Design a site like this with WordPress.com
Get started

Progress Report by Roman Lando

Hi All!

I hope everyone’s week is off to a good start!

This week I read Progress Report by Roman Lando. As you may be aware from earlier posts, one of my goals this year is to read more books by male authors; therefore, when Roman reached out to me with this book with its intriguing synopsis, I said HELL YES!

There’s a lot to love about this book, so let’s dive in!

Genre:  Sci-Fi, Technothriller

Publication Date: December 10, 2022

Author Blurb:

AN ALIEN ARTIFACT. AN ACCIDENTAL DISCOVERY. A LOOMING NUCLEAR APOCALYPSE.

Art is a computer geek and retro electronics aficionado who just wants to be left alone. When he stumbles upon an alien artifact, he can’t help but try and find out its purpose. Instead, he finds himself in over his head, in the midst of what might just turn out to be the end of the world, and nobody except him knows the truth. A truth that certain factions don’t want to get out – at any cost.

It’s not paranoia when self-driving cars are out to get you. Can Art survive the hunt, and maybe save the world in the process?

Progress Report is a near-future technothriller for fans of Ready Player One, Daemon, and Bobiverse. It’s packed with action, humor, and a sense of the profound that will linger long after you’ve turned the last page.

What I liked about the book:

1. The book is mostly the story of a man retelling the events of what led him to where he is: currently stranded inside a spaceship, alone and with a dying cell phone battery. In fact, the chapter titles are the percentage left on his cell phone as he tells the tale, which I found a very interesting concept that added some tension to the overall story. Would we hear the whole story before the cell died? What would happen when it got to zero? I thought this was a genius take especially given the overall plot of the story.

Through the diary-like storytelling, I loved that the book was in the first person and the character was talking to the reader. Isn’t that one of the first things we learn in school we “aren’t allowed to do”? I can still remember my teachers slapping me with the verbal ruler: “you can’t talk to the audience, Britt”. So of course, I loved the rebellion of this!

2. I also loved that the writing was intellectual and witty. The high description, high cerebral writing style very much reminded me of Alan Moore meets Ray Bradbury, which was amazing as these are two of my all-time favorites. Overall, a huge plus for me.

3. This book had nerdy references and damn the man attitude up the wazoo and I was HERE FOR IT! I loved all the pop culture, geek culture, and counterculture thoughts that permeated the main character’s head at all times. It honestly made him very easy to love very early in the book.

4. I loved how the author took real life historical events and shaped them into occurrences controlled by the different alien factions. I enjoy learning about history, though I am generally terrible at it (I can’t remember dates and names to save my life!), but this brought the fun learning aspect in that I totally crave.

I looked up each of the historical events referenced throughout the book to make sure they were real events (like the briefcase that barely didn’t kill Hitler), and they were! The author definitely did his research or is a true history buff. Either way, the thought process that went into involving real life scenarios to fit his schema was beautifully done.

What could have been better:

1. I, personally, didn’t like how a lot of the chapters ended on thought cliffhangers. Meaning, a lot of the chapters ended in questions, quotes, etc. I get this was likely a tactic to get the reader to keep reading, but after a bunch of chapters doing this back-to-back, it became a tiny bit daunting and annoying.

Perhaps if this book was one you could quickly read and understand, that would have been fine, but the fact that this was a book that required mental digestion breaks to get through, it was a bit bothersome for me.

2. The romance aspect was definitely wanting. Art barely knew Tia but was thinking about her nonstop (or at least he told us he was).

Also, we got the lovely “she’s not like the other girls” thought process. Listen, if I’m spectacular, it’s not because of what’s between my legs, it’s because of what’s inside my brains, actions, and experiences. Let me correct that for you, “she’s not like other people.” There, much better.

3. At times I had to skim. It was a lot of words in places that weren’t really necessary. The author is obviously very knowledgeable about a lot of things, but I don’t need to know how the sausage is made every time. I’ll still trust you, I promise.

Final Thoughts:

It’s funny, it’s sci-fi, it’s historical, and it’s political. It was such a great read and I’m glad the author reached out to me to introduce this lovely piece of fiction to me. Thank you Roman!

Final Rating: 4 stars

Want to check out what else Roman is working on? Hop on over to his social media accounts using the below.

Goodreads | Website

While you’re at it, let’s be antisocial together!

Goodreads | Instagram | Gmail

PUB DAY: Last of the Talons

Happy Pub Day to Last of the Talons by Sophie Kim! If you haven’t checked out this beauty, now’s your chance!

My full review is available at this link: Check it out!

Don’t have time to read all my words of wisdom? I got you boo. Here’s a teaser of what to expect!

Interested in following Sophie Kim for updates on our favorite assassin and other cool books? Check out her profiles below:

Goodreads | Instagram | Twitter | Website

While you’re at it, let’s be antisocial together!

Goodreads | Instagram | Gmail

Illuminations by Alan Moore

Hello Babblers!

Question for you: what was the first graphic novel or comic book you read?

Mine, fortunately or unfortunately depending on the way you look at it, was Watchmen. I remember sitting in my high school boyfriend’s bedroom, perusing his bookshelf, when something about that bloody smiley face just called to me. Jumping from that to V for Vendetta and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, it was established: I was a complete and total Moore Whore.

That’s why I completely freaked out when I got my newest ARC from the man, the mystical, the legend!  

*My review below is based on the first 7 books in this collection

Genre: Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Adult Fiction

Publication Date: October 11, 2022

NetGalley Blurb:

From New York Times bestselling author Alan Moore-one of the most influential writers in the history of comics-“a wonderful collection, brilliant and often moving” (Neil Gaiman) which takes us to the fantastical underside of reality.

In his first-ever short story collection, which spans forty years of work, Alan Moore presents a series of wildly different and equally unforgettable characters who discover–and in some cases even make and unmake–the various uncharted parts of existence.

