Cover Image: Amen Maxine

Amen Maxine

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Member Reviews

Loved this one! Such a fast paced and unique story, totally fresh concept! A new mother suffering postpartum is given a beta AI assistant and then the fun begins. Don’t let the science fiction part of that stop you, there is very little science to trip the reader up. I highly recommend this if you’re looking for a thriller with a brand new twist! 

Thank you Netgalley, Mirror House Press and the author for this eARC in exchange for my honest review. Publication date: July 23, 2022 so AVAILABLE NOW!
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I almost didn't read this book because I thought the AI theme would  make it too sci-fi-ish.  Boy was I wrong! This is about a machine called Maxine, sort of an Alexa on steroids. 

Rowena has an almost 1-year old, a mostly absent husband, and Maxine.  Skeptical at first, Rowena comes to rely on Maxine as her machine learning becomes all encompassing. As her husband works late, or comes to bed with his AI goggles on, Rowena begins to trust Maxine more and more. She gives the little glowing machine access to most of her life - emails, phone, bank accounts....and comes to think of Maxine as a sentient being. 

Maxine gives Rowena insights about her marriage, with advice and predictions.  If Maxine is right 9 out of 10 times, can Rowena trust her? What if she's right 3 out of 5 times? 

There are all the tropes we are used to with recent books - possibly unreliable narrator, gaslighting, mental illness, cold mother-in-law and more - but Gardner has handled them brilliantly. 

I wish the ending had gone a different way, but despite that, I give this book 5 stars for it's unique storyline, fast paced narrative, and excellent writing.

Thanks to NetGalley and Mirror House Press for an advance reader's copy that I read in a day!
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Alexa and Siri have nothing on Maxine! Set a little in the future, but not too far to feel sci-fi, Maxine sits on the table pulsing different colors as she befriends Rowena, the anxious (probably suffering from post partum depression) wife of one of its creators. Rowena comes to rely on the help Maxine offers through directions, book summaries, and other random things that help Rowena cope with her anxiety. Of course it all isn't that simple and the writing gave me my own anxiety following the ups and downs of Rowena's mental state along with the twists and turns of the plot. It's great when a book can pull you in like this one does! It also reinforces my choice to not have something like Alexa or Siri listening.
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The premise of this one may seem super unrealistic, a machine similar to Alexa can predict your future or more so  give you a heads up if something bad may happen to you. We can all roll our eyes at that but how many times have I had a conversation with my husband about a trip I'd like to take or product I may like to buy without ever touching a device only to the next time I look at it to have it promoting that. This is real! 

Rowena has just had a child and dealing with all things that come with that, new baby, birthday parties, sleepless nights but on top of that she has a severe anxiety disorder. Her Silicon Valley tech husband thinks trying "Maxine" may help her get through it all. Win/Win for both of them. Until Maxine starts predicting the future if Rowena gives the ok to unlock this special feature. Which of course she does. Why not?

All in all this was a super fast read and while I wasn't blown away by it , it had a very interesting concept and couldn't put it down. As an aside - I thought the author did an awesome job relating to Rowena's anxiety. I also have an anxiety disorder and could totally relate to everything Rowena was anxious about. Thought how the author did that was very well articulated..

I will certainly read more by this author. I started seeing this pop up everywhere on GR and was completely caught out of left field that I had no idea this book was trending so highly. So glad I got a copy. 

Thanks so much to Netgalley and the publisher/author for granting me an advanced copy.
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One of the most original thrillers I've ever read! I meant to just try one or two chapters before bed but before I knew it, I'd binged the whole book and it was 5.30am. No regrets though 😂

What a creative, tense and addictive page-turner! I enjoyed the brilliant social commentary on how deeply ingrained technology is in our lives, made all the more impactful by through the book depicting scenarios/features that already exist or which you can totally picture happening.

Rowena's perspective as a mum grappling with a rocky marriage, a difficult mother-in-law and isolation in a new city was very well-written. Also, I love Maxine! How cool is it to have someone tell me if I would enjoy a book and how many stars I would have given it before actually I actually dive into it?!

I'm still not sure how I feel about the ending but overall, this was a gripping read that will keep you on the edge of your seat (or bed, in my case).
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"Amen Maxine" by Faith Gardner is a Domestic Thriller set in the near future!

Rowena is a new wife, a new mom, and a New York transplant to California's Silicon Valley. She also suffers from anxiety and depression. Currently she feels anxious about her new surroundings and depressed about not knowing anyone. Her prescription med's don't seem to be working and she's missing her old life in New York!

