Review: One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston

One Last StopOne Last Stop by Casey McQuiston
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Casey McQuiston!!!

I’m going to find it close to impossible to write this review without swooning like a fangirl, but I’ll give it my best shot.

In One Lost Stop, we follow 23-year old college student, August, who has recently moved to New York City.

Amongst the hustle and bustle of the city, August is on a journey of self-discovery. She’s on her own for the first time and is a little desperate to find her place.

Securing a room in an apartment with three other people and taking a job at a 24-hour pancake diner seem like steps in the right direction.

August is establishing herself as a functioning adult, no matter how meager her resources, yet she still feels alone.

The stars align one day, however, as she meets a girl on the Q. The sexy and mysterious, Jane, gives August a scarf in her hour of need. After that, August cannot get her out of her mind.

Subsequently, she runs into Jane every time she is on the train and a relationship develops. It very quickly becomes clear that something about Jane is a little off.

Jane’s not just a random punk rocker, razorblade girl with a cotton candy heart, taking her style inspiration from the 1970s. She’s actually from the 1970s, and somehow, someway, finds herself trapped on the Q-line.

I know this seems like a bit of a trippy idea, but it was such a phenomenally fun and creative way to frame this story.

August coming to the revelation that Jane cannot leave the train and trying to figure out what exactly that means and why; it was bloody fantastic and so incredibly entertaining.

August’s roommates, Myla, Niko and Wes, all become involved in the relationship, as well as their neighbor, Annie. Together this vastly diverse group of souls evolve into one of the most beautiful found-families that I have ever read.

Each person had their own unique story, voice, personality and contribution to August’s growth and maturation. I absolutely adored the way they interacted and supported one another.

Friendship goals, for sure. McQuiston packed so much into this book and watching the evolution of August’s character was immensely satisfying.

There were so many moments when I laughed, a few when I felt my heart-breaking and times where I was just left contemplating this thing we call life.

The release date for this book coinciding with the 1st day of Pride month, couldn’t be more perfect!

The representation includes a plethora of Queer identities and romances. I particularly enjoyed how OLS is just a story of Queer individuals living their lives in the way they choose.

It didn’t really have individuals having to hide who they were, or having to come out to anyone in a dramatic way.

They all just were living their day-to-day lives in New York City; dealing with family, work, relationships, LIFE. There was a certain sense of peace to be found in that, even when the narrative got a little crazy!

I think August learned a lot from her new friends. Particularly how to open up, be herself and allow herself to need other people in her life.

That it was okay if things were complicated, what with her love interest being trapped in time and all.

Jane was a fascinating character as well. I loved how her life was pieced together through her continual interactions with August.

It was particularly clever how McQuiston used Jane’s character, in a way, as a plot device to compare the experiences Jane had, as a Queer woman, in the 1970s, versus the experiences that August and her friends have in the present time. It felt like a subtle, respectful nod to those who came before.

At the end of the day, this book has it all. If you enjoyed Red, White & Royal Blue, you should love One Last Stop. It’s next level. This book made me overflow with feeling!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Macmillan Audio, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. I greatly appreciate the opportunity!

A new favorite!!!

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Review: The Last Namsara (Iskari #1) by Kristen Ciccarelli

The Last Namsara (Iskari, #1)The Last Namsara by Kristen Ciccarelli
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars rounded up**

Asha has been raised on the lore of her kingdom of Firgaard. In it’s heart, it’s a lore of duality.

The stories of the Namsara, the bringer of love and light, and their opposite, the Iskari, the harbinger of death and destruction.

To her people, Asha is the Iskari.

A fierce warrior and slayer of dragons, Asha is treated more as a weapon, than a daughter by her father, the King.

Asha is lonely and feels helpless to control her fate.

She’s engaged to be married to a ruthless commandant in her father’s forces. She feels no love for this man and would do anything to escape that commitment.

When her father offers her a chance of gaining her freedom, she takes it. All she has to do is kill the First Dragon, Kozu. A dragon to whom she is inextricably linked.

Enter her fiancé’s handsome slave, who shows Asha a kindness like she has never known, and you have the perfect mix for disaster.

