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3.5 stars Thank you very much to Interlude Press for providing a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review Fortitude Smashed by Taylor Brooke was not an anticipated novel for me this year, but I had seen quite a few of my fellow blogging friends reading and enjoying it, and so I, excitedly, requested it.Taylor Brooke should be praised for so effortlessly creating a world where queer sexuality is the norm From my understanding, everyone in this semi contemporary world has no problem 3.5 stars Thank you very much to Interlude Press for providing a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review Fortitude Smashed by Taylor Brooke was not an anticipated novel for me this year, but I had seen quite a few of my fellow blogging friends reading and enjoying it, and so I, excitedly, requested it.Taylor Brooke should be praised for so effortlessly creating a world where queer sexuality is the norm From my understanding, everyone in this semi contemporary world has no problem with sexuality, and in fact most of them are queer in fact, the main characters are queer too Shannon is bisexual and Aiden pansexual There was also a brief mention of non mongamy and the inclusion of three or even four soulmates The queer rep is fantastic and something many other authors should strive for in their novels.The main characters, Shannon and Aiden, felt quite individual with distinctive character voices Shannon is a cop who is trying to live up to his father s police reputation, but feels as though he is failing Aiden is a thief who suffers from disassociated dysthymia, and who constantly feels inadequate I adored their relationship and even swooned a few times at the romantic scenes They fit well together as a couple, despite their many differences, and I enjoyed reading about how they learn to overcome their issues.Brooke s writing was quite beautiful There were many sentences that just blew me away She has a great gift for writing and encouraging the reader to keep reading.There was a lack of world building in Fortitude Smashed, which lead to many occasions of confusion My only knowledge about the soulmate pairing and the technology implanted under people s thumbs came from reading the blurb Embarrassingly, I just skimmed the blurb when I requested this book basically, I just saw a few of my friends enjoying the book and assumed I would too, so I thought that everyone was born with this Camellia Clock imbedded under their thumb, not that technology had advanced enough for scientists to calculate the exact time soulmates will meet Part of this confusion was my fault read the damn blurb next time but there wasn t much explanation of the Clock within the novel, aside from brief descriptions, and nothing about the history behind it.An issue I had with the novel is considered a major spoiler, but I feel like I can t adequately explain my problem with the book without including this in my review view spoiler There s a character who is introduced late into Fortitude Smashed called Daisy, who is Aiden s long lost childhood friend She is a great character, who assists Aiden in a multitude of ways, but the treatment of Daisy was upsetting Daisy is sexually assaulted by a stranger around the 83% mark, and the only reason I can understand why it happened was to bring Shannon and Aiden closer together Her trauma doesn t really serve another purpose I was very upset by the use of violence against women as a plot device in any novel, and was quite uncomfortable by it s inclusion here to make two characters admit they love one another Personally, I feel that there are many other ways Shannon and Aiden could have confessed their love without the inclusion of sexual assault.Another issue I also had was the use of the stereotypical self centred, blonde ex girlfriend who is jealous of her ex s new love and tries to screw up his new relationship That s a very common trope that irked me However, the character Chelsea does grow from this, and the next book is about her, so I am excited to see what direction Brooke takes her character in.One minor issue that I want to mention is the way Aiden and Shannon s ex, Chelsea, solve the problems between them Aiden basically yells at Chelsea until she strikes him across the face, and then they re friendly That just didn t seem very realistic to me If someone smacked me in the middle of an argument, I would not become their friend minutes later I also don t like it when female violence against men is viewed as acceptable, when it definitely is not hide spoiler I did except a littlefrom Fortitude Smashed, but for the most part putting aside personal issues I did enjoy the novel I found the characters engaging and their romance beautifully plotted out I really hope Brooke features Aiden and Shannon in the next book in the series, even for just a chapter or so I received an ARC in exchange for a free and honest review.I was expecting a lot from this book, then I wasn t and then, well I was Again.I heard about Fortitude Smashed months before its arcs were out in the wild The concept of soulmates, so popular in fanfiction, was something that drew me in as soon as I read the blurb Despite some concerns soulmates aus always treat aro and often ace people like crap , I couldn t wait to get my hands on it.But when I started reading the eARC I got throu I received an ARC in exchange for a free and honest review.I was expecting a lot from this book, then I wasn t and then, well I was Again.I heard about Fortitude Smashed months before its arcs were out in the wild The concept of soulmates, so popular in fanfiction, was something that drew me in as soon as I read the blurb Despite some concerns soulmates