Ok, I know, I know, I said no more reading free books to review after 2019….. and I did hold off longer than expected. But then I found Voracious Readers Only. Or, rather, they found me. Thanks, Instagram ads.

VRO offers a LOT of books to choose from, and there’s no penalty for passing on something that’s not your speed. They have a lot of newer authors and many are particularly delightful, which makes me want to go buy the authors’ other books sraightaway. Some of these sequels aren’t out yet, which is vaguely painful to my soul — but good for my wallet.

Without any further adieu, and with links to my local indie bookshop, the VRO reads that have stuck with me the most thus far:

Ace Tucker, Space Trucker, James R. Tramontana — Ace Tucker was kidnapped from Earth as a baby and deposited at a galactic orphanage. The story just gets more ridiculous from there, including Elvis. I don’t want to say too much else, because that basically covers it, but I loved it. Wacky, irreverent, made me want KFC. And the author even included my review on his Insta

Cut Her Out in Little Stars, Daniele Kasper — Obviously, I got this for the Shakespearean reference in the title, but I was quickly drawn into Cara’s story. Who among us hasn’t had a terrible dead-end job and felt stuck in life, dreaming of an adventure? Granted, Cara’s adventure — in the future. In space. — was a bit more than either of us planned for. Equal parts sci-fi tale and romance, I can’t wait for the sequel!

The Ingenious, and the Colour of Life, J.Y. Sam — YA fantasy is one of my favorite genres, and Sam did a fantastic job with her world-building. I could really picture the characters and loved the (kid-friendly) Sense8 connections. One of the best parts is that not everyone in the book has an extraordinary ability, their letter to Hogwarts, so to speak. But everyone has their own gifts, and it’s what we do with them that matters, no matter who the world tells us we are (or aren’t). 

Welcome to the Punkhorns, Benjamin Bradley — I was a bit hesitant about this one as was the start of a new series (would it be a satisfying standalone story?) and looked to be an angsty, hard-boiled, grumpy detective one at that. Maybe I was being prejudiced, because I’d just finished Mare of Easttown  — which, for the record, I loved, but often, grumpy literary detectives blend together and rely more on “piercing stares” and “gut hunches” than actual storytelling. But I could not have been more wrong! There is a darkness to the Punkhorns, a creepy and mysterious forest in Massachusetts, but the story was warm and inviting and far more charming than haunted woods have the right to be. I’ve volunteered to be a beta reader for the sequel, and I can’t wait to meet up with Delaney, Capser, and Hoagie again. 

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