Review: The Luminous Dead by Caitlin Starling

Woah, y’all. I finally finished a book!! It’s been like an entire month and I still have no reading motivation but I did it!! Also my last class of the semester ends in just a few days so fingers crossed I’ll get some reading motivation back once I have a month where I don’t have homework deadlines looming in the background!

So, what book did I read? Well if you didn’t pay attention to the title of this post it was The Luminous Dead by Caitlin Starling.

The Luminous Dead

Here’s the synopsis:

A thrilling, atmospheric debut with the intensive drive of The Martian and Gravity and the creeping dread of Annihilation, in which a caver on a foreign planet finds herself on a terrifying psychological and emotional journey for survival.

When Gyre Price lied her way into this expedition, she thought she’d be mapping mineral deposits, and that her biggest problems would be cave collapses and gear malfunctions. She also thought that the fat paycheck—enough to get her off-planet and on the trail of her mother—meant she’d get a skilled surface team, monitoring her suit and environment, keeping her safe. Keeping her sane.

Instead, she got Em.

Em sees nothing wrong with controlling Gyre’s body with drugs or withholding critical information to “ensure the smooth operation” of her expedition. Em knows all about Gyre’s falsified credentials, and has no qualms using them as a leash—and a lash. And Em has secrets, too . . .

As Gyre descends, little inconsistencies—missing supplies, unexpected changes in the route, and, worst of all, shifts in Em’s motivations—drive her out of her depths. Lost and disoriented, Gyre finds her sense of control giving way to paranoia and anger. On her own in this mysterious, deadly place, surrounded by darkness and the unknown, Gyre must overcome more than just the dangerous terrain and the Tunneler which calls underground its home if she wants to make it out alive—she must confront the ghosts in her own head.

But how come she can’t shake the feeling she’s being followed?

Caves are one of my biggest fears, the darkness and sickening sense of claustrophobia that come with them send chills down my spine with just a thought. My mom and aunt can’t go a family gathering without talking about the time I said I’d be fine going past the point of no return in a cave tour and then ended up having a breakdown. (Sidenote: I was like 7 at the time and I got my sweatshirt hood caught on a railing so I thought someone was grabbing me, like YOU go through a spooky cave and think someone is grabbing you and come out of the experience unscathed!!!!) So anyways, when I saw this book I knew that if I wanted a horror book that could genuinely terrify me, well this is it.

The writing in this was so good, there was more than one scene in which I was left with goosebumps and the hairs on the back of my neck standing up because I was so spooked. This definitely played into my own fears and I found myself questioning every single thing I read which, to me, adds so much to the horror aspect. I think that if I would have had the attention span to read this in one sitting, I would have, but it ended up taking me about a month and a half to finish this which made it a little bit jarring each time I picked it up again. Despite the gaps between reading, once I did get back into reading it was easy to immerse myself back in the story. I feel like horror is one genre where if I can’t be fully immersed then I’m not going to fully enjoy it so I am happy to report that this is quite an immersive story.

With a cast of two characters I was really interested to see how this would play out and the way the relationship between Gyre and Em would develop from the beginning to the end. My emotions were all over the place and I’m not going to lie when I say that I would greatly enjoy some further addition to this story. There was definitely a conclusion but I feel like there is so much of this world left to explore that I would be down for any sort of epilogue that the author would like to give us. This aspect of the story, with Gyre and Em, was so complex and frustrating and yet I could see so fully the motivations of each character and I loved that. Each was so fully developed and the balance between heartbreaking, tender moments and sheer terror and stress and anger was so well done.

I feel like this book would appeal to those who aren’t normally fans of horror too. It’s thrilling and shocking and left me feeling like I should check over my own shoulder but for horror, I felt it was pretty tame. There isn’t anything overly gory and I feel like it’s more of a psychological horror that just burns nice and slowly until it gets you right at the end.

In the end, I rated it 4 stars because there were parts of this that left me feeling a bit dry. I highly recommend picking this up and I look forward to reading whatever Caitlin Starling comes up with next!

You can pick up your own copy of The Luminous Dead at these links:

Amazon (Affiliate Link) // Barnes & Noble // Book Depository

Review: Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo

Can we all just be excited for a second at the fact that my most anticipated book of the year lived up to my own personal hype??

I’ve only read one of Leigh Bardugo’s young adult books, the first book in the Grisha trilogy, and it was right around the time when it was first released and I didn’t really love it. I’ve had no interest in reading any of her other books up until now and when I first read the synopsis for Ninth House I was immediately like “YES, I NEED TO READ THIS”

I like dark stories and oh boy, did this deliver on that. I’m going to say what everyone is saying about this book: it is an adult book and should be categorized as such. This is a very, very dark adult book and is not suitable content for younger readers.

