Review: Below Zero (The STEMinist Novella #3) by Ali Hazelwood

Below Zero (The STEMinist Novellas, #3)Below Zero by Ali Hazelwood
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Below Zero is the second of the STEMinist Novellas from Miss Ali Hazelwood that I have read.

Being aware that this is technically the third in the series, it interested me the most, so I was super pumped when my audiobook hold came through from my local library. I couldn’t put it off. I had to dive in right away!

Throughout this trilogy we follow the stories of a trio of girlfriends: Mara, Sadie and Hannah. This is Hannah’s story.

Out of the three, Hannah has the most difficulty letting people in. She is fairly guarded by nature and even found it uncomfortable at first getting close with Mara and Sadie. She has her reasons.

Fresh out of graduate school Hannah finds herself new in her career as a NASA aerospace engineer. Some may say she got there via some helpful tips from a man named, Ian, but she would never say that. He’s irrelevant.

Although if we’re being honest, Ian is never far from her mind. Ian is her rival, her nemesis and the man who haunts her most lurid dreams.

When Hannah finds herself on the brink of disaster, injured and stranded at an Arctic research station, Ian is the one who risks everything to save her. Hannah’s so confused. Why would he do this?

He legitimately tried to stop her research and sabotage her career. What could be his motivations now and why does her stomach feel so queasy anytime he’s around?

This novella bounces around a little as the different stages of Hannah and Ian’s relationship is pieced together. I enjoyed it so much. Watching the blanks be filled in and their connection grow.

I related a lot to Hannah. I found her to be such a convincing main. I liked that she was the type of person who didn’t let people in easily. It made you really recognize how special those people she has chosen to be in her life are.

This had some steamy scenes. In the novellas there aren’t a ton, it’s only 124-pages, so obviously there’s not going to be that much. However, what is there is top notch stuff.

Hazelwood can get your motor running, that’s for sure.

I’m really looking forward to getting to the final novella, Stuck on You, soon. I’m sure it won’t disappoint!

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Review: A Mirror Mended (Fractured Fables #2) by Alix E. Harrow

A Mirror Mended (Fractured Fables #2)A Mirror Mended by Alix E. Harrow
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A Mirror Mended is the second installment to Alix E. Harrow’s fairy tale-based novella series, Fractured Fables.

The first in the series, A Spindle Splintered, was such a delightful surprise for me when I picked it up last fall.

In that story we meet our protagonist, Zinnia Gray, who due to an industrial accident is left with a rare fatal condition. She’s told she won’t live to see her 22nd-birthday. In spite of this, or maybe because of this, Zinnia tries to live her life to the fullest.

Her best friend Charm, knowing this about her, decides on her 21st-birthday to throw Zinnia a Sleeping Beauty-themed party. It’s at that party, at the stroke of midnight, that Zinnia pierces her finger on a spinning wheel and first gets transported into another world.

It happens to be the world in which the real Briar Rose lives and the two women work together to try to halt their doomed fates.

In this installment, we find Zinnia still fixing fairly tales. She has traveled throughout the fairy tale multiverse always seeming to find herself in her comfort zone; Sleeping Beauty.

That’s why Zinnia is beyond shocked when she looks into the mirror one day and sees a face looking back at her. A beautiful, slightly evil face.

It seems Zinnia may be on to a whole new story, which just so happens to be one of my favorites, Snow White.

The Evil Queen has come seeking Zinnia’s help. She’s found out how her story ends and she is desperate for a better ending. Zinnia’s intrigued.

Not only is the Evil Queen beautiful, but as Zinnia gets to know her, she feels like maybe the Queen is a bit misunderstood. Zinnia wants to help, but will she be able too before the story ends for them both?

This installment was just as much fun as the first. I forgot how incredibly smart and witty the writing is. It hooked me in from the start.

I’m seriously obsessed with this series. I’m not sure exactly how long this series is slated to be, but I am hoping for many, many more. Zinnia Gray is life.

I would definitely recommend the audiobook format as well. The narrator really brings spirit to the story and breaths life into Zinnia. It’s completely immersive and fun.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Tor and Macmillan Audio, for providing me with copies to read and review. I can’t wait for whatever comes next!!

