Book Review: Eighth Grade Is Making Me Sick by Jennifer L. Holm

Happy Thursday my lovely peeps!
For once, I’m not looking forward to the weekend because this weekend, I’m planning on sitting down and doing everyone’s taxes 😦

But hey! I can’t wait to do some more reading because I’ve picked up some neato books and my TBR for 2023 is looking pretty solid so far. It may only be nearing the end of Q1, but this year has shown to be an interesting bookish year already!

For this week’s book review, I’m featuring Eighth Grade Is Making Me Sick by Jennifer L. Holm and illustrated by Elicia Castaldi. Let me tell you, I never forgot the joy of the colorful first book even after all these years!

Title: Eighth Grade Is Making Me Sick
Series & Book No.: Ginny Davis Book # 2
Author: Jennifer L. Holm
Illustrator: Elicia Castaldi
Genre: Fiction, Epistolary, Graphic Novel, Contemporary, Humor, Family, Middle Grade, Realistic Fiction
Edition: Kindle
Length: 128 Pages
Published: 7 August 2012
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers

Amazon: [LINK]
Goodreads: [LINK]

Part graphic novel, part scrapbook and altogether original—New York Times bestselling author Jennifer Holm’s Eighth Grade Is Making Me Sick is just right for fans of Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Dork Diaries and Babymouse!
Ginny has big plans for eighth grade. She’s going to try out for cheerleading, join Virtual Vampire Vixens, and maybe even fall in love. But middle school is more of a roller-coaster ride than Ginny could have ever predicted. Her family has just moved into a fancy new house when Ginny’s stepdad loses his job. (Can worrying about money make you sick?). Ginny’s big brother keeps getting into trouble. And there’s a new baby on the way. (Living proof that Ginny’s mom and stepdad are having sex. Just what she needs.) Filled with Post-its, journal entries, grocery lists, hand-drawn comic strips, report cards, IMs, notes, and more, Eighth Grade Is Making Me Sick is the sometimes poignant, often hilarious, always relatable look at a year in the life of one girl, told entirely through her stuff.

I know I read the first book, years back, but didn’t realize there was a sequel until recently. All I remembered about this book was how unique it was. There’s no real words. There’s no dialogue, no paragraphs, no text and descriptions in the traditional book sense. Instead, what you get is a storyline and plot laid out for you all in the form of pictures. Imagine scrapbooking on steroids. Imagine and picture those Instagram pictures of people blogging their daily lives via stories. You might get a page of remotes, popcorn, sticky notes, and a can of drink followed by a picture of someone’s text/messaging window and in the background, you will see a folder. 

A bunch of pictures might not seem like a “story” but all of these pictures form a story even without typical narration. In Eighth Grade Is Making Me Sick, Ginny Davis tells you a tale starting from the beginning of the school year, which might include a picture of the fridge, lined with calendars, a note from mom, and a real estate photo, followed by (pages later) a picture that has a student handbook in front of the toaster, along with school dates, followed by a picture of a locker, and another page with a picture of the school lunch calendar, and so on. The story, even if it’s only a snapshot of picture after picture, tells you a story of Ginny as she begins 8th grade, followed by her to-do list for the year, her brother getting in trouble, and parents going through financial trouble as well as herself getting sick for the whole titular moment. It shows you, through her poems (for class) and IMs to friends, her frustrations and joys. There are moments that, even without sentences, you can see how life is affecting Ginny such as watching her report card and grades slip from the beginning of the year, to the next quarter, and the next as well. You don’t need to know Ginny is feeling unwell when all you need is a picture of her copy of the emergency room report or a handful of “Get Well Soon” cards. You don’t need someone to tell you that Ginny’s brother is in trouble once again when all you need is a court summons picture. 

I know it doesn’t really feel like a “book” because of the lack of true words in the form of dialogue and paragraphs, but I absolutely adored the first book as a kid and loved this second book as well. The concept of a tale through a series of photos is so creative and I enjoyed trying to see every little tiny piece of detail that was included. I’m talking about looking at the design of the thumbtacks that holds the cheer team notices to the board, the different magnets holding notices up, the actual art and poetry included, the different menus and contents, and so much more to explore. If you thought that a fictional diary allowed you to peak into someone’s life, then try this book as well. Everything’s so colorful and it really takes experiencing it to really understand. 

I enjoyed this book greatly and, if you pick up a copy yourself, I hope you will too!


Book Review: Wrath of the Land by Oli Jacobs

*squints at Google Docs*
Ever since I accidentally refreshed my WP draft page (and lost my entire review), I’ve begun to write all my WP post drafts in Google Docs before transferring them over here. But since I also write my shorts and AO3 drafts there, I had to make sure “untitled document A” was actually a review and not mixed with “untitled document B” which is a random fic…

Happy Thursday my lovely peeps🐥! This has been an eternally long week. I still need to do my 2022 taxes for the entire household…I’m procrastinating of course…

If you recall the spotlight for this book last week, well…I promised a review and here it now is! TA-DA!
So, for this week’s book review, we’re going to be featuring Wrath of The Land by Oli Jacobs!

Title: Wrath of The Land
Author: Oli Jacobs
Genre: Fiction, Horror, Comedy/Humor
Length: 269 Pages
Published: 7th March 2023


Amazon UK – [LINK]
Amazon US – [LINK]
Goodreads – [LINK]
Author Website – [LINK]
Newsletter – [LINK]

Spotlight: [LINK]

Disclaimer: Thank you Oli for this review copy! An e-copy was provided to me in exchange for a fair and honest review. All thoughts are my own.

Book blurb from Amazon US

When the plumbing around the centre of West Crumb starts to overflow, everyone believes the problem is a series of badly blocked drain.

What they don’t expect is a fatberg the size of a double-decker bus.

Council worker Ronald Pile is tasked with clearing the horrible mass, but soon finds himself dealing with a bureaucracy that works deep behind the scenes of the local council. Meanwhile, student Laura Bennett begins to notice how the fatberg seems to be influencing those around town.

Then, the reality of what the fatberg contains is revealed, and it begins to sprout.

The first time I came across Oli’s work, it was as an excerpt in BBNYA. I quite enjoyed it and I really enjoyed this book as well. I hardly read horror (because I’m a chicken) but because it was listed as a horror comedy, I was happy to give it a try. I’ve only read anything eldritch related once before so I can’t really comment on that aspect, but I must say (this book at least), things sure go from zero to one hundred in a snap of a second! 

That’s why I just stuck around for so long. The plot was so crazy, my mouth hung open the entire time. I mean, the book started with me annotating “wow, blocked toilet for no reason. It happened to me just the other week back, due to main pipe issues too, and I watched with great fear as the water level rose just as the people of West Crumb did. SO real and relatable. Much wow!” I gave it another couple of chapters and things dropped so far into chaos and insanity and that was probably the MOST amusing thing about this book. With just how quickly things went nutty, I knew I was in for a fun time.

