ARC Reviews

Twisted Love (Twisted, 1) by Ana Huang

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ALC was given by Libro.fm & Tantor Audio in exchange for an honest review.

Content/Trigger Warnings: Aquaphobia, drowning, trauma, PTSD/flashbacks/night terrors, anxiety/panic attacks, child abuse, loss of loved ones, mentions of divorce, murder, mention of suicide, mentions of drug addiction, mention of overdose, stalking, harassment, assault, physical violence, alcoholism, scene of emesis, scenes of gaslighting & manipulation, mentions of cheating & adultery, kidnapping, scene of hostage situation, implications of torture, coitus (sex), swearing

“You are the light to my dark, Sunshine,” he said in a raw voice. His lips brushed against mine as he spoke. “Without you, I’m lost.”

*takes a big sip of beverage* Well this was an unexpected read and even more unexpected of how much I enjoyed this book, altogether. While I did have a ebook copy, I decided to take a chance on the audiobook and I’m so glad I did. The voice narrators were perfect for this book. While I don’t think I could choose what I loved most about this read, I hope this review will speak for itself on how I feel about this read. BUT – Before we begin, reader, know that the title of this book is a little deceptive and I put emphasis on this book being very true to the dark romance genre.

We follow Alex Volkov and Ava Chen, two polar opposites of each other. Ava Chen chooses to approach life with smiles and love despite the cruel, dark past that haunts her dreams. While Alex Volkov might as well be an ice king. Barely anything seems to provoke emotion from him. When one day Ava is stranded in the the rain, her brother, Josh sends his best friend to help his little sister out. Only… Ava wasn’t expecting tall, mysterious, and stoic Alex to pick her up. Things only escalate from there as Josh leaves for his internship and forces Alex to look after Ava while he’s away. But many shadows from both their past are lingering, creeping closer in the present, and will put these two to the test, in more ways than one.

Okay, I’m just going to jump right into the good bits. That’s right, I’m talking about the steamy, goodie goods of intercourse! Look, if you went into this book expecting constant, wall banging, steamy hotness almost every other chapter or perhaps you were expecting more from of those steamy moments… Well, I hate to be the bringer of bad news, but this is mostly vanilla steaminess despite the constant implied kinky-ness thrown around. This is probably the issue I had the most with this book. It’s not the fact the steamy scenes played more to the vanilla scene, but it was the fact that it was implied Alex really liked to “go there” in the bedroom, but we never really see that, at all. Also, I want to point out that Alex’s choice for calling women bad names during sex wasn’t my cup of tea. I think if that’s your kink then you’ll enjoy it, but for me personally, my blood boiled and it didn’t do it for me. However, the steamy scenes are still good despite these two issues. If I had to give it a steamy rating out of ten, it’s probably sitting at a five or a six for me. It’s not the best, but it’s not terrible. Just a fun, steamy time and nothing too wow worthy.

“She felt like heaven to my hell, the closest I’d ever get to salvation, and yet I still wanted to drag her into the depths of Hades with me.”

However, despite my issues with the steamy scenes, the chemistry and sexual tension between was absolutely delicious. Throw in the banter that constantly played between them, oh, it’s a fantastic time! I think the author did a really fantastic job at creating a slow build between Ava and Alex, and the way they both slowly unraveled, descending into lust for one another was so good to watch unfold. Typically, slow burns can be hit or miss for me, but I think the way the author did the slow burning between these two characters really played to the book’s advantage, for my personal reading taste.

As always, whenever I find this representation, I always want to vocalize and address it. Trauma and PTSD representation is always, always something I point out whenever it’s present in a book. Beautifully done, absolutely beautifully done. Whether the author has personally experienced trauma/PTSD or knows someone who has, the way it’s portrayed in this book not only feels so real, so vivid, but a lot of scenes Ava would have with her night terrors felt very similar to the experience I have with myself with my own PTSD. So I just really wanted to put this in here as a little appreciation for the author and how well written, and respectfully done this representation was handled.

“You want the world to think you have no heart when in reality, you have a multilayered one: a heart of gold encased in a heart of ice. And the one thing all hearts of gold have in common? They crave love.”

