Book Review: The Odd 1s Out Series by James Rallison

Happy Thursday, my lovely peeps🐥!
I used to hate Thursdays, at my old job, because it was the busiest day out of the week. Now, Thursdays are what it ought to be; the day before Weekend Eve!

Today, I bring to you two features in a set of mini reviews dedicated to The Odd 1s Out series by James Rallison. I knew I recognized that adorable marshmallow art style!



Title: The Odd 1s Out: How to Be Cool and Other Things I Definitely Learned from Growing Up
Author: James Rallison
Genre: Nonfiction, Humor, Comics, Memoir, Biography, Graphic Novels, Middle Grade
Edition: e-book > Kindle (Libby)
Length: 237 Pages
Published: 31 July 2018
Publisher: TarcherPerigee

LINKS:
Goodreads: [LINK]
Amazon: [LINK]


Like any shy teen turned young adult, YouTube star James Rallison (“The Odd 1s Out”) is used to being on the outside looking in. He wasn’t partying in high school or winning football games like his older brother. Instead, he posted comics on the Internet. Now, he’s ready to share his hard-earned advice from his 21 years of life in the funny, relatable voice his fans love.

In this illustrated collection, Rallison tells his own stories of growing up as the “odd one out”: in art class with his twin sister (she was more talented), in the middle school locker room, and up to one strange year of college (he dropped out). Each story is filled with the little lessons he picked up along the way, serious and otherwise, like:

*  How to be cool (in seventh grade)
*  Why it’s OK to be second-best at something, and
*  How to survive your first, confidence-killing job interviews

Filled with fan-favorite comics and never-before-seen material, this tongue-in-cheek take on some of the weirdest, funniest parts of life is perfect for both avid followers and new converts.


Title: The Odd 1s Out: The First Sequel
Author: James Rallison
Genre: Nonfiction, Humor, Comics, Memoir, Biography, Graphic Novels, Middle Grade, Audiobook
Edition: Audiobook > Libby App
Length: 1 hour 51 minutes
Published: 8 December 2020 (Audiobook)
Publisher: Penguin Audio

LINKS:
Goodreads: [LINK]
Amazon: [LINK]



The sequel to the New York Times bestselling The Odd 1s Out , with all new and never-before-seen content featuring opinions, stories, and signature characters from YouTube phenomenon James Rallison

James Rallison has always felt like he was on the outside looking in. His YouTube videos are all about his “odd” behavior, and with over 13 million subscribers and millions more followers on social media, these animations have found their way into the hearts of fans who also feel like a bit of an odd one.

In this second installment in the Odd 1s Out series, James is back with characters, stories, and opinions,

  •  The upside of the robot uprising
  •  Questionable pizza toppings
  •  Strange yet completely reasonable fears
  •  Inventions that don’t exist, but should

Offering advice on accepting your quirks and growing up in the Internet age, The Odd 1s The First Sequel is sure to be a must-have for old and new fans alike.


Book 1

I was quite excited to come across these books in the library! I’ve watched a few of Jame’s videos his channel before, but that was a couple years back and I never knew that he had books out as well! I love his art style and it’s unique in a way that you can’t really forget. You lay eyes on the characters and know right away it’s The Odd 1s Out. His humor helps make his stories pop and I really enjoyed them whether they were in video, audio, or a written style.

The read was humorous. I know I’ve read a solid few comedy/humor books in the last few years, but not many actually get me to laugh out loud. How to Be Cool and Other Things I Definitely Learned From Growing Up was one of those books that I could easily inhale in a single sitting and probably not [for me] to be read in public because of the random times I’d just bust out with a HAHA. I read a few pages out loud at the dinner table because my brother had also seen a few of Jame’s videos before and we enjoyed a few laughs together. 

The writing is good. There are moments where James will address us/readers/audience in a way that’s fitting for both an adult and kids. When coming out of or reading this book alongside another book that’s dense or hard to get through, it’s a nice breather. There’s no need to guess what is happening. Simple. I like it simple. It’s easy on my brain.

Again, I’ve always loved the art in The Odd 1s Out’s channel and I think (last I visited) they’ve seemed to have improved since the last I frequented the channel. I really enjoyed reading this book and found the illustrations to be adorable and couple with hilarious stories, the comics were great fun and had me laughing. Each chapter consists of a new story and I enjoyed all of them, some more than others. 

There were some stories that were a repeat from Jame’s videos, but if you’re someone who’s never checked out any of The Odd 1s Out’s videos or, if you’re like me who hasn’t watched them in a while, then this is a great book to pick up. Heck, even if you’re an old fan, it’s probably still nice to have a physical copy of the comics and all of the funny stories from the videos, even if some of them are a retell.

Some of my favorite stories included: “Perks of Being the Younger Brother” where he talks about being able to get away with things that his older brother could not have gotten away with; “PE” and how/why does the education system pair varsity students with chess club kids as well as funny locker room stories; “Science Fair” which sparked the memories of poster boards, word art, and hypothesises; and “Son, It’s Time We Talk About the Crickets and the Worms” where James recalled the time he volunteered to watch over his friend’s pet frog but the crickets got loose and they mocked him with their chirps at night, how he ended up having to catch wild crickets to feed the frog, and later on, had to poach worms from his neighbor’s yard. 

All in all, a great and short read with easy wording, funny tales, and adorable illustrations. I loved reading this book and if you need a bit of laugh, I recommend you to pick up a copy as well!

Book 2

The sequel was just as good as the first and the stories were funny to listen to. However, the audiobook version was not as good as when I’d read book 1 as an ebook. There was even a moment where James had mentioned that audiobook listeners might miss out on something and right into the book, you kind of feel this because there was a section where James is picking out a font is actually this really funny drawing of an elaborate flowchart in the physical/ebook (seen in the book sampler). Still, considering this book involves a lot of illustrations and comics, it’s only natural to miss certain things than if you were to read it yourself. It still reads fine though and I did crack up laughing in certain stories as well. I don’t mind picking up the physical ebook sometime in the near future either. 

Just as light and funny as the first book, this second book got a good chuckle and sometimes LOL out of me, although, I must be honest, I did enjoy the stories in the first book a little more. I didn’t get to fully enjoy the art and illustrations, but I liked what I saw in the sampler so I’m assuming it continues just as well throughout the rest of the book. In fact, it seems like the art was even better than the first book! Some of my favorite stories from this book involved: “Spider Pizza”…the story about the unfortunate spider baked into a pizza by accident…..; “Dog Training” and the limitations of how far even the best training sessions can go; and “The Missing Mattress” talking about the frustrations of customer service and how sometimes it takes a third party (friend) to find a very obvious solution while awaiting things to fix itself.

A really fun book that was just as easy to read. A light book that is perfect for me to use as a palate cleanser in between intense and action filled reads. I enjoyed the comedy, the narration, and most definitely enjoyed the stories. Another great book that I listened to as a Libby audiobook and am convinced enough to go back and purchase the physical/ebook version (the ebook version doesn’t show up in my Libby).

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Review: Cyberpunk Dystopia Novels Collective Bundle

Happy Tuesday, my lovely peeps🐥! 

For today’s post, we have something that’s a little out of the ordinary. It’ll still revolves around books except this time, we’re reviewing a bundle of books. A package deal of sorts! So this’ll be an extra special post!

While I’ve never actually heard of Fanatical themselves (at least not until recently) I am a heavy user of their parent company/website, Fandom, which hosts all sorts of Wikis that I frequent for games. With me playing Xenoblade recently, I’ve been stuck in a rabbit hole of the Xenoblade Wikis. Heck, I was on Shulk’s page just minutes before I started the draft for this post (I knew I saw that little flame logo from somewhere!).

To my pleasant surprise, someone had reached out to me from Fantatical in regard to reviewing a bundle for them. The theme: Cyberpunk! They have recently launched a Cyberpunk Bundle which consists of a vast array of books and titles of the subgenre and so, today’s post will be me diving into and talking about both Fanatical and this bundle. I already love Cyberpunk, but I’ve been craving Cyberpunk books written in the last few years recently. Though, I’ve found a handful online, it’s nothing to this extent (every time I click on the Amazon Best Sellers list in the Cyberpunk genre, it just takes me straight to bow and arrow/dragons fantasy(??). Coming across a bundle with this many titles was just astonishing.

So, without further ado, let’s get right to it! 
Stick around to the end and there’ll be a bonus mini-review for one of the titles as well!

What is Fanatical?

Fanatical is a digital storefront that started in the 90s(*source*). They provide all sorts of bundles, a collection of a vast array of different and affordable titles covered across technology and software, games, comics and graphic novels, e-learning books, as well as fictional titles. They partner with and source from official publishers all around to create these bundles. 

