Aurora Burning by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

This action-packed sequel to Aurora Rising kept my heart thumping (and breaking) for 495 pages. I cannot wait for the next book!


First, the bad news: an ancient evil—you know, your standard consume-all-life-in-the-galaxy deal—is about to be unleashed. The good news? Squad 312 is standing by to save the day. They’ve just got to take care of a few small distractions first.

Like the clan of gremps who’d like to rearrange their favorite faces.

And the cadre of illegit GIA agents with creepy flowers where their eyes used to be, who’ll stop at nothing to get their hands on Auri.

Then there’s Kal’s long-lost sister, who’s not exactly happy to see her baby brother, and has a Syldrathi army at her back. With half the known galaxy on their tails, Squad 312 has never felt so wanted.

When they learn the Hadfield has been found, it’s time to come out of hiding. Two centuries ago, the colony ship vanished, leaving Auri as its sole survivor. Now, its black box might be what saves them. But time is short, and if Auri can’t learn to master her powers as a Trigger, the squad and all their admirers are going to be deader than the Great Ultrasaur of Abraaxis IV.

Shocking revelations, bank heists, mysterious gifts, inappropriately tight bodysuits, and an epic firefight will determine the fate of the Aurora Legion’s most unforgettable heroes—and maybe the rest of the galaxy as well. from Goodreads.

A young, human-like alien with purple eyes and long silver braids stares out.


Every time I mentioned that I was reading Aurora Burning people would respond, “ooooh, that ending.” Well, ending aside, they could have warned me about the effect the non-stop action would have on my heart rate!

I knew I wanted to read Burning, but I wasn’t looking forward to it quite like I was Rising. I enjoyed Rising (you can read my full review here) but I was struggling to pinpoint exactly why. Well, without spoiling anything, I can tell you that the action combined with the inter-personal character development had my flying through this book at warp speed.

It is difficult to find a series where the second book doesn’t slump but, like with The Illuminae Files, Kaufman and Kristoff have managed it again. This book has none of The who’s-who and world building drag required of the first book and so it just action packed awesomeness. Delightfully, we finally do get a little more of crew member Zila, a new character, and a whole mess of mysteries and surprises.

The thing that I am loving the most about this series is the wide variety of strong female characters. Scarlett’s gorgeousness combined with her interpersonal skills and language, Zila’s vast intelligence, and even Auri who has greatness foisted upon her must find the mental strength to use her gifts. All of these women are fantastic, flawed, and fabulous in completely different ways. I especially appreciated that the men around them all except their awesomeness as reality like they would for a male character. This is a world I could live in! Well, except for the space travel and the constant threat of death…

This book did a much better job providing me with the unique voices of each character. The differing points of view also helped me understand each character’s inner fears and demons which balanced out the superbness that are their individual skill sets. Because without this insight, I would probably hate them all. With it, they become relatable. And their patience with each other is remarkable. Let’s just hope that patience is matched with forgiveness because some characters have some major explaining to do in Book Three.

And now we are back to that ending right? The huge cliffhanger? It absolutely is but I loved it. I want to sit down and hash this book out and guess what will happen and how it will all be resolved. I cannot wait and I am so thankful that the authors have given me this elevated feeling because now I have one more thing to look forward to!

Tell me, please!

How do you feel about cliffhangers?


Science Fiction · SeriousSeries · SeriousSeriesLove · YA

Aurora Rising by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

I wasn’t sure I could enjoy a space adventure like I did The Illuminae Files but Kaufman and Kristoff have captured my heart and imagination all over again. I can hardly wait to start the second book and continue the adventure.


The year is 2380, and the graduating cadets of Aurora Academy are being assigned their first missions. Star pupil Tyler Jones is ready to recruit the squad of his dreams, but his own boneheaded heroism sees him stuck with the dregs nobody else in the Academy would touch…

A cocky diplomat with a black belt in sarcasm
A sociopath scientist with a fondness for shooting her bunkmates
A smart-ass techwiz with the galaxy’s biggest chip on his shoulder
An alien warrior with anger management issues
A tomboy pilot who’s totally not into him, in case you were wondering

And Ty’s squad isn’t even his biggest problem—that’d be Aurora Jie-Lin O’Malley, the girl he’s just rescued from interdimensional space. Trapped in cryo-sleep for two centuries, Auri is a girl out of time and out of her depth. But she could be the catalyst that starts a war millions of years in the making, and Tyler’s squad of losers, discipline-cases and misfits might just be the last hope for the entire galaxy.

Aurora Rising: A teenage girl with chin-length black hair with a silver white stripe stares out to the reader. One of her eyes glow red. Constellations twinkle around and behind her.


When the authors of a series that you love have new stories the conundrum of how to approach them is ever-present. I loved The Illuminae Files so much. It was my favorite series of 2019 and, if you don’t remember, I set out in a snow storm to my local bookstore to pick up Book Two because I just couldn’t wait to keep reading (which honestly sounds like an amazing adventure right now). It was also my favorite fiction audiobook of 2019. Hence the conundrum – how do I fairly approach The Aurora Rising series without comparing every page to Illuminae?

I did what I always do when I doubt a book: I put it on my shelf for a good long time. Long enough for the second in the series to arrive and join it. This approach has worked for me in the past and, happily, it was successful again. With time in-between the series I managed to enjoy Aurora Rising without making a direct comparison to The Illuminae Files, a mindset I am going to try and apply right now for the review.

