The Match by Sarah Adams

The Match by Sarah Adams
Published: 5.30.20 via KindleUnlimited
Genre: Adult RomCom
Details: 284 pages – Paperbook, Kindle, Audiobook
Rating: 4 Stars
Series: It Happened in Charleston #1

Disclaimer: This book was read voluntarily by me via KindleUnlimited. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

SYNOPSIS

Having worked for Southern Service Paws for a few years now, I like to think I’m prepared for just about any client meeting under the sun. I am dead wrong.

The day I meet with single dad, Jacob Broaden, about potentially matching his daughter with one of our service dogs, I learn a few valuable lessons.

1) Always set my alarm clock.
2) Single dads are way hotter than I previously thought.
3) It is possible to go from fantasizing about kissing someone to wishing they would be run over by a truck in a matter of two minutes.

Unfortunately, I don’t hold that opinion of him for very long. Not when he shows me a different side of himself—one that’s sweet as maple syrup and hot as apple pie fresh out of the oven.

Too bad this guy is so far out of my league that I shouldn’t even be allowed to enter the game. Jake doesn’t seem to get that memo though. And after a few days of working closely with him and his daughter, he starts looking at me with fire in his eyes, making me dream of something I probably shouldn’t…

A family.

REVIEW

I started this book as my nightly read when I’m falling asleep. I sometimes struggle with enemies to lovers tropes because sometimes the characters can seriously be nasty to each other and it frustrates me. This book had so much balance. The tension is mainly from misunderstandings but are quickly resolved – one the the things I love about sweet romances!

Evie is strong, independent, and determined…. until you get her around her parents. She comes from a well to do family and she’s trying to break away. She loves working with service dogs and matching them to families and yet they refuse to support her. I don’t honestly know if the author needed to make Evie so tortured by them emotionally. She does things so out of character that it just didn’t make sense (spoilers below). Jake was pretty on brand as the misunderstood bad boy but it made it better because we got his POV as well. We could see that his motives were strictly to protect his daughter ad even when he was being an absolute dipshit, it made you go “aww Jake no!!” I rooted for Him and Evie through the whole thing!

Overall, this sweet, quick enemies to lovers romance is sure to sweep you away! This book is not smutty but it does have some steamy moments and lots of flirting!

There is one main critique that I need to add. There is like ZERO diversity. I went into this hoping that a 2020 book would have some diverse characters and alas, everyone is basically straight, white, and rich. Boo.


SPOILERS:

Okay, Evie’s parents can go jump off a bridge. The way that she catered to them after knowing they were toxic garbage made me so mad. It went against everything that Evie was working hard to overcome. At one point, her mom invites herself to a benefit for the service dogs, after trying to force her to marry this douche Tyler.. she says:

“Now that I think about it, it was selfish for me not to invite them in the first place.” She got so worried that she wouldn’t impress them that she said, “Might as well play the game and blend into their lifestyle.” NO! You don’t need their blood money! You want to get away from them! Why dress up to be like people you don’t want to be? She even told Jake to not talk at dinner – she says it was because she didn’t want him to have ammo used against him but that’s still bullshit!

Jake: “Did you say keep my mouth shut? Surely I didn’t hear that right.”
Evie: “Yep, seal it up.”

WHAT? I would be fucking furious y’all. FUCKING FURIOUS. Then Jake for whatever reason got all butthurt like he’s not good enough for Evie which to me was just a plot device because he’s a pretty confident guy but what the fuck. He was all breaking up with her because his man-ego got hurt. LOL Pass


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

SARAH ADAMS (AUTHOR)

Born and raised in Nashville TN, Sarah Adams loves her family, warm days, and making people smile. 

Sarah has dreamed of being a writer since she was a girl, but finally wrote her first novel when her daughters were napping and she no longer had any excuses to put it off.    

Sarah is a coffee addict, a British history nerd, a mom of two daughters, married to her best friend, and an indecisive introvert. Her hope is to always write stories that make you laugh, maybe even cry; but always leave you happier than when you started reading.


Rachael @rqdreads on Instagram!

All My Rage by Sabaa Tahir

All My Rage by Sabaa Tahir
Published: 3.1.22 by PenguinTeen/RazorBill
Genre: YA Contemporary
Details: 384 pages, Hardcover, Paperback, E-Book, Audio
Rating: 5 Stars
Series: Standalone

Disclaimer: PenguinTeen sent me this graphic novel in exchange for an honest review. I accepted and reviewed this book voluntarily. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Content warnings at the end of the review.

SYNOPSIS

Lahore, Pakistan. Then.
Misbah is a dreamer and storyteller, newly married to Toufiq in an arranged match. After their young life is shaken by tragedy, they come to the United States and open the Cloud’s Rest Inn Motel, hoping for a new start.

Juniper, California. Now.
Salahudin and Noor are more than best friends; they are family. Growing up as outcasts in the small desert town of Juniper, California, they understand each other the way no one else does. Until The Fight, which destroys their bond with the swift fury of a star exploding.

Now, Sal scrambles to run the family motel as his mother Misbah’s health fails and his grieving father loses himself to alcoholism. Noor, meanwhile, walks a harrowing tightrope: working at her wrathful uncle’s liquor store while hiding the fact that she’s applying to college so she can escape him—and Juniper—forever.