Going into this novel, I had no idea what to expect. I have owned this book for years and hadn’t really heard any buzz about it.

I was so pleasantly surprised by the fluidity and engaging nature of this narrative.

I was hooked from the very first chapters, falling in love with Asha and her dark, tumultuous life.

In addition to my connection with Asha, I found the side characters and lore of the entire world to be extremely interesting. I loved how Ciccarelli included entire sections dedicated to telling the old stories that Asha had learned in her childhood.

The Last Namsara has romance, action, political intrigue, family drama and more than a few jaw-dropping reveals. In other words, it has everything necessary to keep you fully engaged throughout.

I haven’t read a lot of Dragon Fantasy, but to me, this was incredibly well told. The world felt complete. I could picture it all.

Overall, I was just so impressed with this and tickled pink that I happen to already own the entire trilogy.

I am hoping to start the next novel, The Caged Queen, soon. I cannot wait to return to this world and find out more about this intriguing cast of characters!!

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Blog Tour: You Will Remember Me by Hannah Mary McKinnon

You Will Remember MeYou Will Remember Me by Hannah Mary McKinnon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

You Will Remember Me is a deviously twisted tale of obsession and long-buried secrets. That sound great, right!?

A man waking up on a beach in Maryland has no memory of his past, or even his name. He is left with foggy recollections that lead him to the state of Maine and directly to people who recognize him.

They say his name is Asher and he has been missing for years. He is quickly reunited with his long-lost sister, Maya, who takes him in and agrees to care for him during his recuperation.

When Lily Reid’s boyfriend, Jack, goes missing after an evening swim at a beach in their Maryland town, everyone suspects that he has drowned.

Lily refuses to give up on him however, so she begins an investigation into where he may have gone. It leads her to a small town in Maine.

There she spots Jack on the street. Upon approaching him, he has no memory of her. Making matters worse, he and his sister, insist that his name is actually, Asher.

Lily is so confused. Why would Jack have given her a false name? It is clear to all, Ash is suffering from amnesia due to a head injury and Lily decides to stick around for a bit to interact with him more. She’s still in love with him.

Following three perspectives, Ash, Lily and Maya’s, this story is a wild ride. It’s fast-paced and engaging the entire way through.

Personally, I enjoy an amnesia story. I also love obsession tropes and long-buried secrets. This book has all of those things, so was a great recipe for me!

A few of the elements involved in the story were a bit far fetched and a tad convenient, but honestly, it’s still a great time. It’s not a story that’s asking you to take it too seriously.

I think if you go into this looking for fun twists, turns and devious actors, you’re in for heck of a fun experience.

Hannah Mary McKinnon has a way with over-the-top drama. It’s her style and I’m here for it. It’ll keep me coming back, that’s for sure!

Thank you so much to publisher, MIRA, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I truly appreciate it.

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Review: Madam by Phoebe Wynn

MadamMadam by Phoebe Wynne
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**2.5-stars rounded up**

When 26-year old, Rose Christie, gets hired on as a Classics teacher for the illustrious, Caldonbrae Hall, she’s understandably nervous about the placement.

Caldonbrae, a traditional boarding school for girls, is a far cry from the public schools she has taught in previously and from the start, Rose feels out of place.

Her trepidation doesn’t improve as classes begin. The young ladies treat her with contempt and an overall lack of respect.

She is astounded that such well groomed girls would think that it is okay to treat one of their teachers in such a way.

But it isn’t even just the girls. Other teachers and staff barely give her the time of day. She’s like an annoying gnat they all seem to want to swat away.

The longer Rose is there, the more confounding the whole experience seems to be.

As Rose slowly, and I do mean slowly, begins to put the pieces of the puzzle together, the shocking truth of Calonbrae Hall is revealed.

Y’all, the premise of this book had such promise. I wanted to love it. I expected to love it. Unfortunately for me, it fell a little flat.

The atmosphere was my favorite aspect. It did feel gothic, like the school was trapped in time.

Set on the cliffs of Scotland, it felt cold and remote. While Rose was there, it felt like she was very far removed from the rest of the world; from anyone who could help her.

