Thoughts on books, family, and life in one impressive package.

We are now moving on to July releases. After the stellar reading that defined June, July was bound to be less exciting. Still, any month that includes Blake Crouch and Ruth Ware isn’t too bad!

Upgrade by Blake Crouch
Upgrade is another intense science fiction thriller by Blake Crouch. This time, his focus is on gene modification and its ethics. As you would expect from Mr. Crouch, the action is intense and near-constant. The science is also fierce, as he tackles genes, genomes, and the science of modifying them. I enjoy and gravitate toward stories that force you to answer tough ethical questions, and I love a story that uses plausible science. Upgrade has both. I ripped through its pages and finished the story with the satisfaction of experiencing a well-written, well-plotted book.

The It Girl by Ruth Ware
Any Ruth Ware novel is going to be a good one. The It Girl is just that. First, part of the story occurs in Oxford, a location which always, to me at least, elevates a story. Adding to that is a roommate situation that involves a little hero worship. This is all before we get to the murder itself. In the present day, tension automatically comes from the fact that both Hannah and Will are now married and still dealing with the fallout of April’s murder, something that only increases as you discover the extent of their relationships with her. The only issue I have with this particular one is that I could not stand April, and I couldn’t help but understand why someone might have problems with her to the point of wanting her dead. While I say that, I wonder if that is Ms. Ware’s point, which is quite sneaky of her if true. Still, I did enjoy The It Girl and would rank it higher than some of her previous novels.

Master of Iron by Tricia Levenseller
Master of Iron concludes the Bladesmith duology by Tricia Levenseller, and I repeatedly fell in love with Ziva. In Ziva, Ms. Levenseller creates a heroine who struggles with severe anxiety. Throughout both novels, Ziva must learn to deal with her anxiety and discover her strengths. For those readers who also deal with anxiety, Ziva is a breath of fresh air, making you feel seen or at least helping you recognize that you are not alone. For those readers who are lucky enough not to have anxiety, you get insight into what it is like to live with this mental disease. The fact that Ziva gets a happy ending is empowering, and I have a special place in my heart for Ms. Levenseller for creating such a unique character.

When Stars Come Out by Scarlett St. Clair
When Stars Come Out is a fantastic dark fantasy young adult novel involving ghosts, a new high school, and a mysterious organization that governs the dead. I am a sucker for secretive organizations, so Ms. St. Clair immediately snagged my interest with this one. Add a spooky town and a girl who can see dead people, and I was a goner. While it might not be as spicy as her adult novels, When Stars Come Out delivers in every way. Anora is a great heroine, emotionally fragile but strong in many other ways. I appreciate her fractious relationship with her mother and the desire to improve it, especially as a mother of a teenage daughter. The Gothic tone is also appealing, while the story’s pacing is intense. This is yet another story for which I am excited about the sequel!

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