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[Meme] Top Ten Tuesday: Beach & Summer Reads Edition

Brooke Banks | 3:00 AM | | 1 Comments

Hosted by the fabulous The Broke and The Bookish. This week's prompt:
May 31: Beach Reads Week -- top ten great beach reads, ten books I plan to read on the beach, ten beach reads for those who don't like typical ~beach reads~, ten authors who are my go-to for beach reads, etc.

I’m not sure if my tastes and definition of beach reads are the same as everyone else’s but I can’t wait to find out.

For me beach reads are cozy mysteries, a side of contemporaries, and a dash of paranormals. Light, fluffy, easy-breezy reads that you can set aside if need be. Usually But don’t be fooled, there’s plenty to sink your teeth into. I’ll have some more out there recommendations at the bottom.

I will say this: being a beach read is not a bad thing. It’s not an insult, I swear. Please do not look down on these books, authors, and readers. Give them a shot, it’ll be fun. :D

First up, my go-tos for romping fun:

Cozy Mysteries. 

These excel with amateur sleuths, quirky casts, and hijinks but often convoluted and full of conveniences. These are also all adult books with adult protagonists. There’s usually drinking, sex, and such, fyi. So if that’s not your thing, keep scrolling.

I love the Rose Strickland series, by Terri L. Austin. The first book, Diners, Dives, & Dead Ends was found in a giveaway from Goodreads. I currently have the second, Last Diner Standing up for trade/sell, if you find out you like it.

Synopsis: As a struggling waitress and part-time college student, Rose Strickland's life is stalled in the slow lane. But when her close friend, Axton, disappears, Rose suddenly finds herself serving up more than hot coffee and flapjacks. Now she's hashing it out with sexy bad guys and scrambling to find clues in a race to save Axton before his time runs out. With her anime-loving bestie, her septuagenarian boss, and pair of IT wise men along for the ride, Rose discovers political corruption, illegal gambling, and shady corporations. She's gone from zero to sixty and learns when you're speeding down the fast lane, it's easy to crash and burn.

In the same vein, there’s Portrait of a Dead Guy (Cherry Tucker #1) by Larissa Reinhart. (ARC for trade/sell)

In Halo, Georgia, folks know Cherry Tucker as big in mouth, small in stature, and able to sketch a portrait faster than buckshot rips from a ten gauge -- but commissions are scarce. So when the well-heeled Branson family wants to memorialize their murdered son in a coffin portrait, Cherry scrambles to win their patronage from her small town rival.

As the clock ticks toward the deadline, Cherry faces more trouble than just a controversial subject. Between ex-boyfriends, her flaky family, an illegal gambling ring, and outwitting a killer on a spree, Cherry finds herself painted into a corner she’ll be lucky to survive.
Also available in e-book.

Blanche On The Lam (Blanche White #1) by Barbara Neely is another cozy mystery with a more grounded protagonist and setting. Blanche is insightful, unapologetic, and I can’t wait to read more of her. It’s funny and mysterious without the over-the-top white people that belong in the circus.

Blanche White lends a refreshing African-American, female twist to the mystery tradition, as she turns from domestic worker to insightful--if reluctant--sleuth. A middle-aged housekeeper with a strong sense of humor, Blanche becomes an unlikely yet ingenious sleuth when murder disrupts the wealthy household of her employers.

Next up, contemporaries

These are all YAs.

Reunited  by Hilary Weisman Graham is another giveaway win that’s up for trade/sell. Friendships, music, and an old fashioned road trip. And boys. There's some family drama and heartwarming moments.

1 Concert
2000 Miles
3 Ex-Best Friends
Alice, Summer, and Tiernan are ex-best friends.
Back in middle school, the three girls were inseparable. They were also the number one fans of the rock band Level3.

But when the band broke up, so did their friendship. Summer ran with the popular crowd, Tiernan was a rebellious wild-child, and Alice spent high school with her nose buried in books.
Now, just as the girls are about to graduate, Level3 announces a one-time-only reunion show.

Even though the concert’s 2000 miles away, Alice buys three tickets on impulse. And as it turns out, Summer and Tiernan have their own reasons for wanting to get out of town. Good thing Alice’s graduation gift (a pea-green 1976 VW camper van known as the Pea Pod) is just the vehicle to get them there.

But on the long drive cross-country, the girls hit more than a few bumps in the road. Will their friendship get an encore or is the show really over?

