Book Review: Bound (2021)

two hands holding out a book and flipping through the pages, text says, 'Book review: indie book spotlight'

Bound by Kat Kinney

“What matters is intent. I feel you beneath my skin, know how you’ve tortured yourself all these years to make sure you wouldn’t hurt another person. Your magic can do terrible things, but you would never let it. You aren’t like the others. You saved me. Every day I live is a gift because the vampires nearly destroyed my mind, and in that terrible second, when I was convinced I couldn’t live with the pain any longer, you didn’t let go.”

Gif from Shadowhunters of Alec, large tattoo on his neck, kissing Magnus.

OH THESE TWO.

Stephen Colbert dramatically fake crying and waving his hands, text says: 'I just feel like my heart is going to burst because it's full of rainbows.'

Okay, so total confession – I skipped book two. Which, of course, I’m now going to circle back to because book three was FABU and I totally want to catch up on the other characters and couples and DRAMAS. Book three was put forward for #IndiePride, though, so I wanted to dive straight in as I’m trying to read as many books for #IndiePride as I can.

>> My review of book one, Dark, is here. I really enjoyed that one, but I think I loved Bound a small bit more! West and Topher were just so HEART EYES the whole way through and I want more of their story. My goodness, Kat Kinney really knows how to write tension and angst and longing.

“Don’t.” West inhaled sharply. “I can’t breathe when you look at me like that.”

As much as I loved every interaction between West and Topher, I also adored Topher’s determination to find his brother. Just, YES. Loved it. Chef’s kiss. Hats off. I really hope we get more of the brothers in later books because I feel like there is so much to develop on that front and I want to know more!

West’s turmoil was so well done, too. The focus on his inner conflict was wonderfully executed and I simply adored him. (I’m trying not to spoil here~). I’ve got to circle back to book two next, and then on to book four, because after Bound’s ending I have QUESTIONS and EXPECTATIONS. I also have a lot of ships I want actualised.

gif from New Girl, Schmidt is beside Winston saying 'Gimme it!'

Book Review: The Goddess of Nothing At All (2021)

hands holding open a book and flipping through the pages; text says, 'book review: indie book spotlight'

The Goddess of Nothing At All by Cat Rector

A couple of wolves were hardly going to stop me.

gif of a woman in furs smirking

This hardback is absolutely gorgeous, oh my goodness! It feels nice in your hands. Is that a strange thing to say about a book? I don’t care, it’s true! This hardback has a soft cover and it’s so pretty and I was in love with the book before I even opened it. And you just know a book is going to be good when it opens with a quote from Libba Bray (a writing queen, tbh).

SPOILER WARNING

A Jotun. Tall and lean, his open palm full of wildfire. It was him. It had to be […] The Trickster’s gaze travelled to the bloodstain on my trousers and back to my eyes. “Let’s end this, shall we?” His voice was low and coy, a small smirk on his lips.

gif of Loki throwing a blade and hitting an enemy target

The Goddess of Nothing At All tells Sigyn and Loki’s story. BRING. IT. ON. Their first meeting is just *chef’s kiss*. Loki is such a fun character, right from the start. Watching him run circles of thievery around Sigyn had me giggling.

Their ‘family’ in Asgard really frustrated me, though. Not that they weren’t well written, they absolutely were, they were just such jerks. I say ‘family’, cos everyone from Odin to Sif were so endlessly dismissive, antagonistic and cruel to both Sigyn and Loki. I really appreciated Loki’s resistance to everyone’s scorn, but Sigyn’s longing to be needed and approved of by the others made me growl internally a few times. I understand why, like, it makes sense for her characterisation – she’s always been pushed aside and forgotten about and dismissed – and I’m glad she slowly stopped caring so much as the book went on and her confidence grew, but there were a lot of moments early on where I wanted to be like GURL WHY DO YOU CARE WHAT ODIN THINKS?? HE’S BEING SUCH AN ARSEHOLE JUST DO YOUR OWN THING!! And then Thor just flipping on a dime and turning against Loki also really bothered me cos I was hoping Thor was going to have Loki’s back ;_;

gif of Loki saying, 'You had one job.'

I’m glad Loki couldn’t have given a toss about anyone’s derision, but I did feel so bad for him for basically all of it. JUSTICE FOR LOKI!!!

I was delighted when Sigyn finally lost her shit.

“I know that Sif said things to Loki that we’d have strung anyone else from the rafters for saying. If it weren’t for him, you wouldn’t have your hammer, or your spear, or your godsforsaken shiny boar. You talk about his morality, but the only person in this room with a clean conscience is Idunn. I know the lies of more than half of you, and each of you either smells like your secret lover or has blood under your nails.”

gif of a woman dressed in medieval clothing stabbing her knife into a table covered in goblets, grapes and a candle

YAS GIRL GO

And it was really frustrating for Thor and the others to flipflop so often where it concerned Loki and Sigyn. I really struggled to like any of them because they were just so cruel and unforgiving.