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Before I get into my review, here’s the synopsis from Goodreads:

Galaxy “Alex” Stern is the most unlikely member of Yale’s freshman class. Raised in the Los Angeles hinterlands by a hippie mom, Alex dropped out of school early and into a world of shady drug dealer boyfriends, dead-end jobs, and much, much worse. By age twenty, in fact, she is the sole survivor of a horrific, unsolved multiple homicide. Some might say she’s thrown her life away. But at her hospital bed, Alex is offered a second chance: to attend one of the world’s most elite universities on a full ride. What’s the catch, and why her?

Still searching for answers to this herself, Alex arrives in New Haven tasked by her mysterious benefactors with monitoring the activities of Yale’s secret societies. These eight windowless “tombs” are well-known to be haunts of the future rich and powerful, from high-ranking politicos to Wall Street and Hollywood’s biggest players. But their occult activities are revealed to be more sinister and more extraordinary than any paranoid imagination might conceive.

Like I had said at the beginning of the post, this was my most anticipated read of the year. I got nervous as I started to see more and more reviews of people reading this and rating it lower than anticipated and I kept stopping myself from starting it because I didn’t want to be disappointed. Luckily, in the end, I was so far from disappointed, I rated this 5 stars.

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This book was a behemoth and I read it over the course of about three days. Each chapter title gives you the time at which the events in the chapter are taking place. “Winter” and “fall/late fall” were the main ones and the perspective switched between our main character, Alex, and Darlington, Alex’s mentor in Lethe. Lethe is essentially a group that has been created to be guardians to the secret societies of Yale.

From the get go, I connected with Alex and her struggle with being a survivor. The fight for life and for survival is something I relate to deeply and it was emotional to see how strong she was in order to do anything. I also really enjoyed reading from both her and Darlington’s perspectives in order to get a more in depth view of the story. I personally felt like if we had only followed Alex, that we never would’ve learned some of the things that Darlington shared in his chapters.

I genuinely wish that I would have kept a tally of how many times I said “oh my god” or “wtf” while reading this because it was lot. Some parts of the book I totally saw coming, but others blew my mind. I think that I can say that I am a big fan of paranormal/fantasy type thrillers because unlike thrillers that take place in “real life” basically anything can happen. We can get those big twists and shocks because literally anything could happen. This whole book had me turning the next page thinking “what could possibly happen next?” It was compelling and devious and I adored it.

A lot of the reviews I’ve seen are from people who thought that this book was boring, or at least the first half was boring. I felt like this book was chock full of information but to me, it felt balanced. If it had all been jam packed with action, I think it would have been overwhelming. But with less action and more exposition, it would have been too dry. There really wasn’t any point in this that I felt like I wanted to skip sections or chapters because I genuinely wanted to see what every page had in store. If you’re looking for a simple read, this probably isn’t for you! It’s full of names and stories and is so layered that it takes a lot of brain power to really engross yourself in it. But let me tell you, it is well worth it if you like dark adult fantasy.

So when it comes to recommending this, I want to preface this with this book is really disturbing at times. One scene in particular made me physically gag and many others left me feeling drained. It was dark, definitely not quite what I expected, but in the end I was left with overwhelming hope for this group of characters that had been beaten down and broken more times than I could count. I adored the characters in this book, flaws and all and I genuinely can’t wait to get my hands on book two. But please be careful when picking up this book and if you are interested in content warnings I’ll have those at the end of the review.

I think that if you’re a fan of dark stuff, give this a try. If you like a unique cast of characters and a wild story, pick this up.

If you’re interested in purchasing a copy, you can find it here.

Content warnings:

Sexual assault (child rape and date rape), murder, gore, drug abuse, drowning, death, suicide, forced consumption of human waste. 

 

Review: Wilder Girls by Rory Power

Do you ever read a book and then just spend forever rolling it over in your mind because you have literally no idea what you think of it? That was this book for me.

Wilder Girls by Rory power was an incredibly highly anticipated read of this year and while it didn’t sound quite up my alley (books about quarantine and disease are not usually a hit for me) I was looking forward to giving it a try.

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It follows a dual perspective of two girls at Raxter School for Girls, a boarding school that has been placed under a quarantine for the last 18 months after a mysterious disease called the Tox took over the island. They’re completely cut off from the world while the disease changes everything in strange and violent ways. Girls have grown gills, second spines, scales, and more. It’s essentially supposed to be the female version of Lord of the Flies (which I get but also it’s vastly different so…) So with that really brief description, let’s get into the review.

I think I’m just going to start right off with my star rating. It took me over an hour to decide on this but I went with three stars.

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I thought this started off incredibly slowly and up until about 150 pages in I was tempted to DNF this. There were definitely small pieces of the story that kept me wanting to continue so in the end I kept going.

The story itself was really compelling, it brought up so many questions about what could possibly be happening to this island and these girls. The plot is what kept me connected to the book and essentially nothing else. I didn’t really connect with any of the characters, I definitely empathized with them and their situation but I felt like I barely knew anything about any of them. When they switched perspectives from Hetty to Byatt, it was really jarring. I mean it was over 100 pages into the book by the time that happened so it felt weird to all of a sudden read from another perspective.