While there were many things I loved, there were other things that bothered me aside from the more intimate parts. One of the issues being able to call two of the twists early. While I won’t go into which twists these were, it was a bit of a disappointment being able to pin-point these twists early. However, I also chalk this up to my own personal life experiences that allow me to see these things coming from a mile away.

My other biggest issue was the way a lot of the ending was handled. After the big conflict, I had a lot of issues with the lack of communication between Ava and Alex, and a lot of the repetitive stalker themes that were being thrown in at the end. All of it rubbed me the wrong for so many reasons and it almost felt like a double-standard. In the beginning Ava is dealing with stalking and harassment from an ex (which are bad, they escalate to physical conflict), but yet the stalker themes in the last 25% of the book are okay and fine due to it being in the name of love. It just left really weird feelings with me especially as someone who dealt with stalking in the past.

Overall, I really did enjoy my time reading this book especially the grumpy/sunshine pairing. Three stars is not a bad rating and this feels like a true three star read for me. There were a lot of things that I loved, but there was also a lot of things that rubbed me the wrong way, and some dark things from Ava’s side of things that hit very close to home for me that have me feeling a little rough. But this is a still good read and I think if you’re a lover of dark romances then definitely give this book a chance. I just want to encourage readers to look at content/trigger warnings before you decide to dive in.

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ARC Reviews

Unraveling by Brandon Leake

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This post contains affiliate links; if you use the Amazon link to make a purchase, I may earn a commission. Thanks for reading!

ALC provided by Libro.fm and Andrews McMeel Publishing in exchange for an honest review

Content/Trigger Warnings: Themes/Mentions of racism, alcoholism, gun violence, violence, death, anxiety, Acrophobia (fear of heights)

Wow, what a powerful poetry collection. I have sat with this poetry collection for a few days now, sitting with my feelings on this book and my feelings. Let me tell you, how does one even begin to rate a poetry collection. All I know is that with this collection, Leake reveals some of the rawest parts of himself and some of them will stay days after reading this book.

Brandon Leake’s Unraveling is a poetry collection that explores what it means to be a Black man living in America, his faith as a Christian and his relationship with God, and even takes a look at his fears and concerns surrounding fame (a topic which isn’t usually discussed often). Within these pages, Brandon shows the rawest pieces of himself, expressing his love and passions, but also showing us his fears and worries. Bringing some very important topics up and addressing them.

The only thing I will say impacted my reading was the constant religious themes and passages. I’ve said it a few times in other reviews, but I’m not a very religious person. I, personally, have a lot of conflicting feelings and experiences with religion, and so I don’t typically read anything that has a lot of religious themes. This is something to be aware of especially if you’re someone like me who also has very conflicting feelings/experiences.

Overall, this was a really powerful read and I think if you’re looking powerful poetry collections or really good audiobooks narrated by the author (hint, hint, wink, wink) then you should definitely consider picking this book up. It’s been about two-three days since I finished this and I’m still thinking about a lot of the themes within this book and some of my favorite pieces like Trails, Sandcastles, Safe Haven, and a few others. I definitely recommend giving this book a chance!

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Sia Martinez and the Moonlit Beginning of Everything by Raquel Vasquez Gilliland

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ALC provided by Libro.fm and Simon Pulse in exchange for an honest review! 

Content/Trigger Warnings: Sexual assault, physical assault, trauma and PTSD, domestic violence, parental death, loss of a loved one (in the past), mentions of deportation, racism, mentions of a car accident, mentions of graphic injuries, harassment, bullying, sexism, mentions of human experimentations, stalking, sex

I had never heard of this release until Libro. fm. I haven’t heard a lot of readers talking about this book, but I did have two friends reading it at the same time as myself. When I saw readers listing this as sci-fi, I got really nervous and I didn’t know what to expect. But I’m so glad that I picked this book up and gave it a listen! This is probably one of the most interesting books I’ve read all year, so far and I hope you all give this book a chance!

Before I start, I just want to say how grateful I am that the author took the time to list content and trigger warnings at the beginning of the book. Not many authors do this, so I really wanted to make a space to show my appreciation and say how important this is. I do have a more thorough breakdown of content and trigger warnings listed above if you need specifics. But truly, this was one of the best things about this book!

