Author to Author with Ryan Douglass

The Taking of Jake Livingston tells the story of the eponymous medium, hunted by the ghost of a teen who committed a mass shooting years before. This book is the kind of scary where I read bits of it through splayed fingers. Jake is one of my new favorite horror protagonists, and all I wanted for him was a happy ending and some peace. The prose is atmospheric and horrifying while also touching on less supernatural fears like being a bit of an outcast and the only Black kid in a private school.

Today, I’m thrilled to celebrate author Ryan Douglass’s debut day with an interview about the process of crafting this spooky read. XOXO, Sierra also put together a debut box with a finished copy of the book and related goodies. Check it out here.

Buy Links: Bookshop.org | Unabridged Books | Audiobook

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Review: LUCK OF THE TITANIC by Stacey Lee (2021)

Genre: Young Adult Historical Fiction
Year Release: 2021
Source: Library Audiobook

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook
Content warnings: racism, racial slurs,. freezing to death, drowning

The story of the Titanic fascinated me as a child. The luxury, the hubris, and specific ironic tragedy captivated me. But now as I’m older, I gravitate towards the individual stories of passengers. When I saw that a young adult novel about fictional characters had been coming out, I was thrilled.

Valora Luck gets a ticket on the Titanic where her twin brother Jamie who’s on his way to America in search of work. Because of policies like the Chinese Exclusion Act in the U.S., Valora has to sneak her way on board and gain passage into America using acrobatics and cleverness to win over an associate of Ringling Brothers.

Immersive in a way that made me periodically remind myself that there was a major maritime disaster on the way, this is a must-read for those who additional details and contexts about the people who found themselves on that doomed voyage.

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June 2021 Reading Recap

June was my birth month! I also finished writing an entire project! It’s an exciting time of reconnecting with myself and art, and it’s been lovely. I also spent a lot of time at the gym getting into the rowing machine and preparing for my big move in August.

I am so excited to have hosted Fran Wilde to cheer on The Ship of Stolen Words and Jen Karner to celebrate the release of their debut, Cinders of Yesterday.

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ARC Review: THE TAKING OF JAKE LIVINGSTON by Ryan Douglass (2021)

Genre: Young Adult Horror
Year Release: July 2021
Buy Links: Bookshop.org | Unabridged Books | Audiobook

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Read a NetGalley eARC
Content warning: Gore, school shooting, revenge porn, attempted rape, bullying, homophobia, abuse by parents

Jake Livingston is one of the only Black student at St. Claire’s Prep. The ghosts reliving their deaths and ghouls following him don’t make high school any easier. When a mass shooter from the town’s recent past decides to pick Jake as his next target, it’s a race against escalating violence as Jake comes into his powers as a medium to banish the spirit once and for all.

An atmospherically horrifying new voice in horror that had me reading this book through splayed fingers from start to finish, while clinging onto the hope for a happy-for-now ending for Jake.

Author Ryan Douglass will be featured on the blog on release day, July 13.

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Review: FIREKEEPER’S DAUGHTER by Angeline Boulley (2021)

Genre: Young Adult Thriller
Year Release: 2021
Source: Library Audiobook

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook
Trigger warning: Drug abuse, gun violence, rape (depicted, fade-to-black), microaggressions against indigenous people, vomiting, drug overdose, murder, kidnapping

Taking place on the border between the U.S. and Canada, this thriller follows Daunis Fontaine, a biracial, dorky, 18-year-old who deferred college enrollment to take care of her mother and grandmother. A newcomer captures Daunis’ attention and hidden truths come to light when she witnesses a murder. The body count starts climbing and the source of harrowing trouble might hit closer to home than initially expected.

Heart-breaking as it is beautifully written, Boulley presents a thriller that’s as much about the power of community and honoring those around you as it is about the terrible ways the drug trade ravages communities.

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ARC Review: MEET CUTE DIARY by Emery Lee (2021)

Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Year Release: May 2021
Buy Links: Bookshop.org | Unabridged Books | Audiobook

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Read a NetGalley eARC
Content warning: Vomiting, panic attack

Noah Ramirez runs a blog called Meet Cute Diary, a collection of short stories about trans people meeting the love of their lives in increasingly adorable ways. He writes most of the stories and an online troll calls it out in online-public ways. Noah’s also spending the summer in Denver with his brother as his parents move from Florida to California. To save the blog, he strikes up a fake relationship with a local while trying to balance the blog situation and a new job at a summer camp.