In “A Hypothetical Lizard,” two concubines in a brothel of fantastical specialists fall in love with tragic ramifications. In “Not Even Legend,” a paranormal study group is infiltrated by one of the otherworldly beings they seek to investigate. In “Illuminations,” a nostalgic older man decides to visit a seaside resort from his youth and finds the past all too close at hand. And in the monumental novella “What We Can Know About Thunderman,” which charts the surreal and Kafkaesque history of the comics industry’s major players over the last seventy-five years, Moore reveals the dark, beating heart of the superhero business.

From ghosts and otherworldly creatures to theoretical Boltzmann brains fashioning the universe at the big bang, Illuminations is exactly that–a series of bright, startling tales from a contemporary legend that reveal the full power of imagination and magic.

Hypothetical Lizard (46 pages) – 4 stars

Alan Moore has a way of weaving medical horrors grounded in Sci-Fi into everyday life in a way that is disturbing and completely unforgettable.

In Hypothetical Lizard, we meet our FMC, Som-Som, who is a Whore of Sorcerers at the House Without Clocks, which is basically a brothel dealing with exceptional requests. Som-Som was brought to the brothel and sold by her mother before having undergone a procedure where the connection between the two hemispheres of her brain were severed. A mask was placed over half her face, and a thick glove was installed on her hand. All of this acted to destroy the connections between her ability to intake things and output others in response (her thoughts and actions do not matchup). Essentially, she can see and hear, but any response is a non sequitur. This makes her perfect to be the Whore of Sorcerers, who apparently can’t be trusted to keep their mouths’ quiet during the act…

While this background is given, the story really focuses on Som-Som’s transexual friend Rawra Chin and her abusive partner Foral Yatt. We watch Rawra go from this courageous individual who leaves the House Without Clocks seeking (and finding) success, only to come back for love and be reminded of why no one can be trusted, especially with a smile like his.

Side note: I just read Moore’s Fashion Beast and I definitely got the feeling these were written around the same time in his career. If you enjoyed the overall feel of that one, you’ll love this one!

Not Even Legend (15 pages) – 3 stars

This short was obviously more current than the last, given there was the reference to COVID, but also because of Moore’s more modern style of writing. While this story still had his elements of sci-fi and general what-the-fuck-is-going-on -ness, it was definitely less chaotic and intellectual than his normal writing style. I loved the ideas of what was happening in this story (different alien lifeforms and whatnot), but I’m not sure I loved it as a Moore story. I also felt this should have been much longer. I would read more of this though, as I feel it has potential (uuugggghhhhh and now I just feel pretentious saying that about Alan Fucking Moore! Who SAYS that!?!?)

Location, Location, Location (35 pages) –  5 stars

Jesus is inheriting the family business and it’s fantastic! I loved this one the most given it was quick, it was cerebral, and it brought that beautiful sexual undertone that Moore has to the surface, complete with a cinnamon-roll Jez.  

This one had me feeling all kinds of things (I should mention that my sexual awakening came from the hands of Alan Moore in the form of Black Dossier, because, you know, I’m not a big enough nerd as it is…). I loved the ending, where, if I’m interpreting correctly, she was led into the Garden of Eden hungry. I do not know why this spelled out the perfect set up for reverse harem Jesus-Devil-Angie scenario, but now I, someone who does not like sharing, need this devil’s threeway in my life!!!

Cold Reading (17 pages) – 5 stars

An “opportunistic” medium gets more than he bargained for in this ghastly tale!

This was witty, character-driven, and a sure start to a horror novel that I would push everything in my life away to read.

Moore’s ability to take common, reality-based fears and turn them into something disconcerting is one of my favorite talents of his. For real though, what’s scarier than something that could happen? Ghosts, aliens, and unknowns? Something about these subjects gets me a little more on the edge of my seat than the definite non-realities of zombies, vampires, etc. And, boy, does he craft them well.

Also, his ability to develop a character and his/her traits within minutes of reading is so good and probably the reason I refuse to like stories with characters reminiscent of cardboard. I’ve been spoiled as a Moore Whore, thus I have standards…

The Improbably Complex High-Energy State (37 pages) – 5 stars

I found this story to be peak Moore: full of scientific processes that tickle your cerebral cortex while normalizing sex.

The best way to describe this one is the evolution of a being, starting from nothing and eventually falling into the normal pitfalls of arrogance, judgment, and yearning for omnipotence. Definitely not lite reading, but definitely interesting.    

Illuminations (17 pages) – 2 stars

The titular short left a lot to be desired for me. I can’t even fully articulate what the hell this was about, other than a man having a mid-life crisis and never coming back from it. This draaaagged hardcore for me.

What We Can Know About Thunderman (241 pages) – 4 stars

This story, which takes up a majority of the total page count, shows an interesting set of interconnected lives belonging to persons in the comic industry.

I liked the shifting of timelines and perspectives in this. It definitely had a very Pulp Fiction feel to me, which is always a plus.

It had death, murder, pornography, Americana, and pop culture. This definitely also had Moore’s feelings towards movies never being able to live up to the comic books they try to recreate expressed, which was cool to see.

Overall, I feel I would have enjoyed this better if I had any idea who these people were supposed to represent or knew more about the comic book industry itself, but it was still a fun, easy read.

Final (Average) Rating: 4 stars!

Thank you to NetGalley, Bloomsbury Publishing, and Alan Moore for this book in exchange for my honest review!

Enjoy what you read? Click those like and follow buttons!

While you’re at it, let’s be antisocial together!

Goodreads | Instagram | Gmail

The Fallen Witch by Emma V.R. Noyes

Genre: Fantasy, Sci-fi, Romance

Publication Date: May 24, 2022

Rating: 4.5 embrace-your-darkness stars!

Goodreads Blurb:
BOOK 2 IN THE CAPTIVATING SUNKEN CITY TRILOGY

Amare Bellamy never meant to get married. She had a simple plan: rescue the Captain, rendezvous with the crew, and escape the Sunken City. But when her father bumps up the wedding without notice, she has no choice but to comply⁠—that is, until Lukas shows up.

Lukas presents Amare with an ultimatum: break into Skullhaven and collect the ring that could raise the Fallen Witch, or watch her friends die. She agrees, under the contingency that, once their mission is complete, they never speak again. Amare is dead set on sticking to this plan… until she finds out they must pose as a married couple to get inside Skullhaven. Cornered, she agrees to keep up the ruse until they can get the ring and get out.

