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Monday, February 28, 2022

Review: Cherish Farrah by Bethany C. Morrow

Cherish Farrah
by Bethany C. Morrow

Thank you to Dutton for these gifted books!

Publisher: Dutton
Publish Date: February 8, 2022
Kindle Edition
368 Pages
Genres: Horror, Thriller

Seventeen-year-old Farrah Turner is one of two Black girls in her country club community, and the only one with Black parents. Her best friend, Cherish Whitman, adopted by a wealthy white family, is something Farrah likes to call WGS—White Girl Spoiled. With Brianne and Jerry Whitman as parents, Cherish is given the kind of adoration and coddling that even upper-class Black parents can’t seem to afford—and it creates a dissonance in her best friend that Farrah can exploit. When her own family is unexpectedly confronted with foreclosure, the calculating Farrah is determined to reassert the control she’s convinced she’s always had over her life by staying with Cherish, the only person she loves—even when she hates her.

A troubled Farrah manipulates her way further into the Whitman family but the longer she stays, the more her own parents suggest that something is wrong in the Whitman house. She might trust them—if they didn’t think something was wrong with Farrah, too. As strange things start happening at the Whitman household—debilitating illnesses, upsetting fever dreams, an inexplicable tension with Cherish’s hothead boyfriend, and a strange journal that seems to keep track of what is happening to Farrah—it’s nothing she can’t handle. But soon everything begins to unravel when the Whitmans invite Farrah closer, and it’s anyone’s guess who is really in control.

Told in Farrah’s chilling, unforgettable voice and weaving in searing commentary on race and class, this slow-burn social horror will keep you on the edge of your seat until the last page.

My Review:


THIS BOOK.  Ok, I stayed up later than intended last night to finish this.... which was a surprise to me since I struggled a bit through the first half.  Even *almost* DNF'd it because it's so character driven and I was a bit tired of being in Farrah's head. BUT then it started to get REALLY interesting and I'm so very happy I stuck with it. 

I would definitely recommend going into this without reading the synopsis as I feel it gives away a bit too much. And I only know this because I went back to read it to see if I was missing something from this read.  I absolutely love what Morrow did with this story.  Racism, classism and CONTROL.  I honestly couldn't figure out why this was labeled horror but then I GOT IT. All the subtle clues .. brilliant!  I kind of had an idea that what I thought wasn't what it was and then got a glimmer of what I thought it could be but was definitely surprised by exactly WHY it was the way it was and this made this book for me 100%.  

Farrah is manipulative and in need of control at all time.  Constantly overthinking and pays attention to every single little detail.  (Not gonna lie, I do this a lot too and it's NOT good for the brain!)  Cherish is no better.. but she can't really even help herself.  Adopted by White parents and "White girl spoiled" (as Farrah calls her), she's protected from all the things she probably should be learning about for when she actually has to get out into the real world. How this all comes together is what makes the book so delicious and I loved seeing it,

There is one scene in this book that will stick with me forever but you'll have to read this book to figure out which one it could be. 😉


Review: Like A Sister by Kellye Garrett

Like A Sister
by Kellye Garrett
Narrated by Bahni Turpin

Thanks so much to Hachette Audio, for this gifted audiobook

Publisher: Hachette Audio
Publish Date: March 8, 2022
11 hrs 46 min
Genres: Thriller, Mystery

In this "tense, twisting mystery" and "absolutely can't-put-it-down read" (Megan Miranda), no one bats an eye when a Black reality TV star is found dead in the Bronx—except her estranged half-sister, whose refusal to believe the official story leads her on a dangerous search for the truth.

“I found out my sister was back in New York from Instagram. I found out she’d died from the New York Daily News.”

When the body of disgraced reality TV star Desiree Pierce is found on a playground in the Bronx the morning after her 25th birthday party, the police and the media are quick to declare her death an overdose. It’s a tragedy, certainly, but not a crime.

But Desiree’s half-sister Lena Scott knows that can’t be the case. A graduate student at Columbia, Lena has spent the past decade forging her own path far from the spotlight, but some facts about Desiree just couldn’t have changed since their childhood. And Desiree would never travel above 125th Street. So why is no one listening to her?

Despite the bitter truth that the two haven’t spoken in two years, torn apart by Desiree’s partying and by their father, Mel, a wealthy and influential hip-hop mogul, Lena becomes determined to find justice for her sister, even if it means untangling her family’s darkest secrets—or ending up dead herself.

My Review:

Clever, clever, clever!!  Reality TV and social media, while fun, is also so draining and hellish in its content at times.  Imagine the only way you find out about what is happening to your sister is via Instagram and the news?  She's 25, a reality TV star and considered to have had an overdose.  But something doesn't sit right with Desiree and she is determined to figure out who actually killed her sister because an overdose it was NOT.