Fanatical’s bundles comes in different shapes and sized. There is the tier-based ones where you pay a certain amount for a particular tier and unlock (for example) three product items such as books or software the first tier. Unlocking a tier above would bring you everything in the previous, along with even more titles. The Cyberpunk bundle in this review would be an example. The tier-based bundles are pre-set so the titles you wish to read are already chosen for you per tier unlike the build-your-own bundles.

There is also the standalone/single-tiered bundle which has no tiers but rather a set bundle of certain products, or the keys/codes to unlock said products, for a fraction of the price. One example would be their Unreal Programming eLearning Bundle(*Link*) which, at the current price of $9.99 would deliver to you 8 individual keys to redeem on Zenva.

Then there’s the build your own bundles. Each one is different of course, but start with something like “Add up to 25 for only $24.99” followed by all of the available titles. Built like the tiered bundles, you could add 1 to your cart for a certain price, 5 for another price, 10 for another, and so on. Unlike the tier-bundles though, these aren’t pre-set titles per tier. You get to chose what you want in your bundle. One example would be the Coding & Game Developement Build your own eLearning bundle(*Link*).

There are other things on their site such as deals or single titles. There’s a section for Games Under $5 and Games Under $10. Nifty eh?

Disclaimer: All covers are taken from the bundle site (link below). The featured image/header is also provided by Fanatical. As well, a code was provided for me to unlock this bundle in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

About this bundle

The Cyberpunk Dystopia Novels Collective Bundle (*Link*) brings to the table a collection of 19 different titles from different authors featuring some very thrilling reads. I see some familiar authors I adore and (at least) based on the title I picked up to write a review on, it was cover to cover heart-racing adrenaline. 

Of the different types of bundles, this Cyberpunk bundle would fall under the tier-based ones. You’ll unlock more content for each tier up and for this particular bundle, you start off paying $1.00 for 3 titles in tier 1, followed by $7.00 for 11 titles in the 2nd tier, and finally at $13.00 you’ll receive all 19 books in the bundle. That’s a whole lot of books!

Tier 1

The first tier brings you three titles starting off with Eclipes (A Song called Youth #1) by John Shirley, a gripping first entry into the trilogy followed by another of John Shirley’s books, Black Glass: The Lost Cyberpunk Novel and finishes off with Neon Leviathan by T.R. Napper, a collection of stories that places you in the shoes of those that walk through the neon-saturated streets of the future. John Shirley’s books are available as EPUB and PDF format and Neon Leviathan will be available as an EPUB file. All three are published by Ravenstar Studios.

Tier 2

This tier brings you 8 extra books on top of what’s included in tier 1. There are some shorter novella reads alongside a few novel lengths (300 – 400 pages) and included in this tier is also an audiobook available in an MP3 file. Most of the titles are under Ravenstar Studios although Coil is under Apex Book Company. The titles are as follow:

TitleAuthorPublisherFormats
NecrotechK.C.AlexanderRavenstar StudiosEPUB, PDF
CoilDr. Ren WaromApex Book CompanyEPUB, PDF
The Paradise Factory: A New York 2055 Cyberpunk StoryJim KeenRavenstar StudiosEPUB, PDF
Into Neon (Audiobook)Matthew A. GoodwinRavenstar StudiosMP3
UploadMark McClellandRavenstar StudiosEPUB, PDF
…And Other DisastersDr. Malka OlderRavenstar StudiosEPUB
Hamlet, Prince of RobotsM. Darusha WehmRavenstar StudiosEPUB, PDF
Complete Darkness: A Dark Matters NovelMatt AdcockRavenstar StudiosEPUB

Tier 3

And finally, the highest tier in this bundle will include an additional 8 titles along with everything previously mentioned. Like the previous tier, there are novella, novel, and longer (592 pages) books although a majority are under 300 pages. All books here are ebooks (no new audiobooks) and most are available as EPUB with a handful also available to download as PDFs. All titles are under Ravenstar Studio which seems to be the main publisher in this bundle. The titles in this tier are as follow:

TitleAuthorPublisherFormats
The Man of Cloud 9Adam DreeceRavenstar StudioEPUB, PDF
Chawlgirl RisingT.K. YoungRavenstar StudioEPUB, PDF
Europa: Omnibus EditionElias HurstRavenstar StudioEPUB
InertiaMark EvergladeRavenstar StudioEPUB
DefragRachel BeckRavenstar StudioEPUB, PDF
Tae Kwon GoDr. Joseph HurtgenRavenstar StudioEPUB, PDF
Rise of the Liberators: Terrafide Book 1Ryan HyattRavenstar StudioEPUB, PDF
Lord of PoisonN.H. WeberRavenstar StudioEPUB, PDF

Overview

There are a lot of titles in this bundle. There are some that are a little smaller (~100 pages) compared to the rest, but there are plenty that are a little longer (300+) as well as the inclusion of an audiobook to mix it up a bit. Upon download, the audiobook came in “pieces” in which each chapter is it’s own file totalling up to 22 different files. Stat wise, the average page length is about 285 pages with the bundle totaling over 5,000 pages. The shortest book is 116 while the longest at 592. There’s a mix of ebook (majority), one audiobook, and a collection of short stories with the collection written under one author. The majority publisher here is Ravenstar Studio (with the exception of one book under Apex Book Company) and all titles are available as EPUBs with a few also available as PDFs. The audio file is an MP3 file. No files are broken as I was able to open all of them up on my Kindle app.

It’s nice that this bundle has this kind of variety. I’m biased towards collections because I love anthologies, but I do believe starting the first tier off at a $1.00 to include two authors, one of which will likely have all sorts of storyline and plots across his short stories, is a decent way to start the bundle. There are some authors that I’ve enjoyed in the past as well and so I’m happy to see some familiar names alongside plenty of new authors for me to now discover.

Taking a deeper look into some of these titles, there are some that don’t have any cover art and some with weird formatting (such as one where the chapters just begin in the middle of the page) although, for the most part, the table of contents works just fine. The mix of authors ranges as well and for the most part, there’s quite a lot of different authors in there to keep things interesting. It’s fantastic getting to explore authors I may have never seen or come across on my own. And as someone who is slowly leaving her bookish comfort zone in terms of genres and author, this bundle helps introduce more authors to my growing watch list.

As for opinions, while I haven’t gotten to explore the entirety of the package, I did peek into a handful of book and skimmed a few others as well. I managed to start and finish Defrag in a single day and, despite 100 page is a totally do-able thing, I’m a slow reader and anything under a day is a miracle all due to a good read where you just sit down and can’t stop turning pages. I love the genre and I love that I get to explore more of this nitty-gritty, neon-filled, future without the actual danger (although the increasingly horrifying news on the daily makes me question if we already have a foot in this future😅).

Enjoyable bundle and I’ve already fallen in love with a few new authors. I like what I’ve seem and can’t wait to explore the remainder of the bundle to bring you further reviews down the road (for the individual books).


To close out this bundle review, here’s my mini review on Defrag by Rachel Beck!
Cover to cover adrenaline!

(Bonus) Mini Review: Defrag by Rachel Beck

Blurb

“Runners are moths. Doesn’t matter how perfect a machine you build. There’s a weakness there, and Runners will find a way to exploit it.”

The neon-washed streets of Neosaka are a hard place to make a living. Glitch, a hacker with more of a talent for computers than people, barely scrapes by as a Runner, stealing from the massive corporations that run her city. One night, on the 189th floor of a high-security surveillance company, everything falls apart.

What should have been a simple data grab turns deadly when a rival crew shows up. They’re looking for the same prize and don’t care who they have to kill to get it. Computer savvy won’t be enough this time. With a relentless security force on the way, Glitch must find a way to ally with her enemies if any of them are to survive. That would be hard enough if some of her prospective allies didn’t also have their own hidden agendas…

Cyberpunk fans are calling The Glitch Logs “quick paced, complex, and enthralling”, “an experience that feels authentic”, “non-stop action”, and “the best thing out of the Matrix since Neo”.

Review

Woo! What an exhilarating ride! I felt like my heart had leapt up to my throat and was stuck there for the entire duration of the book! It was cover to cover adrenaline and that’s the way I like my reads because, as a slow reader with the attention span of a goldfish, any book that has me sitting down and reading the entire thing in a single day is a good book. For such a short read (116 pages), it sure packed a punch! How did I fall in love with characters in such a short span?

In Defrag we follow a hacker named Glitch on her latest run. However, nearly immediately in, the job turns sour and what should’ve been a neat plan falls to pieces pretty quickly. Suddenly, Glitch finds herself trying to escape with her life (body and mind) intact, but in order to do so, she must team up with the rival crew to work their way out of this high-survaillance hell hole and death trap. 

Drones are flying everywhere with painful and incapacitating tasers, there’s grenades flying, and security is tight. It’s going to take a lot of teamwork and trust to see this through, yes, even if you have only known your team mates for all of 2 minutes. As Glitch says, they don’t have to trust her, just have to trust that she gets her job done and to watch her back while she does so. This was a fantastic read full of non-stop action that has my heart pounding. 

