Lilly’s Tale (The Milk-Blood Trilogy) by Mark Matthews #Review

Lilly's Tale: The Milk-Blood Trilogy cover

I’ve struggled with how to review this book, and even now, I’m sure not quite sure what to say. This is likely to go down as the strangest book I’ve read this year. And yet… I was unable to set it aside, and felt a strong desire to finish it.

I felt very conflicted as I read it, as there were many times I found it difficult to suspend disbelief as I progressed with the story. There was one thing in particular that (in my opinion) should have garnered an extreme reaction of fear to other characters when they saw (can’t say because SPOILERS), but that didn’t happen. Rather than treating it as something scary, it was treated as a minor curiosity. Each time it happened, it threw me out of my focus on the story and all I could think about was how surreal it was.

Then again, perhaps that was the point?

This isn’t your usual horror story where the evil thing is some sort of supernatural monster. In Lilly’s Tale: The Milk Blood Trilogy, the evil is heroin addiction. The “monsters” (so to speak) are the addicts themselves, and the horror is what their addiction compels them to do. Yes, there are ghosts and creepy supernatural things happen, but it takes a back seat to the evils of drug addiction.

Maybe I’m overthinking it, but that’s the conclusion I kept coming back to over the many, many, many times I’ve tried to work out my feelings about this book.

The fact that I have given it so much thought speaks to the author’s ability to weave together an unconventional story that stays with you long after you’ve read the final page. I’m not going to forget this book anytime soon… that’s for sure.


Author: Mark Matthews

Title: Lilly’s Tale: The Milk-Blood Trilogy

Genre: Horror

Published: January 1st, 2017 by Wicked Run Press

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐


Purchase Links

Amazon | Barnes & Noble


About the Book

Shocking. Powerful. Stunning. The MILK-BLOOD TRILOGY is page-turning suspense pulled from newspaper headlines and unlike anything you’ve ever read. The author has pulled from his experience as a social worker to capture the horror of urban decay, poverty, and heroin addiction. LILLY’S TALE has been called “an urban legend in the making” and has been optioned for film. Now, for the first time, read all three powerful titles in one collection.


Lilly is ten years old, living in poverty, born with a heart defect, and already addicted to heroin. Her mother is gone from her life, and there are rumors that she was killed by her father and buried near the abandoned house across the street. The house intrigues her, she can’t stay away, and the monstrous homeless man who lives there has been trying to get Lilly to come inside. For her mother is there, buried in the back, and this homeless man is Lilly’s true father, and both want their daughter back.


The “absolutely stunning” follow up to MILK-BLOOD

A patient breaks into his psychiatrist’s house in the dark of night and plops a charbroiled carcass onto her kitchen island. The body is ten year old Lilly, she’s been the victim of a house fire, and her mouth is stuck in a permanent scream. Now there are decisions to make, for she may be not be dead yet, only heroin may relieve her suffering, and her family is coming for her.

THE DAMAGE DONE (A short story featuring the origin of Lilly’s father)

After years of suffering with mental illness, heroin has opened up the gates of heaven for Jervis Samsa. It is all that makes life bearable. But when he gets trapped in his basement without a scrap of dope to shoot, he needs to go to any lengths to get high. The results are something monstrous, and his basement bedroom becomes a hell for those who enter.


About the Author

Author Mark Matthews

Mark Matthews has a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from the University of Michigan and a Master’s Degree in Counseling. He is the author of five novels, including On the Lips of Children, MILK-BLOOD, and All Smoke Rises. All of his novels are based on true settings, many of them inspired by his work as a counselor in the field of mental health and treatment of addiction. He’s the editor of the anthology GARDEN OF FIENDS: TALES OF ADDICTION HORROR. He lives near Detroit with his wife and two daughters.

Author photo & bio via Goodreads.

The Forever Summer by Jamie Brenner #Review @jamielbrenner @littlebrown


A broken engagement. A forbidden affair. The loss of a prestigious job. The announcement that her parents are getting divorced. What else could possibly happen to shake up Marin Bishop’s already wrecked life?

The final bombshell comes with the arrival of twenty-two year old Rachel Moscowitz—Marin’s half-sister—and the painful discovery that Marin’s beloved father isn’t really her father, after all. Shattered and in denial, Marin nevertheless agrees to travel with Rachel to the Beach Rose Inn in Provincetown, to meet their grandmother, Amelia Cabral. Against her wishes, Marin’s mother, Blythe, accompanies them. The group of women spend the summer getting to know one another as decades-old secrets are finally spoken, and the pain of the past confronted at last.

The Forever Summer is an enjoyable story with some surprising twists thrown into the mix. The characters were well written, with vivid personalities. There were times I found myself annoyed with some of the things Rachel did or said, but in hindsight I think it was because she’s a young woman doing/feeling what young women do, and I wasn’t able to identify with it at this time in my life. (I think I may have just insulted myself there, and inferred I was getting old? Yikes!)

