ARC Review: Aurora Rising

Aurora Rising (The Aurora Cycle, #1)

**I received an earc in exchange for my honest review**

OHHHH BOY.

Holy cow. This was one heck of a wild ride and I loved every single moment of it. I’m going to try really hard to review and not give anything away. HA. I should end my review now then, right? Let’s see what I can come up with…

I firmly believe that these two authors cannot write a bad book. They have mastered the sci-fi setting but spinning in it such a way that it feels fresh. This really did feel like The Breakfast Club but set in space and I was absolutely here for it. The characters were deeply flawed and beautifully complex. They all had a voice in the story as they all had POV chapters so I was able to hear directly from them why they did what they did or know why they felt the way they did. That gave an extra layer of depth that made this story that much better. While there were a lot of characters (all necessary), my favorite character was Aurora. I loved her backstory and the journey she had ahead of her. I do have a soft spot for all of them, but she was the one I connected with the most.

The concept and plot of the story was utterly brilliant. A girl lost in space but in cryo-sleep awakened to discover she has a bigger role to play in the fate of the universe? And her fate is in the hands of a group of space cadets that never wanted to team up in the first place? Sign. Me. Up. It worked and it worked so bloody well. Once I started this story I could not stop. I simply had to know what happened. This was one of those books that I was thinking about when I wasn’t reading it because I had to know what happened. I had to know what was going on with Aurora and why things happened the way they did. (Hint: I was not disappointed!)

What more can I say about this book without giving anything away? I know! The humor is ON POINT. I mean, if you don’t laugh at all of the Middle-Earth jokes then there must be something wrong with you. The amount of references to hot elves felt like an added bonus for this already stunning start to a new sci-fi series. Not to mention the sexual tension and innuendos. They were not rude or crude but just enough. Whatever magical spell Kristoff and Kaufman cast years ago to be able to work so well together, I embrace it. They knocked it out of the park and I believe everyone will be in for one heck of a treat. I cannot wait for this to be out in the world and everyone read it.

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Review: Rayne & Delilah’s Midnite Matinee

Rayne & Delilah's Midnite Matinee

Jeff Zentner is one of my all-time favorite authors. He is an auto-buy author for me and I will forever be one of his biggest supporters. That is why I was super excited about his latest release. So far this man has not written a bad book. A story about the power of friendships and coming of age? Sign me up.

This was the story of Josie and Delia. They were two friends who became hosts of a public access show dedicated to campy monster movies. It was a show that aired in the middle of the night and both of these girls dressed in character – and it worked. These two characters were different but they balanced each other out. Neither had come from an easy childhood nor had easy decisions to make for their future.

Delia’s reason for starting the public access show was for her father, who abandoned her when she was young. Watching campy classic monster movies was what they shared and Delia was desperate to hold on to what little she had left of him. She was also desperate to know why he left all of those years ago. Josie enjoyed being the co-host of the show but she knew it was not something she wanted to continue to do. She had to find a way to confess to her best friend that she was going to leave but her sense of responsibility may get the better of her.

This was another brilliant and complex story that kept me turning the pages well into the night. I could not get enough of this. I had not ever read a story set around a public access show and it was just so good. It was something I had not read before so the intrigue was certainly there. I know I’m going to struggle to let you, my faithful readers, know just how great this story was. I’m going to keep pushing on so bear with me…

The story was told in alternating POV and that helped give added depth to the characters. While I loved discovering how complex the characters were, I found I connected more with Delia. I felt Josie’s character and chapters had too much focus on her budding relationship with Lawson. I don’t know why I didn’t connect to them as much and I still cannot put my finger on it. My heart went out to Delia and the way she wanted to reconnect with her father. This poor girl really wanted to know why he left because she carried guilt that she was the reason he left. That could not have been easy to carry around. Her Mom also checked out so she went through most of her teenage years on her own. I would not wish that on anyone.

This story was not all cut-and-dry about two friends who were discovering their path in life… it also dealt with mental illness and the aftermath of being abandoned by a parent. Those are never easy topics but Zentner handled and addressed them with class and grace. The topics were addressed and came to resolution but there was humor also included. I found myself giggling and laughing, which is always a bonus for me. Please know that while there was humor, it did not take away from the serious topics. In a way, it helped to address them. I’m not sure how to word that properly but it all worked. Everything worked perfectly.

