Review: The Lights of Sugarberry Cove by Heather Webber

Author: Heather Webber
Publisher: Forge Books
Released: July 20th, 2021
Received: NetGalley

4 kitties

The Lights of Sugarberry Cove, written by Heather Webber, is a charming novel full of magical realism, healing, and love, and it is such a gentle beast. It is a gentle soul waiting for the right reader to come along.

Sadie Way Scott is a beloved cooking show host. If that had been her entire story, that would have been enough. But Sadie is haunted by her past – a past where she nearly drowned at her family’s lake.

Years later, Sadie and her family must come together to deal with the combined trauma and guilt that came from this moment. Will one family survive, or will they go their separate ways once again?

“Home. The word wound it’s way around my heart and squeezed like it was giving me a hug.”

The Lights of Sugarberry Cove is such a gentle and wonderful read. Before this book, I honestly never would have thought to apply the word ‘gentle’ to any novel or experience within the reading world. Yet that is the best term I can think of here.

Yes, this is a novel that handles grief, love, loss, and guilt. Yet those emotions are all so very human, and Heather Webber handles them all with care. The characters within this novel are fleshed out, scarred, and looking for ways to move on. It’s a note that hit home for me, and I’m certain it will work for many other readers as well.

In many ways, The Lights of Sugarberry Cove felt like it was coming home. It was refreshing, evocative, and worked hard to pull me into the narrative. There were moments in this book that I don’t think I’ll ever be able to forget – and I’m okay with that.

Thanks to Forge Books and #NetGalley for making this book available for review. All opinions expressed are my own.

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Review: The Heartbreak Bakery by A. R. Capetta

Author: A. R. Capetta
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Released: October 12, 2021
Received: Edelweiss

4 kitties

The one and only A.R. Capetta is back with another fantastic book! The Heartbreak Bakery is an LGBT and young adult fantasy novel where a little bit of magic touches upon the real world – in unexpected ways.

Syd has a gift. Syd is a baker at the Proud Muffin, which very much lives up to the name. There’s only one problem… Everyone who eats Syd’s famous breakup brownies…breaks up. Again, the brownies live up to their name.

As if that wasn’t complicated enough, Vin and Alec have now tried the infamous brownies. Since they’re the owners of the Proud Muffin bakery, this has put Syd into an awkward situation. Thankfully, there are people like Harley who believe that Syd can put some put into the world through baked goods.

Rep points for having an LGBTQ+ bakery, an agender main character, plus portraying demis, POC, and so much more. It was lovely to see so much in one place. More of this, please!

“Love comes in every flavor.”

I went into The Heartbreak Bakery hoping for a light read with some of that amazing Capetta flare (you know what I’m talking about!). What I got was so much more than I expected. As I already mentioned, the representation in this book is unparalleled. I love it so much.

I also found the overall plot to be very endearing, from the breakup brownies to Harley’s determination that Syd can build as well as break. I feel like that second theme is something that we’ve all felt/worried about in our lives, so it was beautiful to see here.

Also, let’s be honest here: I love the idea of magic and baking. They naturally go together, don’t you think? So yeah, I jumped at the chance to read The Heartbreak Bakery, and I would do it again! Also, I would totally not be too afraid to try some of Syd’s baking.

Thanks to Candlewick Press and #Edelweiss for making this book available for review. All opinions expressed are my own.

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Review: Our Violent Ends by Chloe Gong

Series: These Violent Delights #2
Author: Chloe Gong
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Released: November 16, 2021
Received: Own

4 kitties

Oh man, am I emotionally prepared for the ending of These Violent Delights? I’m honestly not sure. What I do know is that I can’t put Our Violent Ends, by Chloe Gong, off any longer. This is by far one of the most unique (and better written) Romeo and Juliet stories I’ve seen in a love time.

In this world, 1927 Shanghai was on the verge of collapse, with two rival gangs on the brink of war, with only one common threat keeping that slim semblance of peace. Roma and Juliet are war-torn lovers dancing that line, trying to find ways to protect one another – and their people.

The threat to the city is far from over, as monsters are still a high risk, there’s still a desperate need for a cure, and other parties want to take the title of top-dog. It’s almost too much for anyone to bear.

“These violent delights have violent ends, you have always known this.”

I’m not ashamed to admit that I put off reading Our Violent Ends a little bit. Given how much I love the characters and what I know of the story that inspired this tale, I think my slight sense of foreboding was totally legitimate. If not entirely fair.

