[Review] IT NEVER HAPPENED by H. Pike, 4 out of 5 stars

About the Book

Title: It Never Happened
Author: H. Pike
Release Date: April 30, 2020
Pages: 292 pp.
Find it on: Amazon

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Review

After years of being abused by her uncle every time they go for a ride, Campbell’s plight ends in a car crash. She wakes up in a hospital bed badly injured, and her uncle is in a coma. Despite this, Cammy is sure that someone connected to her uncle is still out to get her. With her current condition, she misses one of the most important performances as a Houston City School of the Arts student. She and her best friend, McKinley, have this dream of being part of the Portland Dance Company (PDC) ever since they were kids. Asher, McKinley’s boyfriend, also dreams of being in the PDC so they wouldn’t be apart. Cammy knows deep inside that because of her talent, McKinley can get in any world-class dance group her heart desires, not just in PDC. But she can’t say the same for Asher. After the performance, McKinley and Asher immediately get an offer from PDC. Both of them are ecstatic but Campbell tells her best friend to think about it first. All goes well until McKinley mysteriously disappears.

H. Pike’s It Never Happened is a fast-paced and action-packed mystery. With a unique plot and a nail-biting turn of events, this book is definitely unputdownable. The story is complex; the characters’ motivations are deep and clear. The foreshadowing is done well in the first few chapters. In the latter part of the book, however, things get a bit predictable and rushed. The falling action is cut short and the resolution is squeezed in just a few sentences. In spite of these shortcomings, this heart-warming and empowering read is still worth recommending to readers looking for a short but thrilling read.

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This book was reviewed for Readers’ Favorite. For more bookish content and honest reviews, check my sidebar: follow me here and on the rest of my social media accounts.

[Review] THE PACEMAKER by Imania Margria, 4 out of 5 stars

About the Book

Title: THE PACEMAKER
Author: Imania Margria
Release Date: November 11, 2019
Genre: New Adult, Paranormal, Mystery
Find it on: Goodreads | Amazon | Booklife

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Review

Minerva Walsh cannot remember anything before her eighteenth birthday and she doesn’t know why. All her life, she believes she’s been unlucky and miserable until she wins the lottery scholarship at Calendula University — the best in the city of Amaryllis. She did not expect to receive this good news because she has never even applied. After clearing things up with the headmaster and her student mentor, Hailee, she decides she’s going to take this chance and turn her life around. But how can she make the most out of this opportunity when a few days before classes start, she discovers something dark living inside her and gets involved with the most popular guys (princes) in school. What’s worse is that these “princes” have a huge obsessive following whose leader is determined to bring her down.

Imania Margria’s The Pacemaker is a paranormal mystery with a touch of romance. The characters are written well; their build-up and development reveal how good Margria is with her craft. The mystery is exhilarating, but the romance falls flat. While there is tension between Minerva and the princes, their relationship does not carefully grow from friends to something more. Suddenly, they are attracted to each other and want more. Also, the themes of obsession and social status unnecessarily take so much time that they get in the way of the story’s mystery. On a more positive note, this is a perfect example of a feminist read where both sexes treat each other equally, get along, and work together to make a better society. The Pacemaker is the first installment in the series and it’s a nice start to the rest of the books.

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This book was reviewed for Readers’ Favorite. For more bookish content and honest reviews, check my sidebar: follow me here and on the rest of my social media accounts.

[Review] BOUNDARIES by Jessica Aiken-Hall, 4 out of 5 stars

About the Book

Title: Boundaries
Author: Jessica Aiken-Hall
Publisher: Moonlit Madness Press
Find it on: Goodreads | Amazon

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Review

Valerie Williamson, or just Val, is dubbed by her colleagues at Lawrenceville Regional Hospital as The Anti-social Social Worker. For sixteen years, she has closed off her world to everyone but her cat, Gabriel, after going through a traumatic event. Now, at thirty-four, she can’t say her life is perfect, but at least her job as a deceased patient coordinator keeps her going. Everything changes when her boss tells her that she will be leading a trauma support group. She is startled by this because, first of all, she is more comfortable dealing with the dead than with the living, and second, how can she comfort people with trauma when she herself can’t even talk about her past? Then, there’s this suicide case of a nineteen-year-old girl that’s keeping her awake at night. And that detective who’s been patient with her all these years is growing on her. With all these, can Val keep her boundaries in check?