The scenes with Sigyn and Loki caring for each other were lovely, though, and I’m glad the romance didn’t take forever between them to blossom. I like slow burn, but I am also an impatient shipper and start drawing heart eyes around the characters from the get-go with some couples, so my shipper heart squealed at their romance.

SUCH PRECIOUS MUFFINS \o/

gif of a man and a woman kissing

It must also be said that the writing in this book is lush. Descriptive. Enthralling. It is certainly an exceptional debut novel.

Flowers blossom most thoroughly when given time, affection, and kindness. This is, I suspect, true for most things in life.

This book totally took me by surprise, I must say. I wasn’t anticipating the scope of the tale and so many of the twists, that’s for sure. I think I’m so used to first books in a series being just, like, the start of a romance, that I didn’t anticipate how much more of the story would come after Loki and Sigyn’s love story began, blossomed and became something so much more. The sheer breadth of the The Goddess of Nothing At All reminds me of earlier epic fantasy books (like, 1970s-1980s fantasy) – and I totally mean that as a compliment. This is a tale that span years, generations, parents, and their children and beyond.

Rector weaves a deeply intricate tale herein of family, love, loss, survival, endurance and so much else besides. There are *so many* unexpected wrenches thrown into the lovers’ paths to trip them up and tear that apart (I was *not* expecting Loki’s reveal to Sigyn after his long absence at one point ;_;). I amn’t as familiar with Norse mythology as I’d like, but seeing how intricately Rector incorporates all the legends, figures, descendants and locations just left me in awe. I honestly could not have guessed some of the reveals, so hats off to the author! It’s great when a novel can totally surprise you! I’m very curious to see how Epilogues for Lost Gods turns out!

Thank you so much to the author for a review copy.

Book Review: The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea (2022)

a girl in the forest wearing big headphones, black and white photo; text says 'audiobook review'

The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea by Axie Oh

“Every being has a soul.”

What a romantic, dreamlike fairy tale!

Move over Little Mermaid, I have a new favourite under the sea fairy tale. The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea is based upon the Korean tale, The Tale of Shim Cheong. Now, I’m not familiar with the original tale, so I don’t know how much this aligns or diverts, but I must say this story is simply delightful. Listening to the audiobook (I recommend the audiobook completely!) is like watching a cosy animated film in your mind. A lot of reviews have mentioned Studio Ghibli vibes, and I totally get the vibes from that, too. Or perhaps like a Disney Princess tale. It’s a book that feels colourful, if you get me. It’s a little bit Little Mermaid and a little bit Howl’s Moving Castle and maybe a little bit of Ever After and The Chronicles of Narnia and Atlantis. It’s wholly it’s own, it’s wholly beautiful and enchanting, but it feels familiar. A tale that’s bright and romantic and kind. I definitely think I will be revisiting this one. Like all good fairy tales, it deserves multiple reads.

“I am like the other brides. I know what it is to love someone you would do anything to protect. Who are you to say what my fate is—if I am to fail, or if I am to succeed? My fate is not yours to decide. My fate belongs to me.”

Mina and Shin are adorable and precious, and I really liked Kirin and Namgi, too! Honestly, the whole cast of characters are great! But Mina cares so much and I just loved her \o/ What a good person. Truly. Her indignation at the treatment of those she encounters was so raw and I appreciated her characterisation so much. It’s hard to get all the great quotes down when you’re listening to the audiobook, but there were some just jaw-droppingly good lines about Mina’s morals and I just totally became her cheerleader.

Don’t chase fate, Mina. Let fate chase you.

THIS WHOLE BOOK IS JUST WHOLESOME AND LUSH AND LOVELY 🖤🖤🖤 If you haven’t added it to your reading list, absolutely do!

Author Interview: Ellie Lieberman

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Follow Ellie Lieberman on Twitter!

1.      Paperback, hardback, audiobook?

As an author. Yes. To them all.

As a reader, paperbacks are generally my go-to. After countless moves, hardbacks can be a nightmare when trying to pack nicely. There are some beautiful hardbacks, and I have kept my all-time favorites, including a masterpiece edition of one of my favorite books, Les Misérables, that my boyfriend gave me for Christmas one year. There’s a new trend by publishers to put out a hardcover before paperbacks for newer books, and my Alix Harrow books that I adore are both hardbacks because I cannot wait to read her brilliant work. Being a starving author and artist, more often than not, a lot of my personal library is made up of second-hand paperbacks.

