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The Fallen in Soura Heights by Amanda Jaeger

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*I received a free copy in exchange for an honest review.*

The Fallen in Soura Heights is a phenomenal thriller debut. Fey is a great protagonist and Soura Heights is the perfect backdrop for a murder mystery. From the first page, I was hooked. It didn't hurt that the characters were compelling and the descriptions of the landscape and town were easy to visualize. Though the "twist" was an easy call, I appreciated the way everything played out. Amanda Jaeger is a writer to watch out for.

I recommend picking up this quick read if you enjoy a good thriller/mystery.


Binti: The Night Masquerade by Nnedi Okorafor

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Binti: The Night Masquerade is the final book in the Binti trilogy. Though I had my issues with the first two books, I was happy to see more world-building and better pacing in the final installment.

Without giving anything away, the book can be summarized as Binti coming to terms with who she's become. I've always enjoyed her as a character and am happy Okorafor didn't disappoint. If anything, I felt more connected to Binti by the end.

I also enjoyed the backstory that came with her newly acquired sight. Her awakening provided a great deal of missing information, filling in the gaps of this futuristic world.

Though there were a few slow sections throughout the trilogy, and I would have liked to see more of Oomza Uni overall, I closed this book feeling satisfied and intend to pick up other books by Nnedi Okorafor. She is a fantastic writer that needs more recognition in the science fiction community.


Binti: Home by Nnedi Okorafor

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Binti: Home is a decent sequel. The main character, Binti, is an intriguing and inspiring character that I look forward to seeing more of in the final installment of the trilogy.

Though this book is about Binti returning home to cleanse herself of the impurities she believes she accumulated since beginning her studies at Oomza Uni, I felt like there wasn't enough time dedicated to her time at the university. I feel it would have had a stronger impact on the overarching plot if more emphasis was spent somewhere other than Earth.

My main criticism is that not much seemed to happen in 162 pages. Okorafor could have said the same amount in 30 pages, keeping the story concise and effective.

Despite the poor pacing, I look forward to seeing how the trilogy ends and recommend this series to fans of Afrofuturism and science fiction.


The Alkonost's Egg by K. Panikian

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*I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.*

The Alkonost's Egg is the final book in a trilogy but works just as well as a standalone novel. If you're looking for a quick fantasy with a dose of romance, I recommend giving this a go. The characters were interesting and fleshed out, the world-building was great and easy to digest, and the plot didn't drag. I appreciated the detailed fight scenes; instead of getting caught up in the placement of limbs and weapons, thoughtful descriptions were used. My only criticism is I felt the romance between Callie and Bard didn't receive the attention it so needed; I never invested in their future and felt their connection was never as strong as it could have been. There needed to be more intimate scenes between the two of them to make it 100% believable.

Though I did not read the first two novels in this series, I thoroughly enjoyed the book and will definitely be giving the preceding titles a look.


The Mad Girl by Andrew Colvin

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*I received a copy in exchange for an honest review. *

The Mad Girl, at its core, is about trauma. Cee Stark finds herself under the influence of a cultish priest who instills in her shaky beliefs and questionable coping mechanisms. Because she believes so strongly in slaying the evil in the world and rewriting her story, Cee lashes out at a man who attacks her in the neighborhood park. Once the police take on the case, it soon becomes clear that nothing is quite what it seems.

What Worked

  1. Suspense and tension were sprinkled throughout, offering a fist-clenching read. It was difficult to determine who was telling the truth, and that's exactly what readers are looking for.
  2. Each character had an arc. Everyone had baggage or trauma they were attempting to cope with, offering more intricate storylines.
  3. I appreciated how unreliable Cee's scenes were. I could never tell whether her recollection of an event was true.
  4. A great deal of time was spent on the case. Oftentimes, writers don't put a lot of time into police matters unless it is an explicit detective novel.

What Didn't

  1. Instead of using typical descriptions, there were many mixed or otherwise confusing metaphors. It wasn't uncommon to have to reread a sentence to understand its meaning.
  2. Much of the dialogue was wonky. Either the conversations were too robotic or too concise. The sentence "Understand." was used multiple times in place of "I understand" or "understood". It was jarring and often took me out of the scene.
  3. The teen interactions were not accurate or realistic. As the story is set in late 2012, and I graduated high school in 2011, I feel I can say the following with confidence.
  4. On a similar note, girls would have generally avoided Chris Holman after how he treated other girls. Not everyone wants to be popular, especially when the only way to reach popularity is to sleep with the biggest asshole on campus.


