The Spear Cuts Through Water by Simon Jimenez

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, Del Rey

Date of publication: August 30th, 2022

Genre: Fantasy, Adult, Fiction, High Fantasy, LGBT, Science Fiction, Queer, Epic Fantasy, Science Fiction Fantasy, Adult Fiction

Purchase Links: Amazon | Audible | B&N | AbeBooks | Alibris | Powells | IndieBound | Indigo | Better World Books

Goodreads Synopsis:

Two warriors shepherd an ancient god across a broken land to end the tyrannical reign of a royal family in this new epic fantasy from the author of The Vanished Birds.

ONE OF THE MOST ANTICIPATED BOOKS OF 2022—Tordotcom, BookPage, LitHub

The people suffer under the centuries-long rule of the Moon Throne. The royal family—the despotic emperor and his monstrous sons, the Three Terrors—hold the countryside in their choking grip. They bleed the land and oppress the citizens with the frightful powers they inherited from the god locked under their palace.

But that god cannot be contained forever.

With the aid of Jun, a guard broken by his guilt-stricken past, and Keema, an outcast fighting for his future, the god escapes from her royal captivity and flees from her own children, the triplet Terrors who would drag her back to her unholy prison. And so it is that she embarks with her young companions on a five-day pilgrimage in search of freedom—and a way to end the Moon Throne forever. The journey ahead will be more dangerous than any of them could have imagined.

Both a sweeping adventure story and an intimate exploration of identity, legacy, and belonging, The Spear Cuts Through Water is an ambitious and profound saga that will transport and transform you—and is like nothing you’ve ever read before.


First Line:

Before you arrive, you remember your lola, smoking.

The Spear Cuts Through Water by Simon Jimenez

When I first received the publisher’s request to review The Spear Cuts Through Water, I almost didn’t accept it. I had reviewed The Vanished Birds and “meh” about it. But when I read the blurb, it caught my interest, and I decided to give this book a chance. I am glad I did because this book was one of the most uniquely written books I have ever read. Oh, and I also really liked it.

The Spear Cuts Through Water had an exciting plotline. It follows the journey of Keema, a one-armed outcast, and Jun, grandson of the emperor, as they escort Jun’s goddess grandmother across the country. Jun and Keema face many dangers but discover strengths they didn’t know they had. There is also another storyline that is intertwined with Keema and Jun. That is the story of an unnamed man who finds himself in a place called the Inverted Theater after a lifetime of hardship. He is watching a play about Keema and Jun and their journey. Like me, he had questions about their journey. Will they complete their journey?

Usually, I will put a trigger and content warning at the end of my review. But, if I feel that the book’s content will immediately affect the reader or the triggers are horrible, I move it to the top of the review. The triggers in this book are a combination of both. If you are triggered by gore, genocide, ritual cannabilism, body horror, dismemberment, and ableism, do not read this book.

The Spear Cuts Through Water is a medium-paced book in a dystopian ancient Japan or China (I couldn’t figure out which one). The author uses a lot of Japanese and Chinese folklore as a base for the story. I loved it!! It made the book so much more enjoyable for me to read because I enjoy the folklore/mythology from those areas.

As I stated above, this was very uniquely written book. It was written in equal parts, 2nd person and 3rd person POVs. I can count on one hand how many books I have read in 2nd person. And I can count how many of those books I have liked on half of that hand. The author seamlessly switched between the 2nd and 3rd person without disrupting the book’s flow. I was surprised at how much I liked the way it was written. Now, saying that the way this book is written isn’t for everyone, and I would keep that in mind when starting it.

The main characters of The Spear Cuts Through Water were well-written. The author did a great job of fleshing them out and making me care about them (and their journey).

  • Keema—I liked him. There’s not much I can say about him other than that he was almost stupidly brave. I wouldn’t say I liked that he was looked down upon for only having one arm or that the other guards picked on him because of it. His journey with Keema was to find himself as much as it was to bring the Moon to her final destination.
  • Jun—So, he didn’t make the best first impression when he showed up in the book. But, as the book continued, I saw Jun’s character evolving. He started to care about Keema and what the Terrors were doing to the people during his journey. Heck, he even cared about the tortoise. By the end of the book, he has changed from the beginning.
  • Unknown Narrator—This is the person being told Jun and Keema’s story and their own life story. I felt terrible for this man. He had been through so much in life. He was amazed to find himself at the Inverted Theater, watching this story unfold. There was a more fantastic connection between Jun, Keema, and himself that was revealed at the end of the book. I didn’t see that twist coming!
  • The Three Terrors—I was going to make them secondary characters, but I got to thinking, and they each, in their way, were main characters. To me, they embodied the worst traits that society had. Jun’s father (the First Terror) was Violence. He participated in genocide in the Old World. He did love his sons, but that was his only redeeming quality. The Second Terror, to me, was Greed and Gluttony. In my eyes, he was the scariest Terror, mainly because of what he did to gain the powers of the tortoise. The Third Terror, I couldn’t place him in any group. He was a horror exiled from his family at a young age. I will not even get into what he was or what he did. But I did feel bad for him. The scene with the man in that dungeon was both gruesome and heartbreaking at the same time.
  • The Moon— I wasn’t sure about her. I understood why she wanted to leave (who would want to be held captive under a palace). But I wouldn’t say I liked how she coerced Jun and Keema to do what she wanted. She didn’t get to her destination, forcing Jun and Keema to do something atrocious, something I had heard of but had never seen written in a book before. She also held no love for her children. That bothered me more than anything, to be honest.

The Spear Cut Through Water did have a lot of notable secondary characters. I will not list them, but they all added extra depth to the book.

The Spear Cuts Through Water was listed as a fantasy novel. I agree, but it is more suited as a dark and epic fantasy. The author did a great job weaving the epic fantasy angle (the journey) and the dark fantasy angle (everything else). It made for a great read.