aus always treat aro and often ace people like crap , I couldn t wait to get my hands on it.But when I started reading the eARC I got through Netgalley, my excitement evaporated First, because it was so awfully formatted I mean, it s an ARC It s not supposed to be perfect But the change of POV, the lack of space between words and dots and so on, started to grate on me a little And the story wasn t that interesting Disappointed, I set the book aside for some time and days later got back to itout of stubbornness than anything else.But then I hit 20% in the story and boom , I was hooked.I couldn t stop reading it The writing became solush and, I don t know, lyrical I must be honest and say I m usually not a fan of what most people call beautiful, evocative writing It always end up feeling like purple prose to me, or at least like the author is trying to manipulate me into feeling something which, as a writer myself, I know it s true, but I don t want to notice what is happening So you can imagine my surprise when theevocative writing of Fortitude Smashed really got to me.Still, the strength of this book lies in its characters I love it when a book manages to treat its secondary characters well and Fortitude Smashed definitely did this also, I think I already know who the next book is going to be about and I really hope I m right All of them had convincing personalities and had their own stories, problems and life.The main characters, though, were the best of all Shannon and Aiden are complex and completely real, and even though they are so different they still managed to convince me of their love for each other, which is the main problem for me in most romance books I still can t explain exactly how they did it because even though I do like soulmates aus I hate instalove And even though Aiden and Shannon fall in love kinda quick, it never felt like instalove Does that make sense Anyway, Fortitude Smashed was a beautiful, pleasant read I can t wait to see what the next books will bring 4.0 stars I would like to thank Taylor Brooke and the people at Interlude Press for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review.I love this book so much Check out my full review here.Trigger warning for sexual assault rape, depression, suicidal ideation, alcohol, violence, dissociative episodes, panic attacks, and mentions of drugs I would like to thank Taylor Brooke and the people at Interlude Press for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review.I love this book so much Check out my full review here.Trigger warning for sexual assault rape, depression, suicidal ideation, alcohol, violence, dissociative episodes, panic attacks, and mentions of drugs Fortitude Smashed is the first and only book I have ever read for review that I re read and took notes in the margins of with a pen and a highlighter That I loved so much I wanted to wallow in on every level I would be allowed to That s been sitting on my nightstand for months just so I can keep savoring tiny moments.I read the book in one go I fell in love with Aiden and with Shannon, I fell in love with them falling in love The beauty of the conceit of fated people learning to be together Fortitude Smashed is the first and only book I have ever read for review that I re read and took notes in the margins of with a pen and a highlighter That I loved so much I wanted to wallow in on every level I would be allowed to That s been sitting on my nightstand for months just so I can keep savoring tiny moments.I read the book in one go I fell in love with Aiden and with Shannon, I fell in love with them falling in love The beauty of the conceit of fated people learning to be together in Brooke s hands is this These men are both ready and not, are willing and unwilling, and prickly but open Their Rose Road gives them the space to struggle, as we do, but with the safety of understanding that this is meant In this way, we are privileged to witness Aiden and Shannon as they go through a particular journey of personal growth that only this situation, this Rose Road, this circumstance could bring.In Fortitude Smashed Brooke built a family of secondary characters that I both adored and was incredibly irritated by at times in short, she gave these men family and friends that were fleshed out humans, not just foils or plot devices to move particular aspects of the story around A great cast of secondary characters is hard to pull off and Brooke does it I love the gender sexuality identity representation we see thus far in this series I m excited to see what comes in the next few, as I ve seen the author address questions related to this in blog tour interviews and on her twitter I d like to articulate my feelings on this well, but my friend Annie at From Top To Bottom Reviews has done a better job of capturing it here in her review.I read this book the first time fully knowing there was evento the story under the layers Brooke created, but unable to stop because I was so caught up in the story The point of this being if you don t feel like you want to do any literary analysis to enjoy the shit out of a beautiful book, you don t This book, I promise, will be a lovely experience regardless.That said the first time I read Fortitude Smashed, I knew it was special I knew I loved it a few pages in, but it was on page 26 when Aiden first speaks to the Empty Man that I knew that what Brooke is crafting in this series is literature Aiden thought the heart of the world, like fate, was buried in the sea and, despite his hunger, he would never find it 26 Fortitude Smashed is filled with some really heart stopping prose I mean, the kind of phrase turning that makes you stop and re read just to enjoy the sheer poetry of it None of Brooke