Audiobooks are amazing for a number of reasons. They can be great in terms of accessibility for a number of readers. I, however, have a processing disorder that make things like audiobooks close to impossible for me to enjoy. That being said, there have been a few I’ve listened to from books very near and dear to my heart, like To Miss the Star by Barbara Lieberman, that I could listen to time and time again.

2.      Pick a genre, any genre!

I always struggle with genre. My reading habits tend to be all over the place. It’s sometimes easier to pinpoint what I don’t like. Some of my favorite books as a reader include banned and challenged books. I tend to gravitate toward historical fiction, but I have also loved fantasy books. Genre isn’t always something I look at for a deciding factor, though I do tend to stay far away from horror, just because I struggle enough with sleeping without any added help. I’m more of a “tell me it’s a good book and why.”

The same is true for me for writing. Though, there is an idea I have that involves a horror element to it. Generally, I only pay attention to genre when I have to, in terms of what categories to put the book in when publishing on Amazon and for marketing.

3.      What is the first book you remember reading?

My childhood was always full of books, from packed shelves decorating the home (to this day, I find well-loved books to be the best home décor), to trips to the library and Barnes & Noble. Books were always part of the bedtime routine, they shaped some beloved family traditions, and, to add to this literary wonderland of my childhood, my mother was a writer and regaled me at night with the tales she’d typed earlier that day. This makes it hard to pin-point the very first book.

I remember one of my all-time favorites growing up was My Mama Had a Dancing Heart by Libba Moore Gray. I still have my hardback copy (the spine has a tear and it’s seen better days, but it’s survived multiple moves, including one across the country). It’s still part of my family’s lexicon.

Anne of Green Gable by L.M. Montgomery was one of those books that was just always around. My love of this series was passed down from my grandmother (still have her copy with her name written in it) and my mother.

One of the books that was included in a family tradition was The Birthday Moon by Lois Duncan. This was a book we originally got from the library. We loved it so much my mother wound up paying the library for it since it was out of print, and she could find a copy nowhere else. To this day, we read this book on everyone’s birthday.

These are just the first three that come to mind.

4.      What book shaped your childhood most?

I recently wrote a blog about the books that shaped my life on my author website. To summarize that blog, along with the three previously mentioned, other books that shaped my childhood include Treasure of Ravenwood by Barbara Lieberman (My mother’s book! I became an author at her keyboard, listening to this book come into being!), Go Ask Alice by Anonymous (5th grade, given to me by my mother, much to the horror of my teacher), and I Am a Emotional Creature by Eve Ensler (once more, given to me by my mother, and one of the only books that got me through 8th grade).

5.      When did you first start writing?

This is something else I wrote about on my blog and on Vocal. My mother says I started writing as soon as I could hold a crayon and that I learned to write, to write down my stories. I remember always telling stories. On car rides with my grandfather, I’d begin a story when the keys went into the ignition and finish my story by the time we pulled up to our destination. I remember using my drawing pads and notebooks to draw a picture and write a story to go along with it. I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember.

6.      What made you want to write? Does it still hold true?

My mother always said that I learned to write, to write down my stories. I come from a family of story tellers and writers. It feels like a gift that was handed down to me to do with as I wish, and I’ve just been running with it. I write because I have stories to tell, and I love telling them.

7.      What book/poem are you most proud of creating?

At the moment, I’m most proud of my most recent novel, Be. As I say in the acknowledgements, “Fourteen years and two banker’s boxes full of notebooks and binders and countless rewrites and manuscripts devoured by the computer gods and lost to time …” It took quite a bit of perseverance to have it see the light of day, and it is the story that has not only been with me the longest, but sparked an entire series, including two companion short story collections.

The prequel, An Impossible Dream, will be coming out later this year.

8.      Did you publish your first book or is it for your eyes only?

Having written for as long as I have, there have been quite a few stories that will never see the light of day. Certain stories, like my most recent novel, Be, have been with me for fourteen years before publishing.

9.      How many books/collections have you published so far?

I have eleven books published so far. As of right now, this includes six illustrated children’s books, a few from two different series (I do my own illustrations); four short stories; and a novel (first in a series).

More of my writing can be found on Vocal.media, as well as in Re-Membering with Goddess: Healing the Patriarchal Perpetuation of Trauma.

10.   What genres do you write in (or hope to)?

My current genres kind of run the gambit from illustrated children’s to children’s chapter books, short stories, holiday, dystopian, fantasy, contemporary YA, and I’m calling my novel Literary Fiction, mostly because I can’t figure out what other genre it might be.

Future genres include a sort of time-travel and a mystery/horror. I’d love to write historical fiction at some point, too.

11.   Do you do research for your writing or is it all in your head?

Both. The majority of my writing is all in my head. I find completely fictional settings easier to write. I’d love to try my hand at historical fiction, but I find tackling a real setting to be daunting for fear of what I might accidentally get wrong. That being said, I do a lot of weird and interesting research for my books, like when doorknobs were first invented to make sure it makes sense for a more medieval time period.