I also want to add that there is a romance and LGBTQ+ angle to this book also. Keema and Jun’s romance is cultivated throughout the entire book. There was so much given with a look between them. And the yearning, oh my, it was almost too much for me to bear.

The author amazingly wrote the main storyline with Keema, Jun, the Terrors, the Moon, and their journey. The author had me glued to the book, wanting to know more, and you know what? He gave it to me in spades. The author explained everything, and he tied everything together. The author left no loose ends with this plotline. There were a couple of twists I didn’t see coming.

The storylines with the unknown narrator and the Inverted Theater was well written. I didn’t get as invested as I did with the main storyline, but still, it drew me in. A twist in that storyline made me put my Kindle down. I needed a second to process what I had read because the twist was that unexpected and that good.

Several secondary storylines give some added background and depth to the main storylines. The author incorporated them into the main storyline without pausing the book’s flow.

The end of The Spear Cuts Through Water was not what I expected, but at the same time, I expected it, if that makes sense. I loved how the author ended the main storylines and how he merged them both.

Three reasons why you should read The Spear Cuts Through Water:

  1. The storylines.
  2. The characters.
  3. Jun and Keema’s slow-burn romance

Three reasons why you shouldn’t read The Spear Cuts Through Water:

  1. The triggers. I am usually pretty good with the number of triggers in the book, but even I got triggered by this book.
  2. The way it was written. Being told in 2nd and 3rd person isn’t most people’s cup of tea.
  3. The Terrors. They genuinely creeped me out.

If you enjoyed reading The Spear Cuts Through Water, you will enjoy reading these books:

In the Midst of Magic by Christian Cura

Publisher:

Date of publication: May 25th, 2022

Genre: Fantasy, LGBT

Purchase Links: Amazon

Goodreads Synopsis:

Meet Kara Hartman, a photojournalist who is hiding her magic from the world. Traumatized by her brother’s death, she wants nothing more to do with magic. But just when she thought she could neglect her gift, it becomes apparent that the universe has other plans for Kara. When she discovers that an old foe has broken out of prison, hellbent on destroying her new life, Kara has no choice but to embrace the only power that can stop her.


First Line:

“You look worried about something,” Anthony said strumming his guitar.

In the Midst of Magic by Christian Cura

When the author emailed me back in February and asked if I could read/review his book, I almost turned it down. I was still finalizing my vacation plans and wasn’t sure if I would even be able to read the book. But, once I read the blurb and some reviews, I felt I had to read it. I am glad that I did because this book was pretty darn good!!

In the Midst of Magic had an interesting (and magical) plotline. For years, Kara has been hiding her magical ability. She was traumatized by the fact that she couldn’t stop her best friend from using forbidden magic which also led to her brother’s death. She throws herself into her photojournalist job. But that all ends when she and her friend are attacked by demons while on assignment for the local paper. Her editor has decided she will document the exploits of the newest demon hunter: a woman named Selene. As Kara and Selene grow closer, an old enemy from Kara’s past has escaped from jail and has her sight set on killing Kara and sending the magical world into chaos. Can Kara and Selene stop her in time? And will they allow the feelings that they have for each other to grow into something more?

I had conflicting feelings for Kara. On the one hand, I liked her. I thought she had remarkable strength to overcome what happened to her in the past. But on the other hand, she rubbed me the wrong way. There is nothing specific that I can point out, but there were certain scenes where I just wanted to shake some sense into her. Thankfully my wanting to shake her didn’t come around very often, and I was able to admire the way she handled things in the book.

I loved Selene. She was very sure of herself and didn’t want a photojournalist tagging along while battling demons. I loved seeing her come around to Kara and eventually start to train and care about her. Now, Selene wasn’t perfect, and I loved that the author chose to allow that part of Kara and Selene’s storyline to go through. I also loved her origin story. She got started in the very thing that Kara and her friend were doing a story on. So, that rounded the story out.

While Thalia and Charlotte were the bad guys in the book, I couldn’t help but feel pity for them. In Thalia’s case, she was studying necromancy when the Council decided to outlaw it and then killed the head of the school. That turned her down the path she chose to take. In Charlotte’s case, a combination of things turned her bad. But the main thing was her mother’s death and the pull of forbidden knowledge. I believe that she didn’t mean to kill Anthony or her other friend, but it changed her once she did. I also understand why she was so focused on Kara. In Charlotte’s mind, Kara was the reason she was in jail, and it just festered until she was driven mad by it.

The storyline with Selene, Kara, and fighting the demons was terrific. The author detailed the fights and the different types of demons that Selene (and eventually Kara) were fighting. The author explained why the demons were being called forth and who was doing it. It did tie into Thalia’s and Charlotte’s storyline at the end.

Thalia and Charlotte’s storyline was the one I liked the most. I loved learning about the magical prison and the enforcers that ran it. I liked seeing how Thalia (in her memories and written in the present day) had risen through the ranks. I was fascinated by how the enforcers kept the prisoners from using their magic. When Thalia started the riot and released Charlotte and the other two prisoners, the storyline turned sinister. I will not go into much more, but it kept me on edge. I was a little sad about Charlotte’s part of the storyline. She was eaten up with hatred for Kara and her family, which erased everything else. I wish there could have been a different outcome for her, but it made sense to end the way it did.

I loved Selene and Kara’s romance. It was a slow burn, and they didn’t get together until halfway through the book. I could understand Selene and Kara’s unwillingness to commit to each other. Each had been burned, rather severely, by previous girlfriends. But once they committed, I loved how close they were. Of course, true love does not run smoothly, and the author introduced an ex of Selene’s to shake up the relationship. I wasn’t happy because Selene and Kara were a power couple. But the author took care of that pretty fast, and they were back on again!!

