Book Review: Electric Idol by Katee Robert

Electric Idol surrounded by pink flowers, blue books, and a blue candle

Electric Idol Book coverTitle: Electric Idol
Author: Katee Robert
Series: Dark Olympus #2
Genre: Romance
Date of Publication: January 18, 2022
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca


Synopsis

He was the most beautiful man alive.
And if I wasn’t careful, he was going to be my death.

*A scorchingly hot modern retelling of Psyche and Eros that’s as sinful as it is sweet.*

In the ultra-modern city of Olympus, there’s always a price to pay. Psyche knew she’d have to face Aphrodite’s ire eventually, but she never expected her literal heart to be at stake…or for Aphrodite’s gorgeous son to be the one ordered to strike the killing blow.

Eros has no problem shedding blood. But when it comes time to take out his latest target, he can’t do it. Confused by his reaction to Psyche, he does the only thing he can think of to keep her safe: he marries her. Psyche vows to make Eros’s life a living hell until they find a way out of this mess. But as lines blur and loyalties shift, she realizes he might take her heart after all…and she’s not sure she can survive the loss.

Goodreads

My Thoughts

This second installment in the Dark Olympus series is a standalone featuring Psyche and Eros and their epic love story. 

The world that Katee Robert has created is fresh and unique. It has hints of the paranormal, what with Olympus being an impossible place to leave, but aside from this, none of the story has supernatural elements. Olympus resembles Manhattan, with the rich socialites and the political intrigue. The thirteen “gods” are in power in the city, and they each control different elements of trade and business. Psyche is the daughter of one of the thirteen, Demeter, and she has her public persona that is quite different from her personal one. She is a social media influencer, and is constantly seeking out the perfect photographs that look effortless while showing herself in the right light. I liked getting the peek of curtain for what the life of a social media influencer could really be like. Psyche deals with a lot of hateful comments on her posts because of her plus-size figure, and her carefully-perfected persona is both crafty and cunning. She has everything down to her favourite drink that she orders at bars selected under the knowledge that it will be under public scrutiny in the gossip magazines. 

Aphrodite is one of the Thirteen who is arch nemesis to Demeter. Aphrodite’s son, Eros, does her bidding, whether it’s protecting her from enemies or killing those she views as a potential threat to her power. Because Aphrodite and Demeter despise each other, their children are barely acquaintances. But when Eros shows up to a party injured, Psyche, being a kind and selfless person, is compelled to help him. But of course, they both live in the public eye, and the paparazzi catch them leaving the bathroom together and assume that they’re “together”. Aphrodite is furious, and she tells Eros that she wants Psyche killed. But Eros, despite believing himself to be soulless, can’t bring himself to kill the one person who’s ever shown him kindness. *Insert swooning here*

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Book Review: Such a Pretty Smile by Kristi DeMeester 

Such a Pretty Smile book photo

Such a Pretty Smile book coverTitle: Such a Pretty Smile
Author: Kristi DeMeester 
Genre: Horror
Date of Publication: January 18, 2022
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press


Synopsis

A biting novel from an electrifying new voice, Such a Pretty Smile is a heart-stopping tour-de-force about powerful women, angry men, and all the ways in which girls fight against the forces that try to silence them.

There’s something out there that’s killing. Known only as The Cur, he leaves no traces, save for the torn bodies of girls, on the verge of becoming women, who are known as trouble-makers; those who refuse to conform, to know their place. Girls who don’t know when to shut up.

2019: Thirteen-year-old Lila Sawyer has secrets she can’t share with anyone. Not the school psychologist she’s seeing. Not her father, who has a new wife, and a new baby. And not her mother—the infamous Caroline Sawyer, a unique artist whose eerie sculptures, made from bent twigs and crimped leaves, have made her a local celebrity. But soon Lila feels haunted from within, terrorized by a delicious evil that shows her how to find her voice—until she is punished for using it.

2004: Caroline Sawyer hears dogs everywhere. Snarling, barking, teeth snapping that no one else seems to notice. At first, she blames the phantom sounds on her insomnia and her acute stress in caring for her ailing father. But then the delusions begin to take shape—both in her waking hours, and in the violent, visceral sculptures she creates while in a trance-like state. Her fiancé is convinced she needs help. Her new psychiatrist waves her “problem” away with pills. But Caroline’s past is a dark cellar, filled with repressed memories and a lurking horror that the men around her can’t understand.

As past demons become a present threat, both Caroline and Lila must chase the source of this unrelenting, oppressive power to its malignant core. Brilliantly paced, unsettling to the bone, and unapologetically fierce, Such a Pretty Smile is a powerful allegory for what it can mean to be a woman, and an untamed rallying cry for anyone ever told to sit down, shut up, and smile pretty. 