OoOoOo I do love a novel set in NYC that makes me feel like I actually am there (I mean, I live here but you know!).  Also, I have to make a point of how much I smiled and laughed every time I saw her say "Shit nuts" because it's an inside joke and I actually use that phrase! Never have I ever heard it elsewhere before so that was just such a surprising and fun find.

How annoying is it that there was such a quick assumption that she died of an overdose?  The cops didn't do enough research and looked past clues telling them overwise. Ahem.  I loved looking through Desiree's eyes as she fought to fight the truth.  The author does a fantastic job of giving us all the drama, letting us eat those red herrings along the way. And I encourage you to listen to the audiobook as I felt the narrator was fantastic!

Absolutely pick this up if you like gritty NYC scenes while trying to solve this mystery along with the main character.


Sunday, February 27, 2022

Review: Tampa by Alissa Nutting

by Alissa Nutting

Publisher: Ecco
Publish Date: July 2, 2013
Kindle Edition
277 Pages
Genre: Contemporary

In Alissa Nutting’s novel Tampa, Celeste Price, a smoldering 26-year-old middle-school teacher in Florida, unrepentantly recounts her elaborate and sociopathically determined seduction of a 14-year-old student.
Celeste has chosen and lured the charmingly modest Jack Patrick into her web. Jack is enthralled and in awe of his eighth-grade teacher, and, most importantly, willing to accept Celeste’s terms for a secret relationship—car rides after dark, rendezvous at Jack’s house while his single father works the late shift, and body-slamming erotic encounters in Celeste’s empty classroom. In slaking her sexual thirst, Celeste Price is remorseless and deviously free of hesitation, a monstress of pure motivation. She deceives everyone, is close to no one, and cares little for anything but her pleasure.
Tampa is a sexually explicit, virtuosically satirical, American Psycho–esque rendering of a monstrously misplaced but undeterrable desire. Laced with black humor and crackling sexualized prose, Alissa Nutting’s Tampa is a grand, seriocomic examination of the want behind student / teacher affairs and a scorching literary debut.

My Review:

I need to wash my eyes out after reading this book. SCRUB A DUB DUB. Holy horny sociopathic teacher.  Remember when we heard so much about women teachers having sex with their students?  Meet Celeste - not sure if she's the worst of the worst but she's certainly.... something. 

Nutting puts us right into Celeste's mind and we get trapped there.  She NEVER lets up on the needs of her loins, how she's going to get it, what she has to do to get it... and she will do WHATEVER it takes to satiate her needs.  ANYTHING.  After so much reading of this, I think I became as numb as her hoo-ha did after her marathons with her vibrator... hey now....

There's something to be said about how people see abuse.  In this case, how could these teenage boys possibly say no to such an attractive older teacher who comes on to them?  HOW?!  And such an attractive woman saying she's too pretty for jail. UFF. I definitely think this was somewhat satirical but I'm still trying to process who the fuck Celeste is and if someone could possibly be this sociopathic... I mean, I'm sure they can but um...

Yeah - this isn't the easiest read - especially because the numerous sex scenes involve 14-year-old boys, and you are VERY aware of that.  Nutting certainly doesn't shy away from details within these scenes either. But it goes further than that in terms of emotional play and manipulation. I don't think I've ever hated a character worse.  And I'm not even sure how to rate this book.  Did I enjoy it? No. But could I stop reading? No.  I'm just gonna play this one down the middle.  I'm not mad I read it and while disgusting in nature, it's not the worst thing I've read either (I mean, she doesn't eat babies and I've read books where people do so...).

Watch your kids.. watch their teachers.


Saturday, February 26, 2022

Review: This Might Hurt by Stephanie Wrobel #ATBR2022

This Might Hurt
by Stephanie Wrobel

Thanks so much to Berkley for these gifted copies.

Publisher: Berkley
Publish Date: February 22, 2022
336 Pages
Genres: Thriller, Suspense, Cult

Welcome to Wisewood. We'll keep your secrets if you keep ours.

Natalie Collins hasn't heard from her sister in more than half a year.

The last time they spoke, Kit was slogging from mundane workdays to obligatory happy hours to crying in the shower about their dead mother. She told Natalie she was sure there was something more out there.

And then she found Wisewood.

On a private island off the coast of Maine, Wisewood's guests commit to six-month stays. During this time, they're prohibited from contact with the rest of the world--no Internet, no phones, no exceptions. But the rules are for a good reason: to keep guests focused on achieving true fearlessness so they can become their Maximized Selves. Natalie thinks it's a bad idea, but Kit has had enough of her sister's cynicism and voluntarily disappears off the grid.

Six months later Natalie receives a menacing e-mail from a Wisewood account threatening to reveal the secret she's been keeping from Kit. Panicked, Natalie hurries north to come clean to her sister and bring her home. But she's about to learn that Wisewood won't let either of them go without a fight.