This book does not review easily. In the world of Aurora Rising there is the Aurora Legion and the Aurora Academy and now, a girl named Aurora who has been rescued by none other than Tyler Jones. Tyler has finished his time at the Academy but has missed the Draft, his moment to pick his squad. As such, he is left with the dregs of the Academy. Well, some dregs and his sister and childhood best friend. The six of them are now are part of a squad. If you include Aurora, that is a lot of people (certainly one too many Auroras).

The authors have chosen to allow each of the members of the squad to have a slice of the narrative. Once again, there are six of them plus Aurora. Numerous times, I had to flip back to the beginning of the chapter to see who was talking because I struggled to keep them separated in my mind.

This is also a fully flushed out world that we don’t fully understand. The authors have created races of aliens and a huge history that encompasses hundreds of years between now and the moment we meet the squad. But, our narrators don’t really know what is going on. Which means that the reader is left confused and curious.

Furthermore, the authors used far more than shifting perspectives to tell this story. The number of writing tricks is numerous and, as much as I want to talk about them, disclosing them might take away the joy of reading them firsthand. Suffice to say, these authors take risks.

And all of it worked for me.

This is a trilogy (at a minimum). We aren’t supposed to finish the first book with a total understanding of what is going on in the story. We are on a space ride that hasn’t reached its destination. I don’t need to know what is going on yet, I just need the second book!

And while this many characters is a lot to juggle I enjoyed trying. Most of the time. The shifting perspectives of seven people certainly give each one less time to show themselves or their thoughts. To balance this, the authors took the opportunity to let personalities and habits shine through the eyes of the squad-mates just as much as the first person narrative. I had to pay attention to pick up clues all over about these characters and, for certain characters, I still have no idea who they are yet.

Perhaps that is why, in the end, all I can say is that it worked for me. I couldn’t stop reading it, I can’t wait for the next book to be in my hands, and I want more of this story. I didn’t like every character. I didn’t adore every trick the authors used. But, taking their story apart piece by piece would destroy the integrity of the whole. I certainly loved this book. I need to know what happens next. I’m invested. And is there anything more wonderful in a trilogy than the anticipation of what comes next?

Tell me, please!

Have you ever read a book that you loved as a whole but struggled with in part?


Fantasy · series · YA

A Heart So Fierce and Broken by Brigid Kemmerer

I came back to this YA series to see what was happening with Rhen and Harper only to have the focus shift to Grey. As a huge fan of the hot Captain of the Guard, Grey, I am thrilled to spend more time with him and I cannot wait for book three.

Warning: this is a review of the second book in a series. As such, there are spoilers from the first book in the following synopsis and review. If you want to avoid them just know that I loved the first book (full review here) and I could not put the second book down!


In the sequel to New York Times bestselling A Curse So Dark and Lonely, Brigid Kemmerer returns to the world of Emberfall in a lush fantasy where friends become foes and love blooms in the darkest of places.

Find the heir, win the crown.
The curse is finally broken, but Prince Rhen of Emberfall faces darker troubles still. Rumors circulate that he is not the true heir and that forbidden magic has been unleashed in Emberfall. Although Rhen has Harper by his side, his guardsman Grey is missing, leaving more questions than answers.

Win the crown, save the kingdom.
Grey may be the heir, but he doesn’t want anyone to know his secret. On the run since he destroyed Lilith, he has no desire to challenge Rhen–until Karis Luran once again threatens to take Emberfall by force. Her own daughter Lia Mara sees the flaws in her mother’s violent plan, but can she convince Grey to stand against Rhen, even for the good of Emberfall?

The heart-pounding, compulsively readable saga continues as loyalties are tested and new love blooms in a kingdom on the brink of war. from Amazon.


“A Heart so Fierce and Broken” words are woven with vines on a green background.


One of the darker troubles in this book that Rhen is facing is himself. I wasn’t sure what to make of him at the conclusion of A Curse So Dark and Lonely and now I am completely confused. I also have a lot of questions about Rhen and Harper which were left unanswered because this book shifts its focus to Grey and a new character, Lia Mara.

Still, while Grey is certainly center stage, Rhen and Harper don’t completely disappear. Admittedly, Harper takes an extremely minor role in this story but I would have liked to see their romance or relationship grow a bit. Also, perhaps it is just me but Harper was a force to be reckoned with in Curse and the small snippets  we see of her here are fairly weak. Rhen remains a major player in the story but his actions and decision certain made me question what I knew about the Prince of Emberfall.

All of this didn’t matter one whit to me because I came back for Grey.

Admittedly, I was hoping that Grey would be vying for Harper’s attention and I wasn’t completely thrilled with Lia Mara being added to the mix. I’m a big fan of love triangles. Well, most of the time. I have to say that the author’s ability to make me care about this new character is impressive. She took Lia Mara from a character I didn’t know existed (and was annoyed with) to one I deeply rooted for by the end of the book.

This book also expanded the world of Emberfall by adding a whole new cast of characters. True, occasionally the rising action had to give way to make room for this character development and there were times it felt that the story wasn’t progressing. But as a reader who loves characters, I enjoyed each new addition to this rag-tag team. Tycho, Grey’s brave protege tugged at my heartstrings. Lia Mara’s sister and mother had me eternally grateful for my own family. And I loved the odd magical Iisak who I can just sense is going to play a major role in the third book. I was equally happy to see Noah and Jacob having a more major role in this story. All of these characters made the world real for me in a way that the romance and intrigue had to do alone in the first book.

loved this second book in the Cursebreakers Trilogy and I am very excited for the third book to land in my hands. I have complete faith that the author will bring all of the characters together in the culmination of this series and I cannot wait to see how she does it.

Tell me, please!

How do you feel when a series changes character focus?


