REVIEW: Picture in the Sand

Alex is a young Muslim boy who has disappeared from his American home only to end up overseas supporting a fanatical sect. When his grandfather finds out, he begins emailing, opening up about when he was a youth and had a similar experience as a youth being attracted to fundamentalism. His story takes place on the 10 Commandments set where his dreams of Hollywood clash with the local desires to not be exploited by white man.

I loved the portrayal of idealistic youth. Alex is the perfect picture of youth. He is passionate and fanatical and completely discounts the idea that anyone in his family could understand what he is thinking or feeling. That his grandfather had a whole life and dealt with a lot of the same issues in his youth is unthinkable to him. Only he is worldly, only he understands what God wants from him. Ah, the naivety of youth.

I loved both the glamour and grittiness of being on DeMille’s 10 Commandments set. Ali was both naive and ambitious and Alex was living quite the parallel life years later. This is not an “own” voices narrative so it’s important to listen to the author’s notes about fiction. I think while it does depict religious extremism, it does a good job at balancing the heavy hand with the realities of how people are drawn in. The ending was really powerful.

Thanks to Dreamscape Media for gifted access to this audiobook via Netgalley. All opinions above are my own.

When it comes to sand do you prefer the beach or the desert?

REVIEW: Come True

“I’m not paper. Today, I am a tree. And all the misogynistic huffing and puffing in the world won’t blow me down.”

———————————

Dolly has made some recent bad choices in life and has been living a year of atonement. Quiet, reserved and restricting herself from anything that she deems as indulgent. When she buys a cheap vase at a thrift shop she doesn’t realize that she has bought a vessel containing a genie who is going to turn her world upside down. She is dead set against spending her wishes until she learns just what is at stake for Velis, the genie. Then she is thrust into a world she didn’t even know she existed and she must decide whether her own goals are more important than helping someone else (a hot someone else who she finds herself falling for).

I am always trying support fellow bookstagrammers who are always authors and the buzz around this one really got me. But, I didn’t know what to expect – generally romances can be too much for me and the tag line “a bomb ass genie romance” kept me from picking it up earlier. But the more reviews I read, the more I thought it might be a unique story with some real depth. That was definitely true. In the beginning, Velis was a little annoying bro-y for me but I am glad I stuck with it. Their relationship evolves in a fun way and reaches a level of depth that I really enjoyed. As the backstory unravelled, I was more and more interested. The ending was both satisfying and left me wanting to read the next one.

This is the second bookstagram author read I’ve completed this year, I’m trying to support as many booksta friends as I can this year. Any booksta authors that are your favorites?

REVIEW: Reset

“They are both stuck like rats on the tar of this life.”

—————————

Imagine you only have 4 years to live your current life and then you get all your memories wiped with a chance to start over. That is the world Aris is living in. In a future world, there are 4 connected cities where people live in an utopia like society. Every few years people’s memories along with their prejudices are wiped away to keep everyone at peace. But some people have really vivid dreams with people they see in their world but don’t remember. Are these dreams glimpses of their past? What if there was a drug that could help you see more of them? When Aris’s friend Benja begins looking into these mysteries she is forced to confront the truth of their society and her own past.

It’s unusual to have a sci-fi story with romance at its heart. The futuristic aspects were interesting but not overwhelming so if you’re not a huge sci-fi fan, don’t worry this will be easy to get into. It reminded me a lot of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind only the majority of people assume their memories being wiped is acceptable or even a good thing. This story explores the idea that grief and loss but ultimately that having love and accepting that living in the moment trumps everything.

Read this one if you’re a fan of Blake Crouch or Charles Soule.

Thanks to Blackstone Publishing for the gifted copy. All opinions above are my own.

If you could selectively wipe memories away, would you choose to?

Book Feature: The Lingering Dark

Welcome to my stop in the Promo Tour for The Lingering Dark by Jade Church.

Saiph must kill the mortal queen.

Sent to the mortal plane by her mother, Saiph finds herself caught in a bargain with one of the people she has been told to destroy – Auren, the rebel queen’s guard.