Our story follows Sia Martinez, a Mexican-American teen, who’s still grieving the death of her mother, who was deported and died trying to make her way back to America from Mexico. Sia is constantly reminded of as she attends the same school with the son of the officer who deported her mother. She not only has the weight of the grief on her shoulders, but constantly deals with the bullying, racism, and harassment of her peers and the teachers at the school. Until Noah, the new kid, moves to school and suddenly the the things in Sia’s life start to change.

“My grandmother said there were countless worlds in addition to ours. The underworld, the ghost world, the world of beetles and bats and hummingbird moths. There’s a world for warlocks and brujas and one for coconut trees and even a world just for our dreams.”

I really appreciated Sia as our main character. For myself, personally, I think she was a perfect character to show a plethora of emotions and internal feelings in various situations. Most of the time, books don’t always show the full range of emotions teenagers and younger children can experience. Sia’s feelings are layered and deeply intertwined with one another, and I really loved that about her. However, I was hoping Sia would have been more vocal and stood up for herself more. The bond and routine Sia has with her father sort of builds up the idea that Sia would stand up for herself more often, challenge those who look down on her for who she is and her culture, and have a little more fight in her. However, I still enjoyed her character and really loved how we got to see the nerdy sides of her.

One of the biggest themes in this book is the friendship between Sia and Rose. They have been best friends for many years, but we see their friendship face hardships, independent struggles, and grow from those experiences. I find that it’s rare for books to show that friendships have many layers to them and they’re not always perfect. Their relationship felt so real and reminded me of one of my own friendships. With the conflict they encounter, it does take a bit, but eventually, Sia and Rose find their way back to one another and make amends. I also loved how we see the two of them navigate dating and trying to find a way to tell one another, balance time between each other and their relationships.

Speaking of dating, I didn’t read any of the blurbs or reviews for this book before listening to it, but when the SFF elements started appearing in this book, I was clutching my pearls. It made me so incredibly happy to see it. I think this is going to be an element that catches a lot of readers off-guard because it’s such a subtle element. However, I think it was beautifully established and I loved how it was woven into the story.

There’s also a beautiful theme of family throughout this entire book. I mentioned earlier that Sia and her father share a routine of practicing self-defense together. I really loved that little bit that shows that only only are they close, but Sia’s father wants her to be able to protect herself should anything happen when he’s not there. I really loved those moments with them and I loved how we get the widowed father household dynamic. I truly believe with my whole heart that single father households are very underrated in literature and don’t get the attention it truly deserves. So, I really appreciated seeing that element and seeing the bond these two characters have. Also, I really loved how we get constant references to Sia’s grandmother. I could feel the love radiate through the passages where Sia would reflect on something her grandmother said or had taught her. Those passages felt like a warm hug.

“And when we turn the lights out, I look at the stars out the window, wondering about how old they are. Do they fall in and out of love, do they tell stories? And which nebulae are their mothers, and do they long for their mothers so much, they feel like their hearts are breaking at every moment?”

Aside from all of this, the heart of this story is centered around the ways Mexican people view violent immigration and institutions. We also see the reality many immigrants face when someone they love is deported. We see the pain, the grief, and the loss that one experiences, but we also see the lengths someone would go to be reunited with those loved ones. I can’t speak any further on this because I’m not Mexican, Mexican-American, or an immigrant. However, I encourage you all to look at ownvoice reviewers and if you are an ownvoice reviewer, please link your review so I can help boost your voice!

I truly wish I could have given this a full five stars, but there was one thing that really shifted my feelings. This book is very much a genre-bending book! For the first half of this book, it reads like a contemporary book. The first half explores grief, trauma, love, and friendship. While the second half of this book has a lot of action and science fiction elements woven throughout the story. My real struggle was the sudden shift into the sci-fi elements. I’m not much of a sci-fi reader and when I do read sci-fi, it’s usually a struggle for a plethora of reasons. I wish this book would have stayed with the contemporary genre more than adding the sci-fi elements to it because I have no doubt I would have given this five stars. However, with the sci-fi elements, I felt like I was getting whiplash a few times and I started to lose interest in the characters. Whereas before, I was fully invested in the characters, the story line, and what would happen next. I also felt like certain details around the characters and story line got lost on me because of the sci-fi elements. However, I still enjoyed the story despite my conflict with the second half of this book.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book and the themes in this book are so important. I truly feel this is an underrated book and not many people are talking about it. If you’re looking for a book that talks about grief, first love, friendships, strong family bonds, has short chapters, mixed with some sci-fi elements, then you should definitely pick this book up.

