+ members faced in Nazi Germany. The life of fear, guilt, and denial is one of recent history that more people need to understand. There is nothing else to say: this book is a must-read, no matter how much you know about WWII or how many LGBTQ+ friends you have or how much you think it matters nowadays. Read the facts. Look at the photos. Understand the past and how it has affected the future. Learn.

Recommended For and Similar Reads: Branded by the Pink Triangle is a MUST-READ nonfiction novel for all active members of our society. Similar reads are We Are Not From Here by Jenny Torres Sanchez, Number the Stars by Lois Lowry, The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne, And the Band Played On by Randy Shilts, The Men With the Pink Triangle by Heinz Heger, and The Mayor of Castro Street by Randy Shilts. 

Publisher: Second Story Press
Edition: English
Publication Date: 15 April, 2013
ISBN: 1926920961
Per FTC regulations, please know that I received this title for free for review from the original author, the publisher, publicist, or a third party. I am honest in my reviews, meaning the fact I received the book for free does not alter the rating I give it. 

His Hidden Wings, Alexander Williams

 His Hidden Wings, 3.5/5

Pages: 280
Book Number: 1 of 1
Genre: YA, Children's, LGBTQ, Fantasy

Summary by Author: Aidan is on the edge. It’s his 16th birthday and all he has to show for it is a bowl of microwaved ice cream. His parents are about to split up, his brother hates his guts and his best friend’s a film-nerd who’d rather re-watch the original Star Wars trilogy than talk about ‘feelings’. Worst of all, strangest of all, he suddenly sprouts a tiny pair of beautiful blue butterfly wings.

Desperate to hide his fast-growing wings from his family, friends and the bullies at school, Aidan’s shocked when the first person to see them turns out to be James, the scarily popular captain of the school football team. But what made James see them first? Can he be trusted to keep them secret? And does James in fact have secrets of his own...

Opinions: The cliche response to a cliche book is boredom. However, I was enthralled with the familiar introduction; it's almost as if so many authors are trying to stray from the coming-of-age magic that we as readers now consider the topic nostalgic instead of repetitive. It was refreshing to be transported back to my teen years, starting from the "Sabrina the Teenage Witch" beginning to family disputes, bullying at school, and heartwarming relationship at the end. Who else could've used a pro-LGBTQ underdog like Aidan in high school? All of that said, I must admit that the first 1/3 of the book was spent developing the plot, which means the first 1/3 of the book was readers watching Aidan's wings develop. Even the background drama like said name-calling and struggling to please parents academically all while hiding his wings at school did not distract from the monotonous diary-entry writing style. To counter this, as long as you can make it through the book, the encouraging and resonating themes will overpower any dull moments of reading. Overall, His Hidden Wings was not my favourite book in the world but I am appreciative of Williams' dedication to empowering teenagers to overcome obstacles and be confident with themselves.

My Favourite Thing: Speaking relatively, I appreciate how realistic His Hidden Wings is! Keeping said wings hidden is not our protagonist's only struggle in life, he also must deal with academics, peer pressure, bullying, and sibling rivalry. Having more than one conflict made the climax even more climactic and the ending even more heart-throbbing. Williams did a fantastic job depicting the life of a modern teenager with a supernatural struggle. 
My Least Favourite Thing: As I expressed above, I took stars away from the rating because of the tedious style. This did not ruin the entire book for me, but it definitely effected my reading experience!

Recommended For and Similar Reads: His Hidden Wings is a coming-of-age tale for fantasy-loving teenagers! Similar reads are Tithe by Holly Black, The Iron King by Julia Kagawa, Ash by Malindo Lo, and A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J Maas!

Setting: England, UK
Publisher: TSL Publication
Edition: Kindle
Publication Date: 2019
ISBN: 978-1-912416-39-4
Per FTC regulations, please know that I received this title for free for review from the original author, the publisher, publicist, or a third party. I am honest in my reviews, meaning the fact I received the book for free does not alter the rating I give it. 

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Time After Time by Sara Crawford

 Time After Time, 4.5/5

Pages: 332
Book Number: 1 of 1
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Romance, Coming of Age

Summary by Author: Megan Gallagher has only ever seen her mother as neurotic and overworked. 

When a Whitney Houston song at the 80s dance sends Megan back to 1987, she discovers her teenage mom dressed in all black and sneaking liquor in the bathroom. After preventing her mom's drunk car accident, Megan realizes she has one month to get her teenage parents to stop partying and learn enough about her family's secret to getting back home. Too bad the much cuter teenage version of her history teacher is such a distraction. With time running out and her future at stake, Megan must learn that, when it comes to family, you can't always get what you want, but you might just get what you need.

