Posted in Reviews

ARC Review: Reasons for Avoiding Friends by Megan Leavell (9/14)

Reasons for Avoiding Friends by Megan Leavell
Verdict: fine for a diversion, nothing that blew me away on it’s own
Expected Release Date: September 14, 2021

Recommended: Sure
For a quick contemporary read, for a female-friendship story, for a look at alcoholism and falling into patterns even when they don’t make you happy and how to break out of it

Summary

Growing up, Gwen and Iris were the best of friends, even if they couldn’t have been more different. Now Gwen is living her hometown dream, or so she reminds herself while juggling endless parenting drama, an unemployed husband, and a neighborhood pyramid scheme. Never mind that at age thirty-nine, her social circle still resembles middle school. Her life is everything she ever wanted it to be, but nothing like she had planned.

Iris was never destined for the ordinary. When she moved to Manhattan, she shed her old life for a better one—but not without a cost. From a distance, Iris’s life couldn’t be more charmed, but no one knows about the cracks in the image she’s worked so hard to cultivate. No one knows the real Iris at all. Except for Gwen. But Iris and Gwen haven’t spoken for years. Until…

When Iris’s past catches up with her, she turns to the one person she could always count on—but she isn’t the only one keeping secrets, and as Gwen scrambles to preserve an illusion of domestic bliss, she finds herself wondering when they went from telling each other everything to sharing nothing. Now, a little wiser, and most certainly a little older, Gwen and Iris discover that the truest of friends accept you just as you are, and that loving yourself is sometimes the best way to find happiness.

Thoughts:

I went for this book because I had been reading a lot of heavy topics and depressing novels, and I wanted a bit of a break. I more or less got it with this, but it did have more serious issues than I expected. One of the main characters is DEFINITELY an alcoholic, and it’s painful to watch the many terrible decisions she makes. And somehow never admits or recognizes. DAMN, GIRL. It’s really not a whole lot easier to watch the other MC live in her sad rut of a life without galvanizing to do anything about it.

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Posted in Reviews

ARC Review: Half Sick of Shadows by Laura Sebastian

Half Sick of Shadows by Laura Sebastian
Expected Release Date: July 6, 2021

Recommended: yep
For a delve into Arthurian legend from the side of Elaine the seer, for a form-shifting read that excels at mirroring the readers’ experience with the characters’, for a dark yet hopeful spin

Summary

Everyone knows the legend. Of Arthur, destined to be a king. Of the beautiful Guinevere, who will betray him with his most loyal knight, Lancelot. Of the bitter sorceress, Morgana, who will turn against them all. But Elaine alone carries the burden of knowing what is to come–for Elaine of Shalott is cursed to see the future.

On the mystical isle of Avalon, Elaine runs free and learns of the ancient prophecies surrounding her and her friends–countless possibilities, almost all of them tragic.

When their future comes to claim them, Elaine, Guinevere, Lancelot, and Morgana accompany Arthur to take his throne in stifling Camelot, where magic is outlawed, the rules of society chain them, and enemies are everywhere. Yet the most dangerous threats may come from within their own circle.

As visions are fulfilled and an inevitable fate closes in, Elaine must decide how far she will go to change fate–and what she is willing to sacrifice along the way.

Thoughts

The first thing I’ll say is that I have NO IDEA who Elaine is outside of this story. I have no other context to compare her to, so I really can’t speak to that aspect of the experience. If you’re familiar with the lore already from other media, I have no idea how this might align with the way it’s been told elsewhere. That said, I think the way it was told here was quite compelling.

My absolute favorite aspect of this book (besides the plot itself) is the way my experience reading it mirrored Elaine’s experience as a seer so well. Past, present, and future all blend together with timeline and perspective shifting often, and not always with clear delineations. If this might drive you crazy, then be forewarned, but I promise it enhanced the book, not detracted. Elaine’s glimpses of the future bleed in to every action of the present and affect her memories of the past. How can you act on love when you literally KNOW it will lead to heartbreak of the most dire kind?

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Posted in Reviews

Review: To the Bright Edge of the World by Eowyn Ivey

To the Bright Edge of the World by Eowyn Ivey
Verdict: wow.