Goodreads

My Thoughts

The book opens with the present-day perspective of a thirteen-year-old girl named Lila who’s going through the typical issues that you’d expect with a preteen. She has a crush on her best friend, who’s oblivious to her feelings. She’s dealing with an overbearing mother. She’s navigating changes to her body and the evolving expectations surrounding her femininity and womanhood. As if all this isn’t complicated enough for a thirteen-year-old to handle, there’s also someone out there murdering young girls in a morbid fashion that mysteriously resembles a string of killings that occurred in New Orleans in 2004. Lila’s mother, Caroline, is terrified and overprotective of her daughter, and it’s clear that she knows more about the killings than she lets on…

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Book Review: Whiplash by Morgan Quaid

Whiplash book cover with a red candle, red flowers, and a black skull

Whiplash book coverTitle: Whiplash
Author: Morgan Quaid
Genre: Science Fiction, Dystopian, Young Adult
Series: Rust # 1
Date of Publication: November 8, 2021, originally published 2016
Publisher: Markosia Enterprises


Synopsis

Someone or something is killing people in their sleep. The world teeters on the brink of chaos as nightmares begin to spill out into the waking world and 16 year old Jack Flint is about to have a very bad night. Abducted in the dead of night by a mountainous thug and a ginger-haired dwarf, young Jack soon finds himself at the center of a war of cosmic proportions, fighting for survival among religious zealots, an underground black ops unit known only as The Bunker, and a renegade assassin with a penchant for over-sized weaponry. Whiplash is a spin off novel within the Rust Chronicles universe. It follows the first collected volume of short stories; Rust Chronicles Volume One.

Goodreads

My Thoughts

Whiplash is a fast-paced young adult, science fiction thriller and the first book in the Rust Chronicles.

Jack is a sixteen year old boy that is kidnapped and thrust into a world that he never could have imagined. He’s been hand-selected to be a warrior in a battle to save the world from dying in their sleep. He seems quite like an authentic sixteen year old boy, from the way that he talks to his crush on a fellow captive/warrior. He’s constantly piping in with smart-ass comments that he makes during every single interaction he has with other characters, even sometimes when he should be keeping his mouth shut for his own safety. I love sarcastic characters, and Jack does not disappoint! Side characters were also quite interesting and memorable, though for me, Jack really steals the show. 

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Book Review: Gaslight by Rachael Rose

Gaslight book cover with orange book, beige candle, and a little chalkboard that says 5 stars

Gaslight book coverTitle: Gaslight
Author: Rachael Rose 
Genre: Young Adult, Drama, Romance
Date of Publication: March 29, 2021
Publisher: Wattpad Books


Synopsis

Everyone has a limit.

It’s a six-hour flight from New York City to Los Angeles.

For Maddie Goodwright and her mom, it’s six hours that will change their lives as they leave behind broken relationships and shattered dreams. But a new school, a new home, and a new group of friends can’t heal the wounds of the past. To move forward, Maddie will have to reinvent herself.

When Madde’s step-cousins take her to the local underground fight club, it’s only a matter of time before boxer Hayden Walker catches her eye. Strong, powerful, and confident—he’s everything Maddie isn’t, but definitely wants to be. Convincing Hayden to train her is hard, not falling for him will be even harder.

As Maddie transforms both inside and out of the ring, her past returns with a vengeance determined to ruin everything. Except this time he’s not ready for her to face him head on.

Goodreads

My Thoughts

In the opening of this book, Maddie and her mother leave her father and move across the country to stay with her aunt and her family. Her father was manipulative, cruel, and controlling in some subtle and some not-so-subtle ways, known as “gaslighting”. When Maddie is reluctantly dragged by her cousins to a boxing match, she sees the boxers on the stage gaining a control over their lives that she covets. She decides to train at the local gym for a charity boxing match. The cute bad boy Hayden from her school becomes her trainer, and Maddie finally starts to learn how to live her life. 

The author has done a fabulous job of showing, not telling, what it’s like to suffer from gaslighting. Throughout the entire novel, Maddie questions herself. We’re given dozens of little anecdotes throughout the narrative, stories and memories that she has of her father and her mother. Some are good. Some are… not so good. In every instance, she questions herself, questions her memories, and questions her father’s intentions. Her perpetual confusion and distrust of herself is woven so intricately into the narrative, and as a reader, I genuinely felt these emotions alongside her. 

