Book Review: Sentience by Courtney P. Hunter

Hello, reader!

I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before, but though fantasy is my favorite genre, science fiction is a close second. That being said, I’m far more picky with my sci-fi reads than I am with fantasy. One aspect of sci-fi that always grabs my interest, though, is artificial intelligence. Especially if the story delves into the moral issues surrounding the use of AI.

That’s why, when Courtney Hunter approached me about reading her upcoming sci-fi novel about four AI who don’t know they’re AI being part of a twisted Turing test, I jumped at the chance to read it! It sounded right up my alley and, I’m happy to report, turned out to be an amazing read.

But I’m getting ahead of myself! First, I want to thank Courtney for sending me a free copy in exchange for an honest review. It was very much appreciated! And, now, let’s get to the review.


Synopsis


“Robots, sex, lies, adventure, and chaos. Who can you trust when you can’t trust yourself? And what truly defines humanity and consciousness?

Running from a violent past, Leo Knox desperately decides to participate in a scientific experiment conducted by the infamous and greedy tech-giant, AlgorithmOS. Soon, Leo learns that she has agreed to take part in a Turing Test, a test that measures the ability of artificial intelligence to blend in among humanity, but what she doesn’t know is that the test set to take place is unlike any other of its kind.

Leo enters Eden, the contained preserve where the test will occur, with twenty-three others. While everyone appears to be human, four of the individuals are an indistinguishably advanced form of humanoid AI. The task is simple: identify the AI while trying to survive. The twist? The four AI are completely unaware of their nature, causing every participant to question what they know as reality.

The group embarks on a journey within the preserve, rigged with obstacles devised by the controllers of the experiment to elicit human response and emotion. Quickly, madness ensues and divides form, partnering Leo up with Avery Ford, a Marine who wears his demons on his sleeve. Romance falls together for the two as the world around them falls apart, revealing the lengths people will go to protect those they love, to achieve monetary gain, or simply to survive.

Back at AlgorithmOS, the story unfolds on the screens of Nathan Aimes, a scientist responsible for monitoring the experiment’s surveillance cameras. Nathan studies the humans involved as they wrestle with where they stand on the polarizing issue of AI and its applications. He watches the AI unknowingly fight to prove their humanity just to leave the experiment unscathed. All the while, Nathan is intimately aware of his company’s plans to weaponize or commodify the AI should they pass the test, and he must reconcile this with the chaos that plays out before him.”

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Down the TBR Hole #2

Hello, reader!

I’m continuing my TBR cleansing journey today with another Down the TBR Hole! Down the TBR Hole was originally created by Lost in a Story. As a reminder, here are the guidelines:

  • Go to your Goodreads to-read shelf.
  • Order on ascending date added.
  • Take the first 5 (or 10 or 20 or however many you’re feeling) books
  • Read the synopses of the books
  • Decide: keep it or should it go?

Last week, I ended with 619 books. This week, I’m starting with 620 books… so apparently I added a new book sometime within the last week! I honestly don’t even pay attention to when I add books, I swear. Let’s see if I’ll be cutting anything out this round!


The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

I’m realizing that I have a lot of Gaiman on my TBR. I tend to get along better with his middle grade fiction (I love Coraline!), so I’m pretty exciting about reading this one. Besides, the premise is so interesting… a boy raised in a graveyard by ghosts? Yes, please!

Verdict: Keep

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick

I can’t really remember why I added this book in the first place. Perhaps because I had a vague interest in Bladerunner, the movie based on this book? Perhaps because it’s a sci-fi classic? Maybe it filled a prompt for a readathon? Either way, I have about zero interest in this book now.

Verdict: Remove

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The Liebster Award

Hello, reader!

I have an exciting post for you today. I was nominated/tagged to do the Liebster Award! I’ve seen this tag floating around many bookish blogs and I’ve always loved seeing the unique questions and reading everyone’s answers. Now I get a chance to answer and make up some of my own!