Romantic · YA

A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer

A YA loose re-telling of The Beauty and the Beast that captured my heart. I love a strong protagonist and Harper delivers in spades even though I am still unsure how I feel about Prince Rhen.


Fall in love, break the curse.

It once seemed so easy to Prince Rhen, the heir to Emberfall. Cursed by a powerful enchantress to repeat the autumn of his eighteenth year over and over, he knew he could be saved if a girl fell for him. But that was before he learned that at the end of each autumn, he would turn into a vicious beast hell-bent on destruction. That was before he destroyed his castle, his family, and every last shred of hope.

Nothing has ever been easy for Harper. With her father long gone, her mother dying, and her brother barely holding their family together while constantly underestimating her because of her cerebral palsy, she learned to be tough enough to survive. But when she tries to save someone else on the streets of Washington, DC, she’s instead somehow sucked into Rhen’s cursed world.

Break the curse, save the kingdom.

A prince? A monster? A curse? Harper doesn’t know where she is or what to believe. But as she spends time with Rhen in this enchanted land, she begins to understand what’s at stake. And as Rhen realizes Harper is not just another girl to charm, his hope comes flooding back. But powerful forces are standing against Emberfall . . . and it will take more than a broken curse to save Harper, Rhen, and his people from utter ruin.

From: Amazon

“A Curse so Dark and Lonely” Words are woven through with thorns on a blue background.


Occasionally a book lands in your hands at the perfect moment. Perhaps I wouldn’t have fallen so deeply in love with this story if I hadn’t been sick and stuck in bed with ample time on my hands to consume it all in one day. Or, if I had been in a murderous mood and not a romantic one. It doesn’t really matter because I am having a hard time imagining doing anything less than loving on this book.

A Curse So Dark and Lonely is billed as a retelling of Beauty and the Beast but other than a Prince cursed into transforming into a hideous creature, this story is nearly unrecognizably altered. For one, Prince Rhen looks human for the season and only transforms at the end. The whole lesson of Beauty and the Beast is to trap a women into loving your disgustingness through gifts and grand gestures until she professes her love and only then can you reveal that you are really a hot dude. Instead, Prince Rhen is a nice looking human man during the wooing only to violently transform and become a true Beast completely lacking in humanity or the ability to control himself.

The Beauty is also wonderfully changed in this story. While Rhen’s Captain of the Guard, Grey, is tasked with bringing a woman back from our world into Emberfall’s enchanted realm, he tries to bring back a beautiful lost soul that he drags out of a bar. Typical man. “I need a beautiful woman to be my queen, where should I look…a bar!” Harper intercedes on the unconscious girl’s behalf and is taken instead. Her physical beauty isn’t remarked upon. In fact, since she has cerebral palsy, most of the physical commentary (which is still scarce) is spent discussing her gait. Instead, it is her personality that is beautiful.

Let me say too that the evil witch that issues the curse is a real piece of work. Lilith has none of the good intentions of the Disney Beauty and the Beast and just seems to enjoy torturing Rhen and Grey all these years as an intense hobby. Even Harper seems unable to comprehend Lilith’s genuine bad-ness and her cavalier refusal to follow any predictive patterns. Lilith is bad like Voldemort is bad; without logic and seemingly endlessly.

I love reading books where characters are multifaceted and nuanced and I really love Harper. She is a devoted sister, a loving daughter, smart and often overlooked. She has cerebral palsy but that is just one aspect of herself that treats not as defining her but as part of her total identity. Here is the one interaction between Harper and Lilith that made me so happy.

“Do you not see my power?” (Lilith) takes a step closer. “What if I could end the torment of your broken body?”

“No,” says Rhen. He staggers forward. “Harper, what she offers will come at a cost.”

“My body is not broken.” I say.

And I appreciated that the author made a point of adding a note at the end of the book making it clear that while she tried to create a girl who was strong, resilient, and capable, CP affects everyone differently.

I will confess though that I like Rhen almost as well as I have liked the Beast in any Beauty and the Beast retelling. Which is to say, not at all. In every one of these stories you have a spoiled rotten Prince who has been cursed and now feels really super bad about it but is still acting like a spoiled rotten butt-head. Rhen isn’t terribly different but somehow the author built him up slowly but surely until I found myself impressed by his passion for his people. This author even manages to make me believe that together, perhaps, Harper will support Rhen’s desire to be a better person.

Meanwhile, Captain Grey. Hello. Captain Grey has all my votes and I would very much like this fictional character to come to life and teach me to throw some knives. My birthday is in March. Thank you.

This book ended in such as way that I took my agitated and sick self up out of bed and directly to the closest bookseller. I was too sick to logically think about purchasing a copy for my Kindle which is a bit embarrassing now but I am thrilled to have the physical copy so it all worked out. All in all, I loved this book!

Tell me, please!

What is your favorite re-telling?


SeriousSeriesLove · YA

The Arc of a Scythe Trilogy by Neal Shusterman

I know, I know. This book came out in November of 2019. What took me so long?!? It wasn’t self-control (because we all know I don’t have any when it comes to books). I just didn’t know how it would end and I was stressed about the whole thing. If you haven’t read The Arc of a Scythe Series, there are spoilers for the first two books below. They are minor, but they are there. There are no spoilers for The Toll though!



A figure in a hooded red cape holds a scythe looking like a futuristic grim reaper.

A world with no hunger, no disease, no war, no misery: humanity has conquered all those things, and has even conquered death. Now Scythes are the only ones who can end life—and they are commanded to do so, in order to keep the size of the population under control.