My Review:

Wrobel.... you gave me magic, cult vibes, abuse, madness and just a crazy ass cast of characters. This book slapped me across the face from the very beginning and I was instantly obsessed within the first few chapters.  Sir is a character I hope to never ever meet and if I did, well, I would put him through what he put his kids through (-150 points for him, +1675 points for me).  But I also found his way of doing things somewhat fascinating as well.  I am who I am.  

The most fascinating character for me? Rebecca.  Oh she's delusional as fuck but I see where she's coming from.... sometimes.  I swear for a few chapters all I could think about is that if you swallow glass shards, how awful it would be when your body got rid of it... OUCH. 

Now, would you be able to give up all contact with the outside of world for SIX MONTHS?  No touching, no cell phones, no FUN!  I honestly don't know if I could.  And I certainly wouldn't shave my head to be a part of any kind of circle, inner or not.  But hey, people will do what they need to in order to feel better about themselves - even if at times it's really a detriment - but who are we to judge on what works for people?

I did find the book lull in some parts, but I think that's just because of how strong the beginning was.  And I'm not quite sure how I feel about that ending.  I even slept on this, and I still don't know how I feel.  However, I love ANYTHING with culty vibes and love the uniqueness in what Wrobel brought in Rebecca's character.  And how she shows there's so many layers to characters within Kit. 

A VERY solid second read of this author, who I will absolutely continue to pick up. 


Jessica's Review:

Normally I try to type up my reviews right away but I’m glad I waited a day or so for this one! DARLING ROSE GOLD was, and still is, one of my favorite books the year it released. I will continue to recommend that book, so it goes without saying that I was anxious to get my hands on Wrobel’s newest book, THIS MIGHT HURT. Of course you don’t want to go in with expectations set too high after loving her previous book but I’ll admit that I did. While I originally would have rated this a solid 4 stars, thinking back on it this is definitely a 5 star read for me.

While the pacing might feel slower for some readers I felt that it was perfectly paced. This is more of a character study but Wrobel gets us directly in their minds and you feel what they’re feeling and going through their experiences. I thought for sure I had parts figured out between the different timelines and perspectives but I was very wrong. I could see both sides of the fence with Kit and Natalie when it came to Wisewood – on one hand if it’s legitimately helping Kit then I can see why she would want to stay there, but I also can understand why Natalie is concerned and getting the creepy cult vibes. I mean, not having your phone, being able to communicate with loved ones, following very strict rules, and answering to someone they all address as Teacher? Definite cult vibes.

If you’ve read DARLING ROSE GOLD then I think you’ll be very pleased with this book. She certainly knows how to weave a dark and foreboding story. The paranoia, the suspense, the characters, there really wasn’t anything I ended up being disappointed with. If you’re looking for a fast-paced thriller then you might feel like it’s lacking but overall, another solid book from Wrobel and this has cemented her as a new autobuy author for me.

5 stars

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Review: I Must Betray You by Ruta Sepetys #ATBR2022

I Must Betray You
by Ruta Sepetys
Narrated by Edoardo Ballerini & Ruta Sepetys

Huge thanks to PRHAudio for this gifted book.

Publisher: Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Group
Publish Date: February 1, 2022
7 hr 11 min
Genres: Historical Fiction, Young Adult

Romania, 1989. Communist regimes are crumbling across Europe. Seventeen-year-old Cristian Florescu dreams of becoming a writer, but Romanians aren’t free to dream; they are bound by rules and force.

Amidst the tyrannical dictatorship of Nicolae Ceaușescu in a country governed by isolation and fear, Cristian is blackmailed by the secret police to become an informer. He’s left with only two choices: betray everyone and everything he loves—or use his position to creatively undermine the most notoriously evil dictator in Eastern Europe.

Cristian risks everything to unmask the truth behind the regime, give voice to fellow Romanians, and expose to the world what is happening in his country. He eagerly joins the revolution to fight for change when the time arrives. But what is the cost of freedom?

My Review:

Anybody else get weirded out when they're reading a historical fiction story and it's taking place within your life time? 

Oh Ruta Sepetys, I now understand why everyone has been raving about your novels.  I thought my earpiece was going to become a permanent fixture because I just did NOT want to stop listening to this novel.  Y'all, add this to your TBR immediately!  

History is probably one of my least favorite subjects, though I hear we are all doomed to repeat it (but whyyyyyyy).  However, as I've gotten older, that hasn't changed BUT I do find myself becoming intrigued when reading a hisfic novel as long as it's not *too* heavy on the history.  Feel me? And I cannot express enough how important it is to read the Author's Notes - and especially so with this book - which shed a lot of light on why the author wrote this from a young adult perspective and how we should really study the true history behind any fictional novel.  I sit here now thinking I should deep dive about Romania but I also know me and will just be in awe of this author and how this storyline played out.

