5 star, YA

ARC Review: Dreams Lie Beneath by Rebecca Ross

Perfect for readers of The Hazel Wood and The Night Circus, this lush and layered story about magic and the captivating power of dreams is delivered with acclaimed author Rebecca Ross’s signature exquisite style.

A curse plagues the realm of Azenor—during each new moon, magic flows from the nearby mountain and brings nightmares to life. Only magicians, who serve as territory wardens, stand between people and their worst dreams.

Clementine Madigan is ready to take over as the warden of her small town, but when two magicians challenge her, she is unwittingly drawn into a century-old conflict. She seeks revenge, but as she secretly gets closer to Phelan, one of the handsome young magicians, secrets begin to rise. Clementine must unite with her rival to fight the realm’s curse, which seems to be haunting her every turn.



**Dreams Lie Beneath comes out November 2, 2021!**

Thank you Edelweiss and HarperCollins for this copy in exchange for an honest review.

I have read Rebecca Ross’ books since her debut, The Queen’s Rising. And her latest standalone novel is just a testament of her growth as a writer and the marvelous worlds she creates.

The realm of Azenor isn’t super detailed in its world building but that is no matter because the characters and their history carry the story through. In a place where nightmares come alive every new moon, there rises magicians who use their skills to conquer and keep their delegated citizens safe.

Clementine is our heroine and I loved reading through her POV. Headstrong and loyal to her family, she never gave up on the home she grew up in, the people she cared for, as the daughter of a magician who taught her everything she knows.

The plot of the book is separated into 3 acts. I won’t go into super detail about each as I think a realm of surprise is an experience for this novel. But the pacing was superb, and it really felt like there was a climax within each act that kept me flipping the pages nonstop.

The first act really focuses on the world we’re settling into. Magicians have their own village or section within a city they are responsible for. They tend to the nightmares of these citizens so they are prepared to fight them on the new moon. But, sometimes, a magician can challenge another magician for that land they oversee, and oh boy, do we get introduced to our love interest here.

Clem obviously wanted revenge and so the book also embarks on this enemies to lovers romance wherein she decides to enact a crazy plan in order to make her enemies hurt as much as she suffered. Of course, one doesn’t expect she’ll start falling for the guy she’s spying on, our sensitive hero Phelan.

Yet at the heart of this is a mystery surrounding the curse that started the magical nightmares once a month. With a whole kingdom lost to whatever magic binds it, other things are in the works behind the scenes that Clem stumbles upon that may lead to the end of everything she grew up knowing. The key players involved in breaking the curse were not immediately known and so I had a blast trying to guess and figure out who in the story may be a player in disguise.

I feel knowing a little less about this book is better than knowing too much because it keeps the surprises going. I was constantly wondering where Rebecca was going with this plot, and I was always pleasantly surprised when I couldn’t quite guess it.

I did wish a bit more of the secondary characters had more depth to them, or just more of an appearance in the book. For example, Phelan’s twin brother is just a jerk but I really don’t know anything else about him that makes him more three-dimensional. At the heart of it, this story is really about Clem and Phelan. I’m not complaining about that in any way because I love them both, but some of the other characters felt a little like they had to be introduced in order to play a minor role.

There’s a lot of focus on family in this story too, and I definitely got emotional at the end. I loved the growth Clem goes through as she had to make choices to determine who she really wanted to become. By no means she’s always right, but I understood where she was coming from and her journey drew me in.

With magic in the air and a curse hanging over their heads, Clem’s story was a beautiful one filled with love, self-reflection and plenty of intrigue. I definitely recommend you look out for this book!

Overall Recommendation:

Dreams Lie Beneath is a solid standalone fantasy that follows young magician Clementine who is tasked to fight nightmares, as the consequence of a curse, that come alive every new moon. When unexpected events turned her life upside down, she plots to take back what she’s owed, but unwittingly starts falling for one of the magicians who may not be as bad as she thought. The curse breaking was another exciting element that gave a layer of intrigue as we follow Clem in decoding who the major players are for this task. So if you love a story with solid pacing, a sprinkle of mystery and plenty of slow burn enemies to lovers romance, my friend, this one is for YOU.

1.5 star, YA

ARC Review: All These Bodies by Kendare Blake

Sixteen bloodless bodies. Two teenagers. One impossible explanation.

Summer 1958—a string of murders plagues the Midwest. The victims are found in their cars and in their homes—even in their beds—their bodies drained, but with no blood anywhere. 

September 19- the Carlson family is slaughtered in their Minnesota farmhouse, and the case gets its first lead: 15-year-old Marie Catherine Hale is found at the scene. She is covered in blood from head to toe, and at first she’s mistaken for a survivor. But not a drop of the blood is hers.

Michael Jensen, son of the local sheriff, yearns to become a journalist and escape his small-town. He never imagined that the biggest story in the country would fall into his lap, or that he would be pulled into the investigation, when Marie decides that he is the only one she will confess to. 

As Marie recounts her version of the story, it falls to Michael to find the truth: What really happened the night that the Carlsons were killed? And how did one girl wind up in the middle of all these bodies?



**All These Bodies come out September 21, 2021**

Thank you Edelweiss and HarperCollins for this copy in exchange for an honest review

TW: extreme violence, potential abuse from a father figure

I’m as shocked as anyone that this is how it went for this book, but it just did not agree with me. All These Bodies is less of a thrilling mystery than it is an ill-conceived horror. With little plot that comes to the actual crimes themselves, it solely relies on the paranormal nature of these murders to create an air of suspense and thrill.