I tend to love research and looking things up when questions occur to me anyway, and knowledge from those interests tend to spill over into my writing, like plants and gardening. Questions I have come from everyday activities like cooking, for example. Regardless, if it’s intended for my writing, I like to look it up anyway.

My family has always encouraged endless learning and fostered curiosity. We joke around that my mother is a fount of useless information. My boyfriend, too, has a lot of “did you knows” in his pocket. So, while I research for my books, often times it’s research I’ve done on my own that winds up inspiring different things in my books, too. It’s a lovely cycle.

The majority of my research is probably for my children’s books, though. One of my children’s books series, Basil Basset Books, is about word origins or origins of idioms, as is the case for the upcoming third book in that series. The first two are about “butterfly” and “dandelion,” and the back of the book also includes facts about those themes. The same is true for my Ben’s Little Book Series, which teach important lessons about the little, but important, things in life through the garden, plants, and nature.

12.   To plan, or not to plan your plot?

I am a complete pantser. I write what comes, and then I quilt all the random scenes together.

That being said, the series I’m currently working on jumps around a bit between book order and overall story timeline. This requires me to keep more notes of when things happen. It still doesn’t quite feel like plotting, probably because I’m writing multiple books in the series at the same time, but it is a shift in my writing method.

13.   What route of publishing have you chosen? Do you plan to stick with it?

I self-publish my books. One of my newest writings is in the Re-Membering with Goddess: Dismantling the Patriarchal Perpetuation of Trauma anthology, published by the small press, Girl God Books. Going forward, I will probably stick with self-publishing. If a small or big press want to pick up my books, though, I’d be happy to discuss the opportunity with them!

14.   If you could live inside another author’s universe, which one would you pick? (Ex: Middle Earth, Narnia, etc.)

This is such a difficult question because, while there are so many cool worlds authors have created, I kind of like being able to return to my universe after a bit. I’m probably overthinking the question.

My first immediate thought is not so much a different universe as a setting in a historical fiction. In Barbara Lieberman’s book To Miss The Stars, I’d love to live in Emma Marsden’s garden. The second thought is from the book I’m currently reading, The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern. I’m not that far into the book yet, but the sort of library that is The Starless Sea sounds like it would be incredible to explore. Or the witch’s home in The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill.

15.   Do you currently have a WIP?

My current WIP is An Impossible Dream. It is the prequel to the novel I published last year, Be. An Impossible Dream is the story of a character mentioned in Be and follows the brother’s love interest, Sare, from when she first enters the castle to a little after Be takes place.

Here’s the working blurb: A story of friendship, love, survival, and dreams, even when they seem impossible.

Sare survived fifteen years playing the perfect little servant, but can she survive the castle? After all, as Elsbie tells her, “Nowhere compares to the castle and no one compares to the King.”

16.   Tell me about the character you’ve created who is dearest to your heart.

I could no sooner choose a favorite book. Each character feels real and unique to me and has a special place in my heart. It would feel wrong to pick a favorite, and I’d be terrified those whose feelings might get hurt will stop talking to me and I still have two more books in the series and a short story collection after my current WIP. Even those standalone books that are already published are full of characters I love equally. I adore them all too much to choose one. They are all precious and deserve much more love than they find at the mercy of me as their author.

17.   What do you consider your *current* magnum opus?

My most popular books among my readers seem to be Society’s Foundlings and The Memory Tree. My children’s books, especially The Butter Thief, are well loved. However, I’d consider my current magnum opus to be the series I’m currently working on, beginning with my most recent novel, Be.

Part of this might be just how expansive the world of Be has become. That first book was fourteen years in the making and I never intended for it to be a series, let alone grow into what is currently four books, a companion short story collection, and a collection of fairy tales. When the world first came to me, it had two kingdoms at most. Now, I know there are at least five, with at least one more potential kingdom overseas. Be takes place over the course of less than a year. The prequel coming out sometime later this year, An Impossible Dream, takes place over the course of six years. The third book, which is a sort of prequel of the prequel, takes place over the course of seventeen years.

That’s just the setting itself. The cast of characters has grown by leaps and bounds with more randomly walking on every once in a while. With how much larger it is, it feels like a big deal, and I’m in love with the overall stories that come from it.

I’ve always heard that a writer should grow with each work. Each book should be better than the one previously. If that’s true, then the Be series will probably be my magnum opus for a few more years to come, too.

18.   Do you have a favourite romance in your books? Or, if yours features no romance, tell us about your favourite character friendship!

