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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DISAPPEARING EARTH by Julia Phillips


Publisher: Knopf
Release Date: May 14, 2019

Guess I need to file this one under “you can’t love them all.” I feel bad for not liking this book, because it got so many five-star ratings on Goodreads. From the blurb and title, I was expecting DISAPPEARING EARTH to be a suspense/thriller, maybe somehow related to climate change? Not the case. (That last part about climate change was just my imagination.)

I was intrigued because the novel is set on the Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia. I don’t know much about that area, and it sounds fascinating. The book begins with the kidnapping of two young girls, and if you’re only interested in the mystery of their disappearance, then just read the first and last chapter.

The in-between chapters are stand-alone short stories with new characters, and each story has some very loose connection to the kidnapping. For example, one story is about a girl whose best friend’s mother won’t let them go into the city alone anymore because stranger danger.

Overall, I thought the book was dull, and with such a huge cast in a fairly short book, the character development was lacking. Like I mentioned, most readers seemed to love DISAPPEARING EARTH, so please check out their reviews.

I do love the concept of taking a theme and weaving together a collection of related short stories. I read Alice Hoffman’s THE RED GARDEN and BLACKBIRD HOUSE a few years ago and really enjoyed them. β€” 𝓓𝓲π“ͺ𝓷π“ͺ

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MOON OF THE CRUSTED SNOW by Waubgeshig Rice


Publisher: ECW Press
Release Date: October 2, 2018

This was a haunting cautionary tale! Set in northern Canada, MOON OF THE CRUSTED SNOW is a character-driven, slow-burn thriller about what happens in a remote Anishinaabe community when the unthinkable happens. Their power goes out, their phones quit working, and suddenly they’re cut off from the rest of the world. Winter is setting in, food supplies are low, and word from the south is that the chaos is widespread. When an outsider arrives seeking shelter, their precarious situation gets worse.

I’m not usually a fan of dystopian/post-apocalyptic fiction, BUT something about the premise of this book pulled me in. I’m so glad I took a chance and read it. The wonderfully tense, ominous atmosphere kept me glued to the pages. What a terrifying situation to be in, and I felt like I was a part of it, wondering what was coming next.

One of the most memorable moments was when main character Evan talked to an elder about the meaning of “apocalypse,” and how their world had already ended when they were forced off their land and had their children taken away.

If a dystopian novel can be realistic, then this was it. In the end, I was left with a lot of unanswered questions, but in an actual apocalypse, would you have all the answers? I just read that there will be a sequel coming out (next year, maybe), and I can’t wait to find out what happens next! 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 PUSH by Ashley Audrain


Publisher: Pamela Dorman Books
Release Date: January 5, 2021

β˜… BOTM Club Pick β˜…

Wow! I’ve seen THE PUSH getting a lot of buzz on Instagram, and I can certainly see why. The subject matter is chilling and flat-out tragic, but I couldn’t quit reading.

The story is told in second person, with the narrator being Blythe, and the “you” she’s taking to, her husband, Fox. Blythe’s own mother, and her mother before her, were cold & neglectful. Was it mental illness, or simply a lack of desire to be a mother? Blythe wants to give her new baby, Violet, the love and affection she missed as a child. But, things don’t go as planned, and Blythe soon senses that something is wrong with Violet.

This book tackles the struggles of motherhood, generational trauma, and the “nature versus nurture” debate in a gripping way. My mind kept wrestling over Blythe and Violet’s characters, wondering if there really was something “off,” or whether it was imagined. Either way, what a devastating situation to be in.

THE PUSH is a remarkable debut novel from Ashley Audrain, and she’s definitely going on my auto-buy list! β€” 𝓓𝓲π“ͺ𝓷π“ͺ

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