Review: Auxiliary: London 2039 by Jon Richter

Author: Jon Richter
Publisher: TCK Publishing
Released: May 1st, 2020
Received: Review Request

4 kitties

I received a copy of Auxiliary: London 2039 in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Jon Richter is back, this time with Auxiliary: London 2039, a cyberpunk tale like no other. Portraying a world where everything real is meaningless, this tale explores the darker parts of human potential.

The year is 2039, and machines do all the heavy lifting these days. More than just the heavy lifting, really, as humanity is content to stay indoors and spend time playing in simulated realities. All while the largest corporations in the world move to grab more power for themselves.

Enter The Imagination Machine, aka TIM. TIM is what makes the world go ’round, almost literally. Without it, humanity would cease to exist. Or at least be forced to go back to doing things for themselves.

Only, there’s a problem. Of course there is. TIM may not be the altruistic and trustworthy intelligence that humanity would like to believe it is. A fact that becomes blatantly clear to Dremmler, after comes across a new case worth investigating.

“All these interactions that infused modern human lives; behind them, a single entity, a massive, sprawling intelligence.”

Auxiliary: London 2039 is without a doubt one of the most unique science fiction novels I’ve read this year. I truly do mean that. This is a complex tale, one that wove multiple elements together to create such an expansive world – and plot.

I know the description hinted at several common science fiction tropes and elements. However, I think it’s really important to note that Jon Richter managed to infuse these parts with lots of surprises, resulting in something that feels familiar – but reads as totally incomparable.

What really surprised me about this read is the main character, Dremmler. He’s a classic, old school detective in a world full of technology and engineering. He stands out like a sore thumb, only in a good way.

He added such a strong sense of charm to this novel. It made it impossible to predict what was going to happen next, or what new element was going to be brought into the mix next. Because of that, it’s really no surprise to report that I accidentally stayed up way to late reading Auxiliary: London 2039 (no regrets!).

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Review: These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong

Author: Chloe Gong
Series: These Violent Delights #1
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Released: November 17th, 2020
Received: Own (BOTM)

4 kitties

Are you a fan of Romeo and Juliet retellings? What about when it’s retold with a fantasy twist? If so, you’re going to want to check out Chloe Gong’s These Violent Delights. It’s the first in a series of the same name, and with a cover that stunning, you just know it’s going to be good.

Set during the 1920s in Shanghai, two gangs are on the verge of (another) all-out war. This is the world that Juliette Cai and Roma Montagov have grown up in, so they’re quite used to the pain, loss, and battles that come with a feud like theirs.

All of that is about to change, as a new and deadly monster appears to be killing its way through the streets. Scarlet Gang, White Flowers, it doesn’t care who gets in the way. All it leaves behind is death and destruction.

Juliette and Roma must work together, and work past their betrayals and pain, in order to save their city and the people they’ve sworn to protect. The real question is, will it be enough?

“This was a city shrouded in blood. It was foolish to try changing it.”

These Violent Delights has got to be the most dynamic and creative retelling of Romeo and Juliet that I have ever seen. And I’m sincerely not exaggerating there. It was intense and brilliant, and brought with it countless surprises.

I think the thing I loved the most about These Violent Delights is how creative Chloe Gong’s writing was. The wordplay surrounding their names, the altered history and locations, the monster, and horror elements. All of it. It actually made it difficult to predict what was going to happen next – which is quite a feat when you think about it.

Oh, and that time period! Moving Romeo and Juliet up to the 1920s! I adore it, especially as they infused flapper elements and events specific to the time period (and location). It added to much depth to the story that was unfolding.

“Anyone can be the master to a monster should their heart be wicked enough”

Let us not forget about the romance itself. That brought with it perhaps the most surprises, as Gong really did create something new between them. It was beautiful and heartbreaking all in one, as it should be. I won’t say more than that, because I refuse to spoil it.

Overall, I was really impressed with the world-building and writing that Chloe Gong showcased here. I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect when looking at a retelling that lasts more than one book, but I am so extremely happy that I took a risk and gave it a try. I have no regrets, and am very much looking forward to any and all sequels.

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Review: Avatar: The Last Airbender: Smoke and Shadow

Authors: Gene Luen Yang, Michael Dante DiMartino, Bryan Konietzko
Artists: Gurihiru
Publisher: Dark Horse Books
Released: October 4th, 2016
Received: Own

4 kitties

Avatar: The Last Airbender: Smoke and Shadow is the fourth plot arc to stem from the animated series fans have fallen so in love with. After the popularity bump that came when Avatar: The Last Airbender moved to Netflix, I was inspired to read through as much of the comics as possible. So far, it’s been absolutely worth it!

This one is set following all the other graphic novel adventures, unsurprisingly, though it does bring us back to the Fire Nation once again. The Fire Nation may have been defeated, but their spirit is still very strong.