Overall, I enjoyed the read. There were aspects of the plot I found lacking or didn't fully appreciate but I was gripped by the story and wanted to know how it ended.


Burning for the Beast by Nara Jade

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*I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.*

Burning for the Beast is Nara Jade's debut novel. Though PNR (paranormal romance) isn't my go-to genre, I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

The characters, Evaline and Ulric, were fleshed out and believable. I appreciated the tension highlighted in the first half of the novel; it's easy for the "will they, won't they" plot to become cloying but I felt it worked for this particular story. Due to Evaline's health condition and Ulric's immortality, they are consistently faced with obstacles that many couples would never dream of overcoming. Add in a dying life source and a demon king's thirst for power and it makes it that much harder.

The descriptions and worldbuilding were also on point. Despite the book being PNR and not fantasy, Jade took care to offer details where they were needed. Personally, I liked how some of the battles were brushed over; there's only so much action I want in a romance novel.

Speaking of romance, there are quite a few spicy scenes. If you're looking for well-written, explicit sex scenes, you've come to the right place.

I enjoyed the novel and look forward to reading what Nara Jade writes next.


Awakening by Kevin Miller

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*I received a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.*

Awakening: Book One of the Berserker Chronicles centers around Leif, a Berserker who must go on a quest to save the nine realms of Yggorasil. After reading the blurb, I was intrigued. I don't read many books about Norse mythology, so I was excited to dive into something I didn't know much about.


What Worked

  1. Miller's world-building is great. I could visualize the scenery and other realms without much effort, and I enjoyed how the descriptions weren't overwhelming.
  2. Backstory and myth are offered through dialogue, research, and dreams. Instead of falling prey to the dreaded info dump, Miller offers the reader vital information in an organic manner.
  3. The character/monster descriptions are written well.


What Didn't

  1. The fight scenes were too long. I would have preferred if they were either shorter or happened less frequently.
  2. The use of pronouns is minimal. The protagonist's name (Leif) is used multiple times per paragraph, hindering the flow of the passage.
  3. Many of the scenes could have been condensed. Though the structure of each scene was strong, some of the fat needed to be trimmed.

Overall, I believe Miller did a decent job with this novel. Sure, there were areas that needed revision or could have used trimming, but a good story lies beneath those fixable things. Leif was a fun character to follow, and the world-building was on point; I just hoped for something more polished.


I May Destroy You and its Multi-Faceted Finale

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*Warning: This review contains spoilers.*

I May Destroy You tackles rape in a compelling and unique way by emphasizing how personal and layered the recovery process often is. Where Kwame eventually moves past his assault and finds peace and a bright future in someone who enjoys him more for who he is than what he happens to offer between the sheets, Arabella struggles writing the novel that’s already late to the publisher because she’s too busy helping other victims with their trauma.

After recruiting Zain’s help, she soon comes to realize that the story she needs to tell is the one she hasn’t accepted. This metamorphosing of plot is what we find in the finale.

The last episode offers three endings that center around confrontations with her rapist. In the first, she pretends to be drugged to trap her assaulter (in this version named Patrick) into falling for the bait and getting spiked himself. In this scenario, Arabella beats him to death on the street. She ends up stuffing the body under her bed, where she’s hidden every other horrible or triggering item throughout the series. This version releases all the anger she had previously repressed.

The second scenario was more interesting. Instead of getting back at David (the name she offered her rapist this time round), she pities him and takes him to her place after he implies he was sexually abused as a child and grew up to become a serial rapist. Arabella grapples with the why here. She moves from her feelings and attempts to find a possible reason why her assaulter did what he did.

The third scene, and certainly the most important in her journey, was that of acceptance and letting go. In this version, Arabella seduces Patrick (note how the name changes back to the original name she assigned — hinting again at the art of revision) and takes him back to hers, but in this scenario everything is reversed. She takes him from behind, ensuring she has the power. At the end, she tells him to leave and he walks out the door, right before his dead body slides out from underneath her bed and makes its departure. This symbolizes her recovery. By working through these endings, she is finally able to move past the assault.