I was tagged by the wonderful Danni @ _ForBooksSake. Her blog is my go-to if I’m on the hunt for a thriller or something spooky. You should definitely go check her out! Also, her pets are super cute and there are pictures on her Liebster Award post, so you gotta at least read that one. I haven’t a clue who originally came up with the Liebster Awards, but thank you, random blogger!

Alright, let’s get to the post, shall we?


Rules:

  1. Thank the blogger who nominated you and give a link to their blog (Thank you, Danni!)
  2. Answer the 11 questions asked of you
  3. Nominate 11 bloggers
  4. Ask your nominees 11 questions
  5. Notify your nominees once you have uploaded your post

Questions:

#1. What is your favourite book of the year so far?

There is no way I can talk about this book nearly enough, but I’m sure if you’ve been around this blog for awhile, you knew the answer to this question 😂 My favorite has to go to Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko! I’ve already re-read it, which is something I rarely do… especially in the same year that I first read it! I own two copies (so far) and was super stoked to get a free download of the audiobook in my October OwlCrate. This book is just incredible and I will be shouting it’s praises until I can shout no more. Now I’m not-so-patiently waiting for the sequel, which comes out next summer!

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#5OnMyTBR – Halloween Freebie

#5OnMyTBR is a bookish meme hosted by E. @ Local Bee Hunter’s Nook where you chose five books from your to-be-read pile that fit that week’s theme. If you’d like more info, head over to the announcement post!


Hello, reader!

Happy Halloween week! In honor of the spookiest time during spooky season, today’s 5 On My TBR is a Halloween freebie. There’s so much potential here, but Imma be honest… I’ve just gotten home from a busy shift and my brain is feeling particularly fried. With that being said, we’re gonna be basic here and go with five horror books on my TBR that I can’t wait to read!

Time for some frights!


#1. The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

Gotta start out with a classic! I’ve wanted to read this book for awhile, but it always ends up on the backburner. Now, with the Netflix adaptation and this being the perfect time of year, I just have the urge to pick it up. Of course, I would actually need a copy first, but I am due a bookstore run 👀👀 I do love a good haunted house book and this novel is one of the quintessential ones!

#2. Horrid by Katrina Leno

Speaking of haunted houses… I just received this book in my September OwlCrate box and it looks perfectly creepy! I don’t know much about this book, though I have seen it around the bookish internet. I have heard there are ghosts involved, so I’m in! I want a good ghost story to chill my bones. Any excuse to wrap myself in a blanket and sip hot cocoa while I read, amiright?

#3. The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones

I do love a horror novel that also has some social commentary. This is what is promised in the synopsis for this book. I’ve also heard nothing but amazing things about it! I’ve been interested in reading something written by Stephen Graham Jones for a minute, now, too. Why not make it something scary? I can’t wait to read this one!

#4. Home Before Dark by Riley Sager

Another book that centers around a supposedly haunted house! Are we sensing a favorite trope of mine? We most certainly are 😂 That being said, I’ve also been dying to actually read one of the three books I own that are written by Riley Sager. Because, for some reason, I keep buying his books but haven’t read a single one. It makes no sense any way you look at it, lol. Let’s hope I love his writing caaaaaauuuse…

#5. It by Stephen King

And now we’re ending this list with another classic! I started reading Stephen King books with the sole purpose of working my way up to reading It. It’s a chonky boy. It features a murderous clown. And I saw the original movie at a probably inappropriate age, so there is a long history of me being freaked out by It, lol. But I do want to read it eventually and I know it’s gonna freak me out. Probably won’t be getting to it (hahaha) this Halloween, but perhaps next year? Yeah… that’s what we’ll go with 😅


What books are you planning on picking up this week? Any spooky reads to get you in the mood for Halloween? Let me know in the comments!

And, as always, happy reading!

Down the TBR Hole #1

Hello, reader!

In an effort to get my Goodreads Want to Read shelf under some kind of control, I’ve decided to join in on a post I’ve seen around the blogosphere: Down the TBR Hole! I first came across this post on Ellie @ Read to Ramble’s blog, though quite a few people in our Twitter group chat participate, as well. After reading their posts and watching my TBR swell, I thought it was time to join in on the fun.