This book is adorable and refreshingly young as far as young adult protagonists go. Meet Cute Diary is a delightful light-hearted summer romp.

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Review: BENT HEAVENS by Daniel Kraus (2020)

Genre: Young Adult Science Fiction
Year Release: 2020
Source: Chicago Public Library

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Content warnings: Torture, PTSD, poverty, psychosis, blood, bullying

Liv Flemming retreated from all but her best friend Doug when her dad went missing two years prior to the start of the story. Lee Flemming claimed to have been captured by aliens, and his ensuing psychotic episodes made him a bit of a lost cause to the town’s authorities. But when an unidentified humanoid winds up in the woods behind her house, Liv will stop at nothing to find out what really happened to her father.

Pissed all the way off and horrifying, this book has twists and turns with a compelling character arc of understanding and the prices paid for the truth.

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Review: WHAT BEAUTY THERE IS by Cory Anderson (2021)

Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Thriller
Year Release: 2021
Source: Library Audiobook

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook
Content warning: Hanging, drug-related crimes and violence, meth, poverty, violence against children, emotional abuse, blood, death of mothers

This contemporary thriller follows brothers Jack and Matty, whose father is in jail and her mother had just died by suicide. With funds dwindling, older brother Jack choose money to keep himself and his brother out of the foster care system. Except for the fact that a scoundrel named Bardem chases after them. A detective also tries to make heads and tails of the trail of bodies, but everyone is hardly a half-step ahead of the others.

A book that makes great use of its wintery setting in theme and tone, this tale of brothers tugs at the heartstrings something fierce as they rely on each other and another fellow child to make it to the other side.


This book is as brutal as its prose is beautiful. There were times I had to pause the audiobook because a line or a turn of phrase stopped me in its place. Or, in the opposite direction, some absolutely bananas turn comes out and the reader scrambles as much as the characters to figure out the next step. It works on a character and plot-level. With break-neck pacing and deliberate pauses for character development, Anderson shows deft guidance but also lets the reader experience this fraught journey.

While Jack wears his heart on his sleeve, Ava is a mystery that slowly unravels. We know from her introduction that Bardem is her father, and he raised her to be as closed-off from the goodness in the world as he is. This book toes the line between survival and cruelty, especially in her POV. She could have abandoned the brothers at any turn, but stays to help. The tension can be cut with a knife. But there is so much tenderness, of kids recognizing the hurt in each other. It’s so beautifully done, it hurts.

For those who need it, there is a puppy in the final act, and he makes it to the end.

Review: THE MIRROR SEASON by Anna-Marie McLemore (2021)

Genre: Young Adult Magical Realism Contemporary
Year Release: 2021
Source: Physical copy

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Content warnings: Graphic depiction and discussion of sexual assault, slurs, PTSD

The book opens with Ciela, having just been assaulted, bringing a boy, who had also been assaulted at the same party, to the hospital, and she leaves them to the nurse’s care without ever finding out his name. Summer ends, and he is the new transfer student, whose name is Lock. What unfolds is a heavy, heavy book about healing, survival, and navigating the truth of what happened that night, while magic unfolds and folds apart around them. Trees vanish and mirrors take the place of the natural world.

The imagery in this book is absolutely the beautiful, the writing, atmospheric and evocative. But what really carries the story is the tenderness between Lock and Ciela as they grow closer, deal with the students who assaulted them, and learn the causes behind the magic unraveling and reforming.

It reminded me a lot of Liz Lawson’s The Lucky Ones in that the path to survival and healing isn’t neat, isn’t linear, and yet, the book ends on an uncertain, but hopeful note.

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ARC Review: THE INITIAL INSULT (#1) by Mindy McGinnis (2021)

Genre: Young Adult Thriller
Year Release: February 2021
Buy Links: Bookshop.org| Unabridged Books | Libro.fm

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Read an ARC from NetGalley
Content warning: dead parents, seizures, car accidents, animal cruelty, animal death (off-screen), drug abuse, vomiting, bleeding

This book is so fun, in as much fun as a story about a friendship falling apart can be. Filled to the brim with Edgar Allan Poe references, this book is a treat. Tress Montor lives with Cecil, her grandfather and guardian, who lives in a trailer next to a questionably-legal zoo. Her former best friend Felicity Turnado has the disappearance of Tress’s parents to answer for. Then comes the Halloween party, then the wall, and the secrets come tumbling out.

The pacing in this book is simply delightful and there’s even segments from the point of view of a panther. Fun from start to finish.

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