October Book Haul

Saturday, October 31, 2015
I didn't go too book-buying happy this month. I held myself to a budget (bans just do not work) and it made me choose my purchases with a little more care than I usually do. These are all novels I am excited about or in a started and loved series  OR I found for less than $3 (Sunshine, The Accidental Empress).


Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho. (Sorcerer Royal #1) I love the manners and magic angle, plus DRAGONS. I do want the UK cover at some point, but this one is also gorgeous and demands to be read.

Dark Tide by Jennifer Donnelly (Waterfire Saga #3) I am not caught up on this series (I still need to read book two, Rogue Wave). But Jennifer Donnelly is an author that has never disappointed me. I was surprised she went with mermaids but these books are entertaining and I love the Asian mermaid on the cover!

Covenant's End by Ari Marmell (Widdershins Adventures #4). The end of a series that I have sped through. These books are entertaining and actiontastic. The characters have great banter, chemistry, and wit and the books can pack some serious emotional punches. I am sad to see it end!

The Accidental Empress by Allison Pataki - a novel about Sisi -- the Austro-Hungarian Empress  and wife of Emperor Franz Joseph. I have not read anything by this author before but Sisi was a fascinating woman and I am curious to see how this novel will handle her lifestory.

Sunshine by Robin McKinley
I don't know much about this one other than it's about vampires and a lot of my friends are vocal fans of this author.

For kindle:

Retribution Falls by Chris Wooding (Tales of the Jetty Kay #1)

Frey is the captain of the Ketty Jay, leader of a small and highly dysfunctional band of layabouts. An inveterate womaniser and rogue, he and his gang make a living on the wrong side of the law, avoiding the heavily armed flying frigates of the Coalition Navy. With their trio of ragged fighter craft, they run contraband, rob airships and generally make a nuisance of themselves. So a hot tip on a cargo freighter loaded with valuables seems like a great prospect for an easy heist and a fast buck. Until the heist goes wrong, and the freighter explodes. 

Suddenly Frey isn't just a nuisance anymore - he's public enemy number one, with the Coalition Navy on his tail and contractors hired to take him down. But Frey knows something they don't. That freighter was rigged to blow, and Frey has been framed to take the fall. If he wants to prove it, he's going to have to catch the real culprit. He must face liars and lovers, dogfights and gunfights, Dukes and daemons. It's going to take all his criminal talents to prove he's not the criminal they think he is ...

This came highly recommended on twitter and was on sale... soo... it was a splurge buy, but I don't regret it! 

Received for review:

The Conqueror's Wife by Stephanie Thornton --- signed!

And the final cover is pretty damn gorgeous:

 We are the women who loved Alexander the Great. We were lovers and murderers, innocents and soldiers.
And without us, Alexander would have been only a man.
Instead he was a god.

330s, B.C.E., Greece: Alexander, a handsome young warrior of Macedon, begins his quest to conquer the ancient world. But he cannot ascend to power, and keep it, without the women who help to shape his destiny.

His spirited younger half-sister, Thessalonike, yearns to join her brother and see the world. Instead, it is Alexander's boyhood companion who rides with him into war while Thessalonike remains behind. Far away, crafty princess Drypetis will not stand idly by as Alexander topples her father from Persia's throne. And after Alexander conquers her tiny kingdom, Roxana, the beautiful and cunning daughter of a minor noble, wins Alexander’s heart…and will commit any crime to secure her place at his side.

Within a few short years, Alexander controls an empire more vast than the civilized world has ever known. But his victories are tarnished by losses on the battlefield and treachery among his inner circle. And long after Alexander is gone, the women who are his champions, wives, and enemies will fight to claim his legacy…

Doesn't that sound just fantastic?

Just Visiting by Dahlia Adler

Reagan Forrester wants out—out of her trailer park, out of reach of her freeloading mother, and out of the shadow of the relationship that made her the pariah of Charytan, Kansas.

Victoria Reyes wants in—in to a fashion design program, in to the arms of a cute guy who doesn't go to Charytan High, and in to a city where she won't stand out for being Mexican.

