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Burning for the Beast by Nara Jade


*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


*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


*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


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.


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


*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.

Hamnet by Maggie O'Farrell


When I picked up this novel, I was skeptical. There was so much praise for Hamnet that I had readied myself for disappointment. What I didn’t expect was to be on the verge of tears a handful of times, despite knowing the outcome.

Maggie O’Farrell’s novel is a moving and unforgettable piece about Shakespeare’s family and the weight of losing a child in the time of the plague. Agnes (better known as Anne), Judith, Susanna, and Hamnet were given personality and depth that mere documentation could never convey. Hamnet breathes life into the family behind the world’s most beloved playwright.

Though a work of fiction, I appreciate how close O’Farrell stayed to the truth. Despite not having a ton of material at her disposal, O’Farrell weaves a realistic — though occasionally mystical — version that’s both gripping and poignant.

If you’re a fan of Shakespeare or historical fiction, I highly recommend giving it a shot.

The New Manifesto by Sam Ernst


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

This novel was a delight to read. The tone of each section varied, offering a unique and thought-provoking reading experience. I found the smaller sections regarding the life of a writer both hilarious and achingly true. Although there was one section I found a little slow, the rest was witty, occasionally satirical, and intriguing.

Sam Ernst is an emerging author to watch out for.

Thin Girls by Diana Clarke


Diana Clarke does a phenomenal job painting an accurate image of anorexia and how it feels to live with an eating disorder. Unfortunately, the book began to drag about halfway through. There were many instances where the narrator (Rose) repeated herself. There was also too much time spent on particular issues throughout. I feel it would have worked better if less time was given to her time in the facility.

I appreciated how the backstory was interweaved with the present but felt the story was lacking in character development. For the most part, it seemed that neither Rose nor Lily changed much throughout the novel. Sure, recovery was involved, but that isn’t enough to make me truly care for either of them. The main plot was interesting but the execution didn’t really work.

Let Me Tell You What I Mean by Joan Didion


I have always been a fan of Didion’s work. Let Me Tell You What I Mean is no exception. Though I’ll admit the final essay regarding Martha Stewart was longer than I felt it needed to be, I appreciated her take on MS’s success and fan base. The rest of the pieces were concise, intriguing, and poignant — as is Didion’s signature.

If you haven’t already picked this one up, I recommend it. If you haven’t had the pleasure of reading Didion’s work, now is the time to dip your toes in.

There’s something for everyone. She is known for her contributions to New Journalism (alongside the great Norman Mailer) but has written a number of novels as well; my personal favorite is Play It As It Lays.

Tell Me When You Feel Something by Vicki Grant


*I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The following post contains spoilers.*

I was pleasantly surprised by this novel. I was gripped almost immediately by the story; the way it was structured made it easy and pleasant to read. Where many novels make the back and forth of past and present timelines difficult to follow, Tell Me When You Feel Something does it in a way that doesn’t result in whiplash.

The main characters — Davida, Viv, and Tim — are given the amount of backstory needed for the plot to be effective. My only criticism regarding character development relates specifically to Viv; I still don’t completely buy what triggered her alcoholism. Sure, a need to feel in control is important (especially at such a young age), but there were many other ways she could have gone about taking control. She also mentioned never having drunk prior to that year; neither was she particularly close to the partiers. It didn’t jibe with everything else.

The latter section of the book could have been handled with a little more finesse. Sexual assault is such a controversial and triggering topic, and I feel it could have been a larger part of the novel. If the reader was offered the truth behind what happened to Viv closer to the beginning of the third act, there would have been room to expand on her emotions and trauma. Instead, we are offered this information knowing the book ends with her in the hospital. There isn’t much closure on Viv’s end which I believe a story like this needs.

All in all, I enjoyed this book and would recommend it to YA readers nearing the end of high school.

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