Accomplished: A Georgie Darcy Novel by Amanda Quain #bookreview #YA #contemporary

Georgiana Darcy gets the Pride & Prejudice retelling she deserves in Accomplished, a sparkling contemporary YA featuring a healthy dose of marching band romance, endless banter, and Charles Bingley as a ripped frat boy.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that Georgiana Darcy should have been expelled after The Incident with Wickham Foster last year – at least if you ask any of her Pemberley Academy classmates. She may have escaped expulsion because of her family name, but she didn’t escape the disappointment of her big brother Fitz, the scorn of the entire school, or, it turns out, Wickham’s influence.

But she’s back for her junior year, and she needs to prove to everyone—Fitz, Wickham, her former friends, and maybe even herself—that she’s more than just an embarrassment to the family name. How hard can it be to become the Perfect Darcy? All she has to do is:

Rebuild her reputation with the marching band (even if it kills her)
– Forget about Wickham and his lies (no matter how tempting they still are), and
– Distract Fitz Darcy—helicopter-sibling extraordinaire—by getting him to fall in love with his classmate, Lizzie Bennet (this one might be difficult…)

Sure, it’s a complicated plan, but so is being a Darcy. With the help of her fellow bandmate, Avery, matchmaking ideas lifted straight from her favorite fanfics, and a whole lot of pancakes, Georgie is going to see every one of her plans through. But when the weight of being the Perfect Darcy comes crashing down, Georgie will have to find her own way before she loses everything permanently—including the one guy who sees her for who she really is.

I’m a Pride and Prejudice fan and a prior member of marching band, so I was excited to come across this retelling on NetGalley.

Georgie is not in a good place. During her sophomore year at Pemberley, she fell into a toxic relationship with long time crush Wickham Foster only to discover by the end of the year that he’d been dealing drugs out of her dorm room. To say brother Fitz was enraged and disappointed is an understatement. She’s lost all her friends since she ignored them and her studies while basking in the glow of Wickham’s attention. Junior year is a fresh start, and she’s determined to set things right.

After the death of their father and abandonment by their mother, Fitz and Georgie are learning how to be a family without them. As her legal guardian, Fitz assumes more of a paternal role, but Georgie misses her brother/best friend even as she continues to disappoint him. She believes Fitz is unhappy because of her, so she schemes with his best friend (and frat boy) Charles Bingley to get Fitz to fall in love with Lizzie Bennet. I loved how this retelling takes characters and places from the novel and reworks them into a modern day setting. In every scene with Fitz and Lizzie I pictured younger versions of actors Matthew Macfadyen and Keira Knightly from the 2005 movie. I couldn’t help it, and their banter was perfect.

Even with the best intentions, Georgie is met with one closed door after another while trying to set things right – her list of friends remains a short one, the honor roll is a distant dream, and the trombone section has all but frozen her out. Band was her happy place and her community, but now she doesn’t fit in there or anywhere it seems.

This is a fun modernization of Pride and Prejudice, and watching Fitz and Georgie redefine their sibling relationship was a high point for me. Georgie may stumble and make mistakes, but she realizes the importance of family and friends by the end. No one should have to go it alone.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.  Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Teen Killers In Love (Teen Killers Club #2) by Lily Sparks #bookreview #YA #thriller #TuesdayBookBlog

The Teen Killers Club is on the brink of destruction, with one faction pitted against another in a deadly game of survival. Erik and Signal are part of the group who’ve had their “kill switches” disabled, and the others are under orders to hunt them down—or meet their own demise. Now, Erik and Signal have to find a way to neutralize the others’ switches and clear Signal’s name. In the middle of a manhunt that is going viral and turning them into an internet-age Bonnie and Clyde.

Erik and Signal are both Class As—the most dangerous and manipulative criminal profile—but Erik is the ultimate Class A, with ten kills to his name and a secret in his past that will change everything.

As if being hunted down wasn’t enough, Erik is determined to get Signal admit that she loves him. But Signal is hellbent on crushing her own growing attraction.

It’s a race against time to save the Teen Killers Club from its worst nightmare—having to kill the friends they need more than ever. 

The premise of the first book in this series hooked me immediately – a camp where Class A teens, the most dangerous and manipulative criminal profiles, are trained to be assassins.

With their kill switches now disabled, Erik and Signal are on a quest for evidence that will prove Signal’s innocence. They need to move fast, because their friends from assassin camp have been dispatched to locate them. Bringing them back to camp alive may be optional. With the help of a friend, contacts on the outside, and weirdly starstruck fans, the two of them slowly make their way back to Signal’s hometown. Some pretty hefty secrets are revealed, but I’m still unsure who to believe. Luckily, there’s a third book coming that should answer my questions.

