2.5 star, YA

ARC Review: The Weight of Blood by Tiffany D. Jackson

New York Times bestselling author Tiffany D. Jackson ramps up the horror and tackles America’s history and legacy of racism in this suspenseful YA novel following a biracial teenager as her Georgia high school hosts its first integrated prom. 

When Springville residents—at least the ones still alive—are questioned about what happened on prom night, they all have the same explanation . . . Maddy did it.

An outcast at her small-town Georgia high school, Madison Washington has always been a teasing target for bullies. And she’s dealt with it because she has more pressing problems to manage. Until the morning a surprise rainstorm reveals her most closely kept secret: Maddy is biracial. She has been passing for white her entire life at the behest of her fanatical white father, Thomas Washington.

After a viral bullying video pulls back the curtain on Springville High’s racist roots, student leaders come up with a plan to change their image: host the school’s first integrated prom as a show of unity. The popular white class president convinces her Black superstar quarterback boyfriend to ask Maddy to be his date, leaving Maddy wondering if it’s possible to have a normal life.

But some of her classmates aren’t done with her just yet. And what they don’t know is that Maddy still has another secret . . . one that will cost them all their lives.



**The Weight of Blood comes out September 6, 2022**

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

While The Weight of Blood was every bit the strong contender about race and the continued challenges the Black community faces in certain small towns with a history of segregation and racism, the execution of the mystery fell flat on so many levels. I know this is an unpopular opinion, but I’ll explain why I can’t give it a higher rating no matter how much I want to.

The premise of the story from the synopsis makes it sound like we follow Maddy, a girl who is half-Black but has been “lying” to the whole town and passing off as white her whole life. Unfortunately, her POV is only one of many that we follow and it dilutes the focus between too many people to thoroughly invest and enjoy any one of them. We follow Kenny, the love interest, who also happens be dating a popular white girl who is part of the group that bullied Maddy. But not only his POV, we get his girlfriend’s POV which was a rather interesting take as it made it harder to yearn for the main romance when I empathized with her situation the more I got to know her.

For the parts where we do get to see the situations Maddy lives through which we know somehow leads up to a Bloody Prom Night that left over a hundred dead in their small town, I was utterly enthralled in half amazement and disgust. Amazement at how she was raised and her fanatical father who put this narrative in her mind that being Black was wrong, but definite disgust at the treatment of her peers and the town overall towards her. I mean, they still had separate proms, like other ethnicities weren’t seen as equals to dance and celebrate together? Just disgusting behaviour, and I really hope not reflective of small towns in America.

I did think the social commentary on racism was a great place to launch much-needed discussions on this topic. In particular, I also liked the focus on her peers who didn’t throw any insults or directly did anything but nevertheless just stood by and allowed the ones who did get a free pass. Aren’t they as much at fault for what led up to the tragic Night?

Another interesting take was how the small Black community at school didn’t necessarily welcome her into their arms either. Was it because they thought she was ashamed of her Blackness and thus extends to those in the community? Was she not Black enough for them to at least acknowledge her as one of them? It was something that Kenny had to reflect on too as he had integrated well into the popular groups at school by, in a sense, pretending he was colour blind to the little “jokes” by his friends that really were microaggressions or harmful stereotypes.

I would’ve liked to have seen more focus on this topic but I suppose the point of the main premise is a thriller – the big Why everyone (or rather, the survivors) is trying to answer.

Don’t get me wrong, I love a good thriller, but the pacing was super off here. First, reminiscent to the popular book Sadie, there’s a present day podcast in interview style narrating what had happened a decade ago that is Maddy’s story. So the timeline is actually split with the present day parts looking to explain what led to the tragedy. While I like having the podcast style and making us feel just as confused and intrigued by Maddy’s story as the podcaster, it slows things down by cutting into any buildup. The multiple POVs with changing tensions (or different kinds of tension) doesn’t allow for extended buildup either. It’s just getting good – and then it cuts to present day or another person.

The romance was also marketed for this book in some ways, but I never felt any real chemistry between Kenny and Maddy. Yes, they both had to come to terms with their Blackness and what that means in who they want to be and how others may see them. But a connection on that struggle that doesn’t equate to instant attraction and undying love. Kenny did a complete 180 as he was still technically in a relationship with his girlfriend Wendy (whom we also get to really know) for most of the book. I honestly felt bad for Wendy at times even though she missed some cues that the relationship was not going where she hoped it would.

But, the one thing I think everyone loved given the strong Carrie vibes (is this considered a retelling?) but didn’t quite settle with me is the supernatural element to the story. I never read Carrie so I didn’t immediately make that connection with the synopsis so I most definitely wasn’t anticipating this supernatural narrative. In a way, it makes the premise less mysterious and therefore exciting for me. Now there’s a very plausible way that Bloody Prom Night ends up happening and there’s definitely plenty of motive for why on Maddy’s part. The only unknown is the exact sequence of events that led up to it. And the execution of that, as mentioned above, was at times convoluted and all over the place.

