Blog Tour ARC Review – Thick as Thieves

Hello, everyone! Today is my turn on the blog tour for Thick as Thieves by M. J. Kuhn, which is the conclusion to the Thieves duology. Thank you to Julia McGarry at Saga Press for the invite to participate in the tour. The first book in the duology, Among Thieves, is available now, and Thick as Thieves will be published tomorrow, July 25, 2023.

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Blog Tour ARC Review – Straight Expectations

Hello, everyone! Today is my stop on TheWriteReads Ultimate Blog Tour for Straight Expectations by Calum McSwiggan. I was going to pass on this one because I have so many other queer YA books on my shelf to read, but the premise of this one really stood out to me. I decided to give it a chance, and I’m really glad I did.

Genre(s): YA, Queer, Contemporary, LGBT

Publication Date: May 4, 2023 (UK); September 5, 2023 (US)

Length: 272 pages

Goodreads Amazon (UK) Amazon (US)

The brilliant debut novel from author, presenter and LGBTQ+ advocate Calum McSwiggan!

Seventeen-year-old Max has always been out, proud and just a little spoiled. Frustrated by the lack of romantic options in his small-town high school, during an argument with his lifelong best friend Dean, Max lashes out and says he wishes he had never been born gay.

Max gets more than he bargained for when he wakes up to find his wish has come true – not only have his feelings for boys vanished, but so has Dean.

With his school life turned upside down and his relationship with his family in tatters, Max sets out on a journey of rediscovery to find a way back to the life he took for granted, and the romance he thought he’d never have.

A deliciously romantic YA debut that’s What If It’s Us and One Last Stop!

***Thank you to TheWriteReads and Penguin Books for allowing me to be part of the blog tour and for providing a copy of the book via NetGalley. My review contains my honest thoughts about my reading experience.***

I absolutely adored this fast-paced, funny, and insightful queer YA contemporary story. It explored some important and fascinating themes in an incredibly approachable and relatable way. I have no doubt many teens will love it. I know I would have at that age. The characters, themes, and unique premise came together really well to create something quite special.

There were so many lovable characters in this book. Max really did have some great friends, and the found family vibes of his group at school were wonderful to read. They were all so diverse, and I appreciated getting so many different personalities and perspectives. Each of the characters had big personas, and all of them brought something unique to the story. The story centered on Max, though, and his struggle with identifying what he wanted for his future. He was flawed in many ways. He was selfish and often acted impulsively without thinking through how those decisions would impact others. He was so wrapped up in his own trauma and fear of missing out on the ‘normal’ high school experience that he was seemingly oblivious to all the great things he already had in his life. Does this sound like a teenager yet? lol. The author did a great job of crafting the character into a relatable teen undergoing a bit of an identity crisis while also feeling uncertain of the future.

After wishing he could be normal, Max woke up straight one day. He quickly learned that being straight wasn’t as perfect as it seemed. The grass isn’t always greener, right? I loved how this premise allowed for the exploration of what it means to be queer. Despite being attracted only to girls, Max was still the same person. He learned that his sexual orientation didn’t define his entire personality but was instead only one piece, albeit an important one. He still liked and disliked all the same things, and he even figured out what he wanted to do with his life while being ‘straight Max.’ With its unique premise, the story was also able to illustrate the differences between sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression. Despite the change to his sexual orientation, Max was still interested in a lot of feminine things while also being straight. Stereotypes often link being gay with being feminine, but that’s really not true. There are plenty of super masculine queer people, as well as straight men who present with more feminine qualities or interests. This story provided the perfect opportunity to analyze many of those stereotypes, and the author did a great job with it.

I also liked the subplot involving Thomas because I think it teaches such an important lesson. Thomas was a bully in elementary/middle school and tormented Max regularly. As a result, Max developed the mentality of ‘once a homophobe, always a homophobe.’ I don’t fault Max for that because what Thomas did to him was really horrible, but putting Thomas in that box with no chance for redemption isn’t good either. People change and grow. We are not static beings and none of us are perfect all the time. Thomas’ arc showed how people can change for the better and how giving them an opportunity to do so can actually help heal some trauma. Obviously, this isn’t always the case because not everyone changes, but I found that arc cathartic to read and wish I’d had the chance to have a similar ending with some of my bullies from earlier in life. However, I do wish Thomas would have been a bit more fleshed out as a character, and I really would have loved to see a bit more of him and Max reconciling. I still enjoyed what we got, though.