I also didn’t feel like this perspective change was all that well done. Byatt had a very distinctive voice but her pieces didn’t really fill in many holes of the story, they just added more. By the end of the book I had so many questions that I was shocked that I had reached the final page. This book was marketed as a standalone and I have absolutely no idea how it could possibly have just ended the way it did. I mean talk about a cliffhanger.

I enjoyed the crazy crescendo that was the ending of this book. But again, all the unanswered questions just left me wondering why the heck I just spent two days reading this. I wanted to get to the end and find a resolution and the fact that there wasn’t one left me mulling over why I had read this book in the first place. Don’t get me wrong, I completely understand why some people would absolutely love this book but I also understand why there are people who wouldn’t like it. If I had known there weren’t going to be answers waiting for me at the end of this book, I don’t think I would have pushed through that beginning portion, so now I’m really stuck wondering if we’ll ever get a sequel, or maybe just some sort of epilogue.

This was marketed as a feminist Lord of the Flies and honestly, I really and truly don’t understand that. It’s a survival story at heart, I’ll give them that, but that’s as far as I’d take the comparison… Also I don’t care but I’m going to say it and say that changing the entire cast of characters to female doesn’t inherently make it feminist (because that’s essentially the only thing I could take from that comparison, idk). I’m interested to see what Rory Power writes next, her writing is quite nice and I really hope that in her next books her characters stand out as much as her story does. I think she creates a spectacular story but I just wish that everything else didn’t fall so flat.

If you’re looking for a borderline scary and a little bit gory YA survival story, I would recommend trying this. But if you’re hoping for something that hands you the plot all wrapped up in a box with a bow on top, this isn’t for you.

 

Middle Grade Monday: The Ghost Collector by Allison Mills

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I have a Middle Grade Monday post ready for next week about a few books with spooky storylines and ghosts but I felt that there was no way that I could group this book into that post so it’s getting one of it’s own. Today I’ll be discussing and reviewing The Ghost Collector by Allison Mills.

After losing her mother unexpectedly, Shelly begins to hoard ghosts. A gift that has been passed down through generations of women in her family, Shelly has the ability to see ghosts, catch them, and help them move on. When she realizes that her mother has not come back as a ghost, she can’t let the other ghosts go.

Rooted in a Cree worldview, Shelly and her grandmother use their long hair to catch ghosts and then help to guide them onward to whatever comes after death. I thought that The Ghost Collector was a really deep story of a young, grieving girl who has to learn how to let go. It was so interesting to see how different ghosts could be, anywhere from the old, the young, animals, happy, sad, angry… The list goes on.

It was heartbreaking to see what Shelley was going through, just wanting to see her mom one more time. I think this was a unique and beautiful story about death, grief, and learning to let go. It is so important to share stories like this with young readers, to give them a more broad perspective of the topic of death, dying, and more. I really enjoyed reading a “ghost story” that wasn’t scary. I feel like what is often the case is that ghosts are made out to be malevolent and while those stories are definitely fun, it’s good to see stories where ghosts are just existing too.

In terms of reviewing this book, I gave it three stars. I would highly recommend it to anyone but I personally felt that parts of the story were underdeveloped. The origins of a few characters felt unexplained as did the backstory as to why Shelley and her grandmother were able to see ghosts and catch them in their hair. I would have loved more explanation and a bit of world building in that regard… I did try to do some internet research on the topic of ghosts and Cree beliefs but came up with nothing! Regardless of these qualms that I had, I thought this book was spectacular and have definitely thought about this story a lot since originally reading it.

If you are interested in a book that handles grief well and provides a new view on ghosts and death, this might be the book you’re looking for! Definitely worth checking out.

**I received an ARC of this from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review**

 

 

Review: Rebel Girls by Elizabeth Keenan

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I recently received an ARC of Rebel Girls by Elizabeth Keenan from NetGalley in order to review.

Before I get into my thoughts, here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

It’s 1992, and there’s a rumor spreading in Baton Rouge…

When it comes to being social, Athena Graves is far more comfortable creating a mixtape playlist than she is talking to cute boys—or anyone, for that matter. Plus her staunchly feminist views and love of punk rock aren’t exactly mainstream at St. Ann’s, her conservative Catholic high school.

Then a malicious rumor starts spreading through the halls…a rumor that her popular, pretty, pro-life sister had an abortion over the summer. A rumor that has the power to not only hurt Helen, but possibly see her expelled.

Despite their wildly contrasting views, Athena, Helen and their friends must find a way to convince the student body and the administration that it doesn’t matter what Helen did or didn’t do…even if their riot grrrl protests result in the expulsion of their entire rebel girl gang.