This book starts off with and is told from the perspective of Laura Bennett and Ronald Pile, a student and a city council official, as they view this…situation from different lens. It starts off with blocked toilets and investigations into the cause of this leads city workers to discover a fatberg the size of two buses. I didn’t know that the blockages caused by people flushing non-biodegradable stuff down the toilet even had a name. OK. Things are still relatively sane at this point. Totally normal stuff. Again, relatable even. Realistic too.

Until this 2-bus sized lump of yuck begins to grow tendrils and takes over the town. 

You know how I said I started the book off with “Wow, so relatable!”? Yeah. Throw that out the window now. Things took a turn for the weirdest worst and the sanity level of the townspeople plummeted. The most baffling part of this event(?) is that people started to consider the giant “monster” down below as the new norm. People just…accepted that there was this great growing tumor below their feet, that it’s there, that it’s not going away anytime soon, and that it’s the end of days…and booze and stuff is all that’s left. People just…saw tendrils in town and went about their day! And the MOST baffling part, was that I, the reader, didn’t even notice that I myself took it as a the new normal because I didn’t comment about it until 80% of the way through. I was so hooked into the book, that I just went with the fact that there’s a monster below ground and waited to see what was to happen next. Which was exactly what the townspeople did. They sat around and waited to see what happens next (because what else are you gonna do?).

This review is turning out to be a bit of a ramble. But I guess, to summarize in a single statement: I was so hooked into the book and story, so involved with the progress of the fatberg that I began to feel and act like the West Crumb citizens; I sat and waited for it to progress and see how the government and officials were going to deal with the monster because I’m just an ordinary random human and what am I going to do against a near-invincible creature that I can’t even describe besides “otherworldly”? 

And if a book can get me to be so immersed that I feel like I’m a West Crumb civilian, that’s a book that earns all the good stars on its own. 

The actual violence itself is kept pretty contained, nothing too horrifying. I think it was mostly more of a disturbing tale than anything, especially when cults form (but when are cults anything but disturbing?). I enjoyed the writing and dialogue though and it made for an entertaining and smooth read. A great book that was wild and imaginative. 

Book Review: The City & The City by China Miéville

Happy Thursday my lovely peeps!
Let me tell you, this has been a really good week! Still, I’m very much looking forward to the upcoming weekend because rest I need!

For this week’s book review, I’ll be featuring The City & The City by China Miéville. I started this book a while ago so this review is now truly long overdue!

Title: The City & The City
Author: China Miéville
Genre: Fiction, Fantasy, Science Fiction, New Weird, Weird Fiction, Mystery, Crime, Urban Fantasy
Edition: Paperback
Length: 329 Pages
Published: 27 April 2010
Publisher: Del Rey

Amazon: [LINK]
Goodreads: [LINK]

When a murdered woman is found in the city of Beszel, somewhere at the edge of Europe, it looks to be a routine case for Inspector Tyador Borlú of the Extreme Crime Squad. To investigate, Borlú must travel from the decaying Beszel to its equal, rival, and intimate neighbor, the vibrant city of Ul Qoma.

But this is a border crossing like no other, a journey as psychic as it is physical, a seeing of the unseen. With Ul Qoman detective Qussim Dhatt, Borlú is enmeshed in a sordid underworld of nationalists intent on destroying their neighboring city, and unificationists who dream of dissolving the two into one.

As the detectives uncover the dead woman’s secrets, they begin to suspect a truth that could cost them more than their lives. What stands against them are murderous powers in Beszel and in Ul Qoma: and, most terrifying of all, that which lies between these two cities.

Wow, I don’t even know where to start with this one. I have an intimidating blank draft in front of me and all these emotions I want to lay out on it, but nothing’s actually coming out because I’m having one hell of a reading hangover and it’s not even the following day yet! I had the same feeling when I’d finished Miéville’s Perdido Street Station and I thought I found the gold of golds in that book; it ended up being my 2022 book of the year choice and replaced my all time favorite book as well. I didn’t think anything could top it.

The City & The City did, not in every aspect, there were plenty of things about Perdido Street Station that stuck with me, the phenomenal and otherworldly worldbuilding, the tone & atmosphere, the characters, and plot (I never got over the empty feeling it left behind after I finished that last sentence)…but The City & The City came in a hard challenger, contending for the same, favorite book, spot. I still prefer Perdido Street Station, but if this book didn’t leave me in shock, I’d be lying.

OK, the warm up about my history with Miéville is over and that means hopefully the words of phrase for The City & The City can start flowing. 

Anytime now…

This was an insane book. I still can barely wrap my head around the concept of it, something so clever and original that I just ate the whole book up like a dessert that needed savoring. And savor I did. Because, no matter my heaps of praise and how much I liked it, it took nearly 3 weeks to finish. I read so slowly, wanting to read a couple chapters a night, annotate as much as I could, and sleep on everything I’d read before continuing to do the same every day. 

This story begins with Inspector Tyador Borlu of the Extreme Crime Squad arriving on scene of where a body has been reported to the police, a woman with multiple stab wounds. When it’s discovered that she’s a student and that she was researching into something much larger, the investigation takes off in a direction that Borlu may have never imagined himself to be in.

The concept here is that, there are two cities that occupy the same geological location, which is why our title is called the city and the city. Beszel and Ul Qoma, are fictional locations but sits right on our real map, somewhere in the Eastern Europe, and the two cities share the same location, but are isolated by rules, regulations, and its people. The two cities may literally share the same physical place, but there’s nothing that really ties them together other than that. That’s all they share as everything from language, culture, clothing, banned COLORS, and even architecture is different for both cities. Citizens of both cities grow up and learn to unsee and unhear the other side, to pretend that they don’t exist. Imagine walking by as someone from Beszel, side by side, next to someone from Ul Qoma, but you can’t see them because you’ve learned to unsee them, almost as if shrouding the otherside in a blurry vision and to completely disacknowledge their existent, even if their purse might be close enough to brush up against your jacket. To get into Ul Qoma from Beszel, as Borlu had to do, you would have to cross in practically like you do when leaving and entering a new country. To come to either cities as a foreigner, such as as an American, you need to go classes to help you learn the laws and to teach you how to unsee or unhear, the other city (since the act of unseeing/hearing doesn’t come naturally to foreigners).

There had once been a fire grosstopically close to my apartment. It had been contained in one house, but a house not in Besźel, that I had unseen. So I had watched footage of it piped in from Ul Qoma, on my local TV, while my living room windows had been lit by the fluttering red glow of it.

To break this unspoken law, would mean to invoke Breach and up to a certain point in the book, nobody really knows what Breach is (even by the end of the book, only Borlu and the readers really get to know Breach a little better). Nobody seems to be able see them and to be taken by Breach means you might never be heard from again. Their presence “can’t be explained” and honestly nobody really knows much about Breach other than that they seem to have eyes everywhere. In fact, I honestly thought that they were some sort of omnipresent entity, like aliens but more eldritch and unimaginable. They seem to watch for all signs and moments of breach as, while you might not be whisked away if you accidentally didn’t unsee or unhear fast enough, if you, let’s say, smuggle drugs into the other city without properly crossing over (in which the crime of smuggling might have the police at your door and that’s FAR FAR favorable than to smuggle while Breaching and to have Breach show up) or if you walk into a cafe from Beszel and emerge from Ul Qoma.