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Review: Under One Roof (STEMist Novellas #1) by Ali Hazelwood

Under One Roof (The STEMinist Novellas, #1)Under One Roof by Ali Hazelwood
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Perfection in 112-pages!!!

Ali Hazelwood taught me something last year. A very important something. If you’ve read The Love Hypothesis, you may know exactly what I am talking about.

Essentially, Hazelwood taught me that steamy STEM romances are definitely something I am into!

Luckily for me and others like me, while patiently awaiting Hazelwood’s 2022-full length release Love on the Brain, there are three all new STEM novellas to enjoy.

Under One Roof is technically the first of these novellas, but after reading this one, I would say that they can really be read in any order.

In this one we follow Mara, an environmental engineer, who moves to D.C. post-graduate school after inheriting half of a house from her academic mentor.

The other half of the house is owned by said mentor’s extremely dreamy nephew Liam, who just so happens to be an attorney for big-oil.

Liam expresses from the start, with all the swagger he can muster, that he is not down for a random roommate.

Unfortunately for him, Mara is not taking no for an answer. She really doesn’t have the option to say no with her new job in D.C. starting soon and she literally hasn’t the money to find another place. Plus, she has just as much legal right to the premises as he does.

After they move in together, anger and annoyance eventually leads to sparks. You know the drill.

Y’all, how did Hazelwood make me feel so invested in only 112-pages?! Seriously, how?!

I did listen to the audiobook for this one and the narration was straight-up fabulous. Loved, loved, loved. I cannot wait to get to the other two novellas!!

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Review: Apart in the Dark by Ania Ahlborn

Apart in the Dark: NovellasApart in the Dark: Novellas by Ania Ahlborn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

Apart in the Dark contains two chilling novellas from one of my favorite voices in the Horror space, Ania Ahlborn.

The first, The Pretty Ones is set in 1977, New York City and follows mousey underdog, Nell Sullivan.

Nell’s life is very contained. She lives in a dingy apartment with only her brother and a teddy bear for company. She goes to work and comes home; that’s about the extent of it.

At work, she is part of a secretarial pool where she is mostly ignored, but sometimes bullied, by the other girls. They’re pretty, polished and definitely look down on Nell. She doesn’t fit in.

It’s the Summer of Sam and a monster lurks in the city, murdering pretty girls. For once, Nell is happy to be flying so far under the radar. She’s clearly not the killer’s type.

When girls in her office start being killed, Nell begins to wonder if it is just a coincidence, or if it actually has something to do with her.

I liked this story. If I were rating it on its own, I would have given in 3-stars. It was subtle, but it did keep me interested.

There was one major reveal, which I felt was pretty clear from the start, so I wouldn’t say it was particularly suspenseful. However, it does display how great Ahlborn’s writing is. She can hold your interest even when not a lot is happening plotwise.

The atmosphere she created in this was very well done. It felt like 1977-NYC. It had texture and grit. I could picture everything in regards to Nell’s apartment, her commute, her workplace, the grime and desperation. I could feel it.

The second story, I Call Upon Thee was B-Horror on the page. It was great and for me, really amped up the pace in comparison with the first story.

Please keep in mind, when I say B-Horror, I do not say that with shade. I love B-Horror. The vibe of those movies is what this story brought me and frankly, I was living for it!

We have Maggie Olsen returning to her childhood home after the tragic death of her sister, Brynn.

This isn’t the first tragedy to strike the family. Both of Maggie’s parents have also passed away under mysterious circumstances at their house.

The narrative alternates between the present and the past, showing Maggie and Brynn’s relationship when they were kids and how some of their actions then may have actually shaped their present.

We have a local cemetery they like to visit, the legend of a dead girl, a creepy-ass porcelain doll and a Ouija board. What could go wrong, am I right!?

Basically, this story is a cornucopia of Horror elements that I love to see!!

This story was fast-paced, gripping and had some genuinely terrifying scenes. I really enjoyed this one. I would give it a 4.5-star if I were rating it individually. It was a very strong story for me, one I will remember for a long time to come.