I was intensely interested in the beginning, for probably the first 20%, and I felt the last 15% was engaging as well. However everything in between was like watching paint dry.

There were so many details. I just kept waiting and waiting for something to happen and it was like, the payoff never came.

I liked the ideas behind where the author was going, but I just think the execution was a miss for me. I feel like it could have been edited down. Perhaps if it were more concise, it would have been more impactful.

In other words, in this case, it’s not the content, but how that content was presented that was the issue for me.

Additionally, I do think it is important to note that I listened to the audiobook. I think the narrator did a good job. Frankly, if I had read a hard copy, I may have been even more displeased with it.

With this being said, just because it didn’t necessarily work for me, doesn’t mean it won’t work for you. If the synopsis sounds interesting to you, absolutely give it a shot!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Macmillan Audio, for providing me with the opportunity to listen to this audiobook. I do appreciate it very much!

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Review: Gilded Serpent (Dark Shores #3) by Danielle L. Jensen

Gilded Serpent (Dark Shores, #3)Gilded Serpent by Danielle L. Jensen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Gilded Serpent is the third installment in Danielle L. Jensen’s Dark Shores series.

Coming in at just under 600-pages, Jensen definitely packed in a lot of information, action and startling revelations.

With this series, if you aren’t aware, you can read the first two books in any order. Meaning you can read either Dark Shores, or Dark Skies first, followed by the other.

I personally read them in publication order and would recommend that to others.

I felt like Dark Shores established the setting and functionality of the world perfectly. After reading that one, I had a strong hold on the type of series this was going to turn out to be.

It’s one that channels all the brutality of Ancient Rome, mixed with a fair amount of magic and heavy doses of political intrigue. Also, let’s not forget the sweet romance.

In Dark Shores, the action centers around Teriana and Marcus. In Dark Skies, we follow Lydia and Killian.

Gilded Serpent follows all four of these characters as their storylines begin to merge more and more.

Through the first two books, I became quite attached to all four of these main characters. Because of that, my excitement level for this release was heightened even more.

As I have mentioned in my previous reviews for this series, including the prequel, Tarnished Empire, I love this series and think it is incredibly underrated. All YA Fantasy lovers need to check this one out!

I did rate this book slightly lower than the first two books, mainly because it wasn’t as easy for me to follow, or stay as fully engaged with this one.

I think the length started to get to me, as well as the sheer volume of information that Jensen packed into this one. Also, I did have some issues at the beginning remembering what had happened at the conclusion of the first two books.

While I recognize that as a ‘me’ problem, I also feel an author including slight, subtle recaps is always helpful. I didn’t feel a lot of that here.

Regardless of that fact, however, I still really enjoyed my time reading this novel. The world continues to be built out. It’s dangerous, complex and full of compelling people, creatures and history.

I am really looking forward to the next book in this series. I am planning to do myself a favor and binge read the first three again prior to picking it up.

Thank you to the publisher, Tor Teen, for making my dreams come true and providing me with a copy to read and review.

I truly appreciate it and will be singing this series praises for a long time to come!!!

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Review: The Hunting Wives by May Cobb

The Hunting WivesThe Hunting Wives by May Cobb
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Hunting Wives is a darkly provocative Domestic Thriller that left me flipping the pages well past my bedtime! 💙💄

The story follows Sophie O’Neill, a 30-something lifestyle blogger, who recently moved with her husband and young son from Chicago to a small Texas town; full of rich people and their drama.

Sophie actually lived in this town for a few years in high school. Her Mom moved them a lot and this was one of their many stops.

Fortunately, she still has a good friend from that time, Erin, so at least when she, her husband, Graham, and their son, Jack, arrive, they know someone.

Erin is involved in a lot of charity work, including glamourous fundraising events. It is at one of these events that Sophie meets the Queen Bee, Margot Banks.

While Sophie had been aware of Margot before, interacting with her in person is on a whole new level.

When it seems Margot is interested in including Sophie in her clique, who secretly refer to themselves as the Hunting Wives, Sophie can hardly believe her luck.

