The One Where I Really Liked The Initial Insult by Mindy McGinnis #BookReview #YA #Retelling #EdgarAllanPoe #BookBuzz ☆☆☆☆

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Welcome to Amontillado, Ohio, where your last name is worth more than money, and secrets can be kept… for a price.

Tress Montor knows that her family used to mean something—until she didn’t have a family anymore. When her parents disappeared seven years ago while driving her best friend home, Tress lost everything. She might still be a Montor, but the entire town shuns her now that she lives with her drunken, one-eyed grandfather at what locals refer to as the “White Trash Zoo,” – a wild animal attraction featuring a zebra, a chimpanzee, and a panther, among other things.

Felicity Turnado has it all – looks, money, and a secret that she’s kept hidden. She knows that one misstep could send her tumbling from the top of the social ladder, and she’s worked hard to make everyone forget that she was with the Montors the night they disappeared. Felicity has buried what she knows so deeply that she can’t even remember what it is… only that she can’t look at Tress without having a panic attack.

But she’ll have to.

Tress has a plan. A Halloween costume party at an abandoned house provides the ideal situation for Tress to pry the truth from Felicity – brick by brick – as she slowly seals her former best friend into a coal chute. With a drunken party above them, and a loose panther on the prowl, Tress will have her answers – or settle for revenge.


。・:*:・゚★,。・:*:・゚☆。・:*:・゚★,。・:*:・゚☆。・:*:・゚★,。・:*:・゚☆。・:*:・゚★,。・:*:・゚☆。・:*:・゚★,。・:*:・゚☆。・:*:・゚★,。

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“The thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as I best could, but when he ventured upon insult I vowed revenge.” -THE CASK OF AMONTILLADO By Edgar Allan Poe – Published 1847

That quote is not from the book itself, though there is one very similar which I loved, but from the original short story this story sprung from, The Cask of Amontillado. I had never read that short story to be honest with you, but after finishing The Initial Insult I just had to find it and see how they compare. Edgar Allen Poe is quite macabre, and Mindy McGinnis manages to stay true to the short story while giving it a second life. Mindy McGinnis adds background, texture, contemporary grit into this dark tale 🖤💀

The Initial Insult gives us concrete reasons as to why Tress is angry enough to want to bury her ex best friend behind a wall of bricks…

“I must not only punish but punish with impunity.” -THE CASK OF AMONTILLADO By Edgar Allan Poe – Published 1847

… and she could have lived with the “injuries” Felicity did upon her, with or without forethought, but it was until Felicity took the very last thing connecting Tress to her past life, her parents, that Tress decided enough was enough. She was getting answers, or someone would die as she tried.

I do like the story and the many stories told within the overall narrative. As Tress and Felicity hash out their problems we get to see stories from their past from both POVs; giving us a lot of prespective. Felicity might have not meant to hurt Tress, but she keeps on doing it again and again–by being a follower, by not standing up for her, by keeping the truth to herself. Not every hurt that Tress has had in her life connects directly to Felicity, but it sure feels like it when you see the story through her eyes. What’s even more screwed up is that these two young women really do sort of love each other, but just can’t find a way to fix the broken bridge between them. Maybe only blood can very well do that.

It isn’t a pretty story–there is a lot to dislike about these two characters. Felicity can be quite a follower, to the point where she knows bad stuff is being done around her, by her friends, and she is aware of it, but doesn’t have the backbone to stand up for herself. I blame this on her mother, who has taught her to hide her true self behind pleasantries and be as fake as possible in order to fit in. Her mother tells her to hide her seizures because, and I quote, “no one would want to marry her.”–SHE SAYS THIS TO HER AS A YOUNG CHILD… yeah, not the best mother. On top of her seizures, Felicity is also dealing with a bunch of trauma from the night Tress’ parent’s disappeared. Doesn’t excuse her shitty behavior, but it puts it into perspective.