As it turns out, not everyone is pleased with the idea of Zuko taking command. Especially now that he’s trying so hard to make peace with the other nations – sometimes at the cost of the Fire Nation. Thus, the events of Smoke and Shadows is born.

Smoke and Shadow was a fascinating tale, from start to finish. I loved seeing more about Zuko and his life, following the end of the war. He’s still very much a young man struggling to find his way, and that shines through here.

Honestly, part of me really wishes that this one could have been a movie addition to the series, as I think it would have benefited the fans. It once again helps to bridge that gap between the conclusion of The Last Airbender, and the start of The Legend of Korra.

It also gave more screentime to Zuko and Azula, something that I’m never going to complain about. So I might be slightly biased on that front! Still, it was a great read, and one that I recommend to any Avatar fan out there.

Once again, Gurihiru didn’t disappoint on the artwork front. The characters look exactly how I remembered them, just slightly transformed for the sake of fitting into a comic series. The colors are bright, and remind me so much of the series I loved.

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Review: A Crown of Reveries by Brindi Quinn

Author: Brindi Quinn
Series: A Crown of Echoes #2
Publisher: Never and Ever Publishing
Released: November 13th, 2020
Received: Own

Yes! Brindi Quinn’s latest novel is here, and I couldn’t be more excited about that fact. If you haven’t heard of Brindi Quinn, then let me tell you, you are missing out! She’s one of my favorite Indie authors out there, so you’re going to have to forgive me for a bit of gushing.

Anyway, back to the point. A Crown of Reveries is the second novel in the Crown of Echoes series, which from the looks of things will have at least one more novel in it (who knows, maybe we’ll luck out and there will be more…).

Queen Merrin is a strong and confident woman, who has already gone through hell and back, all with the goal of saving her fellow queen (and friend), Beau. Now Merrin is about to embark on a new adventure, one that puts her squarely in the center of it all.

It’s all thanks to Nemophile’s Crown, and the abilities that come with it. It gives Merrin great power, but power always comes with responsibility and risk. Something that Merrin is about to learn the hard way.

“Run, lion queen. Back to camp, and don’t ever look back. Ever.”

In case you were wondering, yes I did have high expectations for Queen of Reveries, and yes, it did live up to my hopes! That’s always a huge relief, and it makes for an even better reading experience, if you ask me.

Queen of Reveries was a thrilling and fast-paced read. I loved reading every minute, as new details and twists came to light. I already knew that I loved the world and characters (but I still can’t get enough of either), yet even I was surprised by how much fun this book was.

I knew that things were darker than they appeared, in terms of Nemophile’s Crown. That had been hinted at for a good part of A Crown of Echoes. Yet it was still such a compelling part of this novel, and with good reason.

That was far from being the only element in this story that I found myself adoring. Merrin’s voice being one of those leading reasons. She’s such a quirky and bright personality, it’s impossible not to be endeared by her.

“I wasn’t well-suited for life where I was raised, so I set off in search of a new way of living.”

The last book ended on an alarming note, and thankfully A Crown of Reveries picked up right where it left off. That means it’s straight into a whirlwind and adventure! I adore it. As do I love the pairing of Merrin and Windley, but I imagine I’m not the only one feeling that way!

I’ll stop the gushing now, and just leave it at this: A Crown of Reveries is not a novel for fans to miss out on. If you’re new to Brindi Quinn, make sure to check out the first novel in this series, as it is worth it.

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Review: Goodnight Beautiful by Aimee Molloy

Author: Aimee Molloy
Publisher: Harper
Released: October 13th, 2020
Received: Own (BOTM)
Warnings: Sexual harassment (mentioned) suicide

4 1/2 kitties

Aimee Molloy is back with another psychological thriller, and you just know that it’s going to knock our socks off. Goodnight Beautiful is a thriller like no other I’ve read, and for good reason.

Sam Statler and Annie Potter are recently wed – and very happy about that fact. They’ve just moved to a sleepy town in upstate New York, where Sam hopes to get a new psychology practice up and running.

Unfortunately, things don’t move as smoothly as the happy couple had hoped. There’s a major security flaw in Sam’s new office – every session can be heard through the upstairs vent. Sadly, that is only the beginning.

“When a man goes missing, it’s always the wife.”

Holy cow! I absolutely adored Goodnight Beautiful! This psychological thriller surprised me again and again, subverting all of my expectations and creating a truly unique read. I was captivated from the very first page, and am still a little bit sad that is over.

One thing I’d like to say, before I move on with my review: be mindful when going into Goodnight Beautiful. I went into it knowing nothing more than the description on the cover of the book, and nothing more. That was a brilliant choice, and I strongly urge all other potential readers to do the same. As such, I promise not to take offense if you put down my review until you’ve finished reading! (Though I will avoid spoilers to the best of my ability).