One thing the polar-opposite best friends do agree on is that wherever they go, they’re staying together. But when they set off on a series of college visits at the start of their senior year, they quickly see that the future doesn’t look quite like they expected. After two years of near-solitude following the betrayal of the ex-boyfriend who broke her heart, Reagan falls hard and fast for a Battlestar Galactica-loving, brilliant smile-sporting pre-med prospective... only to learn she's set herself up for heartbreak all over again. Meanwhile, Victoria runs full-speed toward all the things she thinks she wants… only to realize everything she’s looking for might be in the very place they've sworn to leave.

As both Reagan and Victoria struggle to learn who they are and what they want in the present, they discover just how much they don't know about each other's pasts. And when each learns what the other’s been hiding, they'll have to decide whether their friendship has a future.

First: adorable cover is adorable. This is just the kind of YA I love to read. Strong female friendship featured and a lot of diversity. I have been excited for months about this novel so I am BEYOND thrilled that Dahlia was kind to let me read and review it. Look for that in the next week or so! 

That's it for me! How was your October, bookwise and candywise?


Backlist Discussion Review: The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey

Friday, October 30, 2015
Title: The Monstrumologist
Author: Rick Yancey
Genre: young adult, horror, historical fiction
Series: The Monstrumologist #1
Pages: 454
Published: 2009
Source: purchased

These are the secrets I have kept. This is the trust I never betrayed. But he is dead now and has been for more than forty years, the one who gave me his trust, the one for whom I kept these secrets. The one who saved me . . . and the one who cursed me.

So starts the diary of Will Henry, orphaned assistant to Dr. Pellinore Warthorpe, a man with a most unusual specialty: monstrumology, the study of monsters. In his time with the doctor, Will has met many a mysterious late-night visitor, and seen things he never imagined were real. But when a grave robber comes calling in the middle of the night with a gruesome find, he brings with him their most deadly case yet.

A gothic tour de force that explores the darkest heart of man and monster and asks the question: When does man become the very thing he hunts?

Today, I am talking about this horror novel with Lyn and Pixie from Great Imaginations for their Forgotten Fridays feature. This does veer a tad bit spoilery as we discuss, so be warned if you've not yet read the novel. 

Lyn: Okay I will start yah! What made you pick this book?

Pixie: I wanted something that would get me in the Halloween spirit and I’ve heard good things about it.

Jessie: I really liked Rick Yancey’s The 5th Wave and I honestly loved the first cover for this book. It caught my eye and made me curious.

Lyn: Was it the cover with the jar?

Jessie: YES! It looked so creepy and odd and like it was going to be fun in a gruesome way.

Pixie: That’s the cover I wanted, but I have a used copy with the original.

Jessie: Same here. The cover lured me in, but the synopsis sold me. How did you guys feel about the book itself, though? Did it live up to that first cover for you?

Lyn: Fun fact – I bought the Kindle and the hardcover so that I could get that jar cover. Because I am an addict. I was a bit hesitant because The 5th Wave had some issues and I had my doubts, but this novel is far superior to his dystopian series. I told my mom ( who read it with me) that it spooked me. She thought it was because of the monsters. But I told her it was the people who frightened me, because those are the real living monsters.

Pixie: I haven’t read The 5th Wave, but I think I’m really curious about it now. It may have just climbed up my reading list because of this book. Which, btw, I loved because oddly enough, I like creepy weird books like this.

Jessie: I’m am of mixed emotions about The Monstrumologist. I liked it, but not as much as the The 5th Wave. The writing didn’t work as well for me and I had some serious issues with key elements of the plot and characterization for William Henry and Pellinore Warthrop. I don’t do well in general with novels that use the whole “sins of the father rebound on the son” theme. It bores me; it leaves completely uninterested in vast parts of both these two characters and their backgrounds.

Lyn: Pixie, totally read The 5th Wave! As for that plot device of sins passing down, I get it, Jessie. It is a trope I don’t care for. I really started to enjoy myself when Kearns shows up. I love the whole “ who is the monster and who is the man” debate. Because Kearns was a freaking psychopathic madman.

Pixie: I get that. That device was one of the few things I disliked about the book, but I don’t think I’ve really read too many books with that kind of element so it didn’t annoy me too terribly much to pull me away from the story.

Jessie: You brought up the one think about this that I unequivocally loved about the book — Kearns. I loved it for the same reasons you did, Lyn. And I looooved the ongoing joke about his name(s). I was really entertained by the various sides of personality he could ape, and then when he would drop the mask? Ooooh, that definitely counted as one of the novel’s creepy bits.

