Book Review: If We Were Villains by M.L. Rio


Genres: mystery; contemporary; thriller

Why I read it: Why wouldn’t I want to read it might be simpler. But, I entered and won a giveaway on goodreads for the audiobook, so that’s why I’ve read (listened to, whatever) this so soon.

Who I’d recommend it to: Shakespeare fans, fans of mysteries, people into theater, literally everyone who will hold still long enough for me to gush about this book.


My rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★


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What it’s about:

Enter the players. There were seven of us then, seven bright young things with wide precious futures ahead of us. Until that year, we saw no further than the books in front of our faces.

On the day Oliver Marks is released from jail, the man who put him there is waiting at the door. Detective Colborne wants to know the truth, and after ten years, Oliver is finally ready to tell it.

Ten years ago: Oliver is one of seven young Shakespearean actors at Dellecher Classical Conservatory, a place of keen ambition and fierce competition. In this secluded world of firelight and leather-bound books, Oliver and his friends play the same roles onstage and off: hero, villain, tyrant, temptress, ingénue, extra. But in their fourth and final year, the balance of power begins to shift, good-natured rivalries turn ugly, and on opening night real violence invades the students’ world of make believe. In the morning, the fourth-years find themselves facing their very own tragedy, and their greatest acting challenge yet: convincing the police, each other, and themselves that they are innocent.

Part coming-of-age story, part confession, If We Were Villains explores the magical and dangerous boundary between art and life. In this tale of loyalty and betrayal, madness and ecstasy, the players must choose what roles to play before the curtain falls.


Are you screaming with delighted anticipation yet? I was, and yes, I do mean literally screaming in delight, when I first read the synopsis for the book. I love Shakespeare. I love theater. I honestly should have been a theater kid, but, alas, I ended up in an awful school district that funneled every possible penny into sports and had almost no other clubs and such to join, so it never happened. I did, however, help with the attempt to start a theater club in jr. high, and we thought it would be successful, but not enough of the younger kids were into it, so it fell apart after we moved on.

Back to the book!

First of all, as I said, I listened to this. I had planned to buy a hardback copy (and still plan to do so ASAP, and I’ll probably get the UK edition, too, because damn, that cover), but I lucked out and won the goodreads giveaway for the audiobook. I’m not much of an audiobook listener because my mind tends to wander, and it’s so easy for the narrator to annoy me, but Robert Petkoff did an excellent job, in my opinion. I actually enjoyed his narration so much I checked out Overdrive for other books he’s read, but I wasn’t really into any of them. I’m not sure I would recommend this as an audiobook, though, because there are multiple characters to keep track of and it took me quite a while to keep them all straight in my head while listening. Petkoff did different voices for each, which would normally irritate me because it usually sounds so silly, but I think he pulled it off nicely.

The. Freaking. STORY. Holy crap, this book is my life right now and has left me haunted by The Bard. I tend to quote Shakespeare a lot anyway, but it got a little out of hand while I was reading this, and I woke myself up shouting (why I was shouting, I’m not sure) “Mischief, thou art afoot!” one morning after listening to this right before bed. I also once fell off my chair at a particularly intense part, because a storm came suddenly and startled me. I’ve been finding Shakespeare everywhere since I started this book, which isn’t too unusual because, like I said, I love the Bard, but it’s escalated and I’m convinced this book is the cause. (Yes, I am kind of kidding about that.) I don’t think I’ve stopped thinking about this book for more than a few minutes since I started it, and I’m pretty sure I’m going to end up re-reading it at least once this year, after I buy a hardcover copy. I wouldn’t be surprised to find myself re-reading it more than once this year, though. I just freaking love it.

I can’t say that I saw the end of this one coming, like I usually do with mysteries. Oliver is the main character and the story alternates between his memories and the present day, and I never once guessed this one particular big thing that’s revealed toward the end. I kind of guessed part of what happened, but not the whole thing. It floored me and I had to pause the book, screech into a pillow, walk around and pour myself a drink, then gulp down most of it, before I was ready to hear the rest of the story. I then repeated the screeching, walking, and drinking at the very end. I desperately want more, but I’m glad the book ended where it did. It’s an open ending, which I’m not always a fan of, but I think it was done so well in this case. (It isn’t a true cliffhanger, if you’re opposed to those as I am. There are just any number of possibilities for what happens next.)