All of these teens have allegedly killed someone and been deemed unrehabilitable by a psychological test. Their lives now consist of being sent on numerous missions to assassinate designated targets until they reach their thirties (if they live that long) at which time they’ll be killed. Can’t have any loose ends out in the real world. But this group forms strong bonds and friendships with each other. Can people change? Is there good inside someone after they’ve done bad things? Are they a danger to society and themselves? Those are the questions some of these characters are asking about themselves and others.

What I could have done without was the whiplash relationship angst between Erik and Signal – mostly due to her flip-flopping indecision. She wants to be with him on one page, then changes her mind on the next. Honestly, I’m surprised Erik didn’t leave her on the side of the road somewhere. I was more invested in them finding the evidence and exposing the camp to the public.

If you enjoy government conspiracies, psychological thrillers, and lots of morally gray characters, you’ll find all that in this series.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.  Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

#AmWatching and Sci-Fi Writers’ Week

Looking for something to add to your watchlist? Hubby and I just finished the first season of an amazing series – The Old Man (thanks, Sue!). It originally aired on FX earlier this year, but we watched it on Hulu. Jeff Bridges and John Lithgow are perfect in their roles, and the story line incredibly intense. Here’s a description: Dan Chase absconded from the CIA and lives off the grid. When an assassin arrives and tries to take Chase out, the old operative learns that to ensure his future he now must reconcile his past. The FBI’s Harold Harper is called on to hunt him down because of his complicated past with the rogue fugitive. When Chase proves to be more difficult to apprehend than the authorities expected, a highly trained special ops contractor is sent to pursue him as well. 

Any Anne Rice fans out there? I’m a fan of both the book and the movie Interview With the Vampire and was momentarily delirious with excitement when I heard it would be a series on AMC this fall. It debuts October 2nd, and the trailer was recently released. Take a look.

If you’re a sci-fi writer, mark this on your calendar. Science Fiction Writers’ Week starts August 29th at ProWritingAid. The schedule is full of guest speakers and classes and includes replays. For more information click HERE.

It’s going to be a busy week around here – hope yours is a good one!

The Daughter of Doctor Moreau by Silvia Moreno-Garcia #bookreview #scifi #history

Carlota Moreau: a young woman, growing up in a distant and luxuriant estate, safe from the conflict and strife of the Yucatán peninsula. The only daughter of either a genius, or a madman.

Montgomery Laughton: a melancholic overseer with a tragic past and a propensity for alcohol. An outcast who assists Dr. Moreau with his scientific experiments, which are financed by the Lizaldes, owners of magnificent haciendas and plentiful coffers.

The hybrids: the fruits of the Doctor’s labor, destined to blindly obey their creator and remain in the shadows. A motley group of part human, part animal monstrosities.

All of them living in a perfectly balanced and static world, which is jolted by the abrupt arrival of Eduardo Lizalde, the charming and careless son of Doctor Moreau’s patron, who will unwittingly begin a dangerous chain reaction.

For Moreau keeps secrets, Carlota has questions, and in the sweltering heat of the jungle, passions may ignite.

THE DAUGHTER OF DOCTOR MOREAU is both a dazzling historical novel and a daring science fiction journey.

I’ve been anxious to read this author and have had Mexican Gothic waiting on my Kindle for far too long. When I received an ARC of Moreno-Garcia’s newest release, I knew the wait was over.

The gorgeous cover perfectly complements the vibrant descriptions of Moreau’s secluded home, Yaxaktun, and the surrounding jungle. Because of this seclusion Carlota grows up very sheltered, and the villa hosts few visitors over the years. It’s a ideal place for Moreau to carry out his unorthodox scientific experiments – experiments Moreau’s patron, Lizalde, has threatened to stop financing due to lack of results for so long. Since Carlota is now of age, it seems logical to Moreau that the solution to his problems is for her to charm Lizalde’s visiting son into marrying her. Moreau’s utmost priority is his work. If you think he sounds selfish – bullseye.

This is a character-driven novel, and although I’m a fan of that style, I struggled to like any of these characters. Carlota is stubborn and determined, but also pretty spoiled. Montgomery at least has some redeeming moments, but both are kind to the hybrids. The character discussions of ethics, humanity, and abuse of power are interesting and will certainly have you mulling over some of the points made.

