Book Review: Pumpkin By Julie Murphy

An overweight gay boy in a small town films a private video where he experiments with drag. After the video gets leaked and he’s nominated for his high school’s prom court – for queen – he decides to throw caution to the wind and go for the crown.

This is the third in the Dumplin‘ series, and I swear, these books are so feel-good, funny, and addictive it’s unbelievable – they take me half the time to read as similar length books! Filled with teen angst and coupled with hope, this is the high school experience you wish you’d had!

From Goodreads: Return to the beloved world of Julie Murphy’s #1 New York Times bestselling Dumplin’—now a popular Netflix feature film starring Jennifer Aniston—in this fabulously joyful, final companion novel about drag, prom, and embracing your inner Queen.

Waylon Russell Brewer is a fat, openly gay boy stuck in the small West Texas town of Clover City. His plan is to bide his time until he can graduate, move to Austin with his twin sister, Clementine, and finally go Full Waylon so that he can live his Julie-the-hills-are-alive-with-the-sound-of-music-Andrews truth.

So when Clementine deviates from their master plan right after Waylon gets dumped, he throws caution to the wind and creates an audition tape for his favorite TV drag show, Fiercest of Them All. What he doesn’t count on is the tape getting accidentally shared with the entire school. . . . As a result, Waylon is nominated for prom queen as a joke. Clem’s girlfriend, Hannah Perez, also receives a joke nomination for prom king.

Waylon and Hannah decide there’s only one thing to do: run—and leave high school with a bang. A very glittery bang. Along the way, Waylon discovers that there is a lot more to running for prom court than campaign posters and plastic crowns, especially when he has to spend so much time with the very cute and infuriating prom king nominee Tucker Watson.

Waylon will need to learn that the best plan for tomorrow is living for today . . . especially with the help of some fellow queens. . . . 

Book Review: The Hathorne Legacy By Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Barnes has done it again! Another smart, twisty, addictive mystery that I found impossible to put down!

In the second book of the Inheritance Games series, our plucky heroine finds herself drawn deeper into the mystery of why a billionaire chose her to inherit his fortune over his own family, and the question of parentage comes into play. The riddles, the clues, and the seemingly impossible trail of breadcrumbs all lead the MC to confront the uncomfortable secrets from her past and truths about her present.

If you haven’t read this author and you enjoy YA thrillers and mysteries, do yourself a favor and check out this and her Naturals series!

From Goodreads:

Intrigue, riches, and romance abound in this thrilling sequel to the New York Times bestselling The Inheritance Games perfect for fans of Karen McManus and Holly Jackson.

The Inheritance Games ended with a bombshell, and now heiress Avery Grambs has to pick up the pieces and find the man who might hold the answers to all of her questions – including why Tobias Hawthorne left his entire fortune to Avery, a virtual stranger, rather than to his own daughters or grandsons.

Thanks to a DNA test, Avery knows that she’s not a Hawthorne by blood, but clues pile up hinting at a deeper connection to the family than she had ever imagined. As the mystery grows and the plot thickens, Grayson and Jameson, the enigmatic and magnetic Hawthorne grandsons, continue to pull Avery in different directions. And there are threats lurking around every corner, as adversaries emerge who will stop at nothing to see Avery out of the picture – by any means necessary.

With nonstop action, aspirational jet-setting, family intrigue, swoonworthy romance, and billions of dollars hanging in the balance, The Hawthorne Legacy will thrill Jennifer Lynn Barnes fans and new readers alike. 

ARC Book Review: These Deadly Games By Diana Urban

As high schooler Crystal and her friends prepare to compete in a gaming contest for huge amounts of prize money, she gets a text challenging her to play a different game – with her younger sister’s life as the prize!

This book is a page-turner! Everybody’s a suspect in this rollercoaster of a thrill ride where the stakes are high and the games are deadly! Urban pulls no punches in this one, ruthlessly torturing her characters with every twist and turn on the pages. I’m not into video games, so I was a little worried that there would be sections that would bore me to tears, but that wasn’t the case at all! If you love YA mysteries that keep you guessing until the very end, check this one out!