I tend to write friendship more than romance, though my newest book series, does feature a number of romantic relationships that I’m a big fan of. In my book Be, this relationship is only mentioned, but is explored in the upcoming books, including the prequel, An Impossible Dream. Sare and Fra’s relationship is a fairy tale amidst terror, love in the face of cruelty. I have a thing for endearing romances, the kinds that are sweet and somewhat bumbling. I had a lot of fun writing them.

As for friendship, in An Impossible Dream, I enjoy the friendship between Sare and the four girls who become like family. They’re the kind of friends who love each other through the good, the fun, the hard, and the ugly. In Be, I love Henry and Ari’s friendship. I like the way it develops through the story. I enjoy Math and Clem from Society’s Foundlings. As the characters reflect in the book, “One thing you can always count on is Math and Clem. You can’t have one without the other. They’ve always been friends for as long as any of us can remember.”

19.   Do you listen to music as you write? Recommend a favourite writing song.

Absolutely! They can help get me in the mood and often my mom – my alpha reader – and I assign songs to certain characters. There’s many, many songs on my playlist for my books, but just one singer/songwriter in particular that seems to always capture my characters is Beth Crowley. Songs like ‘I Didn’t Ask For This’, ‘Hard to Kill’, ‘I Am Not Nothing’, and ‘Worth It’, I always associate with Ari from my novel, Be.

One song in particular that captures a character introduced in my upcoming novel, Gracelynn,  is ‘She Used to Be Mine’ by Sara Bareilles.

20.   Do you have any character art for your books, whether by you or another artist? (Be sure to credit/link if you can!)

I did a couple quick doodles of my characters for my novel, Be. I combined them with quotes from or about the characters for a sticker set that is available in my Etsy Shop.

Not character art, but my first ever fan art was from The Enchanted Wren. She did an original 3D miniature paper art scene of The Queen’s Room that is an important setting for all four books in the series. She wrote a blog about it, too.

I highly encourage fanart of my work and would be so honored if my books could speak that much to a reader! If anyone were to make fanart of my books, I’d love to be tagged and to know and to share it with much gushing through an obscene amount of exclamation points and emojis!

21.   If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring author, what would it be?

There’s three pieces of advice that helped me greatly as an author, but if I only have to pick one it is to take all advice with a grain of salt. Take what works. Leave what doesn’t. Everyone will have something to say. It’s up to you, as the author, to find what works best for you. There’s no one right way.

22.   Have you entered any writer contests? Tell us about your experience!

I have entered a few writing contests, with little success. I enjoy participating in the writing challenges on Vocal. One of their biggest challenges and competitions last year I made runner up, which was pretty exciting.

23.   Who are your top 5-10 favourite writers?

Alix E. Harrow
Andrea Gibson
Barbara Lieberman
Evangeline Duran Fuentes
Ray Bradbury
Danielle Dulsky
Kurt Vonnegut
Jane Austen

Just to name a few of the first ones that have popped into my head!

24.   Link us your book/twitter/goodreads or wherever we can best connect with you!

You can find all my links available on my Linktr.ee, including Amazon, Goodreads, signed copies in my Etsy Shop, Vocal, my websites, and all of my social media.

Comic Book Review: Moon Knight, Volume 1: The Bottom (2007)

yellow and red background, with paint like splatter over a dotted yellow and black wall; text says 'comic review'

Moon Knight, Volume 1: The Bottom by Charlie Huston

Still, the answer is the same. How could I live any other way?

The show definitely sparked my interest. I’ve been reading more and more comics and graphic novels, but Moon Knight is a new character to me. So, outside of the Oscar Isaac show, this is my first introduction to the character.

Well, four episodes into the show and I can safely safe that both it and this confused me, haha. I think that’s the point, though. It’s meant to show you how chaotic and fractured Marc has become under Khonshu’s control.

The art in this is epic. Sublime. Shocking. Visceral. So, so well done. The storyline was intriguing and intense, splintered and chaotic to mirror what Marc is experiencing. Very interested to see where the comics go!

Book Review: Starlight (2021)

picture of a man flipping through a book; text says, 'book review: indie book spotlight'

Starlight by Lauren Jade Case

“I just don’t understand what’s happening and what’s not happening. But I want to be a Creature.”

a gif of a fairy with wings holding hands with a man

I must say it was the cover that first caught my eye. It’s just so stunning. It sort of evokes Arthurian feels, yanno? I am just absolutely enamoured with it. The inside is also beautiful! So, hats off!!

Starlight is a sparkling debut from Lauren Jade Case, and the first in The Starlight Trilogy. Readers who adore a heavy focus on family and friendship with their magical adventures should definitely check this one out!

There once was a Being, a Being of nothingness; no light or dark, no matter or time, no life or death. It was a lonely existence. And so they created.

Great opener, right?