My favorite characters were definitely Amelia and Kelly. Their backstory—as well as Blythe’s—was the most interesting part of the story for me. Nadine, Amelia’s daughter, was extremely unlikable, but she had her reasons for behaving the way she did. There were a few twists in the latter part of the book (some good, others not so good) that really surprised me.

I’m giving this one a solid 3.5 stars. I couldn’t decide between three and four stars, so 3.5 felt right in the end.

If you’re looking for books to add to your summer reading list, I would suggest adding this one to your list.

I received an advance review copy of this book courtesy of Little, Brown, and Company and Netgalley.


Author: Jamie Brenner

Title: The Forever Summer

Genre: Women’s Fiction

Published: April 25th, 2017 by Little, Brown and Company

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐½


Purchase Links

Amazon | Audible | Barnes & Noble


About the Book

When a DNA test reveals long-buried secrets, three generations of women reunite on Cape Cod for the homecoming of a lifetime.

Marin Bishop has always played by the rules, and it’s paid off: at twenty-eight she has a handsome fiancé, a prestigious Manhattan legal career, and the hard-won admiration of her father. But one moment of weakness leaves Marin unemployed and alone, all in a single day. Then a woman claiming to be Marin’s half-sister shows up, and it’s all Marin can do not to break down completely. Seeking escape, Marin agrees to a road trip to meet the grandmother she never knew she had. As the summer unfolds at her grandmother’s quaint beachside B&B, it becomes clear that the truth of her half-sister is just the beginning of revelations that will change Marin’s life forever. THE FOREVER SUMMER is a delicious page-turner and a provocative exploration of what happens when our notions of love, truth, and family are put to the ultimate test.

Full of delicious descriptions of coastal New England and richly imagined characters, THE FOREVER SUMMER is an emotional, hot-topic page-turner and a summer must-read.


About the Author

Author Jamie Brenner

Jamie Brenner is the author of The Forever Summer. Her previous novels include The Wedding Sisters and the historical The Gin Lovers (St. Martin’s Press), named by Fresh Fiction as one of the Top Thirteen Books to read in 2013, and Ruin Me, a coming-of-age story set in the art world. She lives in Manhattan with her husband and two daughters.

Author photo via Goodreads. Bio via publisher’s website.


#Review: The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel @aengelwrites @CrownPublishing


“Roanoke girls never last long around here. In the end, we either run or we die.”

The Roanoke Girls

I’ve put off writing my review for well over a month because I truly didn’t know how to approach reviewing this book. So I’m just going to let my thoughts flow and see what happens.

When Lane Roanoke was fifteen, her mother committed suicide, and she was sent to live in her grandparents Kansas home. Lane knew nothing about them, because her mother left home before she was born, never went back, and refused to talk about her parents. She arrives at the crazily constructed home where she meets her cousin Allegra, who also lives there. She’s happy there that summer, until she discovers a dark family secret… and runs, vowing never to return. When she gets word years later that Allegra is missing, she returns, finding both happiness and heartbreak.

There’s very little I can say without spoiling the story, but what I can say is The Roanoke Girls is a deeply disturbing novel with a family secret that is dark and shockingly twisted. This is definitely not a book everyone will feel comfortable reading, but despite that,  it’s a compelling read that’s difficult to put down. Engel’s writing is excellent throughout and her choice of breaking up the narrative into THEN (teenaged Lane’s perspective) and NOW (present day Lane’s perspective) segments, interspersed with chapters that look back on the earlier Roanoke girls, sustained the air of mystery throughout the story.

I’m still not sure how I feel about this book. The only thing I’m sure of is this is a story I’m unlikely to ever forget.

I received an advance review copy of this book courtesy of Netgalley and Crown Publishing.


Author: Amy Engel

Title: The Roanoke Girls

Genre: Mystery & Thrillers

Published: March 7th, 2017 by Crown Publishing

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐


Purchase Links

Penguin Random House | Amazon | Barnes & Noble


About the Book

Vowing to discover the fate of her missing cousin, a woman returns to her family’s Kansas estate where she spent one haunting summer as a teen, and where she discovered the dark heart of the Roanoke clan that left her no choice but to run.

Lane Roanoke is fifteen when she comes to live with her maternal grandparents and fireball cousin, Allegra, at the Roanoke family estate in rural Osage Flats, Kansas, following the suicide of her mother. Lane knows little of her mother’s family, other than the fact that her mother ran away years before and cut off all contact with her parents. Allegra, abandoned by her own mother at birth and raised by her grandparents, introduces Lane to small-town life and the benefits of being one of the rich and beautiful Roanoke girls. But there is darkness at the heart of the Roanoke family, and when Lane discovers its insidious pull she has no choice but to run, as far and as fast as she can.