The sex scenes were scorching and graphic. There were points when I had to put down my Kindle to fan myself.

The end of In the Midst of Magic was good. The author wrapped up the storylines in ways that I liked. I wonder if the author will make a series out of this book. I would love to read more stories written in this universe.

I would recommend In the Midst of Magic to anyone over 21. There is graphic language, graphic sex, and graphic violence.

The Summer Place by Jennifer Weiner

Publisher: Atria Books

Date of publication: May 10th, 2022

Genre: Women’s Fiction, Romance, Contemporary, LGBTQ+

Purchase Links: Amazon | Audible | B&N | WorldCat

Goodreads Synopsis:

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of That Summer comes another heartfelt and unputdownable novel of family, secrets, and the ties that bind.

When her twenty-two-year-old stepdaughter announces her engagement to her pandemic boyfriend, Sarah Danhauser is shocked. But the wheels are in motion. Headstrong Ruby has already set a date (just three months away!) and spoken to her beloved safta, Sarah’s mother Veronica, about having the wedding at the family’s beach house on Cape Cod. Sarah might be worried, but Veronica is thrilled to be bringing the family together one last time before putting the big house on the market.

But the road to a wedding day usually comes with a few bumps. Ruby has always known exactly what she wants, but as the wedding date approaches, she finds herself grappling with the wounds left by the mother who walked out when she was a baby. Veronica ends up facing unexpected news, thanks to her meddling sister, and must revisit the choices she made long ago, when she was a bestselling novelist with a different life. Sarah’s twin brother, Sam, is recovering from a terrible loss, and confronting big questions about who he is—questions he hopes to resolve during his stay on the Cape. Sarah’s husband, Eli, who’s been inexplicably distant during the pandemic, confronts the consequences of a long ago lapse from his typical good-guy behavior. And Sarah, frustrated by her husband, concerned about her stepdaughter, and worn out by challenges of life during quarantine, faces the alluring reappearance of someone from her past and a life that could have been.

When the wedding day arrives, lovers are revealed as their true selves, misunderstandings take on a life of their own, and secrets come to light. There are confrontations and revelations that will touch each member of the extended family, ensuring that nothing will ever be the same.

From “the undisputed boss of the beach read” (The New York Times), The Summer Place is a testament to family in all its messy glory; a story about what we sacrifice and how we forgive. Enthralling, witty, big-hearted, and sharply observed, this is Jennifer Weiner’s love letter to the Outer Cape and the power of home, the way our lives are enriched by the people we call family, and the endless ways love can surprise us.


First Line:

For forty years, the house had stood, silvery cedar and gleaming glass, on the edge of the dune, overlooking the waters of Cape Cod Bay.

The Summer Place by Jennifer Weiner

Ruby has announced her upcoming marriage to her pandemic boyfriend. This throws her family into a tailspin. When the dust settles, lives will never be the same. Can everyone and their relationships survive what is going to happen?

I wasn’t a big fan of how the author wrote this book and almost DNF’d it a couple of times. The author took us down memory lane with all of the characters. If there were two POVs and it jumped from past to present, I would have been fine. But every single character. Nope. By the time the author was able to bring everyone to a single plotline (the wedding), I was struggling.

I wasn’t a fan of the characters either. I know that the author was trying to make them more realistic but having them all cheat (at one point or the other) or make them do stupid things (like sleeping with a guy to get money for an abortion that didn’t happen) was just too much. The only one I liked was Sam, and his arc was excellent.

I also wasn’t a fan of a total recap of the pandemic during the book’s first half. I lived it; I know what happened. I didn’t need it shoved down my throat. But I get why the author did it. She wanted to show how pandemic relationships got serious, and they soured just as fast.

I loved Ronnie. She was feisty, and she intensely disliked the Pond People. Every time I saw those words, I giggled. She also gave up so much for her kids. So much that they didn’t understand or care. So, when she got that news in the middle of the book, my heart sank, and I began a countdown before she told Sarah and Sam.

I also loved Sam. His journey to self-discovery was one of the better storylines. He didn’t cheat, and he loved his wife. He was raising his stepson alone after her death. There was a point in his storyline where I did wonder about him. I wondered if he was asexual until he discovered hobbit fan fiction and then realized something about himself. His journey from then on was one of the best things about this book.

I was not too fond of Sarah. Instead of talking to Eli and asking him what’s up, she chose to go the other path. She ASSUMED that he was cheating on her and used that as the reason to get her apartment. When she hooked back up with Owen, I rolled my eyes. I could see where this was going. But, I wasn’t expecting it to end the way it did. That surprised me.

I was on the fence with Eli. Like Sarah, I didn’t understand why he didn’t call Rosa and ask her what he was assuming of her. I laughed when he had Ari try to lift the toothbrushes and got the wrong one. I could think, “Well, at least he knows for sure about that one.” But, he was so involved with what was going on with him that he didn’t see what was going on with Ruby or Sarah until it was almost too late.

I didn’t blame Rosa for doing what she did when she found out she was pregnant. She had no clue that it would backfire the way it did. I got why she was embarrassed to face Eli. But to read her side of that weekend was a little disappointing. I expected more from her since Eli remembered her as this vibrant, sensual woman.

I liked Gabe, but I wish he had been more open with Ruby about getting married. I get that he was a go-with-the-flow guy, but this was almost too much. He should have told Ruby that he didn’t want to get married and ended it. Then that would have made what happened next much more palatable to me.

Ruby was alright. She was used to getting what she wanted when she wanted it. So, when she wanted to marry Gabe, she went for it. I did feel bad for her when she finally realized she couldn’t marry Gabe. I would have done the same thing if I were in her shoes.

The end of the book was alright. I liked how everyone came together, and I got misty-eyed when the author recapped what had happened in the year since that night.