I came into this book thinking it would be a (rather gruesome) mystery. Unfortunately, it was less a mystery than a wild chase for a story from the girl left at the last crime scene.

Michael Jensen is a solid protagonist to follow. He has a good head on his shoulders and learned to deal with the consequences of being the sheriff’s son a long time ago. With his fascination for journalism and plain ol’ being in the wrong place at the wrong time, he is roped into the string of serial killings that has swept the few states around his hometown.

The girl, Marie, sees him once and is instantly fascinated. Maybe it’s because he is around her age, against the backdrop of lawyers and police officers that are insistent on her story. Or maybe, as Michael himself believes, it’s because he’s the only kind of person who would potentially believe the story that she has to tell.

If you’re looking for some supernatural criminal and are oddly excited to read about the ramifications of explaining such a thing to rational minded people, then you’re luck because this is the book for you! But if you’re not interested in these things, then I don’t know what you’re left with in this novel.

Was it creepy? Yes, I will admit that. Kendare Blake knows how to set the environment and write with vagueness around this mysterious killer. Did I think the paranormal aspect added to the story? No, not really. I would’ve thought it could be as interesting without a paranormal angle.

At the heart of this book, it is trying to challenge belief and how people see the world, but I find that the characters were either on one side or the other the whole time. They weren’t persuaded to think otherwise no matter what “truths” were uncovered during the investigation. Which left me feeling frustrated for Michael who is the only one on the fence with belief and is therefore isolated in his struggle to make sense of everything.

In fact, I was frustrated during most of this book. People can be so awful and hypocritical. The townspeople were upset at Michael and his family for keeping the “criminal girl” in their town for questioning and investigation, so they harassed the poor family incessantly, even those who were once considered friends. But when the investigation took a turn, they were the very first to say (in a super sexist manner) that they didn’t believe she could’ve committed such crimes because she was a girl. So not a lot of warm fuzzy feelings in this book at all.

I will contend at least that I blew through this book super quickly. It’s rather short and in a manner, I just wanted to get to the end to see how it would all turn out. Would Marie tell Michael the whole story for how she came to be in that house with the murdered family? Would we, as readers, fully believe what she has to say?

However, any warm fuzzies I hoped to gain from a good ending was also shattered. I am not adverse to open endings where much is left to one’s interpretation and scope of the imagination. But, this was more than just open-ended. It was abrupt and lacked closure. It was the precipice of a reckless choice. I half couldn’t believe it ended there, but then when I thought about the set up of this whole book with its supernatural aura, I suppose that’s the only kind of ending that would work. But this is a fair warning to you all that this is DEFINITELY not for everyone.

It definitely was not for me.

Overall Recommendation:

All These Bodies comes across as a true crime mystery in its synopsis but is most definitely classed as a paranormal horror. With a fascinating premise about a serial killer on the loose and a girl left behind at the last crime scene, I came into this book thinking one thing and leaving with something else entirely. While the protagonist, Michael, was rather enjoyable to follow (I totally agreed with most of his thoughts), everything else was a let down. From the lack of plot surrounding the crimes to the lack of closure in its ending, it was hard to invest in. What little I did invest emotionally, I was left with disappointment. This book isn’t for the faint of heart, or those with high expectations. But if you enjoy paranormal horrors, then I suppose you are the exact audience this novel is meant for.

3.5 star, YA

ARC Review: The Girl Least Likely by Katy Loutzenhiser

To All the Boys meets The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (with a dash of Dumplin’) in this funny, romantic, and heartfelt coming of age story about a teen stand-up comic learning how to be her truest self, from the author of If You’re Out There.

Gretchen has always been more of a “least likely” than a “most likely” kind of girl. So how does she somehow find herself living out every trope from her favorite rom-coms…?

The Best Friend Crush: Why is it suddenly so hard to act normal around her childhood BFF, Samuel? Must be time for a—

Makeover(!): Black leather pants and some red lipstick are apparently enough to lend Gretchen the bravado to do an impromptu set at a comedy club, and catch the eye of—

The Roguish Bad Boy: Jeremy, the alluring young comic who thinks her name is Sabrina. It might just be—

The Perfect Cover: A funny-girl alter-ego that frees Gretchen to explore who she really is—and what she really wants. But as rom-coms have taught her, leading a double life can only last so long.



**The Girl Least Likely comes out June 29, 2021**

Thank you Edelweiss and HarperCollins for this copy in exchange for an honest review.

Ever felt like you had a love-laugh relationship with romantic comedies? You don’t wanna admit that you like them – because let’s be honest you much rather make fun of some of their biggest tropes – yet you know almost everything there is to know about the biggest rom-com hits of the last decade or more. Wouldn’t that technically make you a fan?

Well, The Girl Least Likely is a lot like that and for sure you’d enjoy our heroine Gretchen for this reason. In the vein of various rom-com tropes, each chapter dives fully into one that connects well with the overall story.

A girl falls for her best friend but he doesn’t like her that way (possibly?). She ends up with an alias in the most unlikely ways that she finds herself using to catch the eye of another intriguing guy (who may just be interested in her too?). What could ever go wrong with that? I personally love the falling for the best friend trope but if that’s not your cup of tea, bad boy Jeremy may definitely fill that area.

Continue reading “ARC Review: The Girl Least Likely by Katy Loutzenhiser”