Sean Griswold's Head by Lindsey Leavitt is another fun, quirky contemporary. This time a young woman struggles to deal with her father’s MS diagnosis and learns life lessons along the way. It hits hard but not a typical medical tear jerker and light enough for the beach. I mean, she writes a journal about his head…it just shouts rom com.

According to her guidance counselor, fifteen-year-old Payton Gritas needs a focus object-an item to concentrate her emotions on. It's supposed to be something inanimate, but Payton decides to use the thing she stares at during class: Sean Griswold's head. They've been linked since third grade (Griswold-Gritas-it's an alphabetical order thing), but she's never really known him.

The focus object is intended to help Payton deal with her father's newly diagnosed multiple sclerosis. And it's working. With the help of her boy-crazy best friend Jac, Payton starts stalking-er, focusing on-Sean Griswold . . . all of him! He's cute, he shares her Seinfeld obsession (nobody else gets it!) and he may have a secret or two of his own.

In this sweet story of first love, Lindsey Leavitt seamlessly balances heartfelt family moments, spot-on sarcastic humor, and a budding young romance.

Leavitt has another book, Going Vintage: cute 3 star YA contemporary with a funny premise amid high school and family drama.

To round it out, I’ve included the fantastic To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before (there’s going to be a third in the series!!!) and Dumplin.

Ya’ll should know both of those. If not, what are you doing?!?! (lol)

And Finally...Paranormals

Typically there’s a lot of similarities between these picks and cozy mysteries but with a magical twist. These are back to being Adult books.

My Life as a White Trash Zombie (White Trash Zombie #1) by Diana Rowland is a good example of this. Each installment has Angel working on another mystery with solid overarching plots, characters, and developments, with solid sci-fi world-building and romance.

Angel Crawford is a loser.

Living with her alcoholic deadbeat dad in the swamps of southern Louisiana, she's a high school dropout with a pill habit and a criminal record who's been fired from more crap jobs than she can count. Now on probation for a felony, it seems that Angel will never pull herself out of the downward spiral her life has taken.

That is, until the day she wakes up in the ER after overdosing on painkillers. Angel remembers being in an horrible car crash, but she doesn't have a mark on her. To add to the weirdness, she receives an anonymous letter telling her there's a job waiting for her at the parish morgue—and that it's an offer she doesn't dare refuse.

Before she knows it she's dealing with a huge crush on a certain hunky deputy and a brand new addiction: an overpowering craving for brains. Plus, her morgue is filling up with the victims of a serial killer who decapitates his prey—just when she's hungriest!

Angel's going to have to grow up fast if she wants to keep this job and stay in one piece. Because if she doesn't, she's dead meat.

The Agent of Hell series by Jacqueline Carey is a more series mystery of the week paranormal. Carey is one of my favorite authors, I’ve loved every one of her books. It’s action- and magic-packed. It’s a heavier beach read, but it’s still a breeze to read through, furiously flipping pages. Beware if you’re tanning because they’re hard to put down.

Jacqueline Carey, New York Times bestselling author of the acclaimed Kushiel’s Legacy novels, presents an all-new world featuring a woman caught between the normal and paranormal worlds, while enforcing order in both. Introducing Daisy Johanssen, reluctant hell-spawn…

The Midwestern resort town of Pemkowet boasts a diverse population: eccentric locals, wealthy summer people, and tourists by the busload; not to mention fairies, sprites, vampires, naiads, ogres and a whole host of eldritch folk, presided over by Hel, a reclusive Norse goddess.

To Daisy Johanssen, fathered by an incubus and raised by a single mother, it’s home. And as Hel’s enforcer and the designated liaison to the Pemkowet Police Department, it’s up to her to ensure relations between the mundane and eldritch communities run smoothly.

But when a young man from a nearby college drowns—and signs point to eldritch involvement—the town’s booming paranormal tourism trade is at stake. Teamed up with her childhood crush, Officer Cody Fairfax, a sexy werewolf on the down-low, Daisy must solve the crime—and keep a tight rein on the darker side of her nature. For if she’s ever tempted to invoke her demonic birthright, it could accidentally unleash nothing less than Armageddon.  

If you want a more private book, there’s Dominic’s Nemesis by D. Alyce Domain with the dark side of paranormal, a historical gothic setting and sexy romance.

For a mix between paranormal and contemporaries, there's the fluffy fun romantic comedy, Hollyweird by Terri Clark (available for trade/sell).