Tress on the other hand was dealt a really bad hand–after her parent’s disappeared she is carted off to live with Cecil, who is technically a grandfather in name only. He is neglectful, emotionally abusive, a drunk, good for nothing. Tress was stripped of every thing she ever had, love, comfort, security, basically overnight, and the worst part is she doesn’t even know what ended up happening to her parents… but she thinks she knows who might… and she has nothing to loose.

There is also a lot of other side characters who are not completely bad (Hugh, the football player who is a nice guy who acts like a bad guy), legit good characters (Brynn, the volleyball star, and only black student in this small backwards town in which your last name has more value than even your bank account), and others whose jury is still out. My main drawback from the story is that while I understand the build up that was needed, and the payoff was great in the end, it does feel like it can drag along, specially since the only way you see any story progression is from the scenes told in the past, while in the present only hours pass along.

I am so very excited for the next book in this duology!! I want to pre order it right away 😀 I can’t wait to find out what happens next with these two ex-friends.

PS; SUPER COOL panther in the story. Loved how the panther’s inner thought’s were portrayed, as if the cat could see the past through the blood . Kind of think this is going to play a big role in the sequel, maybe the panther will tell us the secrets of what actually happened to Tress’ parents.

PS; I was provided a review copy in exchange for an honest review. Thanks go to the publisher!

The One Where I Really Liked Curse of the Divine (Ink in The Blood #2) by Kim Smejkal #BookReview #YA #DarkMagic #BookBuzz ☆☆☆☆

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Return to the world of inklings, tattoo magic, and evil deities as Celia uncovers the secrets of the ink in order to stop Diavala once and for all. This eagerly anticipated sequel to Ink in the Blood is perfect for fans of Leigh Bardugo and Wicked Saints.

Celia Sand faced Diavala and won, using ink magic to destroy the corrupt religion of Profeta that tormented her for a decade. But winning came with a cost. Now Celia is plagued with guilt over her role in the death of her best friend. When she discovers that Diavala is still very much alive and threatening Griffin, the now-infamous plague doctor, Celia is desperate not to lose another person she loves to the deity’s wrath.

The key to destroying Diavala may lie with Halycon Ronnea, the only other person to have faced Diavala and survived. But Halcyon is dangerous and has secrets of his own, ones that involve the ink that Celia has come to hate. Forced to choose between the ink and Diavala, Celia will do whatever it takes to save Griffin—even if it means making a deal with the devil himself.


。・:*:・゚★,。・:*:・゚☆。・:*:・゚★,。・:*:・゚☆。・:*:・゚★,。・:*:・゚☆。・:*:・゚★,。・:*:・゚☆。・:*:・゚★,。・:*:・゚☆。・:*:・゚★,。

If you like magically macabre books, then this duology is for you 🖤

Curse of the divine picks up right where Ink in the Blood left us. Celia and co. brought down the Profeta Religion, freeing a to of people who might have otherwise not ever known they had been manipulated. This of course came at a great cost to Celia, who lost the most important person in her life. To add insult unto injury Diavala did not die, she instead hitched a ride with the nearest available body which so happens to be Celia’s Plague Doctor. Together, Celia and Griffin will set off to get rid of Diavala once and for all with the help of the only “saint” who managed to survive Diavala’s touch; Halycon Ronnea.

I love how creative Kim Smejkal is. She ventures out to create her own world full of her own rules and pretty much nails it. I remember really liking Ink in the Blood when it came out last year, and not knowing how the sequel would hold up. Let me tell you, it holds up in an extravagant way. I might even like it more than the first book. You get Diavala in a more close and personal scenario, giving her story texture and even making you sympathize with the she devil. After all, she wasn’t born an immortal being… someone made her this way. Celia also walks the line between the good guy and the less than stellar girlfriend. She makes mistakes and spends the entire novel with the ghost of her best friend right on her shoulder–she is engulfed in sadness and grief. Pretty realistic portrayal, I am glad her trauma wasn’t brushed off.

