book reviews

ARC Review: The Grand Dark by Richard Kadney

The Grand Dark By Richard Kadney

Adult SFF/Dystopian

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️


ARC provided by Netgalley and Harper Voyager in exchange for an honest review.

Largo is a bike currier in Lower Proszawa, traveling all over the city dropping packages to the rich, the poor, and everyone in between. The Great War has just ended and the people of this ravaged city drown themselves in sex, drugs, and parties to forget the terror recently visited upon them. As they give themselves up to pleasures of all kinds they fail to notice that the reality around them is dire. Automata are running the streets, taking jobs from the humans when they most need them, more and more genetically engineered creatures being kept as pets or instruments of war, and the general morbidity of the The Grand Darkness, where very realisitic murders are played out on stage in all it’s gory glory. Despite being a drug addict, Largo makes it to work each morning and when the Chief Courier goes missing his job is offered to Largo. Things seem to be looking up for him, with a new promotion, his beautiful girlfriend, Remy, and all the drugs he could possibly need, Largo is living in a state of bliss. But all good things must come to an end.

This book was a beautiful chaos. It was like a mish-mash of gothic architecture, 1940’s noir, automatons, and a bit of a lovecraftian feel to polish it all off. Lower Proszawa is a place you can’t picture the sun shining or any life outside of its reality. I listened to the audiobook while reading along because the names and places were entirely impossible to pronounce; the names and places making me think it was inspired by the German language. Men and woman are referred to has “Frau”, “Herr”, and “Fräulein”. While listening a lot of the accents also sounded French. Yet there was nothing that implied that these places even existed in the world. Simply put, this world is entirely unique and palpable. While reading I felt completely immersed. I was THERE. Kadney truly is a gifted storyteller with a vivd imagination. 

Largo and his actress girlfriend, Remy, along with most of the population, are addicted to a drug called Morphia. When they aren’t using Morphia, they are sniffing cocaine or getting drunk, seeing morbid plays that use a type of remote control doll to enact bloody scenes of murder and death, or having sex. In the absence of war, the people of the city have given themselves entirely to pleasure. But just below the surface dark and terrible things are stirring and there’s word that the war will be coming again. The Bollocks, or police, are trying to sniff out the people in the resistance and in turn end up brutalizing and jailing innocent people. Walking down the street isn’t safe, especially from the law. On every street corner the Iron Dandies can be found. Men that have returned from the war so maimed and disfigured that they must wear iron masks to cover their faces. There’s word that people are being abducted from the streets by slavers and everyones jobs are constantly at risk of being taken over by the Mara’s, genetically enhanced creatures that some keep as pets. And to top it all off there is a plague, known as The Drops, inflicting random people and no one is sure how it is contracted. It’s a bleak world and all anyone wants is to hide from reality. 

I really loved the characters in this book. This story features a m/m relationship along with a few bi or pan (not entirely sure which) characters as well. There is also a lot of disability representation in general but two of the main characters specifically. One is blind and the other is disfigured and disabled. They were all well fleshed out and interesting and they all showed amazing character growth throughout. Some of them were utterly unrecognizable by the end of the story. I loved how most of them reacted when faced with hard decisions and the things they were willing to do to protect the ones they loved. Previously seen as frivolous and uncaring, they now showed outstanding grit and determination in the face of their adversaries. The plot was fast-paced and held my attention until the last page. Most of the places this story took us I never saw coming and it was brutal. Kadney held nothing back, there’s blood and gore and death aplenty. 

This is definitely a book that speaks more for itself than I can. It’s very hard to explain a world this detailed that is pulled from so many different things to create this one amazing place. Lower Proszawa is really a character all it’s own with it’s carnival, its slums and upper-classes and all it’s crisscrossing streets and alleys; it has it’s own personality and moods. Kadney really created something unlike anything I’ve ever read. I’m only sorry it ended like it did. As far as I know this is a standalone. It did resolve the most important plot points but there are a few burning questions that never got answered. That is really my only criticism. 