Friends, while this story is fictional, what it is based on is absolutely true and NOT THAT LONG AGO.  Which, for me, made such a harder impact.  My anxiety levels for Cristian were off the charts.  I absolutely adored his character, his tenacity, his relationships - especially with his sister. I honestly could go on and on about this book.  I felt in the action.  I felt for the characters.  I was pissed at the government and all the manipulation.  A roller coaster of feelings, for sure.

**Runs to add Sepetys backlist books to tbr**  


Jessica's Review:

How has it taken me this long to finally pick up a book by Ruta Sepetys? I MUST BETRAY YOU is a beautifully written and mesmerizing piece of historical fiction about a time that wasn’t too long ago. I will admit, I didn’t know much about the dictatorship in Romania and it’s incredible the amount of research that went into this book without it reading like a textbook. I think that’s the true sign of a great historical fiction novel – you’re learning about a specific time period or event and it reads like fiction.

I loved having this come from the perspective of Cristian, a seventeen year-old that is dying to live out his dreams under the Communist rule. I think he just came to life and the journey he goes on throughout this book will have you glued to pages until the very end. I became so invested and couldn’t put the book down.

I highly recommend reading the author’s note at the end and looking through the included photos. It sheds some light on the events and I’m really happy it was included! I’ve already ordered some of Sepetys’s backlist and can’t wait for more books from her in the future.

5 stars

Monday, February 21, 2022

Review: Manhunt by Gretchen Felker-Martin

by Gretchen Felker-Martin

A huge thanks to Nightfire for this gifted book!

Publisher: Nightfire
Publish Date: February 22, 2022
304 Pages
Genres: Horror, Queer, Post-Apocalyptic, Science Fiction

Y: The Last Man meets The Girl With All the Gifts in Gretchen Felker-Martin's Manhunt, an explosive post-apocalyptic novel that follows trans women and men on a grotesque journey of survival.

Beth and Fran spend their days traveling the ravaged New England coast, hunting feral men and harvesting their organs in a gruesome effort to ensure they'll never face the same fate.

Robbie lives by his gun and one hard-learned motto: other people aren't safe.

After a brutal accident entwines the three of them, this found family of survivors must navigate murderous TERFs, a sociopathic billionaire bunker brat, and awkward relationship dynamics―all while outrunning packs of feral men, and their own demons.

Manhunt is a timely, powerful response to every gender-based apocalypse story that failed to consider the existence of transgender and non-binary people, from a powerful new voice in horror.

My Review:

First of all, this may be one of my favorite covers of all time! I mean, just look at it!!  Second, this is the first time in a VERRRRRRY long time that I read other reviews before writing mine.  In all honesty, I probably would've given this book 3-3.5 stars.  But I'm rating it higher because (1) fuck you to the haters who auto-rate it without even reading it because of their transphobia and (2) because I love that this is unlike anything I've ever read before and gave me some insight that I didn't know prior to reading this.  I read other reviews, which don't influence mine, but to see how some own voiced reviewers felt about this book and to further educate myself.  This book may not be for everyone, but what book is? And it's good to see these types of books coming out rather than the usual, same old regurgitated storylines that we've seen over and over again.

Our main characters are trans men and women who are facing their own safety, self worth, demons and more all the while fighting off men who have become feral... legit wild nonhumans that well, I may have met a man or two like that. *wink* ha.  Not only do they have to journey while avoiding these creatures, they're also on the run from the TERFS - it's a full on TERF war out there and it's scary AF.  While this book may be at the extreme, I think it very well highlights what the trans community has to go through on the daily.  I honestly don't know why people don't just let people live their lives the way that they want to.  It boggles the mind.

There's so much that I want to say but I think it's best for everyone to read this book.  It's gory, full of fluidity (in gender, sexuality AND actual fluids), some of it is a bit over the top but hell, it's nice to see trans representation as everyone deserves to see themselves in the pages that they read. 


Thursday, February 17, 2022

Review: The Night She Went Missing by Kristen Bird #ATBR2022

The Night She Went Missing
by Kristen Bird

Thanks to MIRA for these gifted books!

Publisher: MIRA
Publish Date: February 8, 2022
352 Pages
Genres: Thriller, Domestic Suspense

An intriguing and twisty domestic suspense about loyalty and deceit in a tight-knit Texas community where parents are known to behave badly and people are not always who they appear to be.

Emily, a popular but bookish prep school senior, goes missing after a night out with friends. She was last seen leaving a party with Alex, a football player with a dubious reputation. But no one is talking.

Now three mothers, Catherine, Leslie and Morgan, friends turned frenemies, have their lives turned upside down as they are forced to look to their own children—and each other’s—for answers to questions they don’t want to ask.

Each mother is sure she knows who is responsible, but they all have their own secrets to keep and reputations to protect. And the lies they tell themselves and each other may just have the potential to be lethal in this riveting debut.