Griffin is not a favorite character for me–he is just very dramatic and I’m just not too into that, but he is perfect for Celia. I was glad he was there to guide her through the darkness they both face. We get a lot of background into the Ink; where it comes from, who created it, why they created it… It is all very marvelous and not totally surprising, but the book is all about the journey and not the twist for this reader.

I hope Kim Smejkal gets to publish a lot more books! She can only get better as a writer, and her stories more wonderful.

PS; I was provided a review copy in exchange for an honest review. Thanks go to the publisher!

The One Where I Really Liked Hot British Boyfriend by Kristy Boyce #BookReview #NA #Thriller #BookBuzz ☆☆☆☆

Rating: 4 out of 5.

After a horrifying public rejection by her crush, Ellie Nichols does what any girl would do: she flees the country. To be more precise, she joins her high school’s study abroad trip to England. While most of her classmates are there to take honors courses and pad their college applications, Ellie is on a quest to rebuild her reputation and self-confidence. And nothing is more of a confidence booster than getting a hot British boyfriend.

When Ellie meets Will, a gorgeous and charming Brit, she vows to avoid making the same mistakes as she did with the last guy she liked. Which is why she strikes up a bargain with Dev, an overachieving classmate who she’s never clicked with, but who does seem to know a lot about the things Will is interested in—if he helps her win over her crush, then she’ll help him win over his.

But even as Ellie embarks on a whirlwind romance, one that takes her on adventures to some of England’s most beautiful places, she still needs to figure out if this is actually the answer to all her problems…and whether the perfect boyfriend is actually the perfect boy for her.


。・:*:・゚★,。・:*:・゚☆。・:*:・゚★,。・:*:・゚☆。・:*:・゚★,。・:*:・゚☆。・:*:・゚★,。・:*:・゚☆。・:*:・゚★,。・:*:・゚☆。・:*:・゚★,。

“A spark of hope lights inside me.
If I can get on this trip, if I can avoid Crystal and Andy and everyone else for a few months, maybe my life won’t be a living hell. I can start fresh. And in England of all places.”

Such a cute, fun, YA ROM COM 😍

Not gonna lie, I found the beginning of this book to be super annoying, because I found the MC to be so superficial. Her only interest in the beginning is this a hole of a guy, and fitting into her new school. She has tunnel vision throughout the first few chapters. But after she escapes the states and gets to the UK… she still has tunnel vision, but the side characters get her out of her single mindedness and help her grow as a person.

We get to meet this young woman who is scared about her future because she has never really been pushed to ask for more, and is scared to try and get rejected. She loves fairy gardens, unicorns, and new experiences, but has been burned in the past by “friends” when she lets out her true self so she keeps her interests hidden. In her mind, after being burned and made a paraiah, the only thing that can bring her an ounce of cred/respect is to quickly find another guy, a better guy, and show the stupid world that she is over it. Not the best plan, but you get where she is coming from.

Truly, this novel would not have shined without the side characters. I loved them all–Sage, Huan, Dev, and even Frank. Sage is this over achiever who wants to make a difference in the world, but she is not truly the stereotypical shy overachiever, she is just a very focused young woman who knows what she wants and what she has time for. Huan is also a super smart guy who has a passion/talent for beat boxing (and british men). He, along with Ellie, finds himself a british boyfriend, but unlike Ellie, Frank and Huan are truly a cute couple which I was rooting for throughout the novel. Then there is Dev, overachiever who is on track to become a doctor to make his parent’s sacrifice worth it/set an example for his siblings–but Dev’s true passion lies in art history. Dev is funny, charming, geeky (he loves and plays Quidditch), and quickly becomes Elli’s best friend. Thus, ensues the romantic tension that had me at the edge of my seat.

I don’t think I’ve truly read another YA rom-com quite like this. I really really liked it, and I look forward to reading more from Kristy Boyce in the future.