But what happens when their fake marriage starts to feel not so fake at all?

Review [spoilers ahead!]:
AHHHHHH!!!! Emma did it! She wrote and published a great sequel just 4 months after her debut novel!!! (shameless self-promotion: link to my review of book 1)

How did my predictions from book one play out?:
– Her dad is definitely bad Check
– Finn may be bad or he may be misguided by his loyalty to her dad. I kind of have a feeling he will come around, but will still do his bidding far longer than he should. So happy to report I was wrong.
– Her mom was murdered by her dad/his people, not turned on by the mchawi Check (kinda)
– Her mom may or may not be the Fallen Witch, and that is why the Fallen Witch wants to get to her I mean, it hasn’t been confirmed or denied, it’s just been implied. I’m sticking with this one
– Uncle Omar knew more than he let on and that is why she was trained but kept safe at all times Check
– She will end up with Lukas and all will be explained later Check
– Maoke will die, but as a good and redeemed person Remains to be seen, still keeping this prediction
– Shoa and Amare will stay on the Winter Rose, Amare may become captain while Shoa is the healer/oracle aboard, effectively blending all of the parts of her life: pirate, sereia, and mchawi! Remains to be seen, still keeping this prediction

What I liked about the book:
1. Similar to book one, this book was very, very well written technically. There were no/close to no errors in grammar or spelling, the details were very imaginative, and the book flowed so well I racked up pages in no time at all.

I also appreciated how throughout the book Emma gracefully layered in reminders from book one that readers may have forgotten all the details to.

2. While book one introduced us to such incredible worldbuilding that was meticulous and so well thought-out, book two was able to pick up with that foundation and expand beautifully. I liked how this book casually tossed in new types of baddies, without drilling to much into them to be overwhelming.

I also loved how this book fully dove into the magic. Between Amare’s structured lessons with Lyra and Kawai, her very unstructured lessons with Maoke, and her enlightening lessons with Lukas, Amare was able to transform from not being able to control or use her magic effectively, to saving everyone in the final scenes with her magic. I loved how everyone had an all-hands-on-deck approach with teaching her to use her magic and ultimately how she gave in and gave us all a show at the end! Also, is anyone surprised that the only person to have the same issues/powers when it came to magic was the Fallen Witch???

Can’t wait to see how else these two are alike!

3. I enjoyed how the author gave the King understandable motives for doing everything he’s done. Do I agree with them? Absolutely not. Do they make sense for an arrogant king who wants to rule the world? Yes, they do.

4. The characters continued to be fantastic!

I liked watching Amare change her attitude towards her darkness and actually embrace it like Lukas and Moake had told her to all along. The book does a great job of showing her struggle and how she mentally held herself back from fully embracing her true self and came close to having something akin to panic attacks. It was very relatable as someone with low confidence. I do worry about how much she embraced it though. Is she going to be a good witch or a bad witch???

Lukas, Lukas, Lukas. God how I love him. I loved how cheeky he was and how he put himself and Amare in a fake marriage and then tormented her with it. He truly had it bad for Amare and he admitted it! When he said he loved her? OH MY GAWD! He did it in the total Lukas-y way of yelling it at someone, but he did it nonetheless! And he still calls her love, which is everything for me 😉I also loved seeing his love for his brother, especially in his silly little riddle. He truly loves his brother and I’m looking forward to watching them grow closer in the next book (hopefully!)

I liked how for the first half of the book Finn really stuck to his guns about disassociating himself from Amare. She really did do him dirty, and the fact that passive, loyal Finn was able to basically tell her to ABCDEFU made him such a stronger character in my book and I really liked seeing this from him. In the first book, he was my least favorite character because he was so vanilla and was obviously not the brother I wanted Amare ending up with, but this book turned around his character for me. He’s still no Lukas, but I do like him a lot more now.

Shoa was amazing in this book! I loved learning about her history with Lukas and why she fully supported Amare choosing him over Finn. Shoa was definitely the voice of reason and I’m so glad she was there. I also loved seeing all the crazy-ass shit she was going through with her Oracle powers. That has not been resolved yet, but I just know something big is coming!

Maoke was downplayed a bit in this, but when she was there, she had my full attention! She is so charming and at her core a very, very good person. I loved watching her take little steps with Shoa, and when she called her darling? It was all sooooo good! I usually hate that endearment, but somehow it worked more for me than love at times.

I loved seeing Uncle Omar again, and how he embraced Amare despite her newfound abilities. He is such a good guardian and truly the only “parent” Amare has. I definitely called that he knew more than he was letting on after book one!

4. I was pleasantly surprised that the author touched on characters almost having sex and went into the issue of giving consent. All I’m thinking when reading those scenes between Lukas and Amare:

5. Amare’s way of describing weddings as torture and what her ideal wedding would be brought back soooooo many memories from my own wedding! When I got married, I only cared about the dress and wearing converse…definitely should have eloped instead!

6. Since I am in a super lovey-dovey, summer vibes mood and I’ve been blasting the below Taylor Swift song for the last month, I’m going to share some of my favorite lines from the book.

“Has anyone ever told you that you’re extra adorable when you’re silently plotting my murder?”

– Oh, this boy.

—–

“That isn’t love, Amare.”

“What do you mean?”

“Love…And I’m not talking about puppy love, here. I’m not talking about a crush. I’m talking about real love, the kind you travel across oceans for, that writers pen stories about. Real love comes with no strings attached. No contingencies. You don’t have to check certain boxes. You don’t have to change for them.” He reaches up a hand and lays it on my cheek. His thumb brushes lightly along my jaw. His voice lowers to a husky murmur. “When it’s real, they love you in your entirety. And you should settle for nothing less.”

– Could he BE any more perfect???

—–

“Did you…did you think I was going to…to force myself on you?”