The fact that the book itself carries trigger warnings is commendable; that is how it should be, especially when dealing with sensitive topics. A whirlwind of murder mystery, cheesy romance, and family drama, Jessica-Aiken Hall’s Boundaries both shocks and comforts.  It teaches everyone how to properly take care of people and at the same time shows that sometimes, the best way is to take matters into your own hands as the justice system is rubbish. It’s heavy yet inspiring; it’s dark but it’s beautiful. Equipped with the right pacing, angst, and a bit of comedy, the only problem with this book is that the ending feels rushed. Being the first installment in the Scope of Practice series, Boundaries holds a lot of promise and puts pressure on the next one.

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Trigger warnings include murder, child abuse, domestic violence, drugs, rape, pregnancy, borderline personality disorder, and a dysfunctional parent. ⁣⁣⁣This book was reviewed for Readers’ Favorite. For more bookish content and honest reviews, check my sidebar: follow me here and on the rest of my social media accounts.

[Tour + Giveaway + Review] THE SILENCE OF BONES by June Hur, 4 out of 5 stars

About the Book

The Silence of Bones
by June Hur
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends (April 21, 2020)
Genre: Young Adult, Mystery, Historical Fiction
Find it on: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Book Depository | Kobo | Google Books

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Blurb

I have a mouth, but I mustn’t speak;
Ears, but I mustn’t hear;
Eyes, but I mustn’t see.

1800, Joseon (Korea). Homesick and orphaned sixteen-year-old Seol is living out the ancient curse: “May you live in interesting times.” Indentured to the police bureau, she’s been tasked with assisting a well-respected young inspector with the investigation into the politically charged murder of a noblewoman.

As they delve deeper into the dead woman’s secrets, Seol forms an unlikely bond of friendship with the inspector. But her loyalty is tested when he becomes the prime suspect, and Seol may be the only one capable of discovering what truly happened on the night of the murder.

But in a land where silence and obedience are valued above all else, curiosity can be deadly. June Hur’s elegant and haunting debut The Silence of Bones is a bloody tale perfect for fans of Kerri Maniscalco and Renée Ahdieh.

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Excerpt

Click here to read an excerpt.

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Review

Inspector Han orders Damo Seol, a servant girl working for the Capital Police Bureau, to assist him while investigating Lady O’s corpse. This is Korea in the 1800s, under the Joseon dynasty, where men are not allowed to touch women, even dead ones, except for family members. This gruesome murder initially thought to be related to power is more than meets the eye, as more secrets unravel and more people get involved. Seol is a bit overwhelmed by Inspector Han’s kindness, as he’s the only one who treats her more like a thinking person instead of a good-for-nothing slave. But when the evidence to this murder points to him, will Seol remain loyal to her dear inspector?

June Hur’s The Silence of Bones crescendoes from a seemingly plain narrative to a nerve-racking murder mystery. It is a feminist read with the protagonist carrying just the right amount of grit and not trying too hard. Culturally rich and engaging, this book takes the extra mile in showing, not just telling, what was happening in Korea back then. But more importantly, it also shows what real friendship is like, and how seeking acceptance outside and not within can be deadly. While entertaining, there are moments when the plot seems elementary and the writing needs to be refined. A heart-wrenching and a hair-raising story about family, loyalty, and betrayal, The Silence of Bones is sure to keep you wide awake at night.

Trigger warnings include graphic injuries, class discrimination, sexism, violence, murder, torture, and suicide.

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Giveaway

Win a $30 gift card from an indie bookstore (US & Canada only). This giveaway runs from April 15 to April 29, 2020. Click here to enter.

