Reverie – Ryan La Sala

The act of crushing a dream can’t be minimised. At best, it’s mean. At worst, it’s murder.

I need to stop getting sucked into book hype vortexes. I keep expecting too much and winding up disappointed, unsure if the let down is real or a result of the height of the pedestal I placed the book upon before I read the first sentence.

“Reveries are what happens when a person’s imagined world becomes real. They’re like miniature realities, with their own plots and rules and perils.”

I absolutely adored the concept of Reverie and I love the design of the cover. I liked a lot of the sequences in the book, even though they felt disjointed at times, and thought the individual reveries I visited were very imaginative. So, what went wrong?

My main problem with this book was its characters. I never connected with any of them and, because of that, I wasn’t emotionally invested in what happened to them. I wanted to laugh with them, cry with them and be concerned for them, but I walked alongside them numb.

“You’re more powerful than you know.”

I would have loved to have loved or hated various characters but in all honesty there are still two characters that remain interchangeable to me. I know both of their names but throughout the book, unless I was reading a description of one of them, I couldn’t remember which one they were.

“Every reverie has a plot. If you don’t follow the rules of the reverie, you risk triggering a plot twist, and plot twists can be pretty deadly for people trapped inside reveries.”

There were so many elements I loved: a drag queen sorceress with her teacup, a character that has a much loved copy of Roald Dahl’s The Witches, pain transformed into power, subtitles appearing in a reverie whenever another language is spoken, and creations like a “gigantic nightmare horse-spider”. It should have all come together for me but it didn’t, and I’m gutted.

I’ve seen some glowing reviews of this book and I’m having major book envy; I wish I’d experienced the book the way they did. I’d encourage you to read some 5 star reviews. I hope you love it as much as they did.

Content warnings include mention of bullying and suicidal ideation.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Sourcebooks Fire for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

All Kane Montgomery knows for certain is that the police found him half-dead in the river. He can’t remember how he got there, what happened after, and why his life seems so different now. And it’s not just Kane who’s different, the world feels off, reality itself seems different. 

As Kane pieces together clues, three almost-strangers claim to be his friends and the only people who can truly tell him what’s going on. But as he and the others are dragged into unimaginable worlds that materialize out of nowhere – the gym warps into a subterranean temple, a historical home nearby blooms into a Victorian romance rife with scandal and sorcery – Kane realizes that nothing in his life is an accident. And when a sinister force threatens to alter reality for good, they will have to do everything they can to stop it before it unravels everything they know. 

This wildly imaginative debut explores what happens when the secret worlds that people hide within themselves come to light.

Here There Are Monsters – Amelinda Bérubé

“By wood, stone, water, and bone.”

That cover! 😍 It’s all kinds of creepy and intriguing. I’ve been look forward to reading this one for months.

Deidre has always lived in a world of fantasy, imagining elaborate kingdoms of queens, knights and monsters. Skye’s role as the Queen of Swords has always been to save Deidre but when they move to a new town that doesn’t know the sisters by reputation Skye sees a fresh start, a chance to have friends for once. Then Deidre disappears and Skye may have to pick up her sword once again.

I really enjoyed the introduction, with its promise of some weird and wonderful monsters. I liked getting to know Skye and trying to figure out Deidre, who we mostly get to know through her older sister. I’ve seen some reviews where Skye and Deidre cop a fair amount of disdain. While I can see where those readers are coming from, as a once upon a time teenage girl I can also see ‘Welcome to Adolescence’ written all over a lot of these sisters’ quirks. They can be mean, vindictive, antagonistic, manipulative, selfish and annoying at times.

I actually loved that Skye wasn’t all sunshine and sweetness. She isn’t a girl who’s obsessed with her appearance. She’ll never be head cheerleader. Instead her only claim to fame has been ‘freak by proxy’, the weird girl’s sister, protector and only friend. She’s a real girl with real problems.

If she was going to disappear into her imaginary world and make herself a target all over again, it wasn’t like I could stop her. But she wasn’t keeping me in there with her. Not anymore.