Before she knows it, she’s brushing off Erin, Graham and everything else, in order to hang out with Margot and the rest of the Hunting Wives. This includes spending a lot of time at Margot’s lake house, skeet shooting and drinking.

While that may seem innocent enough, with these ladies, it is far from it.

Before she knows it, Sophie is in way over her head and at risk of losing absolutely everything she loves. The worst part is, she can’t control herself. She is out of control and she knows it.

The Hunting Wives is risque, sexy, fast-paced, full of dangerous twists, booze and bad choices. In short, it’s everything I love.

One of my favorites tropes is obsession, of any sort. I thought Cobb did a great job of creating these unhealthy relationships and really taking them all the way. She held nothing back.

I had so much fun with this story. I couldn’t put it down once I got into it.

Every new, crazy situation the women got themselves into took it up another level in the risk. By the end, my pulse was definitely pounding through some fairly intense scenes.

In short, this was a great time.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Berkley Books, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I appreciate the opportunity. It was so much fun!

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Review: She’s Too Pretty to Burn by Wendy Heard

She's Too Pretty to BurnShe’s Too Pretty to Burn by Wendy Heard
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars**

Veronica and Nico are best friends. They’re both artists; she’s a photographer, while he is into edgy performance art.

As the summer days draw on, a girl enters their orbit, who will throw them both off course and away from one another.

Her name is Mick. She’s quiet, serious and shy; a swimmer, who works as a life guard. She’s also Veronica’s dream girl.

Mick’s strained relationship with her mother forces her to seek sanctuary outside of her home. She finds it with Veronica first, and then secretly with Nico.

When Nico’s artistic pursuits get riskier, both girls find themselves in over their heads. Events begin to spiral out of control.

No one knows who they can trust. It’s full on friendship chaos!

Described as being inspired by The Picture of Dorian Gray, I definitely enjoyed the art scene aspects of this novel. Particularly, Nico’s brand of subversive street art.

While the themes made this feel like a subtle, modern interpretation of Dorian Gray, I feel like Readers anticipating more of a retelling, may be disappointed.

I definitely recognized opposing philosophies for Veronica and Nico; art for art’s sake, versus art for a purpose.

I also enjoyed how Heard framed the societal reaction to art in this narrative; capturing the idea that beauty and youth, through the viral photo of Mick, are of the utmost importance.

Regardless of any immoral actions taken by Mick, her beauty was what mattered.

These were interesting characters. While the beginning took a while to take off, by the end, this narrative was wild as heck! It certainly went places I didn’t expect.

Overall, I think this is a good story. I feel like if you can connect in anyway to the art scene portion of this book, you’ll enjoy it, as I did.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Henry Holt and Company, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I appreciate it!

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Review: Lost in the Never Woods by Aiden Thomas

Lost in the Never WoodsLost in the Never Woods by Aiden Thomas
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**2.5-stars rounded up**

Five years ago, Wendy Darling and her two brothers, Michael and John, went missing in the local woods.

Six months later, Wendy was found. She had no memory of her time away, or the fate of her little brothers.

After she returns, the police question her pretty hard, not sure how much of her story they can believe. Perhaps she knows more than she is letting on.

Now in her Senior year of high school, Wendy is working at a hospital and trying to move on with her life, although she is still plagued with thoughts of her brothers.

When children start disappearing again, in ways similar to Wendy and her brothers, all eyes look to her for answers.

She feels no closer to knowing what really happened all those years ago, but something is definitely going on, as the boy she thought lived only in her stories becomes real.

Peter Pan. He is real and he is pleading with Wendy for her help finding his shadow; the villain of this tale.

Lost in the Never Woods was one of my most anticipated releases of the year. Sadly, it didn’t quite live up to my expectations.

The first 10% seemed really promising and the last 10% gave me a conclusion that felt satisfying. However, everything in between was a giant slog.

The tone was quite melancholy and morose. The pace was incredibly slow, the relationships forced and the magical elements felt bland. Not what I was hoping for.

The writing style itself was good. It had a pleasing flow and you can tell that Thomas put a lot of thought into the real world issues discussed; grief, guilt, PTSD, those aspects were well done.

