Book Reviews: The Furies by Katie Lowe and Don’t Cosplay With My Heart by Cecil Castellucci @fatgirlphd @stmartinspress @misscecil @Scholastic

The Furies
Katie Lowe
St. Martin’s Press, October 2019
ISBN 978-1-250-29789-1

Theoretically, it may be a bit easier to handle the aftermath of a tragedy if someone close suffers the same horror. Certainly, an adolescent girl could expect her mother to understand and to bear the burden with her. Vivian’s mom does know the shock, the overwhelming ache of emptiness. It’s almost as if she found a way to absorb it. Vivian no longer sees her mom, there is only a hollow shell where the warm, caring soul should still be.

Perhaps Vivian, too, would have just faded away, if not for the opportunity to attend the prestigious Elm Hollow. A curious campus—that, of course “has a history”—and the intriguing course-structures were appealing. But it was watching the girls making their way from class to class that truly began to stir something inside of Vivian. For the first time, in a long time, Vivian felt like learning again. Looking forward, making friends, maybe even dating: thoughts that had been gathering dust in the back of her brain tentatively slunk forward.

Young ladies gathered in pairs, loose groups and a few had chosen solo spots and were sprinkled throughout. One thing seemed the same, though. All seemed…content.

Ok, not “all”.

There are three…or to be more accurate, there is a trio standing out. Admittedly, the righteous red of Robin’s hair is impossible to miss, but Vivian is pretty sure there’s an undercurrent connecting the clearly-close friends. Inexplicably drawn to them, Vivian feels her heart beat again when she is welcomed into their fold.

Ms. Lowe doesn’t allow the uplifting illusion to linger.

As Vivian embraces all of Elm Hollow her mind happily gathers information, albeit by bits and pieces. She soon learns enough to put together a surprising, scary picture. Relationships are not new; backgrounds are tangled, gnarled roots and Vivian has been snagged. Entirely on her own, she will become eternally ensnared in Elm Hollow, or she will have to hack her way out.

I cannot wait to take this suck-you-in-and-spin-you-story to “my” students next month!

Reviewed by jv poore, October 2019.


Don’t Cosplay With My Heart
Cecil Castellucci
Scholastic Press, January 2018
ISBN 978-1-338-12549-8

This Young Adult novel begins with (what I hope is) an atypical teen scenario. Completely overcome by complicated, conflicting emotions…currently manifesting as mainly anger, Edan dons her Gargantua mask before sitting down to her final family dinner. For the foreseeable future.

She didn’t know much about her dad’s business, other than his firm handled payroll for several Hollywood productions. Lately, she’s heard whispers of misappropriated funds and missing money. Now, her father is being sequestered. But this is not a tale of white-collar crime. Although, that may be a bit more pertinent to the plot than I initially anticipated.

To me, the story is about Edan’s exponential growth as life forces her into self-discovery and independence at a wholly unanticipated time. Sort of like learning to swim by being thrown into the water, having never even contemplated swimming lessons. And Edan is truly alone.

Her best bud, Kasumi, is spending the summer in Japan. Their conversations are quick and Kasumi seems so happy that Edan cannot bear to burden her with what’s happening at home. Edan has to do something to get out of the house and more importantly, out of her own head. Attending her first Comic Con, solo, should do the trick.

Despite her admiration and adoration of all things Team Tomorrow, the best comic-book ever, Edan didn’t know much about the fan-filled conventions. And, aside from the recent addition of the Gargantua mask to her attire, she absolutely knew nothing of cosplaying. After attending only one con though, Edan was wholly hooked and, with a goal: “…learn how to make a costume so great that it pulls me right out of my misery and changes my life.”

I appreciate the realistic and relatable mistakes Edan made, as well as how she corrected them. And, I’m always particularly fond of friendships formed in the most unlikely of places. I found this to be fun and entertaining, without being cotton-candy fluffy.

Reviewed by jv poore, November 2018.

Book Reviews: The Mystery of Hollow Places by Rebecca Podos and Shallow Graves by Kali Wallace

The Mystery of Hollow PlacesThe Mystery of Hollow Places
Rebecca Podos
Balzer + Bray, January 2016
ISBN 978-0-06-237334-2

From the publisher—

All Imogene Scott knows of her mother is the bedtime story her father told her as a child. It’s the story of how her parents met: he, a forensic pathologist; she, a mysterious woman who came to identify a body. A woman who left Imogene and her father when she was a baby, a woman who was always possessed of a powerful loneliness, a woman who many referred to as “troubled waters.”