I wish the book had been a little longer with a tiny bit more emphasis on the world-building. I read a ton of sci fi and fantasy, and I found myself wanting to know more about the mechanics of Max’s parallel universe. Was it actually a parallel universe? Was it a dream? What happened to the original ‘straight Max?’ I just had so many questions. lol. I know that none of that is particularly necessary for the story the author was trying to tell, but I would have liked it nonetheless. Overall, though, I really loved this book and definitely recommend it if you enjoy contemporary queer YA stories. Therefore, I rate this book 4.25 out of 5 stars.

CALUM MCSWIGGAN is an author, presenter, and LGBTQ+ advocate. He’s worked for Attitude magazine, written for the Metro, Gay Times and PinkNews, and was recently placed in the Guardian’s list of the 50 most influential LGBTQ+ figures. Putting LGBTQ+ stories at the heart of everything he does, he’s produced award- winning films that have been showcased at film festivals around the world and racked up over 10 million views on his online videos.

BBNYA Finalist Blog Tour Review – Haven

Hello, everyone! Today I’m participating in the blog tour for the BBNYA finalist, Haven by Ceril N Domace. This was one of my BBNYA reads last year, and I had a lot of fun participating as a panelist.

BBNYA is a yearly competition where book bloggers from all over the world read and score books written by indie authors, ending with 15 finalists and one overall winner.  If you are an author and wish to learn more about the BBNYA competition, you can visit the official website or Twitter @bbnya_official. BBNYA is brought to you in association with the @Foliosociety (if you love beautiful books, you NEED to check out their website!) and the book blogger support group @The_WriteReads.

Book Info & Links

Print Length: 280 Pages

Publication Date: April 30, 2021

Genre: Fantasy, Science Fantasy, Contemporary Fantasy

Age Category: Adult

Goodreads | Amazon

Book Blurb

Most people think the fae are gone. Most people are wrong.

Owen Williams wakes after a horrific car accident to find his wife is dead—and somehow turned into a gryphon—and his kids gone after a home invasion turned horribly wrong. Shattered and reeling, he vows to do whatever it takes to find them.

When a fae scout appears and promises to reunite him with his kids, he doesn’t hesitate before joining her. But she warns him that if he wants to protect his family, he must follow the fae to their city, the hidden haven of Tearmann.

With enemies on the horizon, Owen needs to set aside his fears and take up arms to defend their new home alongside the people he’s always been taught were monsters—or he’ll lose everyone he’s trying to protect.

My Review

***Thank you to BBNYA for providing a copy of the book. My review contains my honest thoughts about my reading experience.***

My thoughts on this one are mixed. I enjoyed learning about the world the author created, and the characters really tugged at my heart. However, the pace of the story was just dreadfully slow at times, and the writing wasn’t always the best. For example, I had trouble tracking what was going on in some of the action scenes.

I liked the world-building. I found the struggles of the fae to be realistic, and I was fascinated, and a bit horrified, by the process of changing that turned humans into fae. There were so many different types of fae, and I enjoyed learning about each of them. My only problem with the world-building was the delivery. It was really slow and primarily delivered via lengthy dialogue. There was so much telling happening that it felt like I was reading the slowest lecture in history. I found the information on the history of the fae in this world fascinating, but it was a huge drag on the story.

The characters and the family dynamic were the things I loved most about this story. These children grasped hold of my heart and would not let go. The entire family went through so much trauma in this story, and I was in my feelings right along with them. I also liked seeing a story about a father and his kids because it is not something I read nearly often enough. Although, the father, Owen, did get on my nerves sometimes because his characterization was really inconsistent. The text kept saying he was so worried about his kids and would never leave their sight again, and then he’d be off to some new meeting by himself in the very next scene. He made quite a few choices that left me shaking my head.

The themes related to ‘othering’ were timely and important. The story illustrated how important it is to get to know people rather than demonizing entire groups based on preconceived notions and baseless propaganda. The transition of the fae and the persecution they faced afterward reminded me of the challenges facing trans people, who are often demeaned and attacked for transitioning into their true selves. I’m not sure if it was the intention of the author, but that’s what I took away from it.

Was this book perfect? No, but I still enjoyed it. The world-building was clever despite being a bit clunky in its execution, and I would die for the children in this book. I came to love them that much. Therefore, I rate this book 3.5 out of 5 stars.