My Review:

Unfortunately this is a no from me.  As a debut, I give it some leeway and I'm ALL about suspending reality because fiction is fiction and implausibility is expected...  but wow.  This book starts off really strong and I found myself instantly hooked and then I lost momentum with it about halfway in. 

Ok, if these characters didn't make the decisions that they did, then it would probably have been less entertaining.  As things went sideways and wonky I just laughed along with it all.  I don't mind this most of the time but sometimes you need to pull the reins just a *teensy* bit.

I really do like Bird's writing style and I most definitely will pick up her sophomore novel and watch her talent grow.  While this one may not have worked for me, I think she's an author to keep an eye on. I mean, I do love me some domestic suspense! 


Jessica's Review:

I wanted to love this more than I did in the end. I think as a debut in the domestic suspense genre this was a solid read! I enjoyed the multiple POVs and the pacing of the book. The mystery was great and I liked the journey we went on to figure out what happened to Emily. Why did she disappear? How did she end up in the water? Who did this to her?

I’ll always love the setting in a small and supposedly close-knit community – because everyone shows their true colors when everyone is pointing fingers at each other. I’m all for the domestic thrillers being a little bit of a stretch when it comes to reality but parts were just a little too out there for my liking. Still a solid debut and I’ll be curious to see what Bird comes out with next

3 stars 

Wednesday, February 16, 2022

Review: Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner

Crying in H Mart
by Michelle Zauner

Thanks so much to PRHAudio for this gifted audiobook.

Publisher: Random House Audio
Publish Date: April 20, 2021
7 hrs 23 min
Genres: Autobiography, Memoir, Nonfiction

From the indie rockstar of Japanese Breakfast fame, and author of the viral 2018 New Yorker essay that shares the title of this book, an unflinching, powerful memoir about growing up Korean American, losing her mother, and forging her own identity.

In this exquisite story of family, food, grief, and endurance, Michelle Zauner proves herself far more than a dazzling singer, songwriter, and guitarist. With humor and heart, she tells of growing up the only Asian American kid at her school in Eugene, Oregon; of struggling with her mother's particular, high expectations of her; of a painful adolescence; of treasured months spent in her grandmother's tiny apartment in Seoul, where she and her mother would bond, late at night, over heaping plates of food.

As she grew up, moving to the East Coast for college, finding work in the restaurant industry, and performing gigs with her fledgling band--and meeting the man who would become her husband--her Koreanness began to feel ever more distant, even as she found the life she wanted to live. It was her mother's diagnosis of terminal pancreatic cancer, when Michelle was twenty-five, that forced a reckoning with her identity and brought her to reclaim the gifts of taste, language, and history her mother had given her.

Vivacious and plainspoken, lyrical and honest, Zauner's voice is as radiantly alive on the page as it is onstage. Rich with intimate anecdotes that will resonate widely, and complete with family photos, Crying in H Mart is a book to cherish, share, and reread.

My Review:

Oh my Korean American heart! 💝 Sometimes a book just hits you right in the tear ducts and while my eyes might not have leaked reading this, my heart sure did. SO SO many things resonated with me during this listen as I too also am Korean American with a Korean mother and American father.  I laughed at some parts because it was like listening to someone tell me about my childhood.  I cried on the inside at some parts because I couldn't imagine going through this with my own mother.  OMG, NOW why do my tears want to well up while writing this?! 😢

Some might wonder why there is an ABUNDANCE of food detail within these pages.  Food is such a bonding thing in the Korean culture.  No matter how skinny or fat my mom called me, she always had a plate full of food for me, always asked if I wanted more, always made a note out loud to how much I ate (Oh, Chandra ate it all! Oh, you didn't eat much today. OH, you want more - wah, you eat a lot!).  She's also loud, abrasive, constantly critiques and can be quite scary... but I also know no one will love me as much and as hard as she does.  Every instance Michelle talks about food and describes the process/taste, it takes me back.  Give me my scissors, chopsticks and all the ingredients please!

Honestly, I could go on and on and on and on about this book.  I am utterly grateful my mom is still alive and we have a great relationship.  I am eternally appreciative of my culture - especially now that I'm older.  My heart goes out to Michelle and her family.  If ever a memoir was going to pat me on the ass, it's this one (Koreans do this a lot btw... pat pat... my mom did this to an ex once and he thought she was hitting on him 😆).  In this photo are the cards Michelle speaks about.  It's so cathartic sometimes to just play solitaire with these and hear the slapping of the cards. #IYKYK

All the stars - Michelle, can we be friends please? 


Tuesday, February 15, 2022

Review: An Impossible Impostor by Deanna Raybourn #ATBR2022

An Impossible Impostor
by Deanna Raybourn

Thanks so much to Berkley for this gifted book.