Something Different Recomendables:

Breathe by Sara Crossan (ARC T/S): YA Dystopian perfect for mindlessly enjoying the action.

The Rise of Ransom City by Flix Gilman (T/S): an American steampunk tale that’s every enjoyable with lots going on and is easy to get lost in with a funny narrator.

Nefertiti's Heart by A.W. Exley is another steam punk, this time set in England with a fierce heroine, a sexy bad boy, a solid mystery and a killer ending.

For a slow, poetic YA mystery starring Emily Dickinson, Nobody’s Secret By Michaela MacColl (ARC T/S) would be perfect for hot lazy days.

Some Good Authors for Summer Reads:

Janet Evanovich. Besides her Stephanie Plum series (Cozy mystery) I can recommend The Husband List (historical. ARC to trade/sell)

Carla Neggers. Though I’m not a fan of her contemporary romances, they’d definitely fit. Her romantic suspense is slightly better and I LOVE her In Death Series as J.D. Robb. I have Saint's Gate & Heron’s Cove, her romantic suspense [cover is damaged from a dog :(] for trade/gift.

Rainbow Rowell and Jennifer Estep write fantastic, enjoyable novels.

So that’s way more than ten…but since it was impossible to narrow it down with so many different ways to come at it.

Let me know what you think of my choices! I’ll always respond and spread the comment love. Now it’s time for me to get hopping to the other Top Ten posts. =^.^=

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[Review] Marked for Life by Morgan Dark: Lost In Translation Thriller

I received a free copy to review on Netgalley. The premise is interesting and that's all I knew going into Marked for Life.

It started off...okay. It felt a different than other novels in this genre due to translation. If it was updated, I'd give it another shot and think it'd be much better. There's plenty of action and it works as a thriller. But in it's current iteration, it's hard to recommend.

Content Warning: Rape, Graphic Violence, Abuse

Series: Jana Berzelius #1
Genre: Thriller, Crime
Age: Adult
Format: Ebook, 384 pgs.
Source: NetGalley
Rating: 1.5 Stars
Recommendable? Conditionally
CW: Rape, Graphic Violence, Abuse, 
When a high-ranking head of the migration board is found shot to death in his living room, there is no shortage of suspects, including his wife. But no one expects to find the mysterious child-sized handprint in the childless home.

Public prosecutor Jana Berzelius steps in to lead the investigation. Young and brilliant but emotionally cold, Berzelius, like her famous prosecutor father, won't be swayed by the hysterical widow or intimidated by the threatening letters the victim had tried to hide. Jana is steely, aloof, impenetrable. That is, until the boy…

A few days later on a nearby deserted shoreline, the body of a preteen boy is discovered, and with him, the murder weapon that killed him and the original victim. Berzelius is drawn more deeply into the case for as she attends his autopsy, she recognizes something strangely familiar in his small, scarred, heroin-riddled body. Cut deep into his flesh are initials that scream child trafficking and trigger in her a flash of memory of her own dark, fear-ridden past. Her connection to this boy has been carved with deliberation and malice that penetrate to her very core.

Now, to protect her own hidden past, she must find the suspect behind these murders, before the police do.

International bestselling author Emelie Schepp introduces us to the enigmatic, unforgettable Jana Berzelius in this first novel of a chilling trilogy.

eBook IconTrigger Warning IconAdult Icon Crime Icon Suspense/Thriller IconCliffhanger Icon

The Good The Bad & The Other
+Solid on paper, I’m sure better in the original Swedish. -Do not like how the rapist thread was just dropped. It served its purpose, shocking and disgusting, and the victims received no treatment, justice, or follow up. They were used as tools by both the story and the rapist.
-The "WHAT???" cliffhanger ending. I didn't see any mention of sequel until I googled it afterward. Don't think I'll continue.
-I believe translation played a major role in every other issue: stilted characters that sounded the same with repetition.


Characters are stilted and unnatural with repetition. Some of it I think is using proper English instead of the relaxed mish-mash of everyday speech. One example that stood out was Henrik’s “The Boss! Oh yeah!” in the car, which left me wondering who talked/acted like that. They read like robots with better human programming than Jana. Out of context it doesn't sound so bad, but while reading it was cringe worthy.

Location 575: (when water gets into his sock) "Oh great! Really great!"

Location 820: "'My spontaneous reaction...'"