I liked the blend of sci-fi and history and the setting of 19th century Mexico, and the story provides some unsettling moments along with a few surprises. But don’t go into this anticipating a briskly paced adventure story. It’s more of a languid journey than a sprint. While it’s not exactly what I’d anticipated, I enjoyed this atmospheric tale.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Just Like Home by Sarah Gailey #bookreview #suspense #paranormal

“Come home.” Vera’s mother called and Vera obeyed. In spite of their long estrangement, in spite of the memories — she’s come back to the home of a serial killer. Back to face the love she had for her father and the bodies he buried there.

Coming home is hard enough for Vera, and to make things worse, she and her mother aren’t alone. A parasitic artist has moved into the guest house out back, and is slowly stripping Vera’s childhood for spare parts. He insists that he isn’t the one leaving notes around the house in her father’s handwriting… but who else could it possibly be?

There are secrets yet undiscovered in the foundations of the notorious Crowder House. Vera must face them, and find out for herself just how deep the rot goes.

The house dripping blood on the cover first grabbed my attention, but the creepy description made me request this book. A serial killer and a possible ghost?

Vera’s mother is dying and asks her to come home. They’re estranged and for good reason – Daphne is a horrible person and doesn’t deserve to be a mother. Through two timelines, one in the present and one in the past, the reader discovers just how terrible she was to Vera when she was a child. Her father was a serial killer and without going into too much detail, let’s just say it’s had an adverse effect on Vera’s life in more ways than one. Talk about being cursed with bad parents.

From the description I assumed this would be a dark read. And it is. Some parts are brutal and disturbing, but the story is about a serial killer so that’s to be expected. What surprised me was the slow pace – almost a snail’s pace at times. I listened to the audiobook ARC, but if I’d had an ebook ARC instead I probably would have skimmed several pages.

The notes Vera finds in her father’s handwriting and whatever it is that keeps moving her bed are delightfully macabre, but the story takes a turn I never suspected. And it’s a good one. Just Like Home is a twisted tale of toxic family dynamics with a few surprises along the way. Just be prepared for the darkness.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.  Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

WWW Wednesday: What Am I Reading? #amreading

WWW Wednesday is a meme from Sam at Taking On A World Of Words

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

In my mad dash to pack and a subsequent seven hour drive last week, I didn’t have time to post a WWW. So let’s get started.

This week includes a witchy blend of urban fantasy and sci-fi, a mystery/thriller, and an epic fantasy with an ode to martial arts and magic.

I’m currently reading Blood Like Fate, the second in the Blood Like Magic series. Matriarch Voya carries a lot of responsibilities and problems on her young shoulders, and the sci-fi element futher complicates her already overcomplicated life. And what a cover!

Voya fights to save her witch community from a terrible future.

Voya Thomas may have passed her Calling to become a full-fledged witch, but the cost was higher than she’d ever imagined.

Her grandmother is gone.
Her cousin hates her.
And her family doesn’t believe that she has what it takes to lead them.

What’s more, Voya can’t let go of her feelings for Luc, sponsor son of the genius billionaire Justin Tremblay—the man that Luc believes Voya killed. Consequently, Luc wants nothing to do with her. Even her own ancestors seem to have lost faith in her. Every day Voya begs for their guidance, but her calls go unanswered.

As Voya struggles to convince everyone—herself included—that she can be a good Matriarch, she has a vision of a terrifying, deadly future. A vision that would spell the end of the Toronto witches. With a newfound sense of purpose, Voya must do whatever it takes to bring her shattered community together and stop what’s coming for them before it’s too late.

Even if it means taking down the boy she loves—who might be the mastermind behind the coming devastation.

I just finished Stay Awake. With the comp title of Memento, a movie that boggled my mind, I was anxious to read this. It kept me glued to the pages until the end, when I hit a mile high speed bump. I’d guessed the identity of the villain early on, but assumed there would be some earth-shattering reveal as to why they did it because it was completely out of character. There was no reveal, and I felt cheated.

Liv Reese wakes up in the back of a taxi with no idea where she is or how she got there. When she’s dropped off at the door of her brownstone, a stranger answers―a stranger who now lives in her apartment and forces her out in the cold. She reaches for her phone to call for help, only to discover it’s missing, and in its place is a bloodstained knife. That’s when she sees that her hands are covered in black pen, scribbled messages like graffiti on her skin: STAY AWAKE.

Two years ago, Liv was living with her best friend, dating a new man, and thriving as a successful writer for a trendy magazine. Now, she’s lost and disoriented in a New York City that looks nothing like what she remembers. Catching a glimpse of the local news, she’s horrified to see reports of a crime scene where the victim’s blood has been used to scrawl a message across a window, the same message that’s inked on her hands. What did she do last night? And why does she remember nothing from the past two years? Liv finds herself on the run for a crime she doesn’t remember committing as she tries to piece together the fragments of her life. But there’s someone who does know exactly what she did, and they’ll do anything to make her forget―permanently.