Read for Latinx Book Bingo 🧡

The quotes above were taken from an ALC and are subject to change upon publication.

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When No One Is Watching by Alyssa Cole

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ALC provided by Libro.fm and HarperAudio in exchange for an honest review.

This review is being published after the release date (September 1st, 2020)

Content/Trigger Warnings: Gentrification, racism, microaggressions, victim playing/self-victimization (from a side character), talk of slavery, brief mentions of colonization, loss of a loved one, talk of financial debt, (medical) debt harassment, harassment, allusions to stalking, depression, anxiety, panic attacks, talk of cheating (in the past from a side character), talk of domestic abuse (in the past), cycles of abuse, gaslighting (in the past), toxic relationships, mentions of hospitalization, talk of institutionalization, murder, scene of attempted abduction, brief mention of animal abuse, brief mention of suicide, forced medical experimentation, talk of drug addiction and drug dealing, violence, threats of calling the police, police brutality

I really want to recommend checking out the reviews by the following people: Jazmen, Myonna, Carole, Robin, and Shakila Marie. Each one of these lovely souls has a beautifully written review talking about what they loved and disliked, and I can’t recommend them enough.

I’ve never read anything by Alyssa Cole before. In fact, as I was listening to this audiobook, I’m reading one of her romance books, A Princess In Theory. So going into this book not knowing much about it, about the author’s writing style, or the author, I was completely surprised by this book. This was so hard to pause and go to sleep at night because all I wanted was to know what was about to happen next. As someone who isn’t the biggest reader of thrillers, I enjoyed this immensely and I hope many readers will pick this book up soon!

Our story bounces between two perspectives, Sydney and Theo’s point of views. Sydney is Black, recently divorced, and has moved back to her hometown in Brooklyn, New York to help her ailing mother. Theo is white and has recently moved into one of Sydney’s past neighbor’s home with his abusive ex-girlfriend, to renovate the home they now reside in. As she sits upon the stoop of their brownstone, she realizes just how much her neighborhood has been changing. The neighbors she once knew are no longer there and seem to be replaced by high class families and couples. But as all this is happening, Sydney is trying to compile extensive information about the Black history of her neighborhood for a tour she’s planning to do and Theo volunteers to help her in anyway he can. Meanwhile, as they continue to compile the information for the tour, more and more Black people in the community continue to disappear under strange circumstances. And the more Sydney and Theo dive into the history of the neighborhood, the more unsettling activities have been happening.

I think this is the first book I’ve ever read that accurately talks about gentrification and how it impacts communities. In my opinion, this is the scariest part about this whole entire book because gentrification is still in full force today. As someone who lives in a state that suffers from ‘top to bottom’ gentrification and ‘bottom to top’ gentrification, the scariest part is how quickly things happen, how silent many people stay, and seeing how people resign themselves to what’s happening. Having had conversations with those who have been effected by gentrification, it’s gut wrenching to hear those stories. Many people don’t want to look too closely or acknowledge that a lot of these things happen because of poorly structured systems or how they’re structured from racism. From prisons systems, police forces, all the way to major corporations, they’re broken in someway that benefits the people on top and does harm to those of the lower class. A lot of people choose to ignore how BIPOC communities are impacted because they don’t want to feel uncomfortable, they don’t want to change these systems especially when it benefits them in some way.

“People bury the parts of history they don’t like, pave it over like African cemeteries beneath Manhattan skyscrapers.”

I also want to give this gentle reminder; those who are BIPOC, it’s not their job to educate you on history, privilege, and the events that still continue to happen in present day. However, Cole unapologetically does that. She addresses gentrification, she talks about the privilege many non-BIPOC have, she shows the divide between higher and lower class homes, and so much more. Cole doesn’t shy away from any of it and goes into details of how even the smallest act plays a role in the bigger scheme of things. Alyssa Cole didn’t have to write about any of this, but she did and I have the utmost respect for her, and the labor that was poured into this book. I truly hope many people take the contents of this book, sit with it, start to recognize the privileges they have.