The friendships, the intricacies of the relationships, the secrecy, the lies, the jealousy, the betrayals, the loyalty, the drama, the comedy, the tragedy, the—. Ugh. I really have no words for describing just how well done this entire novel is. I’m not sure I found a single fault in it, and I think my husband is ready to buy a copy to stuff in my mouth to shut me up about it 😛

Rio’s writing was absolutely stunning, and this book, her debut, has landed her on my “auto-buy” list of authors. That’s a very, very short list (there are like two other authors on it, maybe three). If I didn’t know this was a debut, I would have never guessed it. Her ability to weave so many threads of story together, conceal things so masterfully, and transport the reader to this little world she’s created is breathtaking. This book is quite possibly going to be my favorite from 2017. I feel oddly guilty saying that because I’ve also read the last two Shades of Magic books this year, and I freaking love V.E. Schwab, but If We Were Villains is at least tied for first place. It’s that good.

Every single character that had more than a passing mention was so fleshed out and real. These people didn’t feel like mere characters in a book. It was like Rio plucked living people out of the world and found a way to bind them in ink. I actually forgot a few times that this was fiction. It reached a point for me that I kept expecting to look up and find myself surrounded by them, and I feel like I know each of them now.

I would give this book all the stars, all the awards, and I can not wait to get a non-audio copy to re-read. I’m pretty sure it’s going to be one of those books that has about a million sticky flags marking every other line because it’s brilliant. I absolutely recommend it.

While it isn’t really related to the book, I want to take a moment to babble about my absolute ignorance. I have followed Rio on social media for a few years (ok, so I briefly kind of stalked her blog because she’s awesome), and I knew she was writing a book, but I didn’t actually know this was her book until about a chapter in and I found myself thinking that it sounded an awful lot like something she would write. After some googling failed me, I went to her tumblr and found out that it was in fact her book I was listening to. I’m still not sure how I missed that info, but I did, and I’m actually kind of glad I did because I went into reading this with no preconceived notions about it, other than my feelings about the synopsis.

Have you read it yet, or are you planning to? I’d love to hear your thoughts!



Book Review: love, & you by Gretchen Gomez

34335011Genres: poetry

Why I read it: I follow Gretchen’s blog, and I follow her on twitter, so I was anxiously awaiting release day for this one! (Then, of course, life happened and it took a month for me to actually get it, but I finally did!)

Who I’d recommend it to: If you’ve had a bad relationship, had your heart broken, or just want an accessible poetry collection, this is for you.


My rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★



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one day i met a guy
who stole my heart,
we created a world
for ourselves.
and another day
he broke my heart
and shattered
my soul.

i took the tattered
pieces of this
broken soul and
became anew.

– here lies the hurting, the healing, and the learning


You know I have to take a moment to talk about this cover. I think it’s gorgeous, and I found out that the designer, Islam Farid, has actually been behind several covers I’ve fallen in love with recently, including this one. The black/white/red color scheme is one of my absolute favorites for literally anything (my nails are currently bright red with an accent nail on each that’s black and white striped), and I love the silhouette on this being white on a black background. I feel like that isn’t done a lot, and I love it.

The words, though. This was an emotional read that reminded me a lot of how I felt the first time I read the princess saves herself in this one. Do you ever read something and feel the words echo through your soul because they could be about you? I won’t say I felt that way about every poem in this collection, because I didn’t, but there were several that squeezed my heart and brought tears to my eyes.

I love that it isn’t broken up into sections, but still reads like a journey through different phases. The earlier poems had my heart breaking, but the ones toward the end patched me up, and might have left me in better shape than before I started the book.

One of my favorites that I’ve read several times was this one (pg. 117 in the paperback):

don’t waste time
regretting the
time you wasted


make time for
yourself now

rub self care on like oil


By the end of this book, I wanted to hug Gretchen and thank her, and maybe pour both of us a drink. It was painful and beautiful and brutally honest, and I wish younger versions of me had been able to read this book. Maybe I would have felt stronger sooner, learned to love myself a little earlier, and possibly avoided making some mistakes with my heart.

It’s not a light and fluffy read, but it ends with some empowering poems about self-love and taking care of yourself, and remembering that love isn’t supposed to hurt.

This is one I’ve already been recommending to people, and I’m sure that will continue. I can definitely see myself re-reading this a lot, and I’ll possibly be gifting it to people eventually. (I only say “possibly” because I don’t have many reader friends, and even fewer who enjoy poetry.)

If you like poetry that’s accessible (not overly steeped in metaphors and the like), but can punch you right in the feels with the emotions the words evoke, you need to read this.

If this sounds like something you might like, the kindle edition is on sale today for $0.99!


Book Review: Mad Woman by Kat Savage



cover; links to goodreads


Genres: poetry

Why I read it: It’s been on my TBR for a long time, I follow Kat Savage on social media (instagram, twitter) so I was pretty sure I’d like her poetry, and she was recommended to me by a few people who are also into poetry.

