THE VALLEY AND THE FLOOD by Rebecca Mahoney


Publisher: Razorbill
Release Date: February 23, 2021

✦ YA Magical Realism | Contemporary Fantasy ✦

THE VALLEY AND THE FLOOD was a strange book. It was like a weird dream that sometimes makes sense and other times you can’t figure out what’s going on.

Since her best friend Gaby’s death, Rose has suffered from PTSD, anxiety, and panic attacks. Driving through the Nevada desert one night, Rose’s car breaks down, and she hears a familiar voicemail messages playing over the radio. This leads Rose to a town called Lotus Valley, where she finds out from the quirky locals that her arrival is part of a prophecy about a flood that will destroy everything.

I appreciate how the author presented Rose’s struggles with PTSD and her grief over Gaby’s death, both realistically and through magical realism. The beginning of the book hooked me right away, but it wasn’t until 70% or so that things started making sense and the pieces of the puzzle clicked together. Up until that point, some of it was downright confusing and frustrating. This is an emotional journey for Rose, who ultimately just wants to make it home, but she has to face the prophecy first. β€” 𝓓𝓲π“ͺ𝓷π“ͺ

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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

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THE IN-BETWEEN by Rebecca Ansari


Publisher: Walden Pond Press
Release Date: January 26, 2021

THE IN-BETWEEN is an enjoyable middle grade mystery-fantasy combo with relatable characters and intriguing twists!

Cooper has had a lot on his young shoulders since his father abandoned the family three years prior. His mother works two jobs to support them, and often he’s left in charge of managing his sister Jess’s medical issue. He has a difficult time connecting with old friends, and often feels invisible. Then suddenly a strange girl moves in next door, and all she wants to do is stare at him from her swing. What’s her deal?

Cooper and Jess get wrapped up in trying to solve a century-old train crash mystery involving an unidentified boy. Things get really strange when they suspect a connection between that tragedy and their new next-door neighbor. The quest to discover the truth teaches them a lot about friendship, loss, grief, and finding a way to move forward, even though things may seem out of their control. THE IN-BETWEEN is a beautifully written story with plenty of excitement to keep mystery lovers of all ages turning the pages! β€” 𝓓𝓲π“ͺ𝓷π“ͺ

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FIVE TOTAL STRANGERS by Natalie D. Richards


Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Release Date: October 6, 2020

I love cold weather/snowy suspense novels, so the cover of this book was screaming for me to read it. FIVE TOTAL STRANGERS is a locked-room-on-wheels YA thriller that left me with mixed feelings.

The protagonist Mira is a high school student flying home to Pittsburgh to be with her mother on Christmas. A snow storm cancels connecting flights and leaves her stranded at the Philly airport. Desperate to get home, she makes the BAD decision of hitching a ride with four college-aged strangers who were on her flight. In a blizzard with strangers on desolate backroads? What’s the worst that could happen? Mira is about to find out…

First of all, I loved the creepy, frozen atmosphere the author created. As odd things start to happen, Mira becomes convinced that someone in their party doesn’t want them to get home. But why? There were a lot of tense moments, and my thoughts on who was the bad one was constantly changing.

Though the book kept me guessing, I thought the first half moved too slowly, and the ending was too abrupt. There were loose ends and unanswered questions that annoyed me, plus the reasoning behind the bad one’s actions wasn’t convincing, and also, what an absurd plan. You’re in a blizzard!?!

Overall though, I did enjoy the author’s descriptive writing style, and I wouldn’t hesitate to give her other books a try. β€” 𝓓𝓲π“ͺ𝓷π“ͺ

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

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THE INITIAL INSULT by Mindy McGinnis


Series: The Initial Insult, #1
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Release Date: February 23, 2021

THE INITIAL INSULT gives a modern YA spin to the imagination of Edgar Allan Poe, taking inspiration from several of his classic tales of suspense. In Amontillado, Ohio, at the condemned Usher House, Tress Montor devises a sinister plan to get information out of her former best friend, Felicity Turnado.

Tress’s parents disappeared seven years ago, and the only witness was Felicity, though she’s buried any memories of that terrible night in her subconscious. So in The Cask of Amontillado style, Tress plans to wall up Felicity, brick by brick, in Usher House’s coal chute, unless she finally admits what happened to Mr. & Mrs. Montor.

This book was strange and dramatic, and gruesome at times. None of the characters were particularly likable, but I’m glad there was a dual narrative between Tress & Felicity, so at least we could hear where both were coming from. There was also a third POV from the character “Cat,” whose voice was confusing. I’m not sure that being inside Cat’s head was necessary.

Something to note: THE INITIAL INSULT is the first book in a duology, so it’s left open-ended in regards to the mystery of the missing parents and other points. There was A LOT of drama going on in this book (drug abuse, animal cruelty, bullying, class struggle, family secrets), so I’m assuming the second book will make sense out of everything, though we’ll have to wait until next year to see. β€” 𝓓𝓲π“ͺ𝓷π“ͺ

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

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