I would recommend The Summer Place to anyone over 21. There is language, mild violence, and mild sexual situations.

Reputation by Lex Croucher

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press, St. Martin’s Griffin

Publication Date: April 5th, 2022

Genre: Romance, Historical Fiction, Historical Romance, LGBT

Purchase Links: Amazon | Audible | B&N | WorldCat

Goodreads Synopsis:

The hilarious debut novel from Lex Croucher. A classic romcom with a Regency-era twist, for fans of Mean Girls and/or Jane Austen.

Abandoned by her parents, middle-class Georgiana Ellers has moved to a new town to live with her dreary aunt and uncle. At a particularly dull party, she meets the enigmatic Frances Campbell, a wealthy member of the in-crowd who lives a life Georgiana couldn’t have imagined in her wildest dreams.

Lonely and vulnerable, Georgiana falls in with Frances and her unfathomably rich, deeply improper friends. Georgiana is introduced to a new world: drunken debauchery, mysterious young men with strangely arresting hands, and the upper echelons of Regency society.

But the price of entry to high society might just be higher than Georgiana is willing to pay …


First Line:

It all began at a party, as almost everything of interest does.

reputation by lex croucher

I was hooked on reading Reputation by the blurb. When I read the first paragraph and saw that it was a romantic comedy set in Regency England but compared to Mean Girls, I knew I needed to read it. First of all, I love romances, with historical romances being one of my all-time favorite genres. It was touted as a comedy and set in Regency England, and I was almost sold. The final selling point was that it was compared to Mean Girls. That is one of my favorite movies (even though I haven’t watched it in a while). So, I accepted the invitation to review from STP. I am glad I did because I loved this book!!

What I liked the most about Reputation was that it made me laugh. I had read this book on my drive home from MA the week of Easter. I distinctly remember that we were stuck in traffic leading up to the George Washington Bridge in New York. I laughed hysterically at some of the antics/situations that George found herself in. My poor husband had to listen to me explain was I was laughing without getting too into it (I kept it G-rated for the kids sitting in the backseat). Any book that makes me laugh like that and makes me share it with my husband is fantastic.

I LOVED George. She was such a breath of fresh air. She was a nerdy (being raised by scholars), socially awkward (from being kept isolated because of her scholarly parents), and amazingly open-minded for the book’s era. Oh, and let’s not forget clumsy. She was constantly tripping over something or spilling something. I think that she got in over her head when she started hanging out with Frances, and I disagreed with the steps she took to hang out with them. But then again, she was a teenager (18), and teenagers aren’t the most rational people (I have 2, so I know).

The romance angle of Reputation was wonderfully written. I liked that it seemed one-sided for most of the book. I also liked that George made a fool out of herself almost every time she saw Hawksley. Or that she was almost always drunk or high too. It wasn’t until the middle of the book, after she sent him the 1816 equivalent of a drunken text (a drunken note), that I saw that he liked and cared about her.

I loved that the author had LGBTQ characters and kept them in line with what the atmosphere would have been like in 1816. There was an openly gay man, a lesbian, and I believe two bisexual people portrayed in the book. I will give you some background on being gay in 1816. People had to hide, have secret societies, and if they got caught, they could have been sent to jail or worse. The author did bring that up when George mentioned to Jonathan how romantic sneaking around was, and his response was very spot on.

Race was also another thing touched upon in Reputation. Frances and Hawksely were biracial. Frances had a white father and a black mother, and Hawksley had an Indian mother and a white father. The author did have a couple of scenes where Frances’s mother was treated poorly because she was black. But, more importantly, the author didn’t portray the aristocrats of England as just purely white. Because they weren’t. The note at the end of the book explained that perfectly.

The author touched on several minor things, the most major being domestic abuse, sexual assault, and child abandonment. Frances’s mother was beaten by her father at one point in the book. George and Frances overheard, and Frances locked George in her bedroom for what I assumed was her safety. The villain sexually assaulted Frances in the middle of the book, George had an attempted sexual assault by a different character, AND she was physically attacked in a public place by the villain. As with most domestic violence and sexual/physical assault in that time (and honestly, in this time too), people swept it under the rug. But the author did a great job of showing the after-effects of it. Frances’s and her mother’s demeanor the morning after their respective assaults were dead on, as was Frances talking Jonathan from going after her attacker. I wasn’t a big fan of how the author handled the rest of it, but it was true to form again.

I am also going to mention the child abandonment angle of the book. I felt for George, and I was so mad at her parents. They left without telling her, and she was shipped out to her aunt and uncle’s that day. After that, the only contact they had with George was a letter written to her by her father, asking for his book back. I didn’t blame George one bit for what she did after. I would have had the same reaction. It took George getting into trouble for them to come to the house, and even then, their knee-jerk reaction was to put George into a convent. I cheered (yes, literally cheered) when George’s aunt and uncle finally said, “That’s enough.” During Mrs. Burton’s speech, I cried where she reamed them out and claimed George as her own.

The end of Reputation was exciting. The author was able to wrap up all of the storylines in a way that made me very happy. George got her HEA on all ends. Several people got their HEAs too. It was the perfect ending for this book.

I would recommend Reputation for anyone over 16. Drug and alcohol use, sexual situations, mild language, rape (not graphic), and mild violence.

Liar: Memoir of a Haunting by E.F. Schraeder

Book Cover

Publisher:

Date of publication: February 22, 2021

Genre: LGBTQ+, Horror

Purchase Links: Amazon

Goodreads Synopsis:

Who doesn’t crave a little escape? Dreaming of small-town life and rural charm, Alex and Rainey find a deal on an old rustic home they can’t resist. But soon after Rainey moves, her preoccupation with weird local history and the complications of living alone in the woods take a toll. Alex worries that the long nights and growing isolation are driving her stir crazy. When the Sugar House is damaged and Rainey goes missing, Alex doesn’t know where to turn. Was it a storm, vandals, or something worse? What happened at the Sugar House? The only thing worse than wondering is finding out.


