Review: Star Daughter by Shveta Thakrar

Author: Shveta Thakrar
Publisher: HarperTeen
Released: August 11th, 2020
Received: Own

4 kitties

So, thanks to a series of events, I ended up with two copies of Star Daughter. The first from BOTM, and the second from Owlcrate. Woops! On the bright side, that was all the motivation I needed to read and review this book!

Written by Shveta Thakrar, this is the tale of Sheetal Mistry, and her biggest secret. You see, she’s the daughter of a star. A literal star, not simply a famous person. That makes her part star by birth.

Her birth right is about to claim her, and pull her into an adventure like no other. It will challenge her, and pull at her heartstrings. It will force her to make the hard decisions, but at the end, Sheetal could end up a better person, or star, for it.

“She was nothing but the words of a story, one tale weaving imperceptibly into the next. She was the loom that wove the tapestry. She was the tapestry that joined all things.”

Star Daughter was a rich and fascinating novel, emulating the brilliance of the stars themselves in a heartwarming tale. It was nothing like what I expected, but it was captivating all the same.

I’ll confess that I actually did struggle to get into Star Daughter, at least at first. I think it took me two tries to dig in. But once I got past the first few chapters, I found myself hooked. I loved the world, especially all of the lore hinted thorughout the novel.

Truthfully, I lived for those details. It’s what brought the whole story to life for me, fleshing it out and making me desperate for more. I could have lived on the lore alone. Would have happily read another book full of it.

That isn’t to say that I didn’t enjoy Sheetal’s story, because I certainly did. It reminded me of how the past and the present can work together. How one affects the other. In that sense, Star Daughter was really beautifully done.

I also loved many of the messages in this novel, about loving and respecting yourself, about change, and inspiration. It was wonderful, and very powerful. I can see why so many people ended up loving it as much as they did.

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Review: The Haunting of Beatrix Greene: Vol. 1

Authors: Rachel Hawkins, Ash Parsons, Vicky Alvear Shecter
Series: The Haunting of Beatrix Greene
Publisher: Serial Box
Released: October 28th, 2020
Received: NetGalley
Warnings: Sibling death, graphic violence, gore, suicide

4 kitties

I received a copy of The Haunting of Beatrix Greene in exchange for a fair and honest review.

The Haunting of Beatrix Greene Vol. 1 is a series on Serial Box that is absolutely perfect to dive into this spooky season (in case it wasn’t obvious, I read this right around Halloween).

Beatrix Greene has done an excellent job of making a name and reputation for herself. She came from nothing, and built her way up to this point. How? By reading people and telling them the things they needed to hear in over to help move on from the loss of a loved one.

Yes, Beatrix fully believed that she is a con artist, like many others out there. The biggest difference is that she won’t delve into silly tricks and flash moves. Her class brought her name to the attention of James Walker, and a haunted house he desperately needed answers about.

“It was…inconvenient, then, when she had these little moments of, if not shame, exactly, but something akin to regret.”

I went into The Haunting of Beatrix Greene with pretty high expectations, if I’m being truthful here. So far, I’ve loved everything that has come out of Serial Box, and thus assumed that it would be the same here.

Thankfully, I wasn’t wrong! While Beatrix is not my favorite of the series available (Jessica Jones: Playing With Fire has that honor), it was still a highly entertaining story. One that delved into the more graphic side of things, making it a perfect read for the Halloween season.

Right from the first introduction of this world, I knew that it was going to be a captivating one. I adore this aesthetic – haunted houses and horrid creatures roaming around in this time period. Beatrix’s grit and determination helped to carry the story, while James’ tortured history added all of the raw emotion one could ever hope for.

“So much of Beatrix’s success lay in reading people correctly.”

I’ll admit that I was a bit surprised by just how dark (and graphic) this first season ended up getting. That isn’t a bad thing! While not expected, it did fit in nicely with what the story was trying to show and tell us.

Meanwhile, the romantic subplot helped to balance out all of the more daunting edges, adding a little spark of hope in what was otherwise a fairly dark story. On that note, I can’t wait to see how the second season of this series develops (I have no doubt that there will be a second season!).

