4 star, YA

ARC Review: Our Crooked Hearts by Melissa Albert

THE SUBURBS, RIGHT NOW . . .

Seventeen-year-old Ivy’s summer break kicks off with an accident, a punishment, and a mystery: a stranger whose appearance in the middle of the road, in the middle of the night, heralds a string of increasingly unsettling events. As the days pass, Ivy grapples with eerie offerings, corroded memories, and a secret she’s always known—that there’s more to her mother than meets the eye.

THE CITY, BACK THEN . . .

Dana has always been perceptive. And the summer she turns sixteen, with the help of her best friend and an ambitious older girl, her gifts bloom into a heady fling with the supernatural, set in a city of magical possibilities and secret mystics. As the trio’s aspirations darken, they find themselves speeding toward a violent breaking point.

Years after it began, Ivy and Dana’s shared story will come down to a reckoning among a daughter, a mother, and the dark forces they never should’ve messed with.



**Our Crooked Hearts comes out June 28, 2022**

Thank you Flatiron Books for this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Chilling, gripping and full of familial drama, Our Crooked Hearts blew through all my expectations and I couldn’t put it down.

At the heart of this story is the bond between Ivy and her mother. Which isn’t a very good one as Ivy knows Dana is keeping something big from her (and the rest of the family). Although the synopsis suggests it’s evenly split between Ivy and the flashbacks to Dana’s childhood, it doesn’t really start off that way.

We get a lot of chapters about Ivy’s current life in the suburbs. All is well…that is, until she encounters a strange woman in the middle of the road late at night who may have more than a passing curiosity about Ivy. The story dives into this really quick, which I thoroughly appreciate, and sets the tone for the following strange events to come.

Once Dana’s flashbacks start coming, it provides great context to us, the omniscient reader, about what she’s hiding from the family – and perhaps how this stranger in the present day is related to what once happened. I’m normally not the biggest fan of two alternative POVs in different timelines as one is normally stronger than the other and I would much prefer to stick with the one I like. However, I found myself not begrudgingly reading Dana’s POV but also coming to like those chapters too. They filled in gaps we’re still piecing together, but the anticipation for figuring out how everything related was oddly satisfying.

I had the privilege of hearing Melissa speak about the writing process for this book and I fully understand how the story needed to be told from both Ivy and Dana’s POVs. It might’ve started off as Ivy’s story, but humanizing Dana instead of making her the enemy in Ivy’s eyes shows the complexity of humans, not just the black and white we sometimes get depending on whose perspective you’re told.

This book is also full of magic. It’s not very specific to any witchcraft practiced in modern society but a little bit of everything. Melissa did her research and it showed. The end result was an eerie tale that highlighted the price one pays when they meddle with forces they do not understand.

The pacing was excellent and the time really flies by as you switch from Ivy to Dana and back again. The underlying mystery, the strange events occurring present day and the secrets unfolding were the perfect balance to drive momentum to the climax. The one thing I will add is that I had hoped for more resolution in Ivy and Dana’s relationship. While we get a lot of information about them separately in their individual POVs, there’s not a lot of interaction between them and I feel that could’ve been explored a little more.

If you’ve read any book by Melissa Albert before, you already should know she’s a masterful storyteller, but if you’re new, then you’re in for a treat. Our Crooked Hearts presents a perfect story in the dark with plenty of magic, mayhem and mystery. You should definitely grab this one when it comes out!

Overall Recommendation:

Our Crooked Hearts is a fast-paced tale with a supernatural mystery that may tie to a family’s past. Excellently told in two alternative timelines featuring mother and daughter, I found myself loving both POVs as they blend the perfect story together, each adding pivotal information as we race to solve the present day’s strange occurrences before something terrible happens. Melissa Albert’s latest novel is another showcase of her amazing storytelling. Trust me, it will grip you in its hold until the end.

3 star, NA

Review: From Blood and Ash by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Series: Blood and Ash #1

A Maiden…

Chosen from birth to usher in a new era, Poppy’s life has never been her own. The life of the Maiden is solitary. Never to be touched. Never to be looked upon. Never to be spoken to. Never to experience pleasure. Waiting for the day of her Ascension, she would rather be with the guards, fighting back the evil that took her family, than preparing to be found worthy by the gods. But the choice has never been hers.

A Duty…

The entire kingdom’s future rests on Poppy’s shoulders, something she’s not even quite sure she wants for herself. Because a Maiden has a heart. And a soul. And longing. And when Hawke, a golden-eyed guard honor bound to ensure her Ascension, enters her life, destiny and duty become tangled with desire and need. He incites her anger, makes her question everything she believes in, and tempts her with the forbidden.

A Kingdom…

Forsaken by the gods and feared by mortals, a fallen kingdom is rising once more, determined to take back what they believe is theirs through violence and vengeance. And as the shadow of those cursed draws closer, the line between what is forbidden and what is right becomes blurred. Poppy is not only on the verge of losing her heart and being found unworthy by the gods, but also her life when every blood-soaked thread that holds her world together begins to unravel.



I’m sure I’m not the only one who came into this book due to the hype surrounding the series. So I will try to keep this short and concise because I’m sure someone out there already wrote their exact feelings somewhere.

Poppy, whose full name is so hard to pronounce and spell, can ultimately be described in two words: virgin and stubborn.

One, I have no idea why it’s the BIGGEST deal in this book, especially when it becomes VERY clear that she does not care about that aspect of herself very much if she had her way.

Continue reading “Review: From Blood and Ash by Jennifer L. Armentrout”
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.