Location 1189: "'That's not the only thing she has lied about. I must get a hold of Henrik right away!'" [Why not lose the last sentence and have him actually rush off?]

Location 1642: "He was becoming increasingly irritated. They were still getting nowhere with the investigation and that was extremely frustrating."

Location 2630: "He was hanging his head as if he had done something wrong and was ashamed."

Location 3474: "...she clenched her teeth and put all her force behind the blow. The muscles in her back tensed, in her shoulders too, and she hit as hard as she could."

**mutters stupid no-page Kindle...**

Also, the conversations were hard to follow for most of the book as characters sounded alike. If Mia wasn't being crude and broke, if Hendrik wasn't a stereotypical whining husband, if The Boss wasn't using exclamation point order, and if Jana wasn’t a being a robot, there’s no difference in their speech. Everyday talk, especially about the case, didn’t warm up (or maybe I adapted to it) until much later in the book.

The Plot:

The split perspectives of the girl and the investigators was done well and I really enjoyed it. The girl’s POV brought the needed emotion and exhilaration. The case has it all but once Jana’s first realization, some parts become predictable.

Marked for Life didn’t start making solid improvements until the last 80% for me. It was hard to feel anything most of the time. Once Jana’s fa├žade started cracking and villain POV’s starting showing up, the story became interesting. Yet every time I put it down, it was easy to leave it there.

Then it ended and I was left wondering, WTF? Turned to Google and found it was a trilogy and originally published in Swedish in 2013.

Note:Around 42-45%, there's a passage about Janna. But afterwards, it immediately repeats that previous passage’s first half. Then it flips to Mia, then it repeats the second half of Jana’s passage.


In dire need of editing. It’s hard to judge because on paper it all sounds good, but the execution with its current version leaves a lot to be desired.

Recommended For: 
If you can accept/look past the issues with translation. Reading the original Swedish would be the best option though. If it's updated, I'd be willing to read it again and am sure it'd be recommendable for general fans of the genre then.
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[Review] Gone by TJ Brearton: Suspenseful Read That Keeps You Guessing Until After It Ends

I received a free copy to review from Netgalley. This is the first novel I’ve read of TJ Brearton’s and I’m up for reading more.

Series: NA
Genre: Thriller, Suspense, Crime
Age: Adult
Format: Ebook, 294 pgs.
Source: Netgalley
Rating: 3 Stars
Recommendable? Yes
CW: Racism & Ableism

How can an entire family disappear into thin air?
An empty house on the edge of a small town . . . a teddy bear abandoned . . . a half drunk glass of wine . . . the TV left on and all the computer equipment missing. Where have Hutchinson Kemp and his wife and two children gone?

Detective Rondeau doesn't think they left by choice. However he is on the verge of cracking up as he pursues the trail of the film-maker and his family who have disappeared without a trace. Rondeau discovers disturbing evidence that big money and government might have something to do with the chilling crime, but no one seems to believe him anymore. Ignoring his sceptical police colleagues, he puts his life at risk as he races to find the family in this twisting-turning crime thriller. Are the family even still alive, and what are their abductors trying to hide?

You'll be gripped from start to heart-stopping finish in this untputdownable thriller from international best-selling author T.J. Brearton.

Trigger Warning IconAdult IconCrime Icon Suspense/Thriller Icon

Content Warning: Racism and Ableism, the former is handily put down while the latter is parroted by most characters throughout the book though there is a light under the tunnel.

I was sucked in quick in this mystery thriller. I liked the way the house was described in the beginning. Then it hops straight to setting up our characters and the investigation. I liked getting to know them and their community. Small towns are beasts of their own. The setting came to life as they did.

Our protagonist, Rondeau, is particularly compelling throughout his journey.

Peter, the second narrator and patrolman, was on and off. His incessant justification for worrying about the family because the daughter was the same age as his nephew felt redundant. At one point he has an introspective moment and I liked him better as the story moved forward.

The aptly named Athena is Peter’s partner and was mostly a girlfriend. She is capable but seen through Peter’s loving eyes, she’s a goddess, which doesn’t help her character. I understand why but wish she was a bigger part since she is neck deep in everything with Peter.

Beyond that, the plot did built up smoothly. Looking back, I’m sure it’s convoluted as fuck, but it worked. I kept going, guessing and pumped until the end. Halfway through I was sure of where it was headed and anxious for it to move on. But no, it threw me for a loop. I was left wondering WTF was going to happen for the last half.