The second case was a man who had killed his wife and when we closed in on him, in stupid terror he breached—stepped into a shop in Besźel, changed his clothes, and emerged into Ul Qoma. He was by chance not apprehended in that instance, but we quickly realised what had happened. In his frantic liminality neither we nor our Ul Qoman colleagues would touch him, though we and they knew where he went, hiding in Ul Qoman lodgings. Breach took him and he was gone too.

The story, moreorless, focuses on this, although larger elements gets added in later on and by the end, it’s a chaotic mess of things. What started as trying to investigate a murder, a “simple” murder of a lady in a single city, soon expands to include both and then things just drop off into insanity because it turns out the lady wasn’t just a student, but a student who discovered something big and bad and eh, as much as Borlu wants to seek justice for the slain woman, not everyone is that keen on investigating too far into details, lest you accidentally invoke Breach.

I could go into the characters aspect, I did like Borlu and his partners in this investigation, Corwi from Beszel and Dhatt from Ul Qoma, but my biggest set of notes focused on the world building. I have so many marked pages and sections for world building in this book, that I actually ran out of one of my flag’s colors and had to start using a different color dedicated to world building. 
All in all, a fantastic book that I can’t truly do justice in just a simple review. The characters were good, the world building was phenomenal, and I enjoyed the somewhat choppy and weird writing as well. It was a deeply enjoyable read and, as slow as I took it, it wasn’t as hard to read as Perdido Street Station which I actually found to be quite dense and I had no choice but to grab the dictionary app again and again until I just gave up and borrowed the Kindle version so I could just highlight words instead. The concept was what loved the most and that was the aspect that blew Perdido Street Station out of the water because it was just so…entertaining to envision this world where, there’s nothing exactly superstitious (besides Breach) although a slight element of spooooky is still there and this whole separation isn’t formed by bricks and fences but by our eyes and ears. Another great Miéville read, this time combining the genre of New Weird with a bit of detective case. Wonderfully done, I might once again need a brain cleanser after this, something easy and not blowing my mind.

Book Review: 3 Days to Live by James Patterson

Woohoo! It’s March already and that means Spring is right around the corner!

For this week’s Thursday review, I’m featuring 3 Days To Live by James Patterson. It is a collection of three short stories written with Duane Swierczynski, Bill Schweigart, and Julie Margaret Hogben. Short and thrilling, I had a pretty good time with this set of stories!

Title: 3 Days to Live
Authors: James Patterson [w/Duane Swierczynski, Bill Schweigart, and Julie Margaret Hogben]
Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Thrillers, Short Stories
Edition: Paperback
Length: 400 Pages
Published: 14 Feb 2023
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

: [Link]
Goodreads: [Link]
Grand Central Publishing: [Link]

Disclaimer: Thank you to Grand Central Publishing for this gifted copy! All opinions are of my own.

The people closest to you can be your most dangerous enemies in this heart-pounding collection of 3 brand-new thrillers from the master of suspense.

3 Days to Live: A CIA-agent bride is on her European honeymoon when she and her husband are poisoned—leaving her seventy-two hours to take revenge (with Duane Swierczynski). 

Women and Children First: When a deal goes bad on a tech executive in Washington, DC, he turns an order to kill his family into a chance to relive his military glory days (with Bill Schweigart).  

The Housekeepers: A Los Angeles doctor trusts her two housekeepers, but when she’s murdered in a botched attempt to steal drugs, the pair of grifters vie to control their former employer’s estate—facing off against the Russian mob (with Julie Margaret Hogben).

That was a pretty nice book. 

3 Days To Live by James Patterson is actually a collection of short stories whom the author worked with other authors. There are three short stories in total and I like to think of them as little bit sized thrillers; some that could honestly have been bigger books. Of the three, I quite enjoyed the first, thought the second was alright, and the third really ended the book nicely with a bang. 

Story 1: The book starts off with the titular 3 Days To Live by James Patterson and Duane Swierczynski and begins from the POV of Samantha, an ex-CIA agent, on her honeymoon with the love of her life, Kevin. What was supposed to be the best days of her life is cut short when she finds her husband dead in a hallway alongside a couple of other people. Samantha nearly loses her own life during this but escapes. She’s not out of the woods yet though, and never will be, as the same neurotoxin that killed her husband is now coursing through her own blood, due to kill her in roughly 3 days. Determined to use this remaining time to find out who took the love of her life away from her, she begins to investigate. If she wants revenge to be hers, she better act fast. 

This was a great opener to the book, although the opening chapter was so cheesy it hurts. Still, it shows a very happy time smack in a book of thriller short stories. The reader best enjoy these last moments of happiness because things are really going to hurt in the next few chapters. I love LOVE books with a massive time deadline, and this one comes with the Sword of Damocles hanging overhead. It’s incredibly fast paced (I mean, Sam’s got only 72 hours) with tons of suspenseful moments with bits of sarcastic dark humor. The ending was actually kind of predictable, I saw it a mile away, but nevertheless, it was a good read. It started out with a bang, there was lots of action in between, and the short story finishes on such a badass note, I had to applaud involved. 

Story 2: The second story is Women and Children First by James Patterson and Bill Schweigart. It was a little confusing at first, I had to reread the first chapter over and over to understand that the main character wasn’t being arrested (for real) for a tweet he made. There were moments throughout the story that I did reread a couple of times, but overall was a pretty good story. It begins with probably the biggest hook between the three stories; a man, our main character, killing his wife while saying he’ll always love her and crying because he has to finish the job by killing his two kids next. It ends there. The prologue literally ends with “Tears streaming, Chase Weldon turned to finish the job.” Like, you HAVE to read the rest now!

Years after the military, Chase Weldon is now part of a security firm in which is wife is an attorney at. The book begins with Chase acting undercover as a normal civilian attending a ball game and in which he sends out a physically threatening tweet and is arrested a few minutes later. He quickly throws off his cover in front of management and says that he was hired to test out the reaction time of the stadium’s safety team, but in the middle of this, there’s threats of gunshots and a stampede of panicked people ensues. From here, Chase’s life slowly goes downhill as the same person threatening the park, which is owned by Avalon, blows up a plant belonging to Avalon and a string of other threats follows. He targets Chase’s family to force the Avalon CEO to deposit an amount of money or the threats will continued to be acted upon and if Chase happens to fail, then the voice over the phone will slowly and painfully kill Chase’s family, starting with the women and children first. 

I thought this was an OK book. There were lots of plot twists and there too were a few predictable moments along with some surprising plot twists. The ending did threw me for a loop though. The characters here are the interesting point. We’ve got Chase of course, but we also have his old Captain and he’s loyal and fierce dog, Chase’s badass wife, and even his kids, especially his daughter, are super clever. I mean, she’s a teen hacker that’s able to act as a mission control of sorts behind the scenes. We have a super family here!

