ARC Review: Violet Grenade by Victoria Scott

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DOMINO: A girl with blue hair and a demon in her mind.

CAIN: A stone giant on the brink of exploding.

MADAM KARINA: A woman who demands obedience.

WILSON: The one who will destroy them all.

When Madam Karina discovers Domino in an alleyway, she offers her a position inside her home for entertainers in secluded West Texas. Left with few alternatives and an agenda of her own, Domino accepts. It isn’t long before she is fighting her way up the ranks to gain the madam’s approval. But after suffering weeks of bullying and unearthing the madam’s secrets, Domino decides to leave. It’ll be harder than she thinks, though, because the madam doesn’t like to lose inventory. But then, Madam Karina doesn’t know about the person living inside Domino’s mind. Madam Karina doesn’t know about Wilson.

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3.5/5 Stars

***I received this eARC as a gift in exchange for an honest review via NetGalley & Entangled.

+++Some scenes might be triggers for assault and/or violence

Violet Grenade is unexpected. It’s dark and twisted, sinister and honest and raw. There’s so much going on in here, so much pain and torment, so much that is unfair. 

THINGS I LIKED:

  • Domino believes she’s a monster. She has a past that will make your skin crawl and you’ll feel more than a little sick to your stomach when the truth comes out. There’s just enough to keep you on edge. Throughout the book, there are hints, little flashes of information that are gripping, blunt, and brutal. The need to know becomes a compulsion. I HAD TO KNOW. The scars on her arms, why Wilson manifested, the foreboding and constant allusions to an ugly and unforgivable past. Victoria Scott is an expert at building anticipation. It gets under your skin. 
  • A different portrayal of trafficking and extortion. Many times we think of trafficking as young girls or boys being abducted and forced into servitude/usually sexual in nature. What doesn’t get talked about enough is how people of specific walks of life are targeted and manipulated, they’re sold on an idea of a better life and before they know it, they can’t escape. Domino, like many of the other flowers, was homeless. She was vulnerable and a target. It’s not hard to persuade someone who rarely has a roof over their head or food to eat to go with someone at the prospect of safety, making money, a home, or even love. Madam Karina is the worst kind of villain because she’s real. She’s walking the streets right now. Her, and others like her, are predators. While Madam Karina has her own demons that make her the psychologically messed up person she is, she’s smart, she’s vindictive, and calculated. She makes these decisions, she knows what she’s doing, and that is inexcusable. 
  • The romance. Domino and Cain are beautifully broken but complete each other. They both had monstrous demons like guilt and fear that eat away at their souls, but inside, they’re good people who want nothing more than to be loved. Their romance is a slow-building realization. It’s imperfect and complicated. It’s right for them. 

THINGS I DISLIKED:

  • The pacing. This book felt a good hundred pages longer than it actually was because of how slow it read. It took time to really get into. The introduction to Domino and her life on the streets was intriguing, but kind of dull. The only things that save this section are the potential love interest with Dizzy and the hints at her past, that this horrible life is so much better than the one she escaped from. Then the shift happens. After Domino enters Madam Karina’s household, despite all of Domino’s plans, ambitions, and woes, it drags. Not much is going on. Each shift to the next flower level felt pretty much the same despite different dynamics and different girls. 
  • The lack of back story. Here’s the thing: the back story is there, sure. You get bare bones glimpses of what Domino’s life was like as a child and sure, it’s understandable because Wilson has blocked those memories from her so that she can live her life without constantly being haunted by the guilt and gore. That’s fine. When things are revealed about the seriously twisted and disgusting actions that Domino was coerced into doing, I mean, wow. MESSED UP. However, why her mother went off the handle, what her relationship was like with her mother that made the manipulation work so well, any moments with her father…it’s missing. There’s like this gaping black hole of stuff that the reader can fill in or guess about but it’s not enough to 100% embrace the emotions Domino felt towards her mother or even the anger. She blames herself, but what about her mother? What happened? There are so many unanswered questions. 

THINGS I’M TORN OVER:

  • How dissociative identity disorder was presented. Domino’s other identity-Wilson-is the result of PTSD and a coping mechanism for all of the horrific (truly, messed up scary stuff) she was forced to participate in as a child. Wilson is a protector, he’s loving and defensive, and flips out, goes off the handle and is way prone to violence. Domino is scared of him. She tries to keep him under lock and key because when he comes out, bad things happen and sometimes he takes total control. At the same time, Wilson is a friend. He’s been there for her, he never leaves like everyone else has in her life, and at the end, there’s a bittersweet moment that really makes you feel torn about Wilson. Ultimately for me, despite the insane and sadistic choices he makes, he’s a sort of savior for Domino that helps her realize that she is enough, that she can get through anything on her own. I wasn’t necessarily happy with this relationship between the two, but I didn’t hate it either. Wilson grows on you. And when he takes over, well, it’s definitely memorable and a little sickening. 

If you like any of the following, you’ll enjoy this:

Keep reading, 

Jordan

ARC Review: Missing by Kelley Armstrong

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The only thing Winter Crane likes about Reeve’s End is that soon she’ll leave it. Like her best friend did. Like her sister did. Like most of the teens born in town have done. There’s nothing for them there but abandoned mines and empty futures. They’re better off taking a chance elsewhere.

The only thing Winter will miss is the woods. Her only refuge. At least it was. Until the day she found Lennon left for dead, bleeding in a tree.