However, the conclusion I was left with more questions. The family’s story is wrapped up but there’s details I still want to know like…who the hell was the killer? What about the little old lady? Was it an hallucination or more cover up?


The ending was sweet that everyone got their shit together to appreciate Rondeau. It does have the warm and fuzzies. Their change of heart towards him was justified as they realized the full scope of the situation. But the missing answers left it inadequate to cap off Gone.


3 stars for the journey, the twist and the character progression. The convoluted plot worked until it came to the end when it became a liability.

Recommended For: 
For thriller crime fans, especially if you like unreliable characters and twisty government cases.

What you do think about endings that don't answer all the questions? How do you feel about unreliable narrators? 

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[Cover Reveal] ZERO by Morgan Dark: YA Thriller by Spanish-North American Author

Brooke Banks | 12:28 AM | Please comment!

Bestselling Author Morgan Dark's Zero to Hit Online Bookstores on June 28, 2016

First book in a captivating new YA series that has created a literary trend among Spanish teenagers known as "Zeromania".

The highly anticipated young adult bestseller ZERO will go on sale on 28rd ofJune, in an exclusive ebook edition. First novel to the hottest new young adult series of the moment, it will be available in more than 30 countries.Written by Spanish-Northamerican author Morgan Dark, ZERO is, probably, one of the most expected YA books of the year. Published on September 2015 in Spain, it was inmediately #1, with thousands of pre-sales accumulated the precedents weeks, and hit the bestseller lists on its first day of sales. 

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[Top Ten Tuesday] Books I feel Differently About Now

Brooke Banks | 9:50 PM | | 4 Comments

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme created by The Broke & The Bookish. This week's prompt is:

Ten Books I Feel Differently About After Time Has Passed (less love, more love, complicated feelings, indifference, thought it was great in a genre until you became more well read in that genre etc.)

1.) Sword of Truth series by Terry Goodkind:

When I first found this series, I flew through all 12 books. Around the halfway mark, I started skimming because of repeat passages and felt the books were being padded. But I continued on for the characters, the plot, and the setting.

Then I talked to people and realized a lot of things about his books. Beyond the deus ex machina and Macguffins, it's the Libertarian politics (which I'd never heard of before), and how women are portrayed. His politics were what really drove me out though. It was so heavy-handed and preachy.

I tried with his newer books, The Law of Nines and The Omen Machine, but OMFG NO. Officially ruined and will never read his books again.

He's also a huge fucking douche. Some popular quotes of his:
Orem Utah: What do you think distinguishes your books from all of the other fantasy books out there, and why should readers choose to read your series?

Terry Goodkind: There are several things. First of all, I don't write fantasy. I write stories that have important human themes. They have elements of romance, history, adventure, mystery and philosophy. Most fantasy is one-dimensional. It's either about magic or a world-building. I don't do either.

And in most fantasy magic is a mystical element. In my books fantasy is a metaphysical reality that behaves according to its own laws of identity.
Because most fantasy is about world-building and magic, a lot of it is plotless and has no story. My primary interest is in telling stories that are fun to read and make people think. That puts my books in a genre all their own.

So I guess readers who are interested in story rather than world-building and details of magic would have a good time reading my books.

What I have done with my work has irrevocably changed the face of fantasy. In so doing I've raised the standards. I have not only injected thought into a tired empty genre, but, more importantly, I've transcended it showing what more it can be-and is so doing spread my readership to completely new groups who dont like and wont ready typical fantasy. Agents and editors are screaming for more books like mine
Haddonfield, NJ: Second Question - I've noticed similarities between your Sword of Truth series and Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series...(Black Sisterhood vs. Black Ajah; The Order vs. The Seanchan; Richard vs. Rand both discovering their powers, both have Nameless evil Gods...etc.) I've often voiced my suspicion that these two series might be occurring on the same world...how crazy am I?

Terry Goodkind: If you notice a similarity, then you probably aren't old enough to read my books.
 Kansas City, KS: What made you choose to leave out other common races(dwarves, elves, etc) from your books?

Terry Goodkind: Please refer to the previous answer, in which I explain that I'm not writing fantasy ... My purpose is not weirdo cultural diversity. I repeat: I am writing stories about important human beings.

Question: Lately I've found myself in many arguments defending your books against 'fans' who say they used to like your books but no longer do to the extent that they used to. Would you mind settling some debates by answering the question: What, if anything do you have to say to the people that voice the opinion that you're latest four books haven't been as good as the previous four and call them "too preachy"?