The relationship between Theo and Sydney was definitely interesting to see. I really liked how it wasn’t a perfect relationship and how there was a theme of trust need to be earned, not given. I really appreciated that element because I’m a firm believer that trust and respect are earned, not given. And I’m not going to lie, that steamy scene between Sydney and Theo was so good. As I said, I’m just now diving into Alyssa Cole’s work and just this scene alone has me really excited for her romance novels.

This book does a fantastic job of building up the story and encouraging the reader to keep reading. I mentioned above that I had a hard time setting this audiobook on pause because I needed to know what would happen next. I think for many readers, the slow pacing might cause some readers to struggle, but for my personal reading experience of the the audiobook, I think the pacing fit. So, I definitely encourage picking up the audiobook. Plus, the way Alyssa Cole writes is so beautiful and has such a way at capturing the reader’s attention.

I think the only real issue, for many readers, might be the ending of the book. Once you hit the 75% mark, things begin the escalate very rapidly. I think this will cause the ending to be a hit or miss for some readers. For myself, it wasn’t a huge issue because I tend to get wrapped up in the action of the events that take place, but for readers who enjoy more details in their thrillers, this might be a struggle.

Overall, I truly hope many readers pick this book up. As I mentioned a plethora of times, this book doesn’t shy away from important topics that deserve to be talked about more. It’s such a powerful read with very atmospheric elements woven in. And the sense of community alone is such a powerful force throughout this book, as a whole. I can honestly say that I’ve been blown away and I’m even more excited to dive further into Alyssa Cole’s work. Again, I can’t encourage everyone enough to pick this book up especially the audiobook.

The quotes above were taken from an ALC and are subject to change upon publication.

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Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall

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ALC was provided by Libro.fm and Sourcebooks Casablanca in exchange for an honest review.

This review is being published after the release date (July 7th, 2020)

Content/Trigger Warnings: Homophobia, minor scenes of heterosexism, racist remarks, mentions of cancer, mentions of drug and alcohol abuse, mild depictions and mention of eating disorder, mentions and depictions of emotional abuse (parent to child)

Let me say that I truly wanted to love this book. I really wanted to fall in love with these characters, get caught up in the story line, and gush about it with all of you, but this book wasn’t for me. Even though I gave this book the rating I did, this isn’t a bad book. There are many elements in this book that I know many readers will love. This just wasn’t it the right book for me and that’s okay. I still liked some elements and I hope to share those all with you.

Luc O’Donnell is looking for a fake boyfriend. One that’s perfect and won’t make Luc stand out in a negative light. You see, Luc O’Donnell is famous, reluctantly famous from both of his parents being rock stars, once upon a time ago. After twenty years, Luc is back in the public eye and after one bad photo, it seems like his life is about to fall apart. Thus, Luc starts a fake relationship with Oliver Blackwood. He’s absolutely perfect in Luc’s eyes, too perfect, but just perfect enough for Luc to fall in love with.

I really loved some of the moments that Luc and Oliver shared. Some of them were really sweet, really touching, and I liked the way they seem to balance each other out. Luc is fully disorganized, works for a charity for dung beetles, and not the best in social situations. Oliver is the absolute opposite; he’s serious, a barrister, vegetarian, and thoroughly organized. Complete opposites of each other that somehow balance each other out very well.

“I don’t want fine. Fine isn’t enough. Isn’t not about the open fire or whatever other clichés you can conjure up, but yes, I want a connection. I want you to care as much as I care. I want you to need it and want it and mean it. I want it to matter.”

I also really liked the family dynamic for Luc. You know I couldn’t have this review without talking about the family dynamic. Luc has spent his entire life raised by his mother since his mother and father split from one another. Luc and his mother are very protective of one another. There are a couple moments shared with Luc and Oliver or Luc’s mother and his father, Luc immediately becomes protective of his mother and runs defense to prevent his mother from getting hurt. I loved it so much. I love seeing family dynamics where that love and loyalty is fierce, an undeniable powerful form of love.