Down the TBR Hole was originally created by Lost in a Story and here is the basic premise:

  • Go to your Goodreads to-read shelf.
  • Order on ascending date added.
  • Take the first 5 (or 10 or 20 or however many you’re feeling) books
  • Read the synopses of the books
  • Decide: keep it or should it go?

Sounds simple, right? Hopefully, this will help me to clean up my TBR a bit because I know there are books on there that I don’t even remember adding, lol. It’s time to curate my space and make my Want to Read shelf a little more reflective of books I actually plan on reading.

Currently, my Goodreads TBR has 621 books on it. The plan is to do 10 books with each post and, hopefully, bring that number down. With that being said, let’s get started!


Les Misérables by Victor Hugo

I don’t need to read the synopsis for this one to know it’s staying. This is my TBR white whale, that book that will forever stay until I finally conquer it. I love the musical and I think I’ll love this book, as well.

Verdict: Keep

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

I’m noticing I have a fair amount of classics right at the beginning of my TBR. I was apparently in some kind of mood when I joined Goodreads back in 2011, lol. Anyways, this is a classic that I’m actually still very much interested in reading. I do love a good book about books, even if this one is based in a world where book burning is sanctioned.

Verdict: Keep

Atonement by Ian McEwan

This is a historical fiction that got on my radar because of the movie… that I never watched. Look, I never said my TBR additions made sense! I distinctly remember one of my best friends loving the movie, reading the book, and loving that, too. So… I bought it. Which is pretty much the only reason Atonement is staying on my TBR, tbh. I’m determined to get through all the books that I own!

Verdict: Keep

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Blog Tour: The Wolf and the Water by Josie Jaffrey

Hello, reader!

Today on the blog, I’ll be bringing you another blog tour post. Because, honestly, I just can’t say no to Dave @ The Write Reads! It’s his fault that he keeps pulling in some incredible books for tours. It’s just too tempting! The book I’ll be highlighting today is one that I knew nothing about before getting the sign up email, but after reading the synopsis, I had to say yes! It sounded like it would be right up my alley.

Before we get into the post, though, I want to make sure to thank Dave @ The Write Reads, the publisher, and the author for providing me a free e-ARC of this book in exchange for participating in this tour and sharing my honest review! It is, as always, much appreciated. Now, let’s jump in!


Synopsis


“Some secrets are worth killing for

The ancient city of Kepos sits in an isolated valley, cut off from the outside world by a towering wall. Behind it, the souls of the dead clamour for release. Or so the priesthood says.


Kala has never had any reason to doubt their word – until her father dies in suspicious circumstances that implicate the city’s high priest. She’s determined to investigate, but she has a more immediate problem: the laws of the city require her mother to remarry straight away.

Kala’s new stepfather is a monster, but his son Leon is something altogether more dangerous: kind.

With her family fractured and the investigation putting her life in danger, the last thing Kala needs is romance. She would rather ignore Leon entirely, however difficult he makes it. But when she learns the truth of what really clamours behind the wall at the end of the valley, she faces a choice: share what she knows and jeopardise her escape, or abandon him to his fate along with the rest of the city.

If she doesn’t move fast, then no one will make it out of the valley alive.”

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Dark Academia Book Tag

Hello, reader!

In a further attempt to catch up on the various tags I’ve been meaning to do, today I bring you the Dark Academia book tag! Dark academia is a genre that has always captured my interest, though I only recently learned the term for it. I like dark stories already… set them in a college or other school setting and I’m instantly more interested! That being said, this tag sounded right up my alley.

Before we get into it, I want to thank the lovely Livy @ Shelves of Starlight for tagging me! I also want to give a shout out to the original creators of this tag, carolynmariereads and emmie!

Alright, now let’s get to it 💀💀💀


Favourite academies or dark book/movie

Oof, this was a tough choice! I like a lot of darker books, but I don’t think a lot of them could count as “dark academia”. I ended up going with a recent favorite, Legendborn by Tracy Deonn. This might be a bit of a stretch, but it is dark and the background setting is at an university. So I’m gonna say it counts!