Who I’d recommend it to: People who already like poetry. Maybe to those who think they might like it, and are looking for good places to start. If you liked milk & honey and/or the princess saves herself in this one, you might like this one.


My rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★


Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository | Barnes & Noble

What it’s about:

Author of Learning to Speak, Kat Savage, returns with Mad Woman whish is comprised of 40 pieces that capture her stream on conscious, her confessions, and her strange thoughts. In Mad Woman, she bears it all and embraces her madness driven by loneliness and disappointment.


This is one of the shortest collections of poetry I own, but you know what they say about great things and small packages.

First of all… That. Cover! I won’t lie and tell you the cover art didn’t immediately catch my attention when I first came across this book a year or so ago because it did and I have had serious cover lust about it ever since. (The artist is Ashley Elliot, and she also has an instagram.)

In the opening statement for this book (“Before You Read This”), Kat talks about how this book was for her. She didn’t set out to write a book for everyone else, she wrote about what was going on in her head, and how it doesn’t make sense (but it makes perfect sense for her). She also says,

“If you relate to any of this, you’re mad too. And that’s amazing. This is for all the mad women. Don’t change a damn thing. You are important to me.”

I feel like I read this book at the right time for me, because I’ve been working on a collection of poetry for about a year, and I’ve been having a lot of doubts about it. Especially the parts that are mine, written for me, about me, and what goes on in my weird little head. Reading Mad Woman, and relating to a lot of it, was therapeutic in a way, and also encouraging. I felt less alone, like someone else out there understands some of the feelings I have that are hard to talk about.

I remember reading, then re-reading, then re-reading “What Is Written” because I was struggling with exactly that (difficulty with writing about things that make me happy) at exactly the time I read it. There were several poems I had the experience of reading several times because they spoke to me so strongly, actually.

I took my time reading this, even though it’s a short book, because almost every poem struck a chord for me. Maybe this is all made up, or metaphorical, or something else that isn’t quite literal, but I came away from reading this feeling like I know Kat Savage, or at least know parts of her, and I think it’s obvious that these were very personal, raw but beautiful, poems.

This was my first experience with one of Kat Savage’s books, but thankfully I bought two others (Redamancy and Throes), and I’m very much looking forward to reading those, and eventually more of her work.

Must Read Mondays: May 15th


Must Read Monday is a weekly thing I do here to recommend books I’ve read and enjoyed. I might sometimes throw in something I gave 3 stars to, but for the most part they’re books I gave a 4-5 star rating to. That doesn’t mean they’re necessarily amazing literature, but it does mean I liked them enough to recommend them to other people.


Married With Zombies 7716140(book 1 in the Living With the Dead series) by Jesse Petersen

When I read it: June 2011

Genres: sci-fi? horror? paranormal and/or fantasy? (What are zombie stories classified as, anyway?); romance

Recommended for: If you like things like the movies Zombieland, Dead Snow, Fido, Shaun of the Dead, etc. (think zombies, but with humor), and you don’t mind some romance mixed in, give this series a try.


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What it’s about:

A heartwarming tale of terror in the middle of the zombie apocalypse.

Meet Sarah and David.

Once upon a time they met and fell in love. But now they’re on the verge of divorce and going to couples’ counseling. On a routine trip to their counselor, they notice a few odd things – the lack of cars on the highway, the missing security guard, and the fact that their counselor, Dr. Kelly, is ripping out her previous client’s throat.

Meet the Zombies.

Now, Sarah and David are fighting for survival in the middle of the zombie apocalypse. But, just because there are zombies, doesn’t mean your other problems go away. If the zombies don’t eat their brains, they might just kill each other.

This might have been my first zombie book (if not, it was one of the first), and I loved it.

It’s fairly short (about 250 pages), and I devoured it in about a day, which was impressive back then when I had a much smaller child demanding my attention most of every day. This series definitely helped me become a zombie lover. (I wasn’t afraid of them at any point, I just never watched many movies with zombies or read many books, which was weird considering what a horror movie buff I was/am.)

I still haven’t actually finished this series, but I read the first three and thought they were a ton of fun. Warning, though, there is a lot of strong language if I remember correctly, and maybe some sexy times.

It’s been forever since I read this (my copy disappeared with a friend), but I’m hoping to get a new copy so I can re-read them at some point. They’re just hilarious, light, fun reads, and if I were a beach-goer, something like this would be my beach read.

Have you read this one? If you, too, love zombies, let me know some of your recommendations for books and movies, please!


First Lines Fridays: May 12th


First Lines Fridays is a weekly feature for book lovers hosted by Wandering Words. What if instead of judging a book by its cover, its author or its prestige, we judged it by its opening lines?