When Sal’s attempts to save the motel spiral out of control, he and Noor must ask themselves what friendship is worth—and what it takes to defeat the monsters in their pasts and the ones in their midst.

REVIEW

Where do I even begin? All My Rage made me angry but so incredibly hopeful. It was 300+ pages of pain that I didn’t know I needed. I found myself frequently crying because her writing is so powerful. This is a book that captures grief and loss, betrayal and forgiveness, rage and peace. AMR captured the essence of what the “American Dream” looked like to those who had to fight against all odds to create it. While I am not Pakistani and I am not Muslim, I connected with the racism, xenophobia, and expectations that come with children who have immigrant parents.

Watching Salahudin struggle to keep the only stability in his life from slipping through his fingers was enough to make me crack in half. Noor struggling to prove to herself that she’s worthy of a good life despite the odds filled me so deeply with pain that I just wanted to hold her through the pages. Resonating with Misbah while she made mistakes and trying so hard to fix them made me look at how I view motherhood.

This book explores how vulnerable we are, even to those who are closest to us… and how even the smallest betrayal can change the course of your life forever. Salahudin, Noor, and Misbah open their souls to us through this novel and really shows us how far we are willing to go for those that we love. It shows us how even people with the best intentions make mistakes – but it’s through that love that keeps our bonds strong.

Content Warnings:
Mentioned: Child sexual assault
Described: Drug overdose, drug dealing, death of parent, financial instability, law enforcement
Graphic: Child abuse, alcoholism, bullying, racism, Islamophobia


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

SABAA TAHIR (AUTHOR)

#1 New York Times bestselling author of the An Ember in the Ashes series, which has been translated into over thirty-five languages. She grew up in California’s Mojave Desert at her family’s eighteen-room motel. There, she spent her time devouring fantasy novels, raiding her brother’s comic book stash, and playing guitar badly. She began writing An Ember in the Ashes while working nights as a newspaper editor. She likes thunderous indie rock, garish socks, and all things nerd.

A professional author since 2015 and a journalist before that, Sabaa’s books have sold more than a million copies worldwide, are New York Times and international bestsellers, and have been honored by TIME Magazine on a list of the 100 best fantasy books of all time. Her work has appeared on numerous best books of the year lists including: Amazon, Buzzfeed, The New York Public Library, Indigo, Barnes & Noble, Hypable, Paste, Bustle, LA Weekly, The Wall Street Journal, TIME and Entertainment Weekly.


Rachael @rqdreads on Instagram!

House of Hollow by Krystal Sutherland

House of Hollow by Krystal Sutherland
Published: 4.6.21 by G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Genre: YA Paranormal Horror
Details: 304 Pages, Print, E-Book, Audio
Rating: 5 Stars
Series: Standalone

REVIEW

Disclaimer: I borrowed my audiobook copy from the local library. I read and reviewed this book voluntarily. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Content warnings at the end of the review.

“I’d realized there were scarier things in the world than the monsters that lived in my nightmares.”

I wanted nothing more than to find a book that I could immerse myself into. I asked everyone for recommendations on a book that would sweep me away. I was driving home and thought, maybe I should try the audiobook. So many people have told me that the audiobook is incredible and they were not wrong. Haunting, creepy, unputdownable. The prose is captivating and intoxicating, so much so that my husband listened with me and the binged it the next day. This is a story about love, loss, heartbreak, and the bonds that people share… what someone is willing to do for the ones they love. I will think for a very long time.

Something is wrong with the Hollow sisters. Iris, Vivi, and Grey disappeared without a trace, returning a month later with no memory, hair and eyes different colors, and a half moon scar at the base of their throats. Seventeen year old Iris spends her time attending her lavish private school, trying to stay away from the public eye, while her sisters rebelled. She becomes frightened as she’s being followed by a horned man (historically having stalkers due to their unsolved disappearance as children). When Grey goes missing under mysterious circumstances, Iris and Vivi begin following the increasingly bizarre trail of breadcrumbs left for them, unraveling the past that they desperately want to forget.

I seriously could not put this book down. Once I started, I realized how dark and atmospheric this book was going to be. The narrator, Eleanor Bennett, was phenomenal. I honestly don’t know if I will ever reread the physical copy of this because it is THAT good. I immediately felt connected to the Hollow sisters. Their shared pain, their dedication to one another, their love… Iris states many times that she would be nothing without them and you can tell that they all have a strange, yet beautiful obsession with one another. I really appreciated the conversational style Sutherland used. It’s rare that I read a book and think, “this is exactly what it would sound like if this were real…” It felt like real young adults having real young adult conversations and it helped me feel connected to the story. The narrator did an incredible job at controlling the tone of the story.

Side characters were well fleshed out and felt as if they all had their own places within this story. Cate, their mother, was overbearing, protective, and sometimes cruel in conversation with the sisters. Vivi and Grey both struggled with Iris’ blind loyalty to Cate. At one point, Vivi stated, “that’s a pretty heaven burden to bear, being everything for someone,” when Iris says she wants Cate to move with her when she goes to University. The horned masked stalker/villain had such an interesting back story that honestly I did not see that coming. And Tyler – what an addition to this twisting tale. So often we find significant others, co-workers, classmate etc being used as a throwaway plot device and I did not feel this way at all.