The world building was *chef’s kiss* wonderful. There’s so much to unpack here from the enhanced humans (i.e. a pair of black cybernetic eyes), glowing tattoos and lips, electric swords, hacking by jacking in followed by avatars, a freaking cat avatar (how cool is that?), the internet portrayed in a very neat way (the log-in window as an actual giant wall). This was such a cool book that was exciting, gripping, and I just loved it. 

Nice ending and, although Glitch was damn cool on her own, I must say (and I’m sorry Glitch) but my favorite characters had to have been Nine and Syntechie. Glitch might’ve been the professional here, 11 runs in a world where surviving past 4 means you’re a veteran, but the other team was the professional professionals, although teamwork did get them all out of here and neither side would’ve survived without the other.

Super cool. Now I’m already too deep in and must give the following books a try as well.

Book Review: The Year of My Miraculous Reappearance by Catherine Ryan Hyde

Happy Thursday, my lovely peeps🐥! There’s so much going on this week that I can’t believe the weekend is right around the corner!

It’s time for this week’s book review and today, I’ll be featuring a book that had me sobbing practically from cover to cover: The Year of My Miraculous Reappearance by Catherine Ryan Hyde.


Title: The Year of My Miraculous Reappearance
Author: Catherine Ryan Hyde
Genre: Fiction, Young Adult, Contemporary
Edition: Ebook > Kindle (Libby)
Length: 237 Pages
Published: 12 March 2009
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers

LINKS:
Goodreads: [LINK]
Amazon: [LINK]

TW/CW: Alcoholism, alcoholic parent, depression, suicide ideation, separation of family


Cynnie takes care of herself—and more importantly, she takes care of her little brother, Bill. So it doesn’t matter that her mom is drunk all the time. Cynnie’s got her own life. Cynnie’s the one Bill loves more than anyone. Cynnie’s the real mother in the house. And if there’s one thing she knows for sure, it’s that she’ll never, ever sink as low as her mother.

But when things start to fall apart, Cynnie needs a way to dull the pain.

Never say never.

This unflinching look at the power of addiction is the story of one girl’s fall into darkness—and the strength, trust, and forgiveness it takes to climb back out again.


Fun fact, I’m too chronically dehydrated to read more than one Catherine Ryan Hyde book, back to back. I already lack H20. I can’t lose what I have left to more buckets full of tears! This started out so utterly depressing but I’ve read Dreams of Flight before and that was depressing until the end. I’ve heard hope was a theme across her books, so I stuck around waiting for that “hope.” I hoped I’d see it through and I hoped that Cynnie (Cynthia) did too. This was such an emotional ride and I bawled my way through. I think the only time I didn’t cry was the beginning. Maybe a fifth of the way through, I was already sobbing and tears were pouring by the last sentence. This is why I read in the safety of my bedroom!

This book was so REAL. It hits you in the gut with events that happen all the time; kids growing up with parents who don’t fulfill the parent role leaving them to grow up as the parent of the household, sometimes to even their own mother or father and/or kids that grow up taking care of themselves and their siblings; survival. And that’s Cynnie. With a mother she deems a pathetic alcoholic, she finds herself being the head of the household at thirteen, taking care of herself and her baby brother, Bill. Most of the time, her mother’s lights aren’t even on in her head to be aware of what’s going on in the house and when she isn’t drunk out of her mind, she’s parading in the next boyfriend in and then out in a revolving door of a relationship, but Cynnie doesn’t care. That’s what she tells herself: she doesn’t care because she’s used to it, because her mother is pathetic, and Cynnie is more than capable of taking care of everything on her own.

But when things begin to fall apart and “doesn’t care” catches up to Cynnie emotionally, she takes a drink herself. Why not right? It’s only a sip here and there and at first it tastes gross…but then the fuzzy feeling comes along and…maybe this is why people drink or say they drink to forget their problems. Suddenly, everything collapses around her and her life will never truly be the same again. However, whether it’s the start of the beginning of the road, leading to where her mother lies or a different path is all down to Cynnie.

This was an intense read with all sorts of themes including alcoholism, alcoholic and/or [emotionally/physically] absent parents, raising siblings “alone” at a young age, and severe depression. By thirteen, Cynnie doesn’t even feel anymore and she’s heading down a path that’s much like her own mother’s. She finds herself attending court ordered alcoholic anonymous meetings after a horrible incident and she barely manages to stick with it because she doesn’t even realize she’s got a problem. She doesn’t believe she’s an alcoholic, her mom is, not her! She doesn’t realize she’s depressed, and Cynnie can’t heal if she doesn’t want to help herself heal. She can’t heal, if she doesn’t even believe she has a problem in the first place.

I was able to read this book in a single sitting. I haven’t done that with a book since maybe middle school, where I had plenty of time and the books were relatively short. I stayed up late to finish the book, having started it late that same evening. There’s just something about Catherine Ryan Hyde’s books that makes you inhale the entire thing as quickly as possible. There’s so much to feel. It’s so gut-wrenching and powerful, but I was waiting for that hopeful ending that people talked about. And so I kept reading on and on until it was over, and then it was.

Fantastic book. The first (and only other) time I’d ever read Catherine’s book was Dreams of Flight from NetGalley and that one had me sobbing and crying by the end. I didn’t know it was just how her books were, but I’m so glad to have picked this book up. I might’ve felt awful trying to wake up the next morning, but I feel like I’d stumbled across a gemstone late one evening, simply by scrolling Libby. I’ll be back for more. But maybe after I chug some more water to make up for the fountain of tears I’d lost. 

Book Review: All the Dangerous Things by Stacy Willingham

Happy Thursday, my lovely peeps🐥! It’s been a long week but yesterday, my copy of Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition came in so I can’t wait to see what the whole hype over this series is about (this weekend). In the meantime, my favorite time of the week is here! Review Thursday!

For this week’s review, I’ll be featuring All the Dangerous Things by Stacy Willingham. It had a bit of a slow start but then ramps up until, by the end, your neck is sore from all that plot twist whip lash!!
A fantastic book, I guess it’s time to tell you all about it!!


Title: All the Dangerous Things
Author: Stacy Willingham
Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Thriller, Mystery Thriller, Psychological Thriller, Suspense, Crime, Adult
Edition: Ebook > Kindle (NetGalley)
Length: 332 Pages (Kindle)
Published: 10 January 2023 (Kindle)
Publisher: Minotaur Books

LINKS:
Goodreads: [LINK]
Amazon: [LINK]
Minotaur Books: [LINK]

Disclaimer: Thank you to the author, Minotaur Books, and NetGalley for a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.


One year ago, Isabelle Drake’s life changed forever: her toddler son, Mason, was taken out of his crib in the middle of the night while she and her husband were asleep in the next room. With little evidence and few leads for the police to chase, the case quickly went cold. However, Isabelle cannot rest until Mason is returned to her—literally.

Except for the occasional catnap or small blackout where she loses track of time, she hasn’t slept in a year.

Isabelle’s entire existence now revolves around finding him, but she knows she can’t go on this way forever. In hopes of jarring loose a new witness or buried clue, she agrees to be interviewed by a true-crime podcaster—but his interest in Isabelle’s past makes her nervous. His incessant questioning paired with her severe insomnia has brought up uncomfortable memories from her own childhood, making Isabelle start to doubt her recollection of the night of Mason’s disappearance, as well as second-guess who she can trust… including herself. But she is determined to figure out the truth no matter where it leads.


I’ll admit that I didn’t like this book in the beginning. It’s a bit of a slow burn in the beginning but once it hits the middle, things really begin to pick up speed and from there it’s plot twist after plot twist, and there are some very unpredictable things that happens. I was totally not expecting that ending at all. From somewhat of a bore to the end where you’re gripping the book, there was always this nagging feeling at the back of your head and so, I never felt the need to drop the book either. When the climax and ending came along, I was more than glad to have stuck with the book!

The book begins having been exactly one year since Isabelle’s son, Mason, disappeared from his crib; taken and whisked away from his very own home in the middle of the night. An ongoing case that’s practically closed at this point, having no leads though the officers promise that it’s still active, Isabelle continues to try and find her son on her own. She won’t rest until he’s safe and sound at home. Literally. Having been an extremely deep sleeper, one whose sleepwalking habits terrified her younger sister, Isabelle now has the exact opposite problem. She hasn’t slept a wink since her son disappeared and her husband shortly afterwards. Not a single night is short for her as she tries to sleep and dusk becomes dawn. She microsleeps through out the day, little short bursts such as when people nod off and shortly jolts awake afterward, but that’s about it. The difference between her old sleep walking habits to her now sleep deprived self becomes slowly important later on as both Isabelle and the readers are made to question what really happened the night that Mason disappeared. 

