September 30, 2021

#BookReview: Small Town Monsters by @dianarwallach @GetUnderlined

Synopsis: The Conjuring meets The Vow! This terrifying paperback original tells the unputdownable story of a girl, a dark angel, and the cult hellbent on taking over her small, coastal town.

Vera Martinez wants nothing more than to escape Roaring Creek and her parents' reputation as demonologists. Not to mention she's the family outcast, lacking her parents' innate abilities, and is terrified of the occult things lurking in their basement.

Maxwell Oliver is supposed to be enjoying the summer before his senior year, spending his days thinking about parties and friends. Instead he's taking care of his little sister while his mom slowly becomes someone he doesn't recognize. Soon he suspects that what he thought was grief over his father's death might be something more...sinister.

When Maxwell and Vera join forces, they come face to face with deeply disturbing true stories of cults, death worship, and the very nature that drives people to evil.

Underlined is a line of totally addictive romance, thriller, and horror paperback original titles coming to you fast and furious each month. Enjoy everything you want to read the way you want to read it.


Rating: 5 Stars
My Review: This one was fabulous! If you are one like me that loves the Conjuring Universe then this one is going to make you fall hard for it.  I loved how we finally got what a lot of us have wanted for a while. A story about the Warren's daughter, and although this is not set in that same world. It still gives the feel that it is.  Its the story of my Conjuring dreams!!  

This darker young adult horror novel told in dual POV was an easy read that I could follow very simply.  It was creepy in parts then light in others.  I fell hard for this one from the very first page and I so need more stories set in this world.  Add on that the main character is Latinx  (I'm Hispanic) just made this one even better!! The romance between the two POVs was just so sweet I loved them both so much.  

The way the author set this story up we could easily get some more procession, demon, ghosts, etc stories.  I could see this even growing with the reader as Vera goes off to college or even forgoes college and joins her parents in the hunt for creepies and the protection of innocents.  

Go Into This One Knowing: Dark, Light Romance, Dual POV


Praise for Small Town Monsters

"An eerie thriller emphasizing the power of inner strength."—Kirkus 

"Filled with great storytelling and surprises, this book will grab readers from page one."—Booklist 

“With razor sharp pacinghair-raising chills, and well-drawn characters to root for, Small Town Monsters does for YA horror what Stranger Things did for Netflix.”—Laura Taylor Namey, New York Timesbestselling author of A Cuban Girl’s Guide to Tea and Tomorrow 

Well-paced and truly terrifyingSmall Town Monsters is a nightmarish world filled with demons, cults, and awkward first glances—a perfect horror recipe.”—Suzanne Young, New York Timesbestselling author of The Program series. 

“Rodriguez Wallach knows how to tell a suspenseful story and doesn’t pull any punchesSmall Town Monsters combines the horror of The Conjuring with the heart of Stranger Things.”—Andrew Shaffer, New York Times bestselling author of Secret Santa: A Horror for the Holidays Novel 

Small Town Monsters has a rich mythology, and it’s populated by memorable characters.”—The Big Chill 

About the Author

Diana Rodriguez Wallach is the multi-published author of seven YA novels, including the Anastasia Phoenix Series, the Amor and Summer Secrets series, and Small Town Monsters. She is a Creative Writing Instructor for Johns Hopkins University's Center for Talented Youth, and she has been published in several anthologies.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Chapter One


A darkness surged through Roaring Creek, casting a shadow upon its modest homes and oozing onto Vera Martinez’s hands—­and it all began, at least for her, the day that Maxwell Oliver’s pale brown eyes turned her way.

He was staring.

Vera flipped a fistful of curls in front of her face and pretended not to notice. This was an unfamiliar situation. Boys never looked at Vera, and certainly not like this.

She opened an eight-­hundred-­page novel, reduced to the five-­inch screen on her phone, and pretended to read. Discreetly, she scratched her scalp with a nail chipped of black polish and let her gaze slip between her wavy strands. Yup, he was still looking.

“All right, class!” Ms. Spuhler cleared her throat to begin their last day of eleventh-­grade English. “Settle down.” The teacher grabbed the TV remote, the only tool necessary on the final day of classes.

Roaring Creek High School had the feel of an iPhone powering down one app at a time. Science teachers cleaned lab equipment, jocks threw out ratty sneakers, and theater kids sobbed over the end of another magical season. Vera, however, was the app that no one clicked. She was “Keynotes” or “Numbers,” an icon you couldn’t delete due to manufacturer settings, but was rarely engaged.

So why was Maxwell Oliver suddenly taking notice?

“We’ll be picking up Jane Eyre right where we left off,” said Ms. Spuhler. So far today, Vera had watched Saving ­Private Ryan in AP History; Hidden Figures in pre­calculus; and now Jane Eyre in Advanced English.

He’s not looking at me, she reasoned. Then, because she had to prove herself right, Vera glanced at the window behind her, expecting to see a flying squirrel or mating robins drawing Maxwell’s attention. But there was nothing. Not even a breeze.