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Review: The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins

Author: Rachel Hawkins
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Released: January 5th, 2021
Received: Own (BOTM)
Warnings: Mental health, abuse

3 1/2 kitties

Author Rachel Hawkins is back with an all-new thriller, The Wife Upstairs. You can already tell, just from the name, that this is going to be full of twisted turns and revelations.

Jane has been looking for a bright turn in her life for ages, and now she might have finally found it. She’s been hired as a dog-walker in Thornfield Estates, and that opportunity has led to others. Such as the introduction to a rich widower.

For a moment there, it seemed like she was about to have everything. Yet everyone carries baggage. In the case of Jane and Eddie, their baggage is full of potentially lethal secrets, should the wrong one get out.

“I hear the car before I see it, but even then, I don’t move, and later, I’d look back at that moment and wonder if I somehow knew what was going to happen. If everything in my life had been leading me to that one spot, to that one house.”

The Wife Upstairs immediately caught my attention, thanks to that vibrant cover. Well, that and the author, naturally. I was instantly curious about who the wife upstairs truly was, and how it was all going to come into play.

So, did it hold up to those high expectations? For the most part, yeah, it did! The Wife Upstairs is told through several perspective shifts, one of which also results in a format change. Jane is the main character, and thus dominates the pages. But Eddie and Bea also get their say.

Bea’s story comes with the most interesting format – hers being told through a series of long letters. It’s quite clever, and raises plenty of questions about what is actually going on behind the scenes.

On that note, there are SO many twists and turns in this novel. Good luck keeping up with them all! Obviously, I’m not going to spoil any of them here, other than to say that they were more than enough to keep me reading right until the end.

I should probably mention, for the dog lovers out there: the dog is fine. I promise! I know I won’t be the only person that worries when a rescue dog gets introduced into what is certain to be a twisted thriller.

Intentionally or not, The Wife Upstairs really reminded me of Jane Eyre. Given the main character’s name, I’m going to assume that there is a lot of intent behind that decision. So if a modern/thriller retelling is what you’re looking for, you’re absolutely going to get it here.

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Review: The Ludocrats

Authors: Kieron Gillen, Jim Rossignol
Artists: Jeff Stokely, Tamra Bonvillain, Clayton Cowles
Publisher: Image Comics
Released: October 13th, 2020
Received: Edelweiss

4 kitties

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

The Ludocrats has got to be one of the most absurd series I’ve read in quite some time – and I mean that in the best way possible. Created by Kieron Gillen, Jim Rossignol, Jeff Stokely, Tamra Bonvillain, and Clayton Cowles, this series is every bit as insane, silly, and quirky as that cover might imply.

In a world where normal is boring, and ludicrous is normal, there are The Ludocrats. They fight boredom, making it an arrest worthy offense. This is the world that Otto lives and loves in, and that alone leaves enough room for chaos and mayhem galore.

I’m honestly not even entirely sure where to start this review. I feel like saying The Ludocrats is the most insane thing I’ve ever read is actually a bit…tame in comparison to what I read here. It’s berserk, but in a highly entertaining manner.

Frankly, I was shocked by how much I enjoyed this series. Perhaps it was simply because it was so much fun to see this creative team let loose and create something truly unique (one cannot argue that The Ludocrats is anything else).

Kieron Gillen and Jim Rossignol are arguably better known for some of their other (and more serious) series (such as The Wicked + The Divine, Once & Future, Sir, You Are Being Hunted). Yet I think this series will pop up in my mind for now on. As a huge fan of some of those series, I was pretty surprised to see the content within these pages, but I think that surprise just made it all the better.

Tamra Bonvillain’s colors really brought the whole world (and humor) into focus. The colors are well…blindingly bright, but in this world, that’s a good thing. Likewise, Jeff Stokely’s artwork really let the characters run amok in this world, Otto in particular (seriously, if you don’t want to see too much of that man, don’t look too closely at some of the pages). And of course, Clayton Cowles did a freaking fantastic job with the lettering, but I’m not surprised by that.