Honestly, I’m shocked that Goodnight Beautiful isn’t higher rated on Goodreads, as I really appreciated what Molloy was doing here. I love it when thrillers surprise me – but I also crave for those surprises to make sense. This is a novel that delivered on all of that, while also completely throwing all of my assumptions out the window.

It was such a refreshing read. Too often I see/read thrillers that focus on certain tropes and traits (which I don’t want to mention for sake of spoilers here), and while these themes did come up in Goodnight Beautiful, they were used for a completely different purpose. Talk about a breath of fresh air!

This book blew my mind on at least two occasions. And I don’t mean a simple ‘huh, that’s an interesting twist’, but the sort of twist that literally made me pause and stare at the pages for several minutes, just processing. It was brilliant, and I wish I could experience it all for the first time again. For that reason, Goodnight Beautiful might just be my favorite thriller of the year.

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Review: Little Cruelties by Liz Nugent

Author: Liz Nugent
Publisher: Gallery/Scout Press
Released: November 10th, 2020 (originally March 26th, 2020)
Received: Goodreads Giveaway
Warnings: Drugs, abuse, addiction, rape, mental health issues, suicide

4 kitties

I received a copy of Little Cruelties in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Little Cruelties is the newest novel to come from Liz Nugent, famous for Lying in Wait and Skin Deep. It’s one part family drama, and several parts psychological thriller.

This is the story of three brothers, and the trail of little hurts and cruelties they left in their wake. These three men, William, Brian, and Luke, couldn’t have been more different if they had tried. Though each was born close together, and they all grew up in the same household.

William grew up to be a movie producer with a family. Brian a teacher first, then an agent, sometimes even for members of his family. Luke, the baby, went into music, becoming a pop star. All of them are broken in their own way.

“Three brothers are at the funeral. One lies in the coffin.”

Little Cruelties is perhaps the most accurate title I’ve seen in a long time. The amount of little mean-spirited things one family can do is astounding. This was a harrowing read, thanks to the progressing buildup of actions and pain.

I’ve never read anything by Liz Nugent before, if I’m being completely honest. So I was absolutely blown away by her writing in Little Cruelties. Part of me actually wanted to put the book down and walk away, even if just for a bit.

Not because of the writing – but because of how real it felt. I guess that does make it because of the writing, just not in the way one might expect. It was the writing itself, the way Nugent’s words flowed across the page, that kept me from caving to that temptation.

“Three is an odd number so there had always been two against one, although we all switched sides regularly. Nobody would ever have described us as close.”

Let’s be honest; how can you NOT be curious after a description and intro like that. Three brothers, one coffin. But who lived, and who died? What was the cause of death? These are just a couple of the dozens of questions that crossed my mind early on. All of which paled in comparison to the questions I wondered about over the course of the whole novel.

It’s a book that’ll make you think. It’ll break your heart, put it back together with gum, and then break it again. Yet it’s worth it. Little Cruelties was so human, with each action and portrayal of pain or violence feeling almost…every day. That’s what made it feel so real, and so successful.

This is not a book I’ll be forgetting anytime soon, I can tell you that much. I think it’s safe to say that Liz Nugent is getting added to my ‘automatic TBR list.’

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Review: Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Rift

Authors: Gene Luen Yang, Michael Dante DiMartino, Bryan Konietzko
Artists: Gurihiru
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Released: February 11th, 2015
Received: Own

4 kitties

Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Rift is the third plot arc to stem from the animated series fans have fallen so in love with. After the popularity bump that came when Avatar: The Last Airbender moved to Netflix, I was inspired to read through as much of the comics as possible. So far, it’s been absolutely worth it!

The Rift once again brings fans back to Team Avatar, only things are changing. Pretty rapidly, in fact. Factories have been popping up, and one refinery in particular has grabbed the attention of the team.

They’re not the only ones who are paying attention to this new development, as benders and non-benders forge a conflict between one another, and certain spirits take notice of the land it is set upon.

Okay, so The Rift is not anything that I expected from Avatar: The Last Airbender. Maybe I should have been expecting it though. I mean, look at how far things progressed between when The Last Airbender concluded, and The Legend of Korra began.

When you put it like that, it does feel like The Rift is sort of bridging the gap between the two series. For better, or for worse. I didn’t get quite as into this story as the two previous ones, but it was still enjoyable nonetheless.

Especially because it continued to show the conflicts in the world, and how the war did not end everything. Benders and non-benders will still have their conflicts, and technology is only ever going to make that debate more complicated. At least, in the short term.

It was intriguing looking at the world through this light, and thus I really appreciated The Rift. Thanks to the addition of certain new characters, it did feel like that classic Avatar spark that I’ve come to love and expect.

Oh! And credit to Gurihiru for making the entire comic look exactly like the tv series, only in comic book form. I knew that some things would have to change, but I was pleasantly surprised by how well they stuck to the core aesthetic of the world.