“No. No, of course not. I just thought…I thought that this must be what you’re used to with other girls, and if I said no, then you would-”

“That I would be angry,” he finishes for me. He shakes his head, and I can tell that his is angry. Furious, even. I’m about to open my mouth and apologize, but then Lukas shifts me in his arms, cradling me with one elbow and using his opposite hand to cradle my face. His eyes burn into mine. With deadly quiet, he says, “Amare Bellamy, I will never, ever, ever force you to do that. The fact that you even considered that I would be mad at you for saying no…it makes me sick. And it does make me angry, but not with you.” He pauses to brush his thumb along my hairline. “With every man, both above water and below, that has ever made you think you owe them one godsdamn thing.”

– God bless, Lukas Mason! Also, a man who knows how to use his hands for love just as much for fun is such a turn on!

—–

What could have been better:
1. I usually love love-triangles, but this one annoyed me a bit. It was fine the first couple of times Amare flipped back and forth, but after a point, I thought she had made up her mind, and then she was questioning it again. It grew a little old for me, especially when it was clear from book one that it was going to be Lukas. It was ALWAYS going to be Lukas.

Going into book 3 of this trilogy, here are my thoughts:
– Phoebe is going to be bad. You can’t kill someone and bring them back to life and have them be the same person. I’ve seen Practical Magic, it doesn’t work that way!
– Does this mean Finn will end up with Cora? They’re the only two left who aren’t with someone. I kinda hate this idea.
– Her mom may or may not be the Fallen Witch, and that is why the Fallen Witch wants to get to Amare.
– Shoa’s mom, the oracle of the kingdom, yeah, she knows something.

“Besides us, Or. Morgan smiles serenely, as if this scene neither bothers nor surprises her.”

Mmmmhmmmm…….

– Maoke will die, but as a good and redeemed person
– Shoa and Amare will stay on the Winter Rose, Amare may become captain while Shoa is the healer/oracle aboard, effectively blending all of the parts of her life: pirate, sereia, and mchawi!
– Amare will turn over the kingdom to Finn

Can’t wait for the final installment release in December!

Last of the Talons by Sophie Kim

Genre: Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Teens/Young Adult, Mythology

Publication Date: September 27, 2022

Rating: 4 love-is-a-battlefield stars!

Quote that sums up the book:“Kill or be killed. But what if neither of us wants to land the final blow? What if the connection we have transcends the rules of our game?”

NetGalley Blurb:
“Last of the Talons is a stunning blend of dark romance and Korean mythology. Sophie Kim writes enemies to lovers with heart-pounding intensity, blurring the line between love and hate. Bloodthirsty, addictive, and searingly romantic.” —Axie Oh, New York Times bestselling author of The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea

After the destruction of her entire Talon gang, eighteen-year-old Shin Lina—the Reaper of Sunpo—is forced to become a living, breathing weapon for the kingdom’s most-feared crime lord. All that keeps her from turning on her ruthless master is the life of her beloved little sister hanging in the balance. But the order to steal a priceless tapestry from a Dokkaebi temple incites not only the wrath of a legendary immortal, but the beginning of an unwinnable game…

Suddenly Lina finds herself in the dreamlike realm of the Dokkaebi, her fate in the hands of its cruel and captivating emperor. But she can win her life—if she kills him first.

Now a terrible game of life and death has begun, and even Lina’s swift, precise blade is no match for the magnetic Haneul Rui. Lina will have to use every weapon in her arsenal if she wants to outplay this cunning king and save her sister…all before the final grain of sand leaks out of the hourglass.

Because one way or another, she’ll take Rui’s heart.

Even if it means giving up her own.

Review:
Last of the Talons is the debut novel, and first book in the Talon’s series, by Sophie Kim and I absolutely adored it! The MCs were perfect, the Korean mythology was super interesting, and the writing was very descriptive and pretty.

I went back and forth so much on if this was a 4-star or 4.5-star read for me, but ultimately, the little things that could have been better added up, earning this 4 stars.

Given the unfinished business of this story, I really hope the sequel is not too far out!

What I liked about the book:
1. I love books based on mythology! When done well, they always seems to just have an extra “it” factor for me, and the worldbuilding is usually dynamite!

Although I am not familiar with the Gods and stories mentioned in this book (other than the Pied Piper, of course), I found all of the minor and major stories that played out super interesting!

2. The main characters were phenomenal! I mean, just look at this gorgeous art!

Shin Lina was the epitome of an underdog who was forced to become a badass. She was a victim of circumstance who was left no choice but to create this incredible persona of the Reaper of Sunpo in order to keep herself and her little sister safe. The fact that she was this deadly assassin to the world, but this loving sister/de facto parent to her sister, showed how complex of a character she was.

At times, she reminded me of a lot of Quentin Tarantino’s badass females, specifically from the Kill Bill franchise. She reminded me of Gogo Yubari because she could be sadistic and arrogant, she thought of killing her enemies in a slow, painful manner and she thought she could survive any fight. She reminded me of O-Ren Ishii because of her well-renowned assassin status and her drive for revenge. Finally, she reminded me of Beatrix Kiddo because of her ability to survive and her trainings with the Talons being similar to Kiddo’s trainings with Pai Mei. I found all of these qualities to make total sense given Lina’s background and the “character flaws” made her even better in my eyes.

I also loved how the author wrote about the dark, slithering thoughts she had in her quietest moments. It was totally relatable and made you feel so sorry for this tortured, angry woman.

Haneul Rui, aka the Pied Piper, was exactly what I wanted in the emperor and Lina’s enemy-to-lover, cat vs. mouse opponent! He was mysterious, sultry, and a total risktaker. I loved watching him completely change his tune (no pun intended) when it came to Lina and how he made her fall for him. He is definitely one of those guys that produced an eerie calmness over me, frequently having sent delicious shivers and goosebumps through me.

As for his appearance, I must be playing too much Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite lately because I could not help but picture Jedah when I read Rui, and it worked for me more than I ever thought Jedah could…

Also, he lovingly called her little thief and he wrote poems about love!! Fucking swoon!

Similar to Lina, he could be sadistic and arrogant, as well as mysterious to the point of annoyance. He best start telling us his secrets in the next one, or he’s going to start losing my favor…just kidding, boo, I love you.

