Killing Sarai (In the Company of Killers #1) by J.A. Redmerski

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“There is a stark difference between fear and uncertainty, Sarai. You fear nothing but are uncertain of everything.”

I have had this book recommended to me a lot over the years. But the thing is, dipping into older published dark romance normally isn’t the best experience, so I’ve put off this 2013 publication for a while. But honestly? This actually was a really enthralling read that held up really well in 2018. And I am really excited to continue on with the series.

Sarai – Currently is twenty-three but was fourteen when her mom gave her to a drug lord. Sarai starts the book in captivity, as a sex slave of the leader of this organization that is in Mexico. And one day at the compound, she hears the first American accent she has heard in years and takes the opportunity to try for her freedom once and for all.

Victor – An assassin who has only known bloodshed his entire life. But when he finds a girl in the backseat of his vehicle, he feels a soft spot for her, while also understanding that he could use her as leverage against a very powerful drug lord.

And from there these two’s paths are intertwined and their lives are changed forever. Neither one has ever really known what love is, and never really let anyone in before. But together, they form a really unexpected friendship and partnership. Also, neither one of them can give up on revenge and decide that maybe together they can right the wrongs that have been done against them.

So, I read this book for the #smutathon challenge of “slow burn” and holy shit was this the perfect fit for the category. You all, I was begging, wishing, praying, for these two to just realize that they like each other. Like, this is the most slow burn book of all slow burns! But the angst and wanting is really expertly done and make you totally unable to put this book down.

This is a darker book, so please use caution while reading. Content and trigger warnings for sex trafficking, slavery, kidnapping, murder, death, loss of a loved one, blood depictions, talk of sexual assault, talk of rape, talk of pedophilia, animal death, parental abuse, abandonment, torture, and fatphobic comments. Also, I mean, the romance in this could maybe be a little Stockholm syndrome, even though I didn’t feel that way, I can totally see how it could be perceived as such. And obviously there is a huge power imbalance between Victor and Sarai.

But I do need to talk about the reason I did give this three stars, and that’s because one of the villains in this book, who I’m guessing is going to be a really big villain in the next books, is not only queer, but he is constantly villainized for being fat. And this is exactly why going back and reading older dark romances are normally painful, because they constantly use hurtful tropes like this. And this in no way gets a free pass because it’s older, this is a disgusting trope that I will never be here for, regardless of the year of publication. Miss me with this nasty villainization of queer and fat people, when you could easily just villainize the man for being a rapist.

Overall, this is a really hard book to put down, and there is action on every page. I really enjoyed reading this one (besides the hot mess in the paragraph above this one). I totally plan to continue on, even if I’m a little apprehensive about the villain, but Sarai and Victor just have me feeling weak and I need to know what happens to them at the end of this story.

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I read this for #smutathon, which is being hosted by Lainey and Riley! ❤


Top Ten Tuesday | Anticipated 2019 Releases

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018!

Hey, friends! Okay, I should probably be a little more specific with this post! Today I’m going to talk about ten highly anticipated releases for me, that I probably won’t get ARCS of. Some of the books that are at the top of my list (Winter of the Witch, Gilded Wolves, The Hod King, Kingdom of Copper, Middle Game, The Wicked King, Priory of the Orange Tree, Wicked Saints, Descendant of the Crane) I’ve already been so blessed to receive early copies of! So these are going to be ten books that I’d commit minor felonies to receive ARCs of! ❤️💚✨

King of Scars (Nikolai Duology #1) by Leigh Bardugo
January 29th 2019 by Imprint

On the Come Up by Angie Thomas
February 5th 2019 by Balzer + Bray

Black Leopard, Red Wolf (The Dark Star Trilogy #1) by Marlon James
February 5th 2019 by Riverhead Books

The Red Scrolls of Magic (The Eldest Curses #1) by Cassandra Clare & Wesley Chu
April 2nd 2019 by Simon & Schuster

Lady Hotspur by Tessa Gratton
April 30th 2019 by Tor Books

Lalani of the Distant Sea by Erin Entrada Kelly
May 7th 2019 by Greenwillow Books

The Bride Test by Helen Hoang
May 7th 2019 by Berkley

Finale (Caraval #3) by Stephanie Garber
May 7th 2019 by Flatiron Books

Darkdawn (The Nevernight Chronicle #3) by Jay Kristoff
September 3rd 2019 by St. Martin’s Press

Chain of Gold (The Last Hours #1) by Cassandra Clare
November 19th 2019 by Simon & Schuster 

