*Thank you so much to Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group for sending me an ARC in exchange for an honest review, and for having me on the tour!*
Coming at you with another mood board! I have found I tend to do mine based on what is in the book, rather than try to color match all the photos. Hope you like!
I really enjoyed this book! It was slow but a good slow. A good cozy slow, if that makes sense. It is a perfect winter read. I definitely want to visit this place! Everything seemed so magical!
Sophie is an extremely likable character. She is nice, helpful, but when it really comes down to it she will stick up for herself. She is quite funny. She asks herself “What would Jesus do?” but then decides that no one is as perfect as Jesus, so she asks herself “What would Gandhi do?” I thought that was pretty funny. She also finds trouble always on accident. The situations she gets herself into… Like when she meets Ben. She rolls out into the street chasing kids and he almost hits her with his car. Or when she meets Tristan. She is hiding in a closet (avoiding the horrible owner) and thinks the coast is clear and bumps into Tristan instead. I like her conversations with him and with Ben! She’s witty!
Like I said, the plot was a bit slow, but in a good way! It started out being about Sophie’s time at this fancy old timey hotel. But it ends up having quite the twist and turns into a few different mysteries! I would love to solve a mystery in a hotel, in Europe, in the mountains. How cozy is that?!
The writing is beautiful without going overboard. I loved the descriptions of the hotel. It really seems like somewhere I would want to go. And they have a New Years Eve Ball! That would be so much fun! The mystery happened really quickly, within the last 50-100 pages. But I still loved it! It was a very cute book!
Thank you so much to NetGalley for the e-arc and to Inkyard Press for having me on the tour!
This book surprised me with how much I loved it. I honestly thought it was going to be a cute, fun read, which it was BUT there was a lot more depth than I was expecting. And some really good quotes! I have a lot to say about this book so hang on to your horses.
Grandison covered a lot of issues. Race, feminism, community, stereotypes to name a few. I actually thought she did a really good job of it. The way she didn’t go super into each topic but enough to get young readers interested in the seriousness of what is going on.
Tyson, that sweet boy, is amazing. He comes from a neighborhood and home life that wasn’t good. He made the choice to not become a product of his environment. It’s a HARD choice. My husband comes from a similar home life as Tyson (minus the good mom and minus the shooting), so I know it is hard to leave everything you know and were raised to be, to be a better person. The courage Trice had to walk a better path is something to be commended.
Another issue Grandison brought up was how boys are not taught emotions growing up, resulting in them acting out in inappropriate ways. And them thinking they don’t need help/ therapy. This is a HUGE problem with our society.
Nandy was a bit stand offish in the beginning but I liked her character development. She judged Trice (Tyson) to be someone bad, just because where he came from. And she quickly found out she was wrong about him. She then turned quite likable and a great character to read about. I loved how she saw the good in everyone.
And lastly, the lerrrrve. Okay, it was cute. They met and were friends as kids then reconnected as teens. It sort of reminded me of Sweet Home Alabama in that sense. Absolutely adorable. And they went from friends, to enemies, to lovers. It’s my favorite trope.
I honestly could write a lot more about this book but I don’t want to give away spoilers and what the characters have to go through! And I don’t want this to take a million years to read.
1 | TRICE
Getting shot isn’t the worst part. It’s the aftermath that really fucks you up.
Six months ago, on a dark December night, I was lying in a pool of my own blood on the living room floor. Six months later, I was sitting in a car on the way to a new town to start fresh. In some ways, yeah, the wound had healed. In others, it never would. I didn’t care, though. The last thing I’d cared about got me where I was.
“You’ll like it there, Tyson. The Smiths have prepared a new home for you,” Misty from social services was saying as she drove the long stretch of highway toward Pacific Hills. It was only an hour away from where I used to live in Lindenwood, California.
I didn’t respond. Home was a meaningless word to me now.
Misty peeked at me. “Aren’t you going to say anything?”
“I can leave as soon as I turn eighteen, right?” That was all that mattered. Fuck the rest. Five months, aka one hundred and sixty days, to go. On November twelfth, I’d be free.
Misty sighed. “Look, I know what you’re going through—”
“Word? You’ve been shot too and all’at?” I glanced her way. This lady was going home to a million-thread-count sheet-and-pillowcase set, resting easy once I was off her hands.
Fuck outta here.
“Well, no, but—”
“Then shut up.” I faced the road ahead, done talking.