s words or images function as still art alone Rather, she deploys every image with precision Spread out on the bed with a blush creeping from his chest to his face, Aiden was still a cluster of knives Shannon s willingness to bleed defied every shred of control he had left 135 The second time I read this book, I had a pen, a highlighter, and lots of quiet I savored it I really let myself look at how Brooke used images, names, words, flowers to tell usabout Aiden whose name, consequently means little fire or ardent and Shannon whose name means wise river or possessor of wisdom I ll just let you sit in that lovely tidbit for a moment, take it with you when you read the book and it ll just add a lovely layer.Brooke s use of metaphor and imagery, particularly in reference to the two pieces of art, Fortitude Smashed and Catalyst, as well as the Empty Man Aiden meets on the beach at the beginning and near the end of the novel, are brilliantly situated, used, and executed We begin the book with Aiden and Shannon meeting just as Aiden is attempting to steal Fortitude Smashed, a piece of art made of flowers and flower parts lilies, dandelion and baby s breath, all of which represent particular things For example, lilies represent restored innocence after death Aiden later tells Shannon he wanted to steal it because it reminded him of himself When Shannon goes to buy it for him, after they ve fallen in love, he actually sees it for the first time, and in it a containment of life in death in one piece The lily s stem was snapped from the rest of the petals, which gave the flower a sense of detachment It was nature s grenade in the midst of detonating, a slow motion explosion 147It is in this moment that Shannon really understands this was who Aiden was in the moment they met This is how Aiden understood and saw himself.As fate would have it, Shannon is unable to buy Fortitude Smashed instead he buys another piece, which we don t get to see until the end of the book Catalyst, which is made of ivy and dandelion, calla lily and tulip flowers that represent youth, rebirth, perfect love, fidelity, affectionate attachment What I loved so deeply about this is that Brook doesn t tell us any of this she doesn t give the reader the meanings She s given the reader gifts inside her prose Aiden and Shannon s struggle to understand, walk, and love one another as their Rose Roads is done gorgeously, with care and depth and understanding And underneath it all Brooke infuses her language and images with depth and symbolism that make the story all that much richer.Before I finish with my high high praise for an ownvoices story about mental illness, I want to go back to the Empty Man and how he functions as a catalyst at the beginning of the story when Aiden is really struggling with the idea that his Rose Road is a cop when he s struggling with his self worth and his demons when we re learning that despite his hard exterior, Aiden is terrified of not finding his heart How deeply he wants that Rose Road and love Someone told me I would eat the heart of the world one day, Aiden said I ve always loved the world, but I never thought I d find the heart of it, the best of it, the center of it I did though I found it, he added quickly Or it found me, I m not sure which I don t know either, but you ve completely consumed it Aiden offered a shy smile, one of his gentle rarities, and he kissed Shannon again 315 To summarize there, thank you Taylor, for this really heart wrenching, human, gorgeous love story.And now, the part I really, really want people to leave with This is an ownvoices story in regards to mental health rep, with both Brooke author and Aiden having mental illness Personally, as someone who also not only struggles with but survives with mental illness, Aiden s story and representation meant the world to me Shannon doesn t cure Aiden Fate, love, romance, sex none of it fixes Aiden because there s nothing to be fixed Aiden is beautifully imperfect, he s human, he has a mental illness, but he isn t his mental illness People living with depression or bipolar, with dysthmia or cyclothemia me or any other number of MI our MI s don t define us Stories where love cures or fixes characters with MI really bother me because that s not how life works My husband loves and supports me, his presence has helped save my life, but at the end of the day, I save my life I make it through each day I am the center of my survival and recovery Brooke writes a love story with healing, with hope, and where the characters are ultimately the primary agents of change and wellness in their own lives, which they then bring to each other and their love I can see this theme in Daisy s story I can see this agency in Chelsea s story I look forward to what Brooke will do with them in future books in this series with utter trust in her skill ETA 6 16 20 Due to recent revelations about the author s harmful and abusive behavior toward BIPOC and LGBTQ people, I no longer recommend their books I am allowing the review to stand for transparency but I am clearing the star rating.Excellent MM romance with a hint of sci fi Everyone gets a Camellia Clock implanted when they re born, which counts down to the second you ll meet your soul mate Cop Shannon catches thief Aiden in the middle of robbing an art gallery when their Clocks run out ETA 6 16 20 Due to recent revelations about the author s harmful and abusive behavior toward BIPOC and LGBTQ people, I no longer recommend their books I am allowing the review to stand for transparency but I am clearing the star rating.Excellent MM romance with a hint of sci fi Everyone gets a Camellia Clock implanted when they re born, which counts down to the second you ll meet your soul mate