But now Lennon is gone too. And he has Winter questioning what she once thought was true. What if nobody left at all? What if they’re all missing?

review4/5 Stars

***I received this eARC as a gift in exchange for an honest review via NetGalley & Crown Books for Young Readers

+++Potential triggers for animal abuse/mutilation, abduction, violence, suicide, and physical abuse

Creepy, chilling, and all sorts of sinister, Missing is the kind of mystery that hits hard because of just how possible the situation is. 

This mystery is a challenge. There are so many clues that lead you in several directions. The reader, just like Winter, doesn’t know who to trust and what’s more, there are hints that suggest Winter is not psychologically sound or an entirely reliable narrator. I loved that the possibilities were endless and kept me guessing throughout, up until the very end. 

There are some seriously nightmare-inducing scenes. Some material may be triggering for readers, especially when it comes to animal abuse/mutilation. The adrenaline is high. Every snap of a twig, every laugh in the dark, every moment that makes you doubt, it’s a rush that will leave you breathless with anticipation. I could not put it down. 

In Reeve’s End the poverty is so profound that people can’t afford food and hunting is a necessary means of survival for some. The story begins with the main character setting traps, hunting for her dinner, resting in her personal shack in the woods. As the world building picked up, it was a huge revelation. Reeve’s End is one sketchy and messed up place. The cops are a joke. They arrest people on whim, they dismiss actual tips, and are full of prejudice that prevents them from doing real police work. And the sexism. Wow. There are several pointed comments about a woman’s position in society, victim blaming, and intelligence as something snobby and indecent. Sometimes the rage was pretty strong and the frustration that no one would listen to Winter and Jude, it’s enough to put anyone on edge. 

Winter and Jude. Steamy. Profound. Beautiful. The way they confide in each other. They see beneath the surface and fronts they put on for outsiders and they’re so cautious. Winter recognizes Jude has deep resentment, issues, and has put up a wall because she has the same feelings within herself. Their relationship isn’t angsty or particularly sexual like a lot of YA lately, it builds and grows and is rooted in understanding and compassion. 

While there were tidbits and clues throughout, I don’t think there were enough of them. The ending is so twisted that there’s really no way to see it coming and there wasn’t enough given to the reader to make a guess until a chapter or two before the reveal. 

If you like any of the following, you’ll enjoy this:

Keep reading, 

Jordan

Book Trailer Reveal: Till Death by Jennifer L. Armentrout

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Release Date: Feb 28, 2017

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In New York Times bestselling author Jennifer L. Armentrout’s gripping new novel, a young woman comes home to reclaim her life—even as a murderer plots to end it. . .

It’s been ten years since Sasha Keaton left her West Virginia hometown . . . since she escaped the twisted serial killer known as the Groom. Returning to help run her family inn means being whole again, except for one missing piece. The piece that falls into place when Sasha’s threatened—and FBI agent Cole Landis vows to protect her the way he couldn’t a decade ago.

First one woman disappears; then another, and all the while, disturbing calling cards are left for the sole survivor of the Groom’s reign of terror. Cole’s never forgiven himself for not being there when Sasha was taken, but he intends to make up for it now . . . because under the quirky sexiness Cole first fell for is a steely strength that only makes him love Sasha more.

But someone is watching. Waiting. And Sasha’s first mistake could be her last.

trailer

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Review: RoseBlood by A.G. Howard

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In this modern day spin on Leroux’s gothic tale of unrequited love turned to madness, seventeen-year-old Rune Germain has a mysterious affliction linked to her operatic talent, and a horrifying mistake she’s trying to hide. Hoping creative direction will help her, Rune’s mother sends her to a French arts conservatory for her senior year, located in an opera house rumored to have ties to The Phantom of the Opera.

At RoseBlood, Rune secretly befriends the masked Thorn—an elusive violinist who not only guides her musical transformation through dreams that seem more real than reality itself, but somehow knows who she is behind her own masks. As the two discover an otherworldly connection and a soul-deep romance blossoms, Thorn’s dark agenda comes to light and he’s forced to make a deadly choice: lead Rune to her destruction, or face the wrath of the phantom who has haunted the opera house for a century, and is the only father he’s ever known.

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3/5 Stars

***Potential triggers for human trafficking, abuse, animal cruelty, violence, death

It pains me to write this review because I was so looking forward to this book-it was at the top of my highly anticipated list for 2017. I mean, The Phantom of the Opera??? As a theater kid, this is my personal form of euphoria. Unfortunately, my feelings on this rendering are mixed. 

PROS:

  • Thorn’s story is almost as tragic and heartbreaking as the Phantom’s and yet so full of beauty. No matter the darkness and fear he experienced as a child captured by traffickers and tormented beyond measure, his heart is pure and OMG is he swoonworthy. Some of the stuff he says to Rune, I mean, my heart swelled with joy. He’s like a part-time poet and the way he plays that violin. He’s the definition of dreamy. That dark hair and those coppery eyes, and that jaw. Smokin’ hot. I loved the way his past evolved and changed him and his starry-eyed devotion to the Phantom. Plus the way he looks at Rune…it’s like she’s his world at first sight. Now, let me warn, this does read like instalove on Thorn’s part, but there are reasons so hold out. 
  • This twist on the Phantom is super weird and complex. It can be hard to wrap your head around and accept, but there are enough history and allusions to the original Leroux story. The Phantoms’s story is somehow even more depressing and horrific than in the original. When you read about the love he felt for Christine, the hope he held for a happy ending, it will crush you and hit you right in the feels.
  • There’s a ton of seriously disturbing elements to this story-from creepy, crawly animals that don’t belong in nature, to taxidermy, to cryogenics. It’s a mix and match of sci-fi meets paranormal. And when you find out the truth about Rune’s heritage and how she relates to the Phantom…well, whether or not you’re a fan is up to you, but for me, I was torn. It felt like the author didn’t stay entirely true to the mythology (and that’s all I can say without spoilers). 
  • One of my favorite characters was the cat, Diable. He’s not particularly cute, but he has so much attitude in his mannerisms and he’s so clever. A sassy cat, what’s not to love?