Skye’s story explores family, friendships and secrets, and the lengths we will go to in order to protect them. The family dynamics make it seem inevitable that Deidre will follow where her monsters lead her. It also seems predetermined that although Skye should never have been cast in the role of her sister’s only protector that she would feel the pull of this during a time of crisis, no matter how much she wants to hold onto the new life she has forged for herself.

I loved the alternating chapters, which told me what was happening now and caught me up on the past, giving much needed context to the present. For a long time I expected Deidre’s behaviour to come with a mental health diagnosis, even if some of her monsters were real. While Deidre came across as weird I never found the creepiness I expected from this book.

I was eagerly anticipating the appearance of this book’s monsters from the first time I read the blurb, but I found them disappointing. There was such a build up to them and while I loved their form, their voices didn’t work for me. I did find out why that was but even then it didn’t sit right with me. Their motivation was barely explored and their history was only hinted at. The resolution to their story was a let down for me.

If I could review this book in two parts, I’d be giving ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ for the pre monster part and ⭐️⭐️⭐️ after they arrive.

Content warnings include bullying.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Sourcebooks Fire for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

The Blair Witch Project meets Imaginary Girls in this story of codependent sisterhood, the struggle to claim one’s own space, and the power of secrets.

Sixteen-year-old Skye is done playing the knight in shining armor for her insufferable younger sister, Deirdre. Moving across the country seems like the perfect chance to start over.

In their isolated new neighbourhood, Skye manages to fit in, but Deirdre withdraws from everyone, becoming fixated on the swampy woods behind their house and building monstrous sculptures out of sticks and bones.

Then Deirdre disappears.

And when something awful comes scratching at Skye’s window in the middle of the night, claiming she’s the only one who can save Deirdre, Skye knows she will stop at nothing to bring her sister home.

When the Light Went Out – Bridget Morrissey

Everything is something.

Marley was the oldest of eight neighbourhood friends, known as the Albany kids, and the mastermind behind their summer Adventures. Aidy, Teeny, Bigs, Harrison, Ruby, Nick and Olivia would join Marley, riding their bicycles around Cadence, California, enjoying the camaraderie and excitement of their scavenger hunts, never once reaching the end, always “in pursuit of a goal Marley never fully explained.”

Then Nick accidentally shot Marley. He and Olivia are the only ones who really know what happened that day. Five years have passed and Olivia is now older than Marley was when she died. The seven remaining Albany kids have all reunited for the first time since Marley died for one final Adventure.

“Trust me. The Adventure is going to have a different purpose this year.”

The story unfolds through mostly alternating chapters, some focusing on the lead up to Marley’s death and the others beginning the morning of the fifth annual memorial held at the City Hall. This provides a picture of the effect this tragedy has had on the individual Albany kids, their group dynamics, some of their family members, and the town of Cadence as a whole.

No one in Cadence wanted to remember what Marley’s death actually did to the living.

Marley was a complex character and I was never entirely sure if I liked her or not. I loved that she wasn’t portrayed in an entirely positive or negative way. I liked Olivia’s tenacity but at times her dramatic way of seeing everything irked me, although I understood the reasons behind it. I adored Nick, who was 11 when he accidentally shot Marley, and has had to essentially live with his pain alone, even though it wasn’t his fault. I enjoyed getting to know so many multifaceted characters, many of whom were keeping secrets, from others and sometimes themselves as well.

I hear a lot about gun violence but I consider myself very lucky that I can’t personally comment on its effects on the minds and lives of the adults and children who are left to try to pick up the pieces of their forever changed lives. If there’s one thing recent news items have shown it’s that we are currently failing survivors of this type of violence. It’s painful to read about but books like this are so important for both young adults and the young at heart.

Just some of my takeaways from this book are:

  • We need to be sensitive to the different ways people grieve
  • We can be haunted in so many ways
  • The meanings we attribute to our memories and experiences can alter our perceptions
  • People may be wearing social masks to pretend they’re okay when they’re really not at all. Don’t be afraid to look beneath the surface. “Let’s make it so that we never again have to ask ourselves, How did this happen?” Having said all of this, I don’t think I can explain what this book is about anywhere near as well as its author; I’d encourage you to read Bridget’s review, which can be found here.