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Book Review: The Warden by Jon Richter

The Warden book photo

The Warden Book coverTitle: The Warden
Author: Jon Richter
Genre: Thriller, Science Fiction, Dystopian
Date of Publication: June 9, 2021
Publisher: Bloodhound Books 


Synopsis

Can you be free if you can’t go outside?

The year is 2024, and the residents of the Tower, a virus-proof apartment building, live in a state of permanent lockdown. The building is controlled by James, who keeps the residents safe but incarcerated. Behind bricked-up front doors, their every need is serviced; they are pampered but remain prisoners. This suits Eugene just fine. Ravaged by the traumas of his past, the agoraphobic ex-detective has no intention of ever setting foot outside again. But when he finds the Tower’s building manager brutally dismembered, his investigator’s instincts won’t allow him to ignore the vicious crime. What Eugene finds beyond the comfort of his apartment’s walls will turn his sheltered existence upside down. To unravel the Tower’s mysteries, he must confront James… and James takes his role as the Warden very, very seriously.

Jon Richter is also the critically-acclaimed author of the psychological thrillers Rabbit Hole and Never Rest. The Warden is a mind-blowing crime thriller perfect for our times and a book that will appeal to fans of Black Mirror. 

Goodreads

My Thoughts

Set in the not-too-distant future, this psychological science fiction thriller has themes that hit close to home. Prior to the events of the book, retired police detective Eugene moved into a highly secure, well-contained apartment building called The Tower. The building is run by an artificial intelligence that is specifically designed to protect its inhabitants from the latest mutated strain of COVID. Eugene should be perfectly safe inside this building. But then the inhabitants start getting murdered…

This book touches on a lot of themes both pandemic-related and not. We see what the isolation and loneliness is doing to the inhabitants of The Tower, which is highly relatable to those of us who struggled during quarantine in the pandemic. The book has two timelines. The first is the year 2024, where Eugene lives in The Tower and ominous things are starting to happen. The second timeline follows Felicity in the year 2020, just at the beginning of the pandemic. She’s designed an artificial intelligence, and her cunning and ambition drives her to push to have it become her company’s latest technological innovation. But at what cost? 

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Book Review: Into the Flames by Jessica Ames

Photo of the book surrounded by white roses and a blue candle

Into the Flames book coverTitle: Into the Flames
Author: Jessica Ames
Series: Royal Bastards MC: Liverpool, UK Book 1
Genre: Romance, Romantic Suspense
Date of Publication: November 23, 2021
Publisher: Self-published 


Synopsis

GENEVIEVE
I’ve never played by the rules. Women don’t run gangs, yet I’m the leader of the biggest one in Liverpool. No one knows I’ve stepped into my father’s shoes and that I’m making changes. Taking on the Royal Bastards MC is not a good idea, but I want the wealth and power they have. I want my family’s legacy to live on long after I’m gone. Doing that means making difficult decisions. I didn’t expect the Royal Bastards to retaliate so savagely.
Now, I’m prisoner of their President, a man who goes by the name of Mouth. He’s dangerous, vicious and he wants to make my father pay for crimes I’ve committed. Can I survive his wrath?
MOUTH
This prissy woman is a thorn in my side, but she’s the only way to exact my revenge. Crossing the Bastards is an instant death sentence, and when I’m done with Genevieve, her father is going to beg for mercy I won’t deliver. I’m not someone to cross without retribution and mine will be swift. I will destroy The Dockland Gang and every person associated with them, including Desmond’s pretty little daughter. She’s a doll I want play with and I will break her down piece by piece, because now that she’s in my control I’m never letting her go.

*Warning : Contains adult content, reading age 18 +. Graphic violence and dark emotional scenes that may trigger some readers. 

Goodreads

My Thoughts

This is the first instalment in the Royal Bastards MC Liverpool series, and does it ever start with a bang! 

Right off the bat, this book is different from other MC books I’ve read. The heroine, Genevieve, is in her late thirties, and she’s the leader of a “gang” (which really has more mob-family vibes). Her father was the previous leader, and unlike other sexist leaders, he treated her as his heir. He spent years grooming her and teaching her the ways of the dark and gritty criminal underworld. When he develops dementia, she takes over for him.

Of course, his underlings don’t quite respect her, and she has to go out of her way to make an impression on them. So what does she do? She betrays the Royal Bastards. And Mouth, the President of that notorious MC, is not pleased. And he is not someone that you want to piss off (He got his name by carving smiles into his enemies before killing them! Why so serious, anyone?) Mouth abducts Genevieve because he wants to get back at her father, but he doesn’t realize that it’s her who’s now calling the shots…

Continue reading “Book Review: Into the Flames by Jessica Ames”

Book Review: How to Love Your Neighbor by Sophie Sullivan

How to Love Your Neighbor

How to Love Your Neighbor Book CoverTitle: How to Love Your Neighbor
Author: Sophie Sullivan
Genre: Romance
Date of Publication: January 18, 2022
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin


Synopsis

A frothy, effervescent romantic comedy from the author of Ten Rules for Faking It, Sophie Sullivan’s How to Love Your Neighbor delivers another read that will have you delighted from start to finish.