CONS:

  • This book is at least a hundred pages too long. Let me explain. There were so many parts that seemed unnecessary, dragged, and pulled down the whole sense of foreboding that should have wrapped around the reader. The pacing was in line with a Gothic novel, but because it is set in contemporary time, it didn’t fit well with the story, despite the setting. There were whole sections of sprawling description that could have been trimmed, but went on for pages. While these sections certainly painted a picture, the length didn’t really build the emotions, but distracted from them with painstaking details. Scenes that would have benefited from being shortened by heightening the anxiety and fear got lost in a sort of step-by-step, piece-by-piece map of the setting. It became more about setting the scene than the story/scene itself. 
  • There’s so much going on that it became overwhelming. After you get used to the shock factor and adjust to the bizarre twist on the traditional Phantom story, the shifts in POV, the flashbacks to the past, and the absolutely strange quirks of every character (which was a bit much to begin with) don’t fall into place but feel strung together and random. There’s not a feeling of cohesion and planning, it hits like chaos and stays that way. Told in a more measured way, these pieces are all elements that explain the characters and their personalities. I guess what I’m saying is that I would have liked more build up. 
  • So much time was placed on carefully crafting the back stories for the Phantom and Thorn, even for Jipetto and Audrey, so that you know their hearts, their motivations, how they became who they are. And yet, despite the tragedy of her past with her father and the terrible situations she had with her grandmother, and even the history of the family name, Rune’s character felt undeveloped in comparison. While there are tidbits, like her joy of gardening, her knitting, her personality was kind of bland for such a strong story arc. Honestly, she was much better, much more interesting when she was interacting with other characters than by herself. 

If you like any of the following, you’ll enjoy this:

Cryptic reading, 

Jordan

Reviews: X-Files Origins-The Devil’s Advocate by Jonathan Maberry & Agent of Chaos by Kami Garcia

Let me preface these reviews by saying that there was no way, no way at all that I was skipping these books. No matter how apprehensive I was, no matter whether or not I was already a fan of the authors, or if I raised my eyebrow real high at Garcia writing Mulder and Maberry writing Scully, because THIS IS THE X-FILES. I’ll admit, these books were hard to review because the nostalgia and fandom is so strong…this is probably my strongest fandom connection because MULDER + SCULLY for LIFE. I mean, the characters…I digress. That being said, I tried to look at these more for the story and less from what I expected Scully and Mulder to be like as teens. There has been a ton of negative commentary-parts that fans say the authors are reaching and make zero sense. As an avid X-Files fan, I can see that, but these interpretations are not entirely off base…especially when it comes to Scully. It’s difficult when the character presence is so strong as adults, you come to expect very specific details about their lives as teens, what you assume they were like and why they became who they did. It’s hard to shake those preconceived ideas off, and those who are totally stuck in that place might be disappointed by what they find. If you’re a fan, you absolutely should read these and put them on your shelf next to your Mulder and Scully Funko Pops. I know I will. 

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How did Fox Mulder become a believer? How did Dana Scully become a skeptic? The X-Files Origins has the answers in this young adult origin story.

The X-Files Origins: Devil’s Advocate will explore the teen years of Dana Scully, the beloved character depicted in the cult-favorite TV show The X-Files. Her story is set in the spring of 1979, when serial murder, the occult, and government conspiracy were highlighted in the news.

The book will follow Scully as she experiences life-changing events that set her on the path to becoming an FBI agent.

review

3/5 Stars 

Scully, Scully, Scully. I was so disappointed in her character, but maybe not for the reasons you’d think. A lot of the criticism this book has faced from readers is because of Scully’s sixth sense. Which, if you’re looking at the Scully in the future, you’re probably thinking that Scully worships at the altar of science and this is ridiculous. But if you’ve experienced all of the lovely X-Files series, you’ll recall that Scully had more than one incident where she sees ghosts and has premonition-style visions, so it’s not that far off base and one of her biggest character conflicts has always been her faith and the paranormal. Mulder directly calls her out on the fact that she can so willingly believe in God, but something like aliens is too out there. It’s in her story arc.

Mini rant aside, Scully here is super young. She has no experience with boys, crushes, any responsiblity really. While she’s smart and reclusive, her forays into mysticism are more meditative than anything. Scully here looks up to her older sister. She’s a tag along that just goes wherever her sister takes her. THAT is what bothered me. That headstrong, take charge girl, the one who thinks, who studies, who calculates before coming to conclusions-that girl was absent (or barely visible). So many times Scully just hops right into danger and makes BOLD leaps, piecing things together without second guessing. That is NOT the Scully we know. It’s hard to talk about Scully in her youth without comparing her to who she is in the future. Here Scully isn’t really likable, she’s more wishy-washy and doesn’t have the strongest voice. This would have been okay, because she’s so young and naive, but she doesn’t really learn. Sure she feels remorse for her actions, but I didn’t see much growth. 

