WATCH OVER ME by Nina LaCour


Publisher: Dutton Books for Young Readers
Release Date: September 15, 2020

β˜† Major Cover Love β˜†

WATCH OVER ME is a unique modern ghost story mixed with magical realism that’s easy to get lost in.

After spending a few years in foster care, Mila has finally aged out of the system. She accepts a teaching job for a homeschool on an isolated farm in Northern California. The farm is a special place, home to foster kids of all ages dealing with a traumatic past. Mila is hoping this is a peaceful place where she will finally fit in, but nobody told her about the ghosts.

Though it’s a short novel, WATCH OVER ME packs an emotional punch. Beautiful prose. Melancholy and heartwarming at the same time. This is a lovey introspective and haunting YA novel about grief, loss, guilt, and healing. β€” 𝓓𝓲π“ͺ𝓷π“ͺ

πŸ“š Find WATCH OVER ME on Goodreads πŸ“š

THE SANATORIUM by Sarah Pearse


Publisher: Pamela Dorman Books
Release Date: February 2, 2021

THE SANATORIUM was probably my most anticipated read for early 2021, but unfortunately it didn’t live up to that delicious creepy gothic cover. This book is very popular now so I don’t want to rehash the plot. Here it is in a nutshell:

Elin Warner, a British detective on leave due to PTSD from a case gone wrong, travels to the Swiss Alps to celebrate her estranged brother Isaac’s engagement at a renovated hotel, previously a sanatorium. She and Isaac have some heavy, unresolved family drama. Not long after Elin arrives, Isaac’s fiancΓ©e goes missing, a snowstorm traps them at the hotel, and then dead bodies start piling up. Elin investigates to help out local police, though she lacks jurisdiction?

I love snowstorm thrillers, and I appreciated the frozen, isolated setting, especially combined with the hotel’s unsettling history as a tuberculosis hospital. Unfortunately, though, not much else appealed to me. The pacing was slow, I felt detached from the characters, and the culprit’s reason behind the murder spree was too farfetched. And then there’s the confusing epilogue. Meh, not for me. (There are other things I’d like to add about the killer’s reasoning vs the victims and the epilogue vs the rest of the book, but I won’t because of spoilers.) β€” 𝓓𝓲π“ͺ𝓷π“ͺ

πŸ“š Find THE SANATORIUM on GoodreadsΒ πŸ“š

ROOT MAGIC by Eden Royce


Publisher: Walden Pond Press
Release Date: January 5, 2021

Reading ROOT MAGIC was such a joy β€” can I give it more than five stars? The protagonist, 11-year old Jezebel Turner, is a mighty and memorable middle grade heroine. Set in South Carolina in 1963, the story follows Jezebel as she begins to study rootwork, a tradition passed down from her Gullah ancestors. Root magic is misunderstood by many to be something evil, but her Uncle Doc is teaching her the good ways it helps the community. She must use her newly developed powers to save herself and her family from malevolent forces threatening them, and not just otherworldly ones.

There’s so much I loved about this book, and Jezebel is such a relatable character. What stood out for me in particular was the message of friendship and discovering it in someone unexpected. The story was suspenseful and creepy at times, which kept me glued to the pages. The ending chapter was so moving, and of course, I was sad to see it end! I would love to read a sequel about Jezebel and her family, and find out what their futures hold. β€” 𝓓𝓲π“ͺ𝓷π“ͺ

πŸ“š Find ROOT MAGIC on GoodreadsΒ πŸ“š

THE PERFECT GUESTS by Emma Rous


Publisher: Berkley Books
Release Date: January 12, 2021

Delightfully twisted! THE PERFECT GUESTS is an entertaining combination of Gothic mystery and family drama that kept me glued to the pages. The timeline flips back and forth between Beth in 1988 and Sadie in 2019, with an unknown narrator woven in between.

