Salutations everyone! I hope you’re staying hydrated and getting plenty of rest. Welcome to 2023, the year where I continue writing mini reviews for books that I’ve read, but never got around to writing the review for them. Today I just have three mini reviews for you. These books have been waiting to be reviewed for a while now and I’m really glad I’m finally getting around to sharing my thoughts with all of you. These reviews are ranked in order from highest star rating (5 stars) to my lowest read (2 stars). Without out any further delay, let’s jump into the reviews!
➼ Cancer Ships Aquarius by Anyta Sunday
✨ Leo Loves Aries (Signs of Love #1) ★★★★★
✨ Leo Tops Aries (Signs of Love #1.5) ★★★★★
✨ Scorpio Hates Virgo (Signs of Love #2) ★★★★★
✨ Gemini Keeps Capricorn (Signs of Love #3) ★★★★
✨ Pisces Hooks Taurus (Signs of Love #4) ★★★★
Content/Trigger Warnings: Loss of loved ones, grief, brief mentions of child abandonment, thalassophobia (fear of the ocean), anxiety, mention of heart condition & heart attack, accidental underage drinking, mentioned brief homelessness, child abuse/neglect (in the past), trauma/PTSD flashbacks
This is a far overdue review and I’m happy to say that I’m finally sitting down to give this review. This is probably my favorite book out of the whole series so far! I absolutely fell in love with this book, with the characters, and the fact that compared to all the other books in this series, this book does something the rest doesn’t give us. I ate this book up so fast and honestly, I want more books that are like this one.
Reid Glover has spent his whole life being abandoned, left in the breeze by those he cares about most. Now with his best friends moving in together, Reid finds himself once again losing his home. Desperate for cash and a place to stay until he can figures things out, he interviews for a position as a live-in manny position aboard widowed Sullivan Bell’s yacht. But things aren’t going to be that simple and thirteen-year-old Joanna doesn’t want or need a manny, but she does want to give her dad a friend, maybe even something more. This grumpy sunshine duo is about to shake up each other’s worlds!
Did you hear me? Read it again and say it really loud for those in the back… WIDOWED father of a thirteen-year-old daughter! YES PLEASE! I say this all the time, I want to see literature give us second chance romances with a single/widowed parent. I get it if authors are worried about if there’s a desire/market for that, but I’m telling you that this was every thing I love about single/widowed parent representation in literature. We have the chaos of a single parent raising a teenager, the possibility of that parent finding love, the complex layers of it all and trying to navigate a plethora of feelings… I want more! Not to mention the widowed father literally has a grumpy personality. It was everything thing. Then you throw Reid into the mix, who’s a ray of sunshine, trying to make the best of everything and trying to make everyone happy, and it’s chef’s kiss! I briefly want to talk about Joanna too because I think her representation is just as important to highlight. Joanna is adopted and though it’s a bit of a very subtle thing on the side in the story, Joanna is navigating a whole bunch of complex feelings right along with her father. We not only see the typical teenager stuff like school and relationships, but we see more glimpses of other things from her. And I just wanted to mention how much her character stole my heart.
“Sometimes we explode in anger, sadness, frustration with little to no warning. Feelings are messy, Sullivan. Expressing them can’t always be measured.”
Also, we get some fantastic grief representation throughout this book. I think this story really did a fantastic job at highlighting how grief manifests differently in different people of various ages. All three of our characters are dealing with different forms of grief and they’re highlighted throughout this book beautifully. This was one of the major things that really made me fall in love with this book. In my opinion, I think the author handled the grief representation really well, showed how messy and chaotic grief can be, shows that no matter how much time passes, grief never really leaves us even when we’re healing it still lingers, and shows how grief is different for each person. It was just really beautiful and for some reason, made my heart really full.
Overall, I don’t really have anything bad to say about this book and I honestly don’t want to say too much because it’s just that good. I want you to read it for yourself and decide if you like it or not. I will say, I think you could read this book by itself, but there are cameos from other characters from the previous books and I think it’s more fulfilling to read this after you read the first four in the series. But trust me, it’s really good especially if you’re someone who loves the grumpy sunshine romance dynamic.
➼ Titan (Romancing His Stone #1) by Jillian Graves
Buddy Read with Destiny ♥
Content/Trigger Warnings: Explicit dom/sub interactions, financial abusive parent relationship, mentions and threats of conservatorship, acrophobia (fear of heights), vague scenes of sexual harassment, harassment, assault, graphic violence, stalking, depictions of blood
Well, this is embarrassing. Not embarrassing by the fact that I read this book and reviewing it, but the fact that in the time since finishing this book, I have been teeter-totting on my feelings with this book. Which, let’s be honest, is why I haven’t taken it upon myself to write this review… until now. Honestly, I had originally rated this a lot higher because I was so caught up in the fast pace of this book. However, once the dust settled and I came down off the rush, my feelings were on a fast decline. I was really excited about a gargoyle romance especially when you start reading this book and it feels like Gargoyles fanfiction. This novella didn’t turn out the way I had hoped or even the way I initially thought I felt.
