June 2020 Reading Recap

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June was my birthday! I wound up reading a whole bunch of ARCs, a few new favorites, and even interviewed K.A. Doore to celebrate the release of the Chronicles of Ghadid finale, The Unconquered City.

In addition the blog, you will now be able to find my reviews on The StoryGraph, in addition to Goodreads. My handle is JoReadsBooks

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ARC Review: THE REDPOINT CRUX by Morgan Shamy (2020)

Rating: 4/5 stars
Genre: Young Adult Thriller
Year Release: June 2020
Source: NetGalley eARC
Buy links: Amazon | Barnes and Noble

Read a NetGalley eARC
Trigger warning: Suicide, mental illness episodes, murder, blood

Phantom of the Opera was one of my major fascinations when I was a child and it’s exciting to find a book that’s a beat-for-beat retelling with a bit of a different focus. In this tale, Megan Van Helsburg has been running from her theatrical past until her mountaineering career tanks and she finds herself back at a theater once terrorized by the Bridegroom Killer. The murders have started again and a mysterious stranger has taken a liking to her.

I really enjoyed how Shamy incorporated her expertise in ballet throughout the narrative. It felt very organic to the story. The new additions, like the mountaineering, also folded in very well, both from a character growth perspective and from a way that different types of physical activities build on each other. In addition, the book takes a Black Swan angle when it comes to the depiction of mental illness. It worked for me, but this might not be true for other readers. I appreciated the nuance of there being no cure and that sometimes “love” becomes mistakenly coupled with cruelty and this is challenged throughout.

The romance between Bellamy and Megan also worked, but what really struck out to me was how much there was a focus of friendship between Megan and Jane and Megan and Luke. In the original narrative, these side characters did not get much of a spotlight. Luke gets his own POV, and I really liked Jane’s arc.

A darkly romantic, twisted tale of legacy and the things people will do for the people they love, all taking place in a ballet theater.

May 2020 Reading Recap

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May featured the Nebulas and continued work on myself during this unemployed time.

No special posts this month, but definitely an interview with K.A. Doore coming your way in June.

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April 2020 Reading Recap

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Good-bye April, the shortest month this year. I have gone through a lot of sudden changes, but there are always more books to read. I even discovered two new favorites this month, which feels exciting.

This month, I also interviewed Aleksandra Ross to celebrate the release of her debut novel, Don’t Call the Wolf and I had outlined a plan to improve my craft. I will be saving the craft reads for their own post.

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ARC Review: ALL YOUR TWISTED SECRETS by Diana Urban (2020)

Rating: 5/5 stars
Genre: Young Adult Thriller
Year Release: March 2020
Source: Edelweiss ARC

Read an ARC acquired via Edelweiss

Six students—star athlete, queen bee, valedictorian, stoner, loner, and music geek—are invited to a scholarship dinner where they are presented with a bomb, a syringe, and a note saying that they choose one of them to die or they do.

This book delivers on all the tensions expected from a locked-room thriller. Urban expertly balances the stress in that room with the events of the year prior. Each revelations feeds into the next interaction. It is stressful from start to finish, but the teens feel so real, that the jokes amid the horror stick every landing. The author writes such relatable teen characters—and does a careful job not falling into the trope of cliques. I found myself both cringing and nodding along during the “before” segments because, wow.

There is not much I can say about the ending because when all the secrets come out, your jaw will be on the floor, and then you’ll have to read the book again with a new perspective.

Review: FOUL IS FAIR by Hannah Capin (2020)

Rating: 5/5 stars
Genre: Young adult contemporary
Year Release: 2020
Source: Audible audiobook

Listened to the audiobook
Content warnings can be found on the author’s website

This book blew my mind. I had been seeing so much hype for this cathartic young adult retelling of Macbeth, I just had to jump in.

The hype was so real.

Elle goes out with her friends on her sweet sixteen. The night takes a horrible turn when untouchable, privileged white boys make her the target of their sick idea of “fun.” Instead of relying on any judicial system, Elle cuts off her hair, transforms into Jade, and takes justice into her own hands. She infiltrates St. Andrew’s Prep to get her bloody revenge on those golden boys.

Capin does not shy away from the horror of what had been done to Jade. The sharp prose only enhances the rage and venom seeping through the page. Jade’s scheming and voice are simply excellent, with the more stream-of-conscious narration working super well. In some places, the plot and descriptions become so over-the-top to the point of delightful. The murders are so intricately spaced out, keeping the tension tight from start to finish. I found myself cheering Jade on in her vengeance and in her manipulation of Mack in particular.

The fact that Capin included Jade’s parents who agreed to her transferring schools was, honestly, an unexpected touch. This novel leans deeply into its own dark revenge fantasy. No one tells Jade that her methods are questionable at best or tries to stop her, but that is part of the magic of this book.

Breath-taking, suspenseful, and delightfully violent, Foul is Fair is a perfect addition to books starring female rage like The Female of the Species and Sadie.

Review: THE WHISPER MAN by Alex North (2019)

Rating: 4/5 stars
Genre: Adult Thriller
Year Release: 2019
Source: Library audiobook

Listened to the audiobook

Trigger warnings: Child murder, blood, child abduction, alcoholism

Listening to this book on audio was certainly a choice. When I finish a long reading project like Kushiel’s Dart, I need a bit of a breather from long science fiction and fantasy. A contemporary thriller was such a great idea. And Christopher Eccleston did the audio? A bonus!

What a surprise of a novel this was. Equal parts police procedural and family drama, The Whisper Man is a spine-tingling time. In the village of Featherbank, Tom and his six-year-old son, Jake, seek a fresh start after tragedy strikes their family, only to find out that a copycat has been following the format of grizzly child murders which took place prior.

Where this book shines is its exploration of grief and family. So much time was spent going through the things lost to “smaller” tragedies and the ways that kids and adults deal with their problems. Jake has his imaginary friends, DI Pete turns to alcohol, and Tom has anxiety over trying his absolute best to be both parents. The way this novel handles its antagonist also fascinated me. Revealing the scoundrel at the very end could be tracked from start to finish, but this book is definitely more about the journey than the reveal.

Terrifying in times that left me suppressing screams, The Whisper Man is more about family than anything else, so definitely give this thriller a read.

Author to Author with Wendy Heard #TheKillClub

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Happy book day to The Kill Club! Wendy Heard’s sophomore book taking place in Los Angeles about a young woman who turns towards a secret murder group to get her younger brother out of the hands of their zealous foster mother. It’s intricate, it’s stressful, and it is so Los Angeles. Wendy answers some questions below about the research that went into this twisty thriller and the inspiration behind the story.

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