Zentner hit it out of the park with his latest novel. I will always highly recommend his books to everyone. If you haven’t already read his first two novels, The Serpent King and Goodbye Days, I urge you to do that now. They probably will make you ugly cry but you don’t want to miss out on them. You need them in your life, just like you need Delia and Josie. It will make you want to call your best friend and talk about everything and nothing at the same time. Pick up your copy of this one now.

ARC Review: You Must Not Miss

You Must Not Miss

**I received an advance copy in exchange for my honest review.**

Ah, magical realism.. how I am not a fan of you. I don’t know why I don’t jive with that genre but I often read it in the hopes that I find one that works for me. Unfortunately this was not one that worked for me.

This was a super, super quick read with some very, very heavy topics. That being said, I do not feel those heavy topics were addressed properly or handled well. Said topics included: alcoholism, eating disorder, bullying, sexual assault, underage drinking, and adultery. That’s a lot, right? The main character, Margaret (aka Magpie, aka Mags), was a sixteen year old girl who came home from school early to walk in on her dad having an affair with her aunt. When he left it was the tipping point for her mom to drink her life away. That lead to her being an alcoholic and Magpie (that’s what she is primarily referred to in the story) found her one day passed out on the floor from drinking too much. On top of all of this, Magpie developed an eating disorder, but it was never said why she did so but it was always mentioned. Her way of escape was often floating in her backyard pool and writing in her yellow notebook. In this notebook she created the perfect town – Near. Suddenly one day Magpie found the doorway to Near and she discovered everything she written down was right in front of her. Finally, she had a way to get revenge on everyone that wronged her.

You can see how I was slightly confused because there was just so much going on. It was hinted at throughout most of the book that something really bad happened to Magpie at a party but it wasn’t revealed until about 80% into the book. I cannot stress enough that I feel throwing in a sexual assault at a party should not have been done for the shock factor but I feel that it was. None of these serious topics were addressed properly at all. This teenage girl had an eating disorder and chose to drink until she passed out but it was never talked about as being a bad thing. Same goes for the sexual assault. I felt the author had the right platform to address these serious topics but failed to do so. That did not sit well with me at all.

All of the time Magpie spent in her made-up world of Near was uber confusing. She created this picture perfect world for herself and chose to use it as a way to get revenge on those that wronged her? She lured these people into Near and had them eaten by made up characters? What, and I cannot stress this enough, the heck? That makes zero sense.

I did not like Magpie’s character as I felt she had no character arc and no development. The way she was when the story started was the exact same way she was when the story ended. Nothing changed within her at all, other than she felt she was invincible. I did not like her personality or the way she chose to handle the bad things in her life. Yes, she was dealt a very bad hand but she could have reacted/handled things in a very different way. I kept waiting for something to change or get better for both the character and story but it never happened.

I tried so hard to like this story but it just did not happen for me. The premise sounded amazing and the cover is stunning, but the story between the pages did not work for me. There were too many things skirted over and/or thrown in for shock factor and I do not agree with that. I was just not the right reader for this type of book.

Review: Heroine

Heroine

This is another book I’ve been struggling to find the right words to use to properly describe. This was such a powerful story that it shook me to my core. This was so many things to me: raw, dirty, gritty, real, believable, gutsy, dark, scary, heart-breaking, terrifying, horrific, beautiful, core-shattering, and so much more. Prepare yourself now because I am going to recommend this to nearly everyone.

Mickey believed she was an everyday high school girl with hopes of playing softball until she couldn’t play anymore. Everything changed when she and her best friend were in a car accident. Mickey had to have reconstructive surgery on her hip and that meant she may not be healed in time for the upcoming training season. She needed to be ready for that training season as she is the star catcher and to the uber talented pitcher. These girls were predicted to win it all so the pressure was on. Mickey quickly discovers the painkillers she was prescribed helped her overcome the hurdles standing in her way. She also discovered that they made her feel good. That quickly becomes a feeling Mickey cannot get away from.

You can absolutely bet your bottom dollar that this story has trigger warnings. This was actually a whole new level of story I hadn’t read before as it was told from Mickey’s POV – the girl who was spiraling into a full-blow drug addiction. Sure, it started out innocent but it quickly – and I do mean quickly – became something so much more. Being able to read the story from that POV was shocking and masterfully done. I swore I felt Mickey’s obsession. It was as if I was right there beside her and I was obsessed with this story. Once I started this, I could not do anything else until I figured out what happened. Mickey was a powerful protagonist. The seemingly innocent high school student and star softball catcher started out with innocent intentions but was soon stealing her mom’s wedding ring and stealing cash out of random people’s purses to fuel her habit. To be able to see that stellar character arc was brilliant. I was simply aghast with everything Mickey went through, said, and did to get her fix while hiding her habit from her family and friends.