Still, I did finally cave and dived on into Our Violent Ends. Having finally sat down and read the book (in one night, mind you), I can now safely say that I was being a little bit foolish. This was never a book I should have put off reading. I love the world and the characters far too much for that.

“I will fight this war to love you, Juliette Cai. I will fight this feud to have you, because it was this feud that gave you to me, twisted as it is, and now I will take you away from it.”

Our Violent Ends was such a whirlwind of a read. There’s a lot that happens within these pages, and I do mean a lot. It’s hard to believe that Chloe Gong managed to fit so many threats and enemies into such a relatively short story. I loved every minute of it.

The idea of saying goodbye to these characters was rough, obviously. Even more so because I think we all went into it with assumptions on how it would end. I will not comment on whether or not those assumptions were correct, but I will say that the ending was both thematic and appropriate for the series.

The success of Our Violent Ends leaves me hoping that Chloe Gong may consider revamping other classic tales into something wholly different and captivating. Regardless, I know whatever she writes next, I’ll be reading it.

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Review: A Thousand Steps by T. Jefferson Parker

Author: T. Jefferson Parker
Publisher: Forge Books
Released: January 11, 2021
Received: NetGalley

4 kitties

A Thousand Steps, by T. Jefferson Parker, is one part thriller and one part coming-of-age story. Given how much I adore novels that blend genres, I knew that I had to give this one a try!

The year is 1968, and Matt Antony lives in Laguna Beach, California. You’d think that would mean he has the world at his fingertips, but you’d be wrong. He’s just a kid – a teenager that has no idea what to do with his life, or even where his next meal will be coming from,

Unfortunately, his life is about to get even more complicated as his sister vanishes. One moment she was here, the next, she was yet another missing person poster. And it’s starting to feel like it’s up to Matt to find her.

I went into A Thousand Steps expecting a dash of coming of age mixed in with my thriller. I wasn’t expecting a heavy dose of historical fiction getting thrown into the mix. It was a pleasant surprise, one that set the scene nicely.

Despite the setting and some of the more extreme elements, this story’s elements could resonate with any reader. Matt is just a kid who wants to find his way in the world. More than that, he wants to find a place where he’s safe and loved. Who can’t sympathize with that?

Naturally, it’s easy to like and appreciate Matt’s character. Especially as his determination brings him out into the world looking for his missing sister. It’s an endearing move while also being the impetus needed for this novel.

Overall, I really enjoyed A Thousand Steps and would happily read anything else written by T. Jefferson Parker, given a chance.

Thanks to Forge Books and #NetGalley for making this book available for review. All opinions expressed are my own.

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Realm Review: Jessica Jones: Playing With Fire Episode 10

Every Action Has A Reaction In Jessica Jones: Playing With Fire Episode 10

Jessica’s determination has kept this case going, even when others would have walked away. In Jessica Jones: Playing With Fire Episode 10, she’s about to start making confrontations, all for the sake of getting answers.

Last we saw, Jessica Jones had formed a plan, and while it took some sneaking, she was well on her way to moving forward with it. While it’s a plan that came with high risks, it also promised heavy rewards; in the form of evidence.

Jessica Jones: Playing With Fire is an ongoing series on Serial Box. It’s one of three Marvel series available, with the other two boasting complete and binge-worthy seasons. Next up on the list will be Black Panther.

Newton’s Third Law

Sam Beckbessinger is still at the helm for Jessica Jones: Playing With Fire Episode 10. This is an intense episode, from start to finish. It starts like any of Jessica’s missions for evidence but very quickly ends up being something over her head.

This series has done a lot to showcase Jessica’s continuing battle for mental health while facing off against the worst that humanity has to offer. All of that seems to hit a peak in this episode as she comes across a brick wall in her investigation.

There are still six episodes left to this season, yet the pieces are already starting to fall into place. The how and why have yet to be explained, but give Jessica some time, and she’ll get there. That’s kind of what she does, after all.

Everything has been leading up to this point, and the action that followed. If you’ve put two and two together about the antagonists, then the thought of another fight here might induce a cringe (for Jessica’s sake). Still, that only served to add to the tension of it all.

I’m going to be honest with you here: the cliffhanger at the end of this episode is brutal. Like, I keep checking the calendar to see how far off the next episode is, sort of brutal. It was brilliant but also anxiety-inducing. Consider yourself warned.