Recommended: yes indeed

For an exploration of Alaskan wilderness, for a story that feels real and immediate, for a journey with so many others that ties you into a larger part of history, for a fabulous example of how multimedia can create a powerful effect

Summary

The cover is as entrancing as the contents

Colonel Allen Forrester receives the commission of a lifetime when he is charged to navigate Alaska’s hitherto impassable Wolverine River, with only a small group of men. The Wolverine is the key to opening up Alaska and its huge reserves of gold to the outside world, but previous attempts have ended in tragedy.

For Forrester, the decision to accept this mission is even more difficult, as he is only recently married to Sophie, the wife he had perhaps never expected to find. Sophie is pregnant with their first child, and does not relish the prospect of a year in a military barracks while her husband embarks upon the journey of a lifetime. She has genuine cause to worry about her pregnancy, and it is with deep uncertainty about what their future holds that she and her husband part.

Thoughts

I bought a used copy of this book, because I like stories that have the stories of people on them as well as in them. The well-creased spine of my new-old copy made me think I had chosen well in this particular story, and I was not disappointed.

I was first surprised at how heavy the book is, physically. Despite it’s average length and being a paperback copy, it was significantly heavier than other books of similar style and size that I had. Now that I’ve finished the book, that feels strangely appropriate. I’m still in that world enough to feel that maybe the man who flies on black wings has something to do with it.

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Posted in Fast-Forward Friday

Fast Forward Friday: The Prison Healer, 4/13/21

Hey y’all! In contrast to Throwback Thursday, I like to use Fridays to look forward to an upcoming release that I’m excited about! Today’s is The Prison Healer by Lynette Noni.
Expected Release: April 13, 2021

Why wait on this one?

  • A woman taking on some kind of to-the-death competition is pretty much the easiest way to get me to read a book. Add in the facts that they’re elemental based trials, there’s a prison involved, PLUS some kind of foreign-royal-rebellion-rescue mystery involved? Well, there’s pretty much no way I’m not reading this.
  • This sounds like it’s going to have strong Throne of Glass vibes, and that series was a game changer for me. I think this book has the potential to be really unoriginal and disappointing, BUT I also think that if it’s done well, it will be really really good. I hold out hope for the latter. ^.^
  • Creative challenges are fun to read about. I can’t wait to see what madness she has to face for a fire trial, or how her healing skills will inevitably come in handy somehow. There’s also just so much mystery packed into the blurb that I ALREADY am dying to know: who is this queen? Who is KIVA, really??

Summary

Seventeen-year-old Kiva Meridan has spent the last ten years fighting for survival in the notorious death prison, Zalindov, working as the prison healer.

When the Rebel Queen is captured, Kiva is charged with keeping the terminally ill woman alive long enough for her to undergo the Trial by Ordeal: a series of elemental challenges against the torments of air, fire, water, and earth, assigned to only the most dangerous of criminals.

Then a coded message from Kiva’s family arrives, containing a single order: “Don’t let her die. We are coming.” Aware that the Trials will kill the sickly queen, Kiva risks her own life to volunteer in her place. If she succeeds, both she and the queen will be granted their freedom.

But no one has ever survived.

With an incurable plague sweeping Zalindov, a mysterious new inmate fighting for Kiva’s heart, and a prison rebellion brewing, Kiva can’t escape the terrible feeling that her trials have only just begun.

Posted in Reviews

Review: The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna

The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna
Verdict: eh… underwhelming

Recommended: not really

If you read the blurb and are REALLY into it, give it a go. If you’re interested but not ravenous, probably don’t bother. Stay away if you want the dark moments to make you shiver, and stay away if you want characters who feel like people. Give it a shot if what you want is to learn about the world they live in.

Summary

Sixteen-year-old Deka lives in fear and anticipation of the blood ceremony that will determine whether she will become a member of her village. Already different from everyone else because of her unnatural intuition, Deka prays for red blood so she can finally feel like she belongs.

But on the day of the ceremony, her blood runs gold, the color of impurity–and Deka knows she will face a consequence worse than death.