Answer: Don't be fooled. The assertion made by these detractors is a note wrapped around a brick thrown through the window. These people are not fans. There are hundreds if not thousands of fantasy books that fulfill their professed taste in books. Why would they continue to read books they claim are bad? Because they hate that my novels exists. Values arouse hatred in these people. Their goal is not to enjoy life, but to destroy 
If I could go back in time and smack myself and these books out of my hands, I fucking would in a heartbeat.

2.) Luna by Julie Anne Peters:

Regan's brother Liam can't stand the person he is during the day. Like the moon from whom Liam has chosen his female namesake, his true self, Luna, only reveals herself at night. In the secrecy of his basement bedroom Liam transforms himself into the beautiful girl he longs to be, with help from his sister's clothes and makeup. Now, everything is about to change-Luna is preparing to emerge from her cocoon. But are Liam's family and friends ready to welcome Luna into their lives? Compelling and provocative, this is an unforgettable novel about a transgender teen's struggle for self-identity and acceptance.

This is another milestone in my progressive awakening. I first found this book in my middle school library in was a small, rural, conservative town. I was shocked to find it there but it was, because the school librarian was awesome. I loved this book so much. I'd never heard of trans* people before and it was so obviously wrong how they were treating Luna.

However, again, growing up and being exposed to other people I found out how problematic it is. Like how it switches between he and she pronouns, how Luna's not a fully developed person we get to explore or understand, but an object,  and how being from only Regan's spoiled bratty selfish ignorant POV makes it a heteronormative book, not a QUILTBAG one.

It still has a special place in my heart, but now it's for multiple, complex reasons.

3.) The Redwall series by Brian Jacques 

I remember reading this series and loving it as middle-schooler. Now, I can't remember a damn thing about it and have a hard time going back to read it. I just don't want to with no clue as to why.

4.) A Child Called It by David Pelzer 

Content Warning: Graphic horrible abuse, neglect, and rape.

This book chronicles the unforgettable account of one of the most severe child abuse cases in California history. It is the story of Dave Pelzer, who was brutally beaten and starved by his emotionally unstable, alcoholic mother: a mother who played tortuous, unpredictable games--games that left him nearly dead. He had to learn how to play his mother's games in order to survive because she no longer considered him a son, but a slave; and no longer a boy, but an "it."

Dave's bed was an old army cot in the basement, and his clothes were torn and raunchy. When his mother allowed him the luxury of food, it was nothing more than spoiled scraps that even the dogs refused to eat. The outside world knew nothing of his living nightmare. He had nothing or no one to turn to, but his dreams kept him alive--dreams of someone taking care of him, loving him and calling him their son.

This is a very difficult one for me. I kinda don't even want to talk about it but...I'm hoping I'll feel better after, honestly. Another read in middle school and I remember it being one of the very few books we had a wait list for. I did NOT like having to wait for a book for the first time and it hasn't gotten any easier.

I vividly remember scenes from this book to this day, particularly a rape scene and a miscarriage. This is the first book to ever trigger me. This was the first time I saw everyone reading something and hoping it would get better for me as a child of abuse.

It did not, though that's hardly the book or author's fault. It was so hypocritical hearing spout "We need to be better!" when I was sitting right there and they didn't say a damn thing.

And there's controversy about the author buying his own books to stay on the bestseller list and whether his account is factual. The first is wrong, though it doesn't have a bearing on the book exactly, and the latter makes me deeply uncomfortable.

Because I've read the articles, and those people have a point. I can't shake them off completely. Maybe it's just embellished, I don't know. Because if I ever came out with my story, I know my estranged family and town would rise against me. (See Steubenville for a real life example). Because I default to believing the victims and now I feel like a hypocrite.

Then there's Child Abuse As Entertainment issues. I just wish I'd never read this or heard of it.

5.) The Hidden Face of Eve: Women In The Arab World by Nawal El-Saadawi

Content Warning: Rape, Systematic Gender Abuse & Discrimination.