3. I loved how Lina saved Rui! I honestly thought, with her basically being out of commission towards the end of the book, we were going to have Rui saving her and I was deeply upset by this. I thought it was stupid that she wasn’t going to get a say in the final fight when she had proven herself as this total boss the whole story, but luckily, Sophie Kim didn’t do us dirty!

4. Some of my favorite lines:

“Orders do not always require obedience. Demands do not always hold dominance over what is right.”

———

“He underestimates me. And I will use that to my advantage.”

———

“You don’t find the rebellion. The rebellion finds you.”

———

“The effect of his gaze is draining and relieving all at once.”

– Giiiirl, you got it bad.

———

“Cannot imagine the privilege of being bored, for I have been fighting for my life for years – as an impoverished child, as an orphan on the streets of Sunpo, as a Talon, as a Blackblood, as the Pied Piper’s captive. I have never been bored. I’ve never been given the chance.”

———

“There’s no need to be jealous. I didn’t dance with any of them.”

“Why?”

“Well, I find that the possibility my dance partner may stab me to death at any moment adds a certain thrill that simply cannot be replicated by those who are not determined to stab me to death.”

———

“Rui is holding me. Delicately, like I’m made of brittle, breaking glass…But firmly, like he knows every battle I have won, every fight I have fought. Every droplet of blood I have spilled and delighted in.”

– UGGGGGHHHH, a fictional man is holding my heart prisoner again

———

“I hate that I love the way my name sounds on his lips.”

———

“So kiss me or kill me, Shin Lina. You’ll find that I’ll enjoy either equally.”

– STAHP!

What could have been better:
1. I felt like the mystery around SA (Rui’s former lover) was not lived up to with the couple paragraphs explanation at the very end. I was expecting much more from how much mystery was put around this and it just fell flat.

2. I really didn’t see the point of any of Rui’s counselors other than Kang. Hana offered nothing in character or in story development, and Chan wasn’t much better. With so many side characters already, I didn’t really see their value.

3. Format wise, one criticism I had was that things written as notes between characters were not clearly formatted as such, i.e. no punctuation or italicizing to make it truly feel like a note. This was confusing at times as you didn’t know it was a note from one character to another versus an internal thought until you reached the end, causing you to have to reread it.

Special thank you to NetGalley, Entangled Publishing, and Sophie Kim for the opportunity to read this book for free. I am voluntarily leaving my honest review. Make sure you add this one to your TBR and check it out on release day, September 27!

Interested in following Sophie Kim for updates on our favorite assassin and other cool books? Check out her profiles below:

Goodreads | Instagram | Twitter | Website

While you’re at it, let’s be antisocial together!

Goodreads | Instagram | Gmail

The Curious Life of Ada Baker by Karen Hamilton-Viall

Genre: Sci-Fi, Fantasy, New Adult, Mystery/Thriller, Paranormal

Publication Date: September 27, 2022

Rating: 4 curious stars!

NetGalley Blurb:

‘Ada Baker was a psychic. She was the seventh daughter of two parents who were both seventh children. And she had been gifted with some extraordinary powers.’

Ada Baker is a gifted psychic, who shares her home with three very bored ghosts. Spending their days roaming around Ada’s house offers little amusement, and so the three of them convince Ada to help them investigate the mysterious death of local beauty Mary Watts, who is found naked and strangled in her bathtub. This begins a series of exciting adventures for Ada, as she draws on her unique skills to help solve this heinous crime. Along the way, she must convince a skeptical detective of her aptitude for channeling the abilities of the dead, avoid the unwanted attentions of a sinister stalker, and try to enlist the help of a squadron of ghostly spitfire pilots to save her own life.

Can the dead really bring justice for Mary and help save the living too? Will Ada solve the mystery of her murder? Or will Ada’s curiosity lead to her own demise, causing her to end up as a ghost herself?

Review:

The Curious Life of Ada Baker is the first book in what is sure to be a smashing series of paranormal crime novels about the titular psychic. Ada is a relatively normal woman, except for the whole living with ghosts and allowing them to use her body thing…it’s not what it sounds like!

With the help of her ghostly friends, a skeptical detective, and a hermit librarian who possesses paranormal skills of his own, Ada Baker is on the hunt for a killer in this “supernatural cozy crime novel.”  

Perfect for fans of dry British humor and the Riley Thorn series by Lucy Score!

What I liked about the book:

1. I can’t say that I’ve read a book where a human could not only hear and see the dead, but could also channel the abilities they had in life too, but I found this super interesting! For example, one of Ada’s ghostly roommates, Mrs. E, was a cook when she was alive, so Ada could simply let her in her body and Mrs. E could cook a five-course meal using Ada’s body to prepare it. I loved this concept and was sure some bad ghost was going to take control of Ada at some point.

2. I loved that the ghosts had different abilities. For example, most ghosts could not touch or move things, but some, who were called poltergeists, did have that ability. I loved watching Dennis hone this ability of his and help Inspector Jolly learn as well! Their ghost friendship around this was just the sweetest thing to me.

3. All of the main characters were fantastic.

Ada – I liked how Ada really owned her interesting abilities, wasn’t afraid to claim them even in front of skeptical people, and she really was just a normal woman. Ada could have come across as a real weirdo, but she came across as someone you would definitely want to be friends with, which was great.

I especially loved Ada and her roommates! They really had the feel of a true family, even though Ada was the only living one. I totally saw Mrs. E as the mom with her prim ways and always wanting to cook a decent meal, Dennis as the dad with his advice and always wanting to watch his Old Western television marathons, and Rose as the spunky sister who always wanted to be involved in whatever Ada was doing. I also loved how Ada always set them a place for tea or dinner, despite them not being able to consume, just so they felt included. This was one hell of a found family and I loved it!

Matlock was my second choice for Ada, after Jian Lee, her Kung Fu classmate. After I quickly realized that Jian was not going to be a large part of this story and we were then introduced to Matlock, I fell madly in love with the idea of her with Matlock. Matlock and Ada were complete opposites in personality, but they had a lot in common with their backstories and their view on the world. When it came down to it, they were both caring people who liked to help others and who would take a bullet for those they love. I can’t wait to see these two come together, because why wouldn’t they!?!?!?  