This was a very intriguing puzzle and I suspected nearly every character and guessed wrong 100% of it all. The story took an interesting turn half way through and an even crazier turn towards the end. So, I guess I can’t fault myself for not guessing the bad guy correctly. 

The story starts with Isabelle coming back from another keynote speech for a TrueCrime convention, a speech she’s just about memorized word for word by now, having done so many of them since her son’s disappearance, hoping for many things to result from these presentations such as perhaps causing the kidnapper to feel remorseful after these speeches and return her son. The more important thing out of these speeches though: she’ll always have a list of attendees to her speeches. After all, don’t some criminals tend to return to the scene of the crime? 

There’s so much happening in this book. There’s so much depth to the characters here, Isabelle mainly. She had a childhood where there was something just as questionable that happened in her own home and right away you know that she’s got skeletons of her own. She begins to question her own memory and sanity, linking her own connection to the event during her childhood to the recent events of her son’s disappearance. There’s also the aspect of Izzy not having slept for a year now (outside of the microsleep her doctor tells her about) and from that she questions the things she sees now or the paranoia that follows. 

There is a lot of heavy themes that are explored and portrayed in this book and the female characters were written very well. This wasn’t a gripping thriller right away, but the writing combined with the need to know the truth of what happened, stuck with me. I enjoyed the flawed characters, Isabelle included, with tons of depth and, for the MC especially, the amount of history that links an old incident to the current that really just keeps you reading on and on. I enjoyed the puzzle aspect and the fact that this book made it hard to trust anyone, not even Isabelle herself. I guessed and guessed, locked in my final answer and was still wrong on whodunit. There are a lot of sketchy people in this book, some that turn out to be trustworthy and some that you roll your eyes and go, “Couldn’t trust him from the beginning.” It was a good psychological read and a thriller that picks up speed quick towards the middle. I nearly gave up towards the beginning and I’m glad I didn’t. 

Blog Tour: Book Review: If Tomorrow Doesn’t Come by Jen St. Jude

Phew! It’s yet another Thursday! Time rolls quick! I spent the better portion of this week just obsessing over Xenoblade Chronicles 3 Future Redeemed rather than properly reading. But hey, I read a TON of…fanfics! So I haven’t technically broken my “daily reading” goal right 😉

For today’s post, I’ll be featuring and reviewing If Tomorrow Doesn’t Come by Jen St. Jude for my stop on the blog tour hosted by TheWriteReads! It was a beautifully devastating book, ya’ll. Yes. I cried. Big drops of fat tears.

Thank you to Jen, TheWriteReads, and Penguin for this spot on the tour and for the pleasure of getting to read this book. It’s been such an amazing experience!


Title: If Tomorrow Doesn’t Come
Author: Jen St. Jude
Genre: Fiction, Young Adult, Queer, LGBT, Romance, Science Fiction
Edition: Ebook > Kindle (NetGalley)
Length: 416 Pages
Published: 9 May 2023
Publisher: Penguin

LINKS:
Goodreads: [LINK]
Amazon US: [LINK]
Amazon UK: [LINK]

Disclaimer: Thank you to Penguin, the author, and the tour host, TheWriteReads, for a copy of this book. All opinions are my own.


We Are Okay meets They Both Die at the End in this YA debut about queer first love and mental health at the end of the world-and the importance of saving yourself, no matter what tomorrow may hold.

Avery Byrne has secrets. She’s queer; she’s in love with her best friend, Cass; and she’s suffering from undiagnosed clinical depression. But on the morning Avery plans to jump into the river near her college campus, the world discovers there are only nine days left to an asteroid is headed for Earth, and no one can stop it.

Trying to spare her family and Cass additional pain, Avery does her best to make it through just nine more days. As time runs out and secrets slowly come to light, Avery would do anything to save the ones she loves. But most importantly, she learns to save herself. Speak her truth. Seek the support she needs. Find hope again in the tomorrows she has left.

If Tomorrow Doesn’t Come is a celebration of queer love, a gripping speculative narrative, and an urgent, conversation-starting book about depression, mental health, and shame.


You know, I was somewhat okay (maybe a bit down) during most of this read, but then the final quarter of the book hit me so hard, I cried the rest of the way through. Full on, sobbing. Once again, I’m reminded on why I like to read in my own room with the door closed. 

On the morning of her birthday, Avery decided to take her own life. She had cleaned up her personal belongings, deleted every photo of herself from social media, wrote her goodbye letters, went to the forest, and planned to drown herself in the river. Then her best friend, Cass called dropping the news about the asteroid due to hit Earth in a matter of days. There’s talk of research to try and stop or redirect it, but there’s no research that’s going to make it in time. It will hit and there’s nothing anyone can do about it. So Avery plans to try and make it through the next nine days until impact. If she can just make it through the next week and half, she can spare her loved ones the pain of her death. So Avery scratches her original plans and heads back to the pandemonium on campus and with a little help, begins the journey back home to her parents with her roommate in toll; Aisha who is desperate to get back to her own family in Nigeria.

There’s so much emotion in this book. A lot of it hits you deep and hard and everything is so painful. The description of depression was so real. It’s not just sadness. There’s also the neverending sense of guilt involved. It’s an ocean that you swim in with the shores never coming up in sight. And, when that’s not present, there’s just a void of apathy and emptiness. There’s also the discussion of religion and religious guilt. I grew up in a very Catholic household where both my maternal and paternal grandmothers were extremely religious and anything that’s not in the [biblical] norm was a sin. I remember during a random family dinner, an aunty that sat next to me was eating her crab legs while whisper-reminding me that if I don’t get baptised, I’ll go to hell when I die. That’s just baptism, so imagine the other far more hurtful conversations us kids got. Through much of her childhood, teenage years, and even as a young adult, Avery struggles with her religion versus who she is herself. After a particular incident, the fear of the mortal sin she could never erase, no matter how much redemption, becomes a pivotal moment that shapes Avery’s life. Between the depression and the religious guilt and struggles, I think the author did an amazing job of depicting both. 

The plot bounces back and forth between present day and the past with no real chapter markers except for titles like “four days to impact” (present-day) or “three years to impact” (past) with the past chapters doing a fantastic job at showing the readers exactly what makes Avery who she is today. Both the present and past tense chapters are in chronological order and eventually, you’ll be left with only the present chapters. Between the past and present chapters, they’re both amazing with certain chapters that were heart-racing and you’re trying to speed read through one POV [i.e. present tense] to get back to the other POV [i.e. past] only for the speed-read chapter to end up being even more intense so that you’re now trying to speed read through the other [i.e. past] tense instead. It swaps too, with present and past always holding your attention until you’re somehow at the end of the book already, feeling all sorts of emotions because that was such an experience and there’s so much to process. A page-turner for sure.

But my favorite part of the book has to be the characters. There’s the main characters, Avery and her best friend and childhood crush, Cass whose relationship squeezes your chest as you read through their entire life from their childhood days to the present college one as they discover both their own selves as well as what they mean to each other. Their rollercoaster of growth was my favorite thing about this book and by the end, I was a wreck especially with that gorgeous ending. Then there’s family and all the flaws that comes with such as Avery’s deeply religious mother, the ever optimistic father, and Avery’s best friend and biggest supporter and older brother, Peter as well as his family, his wife and son, Georgia and Teddy. There’s Avery’s college roommate, Aisha, who dubs Avery as “the queen of secrets” and their friendship starts distant and cold. There’s also Avery’s professor, Dr. Talley, who she believes hates her guts but tags along on the ride back to her home, although I had originally questioned why he stuck along and then stayed. Avery’s heart to heart conversation with him becomes a major moment down the road and marks where I started to sob my way through the rest of the book. Everyone’s got their strengths and good traits as well as their flaws (except, I can’t find any flaws in Teddy whom Cass tries to teach “Fuck The Patriarchy” but it comes out as “Fuck the pay-key-airy” and that’s the best thing ever about him and I want to pinch and squeeze his cheeks, I love him so much!). I loved the the interaction between Avery’s family and friends. So many people complement someone else in the book and I loved the dynamic of it all; even little Teddy was important in his own ways. 

This was a devastating and powerful read that was gut wrenching at times and beautiful others. The characters were wonderfully done, the depression description felt accurate, raw, and was so painful to read; it wasn’t a display of a singular sadness but as a void of empty emotions that held so much guilt in it. The ending was beautiful and so full of hope that I cried then too. The author did an amazing job on this one and now I’ve found yet another to go on my authors-to-watch list. Kudos. I’ll go stare at a wall in book hangover shock now. 

*Side-note: The cover is stunning, gorgeous, and after reading the book, holds so much emotion behind it. Beautifully done! 