I have had this book on my shelves for years. I am so happy that I finally made the time for it. I would definitely recommend this to Horror Lovers.

I think it perfectly showcases the range of Ahlborn’s writing; so well done!

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Review: Exit Strategy (The Murderbot Diaries #4) by Martha Wells

Exit Strategy (The Murderbot Diaries, #4)Exit Strategy by Martha Wells
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

Exit Strategy is the fourth novella in Martha Wells’ beloved Sci-Fi series, The Murderbot Diaries.

I have really enjoyed my time with this series so far. It’s hard to believe how attached I have become to the unconventional protagonist, an antisocial SecUnit, Murderbot.

I have read all of the novellas in this series via audiobook. Part of the reason for that is because they’re narrated by Kevin R. Free, who is the absolute perfect narrator for this series. He is Murderbot in my mind.

In this installment, we reunite with Murderbot, who continues on their galaxy-wide quest to find answers regarding their past, all while gathering info on the mysterious and sinister GrayCris Corporation.

After Milu, Murderbot chooses to return to HaveRatton Station, which may turn out to be a big mistake. It hopes to meet with Dr. Mensah, but it looks like Dr. Mensah may be in a bit of trouble.

Experiencing something that could be defined as a feeling ((yuck, says Murderbot)), it decides it will do what it needs to in order to help save Dr. Mensah; pairing up with some old acquaintances in the process.

I was pleased with this novella, although I feel like it didn’t quite capture my attention in the same way that the previous three have. I think for me, it felt like it wasn’t quite as humorous as the earlier books.

Perhaps, that’s because Murderbot didn’t have the same lovable AI characters to exchange witty banter with. Yeah, that is probably it.

I am loving how Murderbot continues to evolve, as far as its relationships with humans go. I am particularly into whatever is happening with Mensah; it’s quite intriguing.

The next book in the series, Network Effect, is the first full-length novel in this series, coming in at 350-pages. I am super excited to get into that one!

I highly recommend this to Readers who enjoy action-packed, light-hearted, often hilarious Sci-Fi stories. Look no further, Murderbot is where it’s at.

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Review: Flowers for the Sea by Zin E. Rocklyn

Flowers for the SeaFlowers for the Sea by Zin E. Rocklyn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

For me, this reading experience was very similar to my time spent with The Deep by Rivers Solomon.

My first reaction upon completion with both novellas was, what in the heck did I just read?

Followed shortly thereafter by thoughts such as, that was gorgeous writing, this is beautiful and important, and finally, I wish I had a better understanding of it.

Flowers for the Sea is Dark Fantasy novella centering around Iraxi, a headstrong, powerful woman trapped on a claustrophobic-feeling ark sailing the high seas.

For a good portion of the story she is struggling through the last moments of, what seems to be, an unwanted pregnancy.

Iraxi’s emotions take center stage as she works through anger, pain, revenge and motherhood. It’s a lot.

A story set at sea, with a sea creature aspect, this is an intriguing premise and the writing shows so much promise. I would love to read more from Zin E. Rocklyn; hopefully at some point in a longer format, so I can really settle into their style and ideas.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Dreamscape Media, for providing me with an Audio-ARC to listen to and review. I am really happy I had the opportunity to check this one out. It was memorable!

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Review: Nothing But Blackened Teeth by Cassandra Khaw

Nothing But Blackened TeethNothing But Blackened Teeth by Cassandra Khaw
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

Nothing But Blackened Teeth has wormed into my mind and it won’t go away. I cannot stop thinking about it!

I finished this story early this morning and have slowly raised my rating incrementally as the day has worn on. I started at 3-stars, in 12-hours, I have rounded up to 4-stars. Who knows how high this could go!?

What could be better than a long-abandoned, reportedly-haunted, Heian-era mansion as a intimate destination wedding location?

For Nadia and Faiz, nothing. Nadia has always wanted to get married in a haunted mansion and after their friend, Phillip, buys them all first class tickets to Japan, now is their chance.

