Given the ratings, I was surprised at how much in enjoyed this slim novel about dream walking and monsters. It’s a odd one.
Out of Body comes out on May 26!
Out of Body is definitely a polarizing novella. For me, it was a clear winner—but that's because it felt like the darker, grown up version of one of my favorite young reads. This reminds me SO MUCH of Scott Westerfeld's The Midnighters.
Owen is a librarian living out his days of monotony in a haze of repetition. He's 35, but he feels both ancient and young. (He dresses like an old-school businessman, yet survives on boxed mac and cheese and frozen pizza.)
One day, Owen witnesses a robbery-turned-murder at his local gas station, where he's viciously knocked out with a head injury. After his head injury, Owen discovers that something about his reality has changed.
Now, he can dream walk. But other things also walk the nights...and not all of them are friendly.
The novel's so short I have to stop there - spoilers!
What I loved:
I LOVED the similarity in concept between this novel and Scott Westerfeld's The Midnighters. Both involve a select group of people who are active during the nighttime due to speculative circumstance. (Beyond that, the concepts are very different.) I loved Owen's bland character—yes, I know that sounds like a negative, but hear me out. Owen's lack of character distinction perfectly represents the feeling of detachment that a surrealist dreamscape requires. It was the perfect amount of distance vs. Other.
What I didn't love:
I can see why others didn't enjoy the pacing of this novel. It was slightly odd, and slow for the beginning bits. However, I think that is also an intentional part of the distanced narrative, so this "negative" was neutral at best for me.
Thank you to TOR via NetGalley for an ARC of this title in exchange for an honest review.
This was a Michigan romance, about writers, near the places where I was raised, and about finding yourself and your love from the ashes of a recent and shattering life change. It was GREAT. Strap in for an incredibly biased review. I never read romances set in my area!
Romance itself: ★★★★★
January Andrews is a romance writer who always believed in happily ever after. Or at least, the avoiding-real-life-problems-to-fixate-on-the-happy-ever-after part of the deal. January always pretended her life was great. Her parents were happily married. Her mother successfully beat cancer twice. Her beautiful, spontaneous boyfriend was the perfect aesthetic match. Her New York City apartment fulfilled her image of a writer lifestyle.
All that changes when January's father dies, and it turns out that her life's foundations are a lie. Turns out good old dad had a second house in Michigan, complete with a long-term mistress.
January's life spirals real fast. Her boyfriend can't handle her new "sad self," so he leaves. Without him, January's out of her New York apartment, out of funds, and now on deadline for a contracted romance book deal. And the last thing January wants to do is write a book about love. Love is lie.
So January moves to Michigan to take advantage of the rent-free love nest her father left her. It's awkward, to say the least. It's even more awkward when she realizes that her next door beach house neighbor is her ex-college rival and long-time competitive/attractive muse, Augustus Everett.
Gus and January have always had it in for each other. They were neck in neck in college, and January's always Googled his recent successes to compare her own against them...oh, and also there's the fact that they've both had the hots for each other this whole time.
What could go wrong?
I loved this SO much. Anything I could say about it would just showcase my rampant bias toward these characters, this set-up, the unique clash of enemies to lovers/second chance romance/competition romance/etc, and the fact that I could picture the atmosphere in vivid detail given personal experience.
Read it and weep, folks. This one was awesome!
A mother-daughter college tour that tests their relationship in hilarious ways—with a few surprises along the way.
Characters: ★★★ 1/2
Jessica Burnstein doesn't know how to talk to her daughter anymore. She barely understands her, she's not sure how to help her understand that all she wants is for Emily to be happy, and she sure as heck isn't sure how to fix where they are now.
Emily Burnstein doesn't know how to talk to her mother anymore. She doesn't understand why her mother barely talks to her, she's sick of coming in last in her mom's priorities, and she resents the pressure to be perfect.
This mother/daughter duo is about to be tested in ways that they never expected: it's time for a college tour road trip. Jessica and Emily are signed up for an exclusive, only-for-the-best college bound students tour package with students with more extracurriculars and special skills than empathy, and parents that make the term "Helicopter Parent" seem too kind.
Will they bend and break, or will this tour finally get them to let their guards down?
What I liked:
The selling point of this novel, for me, was its humor. This is a funny novel, no doubt about it. If you need a conversational pick-me-up or a distracting afternoon, this is the perfect pick. I loved the antics, the humor, and the utter relatability of family dynamics gone sour.