Make no mistake that Mickey’s new drug addiction was not the only demon she was facing: she is adopted due to her Mom being infertile, her parents divorced after he had an affair, then her dad remarried and has a new baby on the way. Mickey has to find a way to make this her new-normal somehow. The tensions were high and emotions all over the place. Hence the reason Mickey chased that allusive high throughout the book because she wanted a break from reality, a small chance to feel good for even a short amount time. McGinnis was able to weave all of this together in the most fluid way imaginable.

This is going to be one story that stays with me for a very, very long time and I will not stop singing its praises anytime soon. There were parts that were difficult to get through, but that was a testament to McGinnis’ writing and her mastery of it. I would go into more detail about things that stood out to me but I really want you all to give this a chance. I know it is tough, the subject matter is not idea but I feel it is absolutely necessary. This kind of story happens every single day. This is not new but it is relevant and I am very thankful it is out in the world.

Review: Angel Thieves

Angel Thieves

I have a really strong feeling that I was not the right reader for this book. Why do I start my review that way? Simple: I did not understand what was going on and therefore did not enjoy the book. I wanted to because it had everything necessary to make a good story, but it never hooked me. I really believe one of the reasons I did not enjoy this as much was because one of the POV voices was that of a river. You read that right… a river.

I believe this story was about several smaller stories woven together throughout time to make one larger story. Those are difficult to manage and for me it was not successfully done here. There were three voices that I could pinpoint: a river, an ocelot, and some’s life that has something to do with an angel headstone. I know that’s rather vague, but the entire story felt vague. While the strange POV chapters – and I do mean strange, an ocelot as a voice? – felt scattered and flat, the entire story itself was not told in any particular order. I’m a pretty open minded reader but I could not get behind an ocelot and a river going on about how they keep their secrets year over year.

The bigger part of my reader brain really wanted more focus on the historical side of this story – the angel headstone. I wanted that to be the focus and while it was, the writer took the long way around her thumb to get to her elbow. Meaning, she took way too long to get to the point. There were several chapters that felt very unnecessary and went on for much longer than they needed to. I wanted character development… no, I needed it but it was nowhere to be found. I wanted the story and history of why the angel headstone was so bloody important to be given more depth but it was just not meant to be.

While this was a very quick read, it was the most confusing thing I have read in a long time (aside from Welcome to Night Vale). I’m not sorry I read it but I am gravely disappointed by what I read. I know several other readers have read and sincerely loved this book and it makes me wish I could have read it through their eyes. This was just not for me.

ARC Review: The Princess and the Fangirl

The Princess and the Fangirl (Once Upon a Con, #2)

**I received an advance copy from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. THANK YOU QUIRK BOOKS!**

Be still my geek loving heart. Not only do I openly and loudly love Ashley Poston, I absolutely love this world that she has created. It has everything my nerd side could ever want – cons, costumes, fandoms, swoony romances, seriously great humor, and more! I fangirled so hard over the first book in this series, Geekerella, that I could not wait to continue this story with Jess and Imogen. I’m here to tell you that Poston did not disappoint.

No doubt if you read Geekerella you had a little bit of a hate spot for Jess Stone. She wasn’t exactly the most likable character of the story. While that is undisputable, she was redeemed in this follow up novel. In this book Jess’ character was given the story she really did deserve. Her actions, thoughts, and feelings were given a backstory and I found myself viewing her in a whole new light. I found myself cheering her on and I never thought that would happen. But while Jess has her moment to shine, so does the Starfield fangirl with the pink hair, Imogen. Remember how Jess’ character, Princess Amara, did not have a happy ending during the Starfield movie? Imogen took to social media to start the campaign to save her. When both Jess and Imogen cross paths at ExcelsiCon, they never knew they would become so important to each other’s mission – Jess wants to save her career and Imogen wants to save the Princess. They find out that since they could pass for twins so they use this to their advantage. What could possibly go wrong?

Poston did a masterful job of not only showing the fun side of Cons, but the darker side of fandoms as well. Not everything can be puppies and rainbows, right? Poston brought to light just how nasty, hateful, and hurtful fans can be towards actors who play their beloved characters. It might not seem like much, but it gave me pause and made me wonder if I had ever been that harsh. Actors are people too. So are other fans so I have to remember that words and actions can still hurt. It also made me want to be mindful of my words to other fans as well. We are all humans with human emotions, so be excellent to one another. (that’s the bottom line!)

