Review: FIREKEEPER’S DAUGHTER by Angeline Boulley (2021)

Genre: Young Adult Thriller
Year Release: 2021
Source: Library Audiobook

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook
Trigger warning: Drug abuse, gun violence, rape (depicted, fade-to-black), microaggressions against indigenous people, vomiting, drug overdose, murder, kidnapping

Taking place on the border between the U.S. and Canada, this thriller follows Daunis Fontaine, a biracial, dorky, 18-year-old who deferred college enrollment to take care of her mother and grandmother. A newcomer captures Daunis’ attention and hidden truths come to light when she witnesses a murder. The body count starts climbing and the source of harrowing trouble might hit closer to home than initially expected.

Heart-breaking as it is beautifully written, Boulley presents a thriller that’s as much about the power of community and honoring those around you as it is about the terrible ways the drug trade ravages communities.

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Review: SOCIAL CREATURE by Tara Isabella Burton (2018)

Genre: Adult Literary Thriller
Year Release: 2018
Source: Library Audiobook

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook
Content warning: Alcoholism, murder, drug use, dubious consensual sex, domestic violence, attempted suicide

This book is absolute bananas from start to finish. A worthy entry into books which spiritually remind me of My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh, Social Creature features Louisa and Lavinia at its core. Louisa is a down-on-her-luck New York City transplant who works several jobs to not even make ends meet until one day, she’s booked as a tutor for Cordelia and meets Lavinia. Lavinia is a socialite who is one a sabbatical from Yale who lives in some kind of alternate universe where everything is beauty and poetry. We know Lavinia dies, and we beat witness to that toxic friendship.

This book has prose that hypnotizes with all the surreal glitz of oblivion. A wild ride from start to finish where having everyone be deeply unlikeable is part of the charm.

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Review: WHAT BEAUTY THERE IS by Cory Anderson (2021)

Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Thriller
Year Release: 2021
Source: Library Audiobook

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook
Content warning: Hanging, drug-related crimes and violence, meth, poverty, violence against children, emotional abuse, blood, death of mothers

This contemporary thriller follows brothers Jack and Matty, whose father is in jail and her mother had just died by suicide. With funds dwindling, older brother Jack choose money to keep himself and his brother out of the foster care system. Except for the fact that a scoundrel named Bardem chases after them. A detective also tries to make heads and tails of the trail of bodies, but everyone is hardly a half-step ahead of the others.

A book that makes great use of its wintery setting in theme and tone, this tale of brothers tugs at the heartstrings something fierce as they rely on each other and another fellow child to make it to the other side.


This book is as brutal as its prose is beautiful. There were times I had to pause the audiobook because a line or a turn of phrase stopped me in its place. Or, in the opposite direction, some absolutely bananas turn comes out and the reader scrambles as much as the characters to figure out the next step. It works on a character and plot-level. With break-neck pacing and deliberate pauses for character development, Anderson shows deft guidance but also lets the reader experience this fraught journey.

While Jack wears his heart on his sleeve, Ava is a mystery that slowly unravels. We know from her introduction that Bardem is her father, and he raised her to be as closed-off from the goodness in the world as he is. This book toes the line between survival and cruelty, especially in her POV. She could have abandoned the brothers at any turn, but stays to help. The tension can be cut with a knife. But there is so much tenderness, of kids recognizing the hurt in each other. It’s so beautifully done, it hurts.

For those who need it, there is a puppy in the final act, and he makes it to the end.

March 2021 Reading Recap

March was my first full month of dayjob. I also took a small break from writing after a major breakthrough in the revision. Unfortunately, that means rewriting the entire thing. In spite of that, I did get a lot of reading done. I even read my first physical copy of the year.

To be fair, I am finding a lot of solace in manga right now, and I can’t quite articulate why. When I figured it out, I will definitely let you know. I have also gotten majorly into buying earrings from indigenous creators. More details about this can be found on my Instagram.

The interview I did this month with C.L. Clark to celebrate their debut, The Unbroken, is one of my favorite interviews yet. I also posted a personal-feeling advice piece on beta reading and giving feedback in general (Writing is Hard Part 8).