House of Hollow is by far the most atmospheric book I’ve ever read; Sutherland deserves five stars for world building alone. Once I started listening to the details of the story, I was hooked, whisked away to this creepy town. The author loved to use descriptive words, especially about the smell of things and places to really set the tone. Scent is such a huge factor in whether or not something is “grotesque” and she really understood that concept and used it to her advantage to make you believe you too could smell the rotting decay. It definitely is not for weak stomachs.

As far as horrors go, this wasn’t a book that made me feel like I couldn’t sleep but it was chilling enough to make me look over my shoulder when I was alone in the kitchen. This standalone YA paranormal horror really does mess with you mentally as you never are quite sure if the narrator is is reliable or not. If you are a fan of Stranger Things, a deep and rich prose, and world building that will make you question your own reality, then this book is for you.

Content Warnings: suicide and suicidal ideations, drug abuse, alcohol abuse, child death, parental death, self harm, stalking, violence, attempted rape, murder, gore


SPOILERS

Let’s talk about Cate for a second. At first, I thought – how could she be so cold to her children. How could a mother deny comfort and love. It broke me to pieces when she told Iris not to call her “mama” and to refer to her only as her first name… but you soon begin to understand why. I really appreciated the fact that she understood that her daughters were gone but she would rather have something rather than nothing, and she did remain dedicated to them (except for Grey 🌚)

The scene with Tyler reuniting with my sister was possibly the saddest scene in the entire story. I have to give mad props to Sutherland for making me feel this gut wrenching feeling about a side character and leaving it as one of the most memorable scenes. I also loved that Tyler was a Korean supermodel. I’m not biased or anything (okay I am because I am Korean), but the representation felt nice and not forced.

Speaking of representation, QUEER CHARACTERS! It was such an amazing surprise for me to find out that Iris was Bi and Vivi was a lesbian. I also loved that that was normalized and not used as a plot device or some part of a painful story regarding their sexuality.

The ambiguous ending leaves me BEGGING for more. It reminds me of the end of Stranger Things at each seasons end. You can close that book forever always wondering where your beloved characters go, or you can pick up with the little snippets left behind and write more stories. I want Tyler to come back!!!


Rachael

Small Favors By Erin A. Craig

Small Favors by Erin A. Craig
Published: 7.27.21 by Delacorte Press
Genre: YA Historical Fantasy, Horror, Paranormal Fantasy, Rumpelstiltskin Retelling
Details: 480 Pages, Print, E-Book, Audio
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Series: Standalone

REVIEW

Disclaimer: First and foremost, I would like to thank Penguin Random House Audio for providing me a complimentary audiobook of Small Favors in exchange for an honest review! Content warnings at the end of the review.

Ellerie Downing, a beekeepers daughter, lives in the quiet, isolated town of Amity Falls, where the townsfolk work hard at making sure everyone succeeds after early settlers fought off devilish creatures that lived in the woods. This dark, atmospheric, young adult horror opens up to a bloody end to a failed supply run, making everyone question the motives of the neighbors they’ve vowed to protect. Soon after, bad omens plague them; animals are maimed and deformed, crops are destroyed, and a catastrophic event sows mistrust within this community. Fearing starvation through the winter, lack of medical supplies, low ammunition, and a stranger appearing from the woods draws concerned feelings from the town. Being stuck within the borders of this creepy forest, with visitors being rare, makes the arrival of a strange boy all the more concerning. This book provides a very claustrophobic atmosphere which adds to the intensity of the plot. It also added psychological thrill which kept me listening until late into the night!

That being said, the character development and overall plot had some holes which made me lose some interest in the story. The behavior of Ellerie’s 8 year old sister was unconvincing, the narrator made her sound like she was 4 which frustrated me a bit as I always have trouble with authors/narrators not understand the tone of children they add to their stories. This being a Rumpelstiltskin retelling held true, with mystical creatures offering small favors in exchange for a little mayhem within the town, though we don’t learn much about the monsters until the very end, and even then it was slightly anticlimactic.

Overall, I enjoyed this story. My teenage self would give this a 3.5 star and would recommend this to anyone who enjoyed House of Salt and Sorrows, The Hollow Places, Rules for Vanishing, and other YA horror!

Content Warnings: pet/animal euthanasia, farm animal death, familial death, self harm/blood magic, fear of starvation, fire/severe burns


SPOILERS

Sam, Ellerie’s brother, was a throwaway character. He was extremely under developed and used as a plot device, even at the end. There was zero closure for his motives, leaving you with many questions about why he made the choices that he did. It frustrated me that there wasn’t much clarity for Ellerie and she was just okay with her brother being a jerk even until his death. Essentially going 🤷🏻‍♀️ immediately after his death scene (this was the same reaction Rebecca, his pregnant ex girlfriend had after learning that he’s dead). This frustrated me because it was completely for shock and it felt like having no emotional resolution for him (whether that be good or bad) was cheap. He was a character that the author could abuse and then forget about and critically, it just doesn’t sit well for character development.