Citra and Rowan are chosen to apprentice to a scythe—a role that neither wants. These teens must master the “art” of taking life, knowing that the consequence of failure could mean losing their own.

Scythe is the first novel of a thrilling new series by National Book Award–winning author Neal Shusterman in which Citra and Rowan learn that a perfect world comes only with a heavy price. Scythe from Amazon.


Initially, I didn’t really find any of the main characters appealing. Both Citra and Rowan are teenagers in a world that no longer has natural death. Which is why, back when I first tried to read it, I put it down after three chapters. As the story unfolded I began to comprehend the apathy to which these people must have acclimated to in a world where there is no reason to worry, no purpose in hard work, and the ability to die only to be whisked off to a revival center and brought back to life. If there is no threat of old age then do you lose the thirst and hunger of youth? Certainly, when Citra and Rowan are faced with a permanent cessation of their lives their personalities change dramatically into characters that I grew to love.

And there in lies the magic of this story. At first glance I believed this was another annoying futuristic tale and the cautionary story of a world without death. Instead, I became slowly aware, along with the characters, of the importance of death in giving life value and purpose. As I watched Citra and Rowan struggle with that realization and the lengths they would go to in order to continue to live, even if that meant taking lives, I found myself completed immersed in the story. And now, as so frequently happens, a book I thought I wouldn’t enjoy has become a series I could not wait to continue.



Two figures, one in black and one in turquoise hold scythes with their backs to each other.

Humans learn from their mistakes. I cannot. I make no mistakes.

The Thunderhead is the perfect ruler of a perfect world, but it has no control over the scythedom. A year has passed since Rowan had gone off grid. Since then, he has become an urban legend, a vigilante snuffing out corrupt scythes in a trial by fire. His story is told in whispers across the continent.

As Scythe Anastasia, Citra gleans with compassion and openly challenges the ideals of the “new order.” But when her life is threatened and her methods questioned, it becomes clear that not everyone is open to the change.

Old foes and new enemies converge, and as corruption within the Scythedom spreads, Rowan and Citra begin to lose hope. Will the Thunderhead intervene?

Or will it simply watch as this perfect world begins to unravel? Thunderhead from Amazon.


At the conclusion of Scythe we see the Thunderhead, the all knowing brain of the world, speaking directly to Citra. Until that moment, the reader has no idea how involved the Thunderhead is with a typical citizen’s day to day existence. Ponder this issue no longer! In this second book we meet Greyson Tolliver. A lonely young man, Greyson has been raised by the benevolent voice of the Thunderhead all his life. When Citra’s life is in danger, the Thunderhead sends Greyson to save her and forever changing Greyson’s life. Meanwhile, old foes continue to threaten the delicate balance of the world. The real question is what role Rowan, Citra and Greyson will play the ensuing chaos.

As with ScytheThunderhead is crafted to keep you entertained. The shifting narratives begin completely disconnected and as they dodge and weave their way towards intersection – the action climbs. The final pages of this book will leave your heart pounding and, if you are anything like me, you will immediately try to figure out when the third installment is being published (no date yet!!).

Unlike ScytheThunderhead has almost no quiet and reflective moments. This second installment is action packed. Furthermore, the second book spends much less time reflecting on life and death and more on the balance we seek and the role we take to achieve that life. The author is not afraid to take you on an adventure. Honestly, that ending….whew!

The Toll


Two green cloaked scythes stand on either side of a person wearing a purple robe.

Citra and Rowan have disappeared. Endura is gone. It seems like nothing stands between Scythe Goddard and absolute dominion over the world scythedom. With the silence of the Thunderhead and the reverberations of the Great Resonance still shaking the earth to its core, the question remains: Is there anyone left who can stop him?

The answer lies in the Tone, the Toll, and the Thunder.

The Toll from Amazon.






At over 600 action packed pages this was a marathon read. But, much like a long workout, I felt nothing but satisfaction when I finally finished.

But satisfaction isn’t quite the same as gasping with delight and clapping my hands. The trilogy answered all my questions but The Toll also provided me even more that had to be resolved in book three. There were whole sections that felt a little long and drawn out and there was a significant imbalance between the amount of time we spent with Greyson and Citra compared to the parts of the story dedicated to Rowan. This didn’t bother me at all since Greyson Tolliver is my favorite character in the series but if you are coming to this third book for a huge helping of Rowan you are going to be disappointed.

There were also numerous new characters, some good and other evil, that bogged down the storyline a bit. While it was totally worth it for Jeri, the ship captain who swiftly became my favorite new character of book three, other people felt superfluous. Similarly, there were plot points that only made the story take longer (not last longer).

Still, the magic of the Sythe trilogy was present even with these flaws. Book three will answer all your questions, wrap up all the issues, and bring you the closure you have been seeking since landing on Endura in Thunderhead. All in all, it was an excellent trilogy.

Tell me, please!

Have you read the Arc of a Sycthe Triology?


humor · YA

Denton Little’s Deathdate by Lance Rubin

Tomorrow is the day I’m going to die.

I don’t mean to get all dramatic about it.

I saw this book while Christmas shopping and I just couldn’t resist buying it for myself. I love gallows humor and this book certainly didn’t disappoint. Of course, the fact that Denton Little’s Still Not Dead was shelved right next to it reassured me how the first book would end.



Denton Little’s Deathdate takes place in a world exactly like our own except that everyone knows the day on which they will die. For Denton, that’s in just two days—the day of his senior prom.