After a string of magick users disappear, Saiph is forced to work with Auren to uncover the culprit. But when new evidence comes to light, Saiph must re-evaluate everything she thought she knew about the Kingdom of Stars.

Plagued by her growing feelings for the woman she’s supposed to hate, Saiph is left torn between duty and love. With time running out to complete her task, Saiph must fulfil her bargain with Auren and choose her side in the upcoming battle, before it’s too late.

The Lingering Dark is an adult sapphic fantasy romance. It is book one of two in the Kingdom of Stars duology and contains blood, sex, and other themes meant for a mature audience.

Out now!

There’s also a tour side giveaway for a paperback copy head over to my instagram @ openmypages to enter!

REVIEW: All Hallows

It’s Halloween night in a small town and many of its residents are gearing up for fun and revelry. One family is running a haunted trail through the woods, another is hosting a block party and lots of teens and kids are getting ready to trick or treat. But, no one will make it through this night unscathed. An evil force is lurking and there will be a high body count by midnight.

This one was a bit too all over the place for me. There were way too many characters introduced early on in alternating chapters. The stories weaved together to form one big one, but there were lots of individual characters it took me a second to care about. That said, the two main families whose lives are a complete mess are less horror than humiliation. I’m not sure who the target readers are here, people who like domestic dramas or people who like horror. It’s got a bit of both. It gave me a Pandora’s box vibe, once the evil is released havok is being released in so many ways. I would have prefered a little less of the domestic drama in the first half and a dive right into the horror. There is a ton of action in the second half and the evil is creepy and entertaining but you gotta slog though the first half to get there.

This reminds me of Imaginary Friend meets Big Little Lies. Just because that mix didn’t work for me doesn’t mean it won’t work for you, so give it a try. It’s worth buying just for that amazing cover!

Thanks to St Martin’s Press for gifted access via Netgalley. All opinions above are my own.

Do you read horror all year round or just at spooky season?

Pub Day REVIEW: The Spice Road

“The soul is neither static nor finite; we feed it our entire lives through our choices. Injustice shrinks one’s soul; generosity expands it. Acts of selflessness fortify it.”

———————–

Steeped in Arabian myths with djinn and spice enhanced magic, Imani and her siblings are all training in different ways to defend their city. Their family is a part of the ruling council and are well respected within the city. Imani is an iron wielder who is training to be a warrior and has already gained quite the reputation. We follow her as she attempts to recover her brother, a lost scout, who may have been involved in more than the council knew about. She is forced to travel with her rival and two others through the dangerous desert full of monsters to a city she didn’t knew existed to try to save him. There is all manner of danger she and her peers must face along the way. 

The Spice Road is fantasy done right. The world building is lush, the magic unique, the plot is action packed and the characters are complex and deep. I love a wholly good protagonist as much as a morally grey ambiguous one and this novel gives us a little of each. Imani is so principled and driven and yet entirely naive of what is really going on in the world beyond her bubble. As someone training to be a warrior, she has cultivated resilience but like any good soldier, expects to blindly follow orders. When she realizes her beloved brother was living a life beyond the one she thought he was, she’s thrown into a world where she must stick her neck out and make some really tough choices. Her evolution throughout was fun to watch. 

I also appreciate so deeply that while this is to be a series we got a real ending to this adventure. The door is open to where it can go next but we were not left with the infernal cliffhanger that is so popular in books like this these days. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Thanks to Delacorte Press for gifted access via Netgalley. All opinions above are my own.

What’s the best literary monster you’ve ever encountered?

REVIEW: Sixteen Souls

Charlie is a teenager who had a brush with death and now he can see and communicate with ghosts. He thinks he knows everything about the world beyond until he meets Sam, who is another seer. Then one of his ghostie friends goes missing, and then another… suddenly Charlie realizes that there is a lot about the world he doesn’t know. But he better figure it out fast before more of his friends are targeted.