There are some triggers to be aware of: Addiction (alcohol and both real and invented drugs), PTSD (maimed & disfigured soldiers are very prominent), Homophobia, Police Brutality & abuse of power, minor animal cruelty (not that any is ok!), Violence (a lot of blood and gore), Sex (not really a trigger but there is a lot of sex or sexual behavior throughout the book), Spreading of Disease/plague, Brutal Death of a Parent (witnessed by child), Brutal Death of a close friend (witnessed by child).


book reviews

ARC Review: Say You Still Love Me by K.A. Tucker

Say You Still Love Me by K.A. Tucker

Adult Contemporary Romance

⭐️⭐️⭐️


ARC provided by Netgalley and Atria Books in exchange for an honest review.

Say You Still Love Me by K.A. Tucker is a second chance romance between two people from very different worlds. In their teens, Kyle and Piper both attend summer camp as counselors and quickly fall into an intense romantic relationship. When Piper’s father finds out that his daughter is dating the child of a criminal from the wrong side of the tracks he demands that Piper end the relationship immediately. When she fails to follow his orders and finds herself getting into compromising situations that land her in a load of trouble, the summer comes to an abrupt end and Piper doesn’t hear from Kyle again. That is until he reappears thirteen years later as a security guard for the building her family owns and in which she is the VP of the company. Yet, when Piper approaches Kyle he seems to have forgotten her name… and their romance entirely. 

I really wanted to love this book. I had heard many good things about this author’s previous novel, The Simple Wild, and was expecting her most recent novel to be similarly good. And it was, but nothing more. The story alternates between the past when Kyle and Piper were teens at summer camp and current times when they are reconnecting after thirteen years. The current timeline was very dull. Chock full with the day to day luxurious life of Piper and her job as VP of a huge real estate company. At first I thought this was just a slow burn type of romance and I was totally down with that. Well, it was a slow burn all right. So slow the flame nearly snuffed itself right out. At the 40% mark of the book there was still nothing happening between Piper and Kyle. Instead we were learning about her job and family dynamics. The flashbacks were the only element carrying this story along and I found I enjoyed those chapters infinitely more even though it had turned this adult romance into more of a YA romance. The scenes between the two MC’s at camp were steamy and pretty graphic, while the adult portion was the polar opposite. Even after Piper and Kyle’s adult story finally starts moving along the steamier parts are pretty much grazed right over. This isn’t a huge deal to me but I was a bit surprised since the scenes involving them as teens were so detailed. 

There were definitely elements of this story that I liked quite a bit. Piper is snarky and smart and I really liked her character. I liked seeing how she handled being a woman in a position of power in a male dominated world. She’s down to earth without being unrealistically so and I really enjoyed that, too. I liked that Kyle was a bit different than your average teen love interest with his lip piercing, faux hawk, and tattoos. The chemistry between the two of them was palpable. I just wish there had been more of that chemistry in their adult relationship. Several times I found myself laughing out loud. The characters were definitely witty and interesting. Unfortunately, I felt like I was waiting for the entirety of the book for something to happen and when it did it kind of fell flat. I enjoyed my time with this novel but it was nothing to write home about. 

There was very little diversity, a gay couple was mentioned once or twice and the story features a disabled MC, but that’s really it. There are themes of divorce, absent parents, cheating, underage drinking, loss of virginity, and some derogatory comments towards women and the people who work for the wealthy. Nothing I would consider majorly triggering. 

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Mid-Year Book Freak Out

💜 This tag was originally created by booktubers Chami & Ely.

When going back through the books for the first half of the year (from jan 1-jun 30) I was really surprised to see that many of them were rereads! So that left me with a somewhat limited amount of books to assign to each question. Still, I think this is a fun idea and I had a good time looking back on what I’ve read! I’ll start with my stats so far and then get to the questions. 😎


MY 2019 STATS (so far)


What is the best book you’ve read so far this year?