About the Author

Ceril N Domace is an accountant, the owner of the feline embodiment of violence, and a dedicated dungeon master. On the rare occasions she manages to free herself from an ever-growing and complex web of TTRPG, Ceril enjoys taking walks and griping that all her hobbies are work in disguise.

BBNYA Finalist Blog Tour Review – Mercury’s Shadow

Hello, everyone! Today I’m participating in the blog tour for the BBNYA finalist, Mercury’s Shadow by PJ Garcin. This was one of my BBNYA reads last year, and I had a lot of fun participating as a panelist.

BBNYA is a yearly competition where book bloggers from all over the world read and score books written by indie authors, ending with 15 finalists and one overall winner.  If you are an author and wish to learn more about the BBNYA competition, you can visit the official website or Twitter @bbnya_official. BBNYA is brought to you in association with the @Foliosociety (if you love beautiful books, you NEED to check out their website!) and the book blogger support group @The_WriteReads.

Book Info & Links

Publisher: Rawktron Productions

Print Length: 308 Pages

Publication Date: July 5, 2020

Genre: Science Fiction, Space Opera, Action Adventure

Age Category: Young Adult/New Adult

Goodreads | Amazon

Book Blurb

One man’s lust for power threatens the future of humanity—can a young girl from the outer system stop it all?

Imogen “Chim” Esper is thrust into the center of an interplanetary conflict when her family is torn apart by the cruel and indifferent Kardashev Corporation. Forced to run, along with her robotic best friend, Chim struggles to find her place in a society that is poised for revolutionary transformation.

The Kardashev Corporation dominates all commerce and politics in the solar system. Its megalomaniac CEO, Alton Neal, is hell-bent on transforming society by capturing the full energy output of the sun through the creation of a Dyson Swarm.

Citizens of Earth and the stations throughout the system must band together to protect access to the lifeblood of the system or risk becoming permanently enslaved to the Kardashev Corporation.

Mercury’s Shadow is a thrilling adventure that blends real science, big ideas, grand adventure and high stakes to introduce a new heroine and a deep universe that will leave readers asking for more.

My Review

***Thank you to BBNYA for providing a copy of the book. My review contains my honest thoughts about my reading experience.***

I really enjoyed this book. The prose was easy to read and engaging. There was a steady pace throughout, and I never felt bored by the story. The overall premise was interesting, and the narrative contained a good balance of systemic and personal stakes that kept me on edge for the characters.

The story was exciting with plenty of action. Although, it also had some really great personal moments, especially with Chim and her father. The plot did require a certain suspension of disbelief in regards to some of the science and the level to which the main character got wrapped up in such important events, but not enough that it completely disrupted my enjoyment of the plot. The world-building was interesting, and I found this take on the future of our solar system to be horribly relatable. I liked the themes regarding the dangers of letting one corporation have too much control, and it definitely highlighted the potential extreme consequences of that really well. I just wish maybe there had been a bit more subtlety. I also would have loved some more background on the different factions and politics of it all, especially the secret scientific consortium poised in the shadows to save the day.

The characters all had big personalities, and I liked the found family vibes the protagonist had with her friends. They made a great team, and their interactions were fun to read. I especially loved the robot! Chim’s journey was relatable and often harrowing. She was thrust into a huge conspiracy when all she wanted to do was save her father. This conflict between her personal motivations and the larger stakes at hand made her an interesting reluctant hero to follow. The villain was a bit cartoonish and over the top, though, but at least it made it easy, and fun, to root for his downfall.

Overall, I liked this book quite a bit and thought it was a good series-opener. I’d be more than happy to return to this world for more adventures. Therefore, I rate it 3.75 out of 5 stars.

About the Author

PJ Garcin has been writing stories, music and games for most of his life. He writes from the beautiful east coast of Canada where he has worked extensively in video games and technology for the past 20 years. Picking up a long running writing thread, he recently completed the first book in the Kardashev Cycle — Mercury’s Shadow.

The Kardashev Cycle follows the rise and expansion of the dominant Kardashev Corporation and its near universal control over the solar system. The first book in the series, Mercury’s Shadow, introduces the young Imogen Esper — a resourceful young girl from a mining station in the asteroid belt who finds herself caught up in an interplanetary conflict when her father is injured during a routine maintenance mission. The second book, Chimera’s Prism, continued the adventure in 2021.