Despite these fantastic elements, it wasn’t enough to distract me from the issues I had with this book. The first thing that really struck me from the moment I started reading this book was how much I really disliked Luc’s character. The majority of this book is spent with Luc being really terrible to his friends, overwhelming hateful to his estranged father (which I understand, but it was to the point where it was impossible to focus on the story line when that hatred would be shoved into your face in the chapter), and there’s even a few moments when Luc and Oliver are together where Luc is really terrible and offensive. I just didn’t like his character at all. Nothing in this book made me want to sympathize with him or feel very connected to him. I don’t mind a flawed or broken character, but the fact he only had a few moments where he realized he messed up or the fact that it took 75 percent of this book before Luc started having a turn around, I just wasn’t here for it.

Another issue I had with this book was the whole cycled loop of this hot and cold relationship. Luc and Oliver have this constant break up, get back together dynamic and it was the most annoying element. Now, I’m a full believer that two broken people can heal each other. However, there was a huge lacking of communication, a big lack of honesty, and the constant on and off with their “fake relationship” made it hard to believe it was even a fake relationship. Even though their personalities balanced each other out, it was hard to believe in the relationship between them because Oliver and Luc were so up and down. You could listen to Katy Perry’s Hot n Cold while reading this book and it would fit perfectly. While on the topic of the relationship, I really didn’t enjoy how Luc’s best friend kept trying to force them together. It felt very unnatural and near the end it made me feel a bit uncomfortable.

My biggest issue with this book is with one particular scene that’s about 80-90 percent through the book. Oliver and Luc end up going to some lunch to celebrate Oliver’s parents’ anniversary. I’ll be honest, I completely disliked this entire scene. In this one particular scene, there’s a jab at couples who are in situations where they’re being pressured to have children. This rubbed me the wrong way and the apology was far too short to my liking. Then during the toast there’s a sexist remark toward Oliver’s mother from his father. It was never challenge, none of the characters tried to say anything in her defense, I haven’t seen anyone talk about how Oliver’s mother could be “replaced” in their reviews. I had to pause and relisten to the entire passage to make sure I heard it right. Then, the icing on this scene, was the constant homophobic remarks. It’s not challenged immediately, in fact, you have to read halfway through the scene before Luc tries to challenge the statements, but ultimately everything gets brushed off and excused. If we had been exposed to Oliver’s parents sooner, I feel like (as the reader) you would be able to expect them doing something like this. However, that wasn’t the case and it came out so far from left field that when it happened, I was shocked. And homophobia shouldn’t be used for shock value when it’s a serious issue.

“The conversation hadn’t so much died on us as been taken out back and shot in the head. And I knew I should be playing paramedic but I couldn’t quite bring myself to or work out how.”

With all of this being said, I feel like this book would have benefited from Oliver’s perspective. This entire book is told from the perspective of Luc and with that perspective we suffer details because we’re never exposed to Oliver’s perspective. If I’m being honest, being inside Luc’s perspective was draining some of the time and I feel like Oliver’s perspective would have helped add a little more stability to the story as a whole.

Overall, I just didn’t enjoy my experience with this book. It feels like I read a completely different story compared to everyone else. I truly wish I could have experienced the story everyone else has been enjoying, talking and raving about, but maybe I’m too much of a critical reader for this book. However, this isn’t me telling you not to pick it up. Even though my reading experience was bad, I still want to encourage others to pick this book up if it interests you, and make your own conclusions.

The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

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Fix Her Up (Hot and Hammered, #1) by Tessa Bailey

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Content/Trigger Warnings: Abandonment, depression, emotionally abusive parent, talk of divorce

“You have to fight for what you deserve. What you want is no more or less important than what anyone else wants.”

Holy shit, friends… This might be the best damn romance I have read all year so far. When everyone said to go listen to the audiobook and then never gave an explanation why, I finally understand. It’s so good, so steamy, and definitely the first time my spouse has ever saw me listening to a sexy read on audiobook. What an experience for the both of us! Don’t let this cover fool you, this book is too hot to trot and I’m still quaking. For my first Tessa Bailey read, it hit the ball right out of the park!

We follow two main characters who grew up in the same small town together. But after five years have past, one of them returns home, they both realize that maybe you just need someone who really believes in you to make a brighter, happier future.

Georgette Castle – 23-year-old clown, an actual birthday party clown, and the youngest or “the baby” in her whole family, and you better believe that they have no problem letting her know they never take her seriously.