The plot revolves around the townsfolk and how everyone works so hard to make sure they all succeed through the harsh winter, so when the town goes up in flames, Ellerie turns her back to the mayhem and then rides off to find her parents which were also used as a plot device and forgotten about as well.

The main villain was easily defeated, in a very unrealistic way (yes I know this is fantasy but there are certain things that you just shake your head at) and didn’t provide many answers to Ellerie’s desperate questions. Ellerie also makes choices that are completely useless and just made the book seem to drag. The paranormal elements of the book seemed disjointed within the story and was more-so confusing than it was revealing. The “small favors” parts of the book were not explored, just explained quickly – we don’t really get to see/read about WHAT the small favors actually were or why, just that it was happening. There were little instances like this that turned me off a bit when it started off with great potential.


Rachael

Mayhem by Estelle Laure Blog Tour

Mayhem_blogtourbanner_coming soon

Welcome to the Mayhem Blog Tour!

Today I am sharing with you and excerpt from Mayhem by Estelle Laure, out July 14th! I recently finished this feminist mash up of The Lost Boys and the Craft and I really enjoyed it! I love the idea of taking your life into your own hands and creating something new. So check out the letter from the author, the synopsis, and the first chapter and then add this book to your cart at Libro.FM or most other retailers!

Thank you so much to St. Martin’s Press, Wednesday Books, and Estelle Laure for the advanced copy to read!


A Letter to the Reader

Dear Reader,

Like Mayhem, I experienced a period of time when my life was extremely unstable. I can still remember what it was like to be shaken so hard I thought my head would come off, to watch the room vibrate, to feel unsafe in my own home, to never know what was coming around the next corner. I wanted to run. I always wanted to run.

I ran to friends, but also movies and books, and although girls were more passively portrayed in movies like The Lost Boys back then, that feeling of teenagers prowling the night, taking out bad people, being unbeatable… that got me through it.

I guess that’s what I tried to do here. I wanted girls who feel powerless to be able to imagine themselves invincible. And yes, I used rape as the seed for that fierce lineage, not without thoughts. For me, there is nothing worse, and I like to think great power can rise up as well as a result of a devastating trespass. Please know I took none of this lightly. Writing this now, my heart is beating hard and my throat is dry. This is the first time I not only really looked at my own past, the pain of loss, the pain of loss of trust that comes when someone puts hands on you without permission, the pain of people dying, the shock of suicide, and put all of it to paper in a way that made me feel victorious, strong, and warrior-like. It is also terrifying. I know I’m not the only one who had a scary childhood, and I know I’m not the only one who clings to stories as salve to smooth over burnt skin. I am so sick of girls and women being hurt. This was my way of taking my own vengeance and trying to access forgiveness.

Thank you for reading and for those who can relate, I see you and you are not alone.

Estelle Laure


Synopsis

It’s 1987 and unfortunately it’s not all Madonna and cherry lip balm. Mayhem Brayburn has always known there was something off about her and her mother, Roxy. Maybe it has to do with Roxy’s constant physical pain, or maybe with Mayhem’s own irresistible pull to water. Either way, she knows they aren’t like everyone else. But when May’s stepfather finally goes too far, Roxy and Mayhem flee to Santa Maria, California, the coastal beach town that holds the answers to all of Mayhem’s questions about who her mother is, her estranged family, and the mysteries of her own self. There she meets the kids who live with her aunt, and it opens the door to the magic that runs through the female lineage in her family, the very magic Mayhem is next in line to inherit and which will change her life for good. But when she gets wrapped up in the search for the man who has been kidnapping girls from the beach, her life takes another dangerous turn and she is forced to face the price of vigilante justice and to ask herself whether revenge is worth the cost.

From the acclaimed author of This Raging Light and But Then I Came Back, Estelle Laure offers a riveting and complex story with magical elements about a family of women contending with what appears to be an irreversible destiny, taking control and saying when enough is enough.


Excerpt

Three Santa Maria

“Trouble,” Roxy says. She arches a brow at the kids by the van through the bug-spattered windshield, the ghost of a half-smile rippling across her face.

“You would know,” I shoot. “So would you,” she snaps.

Maybe we’re a little on edge. We’ve been in the car so long the pattern on the vinyl seats is tattooed on the back of my thighs.

The kids my mother is talking about, the ones sitting on the white picket fence, look like they slithered up the hill out of the ocean, covered in seaweed, like the carnival music we heard coming from the boardwalk as we were driving into town plays in the air around them at all times. Two crows are on the posts beside them like they’re standing guard, and they caw at each other loudly as we come to a stop. I love every- thing about this place immediately and I think, ridiculously, that I am no longer alone.

The older girl, white but tan, curvaceous, and lean, has her arms around the boy and is lovely with her smudged eye makeup and her ripped clothes. The younger one pops some- thing made of bright colors into her mouth and watches us come up the drive. She is in a military-style jacket with a ton of buttons, her frizzy blond hair reaching in all directions, freckles slapped across her cheeks. And the boy? Thin, brown, hungry-looking. Not hungry in his stomach. Hungry with his eyes. He has a green bandana tied across his forehead and holes in the knees of his jeans. There’s an A in a circle drawn in marker across the front of his T-shirt.