Titan is on a mission to recover the Keystone, a precious artifact to the gargoyles and all Strange (what paranormal creatures are called in this world). When he meets Jules on a stake out one night, both of their worlds will soon collide. Jules will be thrown into a world of the paranormal, where monsters she thought were once fantasy, actually exist and Titan will discover a pull unlike any other even more noticeable than the pull he has for the Keystone. Nothing will ever be the same again.
Look, the first part of this book was really fun. I love when a character who’s has to constantly be on the alert, in constant survival mode, gets to take their hair down and enjoy life a little. I also love that we get a lot of consent and respectfulness of boundaries in the bedroom. Fantastic, I love to see consent and boundaries being taken seriously. I also really liked how Titan was angry for Jules when no one else was and genuinely wanted to help Jules. Also, I thought the chemistry between the two main characters was really good in the beginning. And all of that combined made for a really fun, good time to be had for my reading experience, in the beginning.
Sadly, this is the extent of good things I have to say. Honestly, I feel like I’m still being generous and I think it’s just due to this being a gargoyle romance. Things really started to fall to pieces for the remaining three quarters of the book. The pacing of the book picks up pretty quickly and it’s very easy to get swept up in the rush. Which is exactly what happened to me.
While Titan was respectful of Julianne in the bedroom, that was the full extent of the respect for boundaries we see. Titan fully disregards Jules’ wishes and boundaries constantly any other time. I don’t know about anyone else, but I love when my boundaries are respected 24/7. This boiled my blood and even more so when we find out everything that Jules is going through, and why she does things the way she does. I was really upset that consent and boundaries were basically thrown out the window, and didn’t matter if it wasn’t in the bedroom. Boundaries aren’t a piece of clothing that you can take on and off. Boundaries are something that should be respected at all times.
On the topic of boundaries, this applies to one scene in particular that I thought had no place being in the book and actually messed up the entire vibe of the book in general. This part in particular ended up leaving a really bad taste in my mouth because it genuinely felt so… unnecessary. We have a scene where Titan not only fully disregards Jules’ request to stay out of it, don’t do anything reckless, but it’s a scene of full assault to someone from Jules’ life that hurt her. This completely took me out of the storyline, took me out of the romance, and it was in that moment that I really didn’t care what happened to Titan. Titan could have been killed off and I wouldn’t even bat an eye because any ounce of interest I had was thrown out the widow the minute the author decided to add an unnecessary, graphically violent scene of assault into the book. Not to mention, this scene didn’t even tie in with the main storyline and the author really wrote Titan in the aftermath as doing Jules a kindness. No, NO, this was not a kindness and this scene never had to happen in the first place.
With all that aside, the main leads of our story become almost unbearable by the end of the book. Jules constantly takes on a petty, childish tone and personality where she’s literally doing shit to piss Titan off or doesn’t even try to have a proper conversation when Titan does something she’s not okay with. As I already mentioned, Titan really started to really annoy me and piss me off. In the beginning his character wasn’t terrible, but by halfway through, he was just becoming overly aggressive or even passive aggressive at some points, and I’m not a fan of that kind of behavior. By the end of this book, I genuinely didn’t care what would happen to either of them because I was so annoyed by how they were acting more childish than like adults.
Overall, I wanted to love this so much and I think my desire of wanting a gargoyle romance for so long really shadowed how I felt about this book, and showed the many notes taken on issues I was having with it. This book could have been everything for my gargoyle loving heart and it just fell short in so many ways. I think if you’re someone who values boundaries a lot, you’re not going to enjoy this book. Honestly, you can find books that value boundaries a lot better, with characters in many other adult romance books than this one. If you’re just someone looking for a fast read or a potential fun time, then give this a try and see how you feel, but personally I wouldn’t recommend for any other reason.
➼ The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix
Buddy with Destiny ♥
Content/Trigger Warnings: Mentions of misogyny, mentions of bullying, gore, blood, violence, graphic injuries, dead animals, graphic animal deaths, mentions of animal abuse, mentions of burying someone alive, mentions of kidnapping, brief mentions of a miscarriage, alcoholism, brief mentions of a hanging (in the past), loss of loved ones, scene of attempted suicide, scene of overdosing, scenes of emesis, nudity, talk of rape, mentions of domestic violence, mentions of racism, scenes of gaslighting
Okay, okay… This has been the review I have been DREADING. Let me make this clear, this is not a bad book, but this wasn’t my cup of tea, I’m definitely not the targeted audience for this specific horror, and that’s perfectly okay. I’m stating all of this because reasons (don’t ask). Truly though, there’s nothing wrong with this book. I think I just wanted more of certain things when it comes to my horror and instead of getting just that, I got something else entirely that just left me unsatisfied and frustrated.