For me this is always the hardest question to answer. So many books are the best in their own way! But, I had to choose just one, so I’m going with: Red, White, & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston! I’m sure this won’t come as a surprise to many but it sure was a surprise for me! I’ve read a lot of contemporary this year but I’m primarily a fantasy reader/lover and I never suspected that my favorite book so far would be a contemporary!

What is the best sequel you’ve read so far this year?

I haven’t read a ton of sequels so far. That will definitely change in the second half of the year but as of now I didn’t have a whole bunch to choose from that weren’t books that I was re-reading. Even if I had read multitudes of sequels, though, I have a feeling this one would still make my list of favorites: The Wicked King by Holly Black. I’m sure this is also a book people will see a lot of on top 10/favorites lists this year as well!

What is a new release that came out in the first half of the year that you haven’t read yet?

I don’t know what it was about Warrior of the Wild by Tricia Levenseller that had me waiting with bated breath for it’s release but I pre-ordered it and waited for the mailman….and still haven’t picked it up! Who knows why we, as book lovers, consistently do this! I want to get to this soon, though. I just have a feeling I’m going to love it.

What is your most anticipated book for the second half of 2019?

Hands down the answer for this is Darkdawn by Jay Kristoff and that’s saying a lot considering how many epic titles are releasing in the second half of the year!

What was your biggest disappointment so far this year?

I’m not sure why I had such high hopes for Comics Will Break Your Heart by Faith Evans Hicks but I did. This wasn’t a bad book but it was missing that certain something that I was looking for. Sadly, this let me down.

What was your biggest surprise so far this year?

Heretics Anonymous by Katie Henry came highly recommended by Booktuber Emmabooks so I’m not sure why I was so surprised but I think it’s because of HOW MUCH I loved this. I expected to like it but not to adore it like I did!

Who is a favorite new-to-you author?

I’m gonna have to go with Mira Grant or, as she’s best known, Seanan Mcguire , for this one! I was thoroughly impressed with Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant and have since moved on to her other titles!

Who is your newest fictional crush?

I am going to shamelessly say Daemon Black from Obsidian by Jennifer L. Armentrout for this one! Listen, I’m late to the bandwagon on this series but I’m not immune to the charms of Daemon, lol!

Who is your newest favorite fictional character?

Victor Vale from Vicious by V.E. Schwab. That’s my answer and I’m sticking to it. 😉

What book made you cry?

A List of Cages by Robin Roe is possibly the saddest book I have ever read. I had no idea going into this what I was facing.. It was like a sucker punch to the emotions. Man, even now thinking about this book breaks my heart.

What book made you happy?

What book can make you happier than a story about Zuze & Mik’s first date? Night of Cake & Puppets by Laini Taylor & Jim Bartolo is just a sweet, feel good book. If Zuzana was a new character to me this year she would have been my pick for favorite hands down!

What is the most beautiful book you bought or were given this year?

I have two answers for this one! One being the 10th Anniversary Edition of The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss and the second being a custom made dust jacket by Jana Runneck of The Red Scrolls of Magic by Cassandra Clare

This is what the dust jacket looks like laid out. Beautiful cover art by Jana Runneck

What book do you need to read by the end of the year?

I am currently working my way through this whole series with the girls running the #TOGreadalong so that I can finally read Kingdom of Ash by Sarah J. Maas.


This was a fun way to see what I’ve been reading and to take a moment to think about books that I read earlier in the year and just revisit my thoughts on some of them. So often I feel like I’m reading at the speed of light and some books I don’t think about again for a long time if ever! I also think it’s interesting how differently you see or feel about a book after some months have passed; I found in a lot of cases my view had changed quite a lot from my original thoughts! Anyway, I’ll be back soon with more Riveting content! 👏😂

book reviews

ARC Review: Red, White, & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

Red, White, & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

New Adult, Contemporary, Romance, LGBTQ+

5/5⭐️


ARC provided by Netgalley and St. Martin’s Press. The following opinions are my own.