Then a mysterious woman comes to her with a choice: stay in the village and submit to her fate, or leave to fight for the emperor in an army of girls just like her. They are called alaki–near-immortals with rare gifts. And they are the only ones who can stop the empire’s greatest threat.

Knowing the dangers that lie ahead yet yearning for acceptance, Deka decides to leave the only life she’s ever known. But as she journeys to the capital to train for the biggest battle of her life, she will discover that the great walled city holds many surprises. Nothing and no one are quite what they seem to be–not even Deka herself.

Thoughts

Ehh. I mean, it wasn’t bad. But it just never really sucked me in. I read the story with a bit of detachment the whole way. The ending picked it up a bit, but I probably won’t continue the series. Honestly it doesn’t feel like I need to. The end had a few interesting revelations, but ultimately it didn’t finish on a concrete “WHAT NOW” kind of moment. It didn’t keep me hooked and desperate for the next one.

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Posted in Fast-Forward Friday

Fast Forward Friday: Zara Hossain is Here, 4/6/21

Hey y’all! In contrast to Throwback Thursday, I like to use Fridays to look forward to an upcoming release that I’m excited about! Today’s is Zara Hossain is Here by Sabina Khan.
Expected Release: April 6, 2021

Why wait on this one?

  • As always, I’m about cultures besides my own, although Zara Hossain is dealing with racism and hate from those in her new home in Texas. I super hope Tyler Benson, the ringleader of it all, learns his lesson and maybe even switches sides — or at least gets what he’s given. -_-
  • Strong women are the best. Allowing Zara to fight and be brave, even though it’s bullshit that anyone still has to, is a relief. If they’re in a bad situation, at least they have some ways to stand up. And I hope this book shows the hope that others WILL stand with them, with the oppressed and mistreated.
  • Zara’s family has been waiting on their green card for almost a decade, and the craziest part about that is how common that actually is. A friend of mine went through the process with her husband, and even that took YEARS for them to get when he’s from New Zealand, a country with good relations with pretty much every other country. I love the insight to the process, as it’s something most Americans will never go through, and understanding the many barriers to moving to the US legally will help breed empathy and understanding, which in turn reduces hate and fear.

Summary

Seventeen-year-old Pakistani immigrant, Zara Hossain, has been leading a fairly typical life in Corpus Christi, Texas, since her family moved there for her father to work as a pediatrician. While dealing with the Islamophobia that she faces at school, Zara has to lay low, trying not to stir up any trouble and jeopardize their family’s dependent visa status while they await their green card approval, which has been in process for almost nine years.

But one day her tormentor, star football player Tyler Benson, takes things too far, leaving a threatening note in her locker, and gets suspended. As an act of revenge against her for speaking out, Tyler and his friends vandalize Zara’s house with racist graffiti, leading to a violent crime that puts Zara’s entire future at risk. Now she must pay the ultimate price and choose between fighting to stay in the only place she’s ever called home or losing the life she loves and everyone in it.

Posted in Fast-Forward Friday

Fast Forward Friday: If I Tell You the Truth, 1/19/21

Hey y’all! In contrast to Throwback Thursday, I like to use Fridays to look ahead to an upcoming release that I’m excited about! Today’s is If I Tell You The Truth by Jasmin Kaur, which has both a gorgeous premise and a gorgeous cover.

Why wait on this one?

  • Ahhhh, a good multi-generational women’s story. With the added element of immigration, this is basically everything I love in a story. We’ll hear from Kiran and her daughter Sahaara as they tackle together longstanding secrets and painful pasts.
  • ….those secrets being not so secret to the reader, as we know that Sahaara was conceived when Kiran was raped. So that’s a pretty intense conversation for a mother and daughter to have, and the way they’ll each try to cope as well as finding their way together with this shared truth between them promises to be painful and (I hope) really really powerful with tentative hope in the face of despair.
  • Multigenre stories feel so rare. I absolutely adore books told in varying formats, or in nontraditional medium. This one is a blend of poetry, prose, and illustrations, and I can only imagine how well that will complement the story. Powerful and complex feelings sometimes need creative and non-linear forms of expression.