The plot is definitely an X-File, not your typical murder-mystery. There’s a sinister, supernatural element that is perplexing, confusing, and all sorts of crazy. It will keep you on your toes and uncertain of what will happen. It’s a chaotic mess, but the kind that pushes you to seek answers and wonder what the endgame is. Plus the idea itself-the whole premise for the villain is insanely clever and wickedly evil. There’s so much more than meets the eye. 

Pacing was so-so, but picks up a lot towards the end.

Scully’s love interest. I liked him. He seemed like a good fit. Smart, resourceful, protective, but also stubborn. Their interactions were awkward and bashful. So cute. There’s no intense attraction like is common in a lot of YA right now. It’s more uncertainty, confusion, and sudden feelings. Curiosity. I appreciated the change of pace. 

The killer and the government agents.YES. They are done so well. You see the corruption, the fear, the manipulation. They were some of my favorite people in the book. They were complex and vicious and the darkness!!! ❤

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The X-Files Origins: Agent of Chaos explores the teen years of Fox Mulder, the beloved character depicted in the cult-favorite TV show The X-Files. His story is set in the spring of 1979, when serial murder, the occult, and government conspiracy were highlighted in the news.

The book will follow Mulder as he experiences life-changing events that set him on the path to becoming an FBI agent.

review

4/5 Stars 

I feel bizarre saying this but Mulder is pretty freaking hot. He’s awkward and nerdy and has no idea what he’s doing with his life. He’s kind of just going with it until he’s hit with this murder that he feels is connected to his sister’s disappearance and the obsession is born. There’s this blend of angst and intelligence. Of yearning after his pretty, Star Wars obsessed best friend, trying to connect with his father, the disappointment that comes with that neglect, and learning what he’s passionate about. This is truly the birth of his interest in catching killers and paranormal. It felt right. It made sense. I LOVE him. 

Secondary characters. You guys, every character is so alive. They’re developed, intriguing, totally compelling. You want to know them. I adored Phoebe. She’s witty, intelligent, gorgeous, she doesn’t care what anyone thinks about her, calls people out on their fears, and is just an all around awesome character. And she’s totally nerdy. She reads textbooks, knows complex mathematics, physics, etc. She’s one fierce girl who somehow feels relatable. Gimble. Yes. Just yes. He’s interesting, a total dork, and a basic ode to the time period. I loved his lines and enthusiasm. He’s the perfect sidekick. Gimble’s father!!! It’s weird, but I became so invested in Gimble’s father’s conspiracy theories and the way his mind worked. Fascinating. You can see where Mulder got his methods from. I got a nostalgic, this feels so familiar vibe. The government agents. Some of their scenes were full of acerbic wit and heavy sarcasm. 

The scenes of the crimes were intricate, graphic without going too dark, and left enough mystery to keep me guessing and trying to fill in the blanks. Towards the end, the suspense was high. I was on edge and sickened. 

My biggest issue with the book was not Garcia’s portrayal of Mulder, but the way the mystery fit together. There were too many pieces that slid into place in a sort of what are the odds way. It was too simple. Too coincidental and we all know there are no  coincidences. 

While I wasn’t a fan of the romantic elements, they were more of a shrug to me, I was glad that Mulder had someone to nurture and encourage him. Phoebe being there for him is what mattered, the romance was secondary, despite Mulder’s frisky teenaged hormones. 

Enjoy your trip down memory lane, 

Jordan

Review, Excerpt, Q + A, & Giveaway: Freeks by Amanda Hocking

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Welcome to Gideon Davorin’s Traveling Sideshow, where necromancy, magical visions, and pyrokinesis are more than just part of the act…

Mara has always longed for a normal life in a normal town where no one has the ability to levitate or predict the future. Instead, she roams from place to place, cleaning the tiger cage while her friends perform supernatural feats every night.

When the struggling sideshow is miraculously offered the money they need if they set up camp in Caudry, Louisiana, Mara meets local-boy Gabe…and a normal life has never been more appealing.

But before long, performers begin disappearing and bodes are found mauled by an invisible beast. Mara realizes that there’s a sinister presence lurking in the town with its sights set on getting rid of the sideshow freeks. In order to unravel the truth before the attacker kills everyone Mara holds dear, she has seven days to take control of a power she didn’t know she was capable of—one that could change her future forever.

Excerpt

5. Carnival

Unlike many of the other members of the sideshow, I didn’t have a specific job. My mom was a fortune- teller, Gideon did a magic show, Zeke had his tigers, Brendon and his family did acrobatics, Seth was a strongman. My best friend Roxie Smith was in two acts— she helped out Zeke, and did a peepshow revue with two other girls.

I had no talent. No special ability, making me essentially a roadie. I did what was needed of me, which usually involved helping set up and take down, and various menial tasks. I cleaned the tiger cages and emptied out latrines when I had to. It wasn’t a glamorous job, but it was crucial to our way of life.

Since Roxie worked with the tigers, Mahilā actually tolerated her. Roxie was helping me clean out the tiger cage they traveled in. The cage was open to a fenced-in enclosure Seth had built, so the tigers could roam as they pleased.

Safēda lounged in the grass, the sun shining brightly on her white fur. Whenever we stopped, Safēda seemed content to just lay in the sun, sleeping the entire time, but as the older tiger, it made sense.

Mahilā paced along the fence, occasionally emitting an irritated guttural noise in between casting furtive glances back toward Roxie and me. Her golden fur was mottled with scars from her past life in the abusive circus, including a nasty one that ran across her nose.

“So where did you go last night?” Roxie asked, her voice lilting in a sing song playful way. She was out in the run, using a hose to fill up a blue plastic kiddie pool so the tigers could play in it, while I was on my hands and knees scrubbing dung off the cage floor.