Overall, it just wasn’t what I was hoping for and I never felt connected. With this being said, there is a Reader for every book and vice versa.

So, don’t take my word for it. If the synopsis sounds interesting to you, give it a go. It could end up being your new favorite book!

I will definitely pick up more work from this author in the future. I already own Cemetery Boys and am really excited to get to that one!

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Review: Black Water Sister by Zen Cho

Black Water SisterBlack Water Sister by Zen Cho
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

After graduating from Harvard, Jessamyn Teoh, finds herself broke, unemployed and still unable to come out to her parents.

Following her father’s recent illness, her parents decide to move back to Malaysia and Jess is going with them. Having grown up in the United States, it’s going to require some adjustment, but Jess also feels like she doesn’t have much of a choice.

Now she needs to add the stress of a long-distance relationship with her secret girlfriend into the mix.

It’s a lot of pressure, so when Jess begins to hear voices, she thinks she may actually be losing it.

As it turns out, she’s not really hearing voices, plural. She’s hearing one voice, that of her deceased Grandmother, Ah Ma.

When she was alive, Ah Ma was a spirit medium for a mysterious, local deity, known as the Black Water Sister. Ah Ma’s spirit is restless, unable to cross over, until she seeks revenge against a powerful man who has offended the God.

Ah Ma plans to use Jess for this mission.

Black Water Sister was like no other Contemporary Fantasy novel that I have ever read. It was modern, magical, fast-paced and full of over-the-top family drama!

I really enjoyed watching the evolution Jess made as a character. She was smart, intuitive and adaptable from the very beginning, but it also felt like she was holding herself back.

Once she meets Ah Ma, even though the two butt heads in a lot of ways, that pressure made Jess grow and find a strength within herself that she didn’t realize was there.

The Malaysian setting and cultural background were so refreshing to read. That backdrop is an important part of the story and I truly became immersed within it.

Overall, I was very impressed with the complexity, nuance and fantastical elements included in this story. While this is my first Zen Cho novel, it certainly will not be my last!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Berkley Publishing, for providing me with a copy to read and review.

I truly appreciate the opportunity!

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Review: Tarnish Empire (Dark Shores #0.5) by Danielle L. Jensen

Tarnished Empire (Dark Shores, #0.5)Tarnished Empire by Danielle L. Jensen
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars**

Tarnished Empire is a prequel installment to Danielle L. Jensen’s Dark Shores series.

Released in January of 2021, this story was just what I needed to tide me over until Gilded Serpent released. I was hella satisfied upon completion.

In this story, we learn more about Marcus and the notorious 37th Legion, which he leads as Commander. If you have read Dark Shores, you will be well acquainted with Marcus.

You may recall him as a smart, powerful and fair leader. In this story, he’s not quite as accomplished, or respected, as he will be someday.

He and his men are assigned to squash the last resistance to the Senate’s rule. It’s a sticky situation with a lot of innocent people falling into harms way.

Agrippa, a soldier in the 37th, and a friend of Marcus, plays a central role in this narrative. He is a charming and engaging character who brought some light humor to the mix.

I loved Agrippa and was happy to hear that we are going to be getting more of him in Gilded Serpent!

His romantic interest, Silvara, is a washer woman, who also is secretly part of the resistance. When Agrippa and Silvara begin a relationship, it’s anyone’s guess what secrets will be shared between them.

Overall, I found this to be a good story. It kept me engaged and I really enjoyed the action scenes, as well as the behind the scenes political maneuverings.

I loved learning more of Marcus’ backstory, as well as more about the Dark Shores world in general. This is the type of world where every detail is interesting.

Jensen’s world-building is top notch. This series is currently underrated in my opinion. If you are sleeping on it, wait no longer.

Start this series!! It’s so good!

Personally, if we were to discuss reading order, I would recommend reading them in publication order. Even though this is a prequel, I would read Dark Shores and Dark Skies prior to this one.

I am picking up Gilded Serpent this week ((FINALLY)) and am so pumped to be back in this world with some of my favorite characters!!!

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