It ends well and it wasn’t a bad story, save for a few moments where I thought it was a bit slow. All in all, a good read. 

Story 3: This last story is called The Housekeepers by James Patterson and Julie Margaret Hogben. It was probably my least favorite in content (there’s some messed up/disturbing moments) but the most thrilling and gripping read as well as the longest short story in the book. 

It begins from the POV of Masha Poplov and about how she was capable of killing a live chicken, but would do so while wearing name brands, spider-leg lashes, and acrylic nails. If she had to work hard for a living, she might as well look damn good while doing so. Oh, and she steals. She cleans houses and then steals from them. She can’t help being a klepto, but her cousin, Sophie, knows it’s not a good thing to do and tries to talk her out of it. 

The following chapter involves Masha’s cleaning client, Doctor Elizabeth Parks in which she’s talking to a detective. Her client is dead, murdered, and not just that, but there’s been a string of attacks and all of the victims were her clients. Well, she sure didn’t kill them, but it also means that her client files have been compromised. The story goes from there.

In this short story, we have two major plot lines. There’s Sophie, who has run away from her abusive husband, and he’s furious with this so he places a hit on her two kids, having succeeded with one already. Desperate to keep her other son from harm, she’s eventually sheltered by Dr. Parks intertwining her family with Dr. Parks’ who is having enough trouble of her own dealing with someone stealing her client files, her clients being dead, and her addict son. From there, the hitmen follow Sophie to Dr. Parks’ house and they’re determined to complete their mission in killing Sophie’s remaining son, collateral damages or not. A string of events follow.

A thrilling, probably the most of the three, read that had me gripping my book from the beginning of the story to the end.

[BBNYA 2022 Finalist Tour] Book Review: Haven by Ceril N. Domace

Happy Thursday, my lovely peeps🐥!

For this week’s review, we have yet another blog tour! This time, we have one in celebration of one of the 2022 Book Bloggers’ Novel of the Year Award (BBNYA) finalists. For my stop on this tour, I’ll be sharing my thoughts on this imaginative and fast-paced fantasy, full of world-building wonders! Haven by Ceril N. Domace came in 13th place for the BBNYA 2022 competition and you’ll see why by the end of my review! A round of applause please 🎊


BBNYA is a yearly competition where book bloggers from all over the world read and score books written by indie authors, ending with 15 finalists and one overall winner.  If you are an author and wish to learn more about the BBNYA competition, you can visit the official website or Twitter @bbnya_official. BBNYA is brought to you in association with the @Foliosociety (if you love beautiful books, you NEED to check out their website!) and the book blogger support group @The_WriteReads.

Title: Haven
Author: Ceril N. Domace
Genre: Fantasy, Science Fantasy, Contemporary Fantasy
Age Category: Adult
Length: 280 Pages
Published: 30 April 2021
Publisher: Self-Published

Amazon Canada
: [Link]
Amazon USA: [Link]
Amazon UK: [Link]
Goodreads: [Link]

Disclaimer: Thank you to BBNYA, TheWriteReads, and the author for providing me this copy in exchange for a fair and honest review! All opinions are mine.

Most people think the fae are gone. Most people are wrong.

Owen Williams wakes after a horrific car accident to find his wife is dead—and somehow turned into a gryphon—and his kids gone after a home invasion turned horribly wrong. Shattered and reeling, he vows to do whatever it takes to find them.

When a fae scout appears and promises to reunite him with his kids, he doesn’t hesitate before joining her. But she warns him that if he wants to protect his family, he must follow the fae to their city, the hidden haven of Tearmann.

With enemies on the horizon, Owen needs to set aside his fears and take up arms to defend their new home alongside the people he’s always been taught were monsters—or he’ll lose everyone he’s trying to protect

I enjoyed this read a little too much and by the end, found myself ready to jump right into the next book. The writing was engaging and, if I wasn’t so busy or too sleepy to continue, I probably could have finished this book in a single go. I loved all of the characters, especially Owen, the main character. I’ve read a lot of books that star father, but usually there aren’t so many people in the family: a wife and many a son/daughter with a single sibling. Owen’s family is huge compared to that. He’s got him and his wife, their dog Toto, an older son (Arthur) and daughter (Ashley), a pair of twins (Jen and David), and a younger toddler (Dorothy). Right away, I loved the engagement and interaction between this family. We start the book with the family going to grab ice cream together after Ashley’s violin recital and the bickering and warmth made me fall in love immediately with the Williams family.

And then immediately, having known the summary of the story already, my heart already shatters knowing this is probably the last happy night they’re all safe, happy, and together. As they get ready to leave the ice cream shop, Tiffany collapses in agony with a splitting headache and Owen instructs his oldest son to grab the kids and head home first while he tries to get his wife to the hospital. On the way there, Tiffany undergoes a change, in which a human becomes a fae, and then Owen crashes the car. It’s the last thing he remembers until he wakes in the hospital, his wife declared dead, and when he gets home there’s blood and his children are missing. In a single night, Owen’s life is changed forever and he immediately sets out to look for his missing children.

The story is really interesting and I really enjoyed the twist of history and lore. The world is much like our own with the exception that the fae showed up fifty years prior, went to war with the U.S. after realizing they were being experimented on, and then isolated themselves in havens post-war. There hasn’t been a change, like Tiffany’s, in the last five years and Owen can barely believe it when the nurse tells him that his wife was in the process of this change when she died due to injuries during this vulnerable state.

The world-building here was great and the fae is such an interesting concept. When I think of the fae, I think of fairy-like creatures. Here, they’re not fairies, but rather the collective name for a number of mythological or folklore creatures including shades, werewolves, centaurs, gryphons, harpies, trolls, harpies, vampires, dragons, and so on. A werewolf is a fae but so is a vampire. Usually, they’re just called supernatural creatures, but here that given name would be the fae and that was a neat twist. When Owen eventually lives amongst the fae in their havens, he becomes a sort of audience surrogate and as he learns all about the fae, so do the readers. I really enjoyed reading every little small detail (which says a lot because I generally don’t care for supernatural/mythological plots).

Character-wise, we eventually see the children again and a lot of the story revolves around Owen’s struggle with not just trying to raise his children while the entire family is still hurting and going through grief and loss, but that it’s a whole new world out there and within his family. His wife being fae meant that his children have a chance to go through the change as well and are all partially fae by birth. The fear of knowing one of his kids may die in the process, much like his wife did, weighs heavily on his mind daily. But, they all eventually settle and attempt to adapt to their new life. You can see how caring and doting of a father Owen is. We constantly see Owen worrying over them or going into full papa bear mode, doing whatever it takes if it means his kids can be safe.

Owen is the character that we get to know the most through the book since we only get his perspective of events, but there are occasionally diary entries of different characters as well including a fae queen. The rest of the Williams aren’t forgotten either by the author. Everyone is unique, although some have stronger and bolder personalities than the others in the family; their “stage presence” is just that much brighter. Besides the Williams, the others in the haven are very interesting as well: the queen, the lords, the daycare werewolf, the guides, and even the neighbors.