Lambda Literary Fellow Jen St. Jude (she/they) grew up in New Hampshire apple orchards and now lives in Chicago with her wife and dog. She has served as an editor for Chicago Review of Books, Just Femme & Dandy, and Arcturus Magazine. When she’s not reading or writing, you can find her cheering on the Chicago Sky and Red Stars. If Tomorrow Doesn’t Come is her first novel.

Book Review: I Am AI by Ai Jiang

Goodness, this week went by fast!
Happy Thursday my lovely peeps🐥!

Today, we have yet another special feature for a book that’s coming up for release this year (next month in fact!). This week’s book review shines a light on I Am AI by Ai Jiang and with the recent increase in AIs’ this book is quite…chilling…

Coming June 20th, as usual, I’ll leave some useful links below as well as the author’s Linktree. Ai’s latest book Linghun is also out now (4 April 2023) so let’s show her some love!


Title: I Am AI
Author: Ai Jiang
Genre: Fiction, Science Fiction, Speculative Fiction, Cyberpunk
Edition: Ebook > PDF > e-ARC copy
Length: 80 Pages
Published: 20 June 2023
Publisher: Shortwave Media

LINKS:
Goodreads: [LINK]
Amazon: [LINK]
Author’s Twitter: [LINK]
Author’s Linktree: [LINK]

Disclaimer: An e-arc of this novelette was provided to me in exchange for a fair and honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.


If you have the opportunity to give up humanity for efficiency, mechanical invincibility, and to surpass human limitations. . . would you?

Ai is a cyborg, under the guise of an AI writing program, who struggles to keep up with the never-blinking city of Emit as it threatens to leave all those like her behind.


How far would you go in a world where productivity is the only way to survive? Would you sacrifice your humanity? Is it worth it to lose all of your emotions?

In a world where AI spits out content, goods and services alike, in vast quantities, it’s no surprise that humans can’t keep up with the neverending, no-need-for-rest, robotic abilities they bring to the table. For the rich, the AI serves them and for the poor that lives on the edge of the city, only catching a glimpse of the light that the City of Emit…produces, life is hard. It’s all about survival and when you can’t make enough money to survive, anyone would become desperate to out robot the robot. But not every consumer enjoys what the AIs produce, saying that they lack a soul and that they prefer the human creativity behind true art. And that’s where Ai comes in. 

Ai is a cyborg, not fully machine yet, but getting there and soon enough, she’ll have a new body part that will not only increase her productivity to that of someone who truly isn’t human anymore but with it the disposal of her heart, so will her human emotions along with it. It’s scary to think, but the tradeoff sounds even better. Working under the guise of an AI writing program, Ai is already able to produce a lot of content, her human quality being the charming point for consumers because she can churn (almost) as much as a bot, but her writing has heart in it. Unfortunately, it’s not enough. She’s only able to create what she is able to right now, by burning her candles at both ends and working long crazy hours. Yet, AI writing programs that are getting cheaper always poses a threat to her consumer base. 

I loved the world that Ai Jiang created in this book. It’s what I envision Cyberpunk to be; a hopeless tech filled, distant future with issues that are similar to our own but have only grown [far] worse over time. There are already AI that steals from content creators now, writing and artwork, and so seeing that the AI are the main source of creative goods in the future, is not so far-fetched. Those who live in the honeycomb in the outskirts of Emit only get to see the brilliance of its lights of the technologically drenched (and dependent) city, along with the skyscrapers that paints the skies; the gap between the rich and the poor having grown into a chasm. Burnout from horrible working conditions and/or awful work hours are bad enough now, but humans in the future are as disposable as one-time-use gloves. 

It has heavy themes in humanity and character growth as Ai struggles with her current (failing) body along with a failing client list, people who are slowly leaving to choose the cheaper AI that never fails to deliver since they’re robotic and mechanical. If you’ve ever chatted with an AI, sometimes they’re capable of answering immediately. Time, in a future where consumers have little to no patience, is the main commodity and if it means that the content will have just a little less humanity to it, so long as it’s delivered on time, so be it. Of course they’ll choose the machine over a human. It’s a terrifying thought, especially in the last few months as we read more and more about AIs that are showing up everywhere; stealing and replacing real art and writing. We already see robots replacing workers in many places and so a future like the settings in a cyberpunk book isn’t so far away anymore. 

This story focuses on technology replacing humans, the displaced humans’ struggle to survive in an ever-increasingly costly world, and Ai’s struggle to choose to keep her remaining humanity versus throwing it away to begin churning out content just like the rest of the actual AI bots out there. Increased productivity with the need to rest less, sounds appealing despite how horrifying it sounds. A chilling read that is gripping and keeps you reading as not only does Ai already struggle with the ever-growing world, but her body is beginning to fail her. She need to make her decision soon, but whether or not it’s the best decision will be up to her.

Fantastic storytelling! Another author to add to my watchlist now.

Book Review: The Lost War by Justin Lee Anderson

Hello, my lovely peeps🐥!

It’s Thursday and that means time for this week’s book review! Our feature this time is one that I’ve been eagerly waiting to share with you all! I finished the book back around mid-March and with the release date coming up next month (in a couple weeks!!!), there’s no better way to end April than with this review!

So without further ado, here are my thoughts for The Lost War by Justin Lee Anderson!! (Congrazzles on the upcoming release too!)


Title: The Lost War
Series: Eidyn Series
Author: Justin Lee Anderson
Genre: Fiction, Fantasy, Epic Fantasy, High Fantasy, Magic, Mystery
Edition: Physical > Paperback
Length: 528 Pages
Published: 18 May 2023
Publisher: Orbit Books

Disclaimer: Thank you to Justin and Orbit for this wonderful ARC! A copy was provided in exchange for a fair and honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

LINKS:
Goodreads: [LINK]
Amazon: [LINK]
Hachette UK & Ireland: [LINK]
Hachette US & Canada: [LINK]


The war is over, but peace can be hell.

Demons continue to burn farmlands, violent mercenaries roam the wilds, and a plague is spreading. The country of Eidyn is on its knees. 

In a society that fears and shuns him, Aranok is the first mage to be named King’s Envoy. And his latest task is to restore an exiled foreign queen to her throne.  

The band of allies he assembles each have their own unique skills. But they are strangers to one another, and at every step across the ravaged land, a new threat emerges, lies are revealed, and distrust could destroy everything they are working for. Somehow, Aranok must bring his companions together and uncover the conspiracy that threatens the kingdom—before war returns to the realms again.


Every time I finish a really good book and come back to write the review, I feel like I don’t know what to write. I mean, what else is there to say except “Holy moly. That was one amazing book and I’ll never forget it and I have a book hangover now and I love everything about it and when is the next book going to come out?!?” Yeah, that’s about how I feel right now because I’m overwhelmed. I mean, I guess, we can start out with why I’m overwhelmed and then move on to the rest of the review. Ok. Here goes.

OMG THAT ENDING! OMG THAT REVEAL! OMG WHERE’S BOOK 2?!? JUSTIN YOU CAN’T LEAVE US LIKE THIS! I THINK MY HEART IS GOING TO STOP!

That’s all you’re getting. Because anything more than that is a spoiler. Just know that the climax and the end of this book had me reeling. I could actually feel my heart pounding in my chest and had to throw the book down (gently, no book abuse allowed in this household) because I needed a breather and also because I couldn’t deal with the fact that in 10 or so pages, the book was coming to an end. Like any ~500 pager/fantasy book, it takes me 2 weeks to read, because I’m usually taking all that extra time to pause and annotate/flag/underline things. Meaning, this book consumed my life for all of 14 days. And it’s OVER.

This is the first book in the Eidyn series and in it, a war has just ended. It leaves behind death, demons, various remnant enemies, and plagues that are so dangerous and lethal that a single touch from an infected person will have you join their zombie-like ranks; all amongst a host of other issues. Yeah, the kingdom ain’t fairing too well right now. It’s a wreck, and not even the King himself has much of an answer. Taxes still need to be paid, now especially, to help with repairs and other post-war things, but not everyone has the coin to cough up. Which is where the book starts, with Aranok aiding a poor orphaned blacksmith’s son, a skilled smith himself, after the King sends some rough and mean collectors to his door. 

Shortly afterwards, the plot quickly moves on and somehow Aranok finds himself leading a group of people on a mission to find a Queen and off they went. Nobody is exactly happy to be there (except one nervous and eager young lad), There’s Aranok, a draoidh and our main character, his bodyguard Allandria, the soldier Glorbad, the naval leader Nirea, the monk Meristan, and his knight, the White Thorn named Samily, and Vastin, the blacksmith. Everyone’s got their own set of skills, unique to them and the party (Magic, Archer, Soldier, Pirate, Monk, Knight, and Blacksmith, respectively) making this a very diverse party of people from class to gender and religious beliefs. 

