ARC Review: Her Perfect Family by Teresa Driscoll

Summary: It’s their daughter’s graduation and Rachel and Ed Hartley are expecting it to be one of their family’s happiest days. But when she stumbles and falls on stage during the ceremony, a beautiful moment turns to chaos: Gemma has been shot, and just like that, she’s fighting for her life. PI Matthew Hill is one of the first on the scene. A cryptic message Gemma received earlier in the day suggests someone close to her was about to be exposed. But who? As Matthew starts to investigate, he finds more and more layers obscuring the truth. He even begins to suspect the Hartleys are hiding something big—from him and from each other. While Gemma lies in hospital in a coma, her would-be killer is still out there. Can Matthew unravel the family’s secrets before the attacker strikes again?

Genre: thriller, mystery
Rating: ★★★

Her Perfect Family fits cozily on the domestic thriller shelf right between authors like Tarryn Fisher and Shari Lapena. It checks all the boxes here: it’s told in alternating perspectives between the PI, each member of the Hartley family, and, seemingly most importantly, a mysterious person who is our alleged killer; the story focuses heavily on the personal lives of the characters instead of the actual crime procedural.

So is Her Perfect Family good? It checks all the boxes, which will easily draw in readers who already enjoy the genre. I just don’t know that it stands out from others on the shelf.

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ARC Review: The Perishing by Natashia Deón

Summary: Lou, a young Black woman, wakes up in an alley in 1930s Los Angeles, nearly naked and with no memory of how she got there or where she’s from. Lou dedicates herself to her education while trying to put her mysterious origins behind her. She’ll go on to become the first Black female journalist at the Los Angeles Times. When she befriends a firefighter, Lou is shocked to realize that though she has no memory of ever meeting him she’s been drawing his face since her days in foster care.

Increasingly certain that their paths have previously crossed, Lou begins to believe she may be an immortal sent to this place and time for a very important reason. Lou sets out to investigate the mystery of her existence and make sense of the jumble of lifetimes calling to her from throughout the ages before her time runs out for good.

Genre: historical fiction, science fiction
Rating: ★★

This was such a difficult read. The cover and premise of The Perishing drew me in immediately, and I had extremely high hopes for a story that defines itself as speculative fiction. Instead, it felt incredibly dry at times, and the concepts weren’t executed the way I hoped they would be.

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September Wrap Up + Mini Reviews

September was a surprisingly busy month for me. My job became all-consuming for a little while in order for me to get a promotion I’d been after which drastically changed my daily life; I went on a week-long family vacation to Tennessee; and my witchy aesthetic girl gang started spending more time together. It was a complete whirlwind of a month, to say the least. I’ve had hardly any time to dedicate to my hobbies with how crazy things have been.

Unfortunately, that meant reading often got put on the backburner. I did read the Splintered Series by A.G. Howard, and honestly managing to read seven books this month in spite of everything else I had going on is still impressive for me. I actually read both of my Book of the Month picks in the month I got them! I only read one of my three books for my monthly book club, but four of the seven books I read were ones I own that I can check off the towering list that is my tbr pile, so overall, it was a good reading month!

I decided to do mini reviews with all the books I read this month, because while some were terrible, some blew me away, and some were tucked cozily right in between, I didn’t feel I had enough to say about each of them to warrant their own separate reviews.

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Review: Splintered Series by A.G. Howard

Alice in Wonderland is one of my favorite stories, and honestly one of my favorite ideas. There’s something so purely magical about deserting real life by falling down a rabbit hole and discovering a fantasy world with playing card guards, a pool of tears, or a game of croquet with live flamingos and hedgehogs as equipment.

I’ve read a fair amount of Alice retellings: Heartless by Marissa Meyer, a prequel to how the Red Queen became who she is; Alice in Zombieland by Gena Showalter, a story loosely based on its namesake about a girl who has to fight zombies; Alice by Christina Henry, a dark, twisted version about a girl who escaped Wonderland; to name a few. The difference between those and the Splintered series is that they all deviate so much from the original story that they lose a bit of the magic and spark that comes from the original.

Splintered is certainly darker than Alice in Wonderland, but what I loved about the franchise is that it works so heavily to incorporate the original themes, characters, and ideas into this story. When you’re so familiar with the story and world of Wonderland, the Splintered series feels a bit like coming home. Alyssa realizes that Lewis Carroll fluffed up the story for a little girl when he wrote it, whereas the real world of Wonderland is more sinister and scary.

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Review: The Memory of Light by Francisco X. Stork

Summary: When Vicky Cruz wakes up in the Lakeview Hospital Mental Disorders ward, she knows one thing: After her suicide attempt, she shouldn’t be alive. But then she meets Mona, the live wire; Gabriel, the saint; E.M., always angry; and Dr. Desai, a quiet force. With stories and honesty, kindness and hard work, they push her to reconsider her life before Lakeview, and offer her an acceptance she’s never had.

But Vicky’s newfound peace is as fragile as the roses that grow around the hospital. And when a crisis forces the group to split up, sending Vick back to the life that drove her to suicide, she must try to find her own courage and strength. She may not have them. She doesn’t know. The Memory of Light focuses not on the events leading up to a suicide attempt, but the recovery from one – about living when life doesn’t seem worth it, and how we go on anyway. 

Genre: young adult, contemporary
Rating: ★★★★★

I’ve been ruminating on this review for a few weeks now, trying to explain exactly why it impacted me so much, and I don’t think I can give it the review it deserves without being a completely open book. So here goes.

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