In this day and age, this book and the topics within it are just as important as they would have been back in 1992 when this book takes place. However, I found that the way this book was executed fell very short of any expectations I had of this book. I am very aware that I am not the target audience of this book. I’ve recently turned 23 and very much don’t fit in to the young adult age range anymore but I still feel like this book was bad. From my own context of reading this, I could understand why it might appeal to a younger audience however I personally could not find it in myself to appreciate any part of it.

I’m also going to preface this by saying that in my review I will not be talking about the actual debate of pro choice or pro life. Just the way that this book handles it.

I’ve decided to rate this book 1 star.

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***This review contains minor spoilers***

The feminist aspects of this book did not come across the way that I feel like they were intended to solely because the main character, Athena, did not seem to convey why she felt the need to believe the things that she did other than the fact that her Riot Grrl heroes felt that way. This can easily be explained away by her being a teenager because teenagers very easily blindly believe things (I mean I know I did!) but she has the ability to explain why the people she trusts feel the way that they do. So much of Athena’s inner dialogue was her saying sexist things and then backtracking because she “shouldn’t think like that”. There’s no real motivation to her beliefs, she’s still very much sucked into the popularity contests of high school and she falls on the “not like other girls” spectrum at her Catholic school.

The entire book dealt with issues that Athena’s sister, Helen, was encountering but was all told from Athena’s perspective I’m assuming because Helen didn’t have the same beliefs as Athena did so that’s why Athena was chosen to force feed us her thoughts. I really felt like that this book should have been from Helen’s perspective, even if she was pro life. I think that it could have been an interesting character arc for her to go from being strictly pro life to seeing the reasons why people might be pro choice and possibly even changing her beliefs.

I think all of the characters in this book were flat. They were all stereotypes that played into a dramatic high school story. The mean girls, the jocks, the cute boys, the outcasts, etc. It played at being diverse but things like the fact that Sean (Athena’s best friend) was a star football player but hid his love of comics really played into the “everyone must fit their stereotype” line. Sister Catherine was my favorite character in this whole book and she hardly played a big role at all which was really disappointing. I felt like she was also the most realistically portrayed. The guidance counselor character literally made me want to scream. I cannot believe that there was a character that demeaning and malicious written in to this book… Same with the lady that worked at the “fake abortion” clinic. I am well aware of how much fear mongering goes in to pro life campaigns but I can’t imagine why the pro life characters in this book needed to be so graphically rude. Or the locker scene, oh my dear lord the locker scene literally made me sick to my stomach with rage.

Before I can get too angry, like I’m trying really hard to keep my thoughts straight here… But I just think this book lacked empathy. Athena was one of the most unempathetic characters ever. I understand that she’s a teenager but if this book is supposed to center around her younger sister being bullied because of rumors surrounding an alleged abortion I just think it’s in poor taste that the first 100 pages of this book revolve around a crush. I felt like Helen was the only character who really “grew” throughout the book and I wish that she would have been the main character instead of Athena.

In the end, I feel like the message in this book had the potential to be something really good but I spent the entire book getting more and more frustrated over everything. The overall plot wasn’t even revealed until 100+ pages into the book because the first quarter was filled with fluff about crushes and typical school drama. This also had an incredible lack of empathy towards any character. There was so much cruelness from multiple characters that it physically hurt to read. And if that was the point to try and bring shock value into getting teenagers to believe in being pro choice, well, then I guess this book did that? I wish I could say that I wanted to recommend this but I can’t.

 

Reread Review: Graceling by Kristin Cashore

If you were to ask me my favorite book, since the age of 13, my answer has steadfastly been Graceling by Kristin Cashore. My grandma gifted me this book (along with Twilight) for Christmas when I was in seventh grade. I’m not really sure which of those two books I was more obsessed with at the time but I devoured both of them within a matter of hours.

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Graceling is a young adult fantasy story set in a world where if you are born or develop two different colored eyes you are considered a Graceling. Each Grace is different but it basically means that the person has some sort of extreme skill in regards to one thing. It could be fighting or mind reading, sewing or baking, or even something like being able to predict the weather.

It follows a Graceling named Katsa, a girl with one blue eye and one green eye and born with the Grace of killing. She is the niece of a king and has grown up as his thug, doing his bidding throughout the kingdoms. She then meets Prince Po and sets off on a deadly mission to uncover the secrets that could potentially destroy all seven kingdoms in their world.

I used to reread Graceling on a yearly basis. This was sort of my tradition with all of my favorite books. As I grew up though it got harder and harder to do this and I think was the first time I’ve read Graceling since high school. It was sort of bittersweet to dive back into this incredibly familiar story and I got so emotional as it unfolded over the pages. I know the plot like the back of my hand and I cheered on every triumph and got sad and angry at every obstacle. It felt like going home.

This story held so many firsts for me. The first time that I ever saw myself in a character, the first OTP I ever had, the first book that ever shocked me. It was life changing for me.