Summary

Told in prose, poetry, and illustration, this heartrending story weaves Kiran’s and Sahaara’s timelines together, showing a teenage Kiran and, later, her high school–aged daughter, Sahaara.

Kiran is a young Punjabi Sikh woman who becomes pregnant after being sexually assaulted by her fiancé’s brother. When her fiancé and family don’t believe her, she flees her home in India to Canada, where she plans to raise the child as a single mother. For Kiran, living undocumented means constant anxiety over finances, work, safety, and whether she’ll be deported back to the dangers that await her in Punjab.

Eighteen years later, Kiran’s daughter, Sahaara, is desperate to help her mother, who has been arrested and is facing deportation. In the aftermath, Kiran reveals the truth about Sahaara’s conception. Horrified, Sahaara encourages Kiran to speak out against the man who raped her—who’s now a popular political figure in Punjab. Sahaara must find the best way to support her mother while also dealing with the revelation about her parents.

Posted in Fast-Forward Friday

Fast Forward Friday: The Arctic Fury

In contrast to Throwback Thursday, I like to use Fridays to look ahead to an upcoming release that I’m excited about! Today’s is one somewhat outside my usual, but that I’m curious about: The Arctic Fury by Greer Macalister.
Expected Release: December 1, 2020

Why wait on this one?

  • Partially set in Boston, and partially set in the wild arctic. I am forever favoring stories set in Boston, and the arctic is this symbol of untameable natural wild that can so easily destroy people. With two settings like that, I’m expecting some really incredible atmosphere. Plus, in a place like that, people are bound to go a little crazy and relationships are destined to be frayed. And since this may have ended in murder…
  • A female-focused expedition to the arctic, especially in 1853, is a big deal. I’m sure there will be some flak towards the women from the public due to how unusual it would have been at the time. Besides the social aspects of this, I’m also very curious to see what the plan was for the women in preparing for such a harsh environment in a time before so much of the technology that makes it a bit easier today.
  • This is an adventure exploration of the unknown and a murder mystery tied up into one story. What an amazing combination! I feel like with those two main stories, this is going to have something for everyone. I also already have an opinion: there’s no way anyone was murdered. It’s the freakin’ arctic. I’m sure they just froze, or got eaten by a bear, or drowned.

Summary

In early 1853, experienced California Trail guide Virginia Reeve is summoned to Boston by a mysterious benefactor who offers her a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: lead a party of 12 women into the wild, hazardous Arctic to search for the lost Franklin Expedition. It’s an extraordinary request, but the party is made up of extraordinary women. Each brings her own strengths and skills to the expedition- and her own unsettling secrets. A year and a half later, back in Boston, Virginia is on trial when not all of the women return. Told in alternating timelines that follow both the sensational murder trial in Boston and the dangerous, deadly progress of the women’s expedition into the frozen North, this heart-pounding story will hold readers rapt as a chorus of voices answer the trial’s all-consuming question: what happened out there on the ice?

Posted in Book Talk, Chatty

BOOK ALERT: Series finale ARCs on NetGalley from Wednesday Books!

Hey y’all! I got a very exciting email this morning, and wanted to spread the news for anyone else who would be pumped to hear it! Until 10/17/20 (EST) three series finale books are available to read immediately on NetGalley — no request needed! Wednesday Books is spreading the love for all us readers. 🥰

If you’re not familiar with NetGalley, it’s a site used by publishers to give advanced digital copies of books to readers of all kinds for early reviews and promotion. You can sign up for free at netgalley.com, and click on the links below to read the books once you’re all set up! The site is only available in some countries, and not all books are available in all places, so if any below are not available for you I’m terribly sorry for getting your hopes up, but you can still find other great reads on NetGalley! 😓😭

If you loved FABLE

I know I personally saw this book cover ALL OVER for a few months before release, because dang is it stunning! This female-led pirate adventure that began with Fable is concluding in Spring of 2021 with Namesake by Adrienne Young, but you can read a digital copy early below!

Continue reading “BOOK ALERT: Series finale ARCs on NetGalley from Wednesday Books!”