Now Imogene is seventeen, and her father, a famous author of medical mysteries, has struck out in the middle of the night and hasn’t come back. Neither Imogene’s stepmother nor the police know where he could’ve gone, but Imogene is convinced he’s looking for her mother. And she decides it’s up to her to put to use the skills she’s gleaned from a lifetime of reading her father’s books to track down a woman she’s only known in stories in order to find him and, perhaps, the answer to the question she’s carried with her for her entire life.

I was drawn to this book by the very idea of this young girl trying to solve a mystery by using the skills and knowledge she’s acquired through reading mysteries. That’s about as much credibility as an amateur sleuth can hope to have and mighty few do so, in my eyes, Imogene already has an advantage.

Imogene has always known that her mom suffered from debilitating depression but, on the surface, she’s had a happy life with a loving father and stepmother so it’s especially alarming when her father disappears. Besides the expected fears that arise when someone goes missing, Imogene is thrust into a search for herself as well as her dad. She’s a complex girl, quite the loner even though she has a terrific friend in Jessa who is actually my favorite character because she has a strength and loyalty about her that I admire. It’s no surprise that Imogene has a certain lack of self-assurance—after all, her mother left her behind—and that her self-worth takes another swan dive when her father seemingly walks out.

While I had a great deal of sympathy for this girl, I really think her story will have the strongest impact on readers who have experienced similar troubles. The mystery here isn’t a conventional one; rather, this is a psychological study of family and its dysfunctional parts along with a search for two missing people. Ms. Podos is a writer with real talent and I’m looking forward to much more from her in the future.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, January 2016.


Shallow GravesShallow Graves
Kali Wallace
Katherine Tegen Books, January 2016
ISBN 978-0-06-236620-7

From the publisher—

When seventeen-year-old Breezy Lin wakes up in a shallow grave one year after her death, she doesn’t remember who killed her or why. All she knows is that she’s somehow conscious—and not only that, she’s able to sense who around her is hiding a murderous past. In life, Breezy was always drawn to the elegance of the universe and the mystery of the stars. Now she must set out to find answers and discover what is to become of her in the gritty, dangerous world to which she now belongs—where killers hide in plain sight, and a sinister cult is hunting for strange creatures like her. What she finds is at once empowering, redemptive, and dangerous.

Just imagine if you were to wake up one day only to discover that you’re actually dead. That’s what happens to young Breezy and she’s immediately thrust into the midst of her own very personal mystery. Not only that, she can sense those around her who have killed. Add to that the realization that there are others who, like her, are…odd…and you have a “life” that is intensely strange and full of questions crying out for answers. The interesting thing about Shallow Graves is that Breezy may not find all the answers she’s looking for.

Is Breezy a monster because she is/was dead? I suspect each reader will reach their own conclusion about that but, for me, yes, she is a monster by definition but there is much about her that brings out her essential humanity and I ended up liking her a lot. Unfortunately, I can’t say that I was particularly enthused about other characters, mainly because there were just too many and not enough attention was paid to them by the author to really bring them to life.

On the whole, I enjoyed this book and, although it sometimes seems rather jumbled and aimless, I recommend readers push through. In the end, I don’t think you’ll be sorry you did and it will appeal to lovers of mystery as well as dark fantasy. The only real quibble I have with Shallow Graves is that the ending is a bit of a non-ender but I don’t think all things absolutely have to be tied up in neat little packages, do you?

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, January 2016.

Book Review: In the Blood by Sara Hantz

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Title: In the Blood
Author: Sara Hantz
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Pub. Date: November 5, 2013




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In the BloodIn the Blood
Sara Hantz
Entangled Teen, November 2013
ISBN 9781622663767

From the publisher—

For seventeen years, Jed Franklin’s life was normal. Then his father was charged with the abuse and murder of four young boys and normal became a nightmare.

His mom’s practically a walking zombie, he’s lost most of his friends, and the press camps out on his lawn. The only things that keep him sane are his little sis; his best friend and dream girl, Summer; and the alcohol he stashes in his room. But after Jed wakes up from a total blackout to discover a local kid has gone missing—a kid he was last seen talking to—he’s forced to face his greatest fear: that he could somehow be responsible.