I think what I enjoyed the most about this series is that it was quite literally, unpredictable. It at times made no sense, but that in itself made sense. If that makes sense. See! Ludocrats is designed to make everyone a bit crazy, all while letting loose and having fun.

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Review: A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab

Series: Shades of Magic #2
Author: V.E. Schwab
Released: February 23rd, 2016
Received: Own

4 1/2 kitties

A Gathering of Shadows, written by V.E. Schwab, is the second novel in the Shades of Magic Series. It’s a series that I took far to long to read, and yet it has utterly enchanted me.

Four months ago, Red London fell into chaos and danger. Four months ago, Kell and Delilah stood against the worst odds, and managed to save the day. Now, Kell is trapped in the castle, which to many wouldn’t feel like a prison, but to Kell it does. All while Delilah is off who knows where, doing who knows what.

What’s more, the city is about to celebrate, as The Element Games are occurring once again. This is the rare opportunity for those with talents to showcase them, and it draws people from all over the world for the competition. Including a few surprises.

“Whatever I am, let it be enough”

Guys, I can’t even begin to tell you how much I enjoyed A Gathering of Shadows. It was fast-paced, thrilling, and frankly, I loved every minute of reading about Delilah and Kell. My only regret came when the book concluded.

The first novel in this series had me kicking myself about not reading it sooner. On the bright side, that does mean I was able to binge the whole series in one go. And binge I did! In fact, I literally picked up A Conjuring of Light immediately upon finishing this book. So to me, the events in both kind of flowed together. Ah, the problems of a book worm, right?

A Gathering of Shadows was brilliant for a variety of reasons. The building tension between Kell and Delilah, the tension surrounding Alucard, the dynamics revolving around the King, Queen, and Princes.

Oh! And don’t forget the Element Games, which gave us more opportunities to see the magic of the world, and the creative ways in which they can be used for battle. My only regret here is that we didn’t get to see more of the fighting (and really, we did see quite a lot of it).

“I know where you sleep, Bard.” She smirked. “Then you know I sleep with knives.”

The antagonist of A Gathering of Shadows is…divine sounds like a weird word to use here, but it works. It was shockingly complex, and that made it all the more difficult to process. Ironically, it is far from being a black and white situation, and I loved that so much.

This novel does end in a bit of a cliffhanger, which is part of the reason why I dove right into A Conjuring of Light. Still, I have no regrets in that department (and yes, I did finish it).

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Blog Tour & Review: Sweet Water by Cara Reinard

Stay tuned below for a review and excerpt for Sweet Water!

Author: Cara Reinard
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Released: January 1st, 2021
Received: Blog Tour

3 1/2 kitties

I received a copy of Sweet Water in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Cara Reinard’s latest novel, Sweet Water, is a disturbing and thrilling tale, one that weaves in family horror with mystery and thriller elements.

Sarah Ellsworth had a dream. The perfect husband, the perfect family. A huge home. The works. She even got that dream, only to learn the hard way that dreams never capture the full detail. Or the darker sides that can come with it.

Her son, Finn, seemed like a boy with all the potential in the world. So you can imagine how much her world is rocked when it appears that he may have murdered his girlfriend. And that her husband’s entire family is willing to work together to cover it up…

“Please,” I beg to the starlit sky peeking through the trees. “Let her be breathing.”

Much like Finn, the teenage son, Sweet Water is a novel full of potential. Thankfully, it didn’t let us down in the same way that boy did! This was a dark and thrilling tale, one that was unafraid to raise uncomfortable questions about family and loyalty.

A few things worth addressing early on in my review: this is not going to be a book for everyone. It’s tense and uncomfortable at times, and the description alone should make it clear what sort of subject matter we’re dealing with.

Likewise, the tone seemed to change suddenly over the course of Sweet Water. It went from this tense build-up to something else. Personally, it felt to me like the change was to try and redirect the attention to a different element of the story. But I can see how it would be off-putting to some.

All things considered, Sweet Water is a novel that held my attention right through to the end, with plenty of dark twists, and even darker implications. If you’re a fan of family drama/horror infused with thriller elements, odds are good that you might just enjoy the hell that Sarah Ellsworth is about to go through in Sweet Water.