PS; I was provided a review copy in exchange for an honest review. Thanks go to the publisher!

The One Where I Really Liked The Project by Courtney Summers #BookReview #NA #Thriller #BookBuzz ☆☆☆☆

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Lo Denham is used to being on her own. After her parents died, Lo’s sister, Bea, joined The Unity Project, leaving Lo in the care of their great aunt. Thanks to its extensive charitable work and community outreach, The Unity Project has won the hearts and minds of most in the Upstate New York region, but Lo knows there’s more to the group than meets the eye. She’s spent the last six years of her life trying—and failing—to prove it.

When a man shows up at the magazine Lo works for claiming The Unity Project killed his son, Lo sees the perfect opportunity to expose the group and reunite with Bea once and for all. When her investigation puts her in the direct path of its leader, Lev Warren and as Lo delves deeper into The Project, the lives of its members it upends everything she thought she knew about her sister, herself, cults, and the world around her—to the point she can no longer tell what’s real or true. Lo never thought she could afford to believe in Lev Warren . . . but now she doesn’t know if she can afford not to.


。・:*:・゚★,。・:*:・゚☆。・:*:・゚★,。・:*:・゚☆。・:*:・゚★,。・:*:・゚☆。・:*:・゚★,。・:*:・゚☆。・:*:・゚★,。・:*:・゚☆。・:*:・゚★,。

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I was spellbound by this book. The moment I picked it up I was hooked. It is not my typical read, I like to stick with good old fantasy, but Courtney Summers is a highly acclaimed author and so I wanted to try it out. I am glad I did, this is my first book by her and I’m already kicking myself over not having read Sadie yet. Gonna have to rectify that.

I loved the writing- it is both beautiful and relatable. You get to read from both sister’s POV, Bea set in the past and Lo in the present. Bea is the sister who became part of the Unity Project, as she was almost hypnotized by the project’s charismatic leader Lev Warren. In order to be a part of the project you have to leave all attachments behind, including family. In the present Lo is bitter that her sister abandoned her for what she thinks is a cult, and once there is even the slightest excuse for her to bring the organization down she takes it.

The Project deals with heavy issues in a very realistic way–abuse is definitely one of the main components, manipulation… Lo is a very vulnerable character who hides behind her cynicism–it is very interesting how things ended up and kind of surprising. I was expecting a twist, but at the end the path chosen is the more crunchy in terms of the human condition and the things we will do in order to be loved and accepted.

A lot of the time I honestly didn’t know if The Unity Project was a cult or even bad–the reader has no real insight, and we go in the same ride as Lo in trying to figure our what gives with this organization that seems to have taken Bea away from Lo. Maybe it isn’t the organization at all and it was Bea all along who wanted to stay away, not be responsible for a child at only 19 years old. Maybe Lo has created a reality in her head that just isn’t the truth…and Lo is all about finding the truth. It is genuinely interesting seeing cults from this lense, as you get to see the appeal and why so many people decide to join into this world. Or maybe Courtney Summers can just make anything work with her magic writing. Could be.

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PS; Just going to point this out… THIS IS NOT YA. The MC is 19, her sister is 25. It does not read as YA either–It reads like new adult. New Adult has a bad rep at the moment; as far as I can tell the market is mostly over saturated with heavy romance or erotic novels, which makes it hard to market this kind of book to the adults who like reading YA so The Project is ergo being marketed as YA (also the author has a YA history). It is like saying ACOTAR is YA when we all know it is NA.

PS; I was provided a review copy in exchange for an honest review. Thanks go to the publisher!

The One Where I Weirdly Liked Unchosen by Katharyn Blair #BookReview #WeirdlyUnputdownable #YA #Sci-Fi #Dystopian ☆☆☆ 1/2

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

For Charlotte Holloway, the world ended twice.

The first was when her childhood crush, Dean, fell in love—with her older sister.