In a life that’s spiraled out of control, Jed must decide if he chooses his own destiny with Summer by his side or if the violent urges that plagued his father are truly in the blood…

The blight of child abuse, pedophilia in particular, is a very tough one to read about and I suspect it’s just as tough for an author to write about but it’s a very important topic. As a society, we must not sweep this under the rug and, if we don’t bring it into the light as often as we can, this terrible behavior will continue to damage and destroy children everywhere. I have a great deal of respect for Sara Hantz for being courageous enough to tackle a subject that will no doubt cost her some readers because of their desire to avoid books dealing with bad things happening to children.

Most of us have probably thought about the horrible treatment these abused children go through and the effects on the community in general but I think we probably shy away from how the pedophile’s own child responds when the truth about  his father becomes known, especially when that child was not a victim and, like everyone else, never considered the possibility of such a thing. How much worse must it be to know that this man you loved so much killed his prey and to wonder if you will someday become the same kind of monster?

Jed is the poster boy for the hatred and anger and guilt and, above all, fear that such a son must feel and his rollercoaster emotions are drawn with infinite care. Ms. Hantz has created one of the most emotionally engaging characters I’ve come across in a long time and I was completely invested in what he was experiencing. The terrible thoughts disrupting his life are not relieved in any way by his mother who has withdrawn into her own world and, in fact, I found myself resenting her almost as much as Jed’s father because she not only has withdrawn from Jed and his little sister, Amy, but has actually stopped caring in any demonstrable way. Yes, I understand that a wife would be devastated by learning what kind of man she married but to essentially abandon her children out of her own self-absorption is incomprehensible.

Jed’s love for five-year-old Amy  and his growing attachment to best friend Summer are all that’s keeping him together but the fear of becoming his father is nearly overwhelming…and then Dawson, a little neighborhood boy he’s fond of, disappears.

There is one shortcoming in this novel, in my opinion, and that is the relative abruptness of the ending, feeling sort of rushed. Despite that, In the Blood is emotionally draining and energizing at the same time and it will be on my list of best books read in 2013. I will not soon forget Jed Franklin.

Note: Readers should be aware that, although child abuse and murder are the crimes involved, there are no graphic descriptions of those crimes either during or after.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, November 2013.

About the Author

Sara HantzSara Hantz comes from the UK and now lives in Australia (via 10 years in New Zealand). With a background in education, she lectured for many years before deciding to devote more time to her writing and working in the family business. She is also the author of Will the Real Abi Saunders Please Stand Up, and The Second Virginity of Suzy Green. Visit her online at

Where you can find Sara:

Website  /  Blog  //  Twitter //  Facebook //  Goodreads


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Tour Schedule:

Week One:

11/4/2013- Buried Under Books– Review
11/5/2013- Workaday Reads– Interview
11/6/2013- Dark Novella– Guest Post
11/7/2013- Curling Up With A Good Book– Guest Post
11/8/2013- Fictitious Delicious– Review

Week Two:

11/11/2013- Paranormal Book Club– Interview
11/12/2013- The Cover Contessa– Guest Post
11/13/2013- Consuming Worlds– Review
11/14/2013- My Daily Romance– Interview
11/15/2013- Such A Novel Idea– Review


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It’s All About Those Dead and Missing

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About the Author

Chris MyersChris Myers suffers from an overactive imagination. She spent her high school years writing torch songs for fantasy guys then moved onto writing thrillers and young adult. She has a real job but would love to write full time. Her books have won and placed in the finals and semifinals for several awards including Paul Gillette, Rocky Mountain Gold, and Amazon Breakthrough Novel. Chris lives in Colorado with her daughter, her better half, and BeBe, a rambunctious Bichon.

Author social media links:


Date with the DeadDate with the Dead
Ripsters Book 1
Chris Myers
Books on the Edge, July 2012
ISBN 978-0-9857169-0-5
Trade Paperback

Goodreads  /  Barnes & Noble  /  Amazon

From the publisher—

Sixteen-year-old Jolie Livingston’s closest and only friend Drew is this really hot dead guy, and it bites that the self-absorbed princesses at school cannot even see him. That’s right she can communicate with the dead. It’s the living she has trouble with. She and her mom inherited this awesome crib in Plymouth, MA. It’s quite a step-up from the homeless shelter in New Orleans, but there’s a catch. They can’t afford the past due mortgage, so Jolie’s working on that.