The Rules:

  • Pick a book off your shelf (it could be your current read or on your TBR) and open to the first page
  • Copy the first few lines, but don’t give anything else about the book away just yet – you need to hook the reader first

Finally… reveal the book!


“The story so far:
In the beginning the Universe was created.
This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move.”


Interested? Keep reading to find out which book this is from.



The Restaurant at the the End of the Universe by Douglas Adams (The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy #2)

8695What it’s about:

Facing annihilation at the hands of the warlike Vogons? Time for a cup of tea! Join the cosmically displaced Arthur Dent and his uncommon comrades in arms in their desperate search for a place to eat, as they hurtle across space powered by pure improbability.





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I realized just now that this is two weeks in a row that I’ve used sci-fi books. I’m actually not much of a sci-fi reader, but it’s pretty much all I’ve wanted to read lately.

Normally I wouldn’t use a second book in a series for this, but I’m re-reading The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy right now and I still think I liked the second book more. I remember thinking it was better when I first read the series a few years ago, and my opinions haven’t changed much. Ok, that’s not entirely true. I thought the first book was good, but now that I’m actually a fan of the series, I like it a lot more than I did the first time around. But, the opening to The Restaurant at the End of the Universe is still one of my favorite opening lines (or book quotes, in general) ever, so I had to use it.

Have you read this series? What did you think of it?

Must Read Monday: May 08


Must Read Monday is a weekly thing I do here to recommend books I’ve read and enjoyed. I might sometimes throw in something I gave 3 stars to, but for the most part they’re books I gave a 4-5 star rating to. That doesn’t mean they’re necessarily amazing literature, but it does mean I liked them enough to recommend them to other people.


395040The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

When I read it: Before I had a goodreads, so I’m actually not sure. Probably 2006-09, so it’s been a while.

Genres: classics; literary fiction; fiction: mental health; fiction: feminism

Recommended for: In all honestly, I recommend this to almost everyone. However, I would suggest those with mental illness and/or those triggered by some themes to consider reading reviews and checking lists for trigger warnings first.



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What it’s about:

Sylvia Plath’s shocking, realistic, and intensely emotional novel about a woman falling into the grip of insanity.

Esther Greenwood is brilliant, beautiful, enormously talented, and successful, but slowly going under—maybe for the last time. In her acclaimed and enduring masterwork, Sylvia Plath brilliantly draws the reader into Esther’s breakdown with such intensity that her insanity becomes palpably real, even rational—as accessible an experience as going to the movies. A deep penetration into the darkest and most harrowing corners of the human psyche, The Bell Jar is an extraordinary accomplishment and a haunting American classic.

This book changed me. I remember reading it and relating to Esther a lot more than I probably should have (most likely because I relate to Sylvia Plath more than I should), and realizing for the first time that I’m really not the only person who feels this way.

It has been quite some time since I read this, and I’m thinking about re-reading it soon (or now, since I’m thinking of plucking it off my shelf right this second). I do remember it being a darker book. It’s beautifully written and I do highly recommend it, but I also think it can bring up a lot of issues for some people.


On the subject of reading/re-reading it, if anyone wants to buddy-read it, let me know 🙂 I’m probably actually not going to start it right this moment, but soon(ish).

Have you read The Bell Jar? What did you think of it?

Must Read Mondays: National Poetry Month Edition


Must Read Mondays is a weekly thing I do here (well, most weeks) to share some of my favorite books. April is National Poetry Month, so I’ll be featuring poetry books I’ve loved.


30325231the chaos of longing by K.Y. Robinson


When I read it: March 2017

Recommended for: I would recommend it to most people, whether you already love poetry or not. If you enjoyed milk & honey or the princess saves herself in this one, I think you’ll like this one.


Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository | Barnes & Noble



The Chaos of Longing is a prose and poetry collection draped in raw honesty, ache, and eroticism. The collection explores trauma, love, heartbreak, and the realizations from it all.

The book is divided into four sections. “Inception” briefly examines formative years and its effects on how one loves. “Longing” reflects on love and sexuality. “Chaos” explores toxic relationships, unrequited love, and heartache. After chaos, there is order with self-love and healing poems in “epiphany”.

Some content may be triggering.

This has been on my TBR since it was published, I believe, but it took a while for me to get around to it. I’ve been on a bit of a poetry reading binge this year, and I was really excited to get to this one. I feel like I read it at exactly the right time, and I found it so moving and powerful. I gave it 5/5 stars and I’m recommending it to pretty much everyone. But, I bolded the trigger comment in the description because I think it could be triggering for some people, so maybe look for reviews that mention that if you’re concerned. I can’t wait to read more by K.Y. Robinson in the future.

If you’re up for being hit right in the feels, this is the poetry book for you.

Have you read it? What did you think?