What I didn't like:
I really had a hard time with the choppy POV transitions. It was nice to have both Jessica's and Emily's POVs, but it was not chapter to chapter... it was almost page to page in some spots. It was too much for me—I'd barely get my grip on one scene and then have it flipped for me as we switched perspectives. It was a bit like generational whiplash, as these rapid-fire transitions were meant to give us a window into the daughter's AND mother's point of view as close to the event as possible.
Thank you to Berkley for a giveaway ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Sometimes you just need a Regency romance... This was a cute and enchanting read, with more fairy tale elements than steamy scenes.
Miss Sophie Kendall, organizer of the feminist group the Debutante Underground, has a few problems. Her family is one step above financial ruin, her father is a drunk, and her family has given her an ultimatum: she must marry, he must be rich, and it must be quick.
Now, in a deviation from one of the more traditional Regency plots, it's not an arranged setup—the family has already found Sophie a marquess willing to marry her. Too bad Sophie doesn't love him...
Reese, Earl of Warshire, is a man with a serious problem: he can't sleep. We're not talking casual insomnia—he's literally killing himself with a lack of sleep. A former war general, he's haunted by the loss of his men and even more haunted by the loss of his older brother, Edmund, who was supposed to be the Earl. Now stuck in the position with more nightmares than hope, Reese is not doing so well.
One chance encounter with Sophie Kendall radically changes his life.... And begins their sweet, chaste encounters in the nighttime. In a twist that feels more like a fairy tale than a romance, Sophie agrees to spend her Friday nights with Reese—no funny business, for real—and engages in fairy tale-like adventures with him on the moonlit gardens of his estate.
But Sophie's betrothed to another, and Reese knows he has her on borrowed time...
I thought When You Wish Upon a Rogue was a cute and soft installment for the Debutante Diaries series. This was my first introduction, and to be honest I really enjoyed it! My main qualms with the story involved the lack of realism... I know that most Regency romances often deviate from historical accuracy to follow the romance, and normally I'm on board with it, but for this particular plot the facts kept me from fully immersing myself in the story. I thought it was extremely sweet, but not overly plausible.
Intrigued enough to try out the next book in series!
Thank you to St Martin's Press via NetGalley for an ARC of this title in exchange for an honest review.
A circus, an intersex main character, an alternate world with bits of Victorian and steampunk, and extremely catchy writing.
Main character: ★★★★
Pacing: ★★★ (there is a split timeline, and I didn't love that)
Pantomime was a book that I randomly added to a Book Outlet haul a few weeks ago because it had a gorgeous cover and was blurbed by Leigh Bardugo. Enough said, right? Also, it was about a circus so I was ON IT.
It's about an intersex main character named Micah Grey who escapes their home one night when their family tries to "fix" them without their consent. Micah doesn't need to be fixed, they are happy with who they are. So they run away to the circus.
This is a tale with found family elements, magical elements, steampunk elements, and the gritty thread of the circus running throughout. Micah's adventure to find themselves as a teenager, a person, and an aerialist for the circus was a classic coming of age tale with some obvious twists. But, the world itself kept Pantomime from falling into the cracks of other circus stories. The world of Pantomime is weirdly Victorian, but also post-apocalyptic as there used to be a society of Alders who ruled the land. The Alders are long gone, and the only remnants of their society remain as "Vestiges," which are mechanical devices that are much more technologically advanced than the current society.
While this book in the trilogy focused on the world though the lens of the circus, it's clear that books two and three will be exploring more magic and more of the world--Micah's discovering that they might not be who they thought they were...and it's time to find out why.
Love always wins, even when the obstacles seem insurmountable. Time for a classic Regency romance!
Gone with the Rogue is the second in the First Comes Love series, but like many other romances it can be read as a standalone—I, personally, can vouch for that as I'm a newbie to the series with this book.
Julia Fairbright's husband drowned at sea, leaving her with their young son and under the "protection" of her father-in-law, the duke. The duke is oppressive and controlling, and holds Julia's son over her head in order to make her follow his wishes. It's a black and white situation. Julia wants out, but she's stuck.
Garrett Stockton is the owner of a prominent shipping company and a bit of a scoundrel. He's dashing, he's independent, and he's always at the edge of polite society. So when he sees the beautiful Julia stuck in a tree, he's shocked at the surprisingly warm feelings towards her.
Obviously, these two characters are meant to fall in love—it's just Julia's pesky father-in-law and the societal norms of her status as a widow that stand in their way. Will their love find a way?