First Line:

All we wanted was a cabin in the woods. We didn’t want this story.

liar: memoir of a haungting by e.f. schraeder

When I first read the blurb for Liar: Memoir of a Haunting, I was a little intrigued. I have read horror, and I have read LGBTQIA+. But, in all the years that I have been book blogging, I don’t think that I have ever read the two together. So, ultimately, that is why I decided to review Liar. I am glad I did, but I will warn, this book might not be for everyone.

The plotline for Liar: A Memoir of a Haunting is interesting. Rainey and Alex are a queer couple looking to move to a place that is more accepting of their lifestyle. They settle on Vermont, a state that has always been more accepting of alternative lifestyles. After seeing multiple houses, they are shown Sugar House. They fall in love with the house and the more laid-back lifestyle. But things aren’t what they seem at Sugar House. When Rainey finds a strange journal that has mad rambling about aspens and a space between the worlds, she slowly starts moving her mind. What happens to Rainey and Alex? Is Sugar House haunted, or is it all in Rainey’s head?

Liar: A Memoir of a Haunting is a slow-burn book. It starts off slow and keeps up the slow pace for 90% of the book. The plotline didn’t get going until Alex showed up at Sugar House after Rainey went missing. At that point, it did pick up and kept a steady, medium pace until the end of the book. I enjoyed it and I feel that the flow of the book would have been interrupted if it went any faster.

The book is told from a dual point of view, Rainey and Alex. The book’s primary focus is Rainey and her deteriorating mental health, but some chapters were told from Alex’s POV. I felt that those added some extra depth to both characters. I got to see what was going on with Rainey from some else’s perspective.

Mental health is a significant part of Liar: A Memoir of a Haunting. Rainey has issues that she is working on when she moves to Vermont. Those issues come to a head during her time at the house. At points, the author made me wonder if Rainey is haunted, or is it all in her head? By the end of the book, I was still wondering that.

The horror angle of Liar: A Memoir of a Haunting is very subtle and gradual. There were points in the book where I wondered if Rainey’s isolation was messing with her head or if something was going on. That is what made me like this book the most. You didn’t know. Tie in the mental health angle made for a fantastic read.

Also interwoven in Liar: A Memoir of a Haunting is the story of Rainey and Alex’s relationship. I thought they had a great relationship at the beginning of the book, but I knew by the middle that it was in trouble. I know how hard it is to have a partner who travels. My SO of 17 years travels all the time for work (3 days a week, every week), and it sucks. But I have three children and live in a populated area while Rainey was alone and living in isolation. That is a huge difference, showing Rainey’s worsening mental state.

The end of Liar: Memoir of a Haunting was interesting. The author wrapped the storyline so that I wondered what happened. It also wasn’t ended on a HEA. Instead, it ended with two people trying to find each other and figure out what happened at Sugar House.

I would recommend Liar: Memoir of a Haunting to anyone over 16. It is a clean book with very subtle scares. There is language, some mild violence, and some mild gore.

What We Devour by Linsey Miller

Book Cover

Publisher: Sourcebooks, Sourcebooks Fire

Date of publication: July 6th, 2021

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult, LGBTQIA

Purchase Links: Amazon | Audible | B&N | WorldCat

Format Read: Unedited ARC

Received From: Publisher


Goodreads Synopsis:

Lorena Adler has a secret—she holds the power of the banished gods, the Noble and the Vile, inside her. She has spent her entire life hiding from the world and her past. She’s content to spend her days as an undertaker in a small town, marry her best friend, Julian, and live an unfulfilling life so long as no one uncovers her true nature.

But when the notoriously bloodthirsty and equally Vile crown prince comes to arrest Julian’s father, he immediately recognizes Lorena for what she is. So she makes a deal—a fair trial for her betrothed’s father in exchange for her service to the crown.

The prince is desperate for her help. He’s spent years trying to repair the weakening Door that holds back the Vile…and he’s losing the battle. As Lorena learns more about the Door and the horrifying price it takes to keep it closed, she’ll have to embrace both parts of herself to survive.


First Line:

It was an honor to work with the dead, but Rylan Hunt – four stone, fifty two inches, eviscerated, my notes read – had died two days before his thirteenth birthday, and no funeral rites would fix that.

What We Devour by Linsey Miller

I had to take a couple of days to process What We Devour before I wrote the review for it. Normally, I don’t do that. I can sit down and write my review and be on my way. But with this book, I had to let everything that happened process before I could even entertain writing this review.

What We Devour is a dark fantasy. Before this book, when I thought of dark fantasy, I thought of Anne Bishop’s The Black Jewel series. I went into reading What We Devour, thinking it would be somewhat like those books. I was wrong, very wrong. This book took dark fantasy and ran with it.

There are several trigger warnings that I am going to address upfront. Trigger warnings are taken directly from Goodreads: self-harm (mainly cutting), murder (mass and child), sacrifices, executions, factory-related accidents and death, child neglect and abuse, filicide, references to siblings’ death, multiple scenes with death, mass suicide, violence, and blood.

What We Devour is a fast-paced book. From the beginning scenes, where Lorena is prepping a burial body, this book doesn’t stop at those frantic last scenes. The author doesn’t sugarcoat what Lorena is or what she can do. She also doesn’t sugarcoat The Heir, his mother, or anyone else in the book. I read through the book believing that 90% of the people introduced were psychopaths. I mean, if you could create or destroy, wouldn’t you be? Wouldn’t your abilities drive you mad, even with the bindings? I know it would for me.