Thanks to Diana’s Street Team, NetGalley, and the publishers for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

From Goodreads:

Let’s play a game.

You have 24 hours to win. If you break my rules, she dies. If you call the police, she dies. If you tell your parents or anyone else, she dies.

Are you ready?

When Crystal Donavan gets a message on a mysterious app with a video of her little sister gagged and bound, she agrees to play the kidnapper’s game. At first, they make her complete bizarre tasks: steal a test and stuff it in a locker, bake brownies, make a prank call.

But then Crystal realizes each task is meant to hurt—and kill—her friends, one by one. But if she refuses to play, the kidnapper will kill her sister. Is someone trying to take her team out of the running for a gaming tournament? Or have they uncovered a secret from their past, and wants them to pay for what they did…

As Crystal makes the impossible choices between her friends and her sister, she must uncover the truth and find a way to outplay the kidnapper… before it’s too late.

Author of All Your Twisted Secrets, Diana Urban’s explosive sophomore novel, These Deadly Games, will keep you riveted until the final twist is revealed.

Book Review: Bad Call By Stephen Wallenfels

Four high school seniors lie about going to a school-related activity over the weekend and go camping instead – without telling anyone where they’re really going. When a forest fire alters their course, they find themselves lost in the wilderness with no cell service, dwindling supplies, and a freak snowstorm that they aren’t prepared for. As they struggle to survive, one thing becomes clear – the elements might not be their biggest threat. Four go up the mountain. How many will come down?

This book has mixed reviews, but I really liked it. The characters, the plot, and the situation combine to create a perfect storm. I was expecting more of a kill them all high body count thriller, which might be what the disappointed readers were looking for, too. Instead, the author takes a more realistic approach, focusing on the characters and group dynamic rather than thinking up how many different ways he can kill someone off. I thought it worked well. No complaints here.

From Goodreads:

It was supposed to be epic. During a late-night poker game, tennis teammates Colin, Ceo, Grahame, and Rhody make a pact to go on a camping trip in Yosemite National Park. And poker vows can’t be broken. So the first sign that they should ditch the plan is when Rhody backs out. The next is when Ceo replaces him with Ellie, a girl Grahame and Colin have never even heard of. And then there’s the forest fire at their intended campsite. But instead of bailing, they decide to take the treacherous Snow Creek Falls Trail to the top of Yosemite Valley. From there, the bad decisions really pile up. A freak storm is threatening snow, their Craigslist tent is a piece of junk, and Grahame is pretty sure there’s a bear on the prowl. On top of that, the guys have some serious baggage (and that’s not including the ridiculously heavy ax that Grahame insisted on packing) and Ellie can’t figure out what their deal is. And then one of them doesn’t make it back to the tent. Desperate to survive while piecing together what happened, the remaining hikers must decide who to trust in this riveting, witty, and truly unforgettable psychological thriller that reveals how one small mistake can have chilling consequences.

Book Review : All These Bodies By Kendare Blake

A serial killer’s rampage keeps the nation breathless as they follow the news in 1958 America. For an aspiring young journalist, he expects the papers to be as close as he’ll get to the case from his tiny Midwest nowhere town. Right? Wrong.

I had such high hopes for this one that I can’t help but feel a little disappointed. On the one hand, the plot was compelling, the characters were well developed, the writing kept me drawn in and hooked. On the other, this is the author of “Anna Dressed In Blood.” I expected my emotions to run the full gamut of the spectrum while my toes curled and I debated whether or not I was ready to turn the page. Sigh. It would be unfair not to say this was a good read, because it was, it just wasn’t what I wanted it to be, which is unfair to everyone (book, author, and reader). I enjoyed it. But it’s no Anna.

From Goodreads: Sixteen bloodless bodies. Two teenagers. One impossible explanation. In this edge-of-your-seat mystery from #1 New York Times bestselling author Kendare Blake, the truth is as hard to believe as it is to find.