Starlight follows young Natalia Whitehall on the eve of her eighteenth birthday. All is not well, for Natalia is starting to see things. Things that make no sense. Like a giant scorpion, a wolf, and a horrifying murder scene that vanish as if they were never there. Before she knows it, her entire world is turned upside down when she learns that she’s a fairy. But Natalia’s new life doesn’t come easy, and embracing her life as a fairy is more complicated than just realising magic is real.

Something I noted early on was the cool way Lauren Jade Case set up the universe. There’s the familiar vampires, fairies, etc, but she puts a cool spin on the idea of good versus evil, of souls and love.

Creatures had the same average life-span as Humans – Vampires and Fairies excluded. However, most of the time, the nature of their Purpose cut their lives short. That meant a lot of Creatures sped through life. They tended to fall in love quicker, deeper too […] It made their connections stronger, and though that didn’t mean they would only ever fall in love with one person, most seemed to.

a gif of a man cheering saying 'I love it! I love it so much!'

I love this kind of stuff. Soul mates? Destined to be? Fantastic. Love it. Thankyouyesmoreplease.

Book Review: Things We Never Got Over (2022)

A girl reading at a table, tucking her hair behind her ears; there's a moon over her; the text says 'book review: review by rebecca crunden'

Things We Never Got Over (Knockemout #1) by Lucy Score

“Stop,” he said on a broken whisper. “Please.” But I didn’t. I held on tighter, pressing my face to his chest. He swore under his breath, and then his arms were around me, crushing me to him. He buried his face in my hair and clung to me. He was so warm, so solid, so alive. I held on to him for dear life and willed him to release some of what he’d kept bottled up. “Why don’t you ever fucking listen?”

Oh my gosh this book is so full of shipping goodness while also being fucking funny. Yes, I found Knox frustrating. I cheered each and every time Naomi told him to fuck off. He totally deserved it (and more, like I liked him but sometimes I wanted to reach into the book and scream FUCK OFF KNOX!). And I’m glad every other person called out his arsehole-ish-ness. But despite my longing to push Knox into a lake, this book had me grinning from ear to ear the entire time. The writing is just so darn charming. Naomi is so endearing and cute. I did wish she’d stand her ground more and not let Knox be so fucking bossy (seriously dude, take it down like 85 notches), but goodness they did have chemistry.

More Quotes:

“Has anyone ever told you you have the personality of a pissed-off porcupine?”

I couldn’t tell if this was dirty talk or romantic prose. Whichever side of the line his words fell on, I loved it.

“Oooh. Grumpy next-door neighbor. That’s one of my favorite tropes.”
“The first time he met me, he called me trash.”
“That bitch.”
 
😂

Book Review: Safelight (2021)

A woman in a leather coat, white undershirt, holding a book open; text says 'book review: r. crunden'

Safelight by Casey Lown

He pressed his forehead against her collarbone. “It’s like it’s there waiting for me, Em. Even when I was done with it for years. It was there all along.” His shoulders jumped with suppressed sobs. “Like it’s my shadow.”

I’m actually really glad I didn’t read the whole summary before starting this book – it made everything twist and turn, taking me along for the ride. It’s a beautifully well written novel about grief, addiction and love. A wholly unexpected tale and one I’m glad I picked up!

Male/female couple gazing at each other, text says 'I'm scared I'm falling in love with you.'

SPOILER WARNING

I haven’t read a book with this subject matter in a while, but I was immediately pulled into the story Lown has created.

After Emily’s father dies, she’s left with a house, photographs that don’t make sense, and a whole host of bad memories, guilt, anger and confusion. At her father’s funeral she meets Joe, who she knew briefly for a summer during her childhood. But she hasn’t seen or heard from him since. Joe, she discovers, remained close with her father, a fact made even more bewildering for Emily when everyone in her father’s circle tells her to steer clear of Joe. The reason, she soon learns, is Joe’s long time struggle with addiction to cocaine.

Despite the warnings, and her own growing apprehension, Emily falls for Joe hard and fast.

“Just trust me.”
“I want to,” Emily whispered against his shirt, eyeing the baggie on the ground as if it were an exposed landmine ready to destroy them both.

A man brushing a woman's hair back from her face.

Joe is such a complex character. Like Emily, he’s rough around the edges and not always likeable (when he uses he’s an awful jerk, but each time this occurs, Emily or another character tells him off and he apologises once he’s sober), but you still find yourself rooting for him to turn things around, get clean and be the man Emily (unlike her father’s friends) believe him to be. His use of drugs, of course, becomes the wedge between him and Emily. Luke, his best friend, tolerates his use, long having given up on trying to get Joe clean; her father, we learn, helped Joe get clean for three years, but he fell into bad habits again with an ex-girlfriend.