Lyn: At the end, it was so enthrall in how, after everything he did in the name of science and survival, he did a whole repentance by continuing to chase down monsters. It left me wondering if he tries to even the score or if he just loves the thrill of the hunt. Kearns is a character that I want to see come back. The complexity, the absence of humanity, and then the odd vigilantism in the name of justice still had me wondering about him to the end. Seriously, he better come back in the rest of the books.

Jessie: I have read book two and he is not in that (sadly), but I’ve heard he is in the third! And I am glad for that — he is directly responsible for my favorite parts.

Lyn: Is the second as gory as this one? Warning: not a lunchtime read.

Pixie: I don’t really have too much to add to what you and Lyn have said. I’m definitely going to continue with this series so I can see when Kearns comes back (if) and hopefully enjoy the rest as much as I had with this one. I really liked how the start of it was prefaced with quotes and real history– it made the book feel much more real. Creepy, like I said before, but damn good. It was nice enjoying a book for the fun of it, after such a slump the past couple of months.

Jessie: The gore was a bit more than I had anticipated. I mean, I know I went for the book with the specimen-in-a-jar cover but…. damn, Yancey! He.. um… gets very descriptive? He likes to really bring home all the senses of a scene, you know? It was easy to envision his scenes… and yes, definitely not a lunchtime read. And I 100% agree with you, Pix — loved the introduction, quotes, the whole ~feeeeel of the novel was really well done and creepy.

Lyn: Right? I never thought that I could easily envision a freaking toddler torn to pieces. I agree, I was completely unprepared for the graphic scenery. But it is important to not mollify violence – go big or go home. Get right to the absolute horrors of how gruesome the events were in the novel. It helps tie in some real emotions, which were high in this book.

Jessie: How did you guys like Will Henry or Pellinore? I thought it was interesting that Yancey went in a different direction than a lot of mentor/student relationships. Pellinore is not an easy man, but he is a well-rounded and fully dimensional one. He’s very unlikeable, even though he’s not always a bad person? I know I expected a closer bond between him and Will Henry and it’s interesting to watch them interact in the roles they’ve set up.

Pixie: I think I expected more from the two of them, myself. I did like Will Henry though, and I do agree with Jessie about Pellinore. I can see that Yancey’s intention might’ve been to make Pellinore unlikeable for the reader, but more so on purpose to bring out the curiosity of his character. No, wasn’t always bad though he definitely was not likeable for me. I also agree about having expected a closer bond, perhaps, but they were interesting nonetheless.

Lyn: Oh Pellinore. I felt a lot of pity for him. The complete lack of social skills and the reflection of neglectful parenting really gave his character a lot of depth. This was a man who just had no idea how to be kind, because he was never able to see an example of paternal affection, and it broke my heart to watch him struggle with his demons. He was less loveable than monsters – how can a child have a healthy emotional balance with that upbringing?? Will Henry was surprisingly a bit distant. I never could really pinpoint his personality.


Pixie: I give it a 4!

Jessie: For me it was a 3 out of 5. I liked it but I never fell in love with it (and without Kearns it would be 2 out of 5).

Lyn: 4!

Pixie: Jessie is the odd one. :p

Jessie: when am I not the odd one?! ^___^

Lyn: spoiler: never.

Book Discussion Review: The Anatomical Shape of a Heart by Jenn Bennett

Thursday, October 29, 2015
Title: The Anatomical Shape of a Heart
Author: Jenn Bennett
Genre: contemporary, YA
Series: N/A
Pages: 304
Published: expected Nov 3 2015
Source: publishers via NetGalley

Artist Beatrix Adams knows exactly how she's spending the summer before her senior year. Determined to follow in Leonardo da Vinci’s footsteps, she's ready to tackle the one thing that will give her an advantage in a museum-sponsored scholarship contest: drawing actual cadavers. But when she tries to sneak her way into the hospital’s Willed Body program and misses the last metro train home, she meets a boy who turns her summer plans upside down.

Jack is charming, wildly attractive . . . and possibly one of San Francisco’s most notorious graffiti artists. On midnight buses and city rooftops, Beatrix begins to see who Jack really is—and tries to uncover what he’s hiding that leaves him so wounded. But will these secrets come back to haunt him? Or will the skeletons in Beatrix’s own family’s closet tear them apart?