Summer 1958. A gruesome killer plagues the Midwest, leaving behind a trail of bodies completely drained of blood.

Michael Jensen, an aspiring journalist whose father happens to be the town sheriff, never imagined that the Bloodless Murders would come to his backyard. Not until the night the Carlson family was found murdered in their home. Marie Catherine Hale, a diminutive fifteen-year-old, was discovered at the scene—covered in blood. She is the sole suspect in custody.
Michael didn’t think that he would be part of the investigation, but he is pulled in when Marie decides that he is the only one she will confess to. As Marie recounts her version of the story, it falls to Michael to find the truth: What really happened the night that the Carlsons were killed? And how did one girl wind up in the middle of all these bodies?

Book Review : The Cabin By Natasha Preston

A group of teenagers goes away for the weekend to party at a cabin. When they wake up after a drunken bender, well, not everyone wakes up.

This is the kind of book that is usually a perfect fit for me, but this one felt like a bad fit from the start. Still, I wanted to see where the author went with it, so I kept reading. Did it keep me reading? Yes. Was I wowed? No.

Teenagers getting killed? Check. Everybody’s a suspect? Check. The MC can’t trust anybody? Check. This has all the parts, and I can’t really put my finger on why, for me, it remained in pieces, so maybe chalk it up to wrong book, wrong time?

From Goodreads:

They think they can do and say whatever they want. They think there are no consequences. They’ve left me no choice. It’s time for them to pay for their sins.

A weekend partying at a remote cabin is just what Mackenzie needs. She can’t wait to let loose with her friends. But a crazy night of fun leaves two of them dead—murdered.

With no signs of a forced entry or struggle, suspicion turns to the five survivors. Someone isn’t telling the truth. And Mackenzie’s first mistake? Assuming the killing is over…

Book Review: Teen Killers Club By Lily Sparks

Can you hear that? It’s the sound of me rubbing my hands together after finishing a satisfying, if unbelievable, tall tale about a Teen Killers Club! Best of all, I smell a sequel (please let there be a sequel)!

In this one, the MC is in jail for her best friend’s murder. She doesn’t remember killing her friend, but her friend wasn’t always so nice to her and she blacked out, so . . . when she gets an offer from a shady government agency to free her from prison if she agrees to go to their camp, she takes it. Even if it lands her in the middle of a pot of hot teenage killers who DO remember committing their crimes. Not just that, but they’ve all tested psychologically as the worst of the worst! EEK! Now be a good camper, turn out the lights and go to sleep. Fast paced and a lot of fun!

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From Goodreads:

Framed for the murder of her best friend, a young girl joins a super-secret society of teenage assassins to avoid a lifetime behind bars–and discovers her own true self–in this mesmerizing debut novel.

Seventeen-year-old Signal Deere has raised eyebrows for years as an unhappy Goth misfit from the trailer park. When she’s convicted of her best friend Rose’s brutal murder, she’s designated a Class A–the most dangerous and manipulative criminal profile. To avoid prison, Signal signs on for a secret program for 18-and-under Class As and is whisked off to an abandoned sleep-away camp, where she and seven bunkmates will train as assassins. Yet even in the Teen Killers Club, Signal doesn’t fit in. She’s squeamish around blood. She’s kind and empathetic. And her optimistic attitude is threatening to turn a group of ragtag maniacs into a team of close-knit friends. Maybe that’s because Signal’s not really a killer. She was framed for Rose’s murder and only joined the program to escape, track down Rose’s real killer, and clear her name. But Signal never planned on the sinister technologies that keep the campers confined. She never planned on the mysterious man in the woods determined to pick them off one by one. And she certainly never planned on falling in love. Signal’s strategy is coming apart at the seams as the true killer prepares to strike again in Teen Killers Club.

Book Review: The Escape Room By Megan Goldin

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Who doesn’t like seeing (or reading) about some overentitled baddies getting what they deserve?

A group of financiers for an elite company are forced to participate in a mandatory ‘team building’ experience. Only, the game really sucks. And when it’s over, they’re still trapped – which is when the real fun begins!