Travis Ford – 28-year-old, who’s newly retired professional baseball player, due to an injury. But after moving back to his hometown, he’s struggling now more than ever.

Both Georgie and Travis want to be taken seriously by everyone around them. So the two of them come together to strike up an agreement, a friendship agreement, that start with a few meals, some deep cleaning, and one broken fireplace. But all of these things can lead to so much more and soon a fake-dating act is sprung! Travis wants to look more wholesome so he can land a job that brings him back to baseball. While Georgie wants everyone to see her as more than the comedic relief.

“We’re not about cutting people out of our lives. We’re about refusing to accept anything less than what we deserve. About realizing that we’re all important here despite mistakes or bad relationships or lackluster careers.”

And of course, sex is completely out of the question especially once Travis finds out she’s a virgin. Sparks fly, it becomes hard to keep hands to themselves, yet Travis doesn’t want to be the stepping stone to Georgie’s sexual awakening. Meanwhile, Georgie knows she’s different from Travis, wants different things, things Travis doesn’t want to give her. All of this mixed together, I was on cloud-nine, from the angst all the way to watching the chemistry ignites flames between these two characters. Watching these two figure out their attraction and discovering how strong their pull was to one another, absolutely priceless!

Let me just say, I was screaming for every time Travis would say ‘babygirl.’ Most people would find it very cringey with how often it was said, but I was living for it. The entire time I was constantly reminded of Derek Morgan and Penelope Garcia from Criminal Minds and how deep their connection is. It also made me super soft because my own partner uses that nickname to show endearment. So I was wrapped in some deep feelings and felt my own little flame in my chest burn while reading this book.

“You . . . accept me. Exactly as I am. But you still change me for the better.”

Overall, I can understand why many readers had issues with this book. I see you, your opinions are valid. However, this book was perfection and this was something that I ultimately needed to help bring a little light back into my life, right now. I loved the dirty talk, I loved reading how both characters viewed one another, and the fake-dating was so good! This was my very first Tessa Bailey, gotta say, color me impressed because now I need to read more by her. I have no idea why I put this off for so long!

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Illuminae (The Illuminae Files #1) by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

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Content/Trigger Warning: War themes, graphic details, mass death, suicide, trauma, PTSD, anxiety

“Miracles are statistical improbabilities. And fate is an illusion humanity uses to comfort itself in the dark. There are no absolutes in life, save death.”

Synopsis:

The year is 2575, and two rival megacorporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than an ice-covered speck at the edge of the universe. Too bad nobody thought to warn the people living on it. With enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra—who are barely even talking to each other—are forced to fight their way onto an evacuating fleet, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit. But their problems are just getting started. A deadly plague has broken out and is mutating, with terrifying results; the fleet’s AI, which should be protecting them, may actually be their enemy; and nobody in charge will say what’s really going on. As Kady hacks into a tangled web of data to find the truth, it’s clear only one person can help her bring it all to light: the ex-boyfriend she swore she’d never speak to again.

Side Note:

Highly recommend the physical book over the audiobook. If you do the audiobook, I highly recommend having the physical book with you while listening to it. I ended up missing this little detail… BRIEFING NOTE: Told through a fascinating dossier of hacked documents—including emails, schematics, military files, IMs, medical reports, interviews, and more.” I think not seeing these little details really had an effect on my reading experience. So I am hoping that I’ll get the chance to reread this book in the future with an actual physical copy.


This book took me absolutely forever to finish unlike with my spouse who practically devoured this audiobook. In my defense, we have been buddy reading this since the end of April and we agreed to a three month reading (or listening period, rather) period. Unfortunately, we didn’t plan a through breakdown of this because we both jumped into it immediately.


After so many friends and other fellow readers telling me that I needed to read this book, I finally picked up the audiobook. This was one of two other choices for a buddy read between my spouse and I. This was the one we both mutually agreed on. I had so many friends cheer that I picked this up. My only issue, I’m not a big sci-fi reader and sci-fi is one of my most challenging genres to put myself into. So, I was a little skeptical about reading this book especially since my track record with sci-fi books is like me trying to trudge through quick sand. However, I gave this book a shot with a dash of benefit of the doubt and have some mixed feelings.