I'm hosting a discussion  of The Anatomical Shape of a Heart with 
So this review is going to be a bit different. I don’t think that you and I have ever disagreed so noticeably about a readalong novel before The Anatomical Shape of a Heart or TASoaH as it will be henceforth be referenced because daaaaamn that is a long title.

I do like the title that they gave it for the American release. Night Owls seems so overdone, you know? And I did love the hell out of the cover. It was pretty cute.

And I very much agree - usually we are on the same page, but on this one, it is going to be so contrasting! Okay, so, what made this a Jessie book?

Not that I base all my ratings or reviews on this, but the ship. I loved the ship. I also liked Bex a lot -- I liked that she was imperfect, that she made mistakes (I did wish for a little more recognition of those issues, though) -- on her own, and Jack for his own merits. I liked that it wasn’t a typical YA love story. Bex isn’t bookish, or extraordinarily pretty, or an athlete or even that friendly. She likes drawing medical illustrations. She likes the dark, the macabre. She’s different, and memorable.

I also liked the way mental illness played into the central plot. It wasn’t handled perfectly (I know there’s at least one instance you’re going to touch on) but I loved the inclusion of that to the main storyline. I want to avoid spoilers but it was central to the novel and had a big impact on both characters.

I will say the romance was handled well. I thought that Jack and Bex fit well together. But Bex was a huge turn off for me. I wouldn’t have liked her if I had known her in real life. I can’t stand that she just had this air of superiority and it wore on my nerves. I wanted to read more about Jack’s family or her brother’s story - a gay death metal fanatic?? SO awesome! So much better than a girl with a chip on her shoulder who thought she was better than every person she came in contact with.

As for the mental illness, they should have spent more time on that. I wanted to see more “bad days” instead of all “good days”. At least they gave the patient something more than just her illness. I wanted to see more of THAT side of the story. Hell, this should have been told from Jack’s POV.

That is a fair point. Showcasing a wider range of mental illness and its effects would have been better and more honest. I also think you’re right that perhaps Jack had the better story here. Bex’s family issues are far more prevalent/seen and Jack’s is the more compelling. I also have to point out how sex-positive this book is. I loved that aspect. I love when a YA book isn’t afraid to go there, or be honest about how teens act and feel. TASoaH isn’t a perfect read, but it did a lot of things I liked: diversity, moderately healthy family lives, sex positivity, mental illness, etc. It may have missed the bullseye, but it’s on the target.

This book was sex-positive, which I would love to see more of today, so it shocked me when there were some other issues in the book. For example, Bex said that soldiers only suffer from PTSD, not every day people. And when she was meeting with a mentally ill person, she said they didn’t have “crazy eyes”. Also, I’m very pissed that the author wrote about “fake boobs” on a woman that was hated and then had the “competition girl” in the novel fall into the typical “bad girl” role. It was so conflicting, and I’m really torn up that this book had so much potential just for it to have a positive message and then such a negative emotion regarding sexuality. Also, I’m not thrilled about the graffiti. The “reasoning” was weak, and I still didn’t give Jack a pass on that. It is irresponsible, and someone has to clean that up. It was the conflict of the messages that caused me to rage and rate the book a low rating.

The PTSD comment was one I knew you would address because it also stuck out to me as so far off the mark. It’s incredibly inaccurate and harmful to victims to read things like that. It’s one of the main reasons I could not rate TASoaH higher. Maybe it won’t make it to the final version?

As for the other issues, I took those comments in the poor taste that Bex made them but saw them as example of her immaturity and need for growth. The Bex at the end of the novel is not the same one we met at the beginning; I remember her thinking about that “competition girl” in far more empathetic and understanding terms than she had previously. It wasn’t a perfect resolution, but life is imperfect and so are people. It was sadly realistic at first, with a natural and believable change at the end. I wasn’t the feminist at 17 that I am now, for example.

I wasn’t either. That is the issue I run into at times: when YA has characters that act immature. Because it is realistic. I really couldn’t see Bex changing for the better, but people do surprise you.