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About of Author

Goodreads | Website | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest

JUNE HUR (‘Hur’ as in ‘her’) was born in South Korea and raised in Canada, except for the time when she moved back to Korea and attended high school there. Most of her work is inspired by her journey through life as an individual, a dreamer, and a Christian, with all its confusions, doubts, absurdities and magnificence. She studied History and Literature at the University of Toronto, and currently works for the public library. She lives in Toronto with her husband and daughter.

Her debut novel THE SILENCE OF BONES (Feiwel & Friends/Macmillan, April 2020) is a murder mystery set in Joseon Dynasty Korea (early 1800s), and also a coming-of-age tale about a girl searching for home. It was recently selected by the American Booksellers Association as one of the top debuts of Winter/Spring 2020.

She is represented by Amy Bishop of Dystel, Goderich & Bourret LLC.

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Tour Schedule

Click the banner to learn more about this Fantastic Flying Book Club tour. For more bookish content and honest reviews, check my sidebar: follow me here and on the rest of my social media accounts.

[Review] THE RED LOTUS by Chris Bohjalian, 5 out of 5 stars

About the Book

Title: The Red Lotus
Author: Chris Bohjalian
Publisher: Doubleday (March 17, 2020)
Pages: 400 pp.
Find it on: Amazon | Apple Books | B&N | IndieBound | Penguin Random House

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Review

After six months of dating, Austin brings Alexis to Vietnam for a vacation, specifically for a bike tour. Everything is going well until Austin mysteriously disappears and dies. Looking at the evidence, it’s easy to believe that it was a hit-and-run. But Alexis begs to disagree. When she discovers that Austin had lied to her about his relatives and the real nature of this trip, she is devastated. But being the fighter that she is, she gets back up soon enough and hires a PI to find answers. With the PI, Alexis, and the Vietnam police officer, Quang, working together, they discover more about Austin and rats.

Unassumingly, this book is all about making bioweapons to cause a pandemic (how timely). There are frequent mentions of technical terms, but they don’t make the sequence boring at all. Slow-paced, suspenseful, and compelling, Chris Bohjalian’s The Red Lotus is perfect in every way. While the premise sounds familiar, it’s the twists and turns that make it stand out. There seems to be a lot going on and they’re slowly creeping in, and then the answers come and everything fits together. The characters are well-written and deep — their motivations are clear. Also feminist and heart-warming, this book is highly recommended to fans of thriller and literary fiction.

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Trigger warnings include self-harm, violence, graphic injuries, Vietnam war flashbacks, sex, car accident, cancer, grotesque description of rats, and cheating. Thanks to Edelweiss+ and Doubleday for giving me a copy in exchange for an honest review.⁣⁣ For more bookish content and honest reviews, check my sidebar: follow me here and on the rest of my social media accounts.

[Review] SEASON OF THE GHOST by Don Meyer, 4 out of 5 stars

About the Book

Title: Season of the Ghost
Author: Don Meyer
Publisher: Two Peas Publishing (March 10, 2020)
Pages: 266 pp.
Find it on: Goodreads | Google Books

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Review

Sheriff Joe Redfield does not believe in ghosts. But when mysterious deaths occur in his county for two consecutive winters, he starts to think otherwise. Two couples, Tiffany, Josh, Suzanne, and Zeke, agree to stay in a mountain resort cabin on behalf of a workmate who suddenly couldn’t go. On a frigid Friday night, another couple, Sarah and Ryan, who seems to be the cabin’s caretaker, welcomes them with booze, food, and drugs. While having fun, they discover this couple’s weird tricks. The weirdest and probably most repulsive is the one they find on Saturday morning — Sarah outside the center window, completely frozen. Ryan reassures them that Sarah is completely fine, but the two couples don’t buy it. They report this to Sheriff Redfield and from that point on, what was believed to be a ghost story turns out to be a sick series of murder.⁣ ⁣

Dark and with great imagery, this murder mystery takes its time in telling its gripping story. There is a push-and-pull of wanting to finish the book right away to get to the bottom of it and to take things slow to calm the nerves. Although the plot is a winner, the characters need to be written better, as most of them lack a solid background. Several dialogues are either redundant or beating around the bush. Typo errors are also widely present, but the book is still good nonetheless. Trigger warnings include drugs, violence, sexual harassment, sex, multiple murders, and an unwell mental state.⁣ ⁣

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This book was reviewed for Readers’ Favorite. For more bookish content and honest reviews, check my sidebar: follow me here and on the rest of my social media accounts.