The second was when the Crimson, a curse spread through eye contact, turned the majority of humanity into flesh-eating monsters.

Neither end of the world changed Charlotte. She’s still in the shadows of her siblings. Her popular older sister, Harlow, now commands forces of survivors. And her talented younger sister, Vanessa, is the Chosen One—who, legend has it, can end the curse.

When their settlement is raided by those seeking the Chosen One, Charlotte makes a reckless decision to save Vanessa: she takes her place as prisoner.

The word spreads across the seven seas—the Chosen One has been found.

But when Dean’s life is threatened and a resistance looms on the horizon, the lie keeping Charlotte alive begins to unravel. She’ll have to break free, forge new bonds, and choose her own destiny if she has any hope of saving her sisters, her love, and maybe even the world.

Because sometimes the end is just a new beginning.


。・:*:・゚★,。・:*:・゚☆。・:*:・゚★,。・:*:・゚☆。・:*:・゚★,。・:*:・゚☆。・:*:・゚★,。・:*:・゚☆。・:*:・゚★,。・:*:・゚☆。・:*:・゚★,。

I am legit stumped on how to rate this book–let’s settle with 3 1/2 stars and round up cause Goodreads still doesn’t do half stars in the year of 2020.

Like, it has its faults not gonna lie, but at the same time I devoured it? I don’t know if it was the author’s writing of the inner monologue of the MC, the romantic tension, or the colorful set of characters (found family is my kryptonite)… but it just worked for me. The only thing that didn’t “click” perfectly was the blending of dystopia/pirates/curses because to me it seemed like we were reaching for a little too much. Think on the lines of The Walking Dead set at sea, and instead of a virus think of it as a “curse”– it felt like trying to fit a wrong puzzle piece that really looks like it should work but it is not quite the right fit.

We lived in a world that predicted our doom at least twice a week. We had shows about it; people stood on street corners, screeching about the end. We were so ready for the fall of mankind. But, when it actually came—we didn’t see it coming.”

However, the rest of the novel really worked for me! I loved getting the POV from the “middle” child who feels like she isn’t good enough because her older sister is a rock star, and her younger sister is a pro gymnast. She is the average one of the bunch. And even after the “curse” hits the world she is still the average one–her older sister ends up being an integral part of their new community, and her younger sister is the chosen one.

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On top of dealing with that, Charlotte also has to deal with falling in love with her sister’s boyfriend (who is Charlotte’s best friend). I liked the change of pace. While Charlotte might not be the chosen one she is the only one paying close attention to her sister Vanessa and jotting down all the things she says when Vanessa has night terrors. Which is how Charlotte is able to fool those around her into thinking she is in fact the chosen one, and get them to do what she wants in the name of saving the world.

Is Charlotte manipulative? A little yes, though for the most part she has her reasons. And frankly, I like reading from the POV of a less than perfect MC.

I think in order to fully enjoy Unchosen you have to suspend your disbelief. Whenever something else got added to the pile of the curse, or how the world is working now, I just nodded my head and said “okay sure”. For example, there is a way to become immune to the “curse” but you can only achieve that by giving the curse to three other people (like, tag you are it but in multiples), and only if you do it within 24 hours. That seems… oddly specific. Okay fine whatever, if you say so. The cursed ones (which are referred to as “Vessels”–did not like the word choice) are actually sentient (well, some of them, and nobody knows why coughsplotcoughs) and they pass on the curse by just looking at someone (kind of like Bird Box by Sandra Bullock). They are also super strong, have a great sense of smell, are fast… exactly how can any human survive under these circumstances?

It seems rather impossible.

But I digress, let’s buy that the humans SOMEHOW are still alive (did I mention the only way to kill them is by decapitating them? SH-YEAH, they are a tiny bit OP). If I was in the middle of an OP curse like this I would also run to the sea. It makes sense as you can more easily control your environment and only stop at land when you need supplies. The idea has legs. Other aspects of the novel were predictable (who the bad guys were for example) but it didn’t take away from my enjoyment of the novel.