Her bleached blond hair was pulled back in a ponytail, and the sleeves of her white T- shirt were rolled up, revealing her well-toned arms. The cut- off jean shorts she wore barely covered her bum, and her old cowboy boots went up to her knees— her chosen footwear anytime she was at risk of stepping in tiger poop.

With fair skin, full lips, large blue eyes, and a dainty nose, Roxie was pretty and deceptively tough. Being a beautiful carnie was not an easy job, and dancing in the revue under the stage name “Foxy Roxie” didn’t help that. But she made decent money doing it, and Roxie never put up with anybody’s crap. I’d seen her deck guys much bigger than her and lay them out flat on their backs.

“I was just at a party,” I said as I rinsed the brush off in a bucket of bleach and warm water.

“A party?” Roxie looked over at me with a hand on her hip.

 “How’d you get invited to a party so fast?”

I shrugged. “I was just exploring town, and I saw some people hanging outside of this big house party, and they invited me in.”

“So what are the people like here? Are they nice?”

Safēda had gotten up and climbed into the pool, and then she flopped down in it, splashing Roxie as she did. Roxie took a step back, but kept looking at me.

“I don’t know. The people I met last night seemed nice, and they were superrich, so that bodes well for the town, I guess.”

“Like how rich?” Roxie asked.

“Like their house is practically a mansion.” I dropped the brush in the water and sat back on my knees, taking a break to talk to her. “It was the nicest house I’ve ever been in, hands down.”

“Is that why you spent the night there?”

Roxie understood my fascination with houses. Well, “understood” wasn’t the right word. It was more like she knew of it, but didn’t understand it all. She’d grown up in an upper- middleclass family, in nice houses with basements, and thought they were about as boring and lame as she could imagine.

“Partly.” I nodded. “It was a really amazing house. There were pillars out front, and the front hall was bigger than my trailer.”

“It’s just a house, Mara.” Roxie shook her head.

“I know but . . .” I trailed off, trying to think of how to explain it to her. “You know how you felt when you first joined the sideshow two years ago? How everything seemed so exciting and fun, and I was like, ‘We live in cramped trailers. It kinda sucks.’”

Roxie nodded. “Yeah. But I still think this life is a million times better than my old life. I get to see everything. I get to decide things for myself. I can leave whenever I want. There’s nothing to hold me back or tie me down.”

She’d finished filling up the pool, so she twisted the nozzle on the hose to shut it off. Stepping carefully over an old tire and a large branch that the tigers used as toys, she went to the edge of the run and tossed the hose over the fence, before Mahilā decided to play with it and tore it up.

She walked over to the cage and scraped her boots on the edge, to be sure she didn’t track any poop inside, before climbing up inside it.

“So what was the other reason?” Roxie asked.

I kept scrubbing for a moment and didn’t look up at her when I said, “Gabe.”

Gabe?” Roxie asked. “That sounds like a boy’s name.”

“That’s because it is.”

“Did you have sex with him?”

“No.” I shot her a look. “We just made out a little.”

“What what what?” Luka Zajiček happened to be walking by just in time to hear that, and he changed his course to walk over to the tiger cage. “Is that what you were up to last night?”

“That’s what sucks about living in a community so small. Whenever anything happens, everybody knows about it right away,” I muttered.

Luka put his arms through the cage bars and leaned against it, in the area I’d cleaned already. Since he was rather short, the floor came up to his chest, and his black hair fell into his eyes.

His eyes were the same shade of gray as mine, but his olive skin was slightly lighter than mine. We first met him when he joined the carnival four years ago, and the first thing my mom said was that she was certain that we were related somehow.

Unfortunately, Mom knew next to nothing about our family tree to be able to prove it. All she could really tell me was that we were a mixture of Egyptian, Turkish, and Filipino, with a bit of German thrown in for good measure.

Luka had been born in Czechoslovakia, but he’d moved here with his family when he was young, so he’d lost his accent.

He had recently roped me into helping him with a trick. He’d stand with his back against a wall, while I fired a crossbow around him. Originally, Blossom had been the one to help him, but she kept missing and shooting him in the leg or arm, so he’d asked me to do it because I had a steadier hand.

“So you made out with some local guy last night?” Luka asked, smirking at me. “Are you gonna see him again?”

“He’s a local guy. What do you think?” I asked, and gave him a hard look.

Luka shrugged. “Sometimes you bump into them again.”

“And that goes so well when they find out that I work and live with a traveling sideshow,” I said.

The floor was spotless, or at least as spotless as tiger cages can get, and I tossed my brush in the bucket and took off my yellow rubber gloves.

“We can’t all meet our boyfriends in the sideshow,” I reminded Luka as I stood up, and it only made him grin wider. He’d been dating Tim— one of the Flying Phoenixes— for the past three months.

“But you didn’t see Blossom anywhere in town last night?” Roxie asked, and Luka’s smile instantly fell away.

A sour feeling stirred in my stomach, and I looked out around camp through the bars of the cage, as if Blossom would suddenly appear standing beside a trailer. As I’d been doing my chores all morning, I kept scanning the campsite for her, expecting her to return at any moment with a funny story about how she’d gotten lost in town.

But so far, she hadn’t. And the longer she went without coming back, the worse the feeling in my stomach got. I shook my head. “No. I didn’t see her at all last night.”

“She’s gotta turn up, though, right?” Luka asked. “I mean, it’s not like there are really that many places she could’ve gone considering she has no money or car and she’s in a small town.”