Opinions: To put it simply, Time After Time is a cute story. To put it complicatedly, Time After Time is a heart-throbbing, long-winded, emotional, electrifying tale that will leave you on the edge of your seat and a billion questions boggling your mind. Although it is nearly a scene-for-scene remake of “Back to the Future” (complete with time travelling, a school dance, meeting your parents when they were teenagers, and struggling to not use modern language), this is a fresh and resonating read for its themes on respect, empathy, and self-worth. Not only are readers taught such things through Megan’s 180° personality flip between the beginning and middle of the book, but we’re taught to not judge a book by its cover when we learn that Megan isn’t the entitled, revolting teenager we assumed she was in the beginning. By the climax, Megan and the rest of her family, whether from the original timeline or the past, have a place in my heart. 

My Favourite Thing:
The abundance of themes is my favourite part, but I also must mention the writing style of Crawford. It is smooth, easy to understand, and very engaging! Not once did I reread a paragraph to understand the sentence structure nor did I yawn because I’d lost track of who’s speaking ten sentences ago. Crawford’s gentle and natural tone made the read easy and fun, how I believe reading should be!
My Least Favourite Thing: Personally, I didn’t have a problem with this, but other readers may have a problem with how similar Time After Time is to “Back to the Future”. Granted, there are only so many traveling time adventures to write AND the overall theme of the novel is different, but objectively, the storylines are very similar.

Recommended For and Similar Reads: Time After Time is a heartfelt and zapping read for teens who want a bit of flare in their reading. Each page is packed with excitement and lessons, so be sure you’re ready for a climactic read! If you’re a fan of “Back to the Future,” The Time Machine, or A Wrinkle in Time, you’re bound to love Time After Time!

Publisher: Parliament House
Edition: Kindle
Publication Date: August 18, 2020
Per FTC regulations, please know that I received this title for free for review from the original author, the publisher, publicist, or a third party. I am honest in my reviews, meaning the fact I received the book for free does not alter the rating I give it. 

Thursday, December 17, 2020



I’m thrilled to share this epic new novel by K.T. Rose! The Haunting of Gallagher Hotel proves that ghost stories are perfect any time of the year!

Read on for an exclusive sneak peek and an amazing giveaway to enter!


Title: The Haunting of Gallagher Hotel

Publication Date: November 5th, 2020

Genre: Supernatural,  Horror


Pride and greed infect the soul, anchoring the dead to Gallagher Hotel.

When Chris, a master thief, and Riley, a contract waitress, get mysterious invites to an exclusive party at the haunted Gallagher Hotel, they discover that there is more at play than simple celebrations.

Hidden truths are revealed, and all hell breaks loose. But the “party” has just begun.

Now, Chris and Riley face their demons as they fight to survive a hellish nightmare full of spoiled secrets, carnage, and vengeful spirits lost to the hotel dating back to the turn of the 20th century.

Will they survive the night? Or will their souls be devoured by the most haunted building in Michigan?

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She’ll never forget the day she died.

Torches lit up the town square, illuminating scowling and shouting faces. The townspeople launched stones and spit, pegging Trudy’s arms and face as she trudged through the abhorrent mob. She cringed when a pebble struck her cheek. Pain erupted, shooting through her face like lightning striking the earth.

Deputy Hill yanked her arm, leading her through the narrow path the townspeople created. Fists balled, Trudy groaned as the rope around her wrists dug into her skin. Her bare feet picked up glass shards and debris from the cobblestone path as she shuffled along.

She glared around at the angry faces and recognized the men, women, and children of Holloway. She’d done more for them than any God before her. Many of those people owned the very businesses that lined the stone slab she marched across that night. Building and financing the rows of wooden businesses lining the town’s square accounted for half the things she’d done for Holloway. She fed the hungry, made clothes for cold children, and taught woman’s independence. The ever-growing list of the townspeople’s wants was endless. At one point, she didn’t mind the busy work. Fulfilling dreams of the once poor town kept her boisterous and distracted from her bitter reality. Trudy was Holloway’s personal shepherd, making the people her needy sheep.

Hands snagged at her lavender tea gown, adding dirty prints to the blood drops and grime from the beatings in that putrid cell. She glared at the bare-faced man towering over her. The brim of his deputy hat cast a thick shadow, hiding his dark eyes and pale face.