Despite his early deathdate, Denton has always wanted to live a normal life, but his final days are filled with dramatic firsts. First hangover. First sex. First love triangle—as the first sex seems to have happened not with his adoring girlfriend, but with his best friend’s hostile sister. (Though he’s not totally sure—see, first hangover.) His anxiety builds when he discovers a strange purple rash making its way up his body. Is this what will kill him? And then a strange man shows up at his funeral, claiming to have known Denton’s long-deceased mother, and warning him to beware of suspicious government characters. . . . Suddenly Denton’s life is filled with mysterious questions and precious little time to find the answers.

Denton Little’s Deathdate from Amazon.


Poor Denton. Imagine trying to fit so many firsts into a time period that means they will also be your lasts. But Denton doesn’t have time to feel sorry for himself. When he wakes up hung over (on Schnappes no less, barf) and alone in a bed that isn’t his just two days before his Death Day does he lay there dwelling on it? No. He pulls himself together in a way only a person who understands that time is truly limited can.

As Denton tries to replay the prior evening he gets more and more confused. Watching him try to piece everything back together with his best friend Paolo are some of the funniest moments in the book. I mean, who amongst us has been either hung over, confused about what has happened to their life, or both? But Denton doesn’t have time to ponder or leave these things unresolved. He only has two days.

Certainly, with the discussion of death there must be some poignancy. Even though in Denton’s world nearly everyone knows their Death Day from an early age, there is still uncertainty as to how it will happen and exactly when during the day your death will occur. That small amount of unknown creates the panic that we all feel when we contemplate death – how do we want to be remembered? How will we spend those last precious few moments?

And I must mention that watching his step-mother deal with loosing her son was difficult for me. This changed the book from a straight humor book to something with more depth and I was frequently sad for her (after all, she doesn’t know about the second book!). What kept it from being too maudlin was my excitement in seeing her reaction when Denton survived.

There was romance, mystery, intrigue and humor. But the best part was the pure loveliness that is Denton. As a character I just really liked him. He loved his family, was connected to his friends and community, and at such a young age was a genuinely good person. I can hardly wait to see how his adventure will continue in the next book.

Tell me, please!

Do you enjoy Gallows Humor?



The Deceivers by Kristen Simmons

thedeceiversAm I finishing off my reading goals for 2019? Nope. This weekend I caught a nasty cold and used the down time to read but, as usual, I read totally without purpose. I really need to work on this for 2020!

Still, my wandering brought me to a book on my own massive physical TBR shelf: The Deceivers by Kristen Simmons. Billed as a cross between Pretty Little Liars and Ocean’s Eleven I wasn’t sure what to expect. Especially since I had never seen Pretty Little Liars.


Welcome to Vale Hall, the school for aspiring con artists.

When Brynn Hilder is recruited to Vale, it seems like the elite academy is her chance to start over, away from her mom’s loser boyfriend and her rundown neighborhood. But she soon learns that Vale chooses students not so much for their scholastic talent as for their extracurricular activities, such as her time spent conning rich North Shore kids out of their extravagant allowances.

At first, Brynn jumps at the chance to help the school in its mission to rid the city of corrupt officials―because what could be better than giving entitled jerks what they deserve? But that’s before she meets her mark―a senator’s son―and before she discovers the school’s headmaster has secrets he’ll stop at nothing to protect. As the lines between right and wrong blur, Brynn begins to realize she’s in way over head. Kristen Simmon’s Website.

I’m not sure who wrote the blurb for this book but this is what I would have written instead:

Meet Brynn Hilder. Brynn knows that the only way out of dead end neighborhood is college. And the only way to pay for college is to con for money. Certainly her night cleaning job at the museum isn’t going to pay for classes.

But when her Mom’s drug dealing low-life boyfriend finds her stash of cash for college and demands she start dealing to earn back his trust, Brynn is out of options. A sudden offer to join the elite academy called Vale Hall seems too good to be true. A safe place to sleep, a plush room full of clothes, classes that challenge her intellect and real friends? It’s a dream come true. But when it becomes clear that the director of Vale Hall is keeping his own secrets, Brynn will have to figure out what is true and gain control of her future once again.

Either way, the storyline took a backseat for my love of the main character. Right from the beginning I was invested in Brynn. I think this is the magic of YA books, there is no build up or slow simmer. Instead, the attachment to the characters is immediate and the action follows swiftly. It was my interest in Brynn that really carried me through the book because, diving in, what you think you’ll get out of this book is completely different than where you finish.

I did have two small (tiny really) issues with the story. First, very little of the story takes place at Vale Hall. I’m actually going to start a petition for another book to be added to this series because I really want to see more of the day to day of Vale Hall. And I want details on all of the cons the kids were practicing! I mean, what is a pigeon drop?

Second, there were a lot of characters whose backstories we just had to assume or accept with little to no detail. I want to know why one of the students doesn’t sleep well at night! And what was up with the weird backstabbing girl? I need answers!

Neither of these things bothered me enough to effect my enjoyment of the book. Actually, the author could resolve the second problem with another book (hint hint). But, I know I am a fairly forgiving consumer. For example, plot holes in Marvel movies are something I notice but I just don’t care. But, if these things bother you, it might detract from the story.

This book did what all excellent books do. It kept my interest and attention (I could not put it down!) and still managed to leave me wanting more.

Tell me, please!

Have you read this book? What are your thoughts?


Romantic · Science Fiction · SeriousSeriesLove · YA

The Illuminae Files

The chance of this not being my favorite series of the year is so slim it’s not worth mentioning. But, since I already brought it up… This is the best series I’ve read this year.

These books are winners, each and every one of them. I am obsessed with these books. I formally apologize to each and every person that recommended them to me for delaying in reading them. I’m sorry. Let me take you out for coffee so we can gush. Wait, first, perhaps I should calm down.