I really liked the part where Emily put her foot down and walked out on Joe after one too many bad moves on his part. My heart broke for Joe, too, but he was lying to her at every turn and I’m glad she stopped tolerating it. (Not to mention best friend Luke’s epic I will not be your go between moment. Good on ya, lad.) I know this all sounds bleak, but these characters are so easy to root for even when the subject matter gets as dark as it does. Like, it’s not Girl, Interrupted levels of dark; it’s more like Skins or Euphoria. I also really loved their relationship, which balanced out the dark moments (especially when his brother later shows up, ooooof). They were easy OTP material from the get go.

A couple passionately kissing on a boat, water, grasses and trees in the background.

I really liked Luke as a side character; Mary, too. The characters all feel real; actualised and dynamic. Emily is a character I found myself deeply empathising with. Yes, sometimes she was downright frustrating, especially when she jumped wildly to conclusions. But also? I so get why.

Lown made Emily so completely relatable that even when I wanted to scream at her, I also wanted to hug her and tell her everything was going to be okay. Her struggles with her parents left her so guarded and jaded; follow that up with her ex-boyfriend’s figurative knife to the heart and all she had to go through alone, and you get a lady who doesn’t trust anyone and often snaps, snarks and snipes at those trying to help her protect herself. She was such a colourful and believable character. Vibrant in a way that leapt off the page. And I think that is a feat solely down to Lown’s skills as an author. Tough, rough, gruff characters are incredibly tricky to write well, and I really liked how well Emily, and Joe, were woven together.

To that end, the writing in this novel is straight up fantastic. It flows so eloquently, and Lown spins beautiful prose. There are some seriously wonderful lines in this book and the story as a whole is utterly immersive. Hats off to the author, this is an impressive debut.

Thank you so much to the author for a review copy.

Author Interview: Cyd Sidney

a woman with a bandana around her neck, wearing a tank top and a belt, reading a book. she has curly black hair. text says 'author interview: indie book spotlight'

Follow Cyd Sidney on Twitter!

1.      Paperback, hardback, audiobook?

All of the above! I just love reading ❤️

2.      Pick a genre, any genre!

Romance and erotica are my preferred genres, but I also enjoy mysteries and fantasy novels (especially with romantic subplots).

3.      What is the first book you remember reading?

I grew up with a lot of Dr. Seuss books. Fox in Socks is one my first!

4.      What book shaped your childhood most?

Probably The Wizard of Oz. My mother read many of the Oz books to me, even after I could read on my own. They were bursting with color and imagination and I’m so grateful I could experience them with my mom.

5.      When did you first start writing?

I’ve dabbled in fiction since college, but something changed for me in recent years and I’ve gotten much more focused and dedicated.

6.      What made you want to write? Does it still hold true?

I have lots of stories in me and an imagination that won’t quit. It’s always been that way!

7.      What book/poem are you most proud of creating?

I wrote one really awesome poem in second grade, but beyond that, I’m most proud of my upcoming novella, One Step Forward, Two Steps Back. It’s my first book-length romance and it was so exhilarating to write.

8.      Did you publish your first book or is it for your eyes only?

I did! The only things I won’t publish are the things I don’t finish (there are quite a few of those).

9.      How many books/collections have you published so far?

Two: A novelette, A Fairy Tail Love; and a short story as part of an anthology, Erotic Bedtime Stories: A Faerie Tale Anthology.

10.   What genres do you write in (or hope to)?

Romance and erotica❤️.

11.   Do you do research for your writing or is it all in your head?

I do a little research, but I’m impatient so try to write things I know a bit about or can imagine easily.

12.   To plan, or not to plan your plot?

There is always a plan in my head, and then there’s the reality of what happens😅.

13.   What route of publishing have you chosen? Do you plan to stick with it?

I’m self-publishing now. I would switch to another route if I found a convincing reason to do so. I haven’t so far!

14.   If you could live inside another author’s universe, which one would you pick? (Ex: Middle Earth, Narnia, etc.)

Oz of course.

15.   Do you currently have a WIP?

I do! I’m writing a series of books set in the LA entertainment world and I’m working on the second instalment now. They’re each standalone romances with a few crossovers. My current WIP is the romance between a disgraced ballet dancer and the acting coach he’s had a crush on for years. Tropes include friend’s little brother, pining, opposites attract, and a dash of kink.

16.   Tell me about the character you’ve created who is dearest to your heart.

Joshua is one of the MCs of OSFTSB. He’s a young guy who’s kind of an old man at heart. I just love how spooked he gets about anything trendy or new. He’s super set in his ways but there’s so much he hasn’t experienced in life. It was fun writing uncomfortable opportunities for him to grow, and of course, find love.