Content warnings include discussion surrounding accidental death and suicide, description of a character’s death as a result of a gunshot wound, and body shaming.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Sourcebooks Fire, an imprint of Sourcebooks, Inc., for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Five years after the accidental shooting of Marley Bricket, her friends, who were there the day she died, reunite when a box of letters from Marley is found in her former home. The discovery leads them on a scavenger hunt that reopens old memories, wounds, and betrayals, and leads them to question what they thought they knew about Marley’s death.

What You Hide – Natalie D. Richards

When I read the blurb for this book I was drawn by the idea of someone fulfilling one of my dreams: living in a library. Imagine all of the uninterrupted reading time at night when everyone else goes home and you’re surrounded by shelves and shelves of books and the smell of books and the ambience of a library. Ah, heaven!

Now imagine the creepy factor of a dead body found in the library and subsequent mysterious footprints, noises in the middle of the night and messages written on the walls. Sounds like the making of a fun horror book, huh?!

Had the blurb I read even whispered the word ‘romantic’ I would have run a mile and so I was suitably horrified when I discovered an extended blurb on Goodreads cheerfully telling me I was reading a ‘romantic thriller’. Had this been a library book I would have stopped reading immediately but as I’d promised to review this book I grimaced and turned the page.

Given my romantiphobe tendencies I probably should have hated this book but I didn’t. It was never going to be something I would love and gush over, and I wish I’d known that before I started reading, but in between the budding romance and the frustration with some of the characters there were some sections that I enjoyed and found relatable.

Mallory’s home situation made me want to reach through the pages and strangle someone. Her once vibrant mother is now essentially a puppet on a string for controlling, emotionally abusive [insert swear word of your choice here] Charlie. I found the conversations between Mallory and her mother infuriatingly accurate given the circumstances and their personalities. I had hoped for a fairytale ending to that situation but unfortunately real life doesn’t guarantee those so it was probably too much to hope for.

The idea that someone who’s recently homeless and simultaneously trying to find food, shelter and any semblance of safety has time to agonise over a crush on a boy or to go indoor rock climbing with said boy just didn’t seem feasible to me. I’m fairly certain Maslow would agree.

He reaches for me slowly, and I’m powerless. Hypnotized by the graze of his fingers against the side of my thumb.

Spencer, while suitably adorable, spent his time wanting more from his life than living in a mansion with the loving family who adopted him and feeling guilty for wanting more, especially considering Mallory has “real” problems. I have trouble mustering up sympathy for a rich kid with supportive parents who’s scared of telling them that what is expected of him isn’t what he wants and any sympathy I had for him faded when he took out his frustration by starting a fight with some jerk at ice hockey practice.

I would have loved for his adoption to play more of a role in the book but it wasn’t the focus. Similarly the discussion surrounding addiction, while obviously sad, was pretty much glossed over.

Mallory and Spencer aren’t the meddling kids I’d hope they’d be; when I wanted them to investigate strange footsteps in the otherwise empty library they hid out in the bathroom. They finally do investigate but much later than I would have. The dead body in the library and the mystery of the ‘ghost’ were fairly tame and repetitive from my perspective. It was basically footprint, footprint, message on the wall, message on the wall, cool creative message, another footprint, and a few other signs finally leading to a resolution that seemed obvious from early on.

If you like sweet romances between people from disparate walks of life this could be the book for you. If you’re looking for creepy with potential for horror and ghosts then this is probably not the book you’re looking for.

Content warnings include addiction, adoption, family violence and homelessness.

Thank you to NetGalley and Sourcebooks Fire for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Spencer volunteers at the library. Sure, it’s community service, but he likes his work. Especially if it means getting to see Mallory.

Mallory spends a lot of time keeping her head down. When you’re sixteen and homeless, nothing matters more than being anonymous. But Spencer’s charm makes her want to be noticed.

Then sinister things start happening at the library. Mysterious symbols and terrifying warnings begin to appear, and management grows suspicious. Spencer and Mallory know a homeless teenager makes an easy target, and if they can’t find the real culprit soon, they could lose more than just their safe haven …

Copycat – Hannah Jayne

Spoilers Ahead!