The world that What We Devour is set in is a bleak, brutal world. Children, more often than not, outlived parents. If you were a wrought (noble or vile), you were often bound, against your will, to the court. You could also be brought up on false charges and sacrificed to The Door. As I said, it was a brutal, terrible world to live in.

I felt terrible for Lorena. All she wanted was a quiet life in Fellhollow, being the town’s undertaker. Instead, she is forced to reveal that she is a dual wrought and then forced to research for The Heir. She is forced to make terrible decisions and face some very uncomfortable truths about people she loved. By the end of the book, though, she did what she thought was right…what she thought would protect the people of her country. She couldn’t stop the inevitable, but she could save as many lives as she could.

The Heir was 100% a psychopath. But I don’t think he was a natural-born psycho. Instead, he was a made one through the abuse of his father and mother and by the power of his Vile wrought. I did have sympathy for him, though. He wanted, in the worse way, to close The Door so that the sacrifices would stop. He wanted someone to understand him.

What We Devour kept me on my toes reading. There were several twists in turns in the plotline that took me by surprise. Just a warning, don’t get too close to any of the characters (except Lorena). They are all expendable.

I loved the fantasy angle of the book. The author created a world that repulsed me, but at the same time, it intrigued me. Her explanation of Vile and Noble, how the wroughts were made, The Door, and what would happen when The Door was opened had me hooked.

The end of What We Devour left me sitting with my mouth open. Everything that happened took me 100% by surprise. The author didn’t resolve any storylines. Instead, she left me wanting to read book 2.


What We Devour is a dark fantasy that had me hooked from page 1. I enjoyed reading it!!

I would recommend What We Devour for anyone over the age of 21. There are violence, blood, murder, and suicide references. See above for a complete list of triggers.

The Death of Vivek Oji by Akwaeke Emezi

The Death of Vivek Oji
The Death of Vivek Ojo by Akwaeke Emezi

Publisher: Penguin Group Riverhead

Date of publication: August 4th 2020

Genre: Contemporary, Fiction, Queer, LGBT+, Africa

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N | AbeBooks | Alibris | Powell’s | IndieBound | Indigo | Audible | Apple Books | Better World Books

Format read: eBook

Got book from: NetGalley as a Non Arc

Trigger Warnings: Homophobia, Transphobia, Domestic Violence, Rape, Incest, Violence, Drug Use, Alcohol Use, General Violence


Goodreads Synopsis:

What does it mean for a family to lose a child they never really knew?

One afternoon, in a town in southeastern Nigeria, a mother opens her front door to discover her son’s body, wrapped in colorful fabric, at her feet. What follows is the tumultuous, heart-wrenching story of one family’s struggle to understand a child whose spirit is both gentle and mysterious. Raised by a distant father and an understanding but overprotective mother, Vivek suffers disorienting blackouts, moments of disconnection between self and surroundings. As adolescence gives way to adulthood, Vivek finds solace in friendships with the warm, boisterous daughters of the Nigerwives, foreign-born women married to Nigerian men. But Vivek’s closest bond is with Osita, the worldly, high-spirited cousin whose teasing confidence masks a guarded private life. As their relationship deepens—and Osita struggles to understand Vivek’s escalating crisis—the mystery gives way to a heart-stopping act of violence in a moment of exhilarating freedom.

Propulsively readable, teeming with unforgettable characters, The Death of Vivek Oji is a novel of family and friendship that challenges expectations—a dramatic story of loss and transcendence that will move every reader.


First Line:

They burned down the market on the day Vivek Oji died.

The death of vivek oji by akwaeke emezi

The Death of Vivek Oji is one of the best books that I have read in the past six months (I would say year, but it is only February). I could not put the book down; that is how much I liked it.

I will admit that it took me a chapter or so to get into the book’s rhythm. But once I got the rhythm, the book went fast. There was no lag and no excess storyline. That made for a delightful read.

The Death of Vivek Oji is written mainly from the 1st person perspectives of Vivek and Osika. There are some 3rd person chapters written when describing the events around specific events in Vivek’s life (mainly their death and their mother’s meetings with the Nigerwives). Some people might have an issue with that, but I didn’t, which surprised me. I was quickly able to follow when the book switched perspectives and people.

The author did a great job of showing how repressed Nigerian culture was for gay/trans people. The main scenes that stand out to me were when Vivek grew their hair out, and their parent’s first response was to cut it. Vivek was not allowed out because of how they looked. Their aunt had a preacher beat them to “get the demons out.” It was heartbreaking to read.

I felt for Osita the entire book. He loved Vivek with his whole heart but couldn’t share that love with the world. Instead, the small group of friends Vivek and Osita had known. It must have been so tiring to live like that. My heart hurt for him.

There is sex in The Death of Vivek Oji. I won’t lie and say that it isn’t graphic because it is. 

The end of Vivek Oji’s death was one of the rawest that I have read to date. I am not going to get into it, but it was intense. I do like that Vivek’s parents finally understood their daughter and honored her. But, it was the final scene with Osita that made me cry. That poor, poor man!!


The Death of Vivek Oji was a fantastic book to read. It was fast paced and was able to deliver a heavy plotline with the grace that it was due. I am actively looking for other books by the same author to read!!!

After much thought, I will recommend The Death of Vivek Oji for anyone over the age of 21. There is a scene of attempted rape. There is talk of domestic violence. There is deadnaming. There is graphic sex.

Steel Crow Saga (Steel Crow Saga: Book 1) by Paul Krueger

Steel Crow Saga by [Krueger, Paul]

4 Stars

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, Del Ray

Date of publication: September 24th, 2019

Genre: Fantasy, LGBTQIA

Where you can find Steel Crow Saga: Barnes and Noble | Amazon | BookBub

Series: Steel Crow Saga

Steel Crow Saga—Book 1

Book Synopsis:

Four destinies collide in a unique fantasy world of war and wonders, where empire is won with enchanted steel and magical animal companions fight alongside their masters in battle.