Inspector Jolly was so confident and trustworthy that as soon as he said Matlock was a good person, I instantly believed him. Inspector Jolly was definitely one of the good ones in life and I laughed so hard when he came up with the ghost police force. Of course a career inspector like himself couldn’t just give it up, even in death!

Neville, Neville, Neville. I totally thought you were going to be involved with the murder because you were jealous of anyone else who showed affection towards Ada, you also had paranormal abilities, and you wanted to be right by Ada’s side solving the mystery. Because of this, I didn’t really give you the time of day, despite you being as awkward (read: adorable!) as the most famous Neville, Neville Longbottom. I guess you were alright after all. I kinda want you to end up with Astrid Starlight, the owner of the crystal/energy reading shop who was introduced and helped Ada at the very end of the story. I want to see more of her and I think you would be adorable together as the awkward dude and sunshine lady.  

William Kent was the right amount of creepy that you wanted to know just what the hell his deal was! He was interesting and totally gave me the unsettling feelings similar to Buffalo Bill in Silence of the Lambs. I want to know more, but at the same time I don’t…

4. I liked how the story wasn’t simply a murder mystery. Even when the mystery of who murdered Mary was closed, there were still so many things the author can, and likely will, expand on. We still need to know who killed Inspector Jolly and what the hell William Kent is doing!!!

5. I liked how there is no way in a million years you could have seen coming who the killer was.

I wildly oscillated at first between this being aggravating and fantastic, but I have made up my mind that it was great. I liked not being able to solve this one…but just this one.

6. Some of my favorite quotes from the book:

“It wasn’t that Ada didn’t believe in God, it was only that she’d never felt the need to go to a special place to speak to him.”

– Couldn’t agree more, sis.

“All it takes for evil to prosper is for good men to do nothing.”

– So true!

“I bought you some chocolate bars. I’ve heard hospital food is pretty bad.” Neville certainly knew the way to a girls heart.

What could have been better:

1. I didn’t like any of the side characters really, they all fell a bit flat. I’m not sure if it’s because I was on the hunt for the murderer so I trusted none of them, or if they really were very dull, but I couldn’t really get to a good place with any of them. The good news is, we will probably not have to deal with them going forward!

2. I didn’t love all the love interests floating around and Ada going heels-to-Jesus with, in my opinion, the wrong guy. He totally had a creepy Jeff Goldblum feel to him (which I will never forgive as I love Jeff Goldblum) and I hated it.

Special thank you to NetGalley, Cranthorpe Millner Publishers, and Karen Hamilton-Viall for the opportunity to read this book for free. I am voluntarily leaving my honest review.

Follow along with Karen through her next adventures with Ada:

Instagram | Twitter | Blog

While you’re at it, let’s be antisocial together!

Goodreads | Instagram | Gmail

Marionette by Antonia Rachel Ward

Genre: Horror, Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Erotica

Publication Date: August 16, 2022

Rating: 3 stars!

Trigger warnings:

  • References to suicide
  • Violence
  • Mutilation
  • Dubcon

NetGalley Blurb:
On the run from a life of prostitution and poverty, exotic dancer Cece Dulac agrees to become the main attraction at an erotic séance hosted by an enigmatic mesmerist, Monsieur Rossignol. As the séance descends into depravity, Cece falls prey to Rossignol’s hypnotic power and becomes possessed by a malevolent spirit.

George Dashwood, an aspiring artist, witnesses the séance and fears for Cece. He seeks her out and she seduces him, but she is no longer herself. The spirit controlling her forces her to commit increasingly depraved acts. When the spirit’s desire for revenge escalates to murder, George and Cece must find a way to break Rossignol’s spell before Cece’s soul is condemned forever.

Marionette is an erotic horror novella inspired by traditional folk tales and set in fin de siècle Paris.

What I liked about the book:

1. That cover is gorgeous! It gives me pin up + Rob Zombie feels.

2. It was a super quick read as it’s a novella.

3. I loved the descriptions in this book, as well as the Paris setting. It was all very pretty to read. It had a very Moulin Rouge! feel to it, especially with George being a sweet artist and Cece being the starlet.

4. I also liked the mystical/paranormal feel to it. It was simple enough to not be convoluted, but enough of a story to want to see it through to the end.

What could have been better:

1. More time spent developing the characters would have had me more invested in them.

2. The romance really felt one-sided, which I didn’t enjoy as I found George to be a sweetie.

3. This book was marketed as erotica, but I personally didn’t see it that way. Yes, there is sex and some taboo things, but nothing crazy that I haven’t seen in books purely marketed as romance. This tag is a bit of a stretch.

4. The ending was pretty jarring. I felt there was so much build up for a sudden change of plans on Selena’s part and everything came crashing down super fast. I would have appreciated not having a shock happen in the last 20 pages or so, as it just felt dizzying and out of place.

5. Most disappointing was I got the feel from the synopsis that Cece and George would be working together to solve the mystery, but there was barely any interaction between the two. I was looking for partners solving a mystery and I didn’t get that.

Special thank you to NetGalley, Brigids Gate Press, LLC., and Antonia Rachel Ward for the opportunity to read this book for free. I am voluntarily leaving my honest review.

Slayer of the Undead by Atley Wykes

Genre: Sci-Fi, Horror, Romance

Publication Date: June 28, 2022

My Rating: 4 congratulations-you-survived-the-apocalypse stars!

Goodreads Blurb:
Who could love the woman who ended the world?

I watched the city burn, knowing it was my fault. Now, I’m trying to take down the people responsible for the zombie scourge spreading across the Northwest—my family. But the gorgeous new bodyguard that my father insists watch me 24/7 is unknowingly stopping my plans at every turn. When I kiss him in a ploy to distract him from his duties, I’m the one left panting and wanting more. Though I know it would never work between us. How can anyone love me after what I’ve done?

Review:
Avery Knight, humble scientist specializing in Ophiocordyceps (aka, the zombie disease) and reluctant heir to Mycovartis (aka, the evil corporation with the only medication to prevent the disease), is having a bad day. Not only did she get attacked in the museum during the events of book 1 (yeah, remember the lady Penelope saved? That was her), but she has also been accurately accused of corporate espionage.