I’m trying SO HARD not to ruin anything for you! I’d love to gush about the romance(s) within the pages of this gem, but I won’t. I want you to WANT to pick up the book and read for yourself! Know that the LGBT was beautifully represented and it made my heart happy. Not only that – but characters from the first book make an appearance as well! You do not want to miss out on Elle & Darien, do you?!

Have I convinced you yet how amazing this story is? If I haven’t, I’m not sure what else I can say. It was everything I hoped it would be and more. It took place entirely at ExcelsiCon so you know it’s going to have an awesome setting; the characters are wonderfully complex and have the most amazing arcs I have read; romances are slow burning and worth the wait; and it made me smile from ear to ear. I’m still grinning as I write this review! Please… I’m begging you (do you see what you’ve made me do? I don’t normally beg but I am here) to please get this book when it comes out. Heck, pre-order it because you won’t be disappointed!

A reminder about the pre-order: There is a campaign going on right now! If you preorder, you get a SUPER CUTE story about Ell & Darien’s first date! ACK! You know you need this in your life. Here is the link to submit your receipts: https://www.quirkbooks.com/page/preorder-princess-and-fangirl-ashley-poston

Review: The Wild Lands

The Wild Lands

I’m not sure where to start with this one… I have said before how much I enjoy wilderness/survival stories. I always try to picture myself as the character(s) and wonder if I would be tough/brave/strong enough to survive. That is why I was excited to start this read. Another survival story (set in Alaska, no surprise there) and I’m game! Well, sadly this one fell flat of my expectations.

The main reason I did not give this a high rating (2.5 stars) was because it felt like just too much happened in the span of 300+ pages. I mean a lot. The story started out with Travis and his sister, Jess, setting out (with their parents) from their remote home to what they believe is a safe town/city hundreds of miles away. Of course things go from bad to worse when Travis and Jess lose their parents so early into the journey. These two band together and set out to continue the necessary adventure/journey in order to stay alive. Along the way they encounter all sorts of terrible people who want nothing more than to steal what these kids have (Travis is just 17, while Jess is only 10).

Herein lies my issue: you name the situation that could happen, these two ran into it. Wild bears? Check. Group of elderly people who only want to do harm to the kids? Check. People who end up being cannibals and want to keep these two for food? Check. A religious group that believes marrying off young girls to older men in hopes of repopulating based on some religious sign? Check. People eating rats and other small creatures? Check. Rogue group of teenage girls that made it safely out of a girls home? Check. It just continued like this throughout the entire story and it felt as if the author was trying to make up the most ridiculous possibilities ever. Now before you say, “But hey, it’s the end of the world and people are doing drastic things because they don’t know what else to do!” – I get it. Nobody can say exactly what they would do if this happened to them but it seemed like just SO MUCH was happening to these characters that it felt completely unbelievable. I found myself rolling my eyes more and more as the story continued.

I don’t dispute that these two could possibly survive longer than I ever could in the wilderness, but how they made it that far was beyond me. Travis’ character did not have the best of luck but everything felt convenient when it came to him getting out of trouble. He always “just so happened” to have the right tool/expertise/experience with whatever was going on and he was able to come out on the other side. Other than that, his character was just alright. There was nothing overly exciting about him. He certainly did not have a character arc so there was no growth for me to track. As for Jess… well, I could not stand her. She was all of 10 years old and it showed. This girl did nothing but whine like a brat. You would never know that her parents spent years teaching her and her brother to survive. This girl could not do anything but whine about being hungry or wanting to pet the dog. She was as immature as you could possibly imagine a 10 year old could be. I don’t think her character ever – EVER – realized just how serious their situation was and it showed. I wanted to box her ears so bad.

AND THAT ENDING. What in tar nation! I cannot tell you the last time I read a book that ended so abruptly and without any type of resolution. This was not the first book in a new series so I could not (and cannot) figure out why the author chose to end the way he did. The characters were in the midst of another “will these people help me?” situation and BOOM – end of book. What? What just happened? Frustration – that’s what happened.

Do I recommend this one? No, not really. There was not a lot of suspense because you just knew these kids would make it out of anything. Some situations were a little more gruesome than others but nothing I hadn’t read in a survival story before. I left this book feeling completely underwhelmed.