Misty let out a breath, her light tan skin no doubt holding a blush upon her cheeks. “Do you kiss your—” She caught herself, as if realizing where she was about to go. “I—I’m sorry. You just shouldn’t speak that way.”
I felt an ache in my chest, but I let it go.
I didn’t care.
Half a beat later Misty was rambling on about food. “Do you wanna stop and get something to eat, you must be starving.”
“I told you I wasn’t hungry.”
“Oh, well, are you nervous?”
I hadn’t thought about being nervous or the fact that I would never return home again and lead a normal life. Not like I’d ever led one to begin with.
“Well, good. Think of it as going to a sleepover at an old friend’s house.”
One thing was true, the Smiths were old friends, but this setup was for the next five months.
“It’s been ten years since I last saw them,” I spoke up. “This ain’t no damn sleepover, and it’s not about to be all kumbaya, neither.”
At least they were black. Moving into the uppity setting of Pacific Hills was sure to be hell, but at least I would be with a black family. Even if I wouldn’t exactly fit in.
I didn’t look the same. I didn’t act the same. I wasn’t the same. And I didn’t care.
“It’s Trice.” I had asked her to call me that from jump street. No one called me Tyson.
I didn’t want to think about that. I didn’t want to think about anything. I didn’t care.
“Trice, please, try? I know it’s been rough these past few months, but you have a chance at something fresh. The Smiths are good people, and Pacific Hills is a lovely town. I’m sure soon you’ll be close to your old self.”
Misty had no clue what she was talking about. My old self? She obviously hadn’t paid attention to my file, or she would’ve been smart enough to leave it at fresh and not bring up my past.
Tyson Trice was dead.
He died on the f loor in the living room that day, and he was never coming back.
When I didn’t respond, Misty let up, probably getting that I didn’t give a shit either way.
I didn’t care.
2 | Nandy
I told myself I didn’t care about the juvenile delinquent my parents were moving into our home. I told myself it was no big deal an ex-con would be sleeping right next door to me. I told myself that my parents hadn’t made the worst decision in everdom.
It was just an everyday occurrence in the Smith household.
Still, it wasn’t fair.
As I paced around the pool in my backyard and complained to my best friend, Erica Yee, over the phone, I expected her to be on my side and console me.
“This was supposed to be a great summer and they pull this?” I whined.
“You can still have a good summer,” Erica responded. “This doesn’t have to be the end.”
But it was the end. My parents hadn’t gone into detail about the boy’s situation, just that he was in a “rough spot” and would be living with us for now. And that he was from Lindenwood, otherwise known as the ghetto.
I’d never gone there, but I’d heard enough stories to know to be cautious. When my parents watched the news, there was always a segment on some tragedy that had happened in Lindenwood. Some high-speed chase, or little kids killed during a drive-by, or a robbery gone wrong among the usual clutter of crime that kept the LPD busy. Lindenwood was notorious for its drugs, thefts, assaults, and murders.
It probably hadn’t been the best idea to stay up lurking on the local news feeds right before the delinquent moved in.
Everything would be ruined.
“It is the end,” I insisted. “I mean, they spent all this time whispering and having these hushed conversations behind closed doors, and they barely revealed last night that he’s from Lindenwood!”
Maybe I was acting childishly, but I felt like a kid with the way my parents had shut me out on the biggest detail of all when it came to the boy coming to stay with us out of nowhere. For two weeks, they’d been scarce on the topic and evaded any and all questions. Now it felt like they’d dropped a bomb on me.
For all I knew, this kid was a total ex-gangbanger and my parents were intent on opening our home to wayward souls.
Precautions? I was definitely taking them.
“Right now, you’re probably pacing around your pool in a Gucci bikini while your happily-in-love parents are inside preparing dinner together. God, Nan, your life is incredibly boring. You could use this delinquent to spice things up.”
Well, it was a Sunday evening, and the sun was beginning to set. My parents always made dinner together on Sundays, because they were both off work and able to do so.
I stopped pacing and glanced down at my white Gucci bikini. “Yee, you try new hobbies to spice things up, not invite ex-cons to move in with you. Look, whatever, let’s just get away for a few hours. The longer I put a halt on this, the better.”
“When is he supposed to show up?”
“Sometime today. I just wanna blow it off. Maybe you, me, and Chad could grab a bite at the club or something.”
My boyfriend’s family had a reserved table at the local country club. Anything would be better than dinner with the delinquent. I wasn’t 100 percent sure he was a criminal, but I wasn’t taking any chances. When it came to Lindenwood, you couldn’t be too sure.