A soldier with a curse
Tala lost her family to the empress’s army and has spent her life avenging them in battle. But the empress’s crimes don’t haunt her half as much as the crimes Tala has committed against the laws of magic… and her own flesh and blood.

A prince with a debt
Jimuro has inherited the ashes of an empire. Now that the revolution has brought down his kingdom, he must depend on Tala to bring him home safe. But it was his army who murdered her family. Now Tala will be his redemption—or his downfall.

A detective with a grudge
Xiulan is an eccentric, pipe-smoking detective who can solve any mystery—but the biggest mystery of all is her true identity. She’s a princess in disguise, and she plans to secure her throne by presenting her father with the ultimate prize: the world’s most wanted prince.

A thief with a broken heart
Lee is a small-time criminal who lives by only one law: Leave them before they leave you. But when Princess Xiulan asks her to be her partner in crime—and offers her a magical animal companion as a reward—she can’t say no, and soon finds she doesn’t want to leave the princess behind.

This band of rogues and royals should all be enemies, but they unite for a common purpose: to defeat an unstoppable killer who defies the laws of magic. In this battle, they will forge unexpected bonds of friendship and love that will change their lives—and begin to change the world.


First Line:

Dimangan heard his name and came when he was called.

Steel Crow Saga by Paul Krueger

My Review:

I have noticed a couple of themes in the books that I have been reading lately. The first one is that I saw is the plenty of strong female characters. The second is that Japanese/Chinese based fantasy is becoming more popular. Both caught my attention when I read the blurb for Steel Crow Saga. I am happy to say that I loved Steel Crow Saga!! It was a fantastic read.

Steel Crow Saga has four separate plotlines. Usually, that would be an issue for me. I lose focus on many plotlines. But, in this book, it wasn’t an issue. The author was able to keep all four plotlines separated. I had no problem keeping them straight. I also loved that while the plotlines did get merged towards the end of the book, they were still separate.

The characters in Steel Crow Saga were well written and well fleshed out. That made the book so much more enjoyable for me to read. I did have my favorite characters in the book. I loved Lee and Xiulan, separately and together. I also did like Tala and Jimuro, but Lee and Xiulan captured my heart.

The fantasy angle of the book was amazing!! I loved how shadepacting worked. To have an animal bond that close to you must be amazing. But I also could see why it was done with only animals and not humans. I thought having the bad guy having hundreds of shades was great. I also liked that the characters could steal the shades from other people. I liked it.

Another part of the book that I loved was the LGBT representation in the book. Xiulan and Lee had feelings for each other. Jimuro’s oldest friend was a transgender man. Mang, Tala’s brother, was gay. Lee, and I believe Jimuro, were bisexual. I loved it!!

I have read reviews where this book was compared to The Last Airbender and Pokemon. I did get the Pokemon vibe while reading it but I didn’t get The Last Airbender vibe. Shrugs.

I also liked that each race was a different Asian country. China, Japan, Korea, the Philippines, and India were represented. Doing that added more depth to the book. There also could be more countries that I didn’t pick up on.

There was a lot of violence and death in Steel Crow Saga. It didn’t bother me (violence in books usually don’t). But some people are bothered by violence. Unfortunately, this book couldn’t be told without the violence.

Tala and Mang’s relationship was one of the saddest ones that I have read to date. My heart broke several times whenever their relationship came up. The author also explains how he became a shade. Again, talk about my poor heartbreaking. I was in tears. What Mang asked Tala to do was awful, and it shaped her for the rest of her life.

The end of Steel Crow Saga was interesting. It was interesting because while the main storylines ended, the author left room for another book. I am curious to see what will happen with Tala and Jimuro, especially after what was revealed. I am also interested to see where Lee and Xiulan’s relationship will go. Also, I want to know what will happen with the different countries now that the war is over. I can’t wait for book 2 to come out!!


I would give Steel Crow Saga an Adult rating. There is sex. There is language. There is violence. I would recommend that no one under the age of 21 read this book.

I would reread Steel Crow Saga. I would recommend it to family and friends.

**I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book**

Raze (Riven: Book 3) by Roan Parrish

Raze (Riven Series Book 3) by [Parrish, Roan]

3.5 Stars

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group – Loveswept, Loveswept

Date of publication: July 2nd, 2019

Genre: LGBTQIA, Romance

Series: Riven

Riven—Book 1 (review here)

Rend—Book 2 (review here)

Raze—Book 3

Where you can find Raze: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | BookBub

Book Synopsis:

Sometimes the walls we build to save ourselves have to come tumbling down.

For the last ten years, Huey has built his life around his sobriety. If that means he doesn’t give a damn about finding love or companionship for himself, well, it’s probably better that way. After all, the last thing he wants is to hurt anyone else. Until Felix Rainey walks into his bar, fresh-faced, unbearably sweet—and, for some reason Huey can’t fathom, interested in him.

As the eldest of five kids, Felix Rainey spent his childhood cooking dinner, checking homework, and working after-school jobs. Now in his twenties, he’s still scrambling to make ends meet and wondering what the hell he’s doing with his life. When he meets Huey, he’s intimidated . . . and enamored. Huey’s strong and confident, he owns his own business—hell, he’s friends with rock stars. What could he ever see in Felix?

As Huey and Felix get closer, the spark catches and soon they can’t get enough of each other. But Huey’s worked hard to avoid intimacy, and Felix threatens his carefully constructed defenses. Huey realizes he needs to change if he wants to truly put his past behind him—and build a future with Felix. 

Roan Parrish’s pitch-perfect Riven novels can be read together or separately:
RIVEN * REND * RAZE


My Review:

"In the corner of my bar, a cheerfully drunk man sang loudly and out of tune."