Anarchy.

“Look!” Roxy points to the gas gauge. It’s just above the E. “You owe me five bucks, Cookie. I told you to trust we would make it, and see what happened? You should listen to your mama every once in a while.”

“Yeah, well, can I borrow the five bucks to pay you for the bet? I’m fresh out of cash at the moment.”

“Very funny.”

Roxy cranes out the window and wipes the sweat off her upper lip, careful not to smudge her red lipstick. She’s been having real bad aches the last two days, even aside from her bruises, and her appetite’s been worse than ever. The only thing she ever wants is sugar. After having been in the car for so long, you’d think we’d be falling all over each other to get out, but we’re still sitting in the car. In here we’re still us.

She sighs for the thousandth time and clutches at her belly. “I don’t know about this, May.”

California can’t be that different from West Texas.

I watch TV. I know how to say gag me with a spoon and grody to the max.

I fling open the door.

Roxy gathers her cigarettes and lighter, and drops them in- side her purse with a snap.

“Goddammit, Elle,” she mutters to herself, eyes flickering toward the kids again. Roxy looks at me over the rims of her sunglasses before shoving them back on her nose. “Mayhem, I’m counting on you to keep your head together here. Those kids are not the usual—”

“I know! You told me they’re foster kids.”

“No, not that,” she says, but doesn’t clarify. “Okay, I guess.”

“I mean it. No more of that wild-child business.”

“I will keep my head together!” I’m so tired of her saying this. I never had any friends, never a boyfriend—all I have is what Grandmother calls my nasty mouth and the hair Lyle always said was ugly and whorish. And once or twice I might’ve got drunk on the roof, but it’s not like I ever did anything. Besides, no kid my age has ever liked me even once. I’m not the wild child in the family.

“Well, all right then.” Roxy messes with her hair in the rear- view mirror, then sprays herself with a cloud of Chanel No. 5 and runs her fingers over her gold necklace. It’s of a bird, not unlike the ones making a fuss by the house. She’s had it as long as I can remember, and over time it’s been worn smooth by her worrying fingers. It’s like she uses it to calm herself when she’s upset about something, and she’s been upset the whole way here, practically. Usually, she’d be good and buzzed by this time of day, but since she’s had to drive some, she’s only nipped from the tiny bottle of wine in her purse a few times and only taken a couple pills since we left Taylor. The with- drawal has turned her into a bit of a she-demon.

I try to look through her eyes, to see what she sees. Roxy hasn’t been back here since I was three years old, and in that time, her mother has died, her father has died, and like she said when she got the card with the picture enclosed that her twin sister, Elle, sent last Christmas, Everybody got old. After that, she spent a lot of time staring in the mirror, pinching at her neck skin. When I was younger, she passed long nights telling me about Santa Maria and the Brayburn Farm, about how it was good and evil in equal measure, about how it had desires that had to be satisfied.

Brayburns, she would say. In my town, we were the legends.

These were the mumbled stories of my childhood, and they made everything about this place loom large. Now that we’re here, I realize I expected the house to have a gaping maw filled with spitty, frothy teeth, as much as I figured there would be fairies flitting around with wands granting wishes. I don’t want to take her vision away from her, but this place looks pretty normal to me, if run-down compared to our new house in Taylor, where there’s no dust anywhere, ever, and Lyle prac- tically keeps the cans of soup in alphabetical order. Maybe what’s not so normal is that this place was built by Brayburns, and here Brayburns matter. I know because the whole road is named after us and because flowers and ribbons and baskets of fruit sat at the entrance, gifts from the people in town, Roxy said. They leave offerings. She said it like it’s normal to be treated like some kind of low-rent goddess.

Other than the van and the kids, there are trees here, rose- bushes, an old black Mercedes, and some bikes leaning against the porch that’s attached to the house. It’s splashed with fresh white paint that doesn’t quite cover up its wrinkles and scars. It’s three stories, so it cuts the sunset when I look up, and plants drape down to touch the dirt.

The front door swings open and a woman in bare feet races past the rosebushes toward us. It is those feet and the reckless way they pound against the earth that tells me this is my aunt Elle before her face does. My stomach gallops and there are bumps all over my arms, and I am more awake than I’ve been since.

I thought Roxy might do a lot of things when she saw her twin sister. Like she might get super quiet or chain-smoke, or maybe even get biting like she can when she’s feeling wrong about something. The last thing I would have ever imagined was them running toward each other and colliding in the driveway, Roxy wrapping her legs around Elle’s waist, and them twirling like that.

This seems like something I shouldn’t be seeing, some- thing wounded and private that fills up my throat. I flip my- self around in my seat and start picking through the things we brought and chide myself yet again for the miserable packing job I did. Since I was basically out of my mind trying to get out of the house, I took a whole package of toothbrushes, an armful of books, my River Phoenix poster, plus I emptied out my underwear drawer, but totally forgot to pack any shoes, so all I have are some flip-flops I bought at the truck stop outside of Las Cruces after that man came to the window, slurring, You got nice legs. Tap, tap tap. You got such nice legs.