Ugh. I’m being obnoxious. (Clears throat). Let’s start over. The Illuminae Files…..? shrug. They were good. (So freaking good)


I am going to do everything in my power to avoid spoilers but this is so difficult to do in a series review. I’ve included the book jacket descriptions but even then, there are spoilers. I’ll let you know before you get there.

Note: the books look huge but don’t be put off by their size. They are not a straight forward narratives but rather, a collection of documents. I initially passed on reading the books because I thought they would take too long. That was silly of me. These stories are so ingenious and artfully crafted that the pages almost flip themselves.

Also, while books take place in space and in the future they each have a timeless feel. The romance in each book feels genuine and the balanced inclusion of action, mystery, and straight up terror keeps the story from any feeling of familiarity. Not to say they are as scary as say, Misery, but being locked on a spaceship with a virus, or being stuck on a space station with bugs are high, high, up on my own personal nightmare list. The romances are sweet and fairly clean but the language is not. Hilariously, the words are redacted, but that just made my brain work a teeny bit harder to come up with the most appropriate expletive.


This morning, Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the hardest thing she’d have to do. This afternoon, her planet was invaded.

The year is 2575, and two rival megacorporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than an ice-covered speck at the edge of the universe. Too bad nobody thought to warn the people living on it. With enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra—who are barely even talking to each other—are forced to fight their way onto an evacuating fleet, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit.

But their problems are just getting started. A deadly plague has broken out and is mutating, with terrifying results; the fleet’s AI, which should be protecting them, may actually be their enemy; and nobody in charge will say what’s really going on. As Kady hacks into a tangled web of data to find the truth, it’s clear only one person can help her bring it all to light: the ex-boyfriend she swore she’d never speak to again.

BRIEFING NOTE: Told through a fascinating dossier of hacked documents—including emails, schematics, military files, IMs, medical reports, interviews, and more—Illuminae is the first book in a heart-stopping, high-octane trilogy about lives interrupted, the price of truth, and the courage of everyday heroes. (Goodreads)

This is the book that introduced me to the format and wonder that is The Illumnae Files. I have said it before but it is important to note that I read and listened to the full cast audiobook and it brought the book to a whole other level for me. If you have the chance, I highly recommend doing both. Please don’t make me pick between the audiobook and the physical copy – I doubt I could manage to choose.

Kady, the strong female lead of our dreams, is an talented computer hacker while still in high school. Her brusque manner belies the depth of her caring. In fact, this book introduces a cast of characters for the ages. My own personal obsession is Analyst ID 7213-0089-DN. Hello Mr. Hilarious observations!


Moving to a space station at the edge of the galaxy was always going to be the death of Hanna’s social life. Nobody said it might actually get her killed.

The sci-fi saga that began with the breakout bestseller Illuminae continues on board the Jump Station Heimdall, where two new characters will confront the next wave of the BeiTech assault.

Hanna is the station captain’s pampered daughter; Nik the reluctant member of a notorious crime family. But while the pair are struggling with the realities of life aboard the galaxy’s most boring space station, little do they know that Kady Grant and the Hypatia are headed right toward Heimdall, carrying news of the Kerenza invasion.

When an elite BeiTech strike team invades the station, Hanna and Nik are thrown together to defend their home. But alien predators are picking off the station residents one by one, and a malfunction in the station’s wormhole means the space-time continuum might be ripped in two before dinner. Soon Hanna and Nik aren’t just fighting for their own survival; the fate of everyone on the Hypatia—and possibly the known universe—is in their hands.

But relax. They’ve totally got this. They hope. (Goodreads)

I didn’t think I could enjoy anyone as much as I did Kady but Hanna Donnelly is a woman after my own heart. Furthermore, she keeps a physical diary in which she draws her thoughts (Marie Lu Illustrates!) adding just one more layer to the experience of reading these books.

I was, admittedly, throw by the shift away from Kady’s perspective. It started to dawn on me that there was some connection between the stories when I saw my beloved Analyst’s reports start coming through. In the end, if this has been a standalone, I would have been thrilled but the way the two books connect turned me into that person on the bus that tells random strangers how fantastic their book is. That lady didn’t need to get off the bus to get away from me… Sorry lady! I hope that was your actual stop!

The book jacket for the third book contains series spoilers! If you want to avoid this: stop reading this post now!


Kady, Ezra, Hanna, and Nik narrowly escaped with their lives from the attacks on Heimdall station and now find themselves crammed with 2,000 refugees on the container ship, Mao. With the jump station destroyed and their resources scarce, the only option is to return to Kerenza—but who knows what they’ll find seven months after the invasion?

Meanwhile, Kady’s cousin, Asha, survived the initial BeiTech assault and has joined Kerenza’s ragtag underground resistance. When Rhys—an old flame from Asha’s past—reappears on Kerenza, the two find themselves on opposite sides of the conflict.

With time running out, a final battle will be waged on land and in space, heroes will fall, and hearts will be broken. (Goodreads)

I ignored every obligation in my life to read this book. I couldn’t even wait for the audiobook to read it to me – I cleared my calendar, holed up in my house, and read it page by delicious page.

People are not exaggerating when they talk about this series. It has something for everyone and delivers book after book. This series gets all the stars from me and will get a hug every time I see them out and about!

Tell me, please!

Have you read The Illuminae Files? Can we please talk about them??!!


FrighteninglyGoodRead · YA

FGR #1: The Price Guide to the Occult by Leslie Walton

Before I begin: this book is brimming with self harm. It is on nearly every page. If this is something that you struggle with then skip this book and consider heading here instead.