Her new hubby, Jacob, works for a high tech company and being concerned about his wife's mental health, brings home a new AI product currently being beta tested by his employer. "Maxine, a digital friend" functions as a digital assistant by bonding with an individual, offering advice and predictions that have shown positive result for patients with mental health issues.

Rowena is reluctant, but as the new marriage begins to show signs of wear, she turns to Maxine and their bonding develops and intensifies. Maxine's advice is supportive and her predictions are accurate.

Then Maxine's predictions become disturbingly closer to home and Rowena is tempted to pull the plug on Maxine...

I don't normally read this genre but I just had to find out what all the hype was about and I'm so glad I did. Every time I started reading it, I couldn't get enough and every time I set it down, I kept thinking about it and couldn't wait to pick it back up!

This story is set in the near future with AI digital devices that do everything from dusting and vacuuming your home, to mowing your lawn and driving your car. So Maxine's presence in the mix seems quite the 'everyday norm'. It's both creative and feels believable.

The author has created a great mix of characterizations and the characters are well developed making it easy to get to know them. The pace never slows down and the writing style is easy to read yet held my attention through the entire book.

This is a fun book that I loved reading and I look forward to more from this author. I highly recommend this to all readers of all genres!

Thank you to NetGalley, Mirror House Press, and Faith Gardner for an ARC of this book. It has been an honor to give my honest and voluntary review.
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Wow! Who can I trust, the husband, the wife, or the AI?

Rowena is a new mom who left her friends, family, and career to be an at-home mom in Silicon Valley where her husband, Jacob lives and works. This unfamiliar lifestyle has taken a toll on her so Jacob brought home a digital assistant from his company that is still in the beta testing phase. The little box shows promising results in helping those with anxiety and depression. Rowena is uncomfortable having it in the house considering it a spying device used for collecting personal data for marketing. It even has advice and a prediction function which confirms to be shockingly accurate. Rowena finds herself dependable on her new "friend" more and more.

"Amen Maxine" is a terrific combo of domestic suspense - psych thriller with a mild sci-fi vibe. The story moves along at a relatively fast pace and keeps me guessing and doubting. It's definitely a page-turner. My small complaint is Rowena is hard to like and is another "pill-popping" unreliable narrator.
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Welcome to Silicon Valley. Where smart devices reign supreme. Everything is copasetic- at least on the surface.

Wowza, this was such an original and captivating novel! This book lives up to the hype and then some!

While everyone else seems to love living in Silicon Valley, it is not Rowena Snyder's cup of tea. She is from the east coast (New York) and misses it. Rowena moved to the west coast after meeting, falling in love and marrying Jacob. They have a beautiful daughter and yet, Rowena is miserable. Her anxiety and depression are constant companions in her life.

Take a Pill!

Anyone else want to take that pill and shove it right down someone's big mouth?

Jacob says he is worried about Rowena and bring home a 'Maxine' who will be Rowena's digital friend. Maxine is programed to make predictions and interact with Rowena. Who wouldn't be skeptical, but this is the age of smart devices. Rowena is initially concerned but soon finds that Maxine has been helpful, caring and appears to be looking out for her. But then, Maxine makes a prediction that changes everything....

Amen Maxine

Loved it!!! As I mentioned, this book is original, unique, and compelling. I was captivated from page one and did not want to put this book down. This book was full of interesting characters who ran the gambit from being caring to manipulative and all things in between. I loved the who-or what-can-be-trusted aspect of the book. I knew from the beginning who I didn't like but I wasn't sure how things were going to play out. What a ride this book was!

Again, this book lives up to the hype! I loved its originality and felt it was very well thought out and after a few twists and turns, this book left me extremely satisfied.

Clever, well thought out, well written and riveting!