Another aspect of this book I really enjoyed was that this was a bit of a slice-of-life read. Sure, the fae and the U.S. are getting closer and closer to war almost every day and throughout the story, the air is heavy with anticipation of this inevitable event. However, much of the book focuses on the every day for the family. Getting to know the new place, learning about the new cultures and new things about each other, making friends, Owen heading off to work or attending meetings, the kids going off to school or hanging with friends, walking through town, celebrating in the cafeteria, and so on. I guess, after all these casual sim games with small towns and farm life, getting to read it as a story makes me kind of giddy.

All in all, Haven was a very enjoyable read. I loved the characters, I adored Owen’s protectiveness, the world-building was top notch and the writing is engrossing. Chapters always felt short and I was just flying through the book. Seeing a larger family in a fantasy book, even if it’s more of an urban fantasy, is refreshing. Family is a major theme here and so are grief and loss. The family grows apart at times and then comes back together again. Many have incredible personal growth and they change physically and mentally by the end. The concept was neat and it was interesting to see how it built and added on the traditional supernatural creatures of lore A great read and I can’t wait to get into the second book.

Ceril N Domace is an accountant, the owner of the feline embodiment of violence, and a dedicated dungeon master. On the rare occasions she manages to free herself from an ever-growing and complex web of TTRPG, Ceril enjoys taking walks and griping that all her hobbies are work in disguise

Book Review: And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer Fredrik Backman

Hello and Happy Thursday my lovely peeps🐥

It’s been a long week, but Friday is almost here, so fret not (I tell myself)! I’m currently juggling a couple of books, which is something I’ve not done in a while. It’s interesting though; A little bit of book 1 at 8pm, a nibble out of book 2 at 9pm, and right before bed, I might chow down on my main read for a while. It’s like a tv program…but for books!

Anyways, for this week’s review, I’m featuring And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer Fredrik Backman!

Title: And Every Morning The Way Gets Longer and Longer
Author: Fredrik Backman
Narrator: David Morse
Genre: Fiction, Contemporary, Short Story, Novella, Literary Fiction, Family
Edition: Audiobook (Libby)
Length: 1 hour 9 minutes
Published: 6 November 2016
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio

: [Link]
Goodreads: [Link]

A little book with a big heart!

From the New York Times bestselling author of A Man Called Ove, My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry, and Britt-Marie Was Here comes an exquisitely moving portrait of an elderly man’s struggle to hold on to his most precious memories, and his family’s efforts to care for him even as they must find a way to let go.

With all the same charm of his bestselling full-length novels, here Fredrik Backman once again reveals his unrivaled understanding of human nature and deep compassion for people in difficult circumstances. This is a tiny gem with a message you’ll treasure for a lifetime.

“This is a story about memories and about letting go. It’s a love letter and a slow farewell between a man and his grandson, and between a dad and his boy. I never meant for you to read it, to be quite honest. I wrote it just because I was trying to sort out my own thoughts, and I’m the kind of person who needs to see what I’m thinking on paper to make sense of it. But it turned into a small tale of how I’m dealing with slowing losing the greatest minds I know, about missing someone who is still here, and how I wanted to explain it all to my children. I’m letting it go now, for what it’s worth.”

“This is a story about memories and about letting go. It’s a love letter and a slow farewell between a man and his grandson, and between a dad and his boy. I never meant for you to read it, to be quite honest. I wrote it just because I was trying to sort out my own thoughts, and I’m the kind of person who needs to see what I’m thinking on paper to make sense of it. But it turned into a small tale of how I’m dealing with slowing losing the greatest inds I know, about missing someone who is still here, and how I wanted to explain it all to my children. I’m letting it go now, for what it’s worth.”

(excerpt of opening letter to readers)

I don’t know what to say. I’m finding it very hard to piece together the thoughts that are tumbling inside my head other than to note that it was a beautiful, loving, warm, heartbreaking, and striking read; the kind of book that’s short and bittersweet but leaves you with emotions that are hard to describe and leaves a heavy imprint in your heart. This was an amazing read. There’s not enough positive descriptors in the dictionary in any language to describe how I feel right now. I had originally just wanted to add it to my weekly reading list because I wasn’t going to make it in time [to write the review next week] with my other book. A random, happen-chance, in Libby. Afterall, that’s where all the magic seems to present itself.

This book is a story about family, memories, and letting go; it’s a story about learning to say good bye before it’s even time. It’s a book about Alzheimers and how the mind fades like a star even before the body is ready to follow. The story was very sad, there wasn’t a moment that you didn’t feel how somber it is; the moment where three people sit in a room, a child, his father, and his father’s father, all of which knowing that there is one mind in that room that is leaving them, at times already having gone. I had listened to the audiobook version of this short story and compared to the [sampler] Kindle book I read, the narrator made was an enormous contribution in terms of making this and the characters and all of the feelings and emotions attached so much more real. There are lucid moments when we are in little Ted or his father’s mind, watching their beloved family member leave them piece by piece. There are moments when we are in the grandfather’s mind as he sees the world, views his memories, talks to his deceased wife, and understands that each day, his “room” gets smaller and smaller and each day, memories seeming to slip away. The writing was already stellar and already made you want to cry, the narration only made it 10x more real and poignant. 

“Almost all grown adults walk around full of regret over goodbye they wish they’d be able to go back and say better. Our goodbye doesn’t have to be like that. You’ll be able to keep redoing it until it’s perfect. And, once it’s perfect, that’s when your feet touch the ground and I’ll be in space and there won’t be anything to be afraid of.”

There’s nothing more I can say that’ll help do even an ounce of justice and to show you exactly how I feel about the book, writing, the story, and the characters. I thought of my own family and how little time we seem to spend with each other in this hustle and bustle world of ours or how, even when we do have time, we’re all engrossed in technology. It really makes you realize that time isn’t so long for any of us and the thought of it being even shorter despite life and body still being a working and grinding gear for much long isn’t worth an extra 30 minutes on a Nintendo or television. We have time now, when everyone’s capable in body and still present in mind, and we should take use of it.

A beautiful story, I couldn’t NOT recommend it to anyone honestly. The book is always in third person, and we get to see it all through the eyes of a child, and how he views the mind stealing disease, the questions that he asks to his grandfather and father, the promises that he makes, and how he processes all of this. There’s the point of view from the grandfather and the son (Ted’s father) as well and is an all-round amazing book that portrays Alzheimer’s and how it affects the family from many different angles. 

Everything about the book was beautiful, and bitterly sweet. There’s a warmth that really lingers and left me with a bit of a stupor after reading. I felt like I was almost floating and unable to process what I’d just read, especially with the voice of the narrator and how lost he sounds as the grandfather, how sad as little Ted, and how desperate as Ted’s father. Even the opening letter to the reader left you feeling a certain kind of way. In the end, I might’ve picked this book up on a whim, but it’ll be sticking for a long long time. The book already left me speechless tonight. I’ll definitely be going to bed tonight feeling some kind of way. Yeah, it’s a short read, but I can’t recommend it enough.