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February 2021 Reading Recap

February is the shortest month and wow did so many things happen. I quit my dayjob because I got an offer for another day job more aligned with where I want to be and the things I want to do. My boyfriend got (and accepted) into a PhD program. I managed to do a lot of manga reading and a fair amount of audiobooks. All in all, it was a fine month.

There were three whole author interviews too:

  • Genevieve Gornichec celebrated her debut with The Witch’s Heart
  • Karin Tidbeck delighted us with some insight into the inspiration behind their latest, The Memory Theater
  • Sarah Gailey shared their process of choosing a near-future sci-fi setting where The Echo Wife takes place
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ARC Review: THE INITIAL INSULT (#1) by Mindy McGinnis (2021)

Genre: Young Adult Thriller
Year Release: February 2021
Buy Links: Bookshop.org| Unabridged Books | Libro.fm

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Read an ARC from NetGalley
Content warning: dead parents, seizures, car accidents, animal cruelty, animal death (off-screen), drug abuse, vomiting, bleeding

This book is so fun, in as much fun as a story about a friendship falling apart can be. Filled to the brim with Edgar Allan Poe references, this book is a treat. Tress Montor lives with Cecil, her grandfather and guardian, who lives in a trailer next to a questionably-legal zoo. Her former best friend Felicity Turnado has the disappearance of Tress’s parents to answer for. Then comes the Halloween party, then the wall, and the secrets come tumbling out.

The pacing in this book is simply delightful and there’s even segments from the point of view of a panther. Fun from start to finish.

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Duo Review: THE PROJECT by Courtney Summers (2021) and THE ROAD TO JONESTOWN by Jeff Guinn (2017)

I read these books in close proximity to each other. After learning that the non-fiction was used as research for the fiction, I thought it would be neat to combine them.

The Project (2021) by Courtney Summers (left) and The Road to Jonestown: Jim Jones and Peoples Temple (2017) by Jeff Guinn

Cults are a subject that have fascinated true crime writers and fans for quite some time. From their deadly demises to the strategic and manipulative ways they entice people to their group, there is so much to examine, and so many opportunities for heart-break. In 2021’s The Project, Courtney Summers tells the story of a budding journalist, Lo, who tries to reconnect with her sister, Bea, who had been lost to a cult, The Unity Project. The rise of Lev Warren can be easily mapped onto the rise of Jim Jones and Peoples Temple in the 70s, a socialist organization which had a flimflam man who believed himself God at its center. Both books are chilling, heartbreaking, and compliment each other so well.

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January 2021 Reading Recap

We made it through January 2021, the longest month in a while. I managed to read 18 different things, and thus, I am switching up the format of these recaps. I’m going to show a grid of each work by category with links to the reviews to read at your own leisure. Feedback appreciated.

This month’s author interview was with S.T. Gibson, to celebrate the release of her Dracula’s brides retelling, A Dowry of Blood.

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Review: THE ABSTAINER by Ian McGuire (2020)

Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Year Release: 2020
Source: Library Audiobook

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook
Content warnings: murder, revenge, Irish-English tensions of the nineteenth century, child abuse

One of the reasons that I am so drawn to Ian McGuire’s work is that the writer absolutely does not flinch away from the nasty parts of historical accuracy that permeate both the time period and his characters’ backstories.

In this latest work, we go between Manchester, England and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania as generational trauma and crime in the name of a greater cause chase our two main characters, Stephen Doyle and James O’Connor, respectively.

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Review: BLACKTOP WASTELAND by S.A. Cosby (2020)

Genre: Adult Thriller
Year Release: 2020
Source: Library Audiobook

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook
Content warning: gun violence, gore, drug abuse, arson, domestic abuse (mentioned, child neglect (mentioned)

Beauregard “Bug” Montage is a family man who has fallen on dire financial straits. A diamond heist comes his way and it seems like the answer to most of this problems. But it goes horribly wrong, and Cosby leads us on a fast-paced journey with complex characters and an earnest depiction of one life in a southern American town.

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