This one has harrowing ghosties with a plot to resurrect themselves, great disability and queer rep as well as characters who you so badly want to root for. It’s a quick read with non-stop action and so many moments that make you want to cheer. The ghosties are all from different periods in history which means you learn a little. And there’s quite a bit of York lingo which is fun to learn as well. Read this one if you liked The Library of the Dead or The Ballad of Perilous Graves.

I’ve been following Rosie on instagram for a while and was excited when she announced her book deal. I’m making it one of my goals this year to read books by my bookstagram friends. I have quite a few on my list but feel free to shout up if you want to be on that list!

What’s the last book you bought after seeing it on bookstagram / TikTok?

REVIEW: Belladonna

Signa is an orphan who has lived in several homes, each touched by unfortunate deaths. As she is coming towards the end of her youth, and about to come into her inheritance, she is once again in a new home. She moves in just as the matriarch of the family has died and the daughter, who is her age, is growing ill. She quickly finds herself embroiled in the mystery, who is responsible for the ill fate of this family and why does death follow her so closely? 

Turns out in this one, Death is a person, not a spoiler… it’s in the blurb. Of course, Death is sexy and mysterious… que the Addie LaRue comparisons. I enjoyed the atmosphere of this one and the plucky heroine but the two “big” twists were super obvious. The first half was a beautiful build but as the reveals began, I found myself a little underwhelmed. I always enjoy Adalyn Grace’s world building but just found the plot a little formulaic of gothic YA fantasy. I’m sure I will still enjoy the sequel however the epilogue cliffhanger was unneccessary.

Thanks to Little Brown for access via Netgalley. All opinions above are my own.

Do you like a murder mystery with some fantastical elements or do you prefer they are straightforward?

REVIEW: The Light Pirate

Wanda is born amidst a hurricane that devastates her family and is indicative of the destruction that is ahead for Florida. This future world has Florida being returned to the wild as storms repeatedly lash it taking life and livelihood. The storytelling is unique and covers the nuts and bolts of survival intertwined with the resilience of humanity when faced with such loss.

Devastating. Honestly this is a heartbreak of a book. Be prepared for that going in. I mean it’s dystopian, so you should expect some strife, but this one is realistic and raw. The writing is very evocative. It does one thing I generally dislike in books, huge time jumps, it did leave me wanting more each time it jumped but on the other hand, I felt like I got why the story needed to be that way. The other thing that I liked but also annoyed me, was that there was a little magic in there but it’s not really explained in the end. This is definitely a beautiful, impactful story of love, loss, grief and survival but just shy of a 5 star read for me.

Thanks to LibroFM via their ALC program for gifted access to this one. All opinions above are my own.

If you were a pirate what would your unique character trait be? Peg leg? Eye patch? Parrot?

REVIEW: Demon Copperhead

“The wonder is that you could start life with nothing, end with nothing, and lose so much in between.”

——————“I don’t know a single person, my age who’s not taking pills.”

——————-

Kingsolver gives you exactly what she promises with this one. This story is stark and heartbreaking with a 2022 view on institutional poverty that well mirrors Dicken’s David Copperfield. Demon has the cards stacked against him from the start and never, not for one second, escapes that fate. He’s a mixed race kid with a dead father, a drug addled mother and a life empty of fulfillment. He lives through abject hunger, the absolute worst of the foster care system and the time in Appalachia where oxys are handed out like candy. He faces all of the adversity you could imagine but he maintains his heart and sharp brain. He always wants better but can never seem to get there. Even the better people in his life can never seem to get him to a better place.

This book is a big swath of America, so while it is an overwhelmingly depressing read, it is a viewpoint that is relevant. I’m glad I did it on audio because I think I would have struggled getting through 500+ pages of sad. There are a lot of deaths and abuse and children who never get the joy of innocence. But it’s powerful and truthful and well worth a read. It tackles well the systemic aspects of keeping the poor uneducated and placated with just enough to not rise up looking for better.

Thanks to LibroFM for gifted access via the ALC program. All opinions above are my own.

What are you planning to read this weekend?