Narration

The narration never fails to impress, which goes doubly so in Jessica Jones: Playing With Fire Episode 10. Fryda Wolff has not only nailed Jessica’s voice but many of the other characters as well. It’s wonderfully done.

She flawlessly carried on a conversation between two characters, and never once did it feel like she was talking to herself. No, it was two distinct characters parrying words back and forth, full of sass, snap, and so much more.

Then there’s the action sequence in this episode, which is raw and tense – and made all the more so courtesy of the sound effects included in the background. It was brutal to hear, but for all the right reasons, if that makes sense.

Conclusion

 Jessica Jones: Playing With Fire Episode 10 is arguably one of the most dramatic additions to the series. Though arguably, I’m partially saying that because the ending has left me utterly anxious for the next part of the story.

This entire series has quickly become my favorite of the bunch, which is saying something (I adored the Black Widow series). Everything about this is perfect for fans of Jessica Jones, especially those that loved Alias.

This review was originally written for Word of the Nerd, but has been ported over to Quirky Cat’s Fat Stacks now that the site has shut down.

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Short Story Saturday: Stingers and Strangers by Seanan McGuire

Series: InCryptid #0.4
Author: Seanan McGuire
Released: May 2014
Received: Patreon

4 kitties

The Healy/Price family stories continue on this week’s addition to Short Story Saturday. Written by Seanan McGuire, Stingers and Strangers is number 0.04 in the InCryptid series, which is a series full of monsters, critters, and more.

Johnny and Fran are the perfect team. He was raised by two of the most dangerous hunters around, while Fran is phased by nothing. Together, they’re on a quest to follow some Apraxis wasps, which are even more deadly than one might imagine.

I should mention that before reading the short stories in this series, I made a point of getting caught up with the main series first. Thus, I had a bad feeling about what was going to happen from the onset.

That helped to build an additional layer of tension and made this short story all the more thrilling because of it. I’m looking forward to seeing whatever mess Johnny and Fran get into next, as they seem quite talented at it. At least Fran is having fun!

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Review: Or What You Will by Jo Walton

Author: Jo Walton
Publisher: Tor Books
Released: July 7th, 2020
Received: NetGalley

3 1/2 kitties

Like many readers out there, I have a massive backlog of books that I’m desperately trying to read through. Among that list would be everything written by Jo Walton. Naturally, that means I had to make time to read Or What You Will.

Sylvia Harrison is a beloved and award-winning author. Her words come to life, thanks in part to her attention to detail – and character building. One of those characters lives within her mind, waiting for the right world.

However, unlike her novels, Sylvia is not immortal, and time is running out to find the perfect world for this cherished character. And so, a new world, Thalia, is born.

“Writers are not nice people. We can’t be.”

If you’re looking for an in-depth read that will force you to stop and think, Or What You Will is the novel for you. From the description, this book may sound very tongue-in-cheek (and perhaps a little meta)—an author writing about an author, and all that.

However, it actually goes quite a bit deeper than that. It’s a challenge for the readers, one that I believe to be intentional. This might have been off-putting if not for the fact that it also feels as if Jo Walton sliced off a piece of her soul and wove it into the narrative.

Ultimately, I would have to say that this is not a book for everyone. It has the potential to be loved and cherished – much like that mysterious character. But it also has the potential to be too much at times. I’ll have to leave that one to each individual reader to decide.

Thanks to Tor Books and #NetGalley for making this book available for review. All opinions expressed are my own.

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Review: Pets in Space 6 by Collected Authors

Authors: S.E. Smith, Veronica Scott, Honey Phillips, Carol Van Natta, Cassandra Chandler, J.C. Hay, S.J. Pajondas, Greta van der Rol, Deborah A. Bailey, Melissa Aires, Kyndra Hatch
Released: October 5, 2021
Received: Review Request

4 kitties

Pets in Space 6 is a massive anthology, bringing together a dozen (almost) short stories, all revolving around two of my favorite subjects: animals and science fiction. I mean, what could possibly be better? Oh, right! Did I mention that Pets in Space 6 supports Hero-Dogs.org? Yeah, that’s pretty amazing!

Included in Pets in Space 6, you’ll find: Behr’s Rebel by S.E. Smith, Star Cruise: Time Loop by Veronica Scott, The Cyborg With No Name by Honey Phillips, Escape from Nova Nine by Carol Van Natta, Trade Secrets by Cassandra Chandler, See How They Run by JC Hay, Suri’s Sure Thing by S.J. Pajonas, The Thunder Egg by Greta van der Rol, World of Fire: Metamorphosis by Deborah A. Bailey, Stranded on GRZBT by Melisse Aires, and Escaping Korth by Kyndra Hatch.