Now, please take my review with a grain of salt, because I'm pretty sure this was a case of "it's not you, it's me" reader syndrome. Gone With the Rogue was cute and filled with all of the right things, but for some reason I could not fully engage myself in the story. I found Julia hard to fixate on due to her similarity to other romance heroines, and Garrett too reactionary—he didn't seem to have much personality outside of his fixation on Julia. I feel like I might have enjoyed this story more on a different day, or even as a newer romance reader.
However, this story does deliver on its sweetness, so if sweet and chivalrous is your thing, give this one a try!
Thank you to St Martin's Press via NetGalley for an ARC of this title in exchange for an honest review.
CAVES. A close-knit group of people. A documentary in progress. Supernatural spooks. Lots of humor, laughs, and horror. I loved this so much.
Cave factor: ★★★★★
Overall enjoyment: ★★★★★
Don't let the meh reviews fool you. If you're a fan of caves, you'll love this. If you're a fan of documentary-based horror films, you'll love this. If you're a fan of closed-in groups of people experiencing some tough stuff, yeah you'll love this too.
The Anomaly follows a down-on-their-luck YouTube web series about a middle-aged man named Nolan Moore who explores the conspiracy theories and weird places of the world. For YouTube fans who understand the Buzzfeed Unsolved reference, this part of the story feels a lot like what would happen if that show got weirder, older, and less entertaining. The documentary group is scraping by, waiting for their one big break. And then, they find it.
Hidden within the Grand Canyon lies a cave. An explorer named Kincaid found it during his initial surveys of America's West, and he said amazing archaeological treasures existed inside. But then he never told people where to find it, and the cave disappeared over time.
Nolan is interested in finding the cave, but like all of his other documentaries, he's not really expecting to find it.
The group enters the Grand Canyon and—to everyone's surprise— they find the cave. That's the easy part.
Unbeknownst to them, the cave has some secrets to share. There was a reason Kincaid never wanted people to find this cave. And Nolan's crew is about to find out why.
Ahhhhhhhh. This was so fun to read, folks. First off, I'm highly biased as I love any and all horror stories involving caves. I'm a huge fan of the movie The Descent, featuring caves and spooky things, and one of my favorite reads of last year was The Luminous Dead, again about caves and spooky things. So it's with no surprise that I offer this up to fellow cave fans as another entry into that sub-genre of thriller/horror.
Another selling point for this book was the surprising amount of humor - like actual, laughing out loud in the room humor. Ken, the series' producer, is my favorite character because of that.
Without getting into spoilers, I do agree with some of the reviewers who didn't enjoy the ending. I did enjoy it, but that's because I don't need thrillers to be grounded in reality—especially when they're explicitly clear that they have spooky elements. So I guess, a word of caution to those who do care about that kind of thing. If you're entering this spooky, horror-movie vibe book and expecting a logical boogieman, maybe this one isn't for you.
A dead body in a teagarden. Secrets buried from the distant past. Political intrigue mixed with London's society. Welcome to London, 1814.
Mystery plot: ★★★ 1/2
Enjoyment: all the stars, this was the perfect evening read
Who Speaks for the Damned is the 15th book in the Sebastian St. Cyr mysteries, but don't let that stop you from picking it up--I was a new reader to this world and these characters and had a darn good time.
Sebastian St. Cyr is the Viscount Devlin in early 1800s London. He's a nobleman with a past...and a habit for ferreting out crimes that the nobles would rather be left alone.
When a disgraced former member of society winds up dead in a teagarden, Sebastian is on the case. The man is Nicolas Hayes, the third son of the late Earl of Seaforth. Eighteen years ago, Hayes was convicted of attempted assault and murder and banished to a distant prison camp for life. Thought to be dead, Hayes' recently dead body in London comes as a shock to society and unearths secrets better left buried.
Who killed this former murderer, and why?
I really, really enjoyed this one.
Sebastian St Cyr is not your average gentleman, and he doesn't care if you know it or not. Given the time period and the historical setting, I found his character extremely unique and surprising. I loved his way of questioning the ton—with surprising elements of humor—and his core of steel when it came to class injustice.
The author also did a FABULOUS job with the sense of place and historical accuracy. It felt like 1800s London, down to the dialogue, as opposed to a historical novel with just enough details. I loved the total immersion into the time period.