“You in?” I asked.
“If we must.” Erica pretended to sound exasperated. “Call me with the details in twenty, okay?”
“Deal.” I hung up and sighed, tilting my head back toward the darkening sky and questioning what I had done to deserve this.
It was the first week of June, and school had ended last week. I intended to spend this summer before senior year going to beach bonfires and parties with my friends, lounging around, preparing for cotillion, and just staying as far away from home as possible.
With a plan in motion, I went around my pool and stepped into our family room through the patio doors.
“Shit!” I jumped back, dropping my phone and barely registering the sound of its rough slap against the hardwood floor.
My parents were standing in the room with an Asian woman who was dressed in a violet-red pantsuit. But it was the boy beside her that startled me. He towered over my father, with broad shoulders and a wide chest, and arms that let me know he worked out, even though he seemed drenched in black with his long-sleeved shirt and matching pants. He had deep, dark brown skin with a clean complexion. But what really stood out was his hair. The boy had cornrows braided to the back of his head—well-aged cornrows.
Ugh, he looked so unpolished.
Suddenly I remembered my fallen phone and looked down to discover the screen was cracked. Because things aren’t messed up enough already.
“And you remember our daughter, Nandy.” My mother played it cool, gesturing toward where I’d frozen near the patio doors.
Everyone faced me, looking just as uncomfortable as I felt.
Great, I was making my first impression completely inappropriate in a bikini.
Awkwardly, I waved and forced a smile onto my face, showing off the result of two years of braces.
“Nandy, this may be a little bit of a surprise, but you remember Tyson Trice, don’t you?” my father asked, looking between the two of us.
At first, the name vaguely rang a bell, but then it hit me. Tyson, the boy I’d played with when I was younger. He used to come by in the summers when his grandfather would do lawn work around our subdivision. There’d been a few times during the school year when he’d come by too, but it was mostly a summer thing. Until he stopped coming altogether.
The revelation brought a sense of relief followed quickly by a foreign anger that I couldn’t explain.
That was then; this is now.
Now Tyson Trice had hit a mega growth spurt and stood before me nearly a man, appearing not at all like the seventeen years young that we both were.
“Right.” I nodded my head. “Tyson, hey.”
Tyson didn’t shift focus to my body. He stared straight into my eyes and bore no friendly expression or a tell of what he was thinking. He was far across the room, but I didn’t need to be right up on him to know that he had the angriest eyes I’d ever seen. Dark, soulless abysses stared at me, making me shiver.
Right on, Dad. Thanks for inviting a possible murderer into our home.
“And this is our son, Jordy.” My mother didn’t miss a beat as she went on, downplaying how awkward everything was.
Jordy, my eleven-year-old little brother, was sitting against the ottoman, playing a video game on his handheld.
Tyson glanced at Jordy, and I felt protective, seeing curiosity briefly cross his face as he laid eyes on my Thai brother.
Jordy looked up from his game. “Hey.”
Tyson lifted a brow and turned to face my parents in that familiar way most outsiders looked at my family once they realized a black family was raising a Thai son.
Jordy smirked, shaking his head. “They wish they could’ve spawned a kid as good-looking as me.”
My father chuckled. “We spoke about adopting for years after having Nandy, and right around the time she was eight, we got approved and Jordy came into our lives.”
“He was just two years old,” my mother gushed. “He was so adorable, we fell in love with him instantly.”
I came more into the room, wanting to shield my brother from Tyson. Someone had to think of the kids.
“Nandy, why don’t you go put some clothes on.” It wasn’t a question. My mother was ordering me to cover up and look more presentable for our guests.
“I was actually on my way out to meet up with Erica, we’ve got this—”
“Right now?” she asked. “We’ve got company.”
I glanced at Tyson, hating him again for spoiling my summer. I’d seen him, and I’d spoken to him. What more did she want?
“Yeah, but Erica and I had plans to go to the country club and talk about cotillion.”
My mother pursed her lips. “Nandy—”
“You know what,” my father stepped in, “that’s a great idea. Nandy could take Tyson and the two could get reacquainted, and that’ll give us time to talk to Ms. Tran here.”
My eyes practically shot out of their sockets. There was no way in hell I’d share a car with Tyson.
After thinking it over, my mother seemed to agree. “That is a great idea. We can all sit down together later.”
My jaw hit the ground.