Also, I really just need everyone to pick up this spooky Arthurian legend remix and READ IT. Ugh, it’s so good!


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Book Review: Small Spaces by Katherine Arden

Title: Small Spaces (Small Spaces #1)

Author: Katherine Arden

Genre: Middle Grade Horror

Source: Bought

Content/Trigger Warnings: Depictions of grief, death

Rating: ★★★★

Book Links: Bookshop::Indiebound::TBD::B&N::Amazon::Goodreads

One Sentence Synopsis

After the tragic death of her mother, Ollie Adler finds herself engrossed in a creepy book about Beth and the smiling man, which may hold more truth than Ollie realizes.

Favorite Quote

“Wherever you go in this big, gorgeous, hideous world, there is a ghost story waiting for you.”


As y’all may know, I’ve been a lover of horror books for awhile. Though fantasy will forever and always be my top genre, there’s just something about a frightening tale that I love. That being said, I tend to stick to adult horror novels. Why, you ask? Mostly because those are the ones I see marketed! But I’ve recently begun to dip my toes into YA horror and, most recently, middle grade horror. I had heard about Small Spaces from various sources and was curious about how I would get on with a horror novel geared towards a middle grade audience. Then the book was picked for the Middle Grade Marvels group book in August and I knew it was time!

In this novel, we’re following a young girl names Ollie Adler. Ollie is smart and brave, but also reeling from a recent tragedy. She’s closed herself off from people at school and even a little bit from her loving father. But one thing she does still enjoy is reading. That’s why, when she finds a woman about to toss an old book into a river, she quickly saves it from a watery demise. When she starts to read it, she’s immediately pulled in by the creepy and bizarre tale. But when her class goes on a field trip to a local farm, she can’t help but notice some eerie similarities. Then, on the way home, the bus breaks down and things take a turn for the spooky…

Y’all, this book was a creepy delight! I haven’t had that much fun being freaked out in quite a long time. The tone is expertly set and matches the fall theme so well, it felt like October when I was reading it at the height of summer! I think my favorite aspect of the book was the foreboding atmosphere that is built throughout the tale. It ramps up as you go, the tension building and building, until you find yourself on the edge of your seat. I think the author did a good job of making this frightening, but not overly so for the intended audience.

But, also, I may never look at a scarecrow the same way again…

I also think Katherine Arden did an amazing job developing her characters. I just wanted to hug Ollie so many times throughout this book. The depiction of grief will tug at your heart-strings. I loved the characterization of Coco and Brian, the other two main characters in this story, as well. Coco has a quiet strength to her that I absolutely adored. Brian is just so dang likeable and I love how he interacts with both Ollie and Coco. Together, they are a trio of complex, layered characters and it was a joy getting to know them in this short book.

I will say that I’m glad that this is just the first book in a series because I felt like I didn’t get enough! I wanted more as soon as the book was done, which is why I immediately bought the next book in the series, Dead Voices. I can’t wait to continue on with Ollie, Coco, and Brian!

Final thoughts: Don’t sleep on this middle grade horror! This is a creepy, dark, and intense book that will have you on the edge of your seat. The characters are compelling, the setting is wonderfully ominous, and the scares will sneak up on you! If you or your kid are looking for a book to read to get in the mood for Halloween, if you’re looking for something that has heart and jump scares, then I think you would love Small Spaces.

#5OnMyTBR – Historical

#5OnMyTBR is a bookish meme hosted by E. @ Local Bee Hunter’s Nook where you chose five books from your to-be-read pile that fit that week’s theme. If you’d like more info, head over to the announcement post!


Hello, reader!

We’ve once again arrived at a fresh, new Monday and that means it’s time for another 5 On My TBR! Today we’ll be talking about a type of book that I honestly need to read more of: historical books. Which I’m choosing to interpret as historical fiction. I honestly don’t know why I don’t read more of this genre as the books I have read, I tend to enjoy. It’s one of those genres that I’m interested in but just don’t gravitate towards as much.