Interior Design School? Check. Cute house to fix up? Check.

Sexy, grumpy neighbor who is going to get in the way of your plans? Check. Unfortunately.

Grace Travis has it all figured out. In between finishing school and working a million odd jobs, she’ll get her degree and her dream job. Most importantly, she’ll have a place to belong, something her harsh mother could never make. When an opportunity to fix up—and live in—a little house on the beach comes along, Grace is all in. Until her biggest roadblock moves in next door.

Noah Jansen knows how to make a deal. As a real estate developer, he knows when he’s found something special. Something he could even call home. Provided he can expand by taking over the house next door–the house with the combative and beautiful woman living in it.

With the rules for being neighborly going out the window, Grace and Noah are in an all-out feud. But sometimes, your nemesis can show you that home is always where the heart is.

Goodreads

My Thoughts

How to Love Your Neighbor is a perfect follow up to Ten Rules for Faking It

In this book we meet Noah, the brother of Chris, the male protagonist from the first book. Noah has moved to a house on the beach, and he’s determined to purchase the neighboring rundown property so he can build a pool (because who doesn’t need a pool when they live on the beach?). Little does he know, Grace, a design student, has just inherited the place from her grandparents and has every intention of renovating the place and setting down roots. 

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Book Review: Blue Shadows Fall by Lenore Stutznegger

Blue Shadows Fall book surrounded by white roses, skeleton hand, vase, and a white blanket

Blue Shadows Fall Book CoverTitle: Blue Shadows Fall
Author: Lenore Stutznegger
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
Date of Publication: November 11, 2021
Publisher: Immortal Works Publishing


Synopsis

“They wear the faces of your loved ones, but are more beautiful than you could ever imagine. Lovely things shouldn’t draw you in and kill you. You almost want them to.”

Seventeen-year-old Blue Haven, gifted with superhuman sight since birth, dreams of becoming a warrior—not that anything’s happened near the wall since Old Man Amos was attacked by that beaver. The Shadow Elves—humans infected by a zombie apocalypse-like plague—have died out over the past 150 years, leaving life altogether boring. In her quiet farming village nestled in the shadows of the Smoky Mountains, warriors are no more than a formality.

But Blue’s unique sight is beginning to show her some troubling things. A suspicious green-eyed outsider. A strikingly beautiful Shadow Elf. These visions can’t be real—because if they are, that means everyone’s been wrong. Dead wrong. They are not the last survivors in the world. And they aren’t prepared for the reality Blue’s eyes are showing her.

The outsiders want in, and they’re hungry.

A Quiet Place meets Shadow and Bone in this southern, post-apocalyptic, dark fantasy.

Goodreads

My Thoughts

Blue Shadows Fall is a prime example of a genre-blending young adult book done right. It’s a dystopian thriller set in the future. It’s a fantasy. It’s a romance. It’s a coming of age story and it even has humour in it. 

The book is set a couple of hundred years from now, after wars and a virus (SE-23) wiped out a good number of people and transformed others into “Shadow Elves”. I love that the world has a fantasy-vibe to it, but it’s grounded in science fiction. The protagonist, Blue, is obsessed with Lord of the Rings, and there are other “historical” pop culture references, like Harry Potter and Jurassic Park, which help to ground the book’s realism.

Blue has enhanced sight, which she has hidden from the world for fear of persecution by others in her town. Her abilities are so unique and fascinating, and I loved the way that they’re portrayed, and how they give her a bit of an edge when she’s dealing with others (For instance, she can see someone’s heartbeat in their neck, the formation of a bead of sweat, and other indicators that they’re lying to her). Blue is a relatable and strong heroine, one who wants to become a warrior to defend her town, but has been discouraged from doing so by her parents out of fear that it will be found out that she’s “different”. 

Continue reading “Book Review: Blue Shadows Fall by Lenore Stutznegger”

Book Review: Seven Dirty Secrets by Natalie D. Richards

Seven Dirty Secrets book surrounded by blue flowers, crime scene investigation books, and a white box with a white ribbon

Seven Dirty Secrets book coverTitle: Seven Dirty Secrets
Author: Natalie D. Richards
Genre: Thriller, Young Adult
Date of Publication: November 2, 2021
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire


Synopsis

I know seven secrets:
One caused the fall. One did nothing. One saw it all.
One didn’t care. One used their head. One played the hero.
One was left for dead.