Now, to be fair: I actually haven’t read any of the anthologies before Pets in Space 6. That being said, I am absolutely going to change that as soon as I have the time! I love anthologies, and I love them even more, when they are created in support of a good cause. Thank you to all of the authors that came together to make this book a reality; you’re amazing! 

Pets in Space 6 is a fun and delightful read, portraying various animals and situations – all having some sort of science fiction vibe. In other words, it’s perfect for animal lovers, especially those that prefer this very specific genre. 

It was such a blast to read, and I really hope the rest of the anthologies are as creative as this one because this was a wholly new experience for me! 

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Review: The Bronzed Beasts by Roshani Chokshi

Series: The Gilded Wolves #3
Author: Roshani Chokshi
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Released: September 21st, 2021
Received: Own

4 kitties

It’s time. The Bronzed Beasts is the third and final novel in Roshani Chokshi’s The Gilded Wolves series. I’ve loved every moment of this series and will be sad to let it go. Yet, I’m far too curious to see how it all ends. Aren’t you?

Last we saw, Severin had seemingly betrayed his friends, all in the hopes of setting them up for success, of course. But that would require Laila, Enrique, Hypnos, and Zofia to see through the ruse he’s put in play. It would require them to, once again, trust him. Will they?

They’re closer than ever to getting control over the Divine Lyre and the gifts that it promises. While the rest are concerned about the costs, Severin is lost in a world of possibility. He’s lost to the danger. How will this last adventure play out?

“I don’t think you’re lost. You’re just searching for the thing that fills you with light.”

Wow. I can’t believe it’s here. I can’t believe it’s over. The Gilded Wolves have been a part of my life these past few years, and they’ve been an enchanting presence. To say goodbye was rough. Yet that ending…it made it worth it.

The Bronzed Beasts is a whirlwind read, and I do mean it. Once again, every character gets their chance to have a say via the swapping perspectives. Yet there’s so much going on; it’s almost difficult to take it all in.

There were perspectives and moments I loved more than others. For example, Zofia is such a gem, so naturally, I loved every chapter that focused on her and her ventures. However, I’ll admit that what Severin’s doing had some of the biggest impact on the main plot (obviously).

On that note – holy cow! I knew that the odds were good that the ante would be upped before it was all said and done…but I was not expecting this! The pace picks up, as does the threat level. All while Chokshi’s writing style continues to paint pictures for the readers.

It’s so much to process, and yet it’s also impossible to look away from. It was interesting to see what choices the characters made, especially right towards the end. Speaking of – I know we were all curious to see how their choices would play out. Some decisions may have been more surprising than others. But honestly? It all felt so right. That’s what matters the most, at least to me.

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Review: The Unheard by Nicci French

Author: Nicci French
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Released: October 26, 2021
Received: NetGalley
Warnings: Suicide, emotional abuse, murder

3 1/2 kitties

Nicci French is back with another thrilling tale – The Unheard. Does anyone else get chills just for reading that title? I know I did. That, combined with that stunning cover, was more than enough reason for me to give this book a try.

Tess has always been protective of her daughter – but especially when it comes time to drop her daughter off with her father and his new wife. That never sat right with Tess. Before now, she never had a reason to reconsider doing so.

Now, her daughter is back home, and something isn’t right. Tess is convinced that Poppy saw something she shouldn’t have. Something brutal and traumatic, and she doesn’t know what to do with that information.

“Memory is a lie, a creative act, a flimsy shield against the truth.”

The Unheard was a dark and fascinating read, one that was difficult to turn away from. Especially because, and I’m not sure why I thought this – but I went into it expecting Poppy (the daughter) to be a bit older than she was. That certainly added to the horror of it all.

The idea of a young child witnessing something so horrible – and not having the ability to convey what she saw… it’s almost too real, you know? But I’ll admit that it made a solid foundation for this story.

The frustration in this book is palpable, particularly because the whole situation is horrifyingly relatable on some level. Overall, I would say that this element was the crowning achievement of the novel.

The Unheard is a solid read – not the best thriller I’ve read, as there are some plot holes. But it is still very much a worthwhile read.

Thanks to William Morrows Paperbacks and #NetGalley for making this book available for review. All opinions expressed are my own.

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