My flip-flops are covered in Cheeto dust from a bag that got upended. I slip them on anyway, watching Roxy take her sunglasses off and prop them on her head.

“Son of a bitch!” my aunt says, her voice tinny as she catches sight of Roxy’s eye. “Oh my God, that’s really bad, Rox. You made it sound like nothing. That’s not nothing.”

“Ellie,” Roxy says, trying to put laughter in her voice. “I’m here now. We’re here now.”

There’s a pause.

“You look the same,” Elle says. “Except the hair. You went full Marilyn Monroe.”

“What about you?” Roxy says, fussing at her platinum waves with her palm. “You go full granola warrior? When’s the last time you ate a burger?”

“You know I don’t do that. It’s no good for us. Definitely no good for the poor cows.”

“It’s fine for me.” Roxy lifts Elle’s arm and puckers her nose. “What’s going on with your armpits? May not eat meat but you got animals under there, looks like.”

“Shaving is subjugation.”

“Shaving is a mercy for all mankind.”

They erupt into laughter and hug each other again.

“Well, where is she, my little baby niece?” Elle swings the car door open. “Oh, Mayhem.” She scoops me out with two strong arms. Right then I realize just how truly tired I am. She seems to know, squeezes extra hard for a second before letting me go. She smells like the sandalwood soap Roxy buys sometimes. “My baby girl,” Elle says, “you have no idea how long I’ve been waiting to see you. How much I’ve missed you.”

Roxy circles her ear with a finger where Elle can’t see her.

Crazy, she mouths. I almost giggle.


AP Estelle Laure_Credit Zoe Zimmerman

Estelle Laure, the author of This Raging Light and But Then I Came Back believes in love, magic, and the power of facing hard truths. She has a BA in Theatre Arts and an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts in Writing for Children and Young Adults, and she lives in Taos, New Mexico, with her family. Her work is translated widely around the world.

You can find Estelle at:

Twitter: @starlaure
Instagram: @estellelaurebooks

 


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The Shadows Between Us by Tricia Levenseller

THE SHADOWS BETWEEN US by TRICIA LEVENSELLER

35702241

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Publisher: Fiewel and Friends
Audiobook Publisher:
Macmillan Audio
Publication Date: February 25th, 2020
Rating:
4.5 Stars


Synopsis:

Alessandra is tired of being overlooked, but she has a plan to gain power:

1) Woo the Shadow King.
2) Marry him.
3) Kill him and take his kingdom for herself.

No one knows the extent of the freshly crowned Shadow King’s power. Some say he can command the shadows that swirl around him to do his bidding. Others say they speak to him, whispering the thoughts of his enemies. Regardless, Alessandra knows what she deserves, and she’s going to do everything within her power to get it.

But Alessandra’s not the only one trying to kill the king. As attempts on his life are made, she finds herself trying to keep him alive long enough for him to make her his queen—all while struggling not to lose her heart. After all, who better for a Shadow King than a cunning, villainous queen?


Disclaimer: First and foremost I would like to thank Macmillan Audio for providing me a finished audiobook copy to listen to. This in no way sways my opinions, all thoughts expressed are my own.


REVIEW

When I first heard that The Shadows Between Us was a Slytherin romance, I was very intrigued. I have never read a book where the main character is a straight up villain and that’s exactly what we got. I really enjoyed this change of pace. I am so used to stories where the main character is of low status and stumbles upon heroism. Alessandra is not your normal girl. She is cunning, quick witted, and vicious. This is a girl who takes what she wants and never looks back. Along with the Alessandra, we have the Shadow King who is just as unapologetic in is rule.

One of the things I found interesting is that I didn’t need a ton of world building to enjoy this story. As a reader of epic fantasy, I usually rely heavily on the world building in order to draw myself in. This is, in my opinion, a character driven story and I think the author did a phenomenal job in getting me to want to know more with every page.

*SLIGHTLY SPOILERY BELOW*
I also found that by the end, I didn’t think the characters learned anything. They were both still villains. I really appreciated this spin on fantasy stories as we always have a villain that gets redemption. I feel that the characters were still true to themselves, though maybe a bit softer due to love.
*END SPOILERS*

I think the audiobook narrator did a phenomenal job, though sometimes I think she overly pronounced words to sound more sinister and it would throw me out of the story. Overall, I gave it a 4.5 star and would definitely recommend to anyone who loves a good YA villain story! I read this book in two sittings because it was so hard to stop!

Thank you so much to Macmillan Audio for the free audiobook to listen to! This book is on sale now!

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#LetsGetLitBookClub – Ready Player One

This month for the #LetsGetLitBookClub over on Instagram we read Ready Player One by Ernest Cline! This book was published in 2011 by Crown Publishers and was made into a live action film in 2018. Most people I know state they love the movie more than the book and I have a feeling that I may enjoy it in that format as well. I read the book mostly via audio, which I did enjoy. Wil Wheaton is a great narrator!