Eleven years later, Lane is scraping by in Los Angeles when her grandfather calls with the news that Allegra has gone missing. “Come home,” he beckons. Unable to resist his pleas, Lane returns to Osage Flats, determined to find her cousin and assuage her own guilt at having left Allegra behind all those years ago. Her return might mean a second chance with Cooper, the boyfriend whom she loved and destroyed that fateful summer. But it also means facing the terrible secret that made her flee, one she may not be strong enough to run from again.

As it weaves between the summer of Lane’s first arrival and the summer of her return, The Roanoke Girls shocks and tantalizes, twisting its way through revelation after mesmerizing revelation, exploring the secrets families keep and the fierce and terrible love that both binds them together and rips them apart.


About the Author

Author Amy Engel
Author Amy Engel

Amy Engel is the author of THE BOOK OF IVY young adult series. A former criminal defense attorney, she lives in Missouri with her family. THE ROANOKE GIRLS (March 7, 2017), is her first novel for adults.


#Review: Everything Belongs to Us by Yoojin Grace Wuertz @gracewuertz @randomhouse

Everything Belongs to Us cover

At the start of the year, I mentioned that one of my blogging goals was to read more diverse books. Set in South Korea in 1978, Everything Belongs to Us is the first diverse book I’ve read this year.

I went into this book knowing very little about South Korea’s history and culture, so I had no preconceived ideas about the location or how the characters might be portrayed in the story. I think this made the book more interesting to me, because I wasn’t just reading a story; I was learning about a place I knew practically nothing about.

The story centers mainly around Jisun, Namin, and Sunam, three Seoul National University students who come from vastly different backgrounds.

  • Jisun is the rebellious daughter of a wealthy and powerful man. Rejecting the wealth she was born into,  Jisun is a political activist who regularly takes part in protests. She’s often frustrated in her efforts, however, because of who she is.
  • Namin—Jisun’s childhood friend— is the smart, ambitious daughter of poor parents who make their meager earnings by operating a food cart. She dreams of becoming a doctor to help her disabled younger brother, and lift her family out of poverty… but her older sister Kyungmin  makes that goal difficult in more ways than one.
  • Sunam is the son of middle class parents. He desperately wants to become part of an elite group known as the Circle, via his connection to Juno—Jisun’s older brother. When he’s invited to attend a Circle gathering for prospective members, he meets Namin (who is also yearning for acceptance into the group) and Jisun… setting into motion a chain of events that will affect all of their lives.

Of the three, the story of Namin and her family was the most captivating for me. I’ve always been fond of characters who must overcome seemingly insurmountable odds in order to achieve their dreams, and Namin certainly had a tough row to hoe in that regard. Kyungmin resents that she must work long hours, and deal with unenviable household tasks while Namin is expected only to study. Kyungmin resentment of her life of toil reaches the boiling point, and she makes choices that have a devastating affect on Namin’s dreams.

There were times my attention would wander a bit as I was reading. Sunam’s story, in particular, evoked that reaction from me. He was easily the least interesting character of them all, in my opinion. Overall, I enjoyed this book, and I’m glad I read it. Solid three star rating for this one.

I received an advance review copy of this book courtesy of Netgalley and Random House.


Author: Yoojin Grace Wuertz

Title: Everything Belongs to Us

Genre: Women’s Fiction, Historical Fiction

Published: February 28th 2017 by Random House

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐


Purchase Links

Penguin Random House | Amazon | Barnes & Noble


About the Book

Two young women of vastly different means each struggle to find her own way during the darkest hours of South Korea s economic miracle in a striking debut novel for readers of Anthony Marra and Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie.

Seoul, 1978. At South Korea s top university, the nation s best and brightest compete to join the professional elite of an authoritarian regime. Success could lead to a life of rarefied privilege and wealth; failure means being left irrevocably behind.

For childhood friends Jisun and Namin, the stakes couldn t be more different. Jisun, the daughter of a powerful business mogul, grew up on a mountainside estate with lush gardens and a dedicated chauffeur. Namin s parents run a tented food cart from dawn to curfew; her sister works in a shoe factory. Now Jisun wants as little to do with her father s world as possible, abandoning her schoolwork in favor of the underground activist movement, while Namin studies tirelessly in the service of one goal: to launch herself and her family out of poverty.

But everything changes when Jisun and Namin meet an ambitious, charming student named Sunam, whose need to please his family has led him to a prestigious club: the Circle. Under the influence of his mentor, Juno, a manipulative social climber, Sunam becomes entangled with both women, as they all make choices that will change their lives forever.

In this sweeping yet intimate debut, Yoojin Grace Wuertz details four intertwining lives that are rife with turmoil and desire, private anxieties and public betrayals, dashed hopes and broken dreams while a nation moves toward prosperity at any cost.


About the Author

Author Yoojin Grace Wuertz (Photo credit: Nina Subin)

Yoojin Grace Wuertz was born in Seoul, South Korea, and immigrated to the United States at age six. She holds a BA in English from Yale University and an MFA in fiction from New York University. She lives in northern New Jersey with her husband and son.

Author photo and bio viaof author’s website.