Katsa is a kick-ass female character that really stood out to me in a way that no once since Hermione Granger really had. She was hesitant about men, didn’t want kids, didn’t want to get married… She had a lifetime of trauma that led to her trying to be cold hearted and cruel because that’s all that she thought she could be. A killer. A girl Graced with the ability to kill anyone. It was almost heart warming to read about someone who felt like me in so many ways  and that still could have someone fall in love with her and care about her.

Now rereading this story I see so many parallels between Katsa and Celaena from the Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas and I wonder if that’s another reason as to why I was so drawn into the ToG series when it originally was published. I think that if you are a fan of ToG that you should pick up Graceling as well!

After this reread I have decided to maintain my original rating of 5/5 stars. This book will be timeless to me and I think it will forever be considered my favorite. If you are looking for a unique fantasy with a really strong female lead I highly recommend picking up Graceling.

This following section contains spoilers:

This book is one that I will continue to read again and again. It’s such a unique concept and I still fall in love with everything about this book even now. However, now that I’m older there are things about this that I sort of wish I could change. Like I really wish that Katsa was asexual… Or demisexual. I just feel like there are so many reasons for her to be that way and sometimes I just consider her to be demisexual anyways. I absolutely love her romance with Po but it could have been just as amazing without the added sexual element.

I also have always considered Raffin to be gay or bisexual. It just made sense to me. He’s not really accepted by his father (granted this is because of his interest in chemistry and whatnot), the king, and he doesn’t really have an interest in getting married. He’s very close to Bann, his assistant but I never chalked that up to them being in a relationship (though I could be that crazy shipper if I wanted to). And I mean Katsa and Raffin had discussed they themselves getting married just because they’d each allow the other to keep on doing whatever they wanted to do. It would have been a marriage of convenience over a marriage of love and I think it would have been interesting just to see how Cashore could have written in a queer prince.

Other than that I feel like I was blind and still am blind to any issues this book may have and I was surprised when I read a note from the author in the back of the anniversary edition of the book that I bought to replace my lost original copy. Po has the Grace of being able to sense people and as the book unfolds his Grace strengthens to be able to sense just about every aspect of the world around him… So when he gets injured to the point of being blinded it never once occurred to me that his Grace being this “cure” for his disability could be considered offensive. But that’s what Cashore apologized for in her note. That at the time of writing she never realized how unfair it could be to write of someone who can be “magically cured” by this skill that he has. It was kind of shocking to me but it made a lot of sense and I really appreciated that she took the time to include that note in the new and future copies of the book.

I think that this is an important step for all authors to take when they realize that something that they had done in the past may be realized to be not “okay” anymore. It could have been so easy for Cashore to just let this go and ignore anyone who tells her that it might be considered offensive. I mean it’s just magic, right? Anything can happen in a fantasy world… But the fact that she admitted to being a bit uninclusive in her writing was really admirable to me.

Now I’ve got to go back and reread Fire and Bitterblue. I was always so unimpressed with Fire and I’ve only read it maybe three times and I’m not sure if I’ve ever reread Bitterblue so I’m very interested in seeing how my opinions on those may have changed over the years.

Now my question I pose for you is if you were a Graceling, what do you think your Grace would be? I feel like I would have ended up with something really pointless. A Grace for cooking would be kind of awesome though since I’m absolutely horrible at it. Or maybe the ability to speed read. Then maybe I’d get through my TBR pile in a bit more timely manner.

If you’re interested in picking up your own copy of Graceling, here’s a link.

Review: 100 Days of Sunlight by Abbie Emmons

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I’m going to start off by saying that I am sad. Sad because of how good this book could have been… And I feel like that is just the entire theme of my reading this year. I swear I say this for at least one book every month: IT HAD THE POTENTIAL AND THEY SHOULD HAVE WORKED IT OUT A LOT LONGER BEFORE PUBLISHING IT.

So I got an ARC of this book from NetGalley and was super excited to read it. I mean look at that cover, one of the prettiest covers I’ve seen in a while. It started off really good but in the end I had to rate it 2/5 stars.

This book is about a girl named Tessa who got into a car accident with her grandma which resulted in her being temporarily blind for can you guess? 100 days.

Tessa is a poetry blogger and so in an attempt to help her feel a little bit more normal again, her grandparents try to run an ad in the newspaper to find someone who can help her type the poems and publish them onto her blog.

In comes Weston, an amputee. He’s decided that this is the perfect opportunity to be treated like a completely normal person for the first time since he lost his legs. He asks Tessa’s grandparents to not tell her what has happened to him and together they work together as Tessa slowly recovers from the accident.

I’ll start off with the things that I did enjoy about the book:

The story was very sweet at times. I appreciated how close Tessa was with her grandparents and that she had a close group of internet friends that she found through her blogging. I also really liked Weston’s family aspect and how close he was to his brothers.

The writing was really pleasant to read and it was so easy to read that I flew through multiple chapters at a time when I actually had a chance to sit down and read this. I also liked that it was a pretty straightforward story with really no dilly dallying around the plot. It was short and got right through it all.