Deputy would miss her. She was sure of it. He got off on the assaults that bruised her face. His heavy fists pounded her bones and scraped her skin until she confessed. And even after her confession, he continued with his evening visits, slamming her body into cinder block walls and passing off open-handed blows to her nose, cheeks, and eyes.

Trudy sighed. A bath with lavender and Epsom salt sounded good for the swelling. She didn’t realize how bloated and purple her once beautiful, fairly smooth skin had become until she passed by the picture window in front of the town’s jail just before they began her walk of shame. Her dark hair matted to her forehead, washed by sweat and blood. Her plump lips were chapped and bloated with bruises.

Even then, her face pulsed with intense hurt. Pain shot through it whenever she winced.

The sea of convictions roared, growing louder as she drew closer to the opposite end of the square.

“Adulterer,” yelled a woman.

“Traitor,” screeched a boy.

“Murderer,” said a pot-bellied man.

Their accusations sent a sickening jolt through her bones. She watched the path underneath her slowing feet, fighting back the tears.

How could they turn on me like this?

Available on Amazon!

Review, 3/5!

Opinions: “The Haunting of Gallagher Hotel” may not be the best book I’ve read, but it’s certainly not the worst! In my opinion, this was your classic horror story: a lengthy introduction full of hearty character background to ensure an electrifying climax that readers will remember. However, this makes for a rather cliche and over-told story. Whereas I honestly can’t imagine another way to write an impressionable horror tale, we can’t give the author credit for doing so either. On the other hand, speaking of characters, I found them very strong and viable, taking appreciation of the flaws that allowed readers to relate and engage with the story. The protagonists led us through a twisting and complex tale that taught plenty of lessons about teamwork, trust, and self-respect. I, for one, will never assume that fantasy doesn’t have resonating themes again! To put it simply, “The Haunting of Gallagher Hotel” was not as horrifying or atmospheric as I expected (and hoped) but it was definitely worth the read.

My Favourite Thing: Just to quickly reiterate, I am impressed with the themes and motifs represented in the book; “The Haunting of Gallagher Hotel” is perfect if you’re looking for meaning in fantasy. The harmonised writing style could also provide a sense of security for readers as lots of motifs are circular and always come back around. Perhaps there aren’t as many jump scares as you can find in a Stephen King novel, but anybody will enjoy reading this scary story!

My Least Favourite Thing: Whereas I see the draw to a comforting, circular atmosphere, I didn’t find the repetition necessary for the plot and themes to matter. In my opinion, this made the writing itself a bit messy. However, this didn’t effect my reading experience too much so I was still able to enjoy the overall read!

About the Author

PORTRAIT2 white frame

K.T. Rose is a horror, thriller, and dark fiction writer from Detroit, Michigan. She posts suspense and horror flash fiction on her blog at and is the author of a suspenseful short story series titled Trinity of Horror, an erotic thriller novel titled When We Swing, and A Dark Web Horror Series. She also writes supernatural and paranormal horror novels and short stories.

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Saturday, November 14, 2020

Skin Curse, Kristin Jacques

 Skin Curse, 5/5

Book Number: 2 of 2
Genre: NA, Fantasy

Summary by Author: The Children of the Gate wait for the call to Rise.
Azzy Brimvine knows her brother is in the vast city of Avergard. She must find him, but time is not on their side.

In the House of Seven Smiles, Azzy struggles to understand the constraints and limits of her power. She finds the whispering voices that guided her for so long, suddenly silent. The enigmatic Lord Wallach is both a frustrating ally and a dangerous mystery, and a strange entity lurks among the household servants. The haven Azzy sought may not be as safe as she thought... but is anywhere truly safe in the Above?

The city of Avergard is full of monsters and secrets, and a dark history festers at its root. A yawning pit nestles in the house of a scheming lord, who will use Armin's dangerous gifts to raise history, and raze the city to the ground. As Azzy finds herself and her brother pulled into these machinations, she must navigate the politics and society of Avergard's brutal ruling class to save her family and friends before the Gate consumes them all.

Opinions: Skin Curse is the exact reason why I love sequels. Anticipation builds for weeks before publication and when the special day comes, you're on the edge of your seat for hours, scanning each page and devouring every sentence. Jacques provided this excitement and celebration for many readers, including myself. Even with my TBR stacking higher than my shoulders, I couldn't resist prioritizing Skin Curse, and boy was it worth it. While reading, I was overwhelmed by Jacque's use of imagery in creating a dark, unsettling atmosphere - something I noticed and appreciate is that even though Skin Curse is set in the same realm and timeline of Marrow Charm, the books are very unique logistically and allow readers to form different attachments to each installment. Complimenting this, Jacques went above and beyond with the character and plot development - if you had any doubts about the first book, they will be washed away by the climactic battles, sensational supernatural elements, and inspirational protagonists. 