#AmenMaxine #NetGalley

Thank you to Mirror House Press and NetGalley who provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All the thoughts and opinions are my own.
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Thank you Mirror House Press and NetGalley for the ARC of this one! This one was such a fast paced little sci-fi thriller set in a dystopian near-future where everything is feasible. This book made me feel all the feels and I finished it in almost one sitting!
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This book had an interesting premise but the book was overly simplified and a bit dramatic, it was both a fast read and it lagged in parts.  A woman in a troubled marriage is given an AI machine as a friend and one that can predict the future.  Can she trust the machine, can she trust her husband.  Can she trust herself.
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Well, this book was definitely different, and definitely difficult to put down. Rowena, who is our main character, has just moved to NY about a year ago with her new husband, Jacob. They have a one year old daughter, Michelle. Rowena struggles with anxiety and paranoia. She cannot even drive up the highway without having a panic attack. She is also lonely, misses her life in NY, and wonders what would have been if she only had stayed there. She begins learning secrets about Jacob, realizing he may not be who he says he is, and starts questioning if he is even a dangerous, or in fact a murderer. Jacob works for a state of the art tech company, and brings a small boxed device called Maxine, who is like a companion/assistant. Soon, Rowena, with the aid of Maxine, starts to improve her anxiety habits and even makes new friends, but Maxine also warns her that she is not safe with Jacob. I give this book 3 stars, only because of the whole unrealistic plot of Maxine predicting the future. I enjoyed this quick read, but I must admit, some may find it a bit silly. Nevertheless, it was a refreshing read for me while in the middle of a reading rut.
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In a Nutshell: Contains the usual psych/domestic thriller ingredients of gaslighting, mental health issues and an unreliable narrator. What makes it different is the outstanding role that AI plays in the proceedings. Works pretty well because of the intelligent and twisty writing. However, requires a fair bit of suspension of disbelief at the end. 

Story Synopsis:
Rowena Snyder is a newly-married young mum who has left her job as an editor and moved from NY to her husband Jacob’s childhood home in California. Not only does Rowena miss her old lifestyle and friends, but her anxiety and depression are exacerbated in the new location. To help Rowena, Jacob gets home a new product that is still in beta testing at the tech company he works with. Enter “Maxine”, the digital AI who bonds with any one individual and can “do anything to help”. In addition to the usual assistance, Maxine also has ‘advice’ and ‘prediction’ modes that promise to help patients with mental health issues. Rowena unwillingly tries Maxine, is amazed at how accurate she/it is, and trusts her entire life to her new artificial friend. Then Maxine begins making some chilling predictions and Rowena isn’t sure whom to trust anymore. 
The story comes to us in the first person perspective of Rowena.

Where the book worked for me:
😍 Not once did I feel that I was reading an indie work. Such polished language, such smart plotting, and such complicated character development! All without a single typo. Take a bow, author!
😍 It is quite fast-paced, though it drags for a couple of chapters in the second half. I completed this within a day. That’s always a bonus.
😍 This is a strange mix of genres that usually don’t work well for me but this time, the combo delivered. The content begins as a contemporary drama, goes into suspense and upgrades to a medley of psychological thriller and domestic thriller. All this accompanied by dashes of sci-fi. Just be prepared for more of dramatic than thrilling content in the initial half.
😍 I loved how the intrusion of AI in our lives is depicted so accurately, even though some of the tech in the book is set in the future. The data collecting with or without your permission is scarily accurate. At the same time, I yearned for some of the gadgets that Rowena has in her house. If anyone manufactures those robotic feather dusters, consider me a willing customer.
😍 Though a lot of the story is guessable, there were enough twists to keep me hooked. 
😍 I adored Sam’s character. I wish she had an even greater role in the story. She enlivened the proceedings.
😍 While not a typical unreliable narrator, Rowena casts enough of doubt on the occurrences to keep me questioning even her motives. Most of the characters aren’t trustworthy and this kept me on my toes while reading. I liked how Rowena wasn’t just presented as the typical new mother with postpartum depression but her issues went much beyond that. 
😍 😍 😍 Everything to do with books that is sprinkled so generously in the content. Rowena’s attempt to concentrate on her e-reader while her mind is disturbed. Her longing for her old hard copies. Her desire to shun parties in favour of books. Her habit of quoting from her favourite books quite casually during her narration. (The geek in me relished those Easter eggs in the writing. But I confess, I wasn’t a fan of the Jane Eyre-esque “Dear Reader” – that breaking of the fourth wall didn’t make sense.) Rowena’s remarks about line-editing (not just in the books she reads but also in the assumed book of her life.) The one who doesn’t get the idea of book clubs. (One of my absolute favourite lines in the book was, “Book clubs have never made sense to me. Books are where I go to escape people.” Heck yeah, baby!) The book lover in me loved the book lover in her.

Where the book could have worked better for me: 
😒 I am kinda tired of the portrayal of male characters in contemporary thrillers because their only role seems to be to gaslight the women in their lives under a façade of care and concern. This trope is getting boring, though it is handled fairly well in this story.
😒 Rowena’s grudge against Jacob is based mainly on all the lies he tells her. But she too doesn’t refrain from lying to the people in her life. Pot calling the kettle black. 
😒 Some of the secondary characters’ behaviour didn’t make sense at times. Can’t reveal more without going into spoilers.
😒 The ending is too farfetched, too rushed, and too neat. I would have forgiven all other shortcomings but an OTT ending is never my favourite. It also left me a curious cat because it didn’t tell me some things I really wanted to know! 👀

Overall, the pace, the AI angle, the layered characters and the twisty plot definitely have an edge over the exaggerated ending and the hackneyed portrayal of the main characters. Definitely worth a shot – it is one of the better dramatic thrillers I have read this year. Amen, Maxine – indeed!