PJ is a regular speaker at technology conferences on topics ranging from interactive narrative to machine learning. He has an undergrad degree in English, Rhetoric and Professional Writing as well as a Master’s degree in Communication.

He worked as Executive Producer in games on titles that sold more than 27 million units in total. He worked on large franchises such as FIFA, Madden, and Guitar Hero while helping to launch successful indie franchises like The Golf Club (now PGA Tour) and Infinite Air. He currently works as Director of Product Management for an open-source-focused SaaS company.





Blog Tour ARC Review – The Knave of Secrets

Hello, everyone! This evening I have another review as part of TheWriteReads blog tour for The Knave of Secrets by Alex Livingston. That’s right! Two blog tours in two days. I’m not gonna lie… I’ve been scrambling to get both of these done on time, but it has been a lot of fun, as well. Thank you to Rebellion Publishing and TheWriteReads for allowing me to participate! Now on to the book!

Book Info & Links

Author: Alex Livingston

Print Length: 400 pages

Publication Date: June 7, 2022

Goodreads | Amazon

Book Blurb

A twisty tale of magicians, con artists and card games, where secrets are traded and gambled like coin, for fans of The Lies of Locke Lamora and The Mask of Mirrors.

Never stake more than you can afford to lose.

When failed magician turned cardsharp Valen Quinol is given the chance to play in the Forbearance Game—the invitation-only tournament where players gamble with secrets—he can’t resist. Or refuse, for that matter, according to the petty gangster sponsoring his seat at the table. Valen beats the man he was sent to play, and wins the most valuable secret ever staked in the history of the tournament.

Now Valen and his motley crew are being hunted by thieves, gangsters, spies and wizards, all with their own reasons for wanting what’s in that envelope. It’s a game of nations where Valen doesn’t know all the rules or who all the players are, and can’t see all the moves. But he does know if the secret falls into the wrong hands, it could plunge the whole world into war…

My Review

***Thank you to TheWriteReads and Rebellion Publishing for providing a copy of the book. My review contains my honest thoughts about my reading experience.***

This was a fun read. There was tons of political intrigue, interesting magic, and intricate world-building. The writing was good, and the narrative style did a great job of setting up the tone of the world. The plot was a bit slow at times, especially in the second quarter of the book, but the excitement of the games and mysteries kept me engaged for most of it.

The world and magic system were probably my favorite things about this book. The political situation was tense, and the history of each nation was fascinating to learn about. The Seminaire brotherhood of magicians was an interesting concept, and I wish even more time had been spent on learning about their order and the magic, and secrets, they held. There was also a wealth of information about the different games of chance played by the people in this world, which I’m sure some people will appreciate. Personally, I wish more time had been spent on the magic and less on the different games. Furthermore, I enjoyed the political intrigue but found it to be quite confusing for the first half of the book because I kept losing track of whose side certain characters were on. Once some of the secrets came out, it all made more sense, but the author’s attempts at showing the different political ties in the first half without any type of primer on the world’s history/alliances really fell flat. All in all, though, the world was fascinating, and I think it has a lot of untapped potential for future stories (if the author decides to make this more than a standalone).

I liked many of the characters, but they all felt a bit two-dimensional. Valen was probably the most well-rounded, and I liked his personality. I enjoyed seeing him become an unlikely hero, and his struggle with guilt about the consequences of his gambling and cheating was probably the most compelling character arc. I also really liked getting a middle-aged protagonist, and the relationship he had with his wife was something I loved reading. They were just so supportive of each other and worked great together while attempting to build their dreams into reality. Many of the other POVs really could have been eliminated. The stories of the two ambassadors felt like filler and a way to impart knowledge about the current political situation. However, as I noted above, they only served to make me more confused, and Ria’s perspective and motivations honestly felt a bit inconsistent. In general, the characters were fun to read, though, and many of them had plenty of great moments. They just all felt a bit wooden.

Overall, this was an enjoyable read filled with interesting magic, espionage, and lots of secrets. The ideas were good even if the execution of all aspects of the story weren’t as great as I’d hoped. Therefore, I rate this book 4 out of 5 stars.

About the Author

Alex Livingston grew up in various quiet New England towns before moving to Buffalo, NY to study English at Canisius College. He writes SFF prose and interactive fiction. Alex is married and lives in an old house with his brilliant wife and a pile of aged videogame systems.