The tigers were still down in the run, so I opened the side gate and hopped down out of the cage. Roxie got out behind me, then we closed the door.

“I should talk to Gideon,” I decided as Roxie locked the cage up behind me. “It’s not like Blossom to do this.”

“It’s not totally unlike her, though,” Roxie pointed out.

“When we were in Toledo six months ago, she dis appeared for a few days with that weird commune, and came back just before we were leaving, totally baked out of her mind.”

Blossom had grown up with parents who pretended to be hippies but were really just a couple of drug addicts. That— along with her unexplainable telekinesis— led to her dabbling with drugs and alcohol at a young age, before the state intervened and shipped her off to a group home.

My mom tried to keep her clean of her bad habits, but sometimes Blossom just liked to run off and do her own thing. That wasn’t that unusual for people who lived in the carnival.

“But if you’re worried, you should talk to Gideon,” Roxie suggested. “Luka’s right in that Blossom really couldn’t have gone far. Maybe you can scope out Caudry.”

“Since that sounds like a mission that may take a bit of time, can you help me and Hutch with the museum before you talk to Gideon?” Luka asked. “The exit door is jammed, and we can’t get it open, and Seth is busy helping set up the tents.”

“Sure. Between me and Mara, I’m sure the two of us can get the door unstuck,” Roxie said.

I dropped off the bucket with the other tiger supplies, and then followed Roxie and Luka away from our campsite to the fairgrounds on the other side of a chain- link fence. We always stayed close to the rides, the midway, and the circus tent, but we didn’t actually sleep there. It was much better for every one if we kept our private lives separate from the crowds.

Many of the games were already set up, and the Ferris wheel was in the process of being erected as we passed. Near the end of the midway was a long black trailer painted with all kinds of frightening images of werewolves and specters, along with happier pictures of mermaids and unicorns, and the sign was written in bloodred:

Beneath that were several smaller signs warning “Enter at your own risk. The creatures inside can be DISTURBING and cause NIGHTMARES.”

The entrance to the left was open, but the exit door at the other end was still shut. Wearing a pair of workman’s gloves, Hutch was pulling at the door with all his might. His neon green tank showed that his muscles were flexed and straining in effort. The bandana kept his dark brown hair off his face, but sweat was dripping down his brow.

“Let me have a try, Hutch,” Roxie said.

“What?” He turned to look back at her. “Door’s stuck.”

“I can see that. That’s why I said let me have a try.”

“Okay.” Hutch shrugged and stepped back.

Hutch’s real name was Donald Hutchence, but nobody ever called him anything but Hutch. He didn’t have any special powers, unless you considered being really agreeable and easygoing a super power, so, like me, he was left doing whatever else needed to be done.

Roxie grabbed the door and started pulling on it, and when it didn’t budge, I joined her.

“Luka, go and push from the inside,” Roxie commanded through gritted teeth.

Both Luka and Hutch went inside, pushing as Roxie and I pulled. And then all at once, the door gave way, and we all fell back on the gravel. I landed on my back, scraping my elbow on the rocks.

Roxie made it out unscathed, and Hutch fell painfully on top of me, so he’d avoided injury. Luka crashed right on the gravel, though, and the rocks tore through his jeans and ripped up his knees and the palms of his hands pretty badly.

“Do you need me to get a Band- Aid or anything?” Hutch asked as he helped me to my feet.

“No, I’ll be okay.” I glanced over at Luka and the blood dripping down his knees. “What about you? Do you want anything?”

“Nah. Just give it a few minutes.” Luka waved it off and sat down on the steps leading up to the museum door.

No matter how many times I saw it, I couldn’t help but watch. His knee was shredded, with bits of gravel sticking in the skin. Right before my eyes, the bleeding stopped, and the rocks started falling out, as if pushed by his flesh, and the skin grew back, reattaching itself where it had been little mangled flaps.

Within a few minutes, Luka’s knee was healed completely.

Copyright © 2017 by Amanda Hocking and reprinted by permission of St. Martin’s Griffin.

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  1.     Your characters are sent into the Hunger Games. Who wins?

If it’s just the characters from FREEKS, and only one could win, I would put my money on Luka or maybe Roxie. Luka because he can heal from injuries, which gives him a crazy advantage, but Roxie is smart and she’s a survivor. Plus, she has the power of pyrokinesis, which I think I would come in handy in a battle to the death.

  1.     What do you listen to while you write? Or do you prefer silence?

I almost always listen to music when I write, unless I’m writing a really difficult scene. Sometimes the silence helps me focus, but most of the time, I prefer music. For FREEKS, I got to make a really fun 80s playlist, so I especially enjoyed working to that.

  1. What is the most embarrassing thing you’ve looked up in the name of research – or what do you think the government has maybe flagged you for?

There are sooo many things. For FREEKS, I had to do fun stuff like, “What does a dead body smell like?” and “How much blood can a human lose?” And then after those macabre questions, I did a bunch of googling on fireflies and tarot cards. My search history when I’m working can be pretty exciting like that.

  1. What was your favorite part of writing FREEKS?

I love Southern Gothics and I love pulpy 80s horror movies, so I was excited to be able incorporate those things in FREEKS. But my favorite part was actually Mara and Gabe. I think they complement each other well, and it was fun writing their banter and flirtations.