While attempting to steal Ophiocordyceps from the museum to gain greater scientific knowledge (ultimately for honorable reasons!), she gets caught up in her father and ex-boyfriend’s web of trying to release more Ophiocordyceps into society to jack up the prices of their precious medication.

Once returning from quarantine after the events of book 1, Avery is determined to make amends for all the destruction she feels responsible for. Her plan: to steal the medicinal formula, release it to Mycovartis’s competitors, and bring down her own company.

Unfortunately, she has been assigned a bodyguard by her father to watch over her and all of her activities…Enter Nick Jeong, the sexy-as-sin Navy Seal, who just happens to be good friends with Ethan and Alex from books 1 and 2 from their days in DEVGRU Black Squadron. So in case you’re keeping score, that’s three bad-ass females with three scorching hot snipers.

But that’s not enough, right? Remember those people Alex and Ivy saw Mycovartis rounding up off the streets in book 2? They’ve been located…in Mycovartis’s labs…as experiments. And Avery is going to get them out if it’s the last thing she does.

Can this corporate spy with a heart of gold redeem herself for her past indiscretions? Can her strong/silent type bodyguard help his Princess escape the clutches of her evil father? Together can they finally end this zombie apocalypse once and for all?

What I liked about the book:
1. Ok, I’m stealing my number 1 from my previous reviews of this series. Let’s start with how this book was basically written for me.

– Zombies with super sciencey progression patterns
– Crazy action scenes complete with a flame thrower a boat high speed chases (bonus points to the author for having Avery drive like a bat out of hell rather than Nick!)
– A quickly dwindling time limit before the city is ravaged by a fire
– A sassy female main character with a guilty conscience and honorable intentions
– Steamy, steamy romance with a possessive Navy Seal

This book was the perfect wrap up to the zombie trilogy that will always hold a special place in my heart!

2. While Alex from book 2 is my book boyfriend from this series, Nick was a great runner-up! He was a bit too stoic for me at times, but when he really opened up I loved him.

When he said,

“You don’t look at her. You look at me,”

I swooned SO HARD. Oh, and when he said this little gem during their exchange,

“Yes, sir.” I saluted him and he grinned, leaning close to whisper in my ear. “You can call me ‘sir’ whenever you want.”

I about fell out my damn chair!

While we didn’t get to see too much of it between his stoic moments contrasted with his affectionate moments, mark my words, Nick Jeong is into roleplay and I’m totally good with that!

3. Shoutout to the author for the continued racial representation of the male characters, and her special treat to us readers with Nick’s “hooded warrior”!

4. I loved how Avery knew she was in some deep sh*t, but she still kept fighting to save people despite “knowing” she was going to end up in a jailcell by the end of this. That shows just how good of a person she is, especially given her horrible upbringing! I don’t know where these morals came from, but she certainly had them in spades.

5. I loved the wrap up of the political/corporate issues and I thought this was a great end to a lovely series.

What didn’t do it for me:
1. As I feared, despite Avery being great, she just didn’t live up to Ivy and Penelope. I don’t know if it was the guilt that riddled the entire book that eventually got me down or if she just wasn’t as “strong” of a character to me, but I liked her the least.

2. This book felt like it was much shorter (don’t fact-check me on that), which meant it felt a little rushed to me. I felt the romance could have been developed more and more insight could have been given to Nick’s character. I felt the romance in this one was the least developed and realistic.

3. Again with the single POV…

Thank you to Booksprout, the publishers, and Atley Wykes for this entire series in exchange for my honest reviews! Make sure you check out the first 2 books in the series in time for this one’s release on June 28!

Survivor of the Undead by Atley Wykes

Genre: Sci-Fi, Horror, Romance

Publication Date: May 31, 2022

Rating: 4.5 breathtaking stars!

Quote that sums up the book: “Looks like I’ve found my entertainment for the next day. Irritating Alex. I almost rubbed my hands in anticipation. This would be fun.”

Goodreads Blurb:
This big, scary-looking dude can’t be here for me… can he?

When I found out my sister was trapped in the Institute, I jumped on a plane and rushed home, determined to be the one to take care of her for once. Of course, that didn’t happen. Now I’m trying to escape from a zombie-infested city that’s about to be razed, waiting for my sister to bail me out… again. So when my savior arrives in the form of a giant, grumpy former Navy SEAL, I can’t help but needle him, regardless of how gorgeous he is. His long-suffering sighs when I insist on eating gummy bears as we dodge zombie attacks make survival fun. I’m only teasing him to entertain myself, not because his smiles make my breath catch. Right?

Review:
Ivy Baylor, hippie, fun-loving, party-girl, is having a bad day. Not only did she have to wait on standby and watch the horrifying events of book 1 (my review here!) that plagued her sister play out on television, but now she’s flown across the world and can’t even talk to her…Oh, and there’s the little issue of zombies taking over their city.

While always playing up the little sister card, she now has to depend on herself and what she remembers from her sister’s rants about the Infected in order to survive. Securing herself in her apartment with her sister’s medication and a good ole’ cast-iron skillet, Ivy decides to hunker down. That is until a 6’6 hunk with tan skin, black hair, and a Navy Seal background shows up to help her get out of the city. Did I mention she has a relationship ban?…because that always works out well.

Sent by his good friend Ethan to retrieve Ivy, Alex is jaded and surly and wants a good little lamb who can follow his directions to get out of the city…but does he really? Who REALLY wants that???

Together, these “partners” will take down hordes of zombies, men with strong Deliverance vibes, and a city-wide explosion, saving one another countless times.

Can Alex realize that all work and no play is not the way? Can little Ivysaur evolve in more ways than one?

What I liked about the book:
1. Ok, I’m stealing my number 1 from my review of book 1. Let’s start with how this book was basically written for me.