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Review: The Princess Knight by G.A. Aiken

Author: G.A. Aiken
Series: The Scarred Earth Saga #2
Publisher: Kensington
Released: November 24th, 2020
Received: BookishFirst
Warnings: Animal death, rape (mentioned)

4 kitties

I received a copy of The Princess Knight in exchange for a fair and honest review.

The Princess Knight is the second novel in The Scarred Earth Saga by G.A. Aiken, a chaotic and brilliant adventure like no other I’ve seen.

It’s been two years since the events of The Blacksmith Queen, yet the war is still impending. Two sisters sit on two different thrones. One fights for love and all that is right. The other fights only for herself.

It doesn’t take a genius to know which sister Gemma Smythe declared her loyalty to. Even if Keeley and her can’t seem to get along for even five minutes. Still, Gemma walked away from the War Monks, to protect her family and stand by her sister’s side.

“Yes’,’ he finally stated. ‘She is a worthy champion.”

The Princess Knight was somehow everything and nothing like what I expected, all at the same time. I knew that Gemma’s story would be quite different from Keeley’s adventure, but I don’t think I could ever have imagined just how much.

Gemma is War Monk, a religious sect dedicated to taking down their foes. Naturally, that in itself says a lot about Gemma. But it is far from her whole story, as I quickly learned upon diving into The Princess Knight.

To put it simply: Gemma’s story was quite a bit graphic, but it was also brilliant and intense. It had touches of humor and romance, much like the first novel in this series. Yet it very much stood on it’s own as well, showing off all of the differences between two strong and fiercely determined sisters.

“All your scars, however, are ‘Not only am I lucky to have survived, but I destroyed everything that was in my way and salted the ground my enemies walked upon.”

I ended up really enjoying this read, not just for the insight into Gemma’s character, but for the fact that I got to see more of this world. It’s a world I would happily read a dozen more books about. So you can’t really blame me for hoping to see more from this series.

On that note – I can’t wait to find out who will be the main focus for the next book. Given the pattern established, I can only assume that it will be another one of the many siblings in this family. I have a few theories on who that might be. Granted, I may be wrong entirely about that as well. Either way, I’m very much looking forward to finding out what happens next.

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Review: Kingdom of the Wicked by Kerri Maniscalco

Author: Kerri Maniscalco
Series: Kingdom of the Wicked #1
Publisher: JIMMY Patterson
Released: October 27th, 2020
Received: NetGalley
Warning: Blood, family death

4 1/2 kitties

I received a copy of Kingdom of the Wicked in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Kerri Maniscalco is back, and this time with a brand new series for us to dive into. Kingdom of the Wicked is the first novel in a series of the same name, and I have to say it, I’m hooked.

Emilia and her twin, Vittoria are special. They’re streghe, witches, and handed a task that they never knew the whole story of. These two women have incredible power, but unfortunately power cannot always protect the ones we love.

It can however, work to avenge it. That is the path that Emilia is on now, going after the Wicked princes of Hell with a fierce determination. She doesn’t know which one was the cause for the loss of her sister, but she intends to find out.

“It was the first of many secrets the twins would keep from each other. And would prove deadly for one.”

Continue reading
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Review: Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Search

Authors: Gene Luen Yang, Michael Dante DiMartino, Bryan Konietzko
Artist: Gurihiru
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Released: February 5th, 2014
Received: Own

4 kitties

Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Search is the second plot arc to stem from the animated series fans have fallen so in love with. After the popularity bump that came when Avatar: The Last Airbender moved to Netflix, I was inspired to read through as much of the comics as possible. So far, it’s been absolutely worth it!

The Search is more than half the reason why I wanted finally sit down and read the comics, if I’m being honest. This is the story of Zuko’s mother – where she went, and why she left. It’s more than that as well, as readers will quickly find out.

Looking back on it, I’m glad that I read Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Search in a complete collection. Likewise, I’m pretty happy to be binging the entire series right now. It really lets one delve further into the material, and all the potential implications.

It’s safe to say that some of the subject matter in The Search is a bit…heavy. After all, it does predominantly focus on all of the reasons why Zuko’s mother left in the first place, and why she stayed away.

Some of the answers were not what I was expecting. Yet, at the same time, I do have to admit that they make sense, and fit in nicely with the larger world that is Avatar. I’m not going to say more than that, on the off chance that spoilers are still a risk (I know it’s been six years, but better safe than sorry!).

Most of the artwork looks exactly like what I’d expect: the characters we know and love have been carefully transported into comic format, and it shows. Gurihiru did a fantastic job of staying loyal to the character designs and thematic styles of the series.

Overall, Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Search is absolutely worth diving into, especially for those fans that still have lingering questions from the series. While this won’t answer all of them it will go a long way in doing so.

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