She starts a ghost hunting business called Ripsters. Somehow she’s managed to recruit Brittany, a glamour SAP smothered in pink, and a techie allergic to ghosts. Brit actually thinks he resembles the R&B singer Chris Brown. All that pink has clouded her vision. They both have special talents Jolie’s hoping will be useful to their venture. Right now, they’re working for a family in need of major therapy due to a dead guy with a hole in his head.

What a lot of fun this book is! With a mix of the paranormal, a bit of romance and a murder mystery that keeps our ghost hunters guessing almost till the end, nearly any reader can find something to like in Date with the Dead. Even the romance is appealing to those of us who’ve grown tired of the insta-love that’s so prevalent in young adult fiction because here it’s natural and, while there are plenty of roadblocks in the way, there’s no overblown angst. As a matter of fact, there’s a good deal of humor involved, especially with all the ghosts hanging about.

We’ve seen ghost hunter books before but this one is a cut above, full of charm and a good dollop of suspense, along with a little pathos involving less-than-stellar family situations. I really enjoyed spending time with Jolie and Drew and their pals and the whole idea of a town teeming with stray spirits works because of the setting. Where better than the heart of Pilgrim country and the American Revolution to find enough ghostly hangers-on to keep a budding ghost-hunting business rolling along for years to come? It doesn’t hurt, either, that these teens actually know what they’re doing most of the time although they certainly weren’t expecting to have to solve a missing person case that turns into something much worse.

I have to give Ms. Myers props for a couple of things. First, the editing of this book was very nicely done and I found no glaring errors beyond the occasional—and minor—typo. Second, her characterizations of these kids and the villains involved is lively and makes them feel real despite their tendencies to be involved in supernatural goings-on. I especially liked that each of the teens brings a different touch to the story and each has his or her own talents as well as weaknesses.

Make no mistake, this is not just a humorous piece of fluff. There is certainly a lot about it that’s amusing but we also get to see that even those kids who seem to have it all together have problems and, sometimes, they’re pretty serious. Jolie, in particular, is a girl with reasons to be very cynical about life in general but she’s still a most appealing teen who refuses to be beat down. I’m looking forward to reading about the next adventures of the Ripsters gang.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, August 2013.


Dead and MissingDead and Missing
Ripsters Book 2
Chris Myers
Books on the Edge, July 2013
ISBN 978-0-9857169-2-9

Goodreads  /  Barnes & Noble  /  Amazon

From the publisher—

Sixteen-year-old Brittany Howland only knows one other girl, Jolie Livingston, who can communicate with the dead like herself. When Brittany takes Jolie’s haunt fishing to get him out of Jolie’s hair, he mysteriously disappears. Brittany isn’t sure how she’ll tell Jolie she lost her ghost. Jolie thinks her dead best friend Drew has finally crossed over, but Brittany knows better. Just before Drew went missing, he revealed why he hasn’t hitchhiked to the afterlife, a secret Brittany swore she’d take to the grave.

In a departure from the first book, Dead and Missing has two alternating narrators, Jolie and her colleague and friend, Brittany, and it works very well. I particularly liked getting to know Brittany a little better since she’s so very different from Jolie and yet they share an affinity for the spirit world. Still, you have to marvel at how a diminutive goth-dressing girl and a bouncy blonde athlete who always dresses in pink could get along, much less be friends.

These two girls also differ from the norm because Jolie is the sensible, rational one while Brit tends to be sarcastic and funny, sometimes rather W.A.S.P.-ish, and it’s that reversal of expected roles that makes them so appealing. Certainly they have their occasional differences of opinion but, at heart, they are sisters. So, could they really be sisters?

That’s just one of the puzzles that come to light when Brit and Jolie set out with Reese and Hayden to save Drew, Jolie’s BFF ghost who has been snatched by demons or some such things. They also want to find out what the underground Paranormal Guild is all about and how they can gain membership, all the while being warned from all sides about how dangerous this group is. There are definitely some dark things going on but even more surprising is what the Ripsters find out about their own family members’ involvement in the world of dark supernaturals. Add to that a “lovely” little ghost girl who’s been dead for about three centuries and who indulges in biting people and let the fun begin!

Ms. Myers has a third book coming in this series (trilogy?) titled Buried in New Orleans but I can’t find any other information about it. I’m looking forward to it and hope we won’t have to wait too long because I really do want to spend more time with these kids and see what they’ll be up to next.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, August 2013.

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