Book Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Author Links: Website | Goodreads | Bookbub | Twitter | Instagram | Facebook

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Review: Vampires Never Get Old: Tales with Fresh Bite

Authors: Tessa Gratton, Rebecca Roanhorse, Julie Murphy, Heidi Helig, Samira Ahmed, Kayla Whaley, Zoraida Cordova, Natalie C. Parker, Laura Ruby, Mark Osbiro, Dhonielle Clayton, Victoria (V.E.) Schwab
Editors: Zoraida Cordova, Natalie C. Parker
Publisher: Imprint
Released: September 22nd, 2020
Received: Own

4 kitties

Do you love vampires? Then you might just want to check out Vampires Never Get Old: Tales with Fresh Bite. Not only does it have a fangtastic focus, but it is written by some of my favorite authors out there.

So, confession time, I first heard of Vampires Never Get Old when I heard the news that one of the short stories (First Kill) was getting adapted into a series. First, I flipped out over that news, second, I went hunting for this anthology. I’m so glad I did so!

Included in this anthology are: Seven Nights for Dying by Tessa Gratton, The Boys From Blood River by Rebecca Roanhorse, Senior Year Sucks by Julie Murphy, The Boy and the Bell by Heidi Helig, A Guidebook for the Newly Sired Desi Vampire by Samira Ahmed, In Kind by Kayla Whaley, Vampires Never Say Die by Zoraida Cordova and Natalie C. Parker, Bestiary by Laura Ruby, Mirrors, Windows, & Selfies by Mark Osbiro, The House of Black Sapphires by Dhonielle Clayton, and First Kill by Victoria (V.E.) Schwab.

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Review: Marvel’s Thor: Metal Gods

Marvel’s Thor: Metal Gods Season 1
Authors: Aaron Stewart-Ahn, Jay Edidin, Brian Keene, Yoon Ha Lee
Narrator: Daniel Gillies
Publisher: Serial Box
Released: December 12th, 2019
Received: Own

4 1/2 kitties

Marvel’s Thor: Metal Gods Season 1 is the first Marvel Comic to hit Serial Box – and man, this is something that I never knew I needed. But now I can’t ever imagine going without again. This is the story that got me hooked on Serial Box, so consider yourself warned. There might just be a new obsession in your future.

It’s a tale as old as time. Loki got himself up to some mischief, and before you knew it, the whole galaxy was in danger. It’s certainly a tale that Thor is used to getting wrapped up in. However, this time around, there’s a musical twist.

Loki spent some time on earth. There he joined a band, and later left that band. Not entirely a decision of his own making. Meanwhile, Thor is still doing his best to live up to the title, and continue to be worthy. It is not an easy task, especially not for an immortal such as himself.

Thor: Metal Gods was written by Aaron Stewart-Ahn, Jay Edidin, Brian Keene, and Yoon Ha Lee. It was narrated by Danilie Gillies. It is also one of my favorite Thor stories to date, with the exception of Mighty Thor/Goddess of Thunder.

“How dare you speak of Nihilator this way!”

Holy cow. Thor: Metal Gods is an adventure of epic proportions. It is a title that lives up to the names, the characters, and so much more. Seriously, where has this series been all my life? Here’s hoping that this will be the first of many seasons for this hero, his brother, and their new companions.

There’s so much to love about this series. The approachable nature and accessibility of it all. The characters, old and new, the writing, the narration. All of it. It’s all part of a working whole, and it makes for such a unique adventure.

Thor’s character transitioned quite nicely to this new platform, and you can see all of the effort that the writers went through to make sure he is still the character we all know and love. That being said, it is a new platform, so there’s suddenly a bit more freedom than before. You can see the freedom in the way some new characters and backstories were introduced – all to good effect, if you ask me.

This series has a little bit of everything, as promised. It’s funny at times, dramatic at others, and sometimes even downright harrowing. It’s the perfect balance of emotions and experiences, creating quite the adventure.

I’m going to give bonus points for all the quick Marvel references woven throughout as well. It really made it feel like the comprehensive world (well, universe) that we all know so well. It was a nice, and subtle, touch.