I know many critics have noted how I May Destroy You shines a unique light on assault and trauma, but I must restate how authentic and raw Michaela Coel’s writing for the series is. As she wrote the script after she experienced a similar assault, the series comes across as genuine and personal. Everyone’s journey to recovery and acceptance is different, and I believe the series does a wonderful job of showing how there’s no right way of moving past something as traumatic as rape.


Midnight Sun by Stephenie Meyer

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Much like everyone else who read Twilight as a teen, I decided to scoop up this latest edition just to see if Meyer offered anything of note to the original plot. Even though I never cared much about Edward and Bella’s love story, I thought revisiting Forks through the eyes of Edward would provide me with a deeper understanding of who he is outside of his association with Bella. Despite setting the bar low, I was disappointed.

Admittedly, Stephenie Meyer’s writing has improved. Her prose is easier to digest and she offers adequate description and detail without bombarding you with the shit you don’t care about. That is, of course, unless you despise vampire baseball. There’s a whole chapter on that car crash of a sport.

From an editing standpoint, the end product needed to be passed over a few more times. I counted more than 30 typos, misused words, and just straight-up missing words throughout the book. One or two is common, but come on. Did the editing team want to be rid of it that badly?

Now let’s talk about Edward’s level of stalking. It’s somehow cute when he does it, but I’m sure Joe Goldberg creeping on a girl while she’s asleep would elicit a much stronger reaction.

Then we come to the realization that, despite Edward being 104, he has never had sex with another being, alive or dead. Sure, he never felt a strong connection with another vampire, but Tonya was more than willing to sleep with him. It’s unrealistic to think he never considered fucking someone.

When we get to know Bella a little more, we realize she still doesn’t have a personality. The fact that we waited ten years to finally catch a glimpse of the person hiding under the paper-thin Bella Swan we grew accustomed to is ludicrous, especially when you consider she’s nothing but a bland Mary Sue that every guy falls for… for essentially no reason. There’s nothing significant about her apart from the pure ecstasy that is her blood.

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To keep it short and sweet, this book wasn’t worth the time. You don’t learn much more about Edward, and what you do learn is so insignificant that it never needed to be explored. If you haven’t read it yet, I encourage you to pick up something more worthwhile.


The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins

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*Warning: spoilers ahead!*

The Wife Upstairs is a passable retelling of Jane Eyre. I’d like to note that, apart from the names of the main characters and the “wife in the attic” plotline, there’s virtually nothing Hawkins includes from the original text.

Now, let’s assume (incorrectly) that I’ve never read Jane Eyre and, therefore, have no complaints about what did and did not make it into The Wife Upstairs. I’ll begin with Jane. She’s shallow, judgmental, and annoying. Her backstory was bland, though Hawkins did her best to offer her an arc — and perhaps an explanation — as to why she is so devoid of feeling. You can’t sympathize with her, unless you’re a reader who roots for the snotty young adult who believes she deserves everything handed to her just because she had a rough childhood.

Then we have Bea. She’s the perfect everything: wife, businesswoman, friend. That is, until she turns out to be anything but. All I can say is read the novel and you’ll know exactly what I mean.

Eddie is your run-of-the-mill rich dude. He’s attractive enough but there’s nothing else to his character. He’s shallow, going after Bea initially because he knew she had money. Jane sees him as a ticket out of her mediocre life, even if his wife recently disappeared and everyone in Thornfield Estates is suspicious of their relationship. There’s nothing to him; he might as well be a cardboard cutout of the stereotypical wealthy male.

The ending, without spoiling anything, is lame. After reading Hawkins’ acknowledgments, I was surprised to find that this novel was her response to believing Jane Eyre deserved better from Rochester. If anything, she makes out much better in Charlotte Bronte’s work.

Overall, this book was okay. I was mostly interested in how the author intended to turn Jane Eyre into a modern thriller. I wasn’t surprised to feel dissatisfied after closing the book and returning it to the shelf, longing to reread the classic novel it borrowed from.

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