Still, there are quite a few books on my TBR that could be classified as historical, so picking my top five was a struggle! After perusing my Goodreads Want To Read shelf for what feels like far too long, I’ve finally narrowed it down to the five that I want to read the most. So let’s dive in!


#1. The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow

Off-topic moment: Whoever designs the covers for Alix E. Harrow’s books is an artistic genius. Just… *chef’s kiss*

Okay! Now, this book is something that I’ve been anticipating ever since it was announced. It’s about witches and suffragettes! What’s not to love? This is the type of historical fiction that I tend to enjoy… something with a little bit of the fantastic thrown in! I can’t wait to get my hands on this one.

#2. The Animals at Lockwood Manor by Jane Healey

This is another historical fiction that has a bit of the weird included in the story. It seems like there’s a possibility of ghosts, so you know I’m interested! I also think the whole premise just sounds incredible. We’re following a museum curator protecting exhibits that were spirited out of London during WWII. I think it will be an interesting story to follow and I’m excited for the gothic vibe.

Also, a lot of my bookish friends have loved this book, so that makes me even more excited to read it 😁

#3. Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield

Imma be honest. I know next to nothing about what this book actually entails, lol. All I know is that it was written by Diane Setterfield, who wrote The Thirteenth Tale, which is one of my faves. For that reason alone, I want to read this book!

According to the synopsis, though, it’s about a girl who dies and mysteriously comes back to life. Now there are three families fighting to claim her and I’m sure it’s going to be a fantastical, emotional time. Will it make me cry? Probably! But I’m v. ready.

#4. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

Another confession: the hype train got me when it comes to this book. It was freakin’ everywhere this past year and I got curious. Why was everyone salivating over this book? I was lucky enough to receive this book in a gift exchange, so I’m ready to find out what the hype is all about!

That being said, the synopsis probably would have made me want to pick this up even without all the hype. A girl that has survived in the marsh for years on her own emerges because she longs for human contact. But then there’s murder and secrets. It sounds like it’s going to be completely engrossing!

#5. The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab

We couldn’t have a post about historical fiction and not talk about one of my most anticipated reads of 2020! I’ve been waiting for this book for what seems like ages! V.E. Schwab is definitely one of my favorite authors and she has been working on this story for years. And the premise just sounds so intriguing. A girl that sells her soul for immortality and freedom but is doomed to be forgotten by everyone she meets? I’m completely in!

Also, the cover just makes me drool a wee bit. I ordered the OwlCrate special edition and I can’t wait to see what they do with this already stunning cover!


What are some historical books that you have on your TBR? Are you planning on reading any of the ones I chose? Let me know in the comments!

And, as always, happy reading!

Mini Reviews: Mystery/Thriller Edition

Hello, reader!

As a book blogger, my eternal struggle is not only trying to read ALL THE BOOKS, but keeping up with my reviews once I have read them. Before I started this blog, I thought the reviews would be the simple part. After all, I was already posting reviews on Goodreads. How different could it be?

Hahaha, oh past-me… I never realized how much more thought goes into a review I’m planning on putting on my little blog as opposed to Goodreads! How in-depth do I wanna go? Do I want to put all my reviews here or just the good ones? Does everything I read get a full review? And, if not, how do I decide what gets a full review and what doesn’t?

Clearly, I have enough thoughts there to fill up an entirely different post, lol. All this to say, I have fallen behind on reviews recently because I was stressing myself trying to write full, in-depth reviews for each and every book I read. And, to be honest, it was doing me in. Sometimes, even if I enjoy a book, I just don’t have that much to say. Thus, we’re bringing back the mini-review! Not only will it help me catch up on books to review (because, to be clear, I do want to review every book I’ve read on Goodreads, even if it’s a short one) but I think it will help with my blogging-related stress levels 😅😂

That being said, and with us heading deeper into October, I thought this mini-review edition was perfect! I’ll be talking about three mystery/thrillers I read recently which you might also enjoy during these spooky times. Let’s jump in!