– Zombies with super sciencey progression patterns (bonus points to Ivy for remembering all that sh*t I’m sure she only half listened to her sister talk about)
– Crazy action scenes complete with a flame thrower boat speeding away from a bombed city just in time
– A quickly dwindling time limit before the city is bombed
– A sunshine female main character with a chip on her shoulder about men
– Steamy, steamy romance with a Navy Seal who shows her not all men are the same

This book had all the elements I love in one story! With all the action and scenery changes, this felt like a goddamn Bruce Willis movie, and I loved it.

2. Ok, I thought Ethan was good in the last book…but Alex is the man! He has a dirty mouth, he builds motorcycles, and he was a sniper. Ummm…hello! Was Atley Wykes trying to write to me specifically when she dreamed up Alex Lacota??? If so, she succeeded!

3. I absolutely loved Ivy!!! She was so optimistic, but also careful. I loved how she was so invested in everyone else and really had a group mentality. And who couldn’t love her little candy addiction? She perfectly walked the hippie-badass line I aspire to walk.

4. In book 1, I think Atley was getting her feet settled (which, I mean, fanfuckingtastic job for a debut novel right there!), but she really came into her writing style in this book. The character development was much more prevalent and there were less out of place scenes.

5. I loved how this one brought in even more political intrigue. There is definitely something messed up going on here and I can’t wait to find everything out! National guard sets up an evacuation zone but then doesn’t tell anyone where it is? Cable is working but internet isn’t?? The company in charge of the medication that fights the infection is rounding up people off the street to be test subjects???

6. I loved how many times she saved him! I’m a sucker for the FMC saving the MMC, and it happened several times in this book!

What didn’t do it for me:
1. The single POV is killing me on these books! But not enough to knock a whole star off 😜

2. Atley really likes her cliffhangers….that’s fine, but I’m really not sure how Avery is going to live up to these two ladies in the third book. I guess we’ll see!

A phenomenal second installment in this sci-fi, horror, romance series!

Keeper of the Undead by Atley Wykes

Genre: Sci-Fi, Horror, Romance

Publication Date: May 2, 2022

Rating: 4 deliciously creepy stars!

Quote that sums up the book: “Ooh, talk creepy to me, baby.” I joked. He chuckled, “Anytime, Sweets.”

Goodreads Blurb:
A bad day at work shouldn’t end in a zombie apocalypse… or hooking up with the hot new Security Chief.

But when you work at the Institute of the Undead and there’s an outbreak, well, things happen. Now I’m stuck in lockdown with a museum full of infected patrons trying to sink their teeth into me with only a former Navy SEAL—who thinks I may have caused the outbreak—and my wits for protection. My heart races when demands I stay by his side, and even though I know better than to trust him, I’ll have to if I want to stay alive. I should be focused on surviving the next forty-eight hours until the military arrives. Instead, all I can think about is how I’d like to sink my teeth into him.

Review:
Penelope Baylor, de-facto Head Specimen Conservator (in duties only, not title and pay, of course) at the Institute of the Infected Undead, is having a bad day. Not only is she overqualified and underpaid for her current position, but she just found out that she won’t be getting that promotion and she’s going to have a large “shadow” following her around trying to poke holes in her work. And that’s the least of her concerns…

Penelope originally started at the institute as an assistant to Joel, the previous Head Specimen Conservator and one of the original openers of the institute, before he retired 2 months ago. Ever since, she has been biding her time waiting to get Joel’s position, that was never officially filled despite her doing the work solo. Isn’t that always how it goes? Keep you as an “assistant”, keep your pay unlivable, but expect you to do the work of the guy that left?

With her day starting full of promise (she got the interview for the position!), it all quickly goes to hell when she is introduced to Ethan Aldine, the institute’s new Head of Security. 6’6” with shaggy hair, a beard, and a gorgeous smile, this ex-military man adds a new layer of complexity to her workday by trailing her looking for weaknesses in her safety precautions.

As the day progresses, we meet terrorists trying to steal the disease causing people to become the undead, the “human specimens” (aka zombies) are broken out while the 300+ inhabitants of the museum are kept locked in by the military due to contamination from the breakout, and we find out who Penelope’s true friends are.

What I liked about the book:
1. Ok, let’s start with how this book was basically written for me.

– Zombies with super sciencey progression patterns
– Crazy action scenes complete with a flame thrower
– A quickly dwindling time limit
– Sarcastic as all hell female main character
– Steamy, steamy romance with a Navy Seal who falls in love first

This book had all the elements I love in one story! It felt like a dark comedy version of Night at the Museum, and I never knew that was missing from my life!

2. I loved how Ethan really embodied the Southern Gentleman persona…until he didn’t. He pushed her chair in as she sat, but he also had no problem pushing her up against walls and manhandling her!

He also loved her dark humor and snark, which is obviously a plus in my book!

3. I loved how Penelope was a strong female, but she also realized early on that to survive, she had to let someone watch her back. I loved the partnership between her and Ethan through the whole story, and I was REALLY hoping he wasn’t behind the breakout/terrorist attack because I would not have handled these two not staying together well.

“If shit gets hairy, run straight to the lounge and wait for me. I don’t want you in the thick of it”

“No. I go where you go. I’ll cover your back.”

“I can’t focus if I’m worried about you.”

“You don’t need to worry about me. I can take care of myself.”

“I know you can. Doesn’t stop me from worrying, though.”

4. I loved the thought put into the phases of the undead, as well as the humanizing that was done around them. It was very interesting and sciencey and I loved it!

5. There was a Bettie Page reference that made me, a huge Bettie fan, fall in love with Atley Wykes!

What didn’t do it for me:
1. I felt Penelope was a bit dull at times. I wanted more from her as the main character. I loved her snark, I loved her independence, and I loved how she wielded that flame thrower like no other, but I wish there was a bit more personality. I felt she was chalked up to the “snarky, goth girl” and nothing more personality-wise was expanded on.

2. Ok, why was there so much mention of Joel but there were no interactions with Joel? Also, what was that line in passing where Joel didn’t want to research a new specimen that was in Russia?? Why do I have a bad feeling Joel has something to do with all of this???

Overall, a great start to a new sci-fi, horror, romance series! Stay tuned this month for my review on book 2, “Survivor of the Undead”!