  1. Which actor/actress would you like to see playing your main characters from FREEKS?

For Mara, I envisioned Cassie Steele from the start. I used to be a hardcore Degrassi fan, and I loved Cassie Steele on that. For Gabe, I like Ryan Guzman. I saw him in a Jennifer Lopez movie, and I was like, “Yep. That could be Gabe.”

  1.  Do you have a special time to write or how is your day structured?

I usually write between 11 am and 7 pm. I’ve tried to write earlier in the day and have more of a 8-5 type schedule, but I am not a morning person. My brain just doesn’t want to work much before noon.

  1.   Do you aim for a set amount of words/pages per day?

I usually have a goal in mind before I start writing, but it varies. Some days, it’s slow going and I hope to get at least 500 words out. Other days, I fly through with thousands of words. So it depends on where I’m at in the book, when it’s due, and how I’m feeling about the whole thing.

  1. When you develop your characters, do you already have an idea of who they are before you write or do you let them develop as you go?

With all my main characters, I have a really good idea of who they are, and it’s just a matter of showing that to the readers. With the side characters, they tend to be rather one-dimensional, and they grow into the story as they’re needed.

  1. How did writing Freeks differ from your writing your previous novels?

FREEKS was the first thing I had written in awhile that was started out just for me. For most of the past ten years, I have been writing my books with the intention of publishing them, with the audience and readers and trends in mind. I think I had gotten a little burnt out on trying to make everyone happy (mostly because it is impossible to please all readers all the time), and I just wanted to write something that for the sake of writing it.

And that turned out to be a gothic love story about a teenage girl travelling with a band of misfits in the 1980s. It was a very cathartic writing experience for me, and it reminded me of exactly why I loved writing in the first place – I love getting lost in the world, with the characters.

  1. If Freeks had a theme song what would it be?

Either “Hush” by Limousines or “Head Over Heels” by Tears For Fears.

  1.   Can you please tell us a little bit about Freeks and where you got the inspiration to write it?

I was going through a rough patch, creatively speaking, and so I just sat back and tried to think of my favorite and what I loved most that I would want to write about.

When I was a kid, I used to get old books at garage sales all the time, and I distinctly remember getting Cycle of the Werewolf by Stephen King and a few old V. C. Andrews novels, which are pulpy Southern Gothic-esque novels. I also watched The Lost Boys and Pretty in Pink over and over again (I think I literally ruined the old VHS of The Lost Boys from watching it too much).

So I basically threw all those things together in a soup, and I picked apart the things I liked and wanted to explore more. That became a travelling sideshow in the 80s stopping Louisiana, where a supernatural monster is afoot, and a girl from the wrong side of the tracks who is smith with a local boy with secrets of his own.

  1.   Freeks is full of many amazingly talented characters and I imagine it was really fun to create some of them, but which one was your favorite and why?

Mara and Gabe are my obvious favorites, since they’re the main characters because I was drawn to them and their story the most. Both of them of them have complex feelings about family and personal identity, and their instant chemistry was fun to write.

But I think Gideon – the namesake and head of sideshow – was actually the biggest surprise, which made him fun in a different way. In the original outlines of the story, he was much a different character – very one-note and cruel – but he completely changed and evolved as I was writing.  

  1.   The book is based off of a type of traveling circus that is full of many mysterious acts. If you were to attend a Freekshow, which act would you want to see most?

My favorites are usually the acrobatics, but I think if I attended Gideon Davorin’s Traveling Sideshow, I would be most excited to see Gideon’s magic act. With his skills and knowledge, I think it would be a really amazing show.

  1.   What do you hope readers will take away from FREEKS after reading it?

With some of my other novels, I deal with heavy themes like life and death, identity, honor, mortality, classism, and family. And while I do definitely touch on those themes in FREEKS, I mostly wrote it as an escape for myself, and that’s what I hope it is for other readers. Life can be hard and frustrating, and I just wanted to write a fun book that readers could get lost in for awhile.

  1. What is something people would be surprised to know about you?

Probably how chronically shy I am. Writing is a weird profession, because a good 90% of it is perfect for introverts – you sit alone by yourself and make up imaginary friends to go on adventures. But the last 10% – which involves introducing the whole word to your imaginary friends – is the most exciting and rewarding part, but it’s also the most difficult when you’re as shy as I am.

review3.5/5 Stars

***I received this eARC via NetGalley, St. Martins, and with participation in this tour in exchange for an honest review 

PROS:

  • Mara is spontaneous, responsible, and terrified to get too close because she knows with her lifestyle love can’t last and once they find out that she lives with a traveling show it’s all over. Mara has grown up fast and loves her eclectic bunch-they’re family. She’s got secrets, she’s completely calm and collected about the supernatural, it’s her life. Mara does more than anyone to find out what’s going on at their camp. She’s likable, thoughtful, and so brave. As a heroine, she’s not particularly special in the typical YA way, she just uses her head, makes connections, and is determined to beat this invisible enemy. 
  • What Amanda Hocking is particularly skilled at is making her secondary characters memorable and unique. You might not like them, but you certainly will not forget them. Each member of the sideshow has a great back story and tons of personality. Roxie is a fiery (she’s has the gift of pyrokinesis), flirty, and sassy little thing. She’s a real minx. I adored her character, I only wish there had been more of her. Her story is made of fierce survival and overcoming her horrific past. Gideon is just as intriguing. From the scars on his back, his past, everything about his is suspect, but at the same time full of a heroic desperation to save his army of misfits. 
  • The concept is AMAZING. I mean super creepy and gory attacks on a sideshow. There’s an abundance of just not right, chilling things that you can’t put your finger on that will keep you on edge about what’s really going on. 
  • I usually loathe instalove, but I didn’t mind this one. Gabe is sexy, sensual, and just the right amount of mysterious/brooding. The chemistry is spot on and you’ll definitely crave more of them, even if they have very few conversations with substance. Lots of hot make out scenes though. 