Also these are very small issues but if you’re looking for a book about blogging, this isn’t it. They basically talk about Tessa’s blog a total of three times. And it’s an extreme case of insta love.

And now… We get to the really big issues I had.

Both Tessa and Weston had extremely traumatic things happen to them. Tessa was in an accident that caused her to lose her vision and Weston had to have both of his legs amputated after getting an infection. And they were both left to just deal with the aftermath of that by themselves… I mean yes, they had their families but they never went to therapy, they never talked about therapy, it just didn’t happen.

When something traumatic happens your entire brain chemistry can change. The mental consequences of events like these are horrifying and I’m absolutely appalled that you could clearly see that both of these characters were suffering with PTSD like symptoms and yet were not ever treated like it was something that should be taken care of or evaluated. I mean Tessa had the chance of never being able to see again and they just decided “okay she can just learn how to deal with that if she doesn’t get her vision back”.

I mean, what would have happened if she didn’t get her vision back (which also I found that her getting her vision back immediately on Day 100 was so trite and predictable, really didn’t like that). If she had been permanently blinded she would have lost all hope that she had at her chance of recovery. That would have been devastated and her already fragile mental health would have been destroyed. I just think that the entire aspect of mental health was poorly written in order to have this incredibly preachy underlying message about how we all need to suck it up and get over our issues.

Here’s more on that, first with a quote:

“Everyone’s always treating me like I need help- and, sometimes, it’s hard to resist giving in. It’s hard to resist accepting what the world says about you… That you’ve got a disadvantage, a flaw, a problem. Because these days we’re told that it’s okay to let our problems control us. It’s okay to be the victim. It’s okay… because you have every right to be miserable.” I shook my head slowly, sweeping the room with my gaze.

“But I want to tell you that it’s not okay. It’s not okay to let your problem stop you from doing anything you want to do. It’s not okay to be your problem… because you’re a person”

I mean like the line on the cover says… “When life knocks you down… Get up” it just breaks me knowing how many people out there want you to feel like you are not allowed to feel the way that you feel. No, you can’t live every single day of your life miserable but you can’t go around acting like everything is peachy keen, sometimes you are the victim. Sometimes you are completely broken down. Sometimes you feel like giving up. And you know what? I’m here telling you that that is okay. We can’t possibly have everything together all the time.

Sometimes, our handicaps, our hurts, our abuses… Sometimes they win. And no those problems are not who we are but they are a part of us and we can’t ignore them in order to make everyone else around us think better of us. Sometimes we get knocked down and we can’t get back up again for a while. And I really, really don’t appreciate how this book preaches to the fact that we shouldn’t feel bad for what is wrong with us. I’m sorry but I will never be fully strong. I will never fully win. And I am incredibly angry that this book is trying to tell me that I am pathetic, yes it makes me feel pathetic, for feeling the way that I do.

There’s another line very early on in the book that says something along the lines of “no one ever sees the light by being told that someone else is dealing with something darker” and THAT is what I wanted to see more of. I have been told time and time again in my life that there are people out there that have it worse than me and that I’m not allowed to feel the way that I do because of that. I don’t know if I’m just being overly sensitive but it really hurt me to have Weston talk the way that he did despite never doing anything for himself to get help about his mental health other than deciding that he needed to essentially “man up” and just do whatever he wanted no matter what anyone else thought.

I just don’t understand how this author can go from writing a beautiful line like that to preaching that we aren’t allowed to be miserable about what is wrong with us. Especially because right after that quote Weston basically plays the victim saying that he can’t possibly be with Tessa because he’s an amputee. It just made no sense to me. I mean if Weston doesn’t want people to treat him like his handicap then he can’t act like that when that finally comes up.

I just think the story overall was so immature and absolutely poorly told in both cases of disability. I really wish that I hadn’t read this book because I know I’m going to get angry every single time I think about it.

I think that this book puts out a really entitled message and I’m really disappointed. This is not a book that I would recommend. I really wish that this book had been different.

I also wanted to share a link to another review that touched on some things that I didn’t talk about here. You can find that here.

If you are interested in reading it yourself, you can pick up a copy at this affiliate link

Review: The Right Swipe by Alisha Rai

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Apparently, romance does still have the potential to melt my cold, dead heart. Y’all, this book was so good. I got an eARC of The Right Swipe by Alisha Rai from NetGalley to review here.

This book centers around Rhiannon, an extremely cynical dating app creator who helped to revolutionize the dating scene. She got burned by a mystery match who ghosted her and then ends up finding out he’s a famous ex-football player and working with another dating website. She fumbles around with the idea of giving him a second chance and going against everything she believes about love and relationships. 

I found myself relating to how hard and cold Rhiannon is to love for herself and yet enjoying seeing it flourish in other people. Every single character was so unique and diverse. The main character is black, the love interest (Samson) is Samoan. Rhiannon’s assistant is a lesbian, her best friend is plus sized and has agoraphobic anxiety (I really really really hope that Alisha Rai does spin off stories of some of these side characters). One of Samson’s friends is a stay-at-home dad.