I shook my head. “You know, never mind, suddenly I’m not as hungry as I thought. In fact, I feel sick to my stomach. I think I’ll go lie down.”
By the way my mother narrowed her eyes, I knew she’d be giving me hell later about my behavior. I didn’t care. It wasn’t fair to me to force some scary-looking guy into my hands to be babysat.
With one final look at the newest arrival to the Smith household, I picked up my phone from the floor and made my way up to my room.
Long after Ms. Tran had left and my mother had scolded me in our family office, I sat in my room, maneuvering with a broken phone as I texted my boyfriend. Going on a hunger strike didn’t last long for me. After having refused to go down for dinner, I was starving.
My cell phone chirped as Chad texted me back.
Me: Thank God
My parents were probably still up, no doubt discussing either my punishment or how we were going to work Tyson into the family.
With their bedroom being in a different wing of our house, sneaking out was always an easy feat. Still, I made sure to keep extra quiet as I crept out of my room and slipped down the staircase.
Chad was waiting for me out front. He’d been pacing back and forth in front of our walk as he waited, and as I stepped outside I was elated to see him.
“I’m thinking sushi, you in?” I asked as I walked past him, heading for his car.
“Yeah, sure. What’s going on?” Chad asked as he caught up to me and fell into step.
I peered up into his blue eyes. “You don’t want to know.”
Chad ran a hand through his auburn hair, appearing confused but conceding. “O-kay, let’s go get some sushi.”
At the feeling of being watched, I glanced back at my house. On the second floor, through one of the large bay windows, I caught sight of a silhouetted figure.
It was him.
I turned back to Chad and reached out and caught his hand. “Yeah, let’s get out of here.”
This was my summer, and no one was getting in the way of that.
Whitney D. Grandison was born and raised in Akron, Ohio, where she currently resides. A lover of stories since she first picked up a book, it’s no surprise she’s taken to writing her own. Some of her works can be found on Wattpad, one of the largest online story sharing platforms, where she has acquired over 30,000 followers and an audience of over fifteen million dedicated readers.
*Thank you so much to the author and MTMC Book Tours for sending me this book!*
I was actually really surprised how fast this colorful, macabre story pulled me in. I was also surprised by how cute I thought the romance was. It is a bit insta-lovey BUT it was more insta-lust than love. Then it turned into more.
I thought Dorothy was kind of funny. She had some really funny come-backs when she was fighting. I enjoyed reading about her! Ardie might be my favorite though! He is just too sweet! Werelion was cute too but more in an animal sort of way. And of course Nick. He ended up being kind of goofy I think. At first I couldn’t figure him out. He was a play boy but also naive in some senses.
I LOVED the story. It was really interesting to see what Oz would be like if Vampires, Werebeasts, Zombies, and Witches were running amok. Each time Dorothy visited a place familiar from the original story, it was overrun with some kind of monster she and her friends needed to fight. Also, I totally want her boots that turn into armor!
It really was a fun read! I would really recommend for Halloween! I want to read book two! The ending of book one makes me nervous but hopeful!
*Thank you to the author for sending me an ARC in exchange for an honest review!*
I am a huge fan of Warwick’s. I am going to try an explain this, her writing makes me feel nostalgia. Below made me feel like watching The Never Ending Story and Labyrinth (It was not in any way based on those, just how it made me feel!). It just felt like my childhood. If that makes any sense.
Apaay has to battle sever weather, wild animals, survive Yuki’s nightmares come to life, survive being a prisoner, and survive Yuki’s punishments. There is a lot Apaay survives. It was very intense at some parts. I loved her never-give-up personality. She fought for those shes loves no matter the cost to herself. And there were high prices for her fight. I actually cried at one point. I NEVER cry reading. It hurt.
One thing I REALLY loved was the healthy and loving friendship she has with Ila! You don’t really see that a lot in books without it turning into a love story or something. I loved them!
Warwick also has an underlying message in her books. In Demon Race, it was forgiveness, and in Below, it was you are enough. Beautiful.
I wish there was a little more explaination of what Yuki and The Face Stealer were and where they came from. It was a bit confusing at times, BUT it left a ton of mystery to be solved for the next book! Which I need and can’t wait for!
I had a really hard time rating this book. It was a solid 2 star until the huge twist towards the end then I was thinking 3 stars. So we meet in the middle.