I’m not even sure where I acquired this book. Quite possibly, it was for FrighteningGoodReads2018 since the book was published in October, 2018. And, I continued to be determined to work though that physical TBR so I pulled it off the shelf to kick off this year’s FGR. Just look at this glorious cover!



When Rona Blackburn landed on Anathema Island more than a century ago, her otherworldly skills might have benefited friendlier neighbors. Guilt and fear instead led the island’s original eight settlers to burn “the witch” out of her home. So Rona cursed them. Fast-forward one hundred–some years: All Nor Blackburn wants is to live an unremarkable teenage life. She has reason to hope: First, her supernatural powers, if they can be called that, are unexceptional. Second, her love life is nonexistent, which means she might escape the other perverse side effect of the matriarch’s backfiring curse, too. But then a mysterious book comes out, promising to cast any spell for the right price. Nor senses a storm coming and is pretty sure she’ll be smack in the eye of it. In her second novel, Leslye Walton spins a dark, mesmerizing tale of a girl stumbling along the path toward self-acceptance and first love, even as the Price Guide’s malevolent author — Nor’s own mother — looms and threatens to strangle any hope for happiness. Goodreads.

I’m not sure what I expected from this book but I know what I want more of: Nor’s best friend Savvy. Savvy was my favorite part of this book. We all deserve a colorful friend who ignores the secrets you keep and sacrifices the glory of Halloween to celebrate your birthday. This was a fantastic character.

On the other hand, I had trouble becoming interested or attached to Nor. She is fundamentally disconnected from her world. She revolves around things instead of interacting with them, including the boy she has a crush on and another she hates. Still, she had enough magnetism that I cared instinctively what happened to her. Or perhaps I was just curious what would happen to Nor because the arrival of her mother, Fern, was so terrifying.

Similarly, there were characters that didn’t get enough backstory. The boys in Nor’s world, Gage and Reed, have almost no dimension. But her Grandmother, Judd, is a wonderful character. A pipe smoking Giantess with the “burden” of healing, Judd is the mother Nor deserved. But Fern is what she received. And Fern is the scariest mother I have encountered in fiction in years.

Eventually, I spent enough time trying to figure out what was happening that I felt myself slowly pulled into the story until I could not stop until I reached the end. And even with some of the pace and character issues I have remarked upon, this story was chilling and consuming.

This is a perfect witchy story of the price some will pay and the lengths others will go in order to make their dreams a reality.

Tell me, please!

Do you ever love a cover even more after you read the book?


fiction · Over 18 · Romantic · YA

The Joy of Romance Books and the Struggle with Recommending Them

I’ll be honest. I have a hard time recommending romance books to a general audience. If someone asks me for recommendations, I have many.  But I have questions first. That’s because romance is personal. One person’s romantic gesture is another individual’s suffocating display of affection. Furthermore, what appeals to a reader at one point in their lives may not appeal at all later. I don’t want to speak for all women but I can certainly attest to the fact that what I found romantic at 20 is nothing like what appeals to me now.

Ultimately, though, there are some factors that are universally romantic. Kindness is necessary. Admiration for another individual’s true self (which leads to total acceptance and unconditional love) is so much more than ogling a single body part. A willingness to put another person’s happiness before your own is a foundation in romance. On top of that, most quality romances add a problem or misunderstanding to test the strength of the new couple. Realistically, what we are looking for in a romance is the same thing we look for in most books – good people making morally sound choices which results in unconditional love. One of my favorite romance authors, Jennifer Crusie said this,

“My feeling on this, which I have expressed loudly and often, is that the romance novel is based on the idea of an innate emotional justice in the universe, that the way the world works is that good people are rewarded and bad people are punished. The mystery genre is based on the same assumption, only there it’s a moral justice, a sense of fair play in human legal interaction: because the good guys risk and struggle, the murderers get punished and good triumphs in a safe world. So in romance, the lovers who risk and struggle for each other and their relationship are rewarded with emotional justice, unconditional love in an emotionally safe world.”

If I were being honest, what I find fun to read in a romance book is not at all the same as what I am looking for in real life romance. I will read any book or watch any movie featuring a love triangle. I sit and sigh imagining inspiring two people to fight for my attention. I’ll remain riveted to the story until the “right one” is chosen. I love those stories. In real life, I would absolutely die if I had to handle more than one person at a time. How dishonest is it to cling to two people simultaneously? Talk about leading a person on….

Similarly, I love an enemies to lovers story. Watching the characters challenge their understanding of another person as they slowly fall in love can be so enjoyable. In real life, once a guy does something unforgivable the chances of me looking at him romantically fall to zero. “Oh, you loved me all this time but you were just behaving terribly….? Well in that case no I will never date you.” I have become friends with people who made terrible first impressions but never dated one. I do not find real life bad behavior attractive. Now, fictional bad boys, those are just fine.

Romance books are no different than thrillers – they put you in positions that are fun to think about but would be a nightmare to deal with in reality. They are a beautiful escape from everyday life. Let’s take a look at some romance books I have enjoyed this month.

What If It’s Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera

whatifitsusArthur is only in New York for the summer, but if Broadway has taught him anything, it’s that the universe can deliver a show stopping romance when you least expect it.
Ben thinks the universe needs to mind its business. If the universe had his back, he wouldn’t be on his way to the post office carrying a box of his ex-boyfriend’s things.
But when Arthur and Ben meet-cute at the post office, what exactly does the universe have in store for them?
Maybe nothing. After all, they get separated.
Maybe everything. After all, they get reunited.
But what if they can’t quite nail a first date . . . or a second first date . . . or a third?
What if Arthur tries too hard to make it work . . . and Ben doesn’t try hard enough?
What if life really isn’t like a Broadway play?