The group, made up of Nadia, Faiz, Cat, our narrator, Phillip and Lin, do not all get along. In fact, I wondered frequently why they were traveling together.

Nadia and Cat hate each other, as do Lin and pretty much everyone else, except for Cat. There is tension and messy history; it’s a whole thing. As if the haunted mansion wasn’t enough, the stress of their interactions raised my heart rate.

As this is an novella, it is pretty clear right from the start that the reportedly haunted mansion, is indeed quite haunted.

This story revolves around a Ohaguro Bettari, which translated, if I am informed correctly, actually means, nothing but blackened teeth. This is a type of Yokai that I have never come across before and I found it fascinating.

Additionally, I have really only ever read about Yokai in Japanese-inspired Fantasy stories, which of course, is generally Dark Fantasy, but reading about Yokai in the Horror genre was completely new for me. I loved that aspect.

The haunted house vibes and the way that was presented was so engaging. I couldn’t stop turning the pages. It was really well imagined.

I think my main issue with this story was the presentation; the writing style, or the narrative voice. I’m not sure which.

The writing seems so overdone. The use of ridiculously obscure vocabulary and nonstop, unnecessarily overwrought prose really rubbed me the wrong way while I was reading it.

The more I think about it though, I don’t think this was the author showing that they are the most intelligent person in the room, I think it is the personification of Cat’s character.

I could be interpreting this completely wrong, but I feel like Cat’s character, who doesn’t seem to like herself, had her intelligence as the one thing she could count out. Towards the end, as she was having one of her numerous fights with Nadia, she says how smart she is. I am smart, she exclaims.

Since the entire narrative is pretty much her inner monologue, I started to think about the story in that way, as that being her voice. Her way of seeing the world actually used those big words. That’s her crutch and it started to make sense that way.

After I had that realization, I became more forgiving about those aspects of the story that so heavily turned me off initially.

As this is a novella, there’s not a lot of build up and it did seem to end rather abruptly. As Horror novellas go, however, I would say this is a really strong one. It will definitely stick in my mind for along time to come.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Tor Nightfire, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I would definitely be interested in picking up more from Cassandra Khaw!

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Review: Along the Saltwise Sea (The Up-and-Under #2) by A. Deborah Baker

Along the Saltwise SeaAlong the Saltwise Sea by A. Deborah Baker
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Along the Saltwise Sea is the sequel to Seanan McGuire’s, writing here as A. Deborah Baker, 2020-release, Over the Woodward Wall.

These novels, which are loosely-related to her tour de force of SFF, Middlegame, are perfectly suited for the young at heart.

The story follows two children, Zib and Avery, who upon encountering a giant wall where it shouldn’t be on their walk to school one day, go up and over, thus finding themselves in a different world; the Up-and-Under.

In the first novel, the children travel through a magical forest while following the improbable road, making friends and enemies along the way.

In this installment, Zib and Avery, joined by their new friends, Niahm and the Crow Girl, are exhausted from the continuous stress of their travels. Their hope is to find the Queen of Wands, who may have the answer on how to get them home.

Unsure of how much more they can take, however, they collectively decide they can’t go on right away. They need to rest. Children need to rest.

As luck would have it, they discover an abandoned cottage. It’s pristine, with everything in place that they would need. Sure, it’s a little ominous, but they can’t resist.

They stay the night. Zib and Avery eternally grateful to have a comfortable bed in which to sleep through the night, as well as fresh running water.

Unbeknownst to the children and their companions, the cottage actually belongs to a powerful pirate Captain, who believes they now owe her a debt for trespassing on her property and using her things without asking.

The group agrees to board her ship and work for her for one week in order to pay off their debt.

It certainly extends their adventure, but does it get the kids any closer to finding their way home?

Y’all, I absolutely LOVED my time reading Along the Saltwise Sea!! I’ll admit, I was a little nervous going in, because it has been a long time since I have read Over the Woodward Wall.

I was concerned I wouldn’t remember enough of the story for this one to make sense. That was completely silly of me. I should have trusted McGuire.