We follow Patricia Campbell, who’s dreamed of having a big life, but that’s not how things turned out. After leaving her career as a nurse to marry an ambitious doctor and become a stay at home mother, Patricia is left with a void in her life. With a husband is distant and too busy for her and their children, two kids who are ungrateful and don’t appreciate her, and a never ending to-do list, Patricia feels like she’s drowning. The only thing that makes things a little more tolerable is her book club, a group of Charleston mothers united only by their love for true-crime and suspenseful fiction. However, when strange events begin to happen and children start to go missing, every thing seems to point to the mysterious stranger who just moved to town. What will be uncovered will be much more terrifying and Patricia and her book club might be the only thing to stop it.
“it made no sense, but sometimes you did a thing because that was just what you did, not because it was sensible.”
I’m not even sure how to even begin unpacking this review. I guess we’ll start with our villain of the book, James. I loved that the author wasn’t afraid to take the iconic vampire and reimagine it into a serial killer. I think being able to take iconic monsters and reimagine them into modern day monsters can be a great way to breathe life into them. Then have the vampire cross paths with those in a book club who read mostly true crime, mystery, sci-fi books… Who wouldn’t be invested and waiting to see the chaos explode everywhere? It was one of the most intriguing, attention captivating things about this whole book. James character as a whole was incredibly impactful and the scenes we get him, you felt how cunning and manipulative he was. You felt the power in those really intense scenes. It was really well done.
Out of all the characters in this book, thank you Mrs. Greene for existing because any scene with her was fantastic! I loved how much of a spitfire Mrs. Greene was and wasn’t afraid of calling people out. Tie that with how she’s the only one who knows what’s going on and cares enough that she’s been trying for a hot minute to do something about the missing children. I just really enjoyed her character and maybe it’s because there’s a part of me that felt connected to her or understands her better than all the other characters we’re given. She was a gem and I adored her.
“These false prophets come wandering into town, take hold of your mind, and lead you down a primrose path… People fall for honeyed words.”
Those are the only things I can actively remember enjoying. From the time I finished this book to the time of writing this review, those were the only good things that I still think about and remember vividly to this very moment. Everything else in this book was a struggle horrendous struggle. If I’m being really honest, I pushed myself to finished this book because I desperately wanted to love it, to have the experience other readers were having when they said how amazing this book was, and I think the fear of missing out really impacted how burned out I got trying to read through this book.
I think the thing I struggled the most with this book was the pacing. For me, the pacing felt incredibly off. It would start out slow, have an action packed scene that picked up the pace, and then the pace would slow down again. Typically when I read my books, I want an out of the gate fast pace or I want that slow build into a faster pace trickling into a slow, smooth end. This book was neither of those paces. So that really hindered me with the reading. And I think the overuse of details really bogged that pacing as well. There were many chapters where things felt like they were being dragging out. Not necessarily due to details, but just the way some of the some of the moments were built. It was like trying to run through quick sand for me.
I also struggled caring about the characters like Patricia and the rest of the book club. While I thought they were all unique in their own ways and how close they were, having each other’s backs, I just didn’t care what happened to them. Patricia was the hardest character to like (and this goes back into what I said earlier about how Mrs. Greene’s perspective would have been better) because there was nothing there that allowed me to connect with her. I simply didn’t care and it was that way for all of them. They were all interesting in their own way and it was great to see their personalities come together, but I just didn’t care whether any of them lived or died.
I think my biggest issue with this book is the way mental health and rape are handled. I don’t see anyone talking about this in their reviews and so I thought I’d like to throw my two cents into the ring. As someone who has experience with both of these topics. My issue isn’t with the fact that the author writes about how women were treated in the mid-late 1800s when it came to the main character and side characters acting independent or speaking up (you know, the era when women could be committed into asylums for breaking the social norm). My issue is the fact the author thought it was necessary to add in an attempted suicide for shock value, a means to push the story along into a future tense, and then to add salt to injury, have an entire scene near the end of the book where the main character is basically gaslight for how everything played out. That’s my issue. The same issues also tie in with the fact the author uses rape as a plot device and for shock value. Look, I don’t mind shock value for a lot of things, but you know, I would have preferred the character to be killed off quickly than have that whole scene happen and then be dragged out over chapters, having it be kept a secret, and then for things to turn out the way they did. When I say I’m left angry, speechless, and heartbroken that we’re still living in an age where instead of writing about these topics to address or call out the still standing problems of the healthcare system and the social problems for these two topics, that we’re using them as plot devices in a non-constructive way (these didn’t even need to be in the book in the first place). What more can I say except this just wasn’t it. These didn’t need to be included in this book and yet an active choice was made, and it wasn’t a good one.
Also, I want to add this little note that I had expected a lot more from this book. I was expecting to feel a lot more dread, a lot more sense of impending doom, and more gore and death. However, that was not the case. I spent the majority of the book wondering and expecting to feel something, but it just never happened and it was a bit of a disappointment.
Overall, I’m just going to wrap up this review here. Writing this review has felt very tedious and mentally draining. Again, I chalk this up as not the intended audience or not the book for me. So take my review with a grain of salt. I’m just one voice in the sea of voices. I think this book had the opportunity to be many things, but unfortunately it fell short on so many things for me. I think if you like this author’s writing and other books to give this book a chance, and see how you feel.
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