On her eighteenth birthday, Cleo receives a mysterious invitation to a scavenger hunt. She’s sure her best friend Hope or her brother Connor is behind it, but no one confesses. And as Cleo and Hope embark on the hunt, the seemingly random locations and clues begin to feel familiar.

In fact, all of the clues seem to be about Cleo’s dead boyfriend, Cyrus, who drowned on a group rafting trip exactly a year ago. A bracelet she bought him. A song he loved. A photo of the rafting group, taken just before Cyrus drowned. And then the phone calls start, Cyrus’s voice taunting Cleo with a cryptic question: You ready?

As the clock on the scavenger hunt ticks down, it becomes clear that someone knows what really happened to Cyrus. And that person will stop at nothing to make sure Cleo and her friends pay. Can they solve the hunt before someone else winds up dead?

Goodreads

My Thoughts

This is a compelling and well-crafted mystery. 

Cleo is a high school student who’s about to graduate and has grand plans of going to college for forensic science. I did my undergraduate degree in forensics, and I couldn’t help but relate to her. The authenticity of her personality and her chosen career path rang true throughout the narrative, from the way that she occasionally chastised herself for not being observant enough in her personal life, to when she off-handly referenced Locard’s principle, which is the basic tenet on which all forensic science is based. 

At first, Cleo is intrigued about having a scavenger hunt for her birthday, despite the creepy way that it starts. But her excitement is quickly dampened when it becomes clear that it has something to do with her abusive boyfriend’s suspicious death almost exactly a year earlier. Clearly someone wants her to pay for what happened – but who? 

This novel is rocket-fast paced, and every single one of the clues is both ominous and intriguing. The chapters are short, making it easy to fall into the “just one more chapter!” trap that good thrillers lay out for unsuspecting readers like myself. 

Continue reading “Book Review: Seven Dirty Secrets by Natalie D. Richards”

Book Review: The Spirit Engineer by A. J. West

The Spirit Engineer book on iPad surrounded by red and black books, a black skull, a red rose, a ouija planchette, a red candle, and a crystal ball

The Spirit EngineerTitle: The Spirit Engineer
Author: A. J. West
Genre: Thriller, Historical Fiction, Horror
Date of Publication: October 7, 2021
Publisher: Duckworth Books


Synopsis

Belfast, 1914. Two years after the sinking of the Titanic, high society has become obsessed with spiritualism in the form of seances that attempt to contact the spirits of loved ones lost at sea.

William is a man of science and a sceptic, but one night with everyone sat around the circle something happens that places doubt in his heart and a seed of obsession in his mind. Could the spirits truly be communicating with him or is this one of Kathleen’s parlour tricks gone too far?

This early 20th century gothic set in Northern Ireland contains all the mystery and intrigue one might expect from a Sarah Waters novel. Deftly plotted with echoes of The Woman in Black, readers will be thrilled to discover West’s chilling prose.

Based on the true story of William Jackson Crawford and famed medium Kathleen Goligher, and with a cast of characters that include Arthur Conan Doyle and Harry Houdini, The Spirit Engineer conjures a haunting tale that will keep readers guessing until the very end.

Goodreads

My Thoughts

While this is a historical fiction, it’s easy to read with a flowing, lyrical writing style that captures the essence of the time, but isn’t hard to follow. In the beginning, the narrative reflects a dry humor which is exacerbated by William’s curmudgeonly attitude. He seems like an old man with the way that he’s constantly searching for his pipe and how little he can relate to his children. If it were modern times, he would be the guy standing on his porch, shrieking at the neighbourhood children to “get off my lawn!” Then, it’s revealed that he’s thirty-four. I laughed out loud at that point, and while I realize that people aged a little faster back then, he is definitely an old soul.

This humour didn’t detract from the tension prevalent from the very first pages. There are quite a few surprising turns of events in the storyline, and I genuinely didn’t know what was going to happen. One thing that disappointed me slightly was the fact that Harry Houdini and Arthur Conan Doyle, while mentioned on the back of the book, don’t show up until very far into the book. I understand that their names were likely a selling point for the novel, and eeeverything is about marketing these days (groan) but I couldn’t help but feel disappointed that they didn’t play a larger role in the plot. That in no way affects my rating or my review, because I understand that the author and his story has nothing to do with this. It’s just the publishers and their marketing of the book! Continue reading “Book Review: The Spirit Engineer by A. J. West”