—–[SYNOPSIS]—–

9969571. sy475 IN THE YEAR 2044, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he’s jacked into the virtual utopia known as the OASIS. Wade’s devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world’s digital confines, puzzles that are based on their creator’s obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them.

But when Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize. The race is on, and if Wade’s going to survive, he’ll have to win—and confront the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape.



The beginning of this book totally caught my attention. I loved the Willy Wonka style “find the egg and my fortune is yours,” plot. I did grumble thinking, this dude is a billionaire… he could help some of the people in this dystopian world instead of awarding one random person your riches… but whatever haha! It opens up with Wade finding a key and the rest is his quest to find the egg.

I had heard so many amazing things about this book, about how it would bring me back to my childhood with all of the 1980’s nostalgia… but unfortunately, I felt like the nostalgia was being forced upon me. For a book that focuses so much on the idea of an “Easter egg,” it would have made it much more exciting for the throwbacks to be randomly throughout, making you go, “OH! I know that!!” instead of on every page. At one point I found myself rolling my eyes.

I really loved the puzzles Wade had to figure out and I enjoyed the friendships he made along the way.  Overall, I liked this book. I really loved Wade’s character, however I did have some issues with his behavior, especially in regards to Artemis. When she stated she no longer wanted to see him he continuously invaded her space and did not respect her wishes. I think there’s a fine line between wanting to win someone back and sulking and stalking someone LOL.

I also did not appreciate the way that the author presented Artemis at the end. She isn’t some prize possession to be won. I know that she was self conscious about her face, but come on… facing away… hands in her lap… hair over her face, shoulders slumped. No. I think that it’s a poor way to represent someone and for her to only feel okay when Wade calls her beautiful. Like bruh, he loved her before he even saw her, no reason to make her this timid little girl who is waiting for her prince. This isn’t Shrek okay. She’s fine.

I gave this book a 3.5/5 star rating. I think it’s hard to transfer some of the ideas instead Ernest Cline’s head onto page, which is potentially why the movie did so well. I think I am in the minority here with how I feel about this book, most people I know OBSESSED over it, and that’s okay! I’m glad that this book sparked so much joy for so many people! It was definitely action packed and full of adventure. So many twists and turns and really exciting SCIFI stuff, but it did fall just a little flat to me.


Join us next month for the #LetsGetLitBookClub where we are reading Scythe by Neil Shusterman!

Elantris by Brandon Sanderson

Elantris by Brandon Sanderson
Publication Date: April 21, 2005
Publisher: Tor Books
Genre:
Adult Epic Fantasy
Rating:
5 Stars
Audio Rating: 5 Stars (though I did miss Michael Kramer lol!)

Elantris cover.jpg

Synopsis:

Elantris was the capital of Arelon: gigantic, beautiful, literally radiant, filled with benevolent beings who used their powerful magical abilities for the benefit of all. Yet each of these demigods was once an ordinary person until touched by the mysterious transforming power of the Shaod. Ten years ago, without warning, the magic failed. Elantrians became wizened, leper-like, powerless creatures, and Elantris itself dark, filthy, and crumbling.

Arelon’s new capital, Kae, crouches in the shadow of Elantris. Princess Sarene of Teod arrives for a marriage of state with Crown Prince Raoden, hoping — based on their correspondence — to also find love. She finds instead that Raoden has died and she is considered his widow. Both Teod and Arelon are under threat as the last remaining holdouts against the imperial ambitions of the ruthless religious fanatics of Fjordell. So Sarene decides to use her new status to counter the machinations of Hrathen, a Fjordell high priest who has come to Kae to convert Arelon and claim it for his emperor and his god.

But neither Sarene nor Hrathen suspect the truth about Prince Raoden. Stricken by the same curse that ruined Elantris, Raoden was secretly exiled by his father to the dark city. His struggle to help the wretches trapped there begins a series of events that will bring hope to Arelon, and perhaps reveal the secret of Elantris itself.


DISCLAIMER:
This book was bought by me and reviewed by choice.


NON SPOILERY REVIEW

Elantris is such a great way to dip your toes into Brandon Sanderson’s “Magic with Rules” magic system that resise within the Cosmere. If you haven’t read any of his works and are intiminated by the massive size of later novels, this or Warbreaker is a good place to start!

I absolutely love this book. This is Sanderson’s first published novel and it does not disappoint. This book focuses on more political intrigue rather than the magic system (which I found so interesting and would love to learn more!) I enjoyed the re-imagined idea of zombies as well! When my friend Jess (@wildbookbabe) said this was a book about zombies, I was totally intrigued.

This story follows three narratives in third person (see the synopsis for Raoden, Sarene, and Hrathen motives). While there is a lot of world building, the character driven plot is what really brings this story together. Roaden is a huge cinnamon roll, Sarene is a strong, fierce, intelligent woman, and Hrathen is… well.. you’ll find out! The mystery surrounding the Shaod in Elantris will keep you turning page after page! Much like most of Sanderson’s books, this book does not have a ton of romance, but it does have a star-crossed lovers trope (which is my favorite!)

If you read this book, let me know!! It’s such a fun and exciting book!