Do you see these titles and covers? My cup runneth over! 2019 is going to be so amazing! I am honestly so damn excited for these releases and so many others! What’s your most anticipated 2019 releases? And I hope you’re all having the happiest of reading and holidays! ❤️💚✨

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Snow in Love by Melissa de la Cruz, Nic Stone, Aimee Friedman, & Kasie West

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Snow in Love is a heartwarming holiday anthology that just came out at the end of 2018! This is a collection of four short stories, but I truly only recommend two of them. Seriously, this is a wild break down of two five star reads, and two one star reads. But I truly loved two and I hated two. Yet, I also truly believe the Kasie West and Nic Stone’s stories are so good that it would be worth it to pick up this collection, especially if you are in need of a little holiday cheer!

Snow and Mistletoe by Kasie West – ★★★★★

“I got you something…”

Holy shit, this was actual perfection for me. Again, I’ve never read anything by Kasie West before, but this was the most heartwarming holiday story I’ve read in a long time. Yes, it was a bit predictable, but I actually think that aspect sweetened the story and made it even more precious. And this story just had too many things that I personally love in literature; besides being adorable, it is a traveling story, with a snowed-in element, featuring a strong sibling relationship, with a scene in Vegas, and a hotel scene, that is all Christmas themed! Ah, friends, this story just makes me smile so big thinking about it! But the basic premise of this story is that a seventeen-year-old girl named Amalie is stuck in the Denver airport, while surprising her family for Christmas because she realized that studying abroad isn’t for her. But then she sees a familiar face from her old high school, who offers her a ride back home, even though it will take a few days. (Sawyer is high school boyfriend goals, by the way!) I loved this with my entire heart and soul and now I want to read everything by Kasie West!

Working in A Winter Wonderland by Aimee Friedman – ★

“It was a freaking Hanukkah miracle.”

Oh my gosh, this was such a letdown, especially after that last short story. The only really good thing I can say about this is that the main character is Jewish and celebrates Hanukkah. Besides that, yikes. Basically, the main character, Maxine, wants to buy an expensive dress for her best friend’s party, and a guy who she has had a secret crush on since high school, tells her that his father’s department store has an opening. Little does she know, that opening is to be a Christmas Elf. But Maxine is just rude, and negative, and honestly insufferable. Which would be fine, but this is supposed to be a happy holiday feel good book and it just made it feel like a chore to get through. I really disliked this one.

The Magi’s Gifts by Melissa De La Cruz – ★

“But she was prettier than the whole lot of them put together…”

Actually, this short story was the worst! How did this happen? What editor decided to put Kasie West’s story first? Maybe I’m just too damn old to be reading about superficial high schoolers? Maybe the Lord is truly testing me? This didn’t give me any holiday feelings at all. Plus, like… combs and hair are a lot different than motorcycles and family heirlooms. Reading about catty girls and high schoolers who think their significant other is their soulmate, while not respecting their wishes to not show PDA, is just not my idea of a good time. I hated every second of this story.

Grounded by Nic Stone – ★★★★★

“Maybe this is exactly what Leigh needed: to get grounded. Literally and otherwise.”

I just want to stay in this happy bubble after reading this story forever. Holy perfection. Nic Stone blows me away with everything she writes, and this short story was no different. It is ownvoices, about two Black girls stuck in ATL airport. We follow Leigh, who is also Jewish, and who has just came out of a break up because she has finally realized that she is a lesbian, and she has known that she was attracted to girls since she was fourteen, when she was on a cruise with another girl who was a family friend. Well, that girl is also snowed-in at the airport, and they are texting and decided to play a game that is like a crossover between I Spy and Hide-and-Seek. This story is told mostly by text messages between Leigh and Harper, but also between Leigh and her best friend, Niecey, who is encouraging her on. But this sweet start to a sapphic romance? I was swooning so hard, so damn hard. And Nic Stone also seamlessly weaves in important themes and topics like systemic racism, and internalized racism. Friends, this was amazing, and I completely recommend it with my whole heart.

I know that these ratings are so polarizing and wild, but they are honest, like always. Maybe there is a way just to purchase the first and last stories of this collection? Because that would be the true holiday blessing! But I gave Snow in Love three stars overall, because out of a possible 20 stars (5 stars possible for each of the 4 stories) this collection accumulated 12 stars (60%)!

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❤⛄ I read this for #TistheSeasonAThon!