Ships:
🌻 HypatiaThe ship Kady is located on
🌻 AlexanderThe ship Ezra is located on
🌻 Copernicus – Third ship in the fleet
🌻 LicolnEnemy battleship

Main Characters:
🌻 Kady GrantTech expert, takes things seriously, protege of her master Byron Zhang, girlfriend to Ezra Mason
🌻 Ezra MasonEasy going, likes to joke around, pilot ident, boyfriend to Kady Grant
🌻 AIDANAlso known as Artificial Intelligence Defense Analytics Network, AI of the Alexander

“The universe owes you nothing, Kady. It has already given you everything, after all. It was here long before you, and it will go on long after you. The only way it will remember you is to do something worth remembrance.”

My Thoughts:

I’m not going to lie, this was a really slow book for me to get into. I probably didn’t start getting into the book till about two and a half quarters, borderline three quarters, through the book before I actually started to become interested in what was happening. The beginning felt really slow and at first didn’t make a lot of sense. It was really hard for me to figure out what was happening. It was especially hard when it felt like so many perspectives were happening all at once in such a quick amount of time. As I stated above, there were parts that I ended up missing because they were images and I ended up listening to this instead of reading an actual physical copy of the book. So I think that played a part in why things maybe didn’t make sense or it felt like I was missing key details.

My only saving grace during the first two and a half quarters of this book was Ezra’s banter, the interactions between Kady and Byron, and the interactions between Ezra and Kady. These were some of the interesting points that would capture my attention and want to know more. I find both of the main characters very interesting and it was wonderful to see how their personalities went hand in hand with each other so well. That slow burn between them so so wonderful. In fact, I found myself really connected with Kady and Ezra’s relationship. I found it very similar to my own relationship between my spouse and myself. When I found that connection, I definitely felt more invested in Ezra and Kady. Not just as a couple, but also as individual characters. Kady is a very intelligent and entertaining character and Ezra is not only witty, but also shows his vulnerability. It was also nice to see a healthy relationship put to the test, but still handled in a healthy way especially during difficult times. They were like each other’s anchor and even though they each faced some hardships, they kept one another grounded. I wish we had more main character couples like Kady and Ezra.

“I am frequently underestimated. I think it’s because I’m short.”

AIDAN, however, is an entirely different story. I have so many mixed feelings about AIDAN. This AI was something I hadn’t expected. Brownie points to both of these talented authors for creating an AI that remind me of the AI, GLaDOS from Portal 2 and the AI, H.A.L. 9000 from A Space Odyssey. Also, plenty of kudos for the both of them making AIDAN have some human characteristics. For making this AI frightening, heartbreaking, caring, so human and real, and reminding me of my one of my favorite characters from Mass Effect, Legion. His point of views are unique and will definitely capture the reader’s attention, but I will admit, there are some parts that I found were giving me creepy vibes and goosebumps.

“If I breathed, I would sigh. I would scream. I would cry.”

And while there were things I really liked, one of the most unforgettable and horrifying things that this audiobook kept making me relive was playing through the Dead Space franchise. There were parts where my skin crawled and my adrenaline felt like it was kicking into over gear. If you have played that game franchise and read this book, then you know what I’m talking about. Some of those climatic scenes on the Alexander had me almost falling out of my seat, with my soul escaping my body due to imagining everything.

I think my biggest struggle was the ending though. Yes, I got a little emotional, shed a few tears, worried for Kady and AIDAN there for a few good minutes, but ultimately semi-liked the ending. I think my struggle with the ending was mostly with the time gap. It felt a little rushed and for me, it was a bit confusing on how we went from one point of time to a year later. It felt rushed or at least left something to be desired in the ending. Other than that, I thought the ending was cute and it encourages the reader to go forward with the next book in the series.

Overall, I think this was a good book especially for my first book by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff. As I stated before, I definitely think the physical book would have been a better choice for myself just because it did feel like I was missing a lot of details. However, this book had me debating left and right on how to rate this book and after sitting on my feelings for it for a couple of days, I think I genuinely liked this book. I’m shocked and I’m kind of eager to start looking into reading the next book in the series. Who knew I would end up liking a sci-fi book outside of Star Wars!

“She is catalyst.

She is chaos.

I can see why he loves her.”

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