Publisher: Berkley Books
Publish Date: February 15, 2022
336 Pages
Series: Veronica Speedwell #7
Genres: Historical Fiction, Mystery

While investigating a man claiming to be the long-lost heir to a noble family, Veronica Speedwell gets the surprise of her life in this new adventure from the New York Times bestselling and Edgar Award-nominated author Deanna Raybourn.

London, 1889. Veronica Speedwell and her natural historian beau Stoker are summoned by Sir Hugo Montgomerie, head of Special Branch. He has a personal request on behalf of his goddaughter, Euphemia Hathaway. After years of traveling the world, her eldest brother, Jonathan, heir to Hathaway Hall, was believed to have been killed in the catastrophic eruption of Krakatoa a few years before.

But now a man matching Jonathan's description and carrying his possessions has arrived at Hathaway Hall with no memory of his identity or where he has been. Could this man truly be Jonathan, back from the dead? Or is he a devious impostor, determined to gain ownership over the family's most valuable possessions--a legendary parure of priceless Rajasthani jewels? It's a delicate situation, and Veronica is Sir Hugo's only hope.

Veronica and Stoker agree to go to Hathaway Hall to covertly investigate the mysterious amnesiac. Veronica is soon shocked to find herself face-to-face with a ghost from her past. To help Sir Hugo discover the truth, she must open doors to her own history that she long believed to be shut for good.

My Review:

I've read two historical fiction novels (so far) this month - WHO AM I???  As a long time fan of this Veronica Speedwell series, I was super stoked to receive this copy of the latest installment.  I have loved all six books before this one.... so I suppose it was only time that one wasn't gonna *quite* do it for me.  Le sigh.

I absolutely LOVE the dynamic between Veronica and Stoker. LOVE.  Sassy, witty banter.  Her forcefulness to his more calm demeanor.. .and you can just feel their love oozing off the pages. So what the hell are you doing, Raybourn?!?! Ok, let me calm down and pull myself together....

The book starts fun.  Their dynamic is in full force within the first chapter and we see that forcefulness in Veronica's personality that I spoke of.  I also found the "mystery" intriguing but it was also sorely lacking as it took a far back seat to Veronica's past.  Now, I realize some books in series will do this.  And I also realize it's time we learned a bit more about Veronica... but um, WHAT. Uff.  I'll admit it was fun to see a little different side of the characters... but I felt like Veronica was a caricature of herself. And my heart went out to Stoker.  And I'm gonna leave it at that as I don't want to spoil anything for y'all.  

I NEED the next installment to see what happens.  While this wasn't my favorite in the series, I really did still enjoy the book... my feelings are muddled and on behalf of some of the characters, am miffed.  Which just shows how much I freakin' care, ok? Haha...


Jessica's Review:

Here is the newest installment in the Veronica Speedwell series! AN IMPOSSIBLE IMPOSTER is book seven and while this wasn’t my favorite one I can appreciate all of the character development and backstory we get throughout the book. I know that this happens at some time with every longer running series, we always need a book or two to help lay some groundwork for future books. I think that’s why this book had a different feel than the others.

I love the dynamic between Veronica and Stoker. This is the high point of the books and it’s been so fun seeing how things progress between these two. They just compliment each other in so many ways and their banter is perfect. I think Raybourn has done a great job making these two feel real and their interactions authentic and believable. I know I’m not the only reader of this series that wants them together!

I wish there was more of the mystery in this book and a little less of her past, or at least a better balance between the two elements. Parts felt a little slower but the last half really made up for it and oh my god, that ending! Now we’re stuck waiting to see what will happen next, because obviously I need to see how things turn out for Veronica and Stoker! If you’re thinking about starting the series I highly recommend you start from the beginning.

3 stars

Thursday, February 10, 2022

Review: The Corruption of Philip Toles by Felix I.D. Dimaro

The Corruption of Philip Toles
by Felix I.D. Dimaro

A huge thank you to the author for this gifted book.

Publisher: Infinity Road Publishing House
Publish Date: December 12, 2021
177 Pages
Genre: Horror 

It was a haunting thirteen years in the making…

On the morning of his thirteenth birthday, Philip Alexander Toles was found dead, hanging by the neck from a basketball rim inside of his school’s gymnasium. A note was found in his pocket indicating that a teacher, Mrs. Kathleen Jeffreys, was the reason for his death. Suggesting that she preyed on the boy. That she drove him to his end.

In life, Philip Toles was a boy exploited by his teacher, neglected by his mother, and let down by nearly every adult meant to protect him. In death, he became just a boy, another victim. Forgotten, as so many victims are.

Until thirteen years later.

On the anniversary of his death, of his birth, someone, or something, remembers Philip. And wants others to remember him as well. That someone, or something, is looking to hold those who ruined Philip’s life and caused his death accountable.

Justice is no longer of importance. Because vengeance is being sought.

The Corruption of Philip Toles deals with the deepest, darkest, most deranged parts of the human psyche. And the monstrosities which exist within those depths. 