This book took me back to the Point Horror books of my childhood (if their characters swore). Addison is a 17 year old who is obsessed with a series of books and writes fan fiction on her popular blog. Reader dream #264 comes true for her when the mysterious author of the Gap Lake books contacts her and asks for her help in generating buzz for the upcoming series finale.

Addison and her best friend Maya stumble upon the body of the most popular girl in school, the details of which eerily mimic those of the snippets of the new book the author has asked Addie to post on her blog. Addie begins to wonder whether the person contacting her really is the author or if she’s talking to the killer.

While there was nothing specifically wrong with Addie’s character it was Maya that made the book for me. I loved her snarky quips and the banter between her and Addie. Spencer, ex boyfriend of the dead girl and Addie’s crush, and Colton, who is not so secretly in love with Maya, both felt mostly two dimensional. I wasn’t a fan of Addie’s dad or Maya’s parents, although I’m fairly sure Mr Garcia could twist my arm and force me to eat some of his cooking.

I loved the snippets of the Gap Lake book that the author sends Addie as they had a creepy teenage horror vibe. I’ve read so many books like this and am a lot older than the target audience so I found the plot really predictable and I knew who was responsible for the murder early on. Had I read this as a kid I expect the whodunnit aspect probably would have floored me. The explanations espoused during the baddie monologue are quite groan worthy.

I was fortunate enough to have an ARC but life happened so I read it after its release. This became a fun game for me once I realised that the library book in one hand and the Kindle in the other didn’t always match. I preferred the ARC, mostly because there are two missing chapters in the final version. Not a lot happened in the first one but without it the continuity was off and I did flip back through the pages of the book to try to work out what I’d missed before I realised the ARC version made the story flow more smoothly.

My favourite difference between the ARC and the final version is totally irrelevant to the story itself but talked about food which always holds my attention. In the ARC Mr Garcia gives Addie “lessons on making something like gumbo or étouffée”. In the final version it’s his “signature enchiladas”.

I had a few irks and question marks while reading and think I may have tripped over some plot holes but there was nothing that made me want to stop reading.

Early on we’re told multiple times that Maya’s mother is the chief of police and her father is a homicide detective. I got it the first time. The descriptions of Addison’s saliva were also repetitive and included “Addison’s saliva tasted sour”, “Her saliva soured”, “her saliva going sour”, “saliva that tasted like hot metal”, and “her saliva tasting bitter”.

Addison’s phone pinged twice and another character mentions how insistent the person sending the message is. When Addison checks her phone there’s one message, not two.

When her blog was hijacked I screamed at Addie to take some screen shots so she had some evidence but alas, she didn’t hear me.

Maya is hit by a car and taken to hospital by ambulance. Addie is driven home at the same time. Addie walks in the door, slumps to the floor and calls Maya. Maya’s mother tells Addie that she’s taking her daughter home now. She was hit by a car! Either Barry Allen works at the hospital or she’s a meta so heals rapidly (yes, I’m currently bingeing The Flash! Why do you ask?!) or something is wrong with this picture. After knowing that Maya has been taken home Addie has a thought bubble: “You’re the reason Maya is lying in a hospital bed somewhere.” Then Maya’s parents are at work together maybe an hour later while their daughter who’s been hit by a car is either home alone or in the hospital. Perhaps this is a job for Schrödinger?

There were a few others but you get the point. It’s the sort of thing you expect to be picked up during the editing process and because I wandered through several ‘huh?’ moments I started questioning whether I was stupid, having missed a whole pile of information, or whether I was super smart for finding them when those before me didn’t. I’m still unsure.

Content warnings include alcoholism and dating violence.

Overall this was a fun, easy read and I’ll be checking to see if my library has any more books by this author. Thank you to NetGalley and Sourcebooks Fire for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Everyone is dying to read the latest book in the popular Gap Lake mystery series, and Addison is no exception. As the novels biggest fan, Addison is flattered when the infamously reclusive author, R.J. Rosen, contacts her, granting her inside information others would kill for. 

But when the most popular girl in Addison’s high school is murdered, Addison can’t help but think that life may be imitating fiction. And as other terrifying events from the book start happening around her, Addison has to figure out how to write her own ending – and survive the story.