This was a never ending thrill of a book. There wasn’t a moment that I wasn’t engrossed in. The party was constantly either fighting through a crowd of demons and the dead/plagued or escaping for their lives. Nobody’s perfect and no team is either. They don’t win every battle and, despite having an extremely competent draoidh and [the cream of the crops] knight amongst their ranks, they do have times where they’re nearly struck down or need to flee. And by themselves? Forget it. No matter how powerful you are, are you really going to tackle a hoard of the damned by yourself? If there’s a book to represent “divided you fall” it’s this book. 

The action scenes were fantastic to read as well. I could vividly picture everything that was happening, almost like watching it on screen, and the fights aren’t the only brightly lit pictures in my head. The world and characters held just as much up to the action. I loved all of the characters. Everyone’s got flaws and right from the start, we see a couple of quirks in everyone in the group. While everyone’s loyal [to the new King], trust was a bit harder to come by amongst the group at first (especially seeing that many of them were strangers to one another in the beginning). There is so much character depth and history, and especially towards the end when this “history” plays an even more important part of the story. Watching them go from “Let me test their loyalty to our group” to “I will watch your back if you watch mine” kind of allies brought a tear to my eye. There’s nothing that brings a strange group of people closer together quite like the very first “oh shit we almost died” battle! Oh, and OHH I must mention the joy in me to pick up a book that has two of my favorite tropes, ragtag group and found family. 

The world-building, history, and magical lore was fantastic. I LOVED it. There’s so much about the world to learn, the different sides to the war, the religion, how the world has ended, the struggles of leading a broken kingdom, the different demons that the group encounters, the plague that everyone avoids because it could turn in you nearly instantly, and the magic system was very interesting as well. It was diverse. 

It’s not an overly complex magic system, but I liked how there were different types of draoidhs such as physics, earth, time, transformation, illusion, and of course, the darker skills and specialties such as demon summoning and necromancy, which were the skills that dark draoidh, Mynygogg, possessed in the last war which Aranok, the current King, and their party worked hard to put an end to. 

There was also the theme of prejudice and it’s pretty gross in this book. Better now, as King Janeous has named Aranok as his right-hand man, envoy, and essentially advisor and the kingdom’s “number 2”. You can’t exactly spit on Aranok any more, just because he’s a draoidh. That’s practically treason. Prior to that? Many draoidhs were discriminated against, ridiculed, shunned, feared, hated, and even killed. Even further back in history, it’s so bad, people with magical abilities were treated like witches and there’s one moment in this book that describes this, and it made me sick to my stomach with cold fear and disgust (and that’s just reading it so imagine living it). 

Side note, for the mystery lovers, there’s a little bit of that as well! There are a couple of strange deaths in this book and amateur sleuthing that takes place to investigate these deaths. You know, like when the police and town are like “no no, it’s just a normal murder” but the protagonist is like “no sir it’s not. I can’t tell you WHY, but I smell something fishy.” There’s maybe two little Sherlock’s moments like these and I found them to be pretty interesting. It’s too bad though, the actual main plot of the book hooked me in so tight that for once (especially as someone who mainly reads mysteries) I cared less about the strange deaths and more of the “okay, okay, hurry to the next scene.” 

I loved the prose and writing as well. Like I mentioned before, the imagery was vivid and very clear. Nothing like comparing a wet splat to a pig’s organs spilling onto the floor or the sound of dragged meat, the visuals of the different demons and monsters, and so on. I must say, I sure got a handful of shivers down my spine throughout this book! For the plot and POVs, it was pretty interesting. The book starts off with a couple of POVs, those groups eventually join up into a single group, the split up, maybe join back together, and on the side, there’s a completely unrelated POV that doesn’t show back up until the end of the book. 

However, there’s never a moment I disliked or skimmed. I recalled one hilarious time where I started a chapter off with the annotation of “Suddenly I’m not as interested in this group anymore. I just want to get back to the other group” (the previous chapter left the readers hanging on a massive cliffhanger) only for the same chapter to end with the note “NEVERMIND! Now I can’t wait to finish the OTHER POV to get back to THIS group!!” See? No dull moments here. None.

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I’m not going to get over it for quite a while and will eagerly be awaiting the next one up! Gonna have to turn on all my notifications for Justin’s Twitter now, sheesh.

Book Review: Lily and the Octopus by Steven Rowley

It’s Thursday! Happy almost weekend my lovely peeps🐥!
Today, Coffee Talk Episode 2: Hibiscus & Butterfly comes out and I’m probably going to drown in my own excitement all through work.

For today’s post, it’s time for this week’s book review! Of the three books I read last week, which all 3 made me cry, this was the one that had me sobbing buckets and buckets of tears. I spread my daily readings out, chapter by chapter, like a meal plan across the week and so it’s inevitable that I might catch a glimpse or two every now and then. I had already spoiled it by accidentally peeking towards the back…AND I STILL CRIED! A LOT! AT 2AM!! What’s up with my recent 2am reading habits? I always cry myself to sleep…

*ahem* So without further ado, I introduce you all to Lily and the Octopus by Steven Rowley!


Title: Lily and the Octopus
Author: Steven Rowley
Genre: Fiction, Contemporary, Magical Realism, Animals > Dogs, LGBT
Edition: Ebook > Kindle > Libby
Length: 308 Pages
Published: 7 June 2016
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

LINKS:
Goodreads: [LINK]
Amazon: [LINK]


Combining the emotional depth of The Art of Racing in the Rain with the magical spirit of The Life of PiLily and the Octopus is an epic adventure of the heart.

When you sit down with Lily and the Octopus, you will be taken on an unforgettable ride.

The magic of this novel is in the read, and we don’t want to spoil it by giving away too many details.

We can tell you that this is a story about that special someone: the one you trust, the one you can’t live without.

For Ted Flask, that someone special is his aging companion Lily, who happens to be a dog.

Lily and the Octopus reminds us how it feels to love fiercely, how difficult it can be to let go, and how the fight for those we love is the greatest fight of all.

Remember the last book you told someone they had to read?

Lily and the Octopus is the next one.


I went into this completely blind. I said “I like this cover” and then borrowed the book. By the end of the first chapter, I knew that the book was going to revolve around illness (the tumor) and that was it. I had no other expectations going in other than Goodreads reviews saying the book went from funny to sob-inducing and I indeed cried buckets towards the end. I seem to keep finding books where I’m crying myself to bed.

Around the 60% mark, the book stopped having any traces of realism. We were in a city and there was a sick dog and suddenly we were on a ship in the middle of nowhere with a healthy dog and fighting storms and monsters. And the dog knew how to steer a ship’s wheel and launch harpoons (that should’ve been my hint honestly). I remember going “I have NO idea what’s happening and I’m SO CONFUSED”. I nearly slapped a DNF on it and was ready to put the book aside. The only reason I didn’t was because I hadn’t found a replacement for it yet so I just continued to read while trying to look for a new book in Libby. I didn’t find a new book. I didn’t need too. And I’m sorry to have even thought poorly of the book. 

It’s Thursday the first time I see it. I know that it’s Thursday because Thursday nights are the nights my dog, Lily, and I set aside to talk about boys we think are cute.

The book begins on a Thursday when Ted Flask, for the first time, notices the Octopus that’s sitting on his dog, Lily’s, head. It’s an ugly thing and it’s here to stay for good. It’s an octopus that’s here to disrupt their lives and take away Ted’s most beloved friend. He asks Lily about it, because the dog talks (and I’m pretty sure the conversations are imagined and not actually spoken because who doesn’t talk FOR their dogs?), and she already knows it’s there. Evidently, it’s been slowly festering for a while and it’s finally noticeable enough for even Ted to see it right away. 

There was a moment when the whole Octopus gimmick got really old and annoying. Ted and Lily were at the vet and they, like any doctor/nurse, wouldn’t confirm what they’re “dealing with” until lab results were back and Ted lost his patience and told the doctor “We’re dealing with an Octopus!” (because like uh DUH can’t you see the OCTOPUS right there on her head?) I understand people have nicknames for things (I do too) but usually it’s an inside joke or inside knowledge thing. You don’t use it when addressing something or a situation when talking to people outside that specific circle. When Ted refuses to drop the Octopus deal around his boyfriend, friends, and therapist it was fine. When Ted got angry at the vet office for not acknowledging the very obvious problem of an Octopus taking over his dog’s head, that didn’t sit well with me. I started to get annoyed at it. 

But then eventually we get to the point where Ted addresses the Octopus exactly as what it is, a tumor. The first time he calls it “tumor” and not the “Octopus” was so jarring because everything crashes down around you, certainly so for Ted as well. The magic and the story/act was coming to an end. The real world was here and there was no more denying what the next moments were going to be. From the start, the Octopus was symbolic, a metaphor for what Ted refused to acknowledge as what is most likely terminal. Because, if you saw the problem as a storybook villain (that was what the personified Octopus was) you could fight it. Ted and Lily were the protagonists of a novel fighting a monster and once the monster either gives up and leaves or dies, then Lily would live. Addressing it as a tumor meant that the magic was over. It was time to face reality and reality was far more gutwrenching than the annoyance I initially had for the Octopus story. The entire book was an illusion of storytelling to mask Ted’s grief and mourning for his best friend. 

