Reviews for Already Published Books

REVIEW: Shadows You Left by Taylor Brooke & Jude Sierra


41071966Publisher: Entangled
Release Date: May 20, 2019
Received From: Review copy from the author / NetGalley


The white picket fence.

The happily-ever-after.

That life was never meant for him.

For years he’s been bouncing from city to city—from one cage fight to another.

That’s his outlet. That’s pain Erik can control.

But in Seattle, everything changed.

River’s an artist.

He’s a pretty boy.

He does yoga.

Someone so soft shouldn’t be intrigued by Erik’s rough edges.


His life was quiet. He had a simple routine.

Designing tattoos, avoiding drama. Well, mostly.

Then Erik comes along—scarred and dangerous, shrouded in mystery.

A mystery River can’t resist trying to solve.

Maybe a secret as dark as his own.

Neither of them expected a relationship so complicated, so intense.

Neither of them expected…each other.

Erik and River are both trying to escape a shadowed past.

But the thing about shadows is: the faster you run, the faster they chase you.

gender sexuality romantic pairings

GENDER: cisgender
SEXUALITY: bisexual, pansexual
ROMANTIC ORIENTATION: biromantic, demiromantic

tropes tags warnings

TROPES: slice of life
TAGS: new adult, contemporary, romance, queer romance, queer characters, coming of age, tattoo artists, ownvoices, POC author, Brazilian author
WARNINGS: physical injury, explicit violence, family, clowns, ableism, drug usage, alcoholism, addiction, overdose mention, grief, mental illness (panic attack, anxiety), child abuse, gaslighting, drug dealing, cheating mention, slurs, gendered slurs, past abusive relationship, sexual content, self-harm


This book is what I’d call a “slice of life” story, in which the plot focuses largely on the lives of the characters, including the romance, but doesn’t necessarily involve anything catastrophic from the outside. But from the blurb to the authors’ various promo, this book promises to be a heavy, emotional slice of life read, and it doesn’t fall flat on that promise at all. The story and characters deal with several difficult topics–from addiction to grief to recognizing abuse to forgiveness and more. And all these topics are treated with the kind of care and nuance that comes with personal experience, making the reading experience even more intense in some instances.

Both characters are really wonderfully complex. I adored Erik O’Malley from the first page and just knew this messy boy would break my heart. His journey is a process of self-realization and self-destruction, and the book follows him through his grief and learning to be better for himself, to heal for himself. It took me a little while longer to connect with River Svoboda, but I appreciated reading his story because his family life resonated in painful but true to life ways for me. The two of them together were explosive–in good and bad ways. They clearly mesh well in multiple ways, the first of which being sexually, but also in their sense of humor and their ability to survive the horrible things life throws at them. But they’re also so bad for each other sometimes–particularly in how Erik’s drug usage and determination to hurt himself and those around him mirrors the way River’s mother, who’s an alcoholic, treats him and thus trigger him; but also in the way that River is so desperate to fix things, to fix Erik and make him see that he doesn’t need to hurt himself, that he isn’t alone. This is at the core of their problems, and it was, at times, so difficult to watch them struggle to find footholds and cling to each other even as they hurt each other trying to find their way to the other side. But, it was all worth it in the end, as they found ways to compromise and trust each other.

One aspect of the story that I very much enjoyed was Erik’s demiromanticism and the emphasis Brooke put on the fact that it doesn’t always manifest the same way for every relationship/person. This aspect was especially resonate for me as a demiromantic person who has recently come to this realization about it as well–with some people, it takes a long while of getting to know them before that switch is flipped towards romantic attraction, while with others, it can be a rapid change, one that seems like too much too fast. It was really lovely to see this on page, as this aspect of the identity is very rarely explored, in what I personally have read. Erik struggles with the rapidity with which he develops feelings and an emotional connection with River, and I very much appreciated the way Brooke depicts his fear and the tough love he gets from his friends as they remind him that it’s okay for things to be different this time around.

The writing was as lyrical and complex as I’ve come to expect from both authors…which is partially where I struggled with this book. While Brooke and Sierra are both known for descriptive, at times purple, prose, their individual styles don’t work for me in the same way. Brooke’s writing is more accessible and easier to read, whereas it’s easy to get lost in Sierra’s. The River chapters were often difficult for me to get through because of this. They often hop around in seemingly unconnected ways, with very abrupt transitions that don’t make sense or flow well. Additionally, the story and characters sometimes get lost to the verbosity and it’s a struggle to follow the imagery. While the book is heavy emotionally, it’s not really that aspect that makes it feel heavy. Instead, it’s the dense, flowery language–again, most often in the River chapters–that makes it feel, as a reader, like you’re being dragged down or pulled through molasses. As much as I hate to say it, because I do like Sierra and her writing generally, I would’ve enjoyed this novel much more if it was written solely by Brooke.

While it started out a bit slowly, this book built up into a strong, intense journey, and one well worth the read.

rating4 STARSabout the author

Headshot 2018Taylor Brooke (she/they) is a traveling story-teller, occult fanatic, and a science fiction junkie.

She worked as a special effects makeup artist for many years before she wrote her first book. When she’s not writing, she’s exploring the Pacific Northwest, backpacking, or reading. She writes #ownvoices Queer books about love, secrets and magic.

img_6560Jude Sierra is a Latinx poet, author, academic and mother who is currently working toward her PhD in Writing and Rhetoric, looking at the intersections of Queer, Feminist and Pop Culture Studies. She also works as an LGBTQAI+ book reviewer for Queer Books Unbound. Her novels include Hush, What it Takes, and Idlewild, a contemporary queer romance set in Detroit’s renaissance, which was named a Best Book of 2016 by Kirkus Reviews. Her most recent novel ATiny Piece of Something Greater was released in May of 2018. Shadows you Left, a co-written novel with Taylor Brooke will arrive spring of 2019 from Entangled Press.

Jude began her writing career at the age of eight when she immortalized her summer vacation with ten entries in a row that read “pool+tv”.

As a sucker for happy endings and well written emotional arcs and characters, Jude is an unapologetic bookaholic. She finds bookstores and libraries unbearably sexy and, to her husband’s dismay, is attempting to create her own in their living room.

She is a writer of many things that hope to find their way out of the sanctuary of her hard drive, and many that have found a home in fanfiction communities.

buy links

Barnes & Noble

review by nicky tyler

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s