This powerful account of brutality against women in the Muslim world remains as shocking today as when it was first published, more than a quarter of a century ago. It was the horrific female genital mutilation that she suffered aged only six, which first awakened Nawal el Saadawi's sense of the violence and injustice which permeated her society. Her experiences working as a doctor in villages around Egypt, witnessing prostitution, honour killings and sexual abuse, inspired her to write in order to give voice to this suffering. She goes on explore the causes of the situation through a discussion of the historical role of Arab women in religion and literature.Saadawi argues that the veil, polygamy and legal inequality are incompatible with the just and peaceful Islam which she envisages.
This book I found through assigned reading in a Philosophy class in community college. My teacher handed out one passage. I immediately went to the library to get the book and read the whole thing. And re-read it. I couldn't give it back and kept renewing it, languishing over it. It was my first book hangover and it awakened my hunger for more.

I love it. I still love it. I love it even more now given what I've learned and seen. It's amazing and I will never not recommend it to everyone.

6.)  Jacqueline Carey's books (all of them) and 7.) The Black Jewel Series by Anne Bishop

Combined because I love them for the same reason: feminist as fuck, sexy, sex positive with fantastic writing, settings, and characters. Even though I didn't think it was possible, I love them even more now. I haven't found another author or series like them.

If anyone has suggestions, PLEASE let me know!

8.) She's Come Undone by Wally Lamb.

Content Warning: Rape, Abusive Relationships

In this extraordinary coming-of-age odyssey, Wally Lamb invites us to hitch a wild ride on a journey of love, pain, and renewal with the most heartbreakingly comical heroine to come along in years.

Meet Dolores Price. She's 13, wise-mouthed but wounded, having bid her childhood goodbye. Stranded in front of her bedroom TV, she spends the next few years nourishing herself with the Mallomars, potato chips, and Pepsi her anxious mother supplies. When she finally orbits into young womanhood at 257 pounds, Dolores is no stronger and life is no kinder. But this time she's determined to rise to the occasion and give herself one more chance before she really goes under.

My mother read this book and gave it to me. She was speechless, just shoved it into my hands and said "read this". And I will never forget it.

This is the first book I really, truly saw myself in. Delores's struggles with being raped, her weight, her peers, her romantic relationships, herself...all of it. I connected with her in such a way, I still haven't with another book or character. The similarities were startling and Wally got it. all. right. I was so fucking shocked to find out Wally was a man. It was mind blowing that a man could understand so deeply and write it so purely.

 Now older, a mother and free of my own abusive relationship, the relationship has gotten even stronger. While my daughter's still too young and she hasn't dealt with these issues (and hopely never will), I will be passing it along to her one day. It's an amazing book, even if you've never been where we have.

Now, I'm going to stop here. I'm emotionally drained from all this, though I'm glad to have done so.

I can't wait to read everyone else's choices and reasons!

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[Review] The Neverland Wars by Audrey Greathouse: Whimsical Peter Pan Retelling W/ One Flaw

I received a free copy from Xpresso Book Tours through Netgalley to review.

Series: The Neverland Wars #1
Genre: Retellings, Fantasy,
Age: YA
Format: Ebook, 302 pgs.
Source: Netgalley
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Recommendable? Yes
Magic can do a lot—give you flight, show you mermaids, help you taste the stars, and… solve the budget crisis? That's what the grown-ups will do with it if they ever make it to Neverland to steal its magic and bring their children home.

However, Gwen doesn't know this. She's just a sixteen-year-old girl with a place on the debate team and a powerful crush on Jay, the soon-to-be homecoming king. She doesn't know her little sister could actually run away with Peter Pan, or that she might have to chase after her to bring her home safe. Gwen will find out though—and when she does, she'll discover she's in the middle of a looming war between Neverland and reality.

She'll be out of place as a teenager in Neverland, but she won't be the only one. Peter Pan's constant treks back to the mainland have slowly aged him into adolescence as well. Soon, Gwen will have to decide whether she's going to join impish, playful Peter in his fight for eternal youth… or if she's going to scramble back to reality in time for the homecoming dance.

eBook IconYoung Adult IconFantasy IconCliffhanger IconLight and Fun IconLove Triangle Icon Magical IconWell-Written Icon

The Good The Bad & The Other
+LOVED this version of Peter Pan, it makes sense he grows up traveling here and his characterization is perfect -The magical worldbuilding is weak and not sufficiently advanced, though I enjoyed the nod
+Enjoyed the Neverland adventures and learning more about it -Gwen rubbed me wrong with not liking anything & no hobbies, etc. in the beginning
+Liked how it brought up racism in the original tale with the “Redskins” and attempted to disconnect it from American Indians
+Love triangle worked for me

First I have to say, I'm not that big a fan of Peter Pan. I've never dreamed of fleeing to Neverland or meeting him.