My Favorite Book Quotes of 2018

This Autumn, my dear friend Imi asked me to write up a post including my favorite quotes of 2018! And like, on top of the fact that I love her, what an amazing blog post idea! Lyrical writing is my favorite thing in literature, and nothing makes me happier than reading passages that give me full body goosebumps! So, here are my ten favorite quotes of 2018, that still leave me completely and utterly speechless! 💛✨

➽ 10.) Queen of Air and Darkness (The Dark Artifices #3) by Cassandra Clare

“I love you. I love you. I love you.”

➽ 9.) Skyward (Skyward, #1) by Brandon Sanderson

“You get to choose who you are. Legacy, memories of the past, can serve us well. But we cannot let them define us. When heritage becomes a box instead of an inspiration, it has gone too far.”

➽ 8.) The Sisters of the Winter Wood by Rena Rossner

“If you want to know the history of a town, read the gravestones in its cemetery”

➽ 7.) Strange Grace by Tessa Gratton

“I fell in love with the forest. And the forest loved me back. And so we traded hearts. Mine is here, larger and stronger than it could have been in the small cavern of my body”

➽ 6.) Summer of Salt by Katrina Leno

“Because there was nothing in a girl’s history that might negate her right to choose what happens to her body.”

➽ 5.) Sadie by Courtney Summers

“I stood over her crib and listened to her breathing, watching the rise and fall of her tiny chest. I pressed my palm against it and felt myself through her. She was breathing, alive. And I was too.”

➽ 4.) Circe by Madeline Miller

“He showed me his scars, and in return he let me pretend that I had none.”

➽ 3.) Girl Made of Stars by Ashley Herring Blake

“Even girls made of stars are captives, bound at the wrists and traded like property. Even girls made of stars aren’t asked, aren’t believed, aren’t considered worth the effort unless they can offer something in return. Even girls made of stars buy into those lies sometimes.”

➽ 2.) The Lost Sisters (The Folk of the Air #1.5) by Holly Black

“Fairy tales are full of girls who wait, who endure, who suffer. Good girls. Obedient girls. Girls who crush nettles until their hands bleed. Girls who haul water for witches. Girls who wander through deserts or sleep in ashes or make homes for transformed brothers in the woods. Girls without hands, without eyes, without the power of speech, without any power at all. But then a prince rides up and sees the girl and finds her beautiful. Beautiful, not despite her suffering, but because of it.”

➽ 1.) The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan

“If he looked in my eyes straight on, he would know how he’d pierced me with an arrow, how its shaft was still sticking out of my chest, twitching each time my heart contracted. And maybe he’d see how my mother had sliced up everything else.”

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Down the TBR Hole #22

Down the TBR Hole was originally created by Lost in a Story! The point of it is to help cull your reading lists down, or maybe push higher anticipated releases up on your TBR! And maybe you all can help me along the way, and tell me if you’ve loved or hated any of these!

How it works:
➽ Go to your Goodreads to-read shelf.
➽ Order on ascending date added.
➽ Take the first 5 (or 10 if you’re feeling adventurous) books
➽ Read the synopses of the books
➽ Decide: keep it or should it go?

The Six Books:

Foolish Hearts by Emma Mills
This is another OwlCrate book that I haven’t read! But I’ve actually heard really good things about this one, so I feel on the fence! Have you all read this? Did you enjoy?
Verdict: Keep ✅

Rebellion (Rebellion #1) by Josephine Boyce
My wonderful friend sent this to me, and I’m so damn thankful so I’ll keep it on my bookshelves forever, just in case! But I don’t think this looks or sounds like a book for me, sadly.
Verdict: Delete ❌

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
The Secret History was the first thing I read this year, and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. I can’t wait to try something else out by Donna Tartt.
Verdict: Keep ✅

The Queens of Innis Learby Tessa Gratton
My face when I wrote this post up last month before I picked this up with some of my amazing friends. I ended up loving this one and even giving it five stars! 🙈
Verdict: Keep! ✅

Flow (Grip 0.5) by Kennedy Ryan
I’m here for this one, and I’m hyped for this one! I read another book by Kennedy Ryan early this year and I loved it! I can’t wait to find the time to pick this up!
Verdict: Keep ✅

Moon-Bright Tides (Lunar Requiem, #1) by RoAnna Sylver
I believe I got this for free last year from the author. And it’s supposed to be super queer, so I really need to read this one! And I hope to love it!
Verdict: Keep ✅

Okay, friends, these are the next oldest six books I have on my TBR! Let me know if you love, hate, and/or recommend me to read or trash any of these books! Thank you all so much, and I hope whatever you’re currently reading is five star worthy! ❄⛄

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Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye

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“Reader, I murdered him.”