My Review:

One story about The Corruption of Philip Toles.  My favorite read by Dimaro yet.  Yes, this is hard to read.  Yes, the subject matter is dark and Dimaro gives all the trigger warnings in the pages before the story begins.

Two thoughts popped up in my gray matter when I started this read. (1) I should absolutely reread synopses before I read the books because I thought I was going to get more of what happened to Philip and the story leading up to him being found hanging from a basketball hoop and then the aftermath.  Instead, it's pure aftermath and I actually think I liked this better because normally we don't see this side of the equation. (2) So many things happened at the beginning, I was like... um, but now where are we going to go?? Well, go we surely went!

Three days it took me to read this because life got busy but I'm glad I took my time with this.  It's kind of like watching Hostel 2 - we get to see the hows and whys and that is what the author provides us here.  And it's disgusting ... but I weirdly like disgusting *fiction* so hi *waves*.  

Four times I put my hands to my head while reading and cringed.  But most especially when Corbray was at his daughter's house.  Thanks Felix, that's when I knew I was really engaged in the story and if I could've reached in and taken Corbray out of the book at that point, I absolutely would've.  To kick his gross ass into orbit.  

Five stars I would've given this but I felt the beginning felt rushed to get to the meat of the story.  But hell, I can see the growth in Felix's writing and I love where it's going.  He's not afraid to tackle the darkest stories and I'll forever be here for them.  Yes, I read the "Thanks For Reading" and even the "this particular part of it" *wink*... and I'm so intrigued with the chalk writing... YES!  Also, one last inkling in how I loved the chapters started with the number of the chapter as the first word in the sentence... which I tried to exemplify here and not very well. Haha.  

This definitely will not be a book for everyone but it was definitely the book for me.


Wednesday, February 9, 2022

Review: Anonymous Sex

 Anonymous Sex

Thanks to Simon & Schuster / NetGalley for this gifted book.

Publisher: Scribner
Publish Date: February 8, 2022
Kindle Edition
368 Pages
Genres: Short Stories, Anthology Erotica

27 Authors. 27 Stories. No Names Attached.

A bold collection of stories about sex that leaves you guessing who wrote what.

Bestselling novelists Hillary Jordan and Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan present an elegant, international anthology of erotica that explores the diverse spectrum of desire, written by winners of the Pulitzer Prize, National Book Award, PEN Awards, the Women’s Prize for Fiction, Edgar Award, and more. There are stories of sexual obsession and sexual love, of domination and submission. There’s revenge sex, unrequited sex, funny sex, tortured sex, fairy tale sex, and even sex in the afterlife.

While the authors are listed in alphabetical order at the beginning of the book, none of the stories are attributed, providing readers with a glimpse into an uninhibited landscape of sexuality as explored by twenty-seven of today’s finest authors.

Featuring Robert Olen Butler, Catherine Chung, Trent Dalton, Heidi W. Durrow, Tony Eprile, Louise Erdrich, Jamie Ford, Julia Glass, Peter Godwin, Hillary Jordan, Rebecca Makkai, Valerie Martin, Dina Nayeri, Chigozie Obioma, Téa Obreht, Helen Oyeyemi, Mary-Louise Parker, Victoria Redel, Jason Reynolds, S.J. Rozan, Meredith Talusan, Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan, Souvankham Thammavongsa, Jeet Thayil, Paul Theroux, Luis Alberto Urrea, and Edmund White.

My Review:

It's been a hot minute since I've read any erotica.  But give me 27 authors with 27 erotic stories and you have no idea who wrote what?  Well, don't you threaten me with a good time!!

Alas, meep.  I was thoroughly intrigued - especially with this large cast of amazing authors.  And I'm sure, like with most anthologies there is something for everyone.  Unfortunately, for the most part these were a miss for me.  The very first story had me intrigued - so much that if I knew who the author was, I'd write them and see if we can't get this story expanded as I REALLY need to know what happened after that necklace incident! WINNER. But the rest fell a bit flat for me.  And I didn't feel most stories were all that "erotic" ... though that definition varies for everyone and their sex spectrum.

Long story short... swing and... a miss! Let's just say that for the most part, it was a bit... soft.  Womp womp.


Tuesday, February 8, 2022

Review: Bitter by Akwaeke Emezi

by Akwaeke Emezi
Narrated by Bahni Turpin

Thanks so much to Knopf Books & PRHAudio for these gifted books.

Publisher: PRHAudio
Publish Date: February 15, 2022
7 hrs 12 min
Companion: Pet #0.5
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Horror, Queer

After a childhood in foster care, Bitter is thrilled to have been chosen to attend Eucalyptus, a special school where she can focus on her painting surrounded by other creative teens. But outside this haven, the streets are filled with protests against the deep injustices that grip the city of Lucille.