Likes: The concept of the book was very cool. A creepy boarding school on a mountain where kids are getting sick and there are ghosts. Everyone has a mysterious back story. I also liked Mavi. She was a fighter. She was smart. And Angel! Man, I felt so bad for him! It actually wasn’t that scary, which I appreciated. It was more like a thriller. And that twisty ending! A lot of people, I noticed, gave it low marks for the ending out of left field. I disagree. I was very surprised and didn’t see it coming BUT looking back there were little like, Easter eggs of hints. I thought that part was well done.
Dislikes: The pacing was VERY slow. I found my mind wandering away from the book way too often. It was very easy to put down. I didn’t like one of the other teachers, she was so rude and mean to Mavi and Mavi just let her be. Really the low rating from me was because it was boring to me.
Final Thoughts: I’m trying not to give anything away, but this will be sure to spark some moral discussions! This was a book pick for one of my book clubs and I can tell you right now there will be a lot to discuss. This book sort of reminded me of the show Black Mirror. Super weird. Super thought provoking. Also, this didn’t read like a YA at all. Even though the two main characters were teens, they didn’t talk like teens. Do with that what you will.
I actually almost rated this higher BUT I don’t think this will ever be a reread for me. Another BUT, I freaking loved this book. It is like Alien + 28 Days Later. I want this to be a movie. I would watch the crap out of this. I read to be entertained and I was not disappointed.
Characters: This was told in multiple POV while still having basically two main characters. Thea is very analytical and practical. When they answer the distress signal she is like, um, no. But she has no choice since she is just an intern and has to listen to her bosses. She almost always keeps a clear head without being heartless. Coen is super mysterious. I can’t say much about him without giving spoilers, but he was super interesting to read about! Poor kid did everything he could to survive and save those around him. The secondary characters were all pretty well rounded out. You even feel for them at some points. Except Dylan. I HATED her.
Plot: Scientists who respond to a distress signal from a planet that’s basically blacklisted by the equivalent of the UN, is bound to turn out all right, right? They come across all of the secret base members dead. And yet they still search for what happened. Chaos ensues. People die, people live, the dead live, mysteries are solved, more mysteries happen, crazy escape plans go awry. Read this.
Final Thoughts: My heart was beating so fast at some points! I listened to this on audible and I could not stop listening. I would literally stare at nothing sometimes listening and zoning out within the story. It really sucks you in! I will definitely be reading the next one within the next few months!
*Thank you so much to the publisher for sending me an ARC in exchange for an honest review!*
I honestly struggled between 3 and 4 stars for this one. I thought 3 because it was kind of easy to put it down. It wasn’t one where I was like, “I need to know what happens or I’ll die!” type of book. BUT when I was reading it, it was really unique and I really enjoyed it so I thought maybe 4 stars. So guess what, it ended up in the middle.
Characters. I really liked the characters. Rakel was a likable mix of wanting to save her family and being really stubborn. She was also kind of goofy which I liked. Ash was our brooding, tortured, love interest with a secret. It was a bit typical BUT I still liked it. They matched well together I think. And it was a slow burn so that was nice too. But then again it didn’t have a lot of tension or fire. It could have just as easily ended up being they were just good friends.
Plot/ World. I actually loved that the plot revolved around scents. This book was a candle makers dream. I loved that the author was so descriptive in what things smelled like. It made the book come more alive because of it. And the fact that your station could be higher because of your finer sense of smell and if you could make scents was so interesting! I also liked Ash’s secret. You could kind of see it coming but it was a bit bigger than I realized it was going to be. And I didn’t see a certain minor plot twist coming. I was looking in another direction, if that makes sense. I really enjoyed the adventure! Ash and Rakel go all up and down their lands looking for ingredients for a cure for the Prince! I liked the different trials they had to face to get each cure. There were also quite a few fantasy creatures in this book that I am all for!! Adventure at it’s finest!
Final Thoughts. Major cliff-hanger ending!! I definitely want to read book two and can’t wait to find out what happens to all of the characters! Also, if you are a cover-buyer, go ahead and add this to your list of must buys!
*Once Upon A Time sign is from Bookish Signs and More! Code: Lauren10 to save! I couldn’t resist putting this in my photo!*
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*Usual warning of content: This is something I put on my blog for parents specifically. Just putting the different themes or topics represented in the book.*
CONTENT: Mention of child abuse, abuse of the sick, their religion, drug abuse, mention of a couple characters being LGBTQ, forming strong relationships, sacrificing for what is right, strong mental health representation, death, disease, blood and gore.