I’m going to try to keep this review short, mostly because it depresses me to think that I actually am giving this such a low rating. Out of all the books on my “Must Read of 2018” list, I was most excited for this one. I was also the most positive that I would five star it, but here we are.

I also read Jane Eyre this year in preparation for this book that celebrates that story, which is even more funny because I ended up five starring it. Sadly, Jane Steele did a good homage to the original source material, but I could just never bring myself to care. Which is extra sad, because in this story Jane is a serial killer.

And much like in Jane Eyre, this book has a very dark and feminist tone. It really showcases that people never want to believe women, especially not young girls, but would rather give powerful men the benefit of the doubt. Jane only kills to survive, and each life she takes is because the person will not take the word “no” seriously from a girl.

Reader, I was so damn bored. I was a little intrigued at the start. I mean, it is hard to not get hyped about a serial killer who loves Jane Eyre. But as more and more time went on, I just cared less and less. Also, I really was leading myself to believe there was going to be a sapphic relationship in this, only to cry over what could have been, and that’s never a good feeling, even if I queer-baited myself.

Overall, this isn’t a retelling of Jane Eyre, but a celebration of the story, starring a girl obsessed with the original work. This just wasn’t what I thought it would be, and I was bored throughout most of it. Perhaps I just overhyped this for myself. I don’t know what the problem was, or why I could never fully get invested in Jane or her story, but I will say that 2018 has been the year of me hating almost every historical fiction I pick up, so perhaps take this review with a grain of salt.

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Content and trigger warnings for murder, death, loss of a loved one, attempted sexual assault, miscarrying, domestic abuse, alcohol abuse, pedophilia comments, and war themes.

Merry Inkmas by Talia Hibbert

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“…Princesses like no-strings sex just as much as the next girl.”

Oh, friends, please pick this one up for the holiday season! It was so heartwarming, so atmospheric, and brought me so much joy to read! I loved both protagonists, I loved the wintery setting, I loved the Christmas tattoo shop, and I completely recommend this one with my entire heart. And now I need to go and read everything by Talia Hibbert.

This is an ownvoices novel, starting a Black woman that is working as a barista in a coffee shop part-time while she goes to college. And she has a regular customer who makes her pretty weak in the knees with his flirting, even though nothing ever comes from it. That is, until one night, before closing, and Bailey’s friend John comes in, who is homeless and cold. She is trying to warm him up, when her boss comes out of the back and acts like a complete jerk, until the mystery man witnesses it all and takes action.

“Boring guys finish last,” she corrected, pushing the completed forms back to him. “Nice guys finish anywhere they want. Especially when they look like you.”

Cash is a white tattoo artist, who knows how needed a helping hand can be. He not only takes John under his wing, but also offers Bailey a new job at his tattoo shop. Even though they are completely drawn to each other. Bailey and Cash both haven’t had easy lives growing up, and they have such a realistic bond and attraction to each other, and it makes it completely impossible not to root for them. Especially when Cash invites Bailey to his mom’s for Christmas, since she would be all by herself. But Cash has a policy; he only will date a woman for ninety days before he calls it quits, because he refuses to truly ever let anyone in.

“Funny; he’d been a hell of a lot more charming when she was just serving him coffee.”

But the romance in this is seriously perfect. This book is only a tiny bit over two-hundred pages, but I think I was smiling, or crying, or smiling and crying on every single one. This book is funny, this book is swoon-worthy, and this book has so many important themes; from Cash and Bailey starting an interracial relationship, to Bailey also being plus sized, to it also staring a homeless, queer character, to showing that the terrible things that happen to us in the past do not have to dictate what we become in the future, to really celebrating abuse survivors (from physical abuse to neglect), this book is a damn gift to the world. I also think this story has a main character on the autism spectrum, but it doesn’t say the word(s) on page.

Overall, this was just a treat to read. And this epilogue? 11/10. This story was just so sex positive and steamy, so funny and so endearing, so enthralling and so un-put-downable. And Bailey is the female protagonist I’ve always wanted, she’s strong, and brave, and so empathetic! Ah, this book just had it all; I only wish it was longer! This is the best holiday romance I’ve ever read, and I hope you all pick this up this holiday season.

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Content and trigger warnings for talk of cancer, talk of past domestic violence, talk of past child abuse, and talk of past statutory rape.