Cop Shannon catches thief Aiden in the middle of robbing an art gallery when their Clocks run out Cue panic because these two opposites are not having it Except they re somehow still drawn to each other and the developing relationship was absolute perfection Watching Shannon and Aiden fall for one another made my heart grow three sizes, I swear.Both characters had moving backstories and I particularly loved watching Aiden figure out who he wanted to be The side characters also had a good deal of depth and their interactions with our main characters were fully realized And also makes for a good set up for book 2 The novel compassionately deals with grief and mental illness and I just wanted to hug everyone The writing Holy hell, can Taylor write It s the kind of writing that makes you want to track down everything the author has written I cannot handle how much I loved this one rep bi pan mcs, mlm relationshipReview also on my blog.Soulmates I mean, the blurb could have ended there and I would already be hooked Even if what I actually like most about the soulmates trope, is the identifying marks part that kind of works best in fics, when I know and love the characters But no matter Soulmates I was excited Our main characters the pov switches between them all the time, it s nice are an art thief and a police detective Combine this with the soulmates trope a rep bi pan mcs, mlm relationshipReview also on my blog.Soulmates I mean, the blurb could have ended there and I would already be hooked Even if what I actually like most about the soulmates trope, is the identifying marks part that kind of works best in fics, when I know and love the characters But no matter Soulmates I was excited Our main characters the pov switches between them all the time, it s nice are an art thief and a police detective Combine this with the soulmates trope and you re expecting some nice angst before the guys even get together, right Well, that s not the case The sparks start flying right away and they re actually pretty quick to start a relationship Honestly, though It s a good thing I loved that It gave us an opportunity to observe how they will take care of said relationship As soon as I realised this is what I got myself into, I was evenexcited.They actually make a pretty good job of getting their relationship to work Sure, they re not big on communicating, at least at first and it s even addressed in the narrative and apparently in this world soulmates have two modes of interacting, physical emotional , but they do their best They share all the important things with each other It s all very reasonable and adult like.So Anna, what s the deal Why is your rating so low Yes, the premise is good Great even The problems start when you look at the writing I see two, which are deeply connected 1 the totally purple prose and 2 the lackluster characters You wouldn t necessarily think those have anything to do with each other and yet The thing is, the style sure is pretty, full of sweet, enchanting metaphors, but it s all empty It s so shiny, it takes your attention away from the fact that the characters have absolutely no depth And that s because they are constantly being described, but none of those beautiful descriptions have anything to do with how they act Aiden especially is being portrayed time and time again as this dangerous young man, all knives and sharp edges But in reality all we get is him walking his cat on a pink leash and sharing food with homeless people It s kind of even worse with Shannon, because we re given some hints about his tragic past, but never actually learn anything.So yeah In the end, even though I actually like purple prose and it was very sparkling here, I was bored to death and couldn t wait to get to the last line I m really sorry about that, I was honestly excited about this book I mean Soulmates This was literally a soulmate AU, except it had original characters and wasn t in an existing fandom So not an AU at all, but you get me I have the tendency to not read the synopsis of books if I already know I ll read them because it spoils the first parts of the book However, here, it was kind of necessary to understand the soulmate thing I was sad to see that the science, the technique behind it and how it worked weren t elaborated onIt would have been interesting to see what it co This was literally a soulmate AU, except it had original characters and wasn t in an existing fandom So not an AU at all, but you get me I have the tendency to not read the synopsis of books if I already know I ll read them because it spoils the first parts of the book However, here, it was kind of necessary to understand the soulmate thing I was sad to see that the science, the technique behind it and how it worked weren t elaborated onIt would have been interesting to see what it could have been if it wentto the sci fi side of things Because if we can determine when you ll meet your soulmate, there should be other cool things we can do too, no But this is mainly only a romance, a hate to love in a universe in which soulmates exist It s very character driven, and whilst it liked both perspectives, it did seem to lack something for me Maybeworldbuilding, maybeplot Alsoof an explanation of how soulmates work for aromantic and or asexual people, and in regards to sexual and romantic attraction and gender And in polycules There was some mention of triads and quartets, which I appreciated, but what about V structures or elaborate constellations in which not everyone is romantically or sexually involved with all others Those are only minor things, probably, but I m immediately curious about the ins and outs of worlds and systems like this And if it doesn t feel like they click, they re