I wanted to love this book so badly. I haven’t been reading the reviews for it so I had no high expectations either beyond the premise. Unfortunately, however unpopular this is, The Weight of Blood was less thriller and more of a paranormal story with commentary on race and segregation in small town America.

Overall Recommendation:

The Weight of Blood doesn’t quite hit the nail as a thriller but it at least provides thoughtful reflection on Black identity in predominantly white small towns with a legacy of racism. I thoroughly enjoyed this aspect although it sickened me in places at the abuse our protagonist, Maddy, faced. However, the romance felt forced and the supernatural elements came as a surprise. If you enjoy social commentary on race with a huge sprinkling of paranormal activity, then this is for you! But otherwise, this isn’t what I’d say is a typical thriller and unfortunately not what I anticipated for my first Tiffany D. Jackson novel. It’s probably a case of “it’s me, not the book” so take what you will from this review.

2.5 star

Review: Magpie by Elizabeth Day

She has almost everything. The rest she’ll take.

Single White Female meets The Perfect Nanny in this taut, psychological suspense novel about a perfect couple and their seemingly perfect roommate—that is until she threatens to destroy everything they’ve worked so hard to create.


Marisa and Jake are a perfect couple, and Kate, their new lodger, is the perfect roommate–and not just because her rent payments will give them the income they need to start trying for a baby. Except no one is perfect. Sure, Kate doesn’t seem to care much about personal boundaries and can occasionally seem overly familiar with Jake, but Marisa doesn’t let it concern her. Kate will soon be gone, and it will just be her, Jake, and their future baby.

Conceiving a baby is easier said than done, though, and Jake and Marisa’s perfect relationship is put to the test through months of fertility treatments and false starts. To make matters worse, Kate’s boundary-pushing turns into an all-out obsession–with Jake, with Marisa, and with their future child. Who is this woman? Why does she seem to know everything about Marisa and Jake?

In her quest to find out who Kate really is, Marisa might destroy everything she’s worked so hard to create: her perfect romance, her perfect family, and her perfect self. Jake doesn’t know the half of what Marisa has created and what she stands to lose. Magpie is a tense and twisting novel about mothers and children, envy and possession, and the dangers of getting everything you’ve ever dreamed of. 



I received a digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review from Edelweiss and Simon & Schuster. All comments are my own.

Exciting premise. And a classic case where I expected there to be a lot of intrigue, and confusion between what was real and what wasn’t. Unfortunately this kind of fell flat for me, and I will divulge why further in this review.

Magpie revolves around Marisa, who has moved in with her new boyfriend Jake, and everything seems perfect with their baby coming around. However, a new lodger comes in, Kate, who is acting quite dubiously, perhaps following Marisa around and being unnecessarily nosy for being a stranger. Just who is this Kate and what does she want with their lives? That is the question that the book attempts to answer through its suspense and intrigue.

Continue reading “Review: Magpie by Elizabeth Day”
4 star

Review: Not a Happy Family by Shari Lapena

In this family, everyone is keeping secrets–especially the dead. Brecken Hill in upstate New York is an expensive place to live. You have to be rich to have a house there. And they don’t come much richer than Fred and Sheila Merton. But even all their money can’t protect them when a killer comes to call. The Mertons are brutally murdered the night after an Easter Dinner with their three adult kids. Who, of course, are devastated.

Or are they? They each stand to inherit millions. They were never a happy family, thanks to their capricious father and neglectful mother, but perhaps one of them is more disturbed than anyone knew. Did one of them snap after that dreadful evening? Or was it someone else that night who crept in with the worst of intentions? It must be. After all, if one of your siblings was a psychopath, you’d know.



Another Shari Lapena review! Although the previous books I’ve read by her weren’t my all-time favourites, she always delivered when it came to the suspense, and this book was no different. Of her novels that I’ve read so far, this one was so far my favourite. The elements of mystery and psychological suspense were well executed and I was wondering until the very very end what happened.

Not a Happy Family revolves around a very familiar plot. Two high status rich parents are murdered in cold blood, with three children who stand to gain a substantial inheritance. Was it a mere robbery gone wrong? Or is there something much more sinister at play? With a whole melange of suspicious characters without alibis, just who is telling the truth? Told through the POVs of almost all the characters (and even the detectives), Lapena takes us through a riveting whodunnit with twists and turns galore, all the way to its exciting finish.

Continue reading “Review: Not a Happy Family by Shari Lapena”