17.   What do you consider your *current* magnum opus?

It’s funny but One Step Forward, Two Steps Back is my current magnum opus. I tend to write short, so 35K words feels like an epic accomplishment for me! Plus, I’m very proud that it’s a true-to-genre romance.

18.   Do you have a favourite romance in your books? Or, if yours features no romance, tell us about your favourite character friendship!

The one I’m working on now where one MC has had a massive crush on the other for years is fun, because they’re both at very different parts of their romantic journey. One is like, “This guy is cute,” the other is like, “I will love him for all of my days.”

19.   Do you listen to music as you write? Recommend a favourite writing song.

I sometimes listen to music, especially if I’m trying to drown out other noise. I have my favorite go-to bands I listen to on repeat, including OK Go, Scissor Sisters, and Death Cab for Cutie.

20.   Do you have any character art for your books, whether by you or another artist? (Be sure to credit/link if you can!)

I have a cover design and promos for One Step Forward, Two Steps Back from Kon Black (@BlackeKon). You can see them all over my Twitter profile and social media. I love them so much!

21.   If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring author, what would it be?

Just do it! You may never feel like you’re good enough on the inside, so learn as you go and don’t wait for someone else to tell you you’re ready.

22.   Have you entered any writer contests? Tell us about your experience!

Not yet! Except maybe a French essay contest in high school. Third place, hooray!

23.   Who are your top 5-10 favourite writers?

Alexis Hall
Charlotte Stein
Tessa Dare
Talia Hibbert
Cat Sebastian
Kon Blacke
Sibley Stamps
S. Rodman
A.E. Bennett
Lysander Arden

And I have a lengthy TBR full of folks that I’ve met here [on Twitter] and can’t wait to read!

24.   Link us your book/twitter/goodreads or wherever we can best connect with you!

Instagram | Twitter | TikTok | Website [where you can sign up for the newsletter!] | Books

Thank you for having me!

Show Review: The Woman in the House Across the Street from the Girl in the Window (2022)

a man in shadow tilting his hat with his fingers, very noir; text says 'show review'

I started this one on a whim, feeling in the mood for a mystery. It’s on Netflix, if anyone’s looking for it. I’ve been watching Slow Horses recently (amazing show, it’s on Apple+ if you’re looking) and wanted something similar. Although … that one’s about spies and this one’s a satirical mystery. I didn’t, however, realise straight away that it was satire, and I would actually amend that and say it’s mostly satire, albeit not entirely. There’s a whole lot of genuine drama, angst, fear, etc in this show, so don’t expect to be laughing the whole way through.

[Note/Spoiler: The actual background of the series is, like, some of the darkest shit ever. It’s not a total spoiler to say that the MC is grieving the loss of her daughter, as that’s pretty much told to you at the start, but it’s how her daughter died (later revealed to the audience) and it was so horrific that I was actually in shock. I think it’s supposed to be overtly shocking to play into the satire/black comedy aspect that the show is going for, but it really was so dark and even my partner was like ‘Whaaaaaat?’ So, yeah. Again, not total comedy, lots of really dark and depressing stuff.]

That said, the show as a whole I quite enjoyed and I really do recommend everyone give it a chance, although I’ll admit that I found myself frustrated by a lot of the central characters’ decisions. The MC’s ex-husband especially. He just made so many frustrating choices. I felt truly awful for Anna throughout, the MC, who is struggling with her grief and consumed with spending her days drinking wine and watching her neighbours through her window. A lot of the characters are furious at her, and she doesn’t help her case a lot of the time, but I really did root for her throughout.

When Anna’s new neighbour Neil moves in with his daughter Emma, the pair bond over mutual loss: that of Neil’s wife and Anna’s daughter. But despite the evident vibes between the two, the next morning Anna’s thrown through a loop when she learns that Neil has a girlfriend that he never bothered to mention. Anna quickly distrusts the girlfriend and spends her days obsessing her all the ways the girlfriend could be up to something. And then things take an even worse turn when Anna witnesses the girlfriend’s death. The show then follows her trying to prove that she’s not crazy, didn’t hallucinate the murder, and trying to solve the case when no one believes her. It’s a great role for Kristen Bell, who I first became a fan of whilst watching Veronica Mars. It’s great seeing her back in a mystery-centric show!

It’s a pretty short show and easy to marathon. Some of the episodes are less than twenty-five minutes long, but it’s super intense and incredibly compelling. I watched the whole thing in one sitting. I really liked the friendship between Anna and Sloane, her best friend who stays by her side throughout the whole show. Her other neighbour, Carol, made me laugh multiple times and provided a good amount of humour to lighten the darker moments of the show.

I got spoiled for part of the ending reveal, but not the whole twist, and I will say I had a lot of moments with my mouth open in shock. One of the final twists had me like \o/

Definitely worth a watch for fans of both mysteries and black comedies!