BUT anyways, what I really liked about Unchosen was the characters really. I loved seeing the sisterly bond between Charlotte, Harlow, and Vanessa. The romantic tension and friendship developed with another character (yes, there are two hotties, but I would not consider this a love triangle). The found family theme with Rielle, Lucia, and Thomas. The convoluted plot is something I can forgive in liu of the rest.

I think I am looking forward to Katharyn Blair’s next book.

PS; I was provided a review copy in exchange for an honest review. Thanks go to the publisher!

The One Where I liked Winter’s Orbit by Everina Maxwell #Adult #Romance #Sci-fi #EarlyReviewBUZZ ☆☆☆

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Ancillary Justice meets Red, White & Royal Blue in Everina Maxwell’s exciting debut.

While the Iskat Empire has long dominated the system through treaties and political alliances, several planets, including Thea, have begun to chafe under Iskat’s rule. When tragedy befalls Imperial Prince Taam, his Thean widower, Jainan, is rushed into an arranged marriage with Taam’s cousin, the disreputable Kiem, in a bid to keep the rising hostilities between the two worlds under control.

But when it comes to light that Prince Taam’s death may not have been an accident, and that Jainan himself may be a suspect, the unlikely pair must overcome their misgivings and learn to trust one another as they navigate the perils of the Iskat court, try to solve a murder, and prevent an interplanetary war… all while dealing with their growing feelings for each other.


。・:*:・゚★,。・:*:・゚☆。・:*:・゚★,。・:*:・゚☆。・:*:・゚★,。・:*:・゚☆。・:*:・゚★,。・:*:・゚☆。・:*:・゚★,。・:*:・゚☆。・:*:・゚★,。

Like, I love the characters and the romance but couldn’t give two shits about the space politics? That’s my vibe.

But then again, that is what this book is. A space opera romance, with a convoluted plot and uninteresting political drama. The world building was lacking, the sci-fi aspects (like gadgets and entities) were confusing–I still don’t know exactly what a Remnant is– but if you push that all aside there is a shining romance in between the pages.

What Winter’s Orbit has in abundance is inclusion. In the Iskat Empire anybody can feel free to be their authentic self, if you wish for others to know what gender you identify with you need only illustrate it by using the right kind of accessories. Seems superficial, but it works in a pinch. There are high ranking officers who identify as “they” as well.

The characters really breathed life into the book. I loved Prince Kiem, his self deprecation, his genuine drive to do the right thing even if he goes against his family, his willingness to really listen to his partners needs and even learn his culture… Kiem is a national treasure. At the beginning of the novel he was a little sheltered, by his own choice. Politics was not his thing and he seldom paid attention. Instead he volunteered in charities and tried to rehabilitate his image from troublemaker #1. By the end he grows up so much, taking charge and using his charisma for the greater good.

Jainan! T_T oh my goodness. I knew from the first interactions between him and Kiem that something wasn’t right. He seemed too guarded, always trying to anticipate Kiem’s needs in a very fight or flight way, always holding his tongue… He broke my heart. There is a lot of miscommunication between Jainan and Kiem, mainly because Kiem lives in a world where Domestic Violence isn’t a thing (he has no experience with it) and Jainan assumes all royalty will expect the same kind of treatment. Again, it is heartbreaking, and the moment these two finally get close enough to trust in each other what they are really thinking/feeling I shouted HALLELUYAH! It does drag along in some scenes, the same misunderstanding, but it builds in a realistic way.

While I don’t think Winter’s Orbit does a great job in the sci-fi aspect, I do think it shines when it comes to the romance and the respectful way it treats domestic abuse within a queer relationship. I felt close to the characters, both the main ones and the side characters, and wish we could maybe have another novel with Bel (Kiem/Jainan’s aide) as the MC.