[Blog Tour + Giveaway + Review] ALL YOUR TWISTED SECRETS by Diana Urban, 5 out of 5 stars

About the Book

Title: All Your Twisted Secrets
Author: Diana Urban
Publisher: HarperTeen (March 17, 2020)
Genre: Young Adult, Mystery, Suspense, Contemporary
Find it on: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | iTunes | Book Depository | Kobo

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Blurb

This thrilling debut, reminiscent of new fan favorites like One of Us Is Lying and the beloved classics by Agatha Christie, will leave readers guessing until the explosive ending.

Welcome to dinner, and again, congratulations on being selected. Now you must do the selecting.

What do the queen bee, star athlete, valedictorian, stoner, loner, and music geek all have in common? They were all invited to a scholarship dinner, only to discover it’s a trap. Someone has locked them into a room with a bomb, a syringe filled with poison, and a note saying they have an hour to pick someone to kill … or else everyone dies.

Amber Prescott is determined to get her classmates and herself out of the room alive, but that might be easier said than done. No one knows how they’re all connected or who would want them dead. As they retrace the events over the past year that might have triggered their captor’s ultimatum, it becomes clear that everyone is hiding something. And with the clock ticking down, confusion turns into fear, and fear morphs into panic as they race to answer the biggest question: Who will they choose to die?

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Excerpt

My pulse raced as I stared at the syringe of poison and the bomb atop the gleaming silver platter. Within the hour, you must choose someone in this room to die. If you don’t, everyone dies.

“That’s one sick prank,” said Robbie. “Who the hell would do this?” He grabbed the note from me, his eyes darting across the page. Diego leaned against the edge of the table, studying the bomb.

“Wait, wait, wait.” Sasha clutched her throat. “Does that mean . . . if we don’t kill one of us, that bomb will go off in an hour?”

Scott burst out laughing.

“What the hell is so funny?” asked Sasha.

He leaned back in his chair. “It’s obviously a joke, and you fell for it like an anvil.”

“Doesn’t seem very funny to me,” muttered Robbie.

“Who would do this?” Priya cried. “Who would think up something so awful?”

“Did anyone see who shut the door?” I asked. Priya and Scott shook their heads.

“No.” Diego slumped back into his seat. “I didn’t see anyone.”

“Me neither,” said Sasha. “I was too busy talking to that creep.” She motioned toward Scott, and he scoffed.

“Someone probably stood behind the door and pushed it closed,” said Diego.

Priya visibly shivered. “Does that mean someone was hiding behind the door the whole time?”

“And are they still out there?” My voice shook slightly.

Robbie slammed the note on the table and scooted his chair back with a screech, making me jump. “This is ridiculous.” He rounded his chair and pounded on the door. “Hey! Unlock the door!” His jaw tightened when nobody replied. “This isn’t funny. Unlock the door now!”

“Oh my God,” said Priya. Sasha took slow, deep breaths, trying to keep calm, but her eyes darted around the room frantically.

“Robbie.” I rushed toward him, grabbing his hand. “Calm down. It’s just some morbid joke. I’m sure they’ll get bored and let us out.”

He shook me off and knelt, peering with one eye into the large keyhole below the doorknob. “There’s no key.”

“I didn’t hear a lock click or anything,” Sasha added.

“It all happened so fast.” I touched the oak door, the wood cool under my palm, and turned back to the group. “Think they’re still out there?”

Robbie shrugged. “Who the hell knows?”

“Hello?” I called out. “Is anyone there?”

“This is bullshit.” Robbie kicked the door. “What kind of sick psycho would—”

“Shhh.” I waved him off and pressed my ear against the door, but all I could hear was Priya muttering, “Oh my God, oh my God,” over and over again. “Priya, shut up,” I said. She clamped her lips shut, her eyes glassy.