CONS:

  • The story is set in the 1980s; while there are some randomly inserted references, there weren’t enough of them to feel fully cemented in the time period. The book could have been set in any time range, but maybe because the prevalence of “freak shows” has gone way down since the 1950s. Because there are a limited number of references, they feel like you’re being hit over the head with them whenever they do come up. A more fleshed out setting would have helped with total immersion in the story. 
  • Pacing lagged despite the disappearances, murders, and general supernatural encounters. Some sections were more everyday monotony than working to solve the crimes and harassment against the sideshow members. A ton of focus was placed on the instalove portion of the story, while I didn’t mind the romance, a whole lot of making out some conversation made scenes longer than they actually were. 

authoramanda-hocking-new-credit-mariah-paaverud-with-chimera-photographyAuthor Website/Twitter /Facebook/Author Blog/Pinterest/GoodReads

Amanda Hocking is a lifelong Minnesotan obsessed with Batman and Jim Henson. In between watching cooking shows, taking care of her menagerie of pets, and drinking too much Red Bull Zero, she writes young adult urban fantasy and paranormal romance.

Several of her books have made the New York Times Bestsellers list, including the Trylle trilogy and Kanin Chronicles.  Her zombie series, The Hollows, has been adapted into a graphic novel by Dynamite. She has published over fifteen novels, including the Watersong quartet and My Blood Approves series. Frostfire, Ice Kissed, and Crystal Kingdom  – all three books in her latest trilogy, The Kanin Chronicles – are out now.

Her next book will be Swear, the final book in the My Blood Approves series, and it will be out November 9, 2016. After that, her next book is Freeks – a standalone YA paranormal romance novel set in the 1980s that follows a traveling sideshow. It will be out sometime in early 2017, with the St. Martin’s Griffin.

-via Goodreads

giveaway

For your chance to win a hardcover copy of FREEKS comment with your favorite Amanda Hocking book or encounter either on this blog post, via Twitter @jw08k, or on the Facebook blog page 

U.S. ONLY. Ends 11:59 p.m. EST on 12/28 

Fantastic reading, 

Jordan

Review: The Women in the Walls by Amy Lukavics

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Lucy Acosta’s mother died when she was three. Growing up in a Victorian mansion in the middle of the woods with her cold, distant father, she explored the dark hallways of the estate with her cousin, Margaret. They’re inseparable—a family.

When her aunt Penelope, the only mother she’s ever known, tragically disappears while walking in the woods surrounding their estate, Lucy finds herself devastated and alone. Margaret has been spending a lot of time in the attic. She claims she can hear her dead mother’s voice whispering from the walls. Emotionally shut out by her father, Lucy watches helplessly as her cousin’s sanity slowly unravels. But when she begins hearing voices herself, Lucy finds herself confronting an ancient and deadly legacy that has marked the women in her family for generations.

review

3/5 Stars

+++Contains graphic violence, grotesque imagery, self-inflicted mutilation, and scenes that could be disturbing to some readers. 

I loved Daughters Unto Devils so when I saw The Women in the Walls I was gleeful. It felt like a lovely early Christmas present for my horror-obsessed little heart. Then I started reading. I waited. And waited. And waited some more for something to happen and finally it did, but it took ages. The pacing is slow. So much so that the tension doesn’t build like it should. Scenes that should have sucked all the air out of the room with the sheer creepiness of what was going on fell flat and missed their mark entirely in some places. 

The setting didn’t quite fit with the story. The Women in the Walls read like a Gothic novel, but was set (I’m assuming because of a few-very few-references) in present time. There were so many details that were left out. It bugged me that I had no clue how old the main characters were. All we know is that they are not legal adults. I was at a loss for what Lucy looked like. Descriptions of people were sparse. Apart from Lucy’s habit of self-mutilation, we really know nothing about her hobbies, her interests, her friendships, nothing. There are measly references to her mother, and some moderately detailed memories of her and Penelope, but that’s it. Lucy’s closeness to Margaret was stressed throughout, but there are no flashbacks, no nostalgia, and certainly no friendly interactions as the story evolves. If anything, they look like enemies. It’s hard to invest in their relationship when it felt as though it was never there to begin with. 

What Amy Lukavics excels at is those spine-tingling, chilling images that are blunt and brutal and made of nightmares. The horror is grotesque, packs a punch, and so bizarre that it takes a second for it to process and then, boom. I said this about Daughters Unto Devils as well, this would make a fantastic scary movie. Some statements are disturbing on levels that sink their teeth into you and keep going, gnawing at your thoughts. I can’t get them out of my head and that shows you how powerful those scenes are. 

The ending. The bulk of the horror happens in the last 15 or so percent of the book. What gets you is the anticipation. You know something terrible is coming. Something so bad that you persevere and wade through the slowness. Will it be paranormal? Will it be bloody? Will Lucy make it to the end of the book? What happened? All of these questions nag and plague and will drive you mad with need. I had to know. I pushed and fought and when I got there…

Holy plot twist. That’s some next level horror. The clues are minimal. You might expect it a little, but the full extent of what happens-never. 

That finale. The gore is enough to keep you awake for days. Read it with the lights on. You were warned. 

If you like any of the following, you’ll enjoy this:

Hypnotic reading, 

Jordan