Daniel Gillies’ narration is probably the thing that threw me head over heels for this story, if I’m being completely honest. He did such a fantastic job portraying two brothers, and the vast differences between the two of them. Not to mention all of the other characters that came along for the ride.

Long story short: I adored Thor: Metal Gods Season 1, and sincerely hope that it is far from over. Likewise, this is the series that got me into Serial Box, so it’s always going to hold a special place in my heart for that alone.

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Review: The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley

Author: Lucy Foley
Publisher: HarperCollins
Released: January 24th, 2019
Received: Own (BOTM)
Warnings: Animal death, adultery

3 kitties

Lucy Foley introduces a world reminiscent of Agatha Christie’s suspense in The Hunting Party.

It’s the holidays, and that means it’s time for one group of longstanding friends to take a trip like no other. Though they probably weren’t expecting what sort of events would make it so memorable for them.

The group heads off to an isolated lodge – in the winter – in hopes of having an eventful New Years. They certainly got that, as one of them would be dead before the holiday season is over. To make matters worse – they’re all suspects, and trapped together.

“But it is a lot easier to face the day when you know you won’t have to face other people and their happiness.”

If you’ve read any of Agatha Christie’s works (or Ruth Ware’s One By One), then The Hunting Party is going to have a lot of familiar tones and elements for you. That is not automatically a bad thing, especially as Foley attempted to play around with the general concept.

We all know the tale. A group of friends (or co-workers, or even strangers), gets trapped in an isolated location, and then the unthinkable occurs. A murder is discovered, making everyone present a suspect.

Panic ensues, right? Well, that’s kind of where The Hunting Party deviates. The whole story is set in two periods of time; before the murder, and after. Much of what follows after is limited to just a couple of characters, who seem to keep their heads on straight. Mostly.

Everything before the murder is setting the scene, and showing just how true it is that they’re all suspects. That part is quite nicely done. As is the building of suspense. There was a large amount of this book where I sincerely didn’t know who died, let alone who the murderer was.

Ultimately though, I feel like the book kind of fell flat for me. There wasn’t much of an emotional investment in it. Perhaps at least in part because we didn’t really see the group reacting to said murder. Not much, at any rate.

One could argue that their reactions weren’t the focus, but I feel like that is one of several decisions that removed the human element in the story. Ironic, in a way, I know. The group consisted of several characters (Miranda, Katie, Mark, Giles, Samira, Julien, and Emma), yet there are a few that we learn next to nothing about.

Then again, there are a few who I would be quite happy to never meet in real life, so I guess it’s all a balancing act, as per usual. Overall this was a decent thriller, especially as a read for around the holidays. I just wish that Lucy Foley had pushed certain elements a little bit harder.

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Review: How to Be Ace by Rebecca Burgess

How to Be Ace: A Memoir of Growing Up Asexual
Author: Rebecca Burgess
Publisher: Jessica Kingsley Publishers
Released: October 21st, 2020
Received: NetGalley

4 1/2 kitties

I received a copy of How to Be Ace in exchange for a fair and honest review.

How to Be Ace was written and illustrated by Rebecca Burgess, and it is a moving (and real-life) story of what it is like to grow up while being ace – all without knowing that term, or what it means, until later in life.

This is a powerful, and wonderful read. Rebecca Burgess did a fantastic job of infusing her personality and story into these pages, making it all come to life, while being highly relatable. Seriously, I strongly recommend this to anyone who wants to know more about asexuality, whether you are learning more about yourself, or somebody in your life.

One of the many details I found myself loving about this graphic novel, is that Burgess took the time to talk about different sexuality, many of which tend to just get lumped in with asexuality. I hope at least one person reads this and finds it insightful.

Burgess also talks a lot about growing up with OCD, anxiety, and introversion. It’s a complex combination, all of which just make her story all the more impactful. It’s so easy to relate to her journey, made all the easier by the endearing art style.

Overall, this is a highly uplifting read. One that shows one person’s journey, and the struggles they found along the way. And yet there’s always a sense of light to be found, and that is one of the many things that makes this a remarkable read.

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