My Favourite Thing: Similar to when I read Marrow Charm, I was in awe over the world building. Set in what I interpret as a parallel universe, Jacques created a complex government and magic system that ruled the plot and atmosphere. Every page was consistently eerie and unsettling, making engagement with the text easy. I credit all of the stars to the world building of both Marrow Charm and Skin Curse!
My Least Favourite Thing: I awarded 4/5 stars to Marrow Charm, but with no hesitation I am giving Skin Curse the final star. With all intentions of being frank, I did not dislike a single thing in this book!

Total Rating: PG-13+
Language: PG-12
Adult Content: PG
Violence: PG-13 to 18

Recommended For and Similar Reads: Marrow Charm and Skin Curse are dark, atmospheric fantasy reads for teens who love a bit of history in their reads! Similar reads are Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick, Enchantee by Gita Trelease, and Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo!


Publisher: Parliament Press
Edition: Kindle
Publication Date: 12 November, 2020
Per FTC regulations, please know that I received this title for free for review from the original author, the publisher, publicist, or a third party. I am honest in my reviews, meaning the fact I received the book for free does not alter the rating I give it.

Monday, November 2, 2020

Dead Rockstar, Lilah Lawson

 Dead Rockstar, 4.5/5

Pages: 380
Book Number: 1 of 1
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Horror

Summary by Author: Stormy Spooner is at her wits' end. Careening towards bitter after a nasty divorce, she sometimes wonders what her life is becoming. 
After unearthing a cryptic set of lines from a dusty album cover, Stormy tries the impossible: to resurrect Phillip Deville, enigmatic former frontman of the Bloomer Demons. Stormy's love for her favorite dead rockstar knows no bounds...but it was all supposed to be a joke. 

When she answers a knock on her door the next day and finds herself face to face with the dark-haired rock god of her every teenage fantasy, her entire world is turned upside down.

Turns out, she’s awakened more than just Philip, and Stormy will have to do battle against a cast of strange characters to keep herself and her new undead boyfriend safe.

Opinions: Even before beginning Dead Rockstar, I knew it would be a spectacular read for three reasons.
1. That cover! You're only allowed to judge a book by its cover when it's a beautiful one.
2. I've yet to read a bad book by Parliament House Publishing!
3. The blurb! Every fanfiction, every dream, and every middle school "kiss, kill, or marry" game was bound to come true.
And spectacular it was. Each page was more enthralling than the last, romance and distress oozing from the book as it kept me and doubtlessly many other readers up all night long. I could not set this gem down! Stormy Spooner was a compelling, likable protagonist that I couldn't have bonded with faster. I've never quite felt jealous for a protagonist, but what I would give to incarnate a dreamy celebrity as my friend! However, I found it difficult to sympathize with Stormy because too much of the book seemed plausible only due to plot convenience. For instance, readers are explicitly told that she is careening towards bitter after her divorce, yet a few months and a new boyfriend is all it takes for Stormy to forget such "nasty" baggage. For me, a lack of connection to the characters was the only flaw in this intimate, engrossing tale that left readers with a sense of closure from their high school fantasies and some things to think about next time they make a wish! All in all, Dead Rockstar is in the running for my list of all-time favourite books and can easily be number one on yours. 

Recommended For and Similar Reads: I strongly recommend Dead Rockstar to anybody who ever had a crush on a celebrity as a teenager... therefore, I recommend this book to any and everybody! It teaches valuable (and humorous) lessons about wishes and perseverance, which makes it a beneficial read for teens who still dream about the opportunity Stormy was gifted. You should also try this book if you have read and loved Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver, The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold, and Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin!

Top Goodreads Lists Including This Book:
- Parliament House Novels
- My Rockstar Boyfriend
- Best ADULT Urban Fantasy, Fantasy, and Paranormal Romance

Publisher: Parliament House
Edition: Kindle
Publication Date: November 3, 2020
ISBN: 9781735417103
Per FTC regulations, please know that I received this title for free for review from the original author, the publisher, publicist, or a third party. I am honest in my reviews, meaning the fact I received the book for free does not alter the rating I give it.