This was a creativity written and good book, I’m glad I didn’t give up on it when things got weird and unexplainable. Go and hug your dogs and loved ones. I sure did as soon as I finished. I wasn’t expecting to cry on a random Friday night. 

Book Review: The Fourth Monkey by J.D. Barker

*Squints* How is it possible that it’s nearly mid-month already?!? I feel like my calendar is playing a prank on me…!

Today’s post is for a book that is just *chef’s kiss* exquisite! Oh, how I loved every word and every sentence I read. I will admit, half of the more graphic scenes here were deeply disturbing… but I thoroughly enjoyed everything else, especially the characters. It sure was a delight to come across this book in Libby! Sometimes you seek out the gems and sometimes the gems just find you!

So, without further ado, this week’s book review is up now and the feature is The Fourth Monkey by J.D. Barker!


Title: The Fourth Monkey
Series: 4MK Thriller Book # 1
Author: J.D. Barker
Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Thriller, Suspense, Crime
Edition: Ebook > Kindle > Libby
Length: 504 Pages
Published: 27 June 2017
Publisher: Harper

LINKS:
Goodreads: [LINK]
Amazon: [LINK]


For over five years, the Four Monkey Killer has terrorized the residents of Chicago. When his body is found, the police quickly realize he was on his way to deliver one final message, one which proves he has taken another victim who may still be alive.

As the lead investigator on the 4MK task force, Detective Sam Porter knows even in death, the killer is far from finished. When he discovers a personal diary in the jacket pocket of the body, Porter finds himself caught up in the mind of a psychopath, unraveling a twisted history in hopes of finding one last girl, all while struggling with personal demons of his own.

With only a handful of clues, the elusive killer’s identity remains a mystery. Time is running out and the Four Monkey Killer taunts from beyond the grave in this masterfully written fast-paced thriller.


That was such a treat of a book, my heart is still pounding! I don’t know where to begin with the review. This was an engrossing book that focused deeply on the characters. There was a good plot as well and for the most part, it was pretty exciting with a good deal of twists in it. The ending, I kind of anticipated, although just based on the blurbs of each book in the trilogy, you could guess what happens in the end (at least for book 1) For me, I didn’t focus too much on the story, so the slight predictability didn’t bother me. It was riveting for sure, you kept wondering what would happen next, but it was too busy jumping back into a character’s POV; many of which the chapters would often leave on a cliffhanger. You wouldn’t suffer the long wait, until you return to that POV, though. Most of the chapters are relatively short and it made it feel like I was breezing through the book! With sound writing and excellent flow, I was able to fly through this book and there wasn’t a single moment where my eyes weren’t the size of dinner plates. 

Porter was the only one who had seen it through from the beginning. He had been there for the first box, recognizing it immediately for what it was—the start of a serial killer’s deranged spree. When the second box arrived, then the third, and finally the body, others saw too.

Having been chasing a serial killer for over five years, Detective Sam Porter is well acquainted with (the most acquainted) the guy. The killer has a signature, taking after the three monkeys tale of “Hear no evil, see no evil, and speak no evil.” The serial killer specifically targets those that have wronged society/people in some way or form, usually criminals such as a scammer who had filed false tax returns under the names of over a dozen people, all deceased. The killer never targeted the actual criminal themselves, but rather hurt indirectly by kidnapping, mutilating, and killing their close family members. He would first kidnap and then slowly send body parts back home, all carefully wrapped in little boxes: ears to represent “Hear No Evil”, a pair of eyes to represent “See No Evil”, and a tongue to represent “Speak No Evil” before dumping the body to represent the fourth monkey, “Do No Evil”.

“All of these girls are related to someone who did something bad, but there is no connection between them. The crimes are across the board, no common thread.”
“He’s like a vigilante,” Watson muttered.

The book starts with a twist right away. Porter wakes up to his phone going off and heads right out to the crime scene. There, his partner, Nash, points him to a man who had just been hit by a bus and on his body, they’d found a box…inside of which contained an ear and addressed to Arthur Talbot, a very wealthy investment banker who is heavy into real estate as well. The pair of detectives immediately leave to check in on the banker’s family…but they’re all safe and sound at home, so who else could the kidnapped victim be? Clearly, the ear belonged to someone!

And the twist I mentioned? Well, the now faceless bus accident victim turned out to be the killer himself! On the body, besides the box with the ear in it, in which the accident victim had looked to have been in the middle of crossing the road to mail the package before he was struck and killed, was also a diary with the writer addressing himself as the serial killer that Sam had been chasing for all of these last few years, signing off as The 4 Monkey Killer or “4MK!” This propels our plot forward and the real action begins here, at the death of the killer that had been haunting him for half a decade. 

But, being the first handful of chapters, of course, the story doesn’t just end right then and there. Someone is clearly still missing and it’s a race against the clock to find the victim, who is now missing an ear with possible further injuries and medical needs. Most likely locked away somewhere only 4MK would’ve known about, with the serial killer now dead, they had, at most, only three days to find the person before they die from dehydration. 

“Who am I?
To share my name would simply take the fun out of this, don’t you think?
You most likely know me as the Four Monkey Killer. Why don’t we leave it at that? Perhaps 4MK, for those of you prone to abbreviate?”

Talk about an insane start to the book!

Which makes you think, with a plot this crazy, what else could top it?

The characters. Oh, the antagonist was so vivid, so complex, and had so much depth in him, I could almost picture the entire five years of the chase, the news reports, the stress, the lack of leads…

We have multiple POVs: two in the present day, where we follow Sam as he rushes to find the kidnap victim and as well as glimpses into the victim’s own side, struggling to find an escape as well as struggling to stay alive despite the lack of medicine (you can imagine the onset of infections with a bleeding wound), food, and water. Through the diary, we also have the past POV of the serial killer, talking about one of the most pivotal memories of his life. While the kid may have always been…creepy, this core memory is the thing that he chose to share, one of the reasons on why he is who he is and why he does what he does: a mother who has killed so much, the son and father already has her after-killing moods categorized and labelled: the cold mother and the laughing giddy mother. Honestly, the entire family was messed up. How does a serial killer find a serial killer husband and have a serial killer child? Where do these people find each other???

“Mother tended to get a little emotional after a kill. She could be unpredictable. Sometimes she would shut down completely, just disappear into her room and not come out for days. When she did emerge, she would be right as rain, but for those few days it was best to leave her alone. Other times she’d overflow with joy, laughing and joking in the merriest of ways.”

The thing I enjoyed the most, was the killer’s relationship with Sam. The man was a mastermind who was beyond prepared, even from the likes of the afterlife. Everything was just a game to 4MK. He was, in his own mind, a vigilante, but knew that Sam had been hunting him down for the past 5 or so years. He was attracted to this cat-and-mouse game and when things got a little too quiet, he’d poke at the cops again. Even in death, he was prepared. He left clues to be found in many places and even his diary made fun of Sam, knowing he’d try to flip to the end (before finishing in proper reading order) and mocking the man for trying to spoil the diary by reading the ending first because he knew Sam that well.

Dialogue and interaction-wise, I absolutely loved the quips and jabs that the main cast had out for each other. There’s Claire (-Bear), Nash, Sam, and a side helper, the young and eager Watson (whom Sam calls “Dr” but apparently the kid doesn’t get the reference…like ever). The way they spoke with each other really showed how close they were and Nash and Sam are best friends. I chose this series because I had been actively looking for a book where we had a pair of detectives that were almost like bash bros than just professional colleagues (look, I just finished watching a play-through of Yakuza: Judgement the other week and it left a void in my heart. Let me have my best friend duo detectives). By the time I finished, I was eager for more. More of the trio and their wits and pokes at each other, more of the relationship between Sam and the enigmatic 4MK. 

The writing was stellar. The Fourth Monkey was definitely a gripping book, unforgettable and unputdownable. The language was easy to digest, but it doesn’t take away from the extremely graphic and vivid details of just about everything. The gross and disturbing visual scenes, describing the aftermath of the bus accident where the victim’s face was gone in such a horrific way, I’d probably throw up if I right there.

Nash’s eyes were fixed on the man’s face. More accurately, where his face should have been. His cheeks were gone, only torn flaps remaining. His jawbone was clearly visible but broken—his mouth gaped open as if someone had gripped both halves of his jaw and pulled them apart like a bear trap. One eye was ruptured, oozing vitreous fluid. The other stared blindly up at them, green in the bright light.

And, if we’re talking about graphic and stomach-churning disturbing, you can’t forget about the details of the diary, recalling the memories where 4MK’s parents were torturing a couple of people while nonchalantly talking about manners and minding your tongue. Like, this was one majorly twisted family with morals in all the weirdest places. 