Book Review: The Santa Suit by Mary Kay Andrews

It’s Thursday! Happy nearly the weekend my lovely peeps🐥! Wanna know something? I usually write these reviews on a Sunday (the day I finish my books) and draft the actual and formatted review posts on Wednesday night, but I ended up spending yesterday evening reading and playing SimCity on my iPad that I never got around to it. Hey, I can’t help it. The mayor contests opened back up and I needed to hold a decent place for a prize. It’s a cutthroat contest! So for the first time, in maybe ever, I’m writing and scheduling this review to be posted in the same morning. Heck, by the time I’m done formatting, adding links, and proofreading this tiny little intro section, it’ll be time for work and before you know it, the review’ll be up!

So for this week’s book review, I’ll be featuring The Santa Suit by Mary Kay Andrews! I really enjoyed this one and hope my review reflects so!

Title: The Santa Suit
Author: Mary Kay Andrews
Genre: Fiction, Contemporary, Romance, Chick-Lit, Holiday
Edition: Ebook > Kindle
Length: 213 Pages (Kindle)
Published: 28 Sept 2021
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

: [Link]
Goodreads: [Link]

When newly-divorced Ivy Perkins buys an old farmhouse sight unseen, she is definitely looking for a change in her life. The Four Roses, as the farmhouse is called, is a labor of love—but Ivy didn’t bargain on just how much labor. The previous family left so much furniture and so much junk, that it’s a full-time job sorting through all of it.

At the top of a closet, Ivy finds an old Santa suit—beautifully made and decades old. In the pocket of a suit she finds a note written in a childish hand: it’s from a little girl who has one Christmas wish, and that is for her father to return home from the war. This discovery sets Ivy off on a mission. Who wrote the note? Did the man ever come home? What mysteries did the Rose family hold?

Ivy’s quest brings her into the community, at a time when all she wanted to do was be left alone and nurse her wounds. But the magic of Christmas makes miracles happen, and Ivy just might find more than she ever thought possible: a welcoming town, a family reunited, a mystery solved, and a second chance at love.

When Ivy and her dog, Punkin, moves into that run down looking house that she threw her life savings and hopes into, her divorce was still painfully fresh. But, she’s trying to build a new life and put her ex behind her. It’s just her, her dog, and her box of baby chicks against the old looking house that she didn’t even personally look in before closing the deal. She’s got a good feeling about this house and going into the book, I didn’t share her optimism right away. I’ve moved (a LOT) through life and each time, moving meant lots of inspections and walking through the house, so to miss that important step was eyebrow raising.

BUT! My hesitation and negativity stops there because ohhh, I did shed a few tears here and there. This was such a nice read and coming out of an action and battle filled book, this was the perfect breather and palate cleanser. It felt like the perfect wintery, hot coco and fireplace, Christmas kind of book and it sure felt like that the whole way through. I smiled, I shed a few tears, and it was MAGICAL. 

I really enjoyed the writing, going into the book. It was easy to read and I could quickly digest it. I made my way through those chapters like they were nothing! I spread it out over the course of a week (10 – 30 minutes a night), but I could certainly see myself just curling up and inhaling this entire book in a single day, maybe even an entire sitting! 

The best part about this was the plot/storyline and the characters. We have Ivy, trying to start her life anew. A city girl and her dog and future chickens alone on a giant patch of farmland in a house she didn’t even visit before buying. She took a massive leap of fate, it was almost like the house was calling for her. She mets her real estate agent and eventual lover. Relatively new to town himself, Ezra lives down the road from her new house and, unlike any real estate agent out there, at least to Ivy, her friends, or my knowledge, he goes above and beyond and beyond even that for her! She needed someone to remove the furniture the old owner left her? He had a contact for that. She needs those furniture back? That same guy owes him a favor so he’ll cart it back in for her. She needs some stuff fixed up? He’s quite handy himself. She needs a plumber? He’s got a contact for that too and he too has some behind the scene deal with Ezra so to arrive at Ivy’s door ASAP. I thought that he was a really helpful and caring guy and honestly the two of them were so sweet. All of Ivy’s new friends were immediately rooting for them to just get together already. The only “hmm” moment I had was, this man literally had answers to EVERY SITUATION that Ivy found herself in. He’s got contacts like nobody knows and if he can’t find someone to fix her stuff, well, he’s a handyman himself. He’s charming and while I wouldn’t throw “unrealistic” out there right away, I did chuckle and note it down after he saves Ivy for the umpteenth time.

“You were expecting some old geezer, right? Nobody under the age of seventy is named Ezra these days. What can I say? My mom thought she was birthing a sea captain.”

The story and plot was my favorite part. Ivy’s new to town and upon her arrival, of course she goes around meeting her new neighbors and trying to empty out the house (while fixing it up a little). The original owners of this house (called The Four Roses House) were very VERY well known in the community for being stellar citizens, amazing folks, and were the local Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus. Now, Ivy, she’s hurt from her divorce and, not to mention Christmas was never really a happy holiday for her, isn’t so keen on continuing their legacy or even decorate or string some lights up (maybe next year she says), but one thing leads to another and Ivy eventually brings a little Christmas back into the old and forgotten house. OK, a lot of Christmas.

While going through the stuff in the house, she finds a note stuff into a suit. It’s one of the letters from the children that “Mr. and “Mrs. Claus” send gifts too and it’s a touching note. From there, it leads her to an old man who hasn’t seen his grandchild since she was just a child. That leads her to helping out a beloved candy shop on the absolute brink of shutting down. Along the way, she helps out a new friend and her love troubles. All the while she’s trying to deal with the house needing some massive repairs, trying to house her quickly growing chickens, and juggle whatever’s this not-so-bad deal with her very-much-helpful real estate agent is.

“I guess I just like the taste of peppermint. It reminds me of Christmas. And hope.”

All in all, I absolutely adored this book. There wasn’t even a real moment where Ivy faced with some great challenge (other than a majorly packed schedule at one point). There’s no side chick coming in. Her ex stays an ex and isn’t trying to make her life worse (hell yeah, stay out of her life). There’s no angry jealous person or mean nasty neighbor. It’s just tooth-rotting fluff from beginning to end and made me tingle with how warm it left me. A wonderful book that left me with only one regret. I wish I read during December instead.

Book Review: Pirate Bounty by Rick Partlow and Pacey Holden

Hello, my lovely peeps🐥!
I’m aching for the weekend and it feels so far away! I finally got to a very interesting point in Fire Emblem Engage except, now I’m too busy to have a moment to sit down and enjoy the game…Sure, I’ve got time to play it, but I feel like I can’t fully immerse myself and truly have fun until it’s the weekend when I’ve got a little more time.