It’s the mysterious country estate of Raven Hall at the center of this book. Both main characters end up there as a pawn in a dangerous game, 31 years apart. I found the story cleverly plotted with several twisty surprises. There’s a large group of secondary players, and I had fun trying to figure out how they fit together.

I enjoyed Emma Rous’ first novel, THE AU PAIR, and her follow-up is just as wonderful. I’m ready for her next. β€” 𝓓𝓲π“ͺ𝓷π“ͺ

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

πŸ“š Find THE PERFECT GUESTS on GoodreadsΒ πŸ“š

Thoughts on Books (#21): LITTLE THREATS β€’ MAGIC DARK AND STRANGE β€’ THE AWAKENING


Little Threats
Little Threats by Emily Schultz *
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In 1993, teenage twin sisters Carter and Kennedy Wynn rebel against their suburban upbringing with grunge, drugs, and dangerous guys. The night after a bad acid trip, their best friend Haley is murdered and Kennedy takes the blame, and she spends 15 years in prison wondering what really happened. In 2008, Kennedy is finally free to start her life, but soon true-crime tv show host Dee Nash comes to town intent on stirring up the past.

While it is part mystery, LITTLE THREATS is mostly a slow-burn family drama about the repercussions of a young girl’s murder. The characters were difficult to like, though I thought their dilemmas were compelling. Kennedy’s conviction at 16 was a stretch. Motive is important, and to me there wasn’t one. She ends up accepting the charges against her though maintaining her innocence because she blacked out and couldn’t remember what actually happened. What lazy police work. The victim’s younger brother and Dee Nash investigate further and open a nasty can of worms. I wasn’t surprised by how things turned out, though I found it intriguing, and rather depressing.

The best part of the book was the early 90s nostalgia β€” grunge music, doc martens with floral peasant dresses, Kurt Cobain β€” this story brings it all back. Fun to revisit, though so glad I didn’t go through it with this disturbing crew.

* I received a review copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


Magic Dark and Strange
Magic Dark and Strange by Kelly Powell
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

MAGIC DARK AND STRANGE is a YA historical fantasy set in the Victorian-like city of Invercarn. The main character is 17-year old Catherine Daly who works at a print shop by day, and by night she raises the dead for grieving families who just want a few more moments with their departed loved ones β€” for a price. She and Guy Nolan, a watchmaker’s son, end up entangled in a mystery involving a charmed timepiece said to be buried in an unmarked grave. Catherine’s boss wants her to retrieve this item at any cost, but she and Guy get more than they bargained for when the coffin is opened.

There was much to enjoy in this Gothic mystery β€” dark atmosphere, creepy cemeteries, slow-burn romance, clever characters, and a Victorian setting. I was disappointed, though, with the lack of world-building. All of this amazing magic, and no explanation of where it comes from and how it works. Why is Catherine magical? Has she always been that way? It almost felt like this was book two of a series. Some backstory was missing. MAGIC DARK AND STRANGE had a lot of potential, but it needed to be fleshed out more.


The Awakening (Graveyard Queen #6)
The Awakening by Amanda Stevens *
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Reading THE AWAKENING was bittersweet, as it’s the conclusion to one of my favorite series. I didn’t want it to end! Known as the Graveyard Queen, protagonist Amelia Gray has made a successful career restoring dilapidated and often forgotten cemeteries. She’s also gifted with being able to see and communicate with ghosts. Her latest job restoring Woodbine Cemetery brings her face to face with the malevolent spirit of a young girl. She seems to be fixated on an unnamed baby’s grave, and it’s up to Amelia to figure out the connection between them and what will finally allow the child to rest in peace.

A lot more juicy secrets are revealed in this book, and Amelia’s turbulent on-again, off-again relationship with John Devlin comes to a head. Though I was sad to see the story end, I was pleased with the way the author wrapped things up. Emotional! I highly recommend the Graveyard Queen series to fans of Gothic suspense and creepy ghost stories, just start at the beginning with The Restorer (#1) or The Abandoned (#0.5).

* I received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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