Her brow furrowed. Vera and Maxwell had never spoken, not directly, or at least if they had, she couldn’t remember it. They’d never been partners on a project or run into each other at the beach. To say they moved in different social circles would imply that Vera had a circle, which she didn’t. Unless you counted her family, and that was just sad. Vera preferred to be thought of as sans-­circle. The loner. The outcast. The . . . well, all the other names that people called her.

Her parents had unconventional careers, the kinds that caused dog walkers to cross the street when they passed the Martinez home and mothers to refuse to let their children go over for playdates. Vera had long since accepted this, because what other choice did she have? Hating her reality would mean hating her mom and dad, and she refused to go there.

Maxwell Oliver, on the other hand, was an athlete, an honest-­to-­goodness I competed in the Junior Olympics sprinter. He was beloved. Janitors high-­fived him in the hallway, and girls, if given the option, would line up in formal wear for a chance to accept his thornless rose.

Vera was different, for a slew of reasons that added up to her not being the type who’d catch Maxwell Oliver’s eye. Yet he was staring, almost like he had something to say. It made no sense. Every cell in her brain screamed Don’t fall for it, it’s a trick! But still her stomach twisted with the toxic taste of hope. A shoved-­down piece of her soul longed for someone to look at her and see something other than the five-­year-­old everyone avoided on the playground.

Vera tucked a thick lock of hair behind her ear and gnawed on her lip. She was under no obligation to pretend she didn’t notice. He was staring at her. So technically he should be embarrassed.

She steadied herself, preparing to meet his gaze head-­on. What was the worst that could happen? After today, she wouldn’t see Maxwell again until the start of senior year.

Vera inhaled, summoning all her courage from down deep, when Jackson Johnson stumbled into the classroom. He tripped in a walloping belly flop onto the linoleum floor, and the room erupted into laughter. Jackson immediately bounced up, milking the crowd with his arms spread in a victorious V. “We’re almost out of heeeere!” he shouted.

Applause broke out, everyone whooping and giggling as he danced about as if in a training montage. Even Vera chuckled as she stole another peek at Maxwell. His gaze still lingered, lips parted, and he was prepared to mouth something. Then both his friends abruptly turned her way. They whispered, chuckled, clearly talking about her. Vera’s cheeks flushed, and she let her eyes flit about the room until the heat in her face subsided. When she glanced back, Maxwell’s focus hadn’t shifted. Only, before he could speak, Jackson snatched a notebook and smacked Maxwell on the top of his head. Ms. Spuhler dimmed the classroom lights.

And the moment was shattered.

But it had been a moment. Vera was certain of it.

She just didn’t know what it meant.

She would soon.

The darkness hanging over Roaring Creek was inching closer to Vera Martinez.

And it all began with a single look.


Chapter Two


“Oh my God! You are so dumb!” yelled Leo Rambutan, thrusting his hands in frustration.

“Why the hell would I know where Indonesia is?” Jackson scrunched his eyes. “It’s an island. I thought it was in the Caribbean.”

“It’s thousands of islands, and because I’ve been your friend since preschool!” Leo slammed the door to his empty locker.

Max Oliver watched as his best friends bickered, shoving one another, but didn’t intercede, because (1) Jackson was that clueless, and (2) Max hadn’t slept more than a couple hours a night for the past two weeks and he didn’t have the energy to referee. His brain throbbed behind his eyes, and it took all his effort to fake some end-­of-­year enthusiasm.

“Max, please tell me you know my dad’s Indonesian.” Leo slapped his back as they trudged toward English. Only two hours left before the final bell.

Max debated staying home. It was a blow-­off day, movie after movie after movie. He tried to get some sleep when the teachers dimmed the lights, but his classmates kept interrupting with invites to parties and flyers for bonfires. Man, I sound pathetic. It was the last day of eleventh grade, which meant it was almost the first day of senior year. He and his friends had been looking forward to this moment since they first stepped into the building, and now he was whining about going to parties? Nothing felt right anymore.

“Yeah, your father was born in Indonesia,” Max said. “Which is somewhere in Southeast Asia. And your mom is, like, Polish?” It sounded like a question.

“Czech, but close enough.” Leo nodded.

“Max got that wrong,” Jackson huffed.

“Poland and the Czech Republic are right next to each other.”

“Why would I know that?”

“Because one day, believe it or not”—­Max wrapped an arm around his friend’s broad shoulders—­“you might actually leave Connecticut.”

“Says the guy who’s taking over his dad’s business,” Jackson quipped.

Max shut his mouth. Touché.

His family owned Oliver Seafood, one of the town’s only restaurants on the waterfront. Max grew up waddling around picnic tables full of lobsters in plastic tubs, while his dad worked the kitchen and his mom kept the books.

Then, just like it had for many people in Roaring Creek on that same hideous, unforgettable day, his world changed.

“Sorry, man, didn’t mean to bring it up.” Jackson caught the change in Max’s face, or the laser stare from Leo; either way, he shifted to pity mode. It always came back to the dead dad.

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