To me, these characters are coming up on that level of unique that I felt in Red, White, and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston and honestly that’s all I could ask for from side characters.

The relationships in this were also all so good. Friendships, family, and love, just all very healthy and strong and I ate it up. There were also much deeper storylines regarding feminism, concussions in football, and toxic/abusive relationships and sexual harassment.

I hope it comes as no surprise that I rated it 5/5 stars! This was such a breath of fresh air after some of the not so great and sad books I’ve read recently. It was such a kick ass story and I am definitely going to be picking up my own copy of this soon!

One of the things about this story that I absolutely loved more than anything was how well Samson handled learning about Rhiannon’s “baggage”. How he just accepted all the trust issues she had and went with whatever she felt comfortable with. Like when she couldn’t handle being called by her full name, Samson immediately got himself to call her Rhi and never once tried to act like he could change the way she felt about her full name during intimate moments.

And at the end of the book when he said that he would take her as is trust issues and all? Guys, I bawled. Samson was such a sweet and caring man and even when he was getting down and dirty in bed he was still a good man.

If Alisha Rai writes more books in this universe of characters I will definitely be picking them up!

I would recommend this book to you if you like romance with slightly deeper plots, really sweet romance, and aren’t the biggest fan of smut. This definitely had some smutty scenes but it wasn’t overly done in my mind (I’m very picky with romance books in that sense). Also, if you’re like me and lean towards the cynical side when it comes to love and romance, see if this book can melt some of that ice cold heart for you too 😉

This book is out today so you can pick up a copy of your own at the links below if you’re interested!

Amazon Affiliate Link // Barnes and Noble // Book Depository

Review: Sadie by Courtney Summers

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Last night I finished reading Sadie by Courtney Summers. I’d seen it a few times in various BookTube videos and was intrigued by the cover, 100% a judging the book by the cover situation, and checked it out from my library’s digital collection.

This book is written in an unconventional format told in two perspectives. One perspective is that of a podcast, titled “The Girls”, unfolding the story of Sadie and her sister Mattie as the host gathers more and more information. The second perspective is of Sadie herself, one of the missing girls. I’m a really big fan of stories that have odd formats, it makes it more intriguing to read and so when I saw that this was partly told through a podcast format I was even more excited to read it.

I for one, went into this book knowing nothing about the plot and I find that for mystery/thriller/crime type books that’s really the best way for me to go. If I know too much about the story I find myself trying to predict every twist and turn and end up ruining the book for myself. However, if you do want to know what the book is about here’s the blurb from Goodreads 🙂 –

A missing girl on a journey of revenge. A Serial―like podcast following the clues she’s left behind. And an ending you won’t be able to stop talking about.

Sadie hasn’t had an easy life. Growing up on her own, she’s been raising her sister Mattie in an isolated small town, trying her best to provide a normal life and keep their heads above water.

But when Mattie is found dead, Sadie’s entire world crumbles. After a somewhat botched police investigation, Sadie is determined to bring her sister’s killer to justice and hits the road following a few meager clues to find him.

When West McCray―a radio personality working on a segment about small, forgotten towns in America―overhears Sadie’s story at a local gas station, he becomes obsessed with finding the missing girl. He starts his own podcast as he tracks Sadie’s journey, trying to figure out what happened, hoping to find her before it’s too late.

After reading it, I decided to rate it 5/5 stars. There were very few bits that I found myself disliking and I honestly really enjoyed how it ended. I know that there were a lot of people taking off entire stars from their reviews because it was such an open ending but I felt like it was perfect. We don’t always get the endings in life that we want, nor does that happen in books. It felt more realistic to me than if we would’ve had some big happy ending. I felt that justice was served and that was really what Sadie had set out for to begin with. I’m trying to keep this vague to keep from spoiling it too much.

Content warnings for: pedophilia and sexual abuse, assault, murder

I think that this book did a really good job of showing just how hard it is to survive in small towns where no one ever seems to really succeed. That class difference can cause so many issues and is extremely painful to read about. It was really hard to read about how hard Sadie tried to provide a good life for her little sister. How hard she worked to protect her over her lifetime and it broke my heart even more as I read further into the story and found out more and more about the backstory of Sadie and Mattie.

If you are a fan of audiobooks I would recommend picking this one up. I read that it was a full cast audiobook and with the podcast aspect I think that would be a really cool way to experience that. If you’re a fan of true crime type podcasts at all I would recommend checking this book out. It was not an easy read in the slightest but it was such a good story that I know that I’m going to continue thinking about it.

This book was dark and sad and truly a story worth reading. If you’re interested in picking up a copy of your own here are a few links:

Amazon // Barnes and Noble // Book Depository

 

Review: Fix Her Up by Tessa Bailey

Fix Her Up

Fix Her Up by Tessa Bailey is a “romantic comedy” about Georgie Castle and Travis Ford, childhood friends that have decided to fake date to look more adult to those around them in their hometown and beyond. It’s a smutty mess and doesn’t compare to the description that’s listed on Goodreads whatsoever!! (Can you tell I’m salty about having actually read this book or is that just me?)