I was excited to see that there was another book in the Riven series. I had enjoyed the previous two books and was hoping that I would like Raze. For the most part, I did like it. But the parts that I didn’t like did affect my rating.

Raze’s plotline was enjoyable to read. It was well written, and the author didn’t let anything lag. She also didn’t drop storylines. The plotline was also a fast moving one. Put it this way; I was able to sit down and read Raze within 2 hours.

I liked Felix, but man, he annoyed me. He was too whiny and too clingy. He didn’t know how to talk to people. He was immature. But, when he wasn’t being any of those traits that I mentioned, he was a good guy. He was a good son and a great sibling. He cared about Huey. But those good traits were buried beneath the stuff that I didn’t like. I wish they were showcased more.

I didn’t know what to make of Huey. Getting his backstory was like pulling teeth. It was leaked a little at a time. It drove me nuts. I didn’t like that I couldn’t pinpoint what his feelings were for Felix. Again, drove me nuts. I liked seeing a different Huey appear by the end of the book. He was grounded and happy. Loved it!!

Like I stated in the paragraph above, I couldn’t get a handle on Huey’s feelings for Felix. Because of that, the romance between them seemed forced.

The sex scenes were hot. What Felix and Huey lacked in the romance department, they made up for with sex. Those scenes were so hot that I was expecting my screen to implode. The only scene that didn’t do it for me was the ass eating scene towards the end of the book. I am open-minded about everything but I just couldn’t with this. As I was reading that scene, I kept thinking, “What if he didn’t wipe good.” Which then led my thoughts too well, you know where I am going with that.

The end of Raze was heartwarming. I was left wondering if there was going to be a book 4 or if this is that last book in the series. There were some characters (Grin, Morgan, Jhoi stand out the most in my mind) that I would love to see get their happily ever after.


I would give Raze an Adult rating. There is sex. There is language. There is violence. I would recommend that no one under the age of 16 read this book.

I would reread Raze.  I would recommend it to family and friends.

**I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book**

TEN: Part 1 by Sin Ribbon

TEN: Part 1 by [Ribbon, Sin]

5 Stars

Publisher:

Date of publisher: February 12th, 2019

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, LGBTQIA

Where you can find TEN Part 1: Amazon

Book synopsis:

Is fate a shield against the agony of choice or a force that suffocates free will?

From diverse walks of life and different corners of the globe, ten strangers are being brought together. Prejudice, fallen dreams, loss, and trauma have plagued each of their lives . . . until they find each other, and for once it seems serendipity may heal their collective pain.

But what lurks behind these fated meetings is something far more sinister.

Terrible and elusive forces have endowed the ten with supernatural abilities. Far from a gift however, some are drowning in these overwhelming new powers to the point of possession.

What does fate permit us to do? Are we a product of choice or design? In this urban fantasy adventure, the ten must resist the will of destiny if they wish to carve their own paths. Armed only with camaraderie, they will discover if the strength of their choice is enough to prevent the looming, catastrophic future thrust upon them.

The battle for free will begins here.


Review here:

TEN: Part 1 is one of those books that will blow you away. I went into reading this book thinking that it would be OK. I figured that 10 main characters would overwhelm the book. Man, was I proven wrong. TEN: Part 1 was a fantastic read with a great plotline and characters that blew my socks off.

The plotline for TEN: Part 1 was interesting. Ten individuals, from all walks of life and cultures, are drawn to each other. All ten individuals have powers that are starting to awaken. These individuals soon find out that they are chosen to play a game by the Fates. A game that holds the fate of humanity in its balance. It fascinated me. I couldn’t wait to find out why these ten individuals were chosen and what their powers were.

The plotline drew me in from the beginning. The author did a fantastic job of introducing the main characters. While each chapter was short, she got right to the point. If there was a change to a different character, it was labelled. I also liked that there were zero dropped plotlines or a lag in the plotlines.

I am not going to go into each character individually. There are ten of them and my review would be long if I did that. I did like that the author was able to make each character their own person. Which I consider a huge feat because well, ten main characters. I was expected some overlapping with their personalities.

I also liked how diverse everyone was. There were White, Black, Hispanic, Indian and Chinese featured. I loved that the author had a bisexual character and transgender character. It made the book so much more interesting to read.

I did like how the author had certain people pair off. I wasn’t expecting Orion and Allister, though. That pairing took me by surprise. I also couldn’t make up my mind about Siya and Thane. There was something there. The author kept it vague enough to make me wonder.

I will say that the powers that the author had Orion, Allister, Thane, and Qiu manifest were scary. What made them even more scarier was what happened when they got “possessed“. The explanation that was given at the end of the book made sense. I couldn’t understand why they had different powers than the others. Again, the end of the book explained a lot (not everything).

The end of the book was interesting. The plotlines were not resolved. Which is what I was expecting. I mean, this is Part 1. I did like how Siya explained Orion, Allister, Thane, and Qiu’s powers. I also liked how she explained what Riya, Sebastian, Madison, and Olivia’s roles in the game would be. I am curious about how she and Isaac figure into everything. So, yes, I can’t wait to read Part 2!!

Oh and before I forget, I was thrilled that the author had a character sheet link attached to her Goodreads page. I can’t even begin to tell everyone how much I loved that. It was a huge help when looking up names and getting backgrounds. If only other authors would do the same thing, I would be in heaven!!


I would give TEN: Part 1 an Older Teen rating. There is no sex. There is mild language. There is mild violence. I would recommend that no one under the age of 16 read this book.

I would reread TEN: Part 1. I would reccomend this book to family and friends.

**I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book**

I would like to thank the author for allowing me to read and review TEN: Part 1


Have you read TEN: Part 1?

What are your thoughts on it?

Let me know!!