But what if it is?

This book had me sighing all the way through. First loves are always fun to watch unfold and Arthur and Ben were uniquely likable both individually and as a possible couple. I don’t know what magic spell Becky Albertalli weaves through her stories but they always manage to stay with me long after I turn the last page. Adam Silvera is new to me but I cannot wait to acquaint myself with his other works. This books features some closed door romance which makes it perfect for YA audiences (and those that enjoy YA books).

A Bride Test by Helen Hoang

bridetestKhai Diep has no feelings. Well, he feels irritation when people move his things or contentment when ledgers balance down to the penny, but not big, important emotions—like grief. And love. He thinks he’s defective. His family knows better—that his autism means he just processes emotions differently. When he steadfastly avoids relationships, his mother takes matters into her own hands and returns to Vietnam to find him the perfect bride.

As a mixed-race girl living in the slums of Ho Chi Minh City, Esme Tran has always felt out of place. When the opportunity arises to come to America and meet a potential husband, she can’t turn it down, thinking this could be the break her family needs. Seducing Khai, however, doesn’t go as planned. Esme’s lessons in love seem to be working…but only on herself. She’s hopelessly smitten with a man who’s convinced he can never return her affection.

With Esme’s time in the United States dwindling, Khai is forced to understand he’s been wrong all along. And there’s more than one way to love.

This is the second in Hoang’s popular The Kiss Quotient series and features Micheal’s cousin Kai. Many readers have complained that Esme is unlikable because she leaves her child behind in Vietnam. This didn’t bother me. Countless families are often forced to make difficult decisions in an effort to secure a more promising future for their children. I felt Esme was doing exactly that. After all, back home, Esme, her mother, her grandmother and her daughter all share one room. Convincing Kai to marry her would provide them all with a better life. But the more she tries to win him over the more she find herself falling in love with him.

I sucked this book down like a delicious milkshake. In reality would I want to leave my child behind to travel with a stranger I met in the bathroom to marry another stranger? Nope. But I enjoyed watching Esme take that chance on a better life. More lovely was that Esme grows tremendously as a person. As does Kai. This book, like many contemporary romances, has some open door sex scenes that feel slightly gratuitous. This book has less sex than The Kiss Quotient and I was glad that the author established a basic relationship before including physical romance. I don’t consider myself a prude but I will say, if I am prudish it is when reading stories of characters I don’t know having sex with each other. It makes me feel like a Peeping Tom. Books with sex scenes are the most difficult romance books for me to recommend because sex is even more complicated than romance. With that said, the book was ridiculously enjoyable.

Meet Cute by Helena Hunting

meetcuteTalk about an embarrassing introduction. On her first day of law school, Kailyn ran – quite literally – into the actor she crushed on as a teenager, ending with him sprawled on top of her. Mortified to discover the Daxton Hughes was also a student in her class, her embarrassment over their meet-cute quickly turned into a friendship she never expected. Of course, she never saw his betrayal coming either…

Now, eight years later, Dax is in her office asking for legal advice. Despite her anger, Kailyn can’t help feeling sorry for the devastated man who just became sole guardian to his thirteen-year-old sister. But when her boss gets wind of Kailyn’s new celebrity client, there’s even more at stake than Dax’s custody issues: if she gets Dax to work at their firm, she’ll be promoted to partner.

The more time Kailyn spends with Dax and his sister, the more she starts to feel like a family, and the more she realizes the chemistry they had all those years ago is as fresh as ever. But will they be able to forgive the mistakes of the past, or will one betrayal lead to another?

I did a full review here so just a quick overview is needed here. I picked this book up because I thought it was Helen Hoang’s new book. It’s yellow and the alliteration of their names confused me! This is an adorable book and vastly different than the other books I saw by the author available on Amazon. This one really focused on character development and watching each of them change their lives as their relationship develops was more fun than any solo sexy time scene. This has some open door sex scenes but they are not graphic and are romantic in nature. Oddly, I already had another of her books on my Kindle that I had DNFed. I returned to The Good Luck Charm after enjoying Meet Cute.

The Good Luck Charm by Helena Hunting

thegoodluckcharmLilah isn’t sure what hurt worse: the day Ethan left her to focus on his hockey career, or the day he came back eight years later. He might think they can pick up just where they left off, but she’s no longer that same girl and never wants to be again.

Ethan Kane wants his glory days back. And that includes having Lilah by his side. With her, he was magic. They were magic. All he has to do is make her see that.

Just when Lilah might finally be ready to let him in, though, she finds out their reunion has nothing to do with her and everything to do with his game. But Ethan’s already lost her once, and even if it costs him his career, he’ll do anything to keep from losing her again.

Helena Hunting has a series of romance novels that don’t appeal to me but both Meet Cute and The Good Luck Charm are standalone books and each has a very sweet theme. Furthermore, like Meet Cute, the most enjoyable part of this book is the character development of the the main character, Lilah. I feel like there is open door scenes but honestly, I was all about Lilah in this book and less interested in her relationship with Ethan than her own personal transformation.

Each of these books has all the hallmarks of an enjoyable romance story. Two people trying to make morally sound choices so that they are deemed deserving of true love. There is also a problem for them to overcome either together or alone that puts the strength of their new love to the test. And, of course, kissing!

Tell me, please!

Do you read romance books? If so, what do you look for in a “good romance?”