While I loved the Disney movie as a kid, the first time I was watching a play version with my father and saw it didn't matter if I clapped when Tinkerbell died really killed it for me.

Sounds odd that I sought this book out, huh? Well, not really. I wanted a modern re-telling hoping I could fall in love with it again before reality was exposed.

And I found it.

The Neverland Wars is a fantastically written whimsical tale of Gwen struggling between her childish impulses and teen yearnings. Being a kid that loved Fantasy and Sci-fi books (and every other kind of book) growing up I understood that part of her that didn't fit in.

Gwen pushed it a bit hard with not liking pop music or anything else without giving alternatives. Like even though I hated most of the girl and boy bands growing up (the 90s man…Spice Girls!!), I had music; I just went in a drastically different direction. Looking back now I was probably compensating and trying to be "edgy".

Why doesn't Gwen like musical or movie versions of fairy tales or try out for theater or writing? She could volunteer with kids somewhere like story time. Give me SOMETHING to work with please. Instead of endearing, this attitude is off-putting. Not enough but I wasn’t feeling her much in the beginning with this going on.

As the adventure unfolded, Gwen really grew on me. I was with her every step after that bump. Her decisions made sense and then…

THAT ENDING. OMFG. That’s just not fair! Such a right hook and the screen fades to black as a cliffhanger.

Peter Pan:

It makes sense that his traveling her would age him. I like how he handles being a childish 14 and makes Neverland work. He’s complicated and elusive. He is both attracted and repulsed with his dual nature. Reminds me a lot of Seih from N.K. Jemisin’s Inheritance trilogy.

The Love Triangle: 

Yes, there is a love triangle. Yes, Gwen used the word without so much as a date between them or acknowledgement. Yes, the boys are polar opposites. Yet, it worked. And it didn’t overshadow the other aspects and felt natural.


The hardest part I had wrapping my brain around was that technology was magic, until humans caught up. It preys on ignorance, praying you don't know how cellphones and such work. Which is rather pathetic and sad when you think about it.

Science geeks or even just the science literate, be prepared to be disappointed. I'd say the same for economics but I don't think anyone really understand that ;)) jk

Economics Link Dump: 1, 2, 3,4

I really, really wish the tech was more advanced to avoid this whole problem. Like having Star Trek replicators and ending scarcity. That's a cause I could get behind using magic for (with the information I know rn) and would meet the "sufficiently advanced" part of the quote.

Cellphones just don't cut it and haven't for a while. 2G cellphones have been around since the 90s and while that may feel like just yesterday, we're talking 20+ years. Should’ve shot for the impossible replicators rather than the improbable humans can’t figure out cellphones.

As it is, it’s simply hand-waved away with Gwen’s head is spinning and her ignorance showing. Her father doesn’t come off well in this scene because he advocates for this ridiculous bit of worldbuilding. It felt wrong preying and counting on her ignorance. I don’t know how else to describe it.

The War:

I do understand that this was the first book and had to set everything up so it could grow. Of course it makes sense that in Neverland the war wouldn't be the direct focus, more of an excuse for adventures and that Peter would keep his plans close to the chest. However, I can’t stop wishing there was more.

Especially the magic. It’s the whole point of the war. I NEED to know how this magic works. Are my guesses correct? Can we bring back (view spoiler)

Of course, I found it so damn enjoyable and enchanting I'm not really mad, just frustratingly impatient. While I obviously have ideas on what's happening next from foreshadowing and the genre but the end game? I'm not sure. What would the consequences be if Neverland won or lost? Could they actually come to a compromise? This is where knowing how the magic would both help and hurt.


3.5 Stars: It would've been a solid 4 if not for the weak magical world building. The sequel will go on my TBR as soon as it’s announced.

Recommended For: 

Other reviews seem to be mixed from hardcore fans and non, so it depends on how you feel towards the original Peter Pan. Besides that, if you're a fan of YA fantasy give it a shot. The fun, the adventures, and the characters made it worthwhile for me. Plus, this is an example of a good love triangle.

Note: Often when reviewing at night, I listen to music. Typically, it’s just my usual jams but for this one it was Melanie Martinez’s Cry Baby. I thought the dark childish themes/sounds would be perfect.

How do you feel about Peter Pan? Do you have a favorite version? How do you feel about retellings?

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