For today’s post, I am sharing this week’s book review. This time around, I’m featuring Pirate Bounty: A Military Sci-Fi Series by Rick Partlow and Pacey Holden!

Title: Pirate Bounty: A Military Sci-Fi Series
Author: Rick Partlow and Pacey Holden
Genre: Fiction, Sci-Fi, Space-Opera, Action, Military Sci-Fi
Edition: Ebook > Kindle
Length: 360 Pages (Kindle)
Published: 29 Nov 2022
Publisher: Aethon Books

: [Link]
Goodreads: [Link]

Sometimes, it takes killing to make a living.

That fiancée? She’s married—to another guy.

The family business? His parents sold it.

Jack Bennet returns from the war to find the life he left behind has moved on without him. The only option he has to make ends meet lies in a military surplus junkyard starship. What’s a former Combat Search and Rescue soldier to do?

Fix up the ship, hire the cheapest pilot—a notorious drunk—and take the first contract that comes up: collect a bounty on one of the most ruthless killers in the Pirate Worlds, a place crawling with thieves, cutthroats and con artists whose primary language is violence. Jack must abandon his nice guy persona, or exploit it, if he is to survive.

What could possibly go wrong?

Experience the start of an explosive Military Sci-Fi Series from bestseller Rick Partlow, author of Drop Trooper, and debut author Pacey Holden.

This was a surprisingly random find. I was growing slightly desperate and was on my fourth book of the week (having dumped the other 3) but when I came across this book, I gave the sampler a quick peek, saw some badass scene in the first chapter (prologue) and thought, “This is the one!” I had really enjoyed the writing, my deciding point in getting the book, and probably one of my favorite aspects about the book. The battle scenes were quick, chaotic, and felt like a warfield, and the emotions around it felt real enough to make me picture and visualize the scene perfectly. There was just enough description to make the average scene not too overwhelming, but the real fun kicks in on the battle and fight scenes. It’s an adrenaline rush of movement and everything’s so quick. Blink and you’ll get popped in the face. Lose your attention and you might get shot. I really enjoyed those scenes and that final fight scene had a lot things happening. It was a race against time trying to save someone while trying to make your way through the chase and fight and stay alive. It gets really intense! I do love me intense some intense scenes!

Another thing I really loved about the book were the main character John (Jack) Bennet and his pilot, Robin (Birdy) Hartley. When I saw the book revolved around a ship, I was kind of expecting a whole crew of people (or at least one or two more others). I’m a sucker for a ragtag crew, kicking ass, while throwing quips and banter around so I was just a biiit disappointed in seeing that it was just Jack and Birdy (mostly Jack because as Birdy doesn’t fight and mostly stays up in the skies or trying to sneak off with Jack’s money into a bar or casino). I like that Jack, despite all of his military background, because he’s on his own now, and he’s just one guy against a gaggle of enemies, it’s natural in that he’s constantly getting away by the skin of his teeth, doesn’t get everyone out together, or just gets overpowered. I like that realism. I just got off a round in Fire Emblem where my archer walked away scrap free after 7-8 enemies surrounded him because he’s too overleveled…

I really enjoyed Birdy’s character too. This guy is a drunkard who lives for his next moments with the bottle and lands himself a job in which one of the job duties is to be sober (and remain sober) but he ends up getting himself into a tussle [almost] straight into his role, drunk out his mind and giggling like a madman. By the end though, he was pretty reliable. He really could’ve left Jack to die, but kept his word and stuck around. He’s a mess of a person, but a decent enough human when not blasting his remaining brain cells with happy juice. Even when he was drunk, he wasn’t such a bad person either, just annoying and stubborn.

I will say though, Jack’s abysmal luck is laughable. This luck makes up most of the plot because of the situations he lands himself in. This guy had a future plan only to come home to betrayal after betrayal (heartbreaking really; wtf parents does something like that? And his fiancée too??), get a scrap of metal of a starship as his only piece of his share in the family company being sold, gets a drunkard as his only pilot (budget was tight okay?), still aims for a relatively peaceful and civilian life with a shipping business of his own, gets his business Amazon/Walmart’d before it even takes off, gets tied up with royally pissing off a mobster for his first delivery, lands himself in prison, has to take another job and ends up as a bounty hunter (there goes his hopes and dreams of living a fight-less life), and finally gets roped into some major cult thing trying to get someone out of said scary major cult.

The world building was interesting, though we only got to experience a couple of worlds, we come across aliens, other humans, mobsters, and cults with the creepiest “everybody looks alike” vibe. Classic shiver-down-your-spine kind of cult. The weapons and ships were neat, though most of the concepts did occasionally fly over my head as general background information. 

All in all, a pretty good read. It was the only one of four that I was able to stick with, so if nothing else in my review says much, this one small note might. I enjoyed the reading, while I can’t say I enjoyed Jack’s awful luck at life, it did catapult the plot at a lightning speed because nothing says fast-paced until life throws whole trees at you when you’re still trying to recover from a single lemon…The characters were enjoyable, Jack felt real enough. I definitely enjoyed the writing and some of the dialogue. I enjoyed some of the other characters as well, such as Jack’s love interest Val and a villain named Artemis (an enemy of an enemy is a sorta kinda, more like a bio-prisoner, of a friend of mine) who was a riot to read. If you enjoy sci-fi, spaceships, planet hopping, cult and mobster rage/vengence dodging, bits of romance, drunk but tries to stay sober pilots, and unlucky main characters, pick yourself up a copy of Pirate Bounty. You never know. You might enjoy it as much as I did.

Book Review: Tanqueray by Stephanie Johnson & Brandon Stanton

Happy Thursday! I thought last week went by fast, being that I started my new job a day into the week, giving me a 4-day week, but this week is supposed to be my first full week and it went by even faster than the last! It feels like I blink and it’s already almost Friday. Time is wild!

Today’s post is my review for Tanqueray by Stephanie Johnson & Brandon Stanton!

Title: Tanqueray
Author: Stephanie Johnson & Brandon Stanton
Genre: Nonfiction > Memoir, Biography
Edition: Audiobook (Libby)
Length: 3 hours 17 minutes
Publishing: 12th July 2022

Amazon: [Link]
Goodreads: [Link]

1970s New York City: Go-go dancers, The Peppermint Lounge, gangsters, Billy’s Topless, and Stephanie Johnson…

In 2019, Humans of New York featured a photo of a woman in an outrageous fur coat and hat she made herself. She instantly captured the attention of millions. Her name is Stephanie Johnson, but she’s better known to HONY followers as “Tanqueray,” the indefatigable woman who was once one of the best-known burlesque dancers in New York City.

Brandon Stanton chronicled her life in the longest series he had yet posted on HONY, but, now, Stephanie Johnson—a woman as fabulous, unbowed, and irresistible as the city she lives in—tells all in Tanqueray, a book filled with never-before-told stories, personal photos from her own collection, and glimpses of New York City back in the day when the name “Tanqueray” was on everyone’s lips.