Revenge is best served cold – unless it’s a sizzling summer beach read!

This was a fun, fast paced foray into the corporate world of backstabbing and bad ideas.

From Goodreads:

In Megan Goldin’s unforgettable debut, The Escape Room, four young Wall Street rising stars discover the price of ambition when an escape room challenge turns into a lethal game of revenge.

Welcome to the escape room. Your goal is simple. Get out alive.

In the lucrative world of finance, Vincent, Jules, Sylvie, and Sam are at the top of their game. They’ve mastered the art of the deal and celebrate their success in style—but a life of extreme luxury always comes at a cost.

Invited to participate in an escape room as a team-building exercise, the ferociously competitive co-workers crowd into the elevator of a high rise building, eager to prove themselves. But when the lights go off and the doors stay shut, it quickly becomes clear that this is no ordinary competition: they’re caught in a dangerous game of survival.

Trapped in the dark, the colleagues must put aside their bitter rivalries and work together to solve cryptic clues to break free. But as the game begins to reveal the team’s darkest secrets, they realize there’s a price to be paid for the terrible deeds they committed in their ruthless climb up the corporate ladder. As tempers fray, and the clues turn deadly, they must solve one final chilling puzzle: which one of them will kill in order to survive?

Book Review – The Girls Save The World In This One by Ash Parsons

I totally chose this one for it’s title! 🙂 It’s not the kind of book you read if you’re looking for beautiful prose. You shouldn’t choose this one if you’re looking for deep literary insight. And if you want a very factual, true to life tale, this isn’t for you.

But if you’re looking for a fast paced, funny good time, this book is it!

Three friends attend ZombieCon only to have – you may have guessed it – the Zombie Apocalypse break out at the conference. While fighting for their lives (and the lives of others) these BFFs discover the strength, ingenuity and self-confidence they need to survive. Big on girl power, friendship, and self discovery, with a bit of romance on the side, this book is a perfect, lighthearted summer read!

From Goodreads: June’s whole life has been leading up to this: ZombieCon, the fan convention celebrating all things zombies. She and her two best friends plan on hitting all the panels, photo ops, and meeting the heartthrob lead of their favorite zombie apocalypse show Human Wasteland.

And when they arrive everything seems perfect, though June has to shrug off some weirdness from other fans–people shambling a little too much, and someone actually biting a cast member. Then all hell breaks loose and June and her friends discover the truth: real zombies are taking over the con. Now June must do whatever it takes to survive a horde of actual brain-eating zombies–and save the world. This is a hilarious and heartfelt horror comedy, an ode to zombies, friendship, and girl power that readers are going to love. 

Book Review – The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

This is the third book I’ve read by Acevedo, though it’s the first she wrote. There’s no denying she’s a powerful writer, invoking a strong sense of place, culture, and emotions with her beautiful prose.

In this book a teenage girl finds her voice, learns to accept herself and her body, comes to terms with the differences between her and her family – it’s a complete coming of age tale told in free verse that flows as easily as water from the tap. A quick read that shouldn’t be missed (With The Fire On High is by far my favorite by this author).

From Goodreads: A young girl in Harlem discovers slam poetry as a way to understand her mother’s religion and her own relationship to the world. Debut novel of renowned slam poet Elizabeth Acevedo.

Xiomara Batista feels unheard and unable to hide in her Harlem neighborhood. Ever since her body grew into curves, she has learned to let her fists and her fierceness do the talking.

But Xiomara has plenty she wants to say, and she pours all her frustration and passion onto the pages of a leather notebook, reciting the words to herself like prayers—especially after she catches feelings for a boy in her bio class named Aman, who her family can never know about. With Mami’s determination to force her daughter to obey the laws of the church, Xiomara understands that her thoughts are best kept to herself.

So when she is invited to join her school’s slam poetry club, she doesn’t know how she could ever attend without her mami finding out, much less speak her words out loud. But still, she can’t stop thinking about performing her poems.

Because in the face of a world that may not want to hear her, Xiomara refuses to be silent.

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