I was incredibly disappointed that the anatomy angle wasn’t discussed more. I also struggled with the fact that Bex couldn’t face a dead body when she wanted to be a medical artist. There is such a thing as learning as you go, but it seemed like an excuse to push it to the side to make more room for the romance. She just mentions the cadaver drawings in passing each night, but then we have pages upon pages of the romance. I wanted to see Bex slowly get accustomed to her meetings in the lab, and I would have loved more about the actual drawing or just the bonding, but it all fell to the wayside, and it just frustrated me.

Yes, this really was a YA romance novel more than anything else. I was surprised when the art blog was mentioned in passing a few times, or the award, but never a real focal point of Bex’s narration. I mean, I was there for the shippy feels so I am 100% not complaining, just surprised that’s the focus the novel took so heavily. I also now kinda want a book that just features Heath and Noah off doing random things?

I would read the HELL out of Noah and Heath! Bex was the most nonfascinating character in a sea of some freaking AWESOME people!! I wanted SO MUCH MORE of Noah! Like, that book would be 5 stars right off the shelf! This book was a smash up of some awesome stuff and some very-not-awesome stuff. You might have just convinced me to give it 2 stars instead of 1. Because Noah and Heath = <3.

I think anyone reading this can agree that yes Bex and Jack is a great ship but that Noah and Heath are OTP status.

Okay, I don’t feel SO angry towards this book any longer. Just strong annoyance. The ship was cute, but Jack could do better.

And you’ve made me reconsider a few of my easy passes for TASoaH. Yes, it’s good to see all kinds of diversity in lit, but accurate, honest portrayals of mental illness are paramount. They are necessary and a simplified, sanitized version isn’t cutting it. I went into this discussion with 4-stars in mind, but I don’t think TASoaH will keep all of them.

So, shall we call it? Final ratings?

I give it 2 stars.

I give it 3.

I’m thrilled that we were able to address some of the things and see the book through a new pair of eyes.

I will always love a good book discussion. People might not always agree on a novel or a character but it's so fascinating to see how someone else can interpret words and analyze them. It’s why the blogging community is so passionate, I think. Anyway.
Check out some of our other discussion reviews:

Review: Kiss of Death by Rachel Caine

Wednesday, October 28, 2015
Author: Rachel Caine
Genre: young-adult, supernatural fiction
Series: Morganville Vampires #8
Pages: 348 (paperback edition)
Published: April 2010
Rating: 3/5

Claire Danvers has a few things on her mind. First of all there is the laundry, which is now an unfortunate shade of pink. Then there is her boyfriend, Shane, who is never too far from her thoughts. Finally there is her best friend Eve’s relationship problems. As if life as a student wasn’t complicated enough, Claire just happens to be studying in Morganville. A town run by vampires.

Trouble seems to follow Claire and her friends like a shadow and tonight is no exception to the rule. They must find the most difficult documents for a vampire to acquire; people passes that will allow ‘bad ass’ Morley and his friends to leave Morganville. But it’s proving incredibly difficult, and with the odds seemingly stacked against them, the biggest question of all is...

Will they survive?

Once again ensconced within the compact world of Caine's Morganville series, the eighth novel does something I have been desiring for many a novel: a change of scenery. Finally, and not without her usual ulterior motives, Amelie grants Claire and the Misfits leave to actually, you know, leave her controlled little vampire town in Texas.  Not only is the change of view different later in the game here, but the portals, a steadfast feature of the town/books for many of the volumes - and the jealous homicidal steampunk vampire computer that powered the shifting portals - are long gone. New tensions arise between previous harmonic couples and overall, Kiss of Death is a refreshing change in the midst of such a long - but always entertaining - series.

The book relocates to Dallas, with Claire, Shane, Eve, Michael and watchdog Oliver in tow. I liked both the mixup of locale, as I've said, and also the addition of Oliver to a more prominent role. Oliver is one of "sleeper" characters of this series: over the last few novels I've developed some kind of affection for the dangerous and wily Englishman. He certainly interests me more than the new chief antagonist of Amelie's, the vampire called Morley. The premier antagonist of both the last two novels, I find him bland and a not very interesting vampire character, especially contrasted to the more rounded characters of Amelie, Oliver, and Myrnin. Morley lacks Amelie's cold intelligence and small kindness; he's the lesser of Oliver's wit and knowledge; he has none of Myrnin's wild, dangerous charm. He's a shadow hidden amongst stronger personalities and a much weaker opponent.