This novel has the perfect amount of refresher at the beginning to let the Reader fall gracefully back into the story. It was seamless and probably the best transition between books I have ever read.

Further, I am absolutely obsessed with the narrative voice of this series. It has that classic, whimsical fairy tale feel, meshed perfectly with modern inclinations on how to be a good human.

I say this because, I feel like fairy tales are intended to teach lessons and consequently, Zib and Avery are also learning lessons throughout their journey in the Up-and-Under. Fortunately, the lessons aren’t outdated. They are perfectly tailored for today’s world.

I love all of these characters so much. Avery and Zib are as opposite as opposite can get, but have learned to love and appreciate one another not just in spite their differences, but because of them.

The setting of this one, mostly on the pirate ship, was just so fun! I love stories set at sea and this one captured everything I love about that atmosphere.

I cannot wait for the next installment of The Up-and-Under. I am not sure how long this series is slated to be, but I am hoping it goes for as long as the Wayward Children series. At least!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Tor, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. It was an absolute delight!

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Review: A Spindle Splintered by Alix E. Harrow

A Spindle Splintered (Fractured Fables #1)A Spindle Splintered by Alix E. Harrow
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Two girls destined to die have their fates crossed, perhaps altering their once doomed outcomes, in this whimsical modern-day reimagining of Sleeping Beauty

Due to an industrial accident, Zinnia Gray, was left with a rare and fatal condition. The prognosis of which means she won’t live to see her 22nd-birthday.

As bleak as that is, Zin has had a great life, surrounded by people who love her so much. Including her best friend, Charm, who decides to throw Zin a Sleeping Beauty-themed party for her 21st-birthday, complete with tower and spinning wheel.

Zin, not really in the mood to party, goes along with it nevertheless. Charm put in so much effort. As the festivities come to a close, Zin pricks her finger on the spinning wheel at midnight, and is thusly transported into another world. It happens to be where the real Briar Rose lives.

It is there that the two women’s lives become intertwined, as they work together to try to save themselves from their fates.

It’s no secret that I wasn’t the biggest fan of The Ten Thousand Doors of January, but I never give up on an author off after only one try. This story is the perfect example of why. Oh, my goodness!

Wow, holy smokes. I am floored by how different my opinion of Harrow’s writing is now; after only 128-pages. Alix E. Harrow redeemed!!!

As mentioned above, this is a fairly short novella, but no less impactful because of it. It is a rollicking good time, with adventure, friendship, danger and just the right amount of hat tipping to the original story.

I loved the feminist undertones woven throughout, as well as the relationship formed between Zin and Briar Rose. The dynamic between them was just so fun. Because they were from completely different worlds, they had a lot to discover about one another, but Harrow kept it so witty and fun!

I’m really interested to see if Harrow tackles other fairy tales in this format. If so, I would definitely be willing to pick them up.

Thank you so much to Macmillan Audio for providing me with a copy to read and review. I listened to it all in one night and had an absolute blast doing so!!

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Review: Rogue Protocol (The Murderbot Diaries #3) by Martha Wells

Rogue Protocol (The Murderbot Diaries, #3)Rogue Protocol by Martha Wells
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Rogue Protocol is the third book within The Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells.

I picked this series up on a whim last year and quickly fell in love with Murderbot and Martha Wells’ humorous writing style. It draws you in right away!

In this installment we rejoin Murderbot on its continued hunt for answers regarding its violent past.

It ends up on another mission, this time heading to a terraforming facility once run by the mysterious and sinister GrayCris Corporation.

More humans are involved; there mucky things up for our beloved Murderbot, yet again. It also needs to befriend, or intelligently influence, another AI. This time a tragically adorable, human-form companion robot named, Miki.

Miki’s entire personality was exploding with cute. I loved their interactions; so pure.

As usual, there was a lot of action, more betrayals and corporate cover-ups. It also ended much too quickly, although this one definitely crushed my heart a little bit there at the end. Not going to lie.

Why did I have to be listening to it before I had even had my first coffee of the day?

Sadness aside, I can’t quit Murderbot! I’m excited to continue on with their story.

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