Summoned to a royal wedding, the first family heads to England. Alex, First Son of the United States, is dreading the idea of facing his nemesis, Prince Henry. Unsurprisingly Alex promptly begins drinking to save him the pain of such a meeting and a confrontation between the two men finds them in a shoving match in which a $75,000 dollar wedding cake is decimated, the whole thing witnessed by the guests and media. In order to save face the two families have decided that they would play off the whole interaction as a mishap between friends and several meet-ups and hang out sessions are planned in which Henry and Alex will look for all the world as if they are the greatest friends. What could go wrong?

As your mother I can appreciate that maybe this isn’t your fault, but as the president, all I want is to have the CIA fake your death and ride the dead-kid sympathy into a second term.

Ellen
Continue reading “ARC Review: Red, White, & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston”
book reviews

Review: Monstress Vol. 1 by Marjorie Liu Illus. by Sana Takeda

Monstress by Marjorie Liu

Adult, Graphic Novel, Fantasy, Steampunk, Horror

3/5⭐️


Monstress Vol. 1 introduces us to a complex world of magic, steampunk, horror, and many different races of beings. Our MC, Maiko Halfwolf, is a teenage survivor of war. The story opens with Maiko on a search for the truth about her past. In doing so, she finds herself in perilous situations while her enemies are always just one step behind. She doesn’t know who, if anyone, she can trust, not even herself.

To quote the poets…We’re fucked.

Continue reading “Review: Monstress Vol. 1 by Marjorie Liu Illus. by Sana Takeda”
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Books for Fans of Harry Potter

Yer a wizard, Harry!– Rubeus Hagrid


No  matter your age or circumstances, chances are you have heard the name Harry Potter. And even if you’ve never read the books, chances are you’ve seen the films. Harry Potter isn’t just another middle grade or YA book series. When reading the books you feel a sense of nostalgia and find yourself immersed into a tale of love and friendship, wonder and magic. Of discovering what you believe in and finding the courage to stand up for those beliefs. Of believing in yourself and the people you care about. Harry Potter is special, and for many people, the foundation on which their love of reading was built.

It would be extremely hard to imbue a new story with the same vibes you get from Harry Potter, if not impossible all together. Nevertheless, we wait and we read, hoping for another magical book to enchant us and once again wrap us up in it’s warm glow. Most of us have devoured HP many times, but there’s nothing like experiencing it for the first time. That being said, I have–a few times in the past few years–read a book or heard of one that brings it’s own wonderful originality to the page, but also gives off the vibes we crave. And even though no one can ever duplicate The Boy who Lived, I recommend the following books to Harry Potter fans of all ages.

Continue reading “Books for Fans of Harry Potter”

book reviews

A Review: The Lies We Told by Camilla Way

IMG_3356Thank you Netgalley and Berkley Publishing Group for an ARC of this book. The following opinions are my own.

  • My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️
  • Release Date: October 9, 2018
  • Genre: Psychological Thriller, Mystery

Clara has finally moved in with her dream guy; tall, handsome, charismatic Luke Lawson. Things are really coming together for her and her happiness is limitless. Until the night Luke doesn’t come home. At first, she thinks he went out with the guys and crashed at one of their places in a drunken stupor. It becomes clear quite quickly that this isn’t the case when he misses a huge job interview. When an entire day has passed Clara becomes convinced that something is very wrong. After reporting Luke missing at the police department, she starts her own investigation at home, looking through Luke’s files and computer and that’s when she finds the emails. Many, many emails from a woman who has been stalking Luke and, towards the end, threatening his life. Clara is certain that these emails are connected to his disappearance but the police department don’t seem to be making any headway. So, Clara enlists the help of Mac, the couple’s best friend, to help her uncover and investigate the things the police won’t. What they learn paints a much different picture of Luke and his past and Clara wonders if she ever really knew him at all.

Continue reading “A Review: The Lies We Told by Camilla Way”