From Susan Dennard, the New York Times bestselling author of the Witchlands series, comes a haunting and high-octane contemporary fantasy, about the magic it takes to face your fears in a nightmare-filled forest, and the mettle required to face the secrets hiding in the dark corners of your own family.
Hemlock Falls isn’t like other towns. You won’t find it on a map, your phone won’t work here, and the forest outside town might just kill you.
Winnie Wednesday wants nothing more than to join the Luminaries, the ancient order that protects Winnie’s town—and the rest of humanity—from the monsters and nightmares that rise in the forest of Hemlock Falls every night.
Ever since her father was exposed as a witch and a traitor, Winnie and her family have been shunned. But on her sixteenth birthday, she can take the deadly Luminary hunter trials and prove herself true and loyal—and restore her family’s good name. Or die trying.
But in order to survive, Winnie enlists the help of the one person who can help her train: Jay Friday, resident bad boy and Winnie’s ex-best friend. While Jay might be the most promising new hunter in Hemlock Falls, he also seems to know more about the nightmares of the forest than he should. Together, he and Winnie will discover a danger lurking in the forest no one in Hemlock Falls is prepared for.
Not all monsters can be slain, and not all nightmares are confined to the dark.
The Luminaries sets a new secret society within our world that guards humankind from nightmarish creatures lurking in the forests at night. Beautiful worldbuilding and mystery subplots keep the momentum going that I couldn’t put this book down at all. The ending was abrupt and most things were not concluded in a satisfactory manner, but this definitely makes me all the more excited for what’s to come in the next book.
Florence Day is the ghostwriter for one of the most prolific romance authors in the industry, and she has a problem—after a terrible breakup, she no longer believes in love. It’s as good as dead.
When her new editor, a too-handsome mountain of a man, won’t give her an extension on her book deadline, Florence prepares to kiss her career goodbye. But then she gets a phone call she never wanted to receive, and she must return home for the first time in a decade to help her family bury her beloved father.
For ten years, she’s run from the town that never understood her, and even though she misses the sound of a warm Southern night and her eccentric, loving family and their funeral parlor, she can’t bring herself to stay. Even with her father gone, it feels like nothing in this town has changed. And she hates it.
Until she finds a ghost standing at the funeral parlor’s front door, just as broad and infuriatingly handsome as ever, and he’s just as confused about why he’s there as she is.
Romance is most certainly dead… but so is her new editor, and his unfinished business will have her second-guessing everything she’s ever known about love stories.
A disillusioned millennial ghostwriter who, quite literally, has some ghosts of her own, has to find her way back home in this sparkling adult debut from national bestselling author Ashley Poston.
The Dead Romantics showcases a different side to Ashley Poston’s writing and I’m totally here for it! I loved her YA sci-fi books but this paranormal, contemporary romance was something I didn’t even know I needed from her.
First off, the prose is everything. There were so many quotable paragraphs I found myself highlighting more than I usually would. There’s just something so flowery and magical in the writing. Words fit together so smoothly and transition like water gently flowing over stones in a shallow creek. I’m not normally this poetic or sappy about how words are strung together, but it definitely set the mood for a small town in South Carolina our protagonist, Florence, finds herself going back to for the first time in a decade.
It’s not just how the words fit together but also the way Poston was able to make Florence’s voice so distinctive and personal. She’s emotional and stubborn, loving but also hardened by life’s betrayals. I saw myself in Florence’s struggles to love herself and find worth looking inwards instead of to those around her. Reading her narration reminded me of the voiceovers in the early 2000s shows that brought both witty and sarcastic commentary to the story. I absolutely loved it.
Though the writing was oddly refreshing and wholly different than I anticipated, it’s also the story itself that made everything such a wild ride. I don’t cry very often when I read books and I wasn’t expecting to in this one, but boy, did the waterworks just start going at certain points. This book is also one about grief, though the author doesn’t drown us in it so much as reminds us it’s there as Florence faces the burial preparations for her dear father. The balance of funny moments with the reality of death and grief was one I thoroughly enjoyed. It doesn’t take away from the seriousness of the topic, but it allows for different processing and I think that’s what worked for me. Florence mourned her father’s passing and the time she lost spending it with him in person, but their love and memories still remained.
Florence’s self-inflicted isolation from her family all comes to a head when she’s forced back home to face the demons she ran away from. Her family, the town, and her backstory that led to her run to NYC was fleshed out very well. I will admit that the first half of the book moved quite slowly, setting up the foundation for the latter half. I almost wanted to give up but I’m so glad I stuck it out. So this is why I can’t give it top rating but the latter half more than made up for the slow pace.
But the waterworks didn’t only come from dealing with grief. The majority of this story is also one of romance. From the opening proclamation that Florence believed love was dead, a ghostwriter for romance novels, I knew this would get interesting. When her hot(!) but suddenly dead editor who wouldn’t give her an extension on her book pops up in town, you know this isn’t your ordinary meet cute kinda story. I grew up reading the Mediator series by Meg Cabot so I immediately knew this hot ghost love interest would make me happy and sad simultaneously. And wow, was I sure right.
Can I just interrupt this to say I love how meta this romance book felt? Ashley just name dropped all these big names in the publishing community, authors and books we hopefully should all know of, and I felt like only someone in the time period I grew up in with the kind of books I read could truly appreciate how cool it is to feel Florence’s reading and writing inspirations were mine too.
Back to Mr. Hot Editor, Benji Andor. He’s the perfect cinnamon roll, helping Florence through the roughest week of her life when she should be the one trying to help him move on. The chemistry was so on point, and the tension was agonizing because, well, he’s a ghost and they can’t actually touch.
Mostly, I’m a huge fan of character development. And Florence had her issues at the beginning. While the course of everything at home and with her dad’s death obviously changed her, it’s ultimately her shift in perceiving love that’s the winner for this book. We always think of love as romantic love first, but we gotta remember, love also exists in multiple forms beyond the one.
The Dead Romantics will leave you feeling mushy inside, trust me. Or at least, if you have some kind of a heart. It’s the perfect blend of paranormal romance with the contemporary struggles we can all relate to. This is probably Ashley’s best book yet and that’s saying something as I’ve really enjoyed most of her writing so far. Please do yourself a favor and pick this one up ASAP.
The Dead Romantics blends wit and humor into a powerful story about grief and love. While that may sound like many books out there, what’s unique about this one is the ghostly boyfriend vibes a la Mediator style and the way the author lets us process Florence’s emotions and grief over her dad in a way that’s not suffocating. I LOVED the gorgeous prose that made the atmosphere of the small town and vivid emotions come alive off the pages. It’s truly a book to experience though the first half may test your patience as it sets up for the climax. With plenty of tears running down my face, I can honestly say this book in it’s entirely is sure to tug at your heartstrings and make you believe in love again too.
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.
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.