This was one of the best books I’ve ever read. For all my love of mystery books, I’ve only focused heavily on the good guy’s side and his relationship with good people such as a cop and his partner or a cop and his backup and department. I’m talking about relationships developed and growing between the main character and supporting civilian characters. I generally didn’t care for whatever thoughts the serial killers had, at least until this book. With one of the most in-depth analyses into the killer’s mind and history, showing his most valuable moments as a child and the complexity between him and Sam, I could barely breathe by the end of the book. It’s a twisted book for sure (so much so, that the author had to add a quick side note in the acknowledgments that goes along the line of: Hey look, I want to point out that I grew up in a happy home, okay? I literally quote: “We didn’t even have a basement. None of the poor parenting decisions made by little 4MK’s mom and dad were based on real life, at least not my real life.”)

All in all…a great book. The review doesn’t come close to touching my feelings about this read. Not even a little. You’re just going to have to read it yourself or I’ll chase you with it.

Book Review: Mrs. Covington’s by K.R.R. Lockhaven

Happy Thursday my lovely peeps🐥! It’s almost the weekend…I can almost touch it!

It’s too bad that in order to reach Saturday, I have to finish up this massive work project first…

This week’s book review features an extra special book! I’d been reading an ARC of Mrs. Covington’s and as of yesterday, they’d just reached (and surpassed) their Kickstarter goal! Go give the page a peek! I’m so glad that I picked up this read and I’m so happy for Kyle (*tears up*). 

Title: Mrs. Covington’s
Author: K.R.R. Lockhave
Genre: Fiction, Fantasy, Mystery
Edition: Ebook
Length: 276 Pages
Published: Kickstarter to launch on 13/04/2023
Publisher: Self-Pub/SP

Disclaimer: A shoutout and thank you to the author for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

LINKS:
Author’s Twitter: [LINK]
Kickstarter: [LINK]


(Summary from Mrs. Covington’s Kickstarter)

When Jacob Bright strikes out on his own and moves to a new island, he quite unexpectedly finds himself the owner of a failing, capybara-themed pub named Mrs. Covington’s. He quickly learns that he’s going to have to make new friends and innovate if it’s going to succeed. But when he discovers that a neighboring Faun food restaurant, run by his kindhearted new friend, might have to close its doors, his priorities change.

Years ago, a reclusive wealthy woman who lived on the island wrote a clue in poem form which leads to a mysterious buried treasure. The treasure may be just the thing they need to save the restaurant, but they aren’t the only people seeking it.


This was a very enjoyable and cozy read! Warmth permeates every second of this story. It’s like a fireplace has been lit and you’re always enveloped in a comforting blanket. It’s got diversity, nachos and beer, treasure hunts, capybaras, a capybara heist, light romance, misunderstood folks, found family, reading nights, song nights, dancing nights, magic, and all the goodies of a found family. What more can you want?

The story begins with Jacob, seasick, on a ship to his new start in New Dawn. Can’t get more “New” and “Start” than a place called New Dawn right? He’s trying to break away from his family, having been expected to take over his wealthy father’s family business, but he refuses. He wants to strike out on his own. To be fair, anything, whether it was a job he’d find himself in or a business he may start up on his own, would probably be better than his family’s business.

Originally wanting to join the crew of the very ship he’s currently sailing on, the captain gives him a wise chat, dissuading him from doing so, much to Jacob’s disappointment, because he doesn’t think Jacob’s got the tough and grit in him to be part of a ship’s crew. I mean. Have you seen a ship crew? However, he does give Jacob a massive pep talk, one that sticks to Jacob and that he carried with him as he sets foot on New Dawn’s soil. He can tell that Jacob’s got the heart and natural leadership in him and wishes him well in New Dawn, encouraging him to get himself into something that will, at first, feels like he’s in over his head.

Shortly upon arrival, Jacob wanders into a bar called Mrs. Capybara which has a sign that shows a capybara with an evening gown on and what do you know, she actually exists and lives right there at the pub! But the pub is doing so poorly, that the owner just about jokingly (deep down, he’s not joking) tries to sell the pub to Jacob for the relatively cheap price of 10 gold, (much) cheaper than Jacob expects for the sale of a business but also just about what he’s got left in his pockets. As a bonus, the owner’s got a little poem pointing to where a treasure chest is supposedly buried! 

He considers it.

And makes the decision by the following morning (I would’ve been very disappointed in him if he didn’t at least sleep on the offer).

And suddenly he’s the owner of a failing business with a capybara in a dress as the mascot.

But he’s got friends now, friends that his father would’ve never approved of, and between them all, a whole lot of freedom to do whatever they want to try to bring business back. When you take over a business with such bad…business, nobody’s going to bat an eye when you overhaul the entire place!

Jacob slowly makes friends with his business partners and even makes friends with a few others in town. The friendship is important, helping him rebuild the place, get to know New Dawn a little better, and even to try and find the treasure! After all, the poem involves more than one person; for the greed of a single individual will never find the chest on their own! He also meets and strikes up a friendship with Juniper, a faun, from the restaurant next door, a business that is doing alright, not failing quite as bad, but on a major deadline to deliver a hefty repayment of a loan. And the rest of the story, revolves right around Jacob’s new start, new friends, a treasure hunt, and trying to help save both his own and his neighbor’s business. 

The plot was relatively simple. It kind of reminded me of the cozy vibes of Harvest Moon or more specifically, Stardew Valley, where a guy not wanting to continue contributing to a major corporation (In Jacob’s case, his father’s wealthy business), flees to another life and starts a new business (farming/pub), makes friends, and saves the day (the community center in Stardew/the pub/Juniper’s restaurant). There’s much to discover along the way and in the end, we’re left with fluffy feelings. There is a small deal of risk in this low-risk story, but I really enjoyed the slight adrenaline rush dotted throughout the read and adored the ending.

The characters were loveable. This book revolves around a small found family between Jacob and his business partners, Cora and Tadrick as well as their next-door neighbor, Juniper, and her two kids, Aspen and Ceda. Of course, there’s also Mrs. Covington herself in her lovely little dress, chilling and having the time of her life on most days. I loved that, despite how easily flustered and shy Jacob can be, he pushes himself and when it comes to his newfound friends, he’ll work even harder. The best part, was the attempt to locate the treasure, not for himself or his business, but for Juniper’s business. His heart is always ready to help someone else and his friends are just as loyal and ready to help to the best of their abilities. With so much magic involved, there really is a handful of “abilities” to explore too! The world-building might be small and contained [to New Dawn] but there’s plenty of stuff to explore and a good deal of world-build packed into the island!

You can’t forget the villains in this book either. I hate them with every shred of my soul. They’re manipulative and nasty people who only care to line their own pockets with another coin that they most likely have too many of anyway. Praying on the needy and threatening to close businesses and taking away an important community venue and activity from the people of New Dawn, the main antagonist, Mr. Lowell is a wealthy prick that oozes all sorts of uncomfortable vibes. There are a few others as well, his henchmen for one, but there’s also Jacob’s father (another wealthy prick) who is constantly belittling his son and believes that Jacob’s “venturing out” will eventually come to an end and he’d come crawling back home to take up the family business. Yuck, slimeballs the lot of them.

There are multiple little plots throughout this book as well and I loved all of them. There’s a capybara heist that’s more of a capybara rescue than anything else and it leads to nothing but hilarity (because gosh, that was the plan?). There’s also trying to come up with something to attract business to Mrs. Covington’s and, with the help of friendship and a little imagination, this results in the invention of nachos (called nacias here) and boy does the description of it sound mouthwatering…I haven’t had nachos in so long, and that’s just the normal cheese ones. The chicken and cheese and the tomatoes…I need me some nachos. 

And you can’t forget the poem and the actual treasure hunt! That was such an exciting part! For the longest time, nobody could figure the poem out, but as soon as Jacob, Cora, and Tadrick began to talk to, befriend others, and bring in Juniper on the hunt as well, it quickly reveals that the poem (and subsequent hints) involve friendship and bringing the community together.

Overall, this was a lovely read. It was smooth and many of the chapters were nicely sized. The writing is easy to read and I’m never lost. The descriptions were wonderful and vivid and the dialogue was definitely enjoyable to read. The villains felt like mobsters, and really serves to make the readers (or me at least) seethingly dislike them. The interaction between Jacob and his friends were warm and fluffy and, for all the risks there were in this book, the sense of comfort never left and you know that everything will be all right. The adventures were fun, even a little thrilling, and the interludes, that featured Mrs. Covington’s POV, were a refreshing break in the pacing. A great and wonderful little read. I’m so glad to have picked it up. 

Also. 

Apparently, capybaras are HUGE.

I kind to pet or see one in person now.