Like I said, couples that have been rock solid are on shaky ground. I definitely had my issues with Caine's sophomoric treatment of Claire and Shane's romantic relationship in the previous book and this time around, it's Michael and Eve with turbulence in the flight path of their love. Ha, corny. Anyway: I'm sick to death of the endless drama. Michael has been a vampire for nigh on six books already; either Eve can handle that or she can't. The endless back and forth does little but detrimentally affect how I view Eve as a character. I like Eve, or maybe at this point I want to like Eve. After her silly and stupid actions during Fade Out with Kim/Claire, I had hoped for some maturity from the diminutive Goth in the direct successor. I'm getting less and less enthused with Eve, but will not cut her off completely. There's still what, eight more books left in this series? So happily, Eve's got plenty of time and page to redeem herself and become again the intelligent spitfire from before, just please quit with the overwrought relationship melodrama. 

Along with Eve's deevolution, Monica is another character that continues to change. She presented a somewhat more humane demeanor in Fade Out (I still wouldn't go so far as to call her kind or nice) and that is true for Kiss of Death as well. She is always slowly being downgraded in importance over the last few novels, with few appearances or actions that do much. She's either getting better and less important to the storyline as Claire becomes more firmly enmeshed with the vampires or I have Stockholm Syndrome from reading this series. Who knows? All I know is at least the characters from the Morganville Vampire series aren't stagnant. Even if I hate what they become, they're constantly evolving, forcing me to re-evaluate their place in the grand scheme of this soon to be sixteen-novels-long series. I have little to nothing to contribute about Claire from this novel: I didn't hate her, didn't love her more than I did before. I did appreciate that she was much more badass and violent this go round; her only contributions weren't just her brains and girlfriend got her hands dirty.

With a three-sided vampire war, zombie vampires, Claire and Shane's thankfully easy relationship, and a change of venue, Kiss of Death is one of the better recent Morganville novels. Almost on par with the first in the series, this last novel left me once again eager to see what plans Amelie has in store for her intrepid group of malcontents. If you've liked the first seven, you'll definitely be a fan of number eight.

Review: Cam Girl by Leah Raeder

Tuesday, October 27, 2015
Title: Cam Girl
Author:Leah Raeder
Genre: contemporary
Series: n/a
Pages: 320
Published: Expected November 3, 2015
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Rating: 4 out of 5

Vada Bergen is broke, the black sheep of her family, and moving a thousand miles away from home for grad school, but she’s got the two things she loves most: her art and her best friend—and sometimes more—Ellis Carraway. Ellis and Vada have a friendship so consuming it’s hard to tell where one girl ends and the other begins. It’s intense. It’s a little codependent. And nothing can tear them apart.

Until an accident on an icy winter road changes everything.

Vada is left deeply scarred, both emotionally and physically. Her once-promising art career is cut short. And Ellis pulls away, unwilling to talk about that night. Everything Vada loved is gone.

She’s got nothing left to lose.
So when she meets some smooth-talking entrepreneurs who offer to set her up as a cam girl, she can’t say no. All Vada has to do is spend a couple hours each night stripping on webcam, and the “tips” come pouring in.

It’s just a kinky escape from reality until a client gets serious. “Blue” is mysterious, alluring, and more interested in Vada’s life than her body. Online, they chat intimately. Blue helps her heal. And he pays well, but he wants her all to himself. No more cam shows. It’s an easy decision: she’s starting to fall for him. But the steamier it gets, the more she craves the real man behind the keyboard. So Vada pops the question:

Can we meet IRL?

Blue agrees, on one condition. A condition that brings back a ghost from her past. Now Vada must confront the devastating secrets she's been running from—those of others, and those she's been keeping from herself...

Cam Girl is a hard book. Like a car crash, it's painful and impossible to look away from. And like Vada walking away from the crash, it changes you.

Vada is a hard character to read. She's a hard person to love. Even before the accident, her relationship with Ellis is deeply troubled, but depression, disability, and alcohol push it to unbelievable heights. Their end is manipulative and abusive, no question, but the way you get into the character's head and experience the racism, classism, and homophobia that lead to her decisions is masterful.

