ARC Review – Jade Legacy

Hello, everyone! I’m excited to share my thoughts about Jade Legacy with you all, but it has been so hard to put it all into words. Reading this trilogy has been a truly epic adventure, and I’m quite sad it is over. I hope I’ve done it justice.

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ARC Review – If This Gets Out

Goodreads Synopsis

Eighteen-year-olds Ruben Montez and Zach Knight are two members of the boy-band Saturday, one of the biggest acts in America. Along with their bandmates, Angel Phan and Jon Braxton, the four are teen heartbreakers in front of the cameras and best friends backstage. But privately, cracks are starting to form: their once-easy rapport is straining under the pressures of fame, and Ruben confides in Zach that heโ€™s feeling smothered by managementโ€™s pressure to stay in the closet.

On a whirlwind tour through Europe, with both an unrelenting schedule and minimal supervision, Ruben and Zach come to rely on each other more and more, and their already close friendship evolves into a romance. But when they decide theyโ€™re ready to tell their fans and live freely, Zach and Ruben start to truly realize that they will never have the support of their management. How can they hold tight to each other when the whole world seems to want to come between them?

My Review

***Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing a copy of the book. All thoughts and opinions are my honest assessment and reaction to the book.***

Do you like boy bands, MM romance, and stories about fighting the system? Then you will probably love If This Gets Out as much as I did. I flew through this read and did not want to put it down. The pacing was great, and I enjoyed that the story is split up between the POVs of the two band members who discover their attraction for one another. It was interesting to see how the two of them processed the events of the book in different ways. All four of the band members were actually very well developed characters with important journeys of their own in addition to the adorable romance story-line.

This book tackled a lot of difficult and important topics that I wasn’t really expecting. Going into reading this story, I anticipated getting something like a glorified fan fiction story, which I was completely down to read. While there were some elements similar to fan fiction, this book had a weight and gravity to it that made it stand out. It shined a light on the abuses of the music industry and the ridiculous extent to which much of what we see of celebrities is a fabricated, inauthentic version of their lives. The story also highlighted some of the negative side effects of fame, including substance abuse, mental health issues, body image struggles, and the hypersexualization of teenagers. I was particularly disturbed reading the boys’ reactions to constantly being touched and photographed because I had never really stopped to think about how objectifying much of fandom culture can truly be.

Unsurprisingly, the queer rep in this story was fantastic. I especially appreciated how the bisexual character was presented. Seeing his thoughts about the struggle of coming to terms with his sexual identity was almost surreal. It was as if they plucked some of them straight from my own head. It is still weird for me when I see this type of representation because for most of my life I never saw anyone like myself (in this regard at least) in the media I consumed. So, it is still a very cathartic experience when I come across it in my reading, and I had that type of experience with this book. I particularly loved that the author took a little time to make connections between the similarities in feelings of the character toward his current romantic partner (a man) and his previous partner (a woman). It was a subtle reminder of the character’s bisexuality while also illustrating deeper issues and patterns relevant to the character. This is often something I find is missing in MM romance with a bisexual character; once with the perfect man, the bisexual character is usually that in name only with no references to attractions or feelings about women. So, I really appreciated the way it was handled here.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. The romance was adorable, and the authors tackled some heavy, compelling topics with a great cast of characters. I recommend it to anyone but especially those who enjoy MM romance and stories about exploring one’s sexual identity. I rate this book 5 out of 5 stars.

Book Review – The Darkness Outside Us

Author: Eliot Schrefer

Publication Date: June 1, 2021

Length: 416 pages

Read Date(s): June 4, 2021 – June 8, 2021

๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ

Goodreads Synopsis

Two boys, alone in space.

After the first settler on Titan trips her distress signal, neither remaining country on Earth can afford to scramble a rescue of its own, and so two sworn enemies are installed in the same spaceship.

Ambrose wakes up on the Coordinated Endeavor, with no memory of a launch. Thereโ€™s more that doesnโ€™t add up: Evidence indicates strangers have been on board, the shipโ€™s operating system is voiced by his mother, and his handsome, brooding shipmate has barricaded himself away. But nothing will stop Ambrose from making his mission succeedโ€”not when heโ€™s rescuing his own sister.

In order to survive the shipโ€™s secrets, Ambrose and Kodiak will need to work together and learn to trust one anotherโ€ฆ especially once they discover what they are truly up against. Love might be the only way to survive.

My Review

I honestly don’t think I can put into words how much I loved this book, but I’m going to give it my best shot. Reviewing this book is even more complicated by not being able to talk about anything that happens in it without ruining the reading experience. It is truly a book best read without any spoilers because experiencing the plot for the first time was a total mindf*ck. I thought I knew what this book was about going into it, but I was completely unprepared for what actually happened.

The book started out exactly as described in the synopsis. However, right away I could tell something was not quite right because of the strange formatting and early hints. The book does not have chapters, but it has multiple parts that vary in length. The first part is the longest, and it is a slow burn mystery coupled with an exploration of the relationship between the two boys. The pace of the rest of the book increases significantly after the first part, and I was so thrown by the end of the first section that I had to put the book down for a bit before continuing. The ending of the book felt a bit rushed, but I also loved how the story ended. I just wished there was more of it.

One of the main themes of this book is the importance of intimacy to feel human. This story does an excellent job of exploring this idea because it strips everything down to only two people surrounded by infinite nothingness. Seeing the progression of the relationship between Kodiak and Ambrose was a beautiful reminder of how important connection to other people is for our sanity. It was also an excellent example of how people who are very different can come together and find understanding even if they are raised to be enemies. One of my favorite quotes from the book highlights this theme of intimacy very well:

Intimacy is the only shield against insanity. Intimacy, not knowledge. Intimacy, not power.

The Darkness Outside Us, page 142

Existential crisis and the necessity of meaning in one’s life is also a major component of this novel. The story explores the effect on an individual’s psyche whenever they lose their main purpose in life. It also examines how people raised in two different cultures can respond to this loss in distinct ways. Overall, the narrative is filled with existential dread. If you don’t have at least one existential crisis while reading this book, then you aren’t human. ๐Ÿ˜‰ It just does such a great job of reducing the complex human experience down to its barest essentials and making you question whether there truly is a reason for all of it.

That was how life on Earth worked, too. People did a lot of tasks and tried to keep death as far away as possible.

The Darkness Outside Us, page 236

This book has become my top read so far of 2021. The story was so unexpectedly profound in its relationship-building, philosophy, and plot twists that I’m left thinking about it days after finishing it. I could say so much more, but that would ruin the book. So, go read it instead! I rate this book 5 out of 5 stars and cannot recommend it enough, especially for lovers of science fiction.

Have you read The Darkness Outside Us? What did you think? Let me know in the comments, but do your best to avoid spoilers.