Title: Gone Girl

Author: Gillian Flynn

Source: Bought

CW/TW: For a full list of content and trigger warnings, please check out BookTriggerWarnings.com

Rating: ★★★★

Links: Bookshop::Indiebound::TBD::B&N::Amazon::Goodreads

Ahh, Gone Girl. I wasn’t sure how well I would enjoy reading a mystery/thriller where I already knew the major plot twist. Would I find it bland as I already knew what was going on? Would I find it predictable through no fault of its own? I’m happy to report that, even knowing (one of) the twist(s), this book still managed to shock me and keep me on the edge of my seat!

Mostly through hatred.

Because I hated EVERY SINGLE CHARACTER IN THIS BOOK! Nick is terrible. Amy is a sociopath. The detectives made me want to punch several things. Just… not a single character in this book was likeable. And that made the story even more fascinating! I just had to know what terrible thing these terrible people were going to do to each other next.

I can see why this book is as popular as it is. With the breakneck twists and the compelling (if horrible) characters, this one was hard to put down! I’m glad I finally gave it a chance and read it.


Title: One of Us Is Lying

Author/Narrator: Karen M. McManus

Source: Bought

CW/TW: For a full list of content and trigger warnings, please check out BookTriggerWarnings.com

Rating: ★★★★

Links: Bookshop::Indiebound::TBD::B&N::Amazon::Goodreads

I’ve owned this book for a hot minute and, yet, it’s the second Karen M. McManus book I’ve read. I read Two Can Keep a Secret awhile ago and found myself really enjoying it! It kept me guessing until the end and I do love when a thriller can surprise me. So, after getting on so well with her sophomore novel, I decided to finally give her debut a try.

Though I did manage to ferret out the twist in One of Us Is Lying, this was still a fast-paced and thrilling ride! The story was interesting and I enjoyed the Breakfast-Club-but-with-murder vibes to the whole thing. The characters were interesting to read about and had a lot of depth, which I appreciate in a mystery/thriller. And, even though I guessed whodunit, the reveal was still masterfully done!

This book was an intense, quick read that I’m glad I finally got around to picking up. I can’t wait to not only read the sequel, One of Us Is Next, but McManus’ newest book, The Cousins. I think Karen M. McManus is quickly becoming a favorite, ngl.


Title: Mexican Gothic

Author/Narrator: Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Source: Bought (BotM)

CW/TW: For a full list of content and trigger warnings, please check out BookTriggerWarnings.com

Rating: ★★★★

Links: Bookshop::Indiebound::TBD::B&N::Amazon::Goodreads

Imma be perfectly honest right now and say that I picked this book up mostly because of it’s gorgeous cover. I mean… look at it! I’ll also say that the only other book I’ve read by this author, Gods of Jade and Shadow, was solidly in the “okay” category for me. So I wasn’t 100% sure what to expect as I started this one.

(I’m also kiiiind of cheating with this one as it’s more so “horror” as opposed to a “mystery/thriller” but… 🤷🏾‍♀️)

Thankfully, Mexican Gothic was just the right mix of weird, creepy, gothic horror for me! When I tell you there were multiple times when I physically shuddered… This book will get under your skin in the best of ways! Well… if you like to be scared, that is 👻 Also, this book validated my absolute hatred of mushrooms. Seriously, though… check the trigger and content warnings for this one because there are some scenes that made me a little nauseous and I have a pretty strong stomach for horror.

I thought the pacing of this one was impeccable. I enjoyed our main character, Naomi, and the fact that she wasn’t some tough-as-nails badass but she still did what she needed to do to help her cousin. The other characters felt a little flat to me, but they still played their parts wonderfully. And the setting was just perfectly gothic! I loved the atmosphere of this book, even when it was making me shudder. All in all, this was a great book and it would definitely be a perfect read for this time of year!


And there we have it: three creepy books I’ve read recently finally reviewed! Are you planning on reading any of these during spooky season? Let me know in the comments!

And, as always, happy reading!