This book had been raved about by multiple people that I follow and then two people absolutely hated it. I had just gotten my copy from the library and decided to pick it up and see where I stood on it.

I ultimately rated it 2/5 stars because the plot didn’t align with what I went in expecting it to be, the romance felt toxic, and the timing felt completely screwy throughout the entire book. There were very few things that I actually enjoyed.

The rest of the review contains spoilers.

The plot was supposed to be a fake dating plot but there wasn’t a single part of it that felt like it was actually them fake dating. The more that I think about the more that I realize that there wasn’t a single aspect of this book that was truly fleshed out. It jumped around from one plot point to another so fast that I just got tired of reading. I ended up skimming the last 75 or so pages because I was so bored.

So much of the summary on Goodreads is about a life makeover… There was no true makeover scene, it maybe lasted three pages, if that. And that in and of itself was frustrating because it seemed like Georgie had her own style and was comfortable with that. Why change it? It was the stereotypical “girl wears not so flattering clothes so must change and start wearing sexier clothes to be appealing to literally anyone”. The girl “club” the Just Us league or whatever that they created was hardly a club. They really didn’t do anything other than sit and chat. It felt like it was just thrown in there to add some form of “feminist” tones even though they mostly just talked crap about the guys in their lives.

The timing was nonexistent. There was absolutely no transition that indicated a passing of time. It felt like one never-ending day even though I know that more time passed than that.

I found the romance in this incredibly cringey. It made me so uncomfortable that Travis spent so much of the book telling himself that he couldn’t be attracted to Georgie because of the fact that she had grown up as the the “dorky little sister”. It just felt like he was infantilizing her and it really didn’t help that he continuously called her “baby girl”. In general I find pet names really cringey but the two aspects paired together made me feel kind of gross. They didn’t even last more than a few chapters before the whole “no sex while we’re fake dating” thing went out the window. I don’t know why they didn’t just agree to be friends-with-benefits from the beginning and just ham up the romantic stuff for the paparazzi.

The romance between the side characters felt completely thrown in there too. I felt like Georgie’s brother had a very toxic relationship with his wife, he very clearly wanted kids and it sounds like she didn’t and was getting him to stay with her by stringing him along letting him think she’ll agree to have kids someday. It skeeved me out too when Georgie’s mom played “wing woman” so that Georgie and Travis could go do it in the pool house (omg the amount of public or semi public sex disturbed me too, don’t do that y’all, it’s not sexy), like her mom acted like she just wanted her daughter to get some. I can understand being supportive of the relationship but ew?

Even for the people that love smutty scenes I don’t really see any sort of redemption from them. Travis was grossly controlling and dominating and while yes there are relationships in which stuff like that works, it always needs to be discussed beforehand and safety always has to be a priority. I’m not saying that anything went out of hand or that anything bad happened but with the way that everything else was talked about (including the fact that her virginity was a main component of all the sexual stuff) it felt like Travis was borderline taking advantage of Georgie. One line that really stuck out to me was when Georgie was described as this “man’s pleasure tool”… Um no, I’m sorry but women aren’t for being used for men’s pleasure.

And how overly sexualized Travis was? Ew. He truly had no redeeming qualities. He treated Georgie like his savior which is absolutely bullshit. Women do not need to fix men. This book should’ve been called “Fix Him Up” with how much work needs to be done with Travis. It genuinely made me mad at how much Travis viewed Georgie as his “savior”. I think Georgie was young and is still in the midst of finding her footing in the world and figuring out who she is and what she wants. She’s only 23!! Also I enjoyed that she realized the potential that he clown business had by working to expand it to a full on party business but again, none of that was really fleshed out. All the side plots and side characters were so secondary to this overly sexualized lusty relationship. I hated the ending so much because it was so rushed and seriously, I get that you’ve known the guy since you were a kid but WHY are you agreeing to marry him??? And given that there really was no time frame in this I have no idea how long they fake dated but I just feel like this was the worst way that this could have ended. Way, way too soon to get engaged.

I think this book might end up being one of the biggest, if not biggest disappointments of the year. Despite going into it with slightly adjusted expectations because of the negative reviews that I saw the description itself sounds like a completely different book than what ended up in my hands. This book had the potential to be something really good and it just wasn’t. It could have been a sweet, steamy, well developed romance and all it was was a giant mess. All I want to do is send this book back to the editor and ask how the hell they let this get published as is.

I really don’t recommend this book. If you’ve read it, what did you think of it? I’m still trying to find a romance book that impresses me, but it feels like everything I’ve read has something that just grinds my gears by the end of it.

I’ll be back on Sunday with an update for Camp NaNoWriMo and shocker, it won’t be great! Have a great weekend everyone.