In the vein of SJ Watson’s Before I Go to Sleep and Christopher Nolan’s cult classic Memento, Megan Goldin’s Stay Awake is an electrifying novel that plays with memory and murder.

I’ve actually already started this book (about 10% into it), and I can tell it’s going to be quite a read. Stay tuned for a review!

An epic fantasy ode to martial arts and magic—the story of a spoiled hero, an exacting grandmaster, and an immortal god-king from the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Lives of Tao.

It has been foretold: A child will rise to defeat the Eternal Khan, a cruel immortal god-king, and save the kingdom.

The hero: Jian, who has been raised since birth in luxury and splendor, celebrated before he has won a single battle.

But the prophecy was wrong.

Because when Taishi, the greatest war artist of her generation, arrives to evaluate the prophesied hero, she finds a spoiled brat unprepared to face his destiny.

But the only force more powerful than fate is Taishi herself. Possessed of an iron will, a sharp tongue—and an unexpectedly soft heart—Taishi will find a way to forge Jian into the weapon and leader he needs to be in order to fulfill his legend.

What follows is a journey more wondrous than any prophecy can foresee: a story of master and student, assassin and revolutionary, of fallen gods and broken prophecies, and of a war between kingdoms, and love and friendship between deadly rivals. 

Heat Wave (The Extraordinaries #3) by TJ Klune #bookreview #urbanfantasy #superheroes #LGBTQ #TuesdayBookBlog

Nick, Seth, Gibby, and Jazz are back in action bringing justice, protection, and disaster energy to the people of Nova City.

An unexpected hero returns to Nova City and crash lands into Nick’s home, upturning his life, his family, and his understanding of what it means to be a hero in the explosive finale of the thrilling and hilarious Extraordinaries trilogy by New York Times bestselling author TJ Klune.

After listening to the first two books in this series (the narrator is perfect for these characters), I jumped with joy when I received an ARC of the final book in the trilogy. The cliffhanger book two ended on? It was a whopper.

It’s always hard to review sequels without giving away spoilers, especially the final book in a series, so this may be brief. If I could join a fictional family/found family this one would absolutely make the short list. Nick, Seth, Gibby, and Jazz have each other’s backs no matter what, and their bond is incredibly strong. Yes, their parents may be kind of embarrassing at times (Dad Squad!) and a little intrusive (dental dams), but they’d do anything for their kids and offer unconditional love and support. It’s unusual to come across a YA book where the parents play fairly large roles, but this group are integral to the plot and bring so much to the story. Aaron and Nick have one of the best father/son relationships I’ve come across in this genre. Everyone deserves parents and friends like these.

I have to give a big shoutout to supercool character Burrito Jerry! He might not be a superhero, but he does some pretty heroic things to help these characters.

Like the previous books in this series, Heat Wave is filled with wicked action scenes, a little romance, plenty of humor, and tense, nail-biting moments. The ending is bittersweet but absolutely perfect, and I’m so glad the author gave a glimpse into the future of these characters. Superheroes and villains, found family, awkward teenage moments, first love, ride or die friendships, fanfics, and laugh out loud dialogue – this series is filled with all of this and more. It’s my fifth Klune book, and he’s easily made my list of favorite authors.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.  Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

A Long Weekend and the Titanic

Hubby and I took an extended long weekend and visited family in NC and SC over the last several days (which is why I haven’t visited many of your blogs). We were able to go out on the pontoon boat (we still own a boat slip on a lake) a couple days and also reconnect with some friends. We had plans to visit other friends we haven’t seen in twenty-six years and were just getting in the car to leave for their house when I received a text saying one of them had just tested positive for Covid. Plans to meet another friend for lunch the next day were canceled after her husband tested positive. And you may remember Son #2 had Covid a few weeks ago. Seems like it’s a mild, but highly contagious strain this time around. Be careful out there!

I’ve always been fascinated with the Titanic and have watched numerous documentaries and read plenty about it. I was so excited to learn that our local library is hosting Robert Ballard, American oceanographer and marine geologist, who discovered the wreck of the Titanic in 1985. Do I have my tickets? That would be an ecstatic YES! When I asked Hubby if he wanted to go, he gave a most definitive no. When I went to book club the next night, many of them were talking about it and making plans to attend. It’s good to be surrounded by my people. It’s not until September, but I’ll let you know how it goes.

I have a lot of catching up to do, but hope you all have a great week!

Upgrade by Blake Crouch #bookreview #scifi #thriller #genetics

“You are the next step in human evolution.”