Bitter's instinct is to stay safe within the walls of Eucalyptus . . . but her friends aren't willing to settle for a world that's so far away from what they deserve. Pulled between old friendships, her artistic passion, and a new romance, Bitter isn't sure where she belongs--in the studio or in the streets. And if she does find a way to help the revolution while being true to who she is, she must also ask: at what cost?

This timely and riveting novel--a companion to the National Book Award finalist Pet--explores the power of youth, protest, and art.

My Review:

I'm fast becoming a HUGE fan of Akwaeke Emezi.  They know how to write and their story of PET, which I read and ADORED, was one of my favorites last year.  Lo and behold, there's a companion novel about Jam's mother, Bitter?! **GRABBY HANDS**

This is basically a prequel to PET, where we get to learn how the world we meet in PET comes about.  And I did so lovingly love learning more about Bitter.  Emezi does a fantastic job throwing in some levity while tackling some serious subjects.  Not only do we talk about the expected art within the book, but what it stands for in activism, different types of protests and my favorite part - SELF CARE and taking care of mental health.  There are many different ways to contribute and many different ways to help others.  Just make sure you're taking care of yourself within the process!!

This can absolutely be read as a standalone and if you haven't read PET yet, I'd probably encourage you to read this first, BUT it's not necessary.  And for those who have read PET already, definitely pick this up as well.  Note that it has a very different feel and atmosphere as it tackles different themes.  While we get Bitter as a young adult, this reads more "adult" than its companion.

Shout out to the narrator who did an amazing job with the audiobook.  Shout out to Akwaeke for bringing us another wonderful story. 


Friday, February 4, 2022

Review: Woman Last Seen by Adele Parks #ATBR2022

Woman Last Seen
by Adele Parks

Thanks so much to Mira Books for these gifted books.

Publisher: MIRA
Publish Date: February 1, 2022
384 Pages
Genre: Thriller | Harlequin  | Barnes & Noble | Amazon | Books-A-Million | Powell’s

Leigh Fletcher: happily married stepmom to two gorgeous boys goes missing on Monday. Her husband, Mark, says he knows nothing of her whereabouts. She went to work and just never came home. Their family is shattered.

Kai Janssen: married to wealthy Dutch businessman Daan and vanishes the same week. Kai left their luxurious penthouse and glamorous world without a backward glance. She seemingly evaporated into thin air. Daan is distraught.

Detective Clements knows that people disappear all the time—far too frequently. Most run away from things, some run toward, others are taken but find their way back. A sad few never return. These two women are from very different worlds. Their disappearances are unlikely to be connected. And yet, at a gut level, the detective believes they might be.

How could these women walk away from their families, husbands and homes willingly? Clements is determined to unearth the truth, no matter how shocking and devastating it may be.

My Review:

Sloooooooooow predictable burn.  Did I like this? Yes!!  Did I love it? No.  I do love missing persons stories and the captor gives the captee notes from a typewriter slid under the door to her holding "cell".  Ok - I'm intrigued - let's get THRILLERY.

Unlikeable characters, I love to hate them.  But there was so much internal dialogue and going back to the past that it made the story run a bit slow for me.  This is also very light on the thriller.  I did see one twisty twist coming from a mile away but another one snuck up on me and pinched me on the ass.  

Detective Clements is determined to figure out what happened and if these disappearances are related in any manner... and we all know they are because we're reading about it. *wink*  But really, I feel like if this part had been left out, it wouldn't have made much of a difference in the story itself.  So this is definitely less "procedural" than you may think at first.

I don't know, y'all.  I do love this author and will absolutely continue to read her.  The ass pinch I mentioned earlier is at the end of the book and I'm just not sure I bought it all.  I absolutely have no issue suspending belief but sometimes I just have to head tilt and brow furrow at some things.  I need answers.


Jessica's Review:

I’ll keep this short and sweet! Seems the shorter reviews have been working a lot better for me lately. I love some of Adele Parks’s books and I know I can expect a compulsive read from start to finish. While that is true with her newest, WOMAN LAST SEEN, the pacing in the beginning was a little on the slower side for my liking. BUT it was still one I couldn’t stop reading. It’s always weird when that happens, like it’s slow moving but I need to know what’s going to happen so I keep going. If you don’t like ambiguous endings then this one might not be your favorite and you might need to suspend reality. Was it my favorite by Parks? No. Was it bad? Also no. I enjoyed it but wasn’t wowed but I’ll continue to pick up whatever I can find from Parks!

3 stars

Author Bio: 

Adele Parks was born in Teesside, North-East England. Her first novel, Playing Away, was published in 2000 and since then she's had 20 international bestsellers, translated into twenty-six languages. She's been an Ambassador for The Reading Agency and a judge for the Costa. She's lived in Italy, Botswana and London, and is now settled in Guildford, Surrey, with her husband, teenage son and cat.

Author Website | Instagram: @adele_parks | Twitter: @adeleparks | Facebook: @OfficialAdeleParks