Broke, evicted, and without the most important person in her life, Vada becomes a cam girl at a new start up catering to fetishists. She becomes Morgan, their highest earner, who closes out her shows with a silk tie and autoerotic asphyxiation. Her pain and desire to self-flagellate is palpable. Like prodding a rotten tooth, Vada's only confidant becomes the father of the boy killed in the same accident.

Until Blue, a mysterious client who seems to see Vada for who she is.

As she's falling for a guy who seems perfect, Ellis comes back to Vada's life. There's anger there, and so much pain, but also love. In one of the best love triangles I've read, should Vada choose the man she's never met or the woman she may have too much baggage with?

You see my blingee up there? This book is hella gay. Vada and Elllis' relationship stops being ambiguous about one chapter in, but Vada continues to fight it because she's afraid of being labeled gay. So how much of her love for Blue is due to internalized homophobia? The "easy" choice. It's a question both she and the reader ask and not an easy one to answer, but it's an acknowledged factor. (If I can make this review about myself for a moment, I'll say this question rings true more than any bisexual romance I've read. As a woman in a relationship with both a man and a woman, I do often worry that my relationship with my husband might be tainted somehow by the fact that the world perceives us a hetero. It is easier than going out with my girlfriend. "Passing privilege", to me, feels like cheating in a big worldwide game of homophobia.)

Plus, the sex scenes are mind-numbingly hot. Girl on girl sex that's not all languorous kissing on a bed of roses, but actually acknowledges kink and frottage and fingers. I am dead.

In addition to bisexual and gay issues, there's also a great focus on trans and non-binary characters, which we don't get to see as much in fiction. And characters, even though they're in grad school and technically adults,  struggle with their fluid sexualities and genders. It's not something that everyone knows at 16, and seeing that portrayed is really amazing.

The story has two mysteries, which come to a thrilling and almost gothic place, but this is where the book lost a star for me. There's a ton of plot and I felt the addition of missing documents and threatening knives was overboard. The mysteries pulled focus and caused me to wonder why Vada would ultimately choose someone she didn't trust.

In the end, the final chapter did wrap back around, and I was very happy with the conclusion. (Though I think counseling should be a requisite for everyone involved.) It's not a comfortable, happy book, but one that makes me want to run out and buy everything Raeder publishes.

Blogger Trick or Treat! - Halloween Favorites

As book bloggers, we tend to get caught up in, well, books! So this year, Jessie and I've decided we want to tell you the spooky things we love as much as Three Musketeers bars. So, here are our favorite:

image source.

Halloween Movie:

Jessie: Hocus Pocus! This movie is just so much fun to me and feels like the little-kid side of Halloween -- when it's about costumes and trick or treating.

Dani: The Addams Family. My life's goal is to become Wednesday. The movie's funny and a little spooky but mostly it's a really good heart?

Scary TV Show:

Dani: American Horror Story: Murder House. I'm the biggest Ryan Murphy fangirl, but I don't think anything tops the original AHS. It combined traditional horror scares with the kind of fears you shouldn't talk about: teen sex, gay neighbors, BDSM. It's shocking and gory and in typical Murphy fashion, worse every successive season. 

Jessie: literally none/ Walking Dead for three seasons. I am a total wuss when it comes to being visually frightened. The Walking Dead managed to get me to watch for three seasons, so it counts.

Spooky Song:

Jessie: I've Put a Spell on You! So since I forgot Dani's excellent choice, this was what popped into my head. I can't hear this song without picturing Bette Midler doing her best Winnifred Sanderson.

Dani: Heads Will Roll/Thriller - Glee (Not sorry.) (oh my GOD I FORGOT HOW AWESOME THAT SONG IS. Their best mashup! - J)

And of course, we are book bloggers. Our favorite......

image source.

Horror Story:

Dani: The Girl With All the Gifts by M.R. Carey. I'm really not a horror person, despite my AHS and Fatal Frame addictions. TGWAtG is unsettling, thought provoking, and truly phenomenally written, and it also happens to be a zombie story. 

Jessie: Long Lankin by Lindsey Barraclough. This book is just so damn creepy and unsettling. It stuck with me FOR YEARS.

I hope we've given you something to listen to, watch, and read this Halloween season. As you can see, neither of us is into the traditional blood and guts, but what about you? Tell us your favorite books, movies, shows, and of course, CANDY in the comments!

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