At first, Logan Ramsay isn’t sure if anything’s different. He just feels a little . . . sharper. Better able to concentrate. Better at multitasking. Reading a bit faster, memorizing better, needing less sleep. But before long, he can’t deny it: Something’s happening to his brain. To his body. He’s starting to see the world, and those around him—even those he loves most—in whole new ways.

The truth is, Logan’s genome has been hacked. And there’s a reason he’s been targeted for this upgrade. A reason that goes back decades to the darkest part of his past, and a horrific family legacy. Worse still, what’s happening to him is just the first step in a much larger plan, one that will inflict the same changes on humanity at large—at a terrifying cost.

Because of his new abilities, Logan’s the one person in the world capable of stopping what’s been set in motion. But to have a chance at winning this war, he’ll have to become something other than himself. Maybe even something other than human.

And even as he’s fighting, he can’t help wondering: what if humanity’s only hope for a future really does lie in engineering our own evolution?

Intimate in scale yet epic in scope, Upgrade is an intricately plotted, lightning-fast tale that charts one man’s thrilling transformation, even as it asks us to ponder the limits of our humanity—and our boundless potential.

I may enjoy some of Crouch’s books more than others, but he’s never disappointed me and is easily one of my auto-buy authors. I always know I’m in for a mind-bending, thrill ride of a read.

Logan Ramsay’s genius scientist mother was responsible for the starvation of two hundred million people after an engineered virus went horribly wrong. He was also on the team, and as a way of paying penance, Logan now works for the Gene Protection Agency responsible for policing gene editing. After an explosion at a raid, Logan learns his genome has been hacked. He’s received some kind of genetic upgrade resulting in him being better at, well, everything.

I won’t reveal too much to avoid spoilers, but trust me when I say you’ll feel a lack of intelligence at certain points of this novel. Crouch dives deep into genetic detail, which I didn’t completely understand of course, but I’ve always had an interest in the topic since high school biology. Although much of the science may leave you scratching your head, you’ll get the gist of what’s happening and that’s the important thing. Upgrade may be a sci-fi novel, but it focuses on real world problems and makes points that may keep you up at night.

This would be a perfect book club selection and will spark discussion about what it means to be human, the human genome, and rationality versus emotion. The story requires the reader’s full attention, and you’ll find yourself contemplating some of the ideas within it. I was thrilled at the inclusion of an epilogue, and it presents a highly thought-provoking theory that’s still bouncing around in my head.

I can’t recommend Crouch’s books enough. They’re a must for sci-fi fans, and I can’t wait for his next riveting concept.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.  Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Wake the Bones by Elizabeth Kilcoyne #bookreview #YA #horror

The sleepy little farm that Laurel Early grew up on has awakened. The woods are shifting, the soil is dead under her hands, and her bone pile just stood up and walked away.

After dropping out of college, all she wanted was to resume her life as a tobacco hand and taxidermist and try not to think about the boy she can’t help but love. Instead, a devil from her past has returned to court her, as he did her late mother years earlier. Now, Laurel must unravel her mother’s terrifying legacy and tap into her own innate magic before her future and the fate of everyone she loves is doomed.

“…her bone pile just stood up and walked away.” Tell me this sentence doesn’t intrigue you. I’ve read plenty of horror novels but can’t say I’ve come across anything quite like this.

Upon finishing this book, I turned off my Kindle, sat quietly for a few moments, then asked myself, “What did I just read?” Wake the Bones is dark, weird, imaginative, and otherworldly. Did I mention weird?

Laurel drops out of college after freshman year and returns to the family tobacco farm in rural Kentucky, a town she’d sworn to get away from. But fate has other plans for her. Raised by her uncle after her mother committed suicide when she was a baby, Laurel still struggles with the loss. Soon after returning home, her world is turned upside down when the farm…. comes alive. So do the bones Laurel has collected. Turns out her mother’s life was more complicated than she ever knew, and the thing/devil? that haunted her has now turned its sights on Laurel.

The farm itself is a living, breathing character in this novel, and there’s a connection between it and Laurel I never completely understood. The same can be said about Laurel’s magic. Not a lot of explanation is given, but it’s there and seems to be powerful. I wasn’t really a fan of hers, but her strong friendship with Isaac is one of my favorite aspects of the story. With an abusive father, he needs all the support he can get, and Laurel, her uncle, and friends Garrett and Ricky offer that. Isaac’s relationship with Garrett also won my heart.

Pacing is a little uneven, but the climactic ending moves briskly and comes with a bizarrre surprise in the epilogue that fits perfectly with the story. I may not have connected with this novel on some levels, but the atmosphere and descriptions of the farm are done to an eerie perfection. I’ll be looking for future releases by this author.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.  Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.