less believable, in a way The book is definitely enjoyable, and I loved Aiden I loved the mental illness rep How this wasn t a love cures story, but a story of loss, love, hope, support, fight, struggle and growth It was hopeful, and I m grateful for the happy ending.I would have liked to see the cop thief dynamic played out , but on the other hand, this way they didn t deal with dangerous power dynamics that could be unhealthy Apart from that, it was pretty fun, but not muchThe plot was definitely an issue because it didn t actually feel like there was one But it was a good way to pass the time this evening TW off page sexual assault, depression, anxiety, panic attacks, non graphic mainly off page sex, fatal car crash, physical violence, ableist language, suicidal idolation, called out ableismI was very glad to see a list of trigger warnings with chapter numbers at the start of the book Read the full review andon my blog TW Fire, Sexual AssaultCamellia Clocks are implanted beneath every infants thumbnail, where glowing numbers count down to the moment they will meet their soul mate It seems to work out about 98% of the time, and even though the clocks will count down until you meet your soul mate, it s still your choice what to do with that information and it still takes work to have a relationship Honestly with that synopsis I was a bit worried about how the book woul Read the full review andon my blog TW Fire, Sexual AssaultCamellia Clocks are implanted beneath every infants thumbnail, where glowing numbers count down to the moment they will meet their soul mate It seems to work out about 98% of the time, and even though the clocks will count down until you meet your soul mate, it s still your choice what to do with that information and it still takes work to have a relationship Honestly with that synopsis I was a bit worried about how the book would go, but i m so glad I gave it shot as I ended up loving it A thief, Aiden, attempting to steal a painting, and a detective, Shannon, end up timing out when Shannon catches Aiden attempting to steal said painting Needless to say they were both kinda confused at that.It s own voices for bi pan characters, and mental illness rep Aiden suffers from Dissociative Dysthymia, a chronic depression He gets panic attacks.I ended up relating to Aiden so much His depression and his reactions mirror what i ve experienced exactly My reason are different than his, but the feelings are the same and I don t believe i ve ever seen these feelings described so well, that fit me like a tee, in a book before I ve seen other great mental illness rep that fit me too in regards to anxiety but as for the Dissociative Dysthymia and panic attacks, not so much Here, I felt like I was reading my story It s an amazing feeling to know one isn t alone in such things To know someone else understands.All the characters in this book are complex and very well fleshed out It really shows you how to look beyond what you first see when you see someone You can t tell someone s story just by looking at them and knowing one facet of who they are, people are so muchthan that and I loved how this book captured that They are flawed, and at times I got angry at some of the other characters, but everything ended up being unpacked I was angry because I was supposed to be and for good reason Conversations were had and stuff was called out.Yes, there is a romance here, but it is so muchthan that And no, mental illness is NOT cured by love Yes it has a HEA, but Aiden is not cured Thank you There isn t really much action or plot to speak of, this is muchcharacter driven If you re looking for an action packed plot based book, this isn t it But if you want a story with well fleshed out, complex characters going through their life, trying to figure stuff out, sometimes making mistakes and being human, that is sweet and will tug at your heart, i d highly recommend this Thank you to the author for giving me a chance to read this.My Booktube Channel (Free Epub) ô Fortitude Smashed  After scientists stumbled across an anomalous human hormone present during moments of emotional intimacy, further research created the ability to harness the direction of living energy and pinpoint when two lines will merge Personalized chips are now implanted beneath the thumbnails of every infant, where glowing numbers count down to the moment they will meet their soul mate Fate is now a calculation But loving someone isn t When Shannon Wurther, the youngest detective in Southern California, finds himself face to face with Aiden Maar, the reckless art thief Shannon s precinct has been chasing for months, they are both stunned Their Camellia Clocks have timed out, and the men are left with a choice love one another or defy fate Balancing the Load further research created the ability to harness the direction of living energy and pinpoint when two lines will merge Personalized chips are now implanted beneath the thumbnails of every infant Most Likely To... where glowing numbers count down to the moment they will meet their soul mate Fate is now a calculation But loving someone isn t When Shannon Wurther Blind (Lorelei Bluffs Book 3) the youngest detective in Southern California The Counterfeiter-Catching Cat (Beatrice Young Cat Mystery finds himself face to face with Aiden Maar Gordo & the Gringo the reckless art thief Shannon s precinct has been chasing for months Selendang Pelangi they are both stunned Their Camellia Clocks have timed out Dünyanın Üç Yüzü and the men are left with a choice love one another or defy fate Words are not enough to express how much I love this book Read the full review on my blog Words are not enough to express how much I love this book Read the full review on my blog