When I first read Stephanie’s story, it was via HONY’s Facebook page and, I’m sure like many others, I eagerly waited for Brandon’s next piece to the story as they typically get posted in a time interval rather than the entire story all at once. It was an amazing story that brought tears to my eyes and I knew, a short time later, that a book was coming out as well. I never actually got around to it, until this month when I’d simply happened upon it while scrolling through Libby, looking for my next read.

This was a great story, although I doubt “beautiful tale” and “wonderful story” is the right word, but, it evoked strong emotions in me and just as I loved the original posts, I loved this book as well. There was a little bit more in this book than what was in the posts and includes an extra (audiobook special) interview towards the end between Brandon and Stephanie, looking for updates from Stephanie and discussing the emotions that came during the process of this book.

The story by Stephanie was captivating and makes you keep reading on. Most of HONY’s stories will have you glued to your phone for updates on the next piece of the full story and this was no different. I’m so glad that Brandon had stopped to listen to Stephanie’s story, even though he didn’t have his equipment on him (and he even went back to grab it!). From this book and from Stephanie, we get to listen to her life as both as Stephanie and as Tanqueray and my was Tanqueray glamorous and unstoppable. She had a special resilience to her. It does have a little different feeling from normal memoirs and autobiographies, but it doesn’t take away from the story one bit. Her childhood and much of her life is incredibly drama filled, intense, and heartbreaking. Her memory and ability to recall all of this information from all the way back to her childhood and her dolls, praying to have a chance to escape her mother. She remembers her good friends, the warden that helped her during her time in jail, the times she spent with other people, the mobsters that helped her…Her ability to show us readers what NYC was like back in the 70s was remarkable and so crystal clear even after all these years.

This was a story that was engrossing and simply too short. It was fascinating though and a great read. I’m glad Stephanie was able to share this story and I’m so glad to come across it again.

Blog Tour Book Review: Unanimity by Alexandra Almeida

Title: Unanimity
Author: Alexandra Almeida
Genre: Fiction > Science Fiction, LGBT, Romance, Dystopian
Length: 570 Pages
Publishing: 18th October 2022


Disclaimer: A copy of this book was provided to me in exchange for a fair and honest review. A huge thank you to TheWriteReads and the author for this copy! All opinions are my own.

The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

Shadow is a reluctant god with a broken mind and a death wish. He used to be Thomas Astley-Byron, an affluent young screenwriter whose creativity and idealism saved a world from the brink of collapse. Together with Henry Nowak, an AI expert, Tom created heaven on earth by inventing a Jungian simulated reality that helps humans confront their dark sides. The benevolent manipulation platform turned the two unelected leaders into beloved gods, but now everything is failing. The worlds suffer as a sentimental Tom descends into his own personal hell, becoming the embodiment of everything he despises and a shadow of his former self.

His journey from an optimistic, joyful Tom to a gloomy Shadow is paved with heartache and sinister interference from emerging technology. Humans and bots fight for his heart, but their aims differ: some want to own it, some to dissect it, and others to end its foolish beat. Still, the biggest threat comes from within—none of the sticky stories that steer Tom’s life end well.

Who’s pulling on Shadow’s heartstrings? Are their intentions malign or benign? It’s all a matter of perspective, and Shadow has none left.

Now, a young goddess—Estelle Ngoie—has been appointed to replace him, and unlike Shadow, Stella takes no prisoners, and her heart bleeds for no one.

This was a really good sci-fi book with an interesting plot and even more intriguing world and concept that was nicely done, creating this vast world that left me with lots to explore and more to crave. Right away, the plot is intense, we have a goddess questioning herself for reviving a god who clearly did not want to be revived. Straight away, Goddess Stella, a stark contrast to the main character and previous God, Shadow, gets right into business, stating her reason for resurrecting an bringing back Shadow to being that he is needed to save the Down Below, or Spiral World and he’s the only one that can do it.

The book has some pretty complex characters that have some good amount of depth, background, flaws, and problems of their own. Each personality is vastly different from the other and many of them loathing someone else in the group, but it’s going to take a lot of cooperation if things are going to go smoothly and for the plan to work, which is mainly about keeping Shadow alive long enough to “save the worlds.” I really enjoyed the cast of characters from Sybil, the AI operating system that is sketchy through and through, to our protagonist, Shadow, and to Stella and Thorn, two seriously badass female characters. There’s also Nathan Storm, Shadow’s (Tom) soul mate as well as Twist (Henry), Tom’s best friend and co-creator of Spiral World. A colorful bunch indeed, especially as, when it comes to gods, this group seems to be the brattiest I’ve ever seen.

The writing was neat, smooth, and full FULL of dialogue. There’s a lot of talking whether it’s an interview between a talk show host and another character, a deep and intimate moment between lovers, or even in battle, there’s lots of talking. The pace was fine and the characters changed between the current timeline and the past, to give more background and information as the story moved on, which was kind of neat and besides learning more about each character and their origins, as well as their ties to each other and the plot, it’s also a small relief from the intensity of the current timeline, a small breather (although the past can occasionally get intense on its own). 

I did have a couple of issues though. Sometimes, I just got lost in the plot. I could understand the overall plot and so small details could occasionally be sacrificed. Sometimes though, I might come across a section or even whole chapters where I had to reread because I was a bit lost resulting in either “oh, got it” or just leaving it because while I’m still confused, I figured it’s a small enough detail to deal with later. Then, while I loved the characters (ok, I mean I sort of hated them because it was like being the adult standing in between teenagers and their fighting) I felt a little distant from them. I couldn’t connect with them or their emotions and feelings. Both issues were quite small though and didn’t take away from the overall read. It’s just that something felt off every now and then.

Overall, a pretty good read of hard science as well as bits of philosophy with moments to think and ponder, lots of dialogue and lots of action, intense conversations and intense scenes, high on emotion and I, again, can’t emphasis enough how neat the concept of exploring the dark side of a human’s mind, the level of worlds, and the complex (and coolness) of the science of AI and bots in this dystopian world. A good read, I’d recommend it and wouldn’t mind rereading it again either. 

Alexandra Almeida has over 25 years of experience in technology, strategy, and innovation. In her role as Chief Transformation Officer, she acts as a senior advisor to enterprise executives. Alexandra is an experienced speaker at events such as SXSW, and the Women in Tech Series.

For the time being, and to protect her creative freedoms, Alexandra prefers to write using a number of pen names.

​Her debut fantasy novel, released under another pen name, has received the following awards and recognition:

  • Reader’s Favorite Awards – Gold Medal Winner – Young Adult – Fantasy – Epic
  • Reader Views Awards – 1st Place – Fantasy
  • CIPA EVVY Book Awards – 2nd Place – Fiction – Mythology
  • B.R.A.G. Medallion Recipient
  • Eric Hoffer’s Da Vinci Eye Awards Finalist for Best Cover Artwork
  • The Wishing Shelf Book Awards Finalist – Books for Adults
  • Awesome Indies Approved

Following the self-publishing path by choice to retain full control of her IP, Alexandra invests in the best editors available in the business to match publishing quality standards.