And, last but not least, the mystery! Obviously can't talk about this too much without spoilers, but let's just say that C.S. Harris knows how to spin a good yarn. I was right about a few things, wrong about a few things, and in the end so thoroughly entertained by the entire experience that I just settled in for the ride.
Thank you to Berkley for an ARC of this title in exchange for an honest review.
So so cute, so so positive, so so what we need right now. A quirky elementary school librarian in Texas meets her match in the new school principal.
Romance: ★★★★ 1/2
What You Wish For comes out on July 14, 2020!
So, let's start off with the fact that I'm extremely biased to love Katherine Center. Her past few books have become all time favorites, and her blend of romance, heartfelt healing, and memorable settings made me oh-so-excited to get to this one.
It did not disappoint!
What You Wish For follows Sam Casey, a librarian with epilepsy who has found a haven for herself in Galveston, Texas. Adorning herself with quirky outfits and surrounded by conversation starters in her whimsical school library, Sam's got it good. Her life is filled with laughter and friends, and her found family includes the school principal and his wife, who have taken Sam in to their home.
Then, her school's beloved principal dies suddenly.
Reeling from the personal and professional loss, Sam can't believe what comes next: the new principal coming to town is none other than Duncan Carpenter, a former teacher from Sam's previous school district. The former teacher that Sam had a hopeless, unrequited obsession with. Yeah. That one.
But this Duncan isn't the same as the goofy teacher Sam used to know. This Duncan is hard, stern, and unwilling to see the charms of Sam's beloved school. He seems obsessed with his vision, and a dark event haunts his past.
If Duncan thinks he can just waltz right in and change things in Galveston, he's got another thing coming...
Ugh. Another winner. I laughed, I teared up a bit, I grinned like a loon. I made the mistake of starting this at 9 p.m. and then went to bed at 1 a.m. because that's how long it took me to finish it. If that's not high enough praise, I don't know what to tell you. It's cute, it's positive, and memorable in its adorable side-quests and flirtations between Duncan and Sam.
My only caveat to this story is that it was missing some of the dramatic tension that other novels by this author have had. There was emotional resonance—and an intense commentary on the state of school life in America today—but the romance itself smoothly transitioned throughout. I guess I was looking for more drama? That's most likely a "me" thing.
Regardless, if you're a fan of How to Walk Away or Things You Save in a Fire, definitely check this one out!
Thank you to St Martin's Press via NetGalley for an ARC of this title in exchange for an honest review.
A sister tries to solve the cold case of her sister's murder while helping her mother struggle through a cancer treatment. This family's got issues, and the worst is yet to come.
Character development: ★★★★★
Surprise factor: ★
Sylvie was a teenager when her older sister, Persephone, was murdered. Out late one night with a secret boyfriend, Persephone was found murdered on the side of the road a few days later. The case was never solved, and Sylvie's life changed for the worse.
Sylvie's mother, Annie, was always mercurial. On the 15th of every month, she had a "Dark Day." After Persephone's death, every day was Annie's "Dark Day" and the spiral of alcohol made everything worse.
Now it's the present day, and Annie is dying from cancer. Jill, Annie's sister, begs Sylvie to come home and help her take care of Annie. Sylvie doesn't want to return to that house, but she does.
To make matters worse, one of the nurses in Annie's cancer ward is Ben, Persephone's secret boyfriend. Sylvie knows Ben's the true killer—she's just got to prove it.
Struggling to repair her relationship with her mother and deal with the feelings lingering as a result of her sister's cold case, Sylvie decides to solve Persephone's case once and for all.
-The character development in this novel is stunning. I loved the relationships, and their faulty steps toward family healing were the saving graces of this novel. Without the human element, The Winter Sister would have really suffered.
-The writing style was compulsively readable. You won't want to put this down!
-I think I've read too many thrillers with this particular twist, because I was (unfortunately) able to guess it within the first few chapters. Now, I kept reading on hoping my guess was a red herring, but...it wasn't. That was it. I don't think it was hidden enough in the plot for those of us who have read this twist before, as the clues were loud and proud.
-The main character, Sylvie, was incredibly naive...almost to an unbelievable extent. She has harsh, unchangeable opinions about things, and ignores hard facts to keep her illusions. But then in other areas where she should be more cautious, she threw it all to the wind and plowed ahead, regardless of the danger involved or the impact. It made Sylvie read really young to me, and made her character inconsistent.
Amy Imogene Reads
Just someone looking for her own door into Wonderland.