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Over the Top by Jonathon Van Ness

Over the Top by Jonathon Van Ness
Publication Date: September 24, 2019
Publisher: HarperOne/HarperAudio
Genre:
Adult Memoir
Rating:
4.5 Stars
Audio Narration:
5 Stars

43386674

Synopsis:

Who gave Jonathan Van Ness permission to be the radiant human he is today? No one, honey.

The truth is, it hasn’t always been gorgeous for this beacon of positivity and joy.

Before he stole our hearts as the grooming and self-care expert on Netflix’s hit show Queer Eye, Jonathan was growing up in a small Midwestern town that didn’t understand why he was so…over the top. From choreographed carpet figure skating routines to the unavoidable fact that he was Just. So. Gay., Jonathan was an easy target and endured years of judgement, ridicule and trauma—yet none of it crushed his uniquely effervescent spirit.

Over the Top uncovers the pain and passion it took to end up becoming the model of self-love and acceptance that Jonathan is today. In this revelatory, raw, and rambunctious memoir, Jonathan shares never-before-told secrets and reveals sides of himself that the public has never seen. JVN fans may think they know the man behind the stiletto heels, the crop tops, and the iconic sayings, but there’s much more to him than meets the Queer Eye.

You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and you’ll come away knowing that no matter how broken or lost you may be, you’re a Kelly Clarkson song, you’re strong, and you’ve got this.


DISCLAIMER:
This book was bought by me, all thoughts and opinions are my own.



NON SPOILERY REVIEW

HONEY! This book was EXACTLY what I needed to start 2020 off right. This book had me going YES QUEEN straight from the get go. JVN is not only an inspiration to people everywhere, but this memoirs proves that he’s been unapologetically him from the get go and that was so refreshing. His spirit shined through from the moment he decided he would make a name for himself while carpet figure skating.

I listened to this book via audio and I wouldn’t have it any other way. While you don’t NEED his voice to get the context, some of the inflections he adds to his stories are just so much more entertaining. This book made me laugh, tear up, and then filled my heart with hope. I also really want to hug his mom because she is the original queen of fierceness. I love her.

While some of the things that JVN talks about (sexual abuse, STDS, drug use, harassment, etc) may be difficult to discuss, he talks about what happened openly, and provides resources for anyone who may be struggling with these issues. This isn’t as much of a “how to” but more of a, “you don’t have to be a product of your past,” type books. I really encourage my friends to read this if they need a little pick me up!

This book is available now at most book retailers, in store or online!

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Elantris by Brandon Sanderson

Elantris by Brandon Sanderson
Publication Date: April 21, 2005
Publisher: Tor Books
Genre:
Adult Fantasy
Rating:
5 Stars
Audio Narration:
5 Stars
Steam Level: 🔥

Elantris (Elantris, #1)

Synopsis:

Elantris was the capital of Arelon: gigantic, beautiful, literally radiant, filled with benevolent beings who used their powerful magical abilities for the benefit of all. Yet each of these demigods was once an ordinary person until touched by the mysterious transforming power of the Shaod. Ten years ago, without warning, the magic failed. Elantrians became wizened, leper-like, powerless creatures, and Elantris itself dark, filthy, and crumbling.

Arelon’s new capital, Kae, crouches in the shadow of Elantris. Princess Sarene of Teod arrives for a marriage of state with Crown Prince Raoden, hoping — based on their correspondence — to also find love. She finds instead that Raoden has died and she is considered his widow. Both Teod and Arelon are under threat as the last remaining holdouts against the imperial ambitions of the ruthless religious fanatics of Fjordell. So Sarene decides to use her new status to counter the machinations of Hrathen, a Fjordell high priest who has come to Kae to convert Arelon and claim it for his emperor and his god.

But neither Sarene nor Hrathen suspect the truth about Prince Raoden. Stricken by the same curse that ruined Elantris, Raoden was secretly exiled by his father to the dark city. His struggle to help the wretches trapped there begins a series of events that will bring hope to Arelon, and perhaps reveal the secret of Elantris itself.


DISCLAIMER:
This book was bought by me, all thoughts and opinions are my own.


NON SPOILERY REVIEW

Not that anyone is surprised, but I loved this book. This is Brandon Sanderson’s first published work and I love how different it is from his other novels. This book focuses primarily on political intrigue rather than the magic system (which I found so interesting and would love to learn more). I loved the reimagined idea of zombies! Elantris is within the Cosmere so it’s an important book to read!

This book is driven by the characters. While there is a lot of world building, the plot/characters are what really bring this story together. Raoden is the biggest cinnamon roll of all time, Sarene is such a strong, fierce, intelligent woman, and Hrathen is… well.. you’ll find out! The mystery surrounding what happened to Elantris will keep you turning page after page. Although like many of Sanderson’s work, this book does not focus on romance, but it does have a star-crossed lovers trope going on (that trope is my favorite!) The relationship between Raoden and Sarene is just so sweet and genuine and they’ve never even met.

If you haven’t read Sanderson yet and are wanting to dip your toes into an adult fantasy, this or Warbreaker is a good place to start!

This book is available now at most book retailers, in store or online! Brandon Sanderson’s next book in the Cosmere, Stormlight 4 (untitled at the moment) arrives November 2020 and is available for preorder!

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