I pressed my ear against the door again, straining to hear something. A voice. Footsteps. Someone breathing. Anything. But all I could hear were the muffled baritones and strings from the orchestral music playing in the main dining room.

“Nothing?” asked Diego.

I shook my head and knelt, peeking through the keyhole. My heart raced as I held my breath. Years of watching horror movies had trained me to expect an eyeball to appear on the other side. My whole body tensed, ready to leap backward.

But all I could see was one of the red-cushioned booths across the main dining room. There was no movement of any kind. “There’s nobody there.” I stood and turned back to the group. “I don’t see anything.”

“Damn, it’s so hot in here.” Sasha touched the back of her hand to her forehead.

“It really is.” I wiped my upper lip and scanned the walls. “Crap. The thermostat must be out in the main dining room.”

“It’s gotten worse since we got here.” Priya tugged on her hair. “I just want to go home.”

I gasped and bit my lip. Home. I forgot to text Mom when Robbie and I got here. “Oh, no.” I grabbed my phone from the table and raised it toward the ceiling, but I had no signal whatsoever. Sasha tried the same thing, stretching toward the windows facing the alley.

“Nothing,” she confirmed. “I can’t get anything.”

“Crap, crap, crap.” My chest tightened like a vise squeezing my heart. What if something terrible did happen here tonight? What was the last thing I said to my mother as I ran out the door? Did I tell her I loved her? When was the last time I told my parents I loved them? A chill tore through me despite the room’s warmth, and I shook the morbid thought away. This was just a prank. It wasn’t real.

“Oh my God.” Sasha hunched over, hugging herself around the middle. “This can’t be happening.”

“So what do we do?” asked Robbie.

Sasha straightened and rubbed her forehead with trembling fingers. “I can’t believe this is happening. What if we’re really going to have to do this? What if they really make us kill one of us?”

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Review

Amber and five of her friends have been selected for the Brewster Town Hall Scholarship. They get invited to dine with the mayor to celebrate this achievement. What they’re hoping to be a night full of warm smiles and delicious food turns out to be a disaster. The mayor doesn’t show up and they get locked up in a private dining room with no reception at all. What’s worse is that they are the only guests for the evening and there’s no way to escape.

On the table are a poisoned syringe, a note, and a bomb that goes off in an hour. The note says they have to pick someone to kill with the syringe, or the bomb goes off and they all die. They assume that this is just a prank but can’t help but panic as the countdown goes. What if it’s real? Secrets are spilled and true colors are revealed. Can one life be measured by success and appearance? Who’s to say that one life is more worthy of saving than the rest?

This YA mystery is fast-paced and hard to put down. The writing is crafty as the story mostly deals with six people contained in one room. That is hard to pull off but the interaction is balanced and no one gets left behind. It starts with the present and then flashbacks. The past reconnects to the present, and the pattern continues. Each chapter is a revelation; the characters are well-written and their backgrounds are realistic. This Breakfast Club/Saw/Mean Girls is highly recommended to all the mystery fans out there. TWs include bullying, suicide, car accident, hypoglycemia, abusive parents, drugs, gaslighting, and depression.

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About the Author

Website | Goodreads | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Pinterest

I’m Diana Urban, and I write dark, twisty thrillers for teens including All Your Twisted Secrets (HarperTeen, March 17, 2020). When I’m not torturing fictional characters, I’m a marketing manager at BookBub, a leading book discovery platform. Outside the bookish world, I live with my husband and cat in Boston, and enjoy reading, video games, fawning over cute animals, and looking at the beach from a safe distance.

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Giveaway

Win 1 of 2 copies of ALL YOUR TWISTED SECRETS by Diana Urban (US-only). This giveaway runs from March 17 to March 31, 2020. Click here to enter.

For more chances of winning, you may also join the giveaway on Instagram. Follow @books_andpoetrii and check my All Your Twisted Secrets post.

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Tour Schedule

Click the banner below to see the complete schedule for this Fantastic Flying Book Club blog tour.