3.75 stars.

My thanks to Mirror House Press and NetGalley for the DRC of “Amen Maxine”. This review is voluntary and contains my honest opinion about the book.
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Wow! Move over Alexa there is a new girl on the block Maxine .What an original psychological thriller.Set in a dystopian type of world.It kept my attention throughout.At times the main character got on my nerves with how paranoid she was but you will have to read to understand why. I enjoyed this book and look forward to reading more from the author in the future.Thanks to the author ,Mirror House ,the publisher and NetGalley for this ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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This book is fantastic in so many ways.  @faith.gardner has created a domestic suspense set in a near-future dystopia that is unique and memorable. The main character struggles with severe social and situational anxiety and this book shines a bright light on issues many of us feel are distinctively our own.  The characters are relatable and the writing is impeccable! I flew through this book in 2 days not because I was at the edge of my seat but because I was invested in the people and the story itself. The ending is intense and I felt the story was wrapped up nicely. I highly recommend this book and hope you pick it up on the 23rd!

▫️ 𝕊𝕪𝕟𝕠𝕡𝕤𝕚𝕤 ▫️

Rowena Snyder is miserable with her new life.  Michelle, her baby daughter, is the only bright light in her life.  The last year has been a whirlwind; she met and married Jacob and moved from New York to his childhood home in Silicon Valley.  Everything she knows is different and she’s not a fan. Already struggling with depression and anxiety before the move, she is spiralling more than ever.  Jacob tries to help her by bringing home from work a new “digital assistant” still in beta testing.  It is supposed to be extremely helpful, especially for those who deal with anxieties much like Rowena’s. After much hesitation, Rowena has surprisingly created a bond with her new “friend”, Maxine.  She allows Maxine to utilize her advice and predition modes which prove to be helpful on many occassions…until they become increasingly terrifying. She’s been right before so does Rowena trust her now even though her predictions could change her life forever?
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Well, this book was uncomfortable. 

Do you ever read something with a character in it who reminds you of someone who has hurt you deeply? That’s who Jacob was for me - the aching reminder of a terrible relationship, as well as the gracious reminder that my “Jacob” is no longer a part of my life. Thank goodness I was spared without the help of a Maxine! 

All this to say that the emotional abuse was quite well-portrayed. I felt it in my core as Rowena muddled through her upsetting experiences. And the fact that people preyed upon her mental health issues and invalidated her regularly - well, that was familiar, too. It was equally uncomfortable and, like the abuse, authentically conveyed. 

I think I really have a thing for these “digital devices gone wrong” stories, although I’ll argue that Maxine is pretty cool when it comes to artificial intelligence. 

In this, we meet Rowena, a woman whose struggles with depression and anxiety are exacerbated by relocation and motherhood. Her pushy mother-in-law and dismissive husband certainly don’t help matters. She has no reliable support, so when her husband brings home an Alexa type device called Maxine that is able to dole out advice and make predictions, Rowena forms a bond with her digital assistant. But when Maxine makes some frightening predictions, Rowena is forced to question the intentions of the man she married. 

As noted, I thought this was well-done. I didn’t like how it made me feel, but I loved that it succeeded in making me feel that way. Ultimately, it’s a fun story with a very dark vibe, and I completely understand the hype it’s been getting! 

4.5 stars

I am immensely grateful to Mirror House Press and NetGalley for my digital review copy. All opinions are my own.
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I am so sad this book is over!! I was hesitant to read it because I was unsure of the AI story line but omg am I glad i diid! This book was insane. Suspenseful, interesting, funny.. I loved the writing style, I loved the story, I loved everything about it. Definitely one of my favorite books of the year so far!!
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What a cool book!! It's set in a high-tech future time, but it's not over-the-top like The Jetsons. 

Such an interesting plot, it kept me intrigued the entire time!! I was right there with the main character, not knowing who to trust!
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Thank you to Netgalley and Mirror House Press for the ARC in exchange for the honest review.

Amen Maxine follows the story of Rowena Snyder, a new resident of Silicon Valley, a new mother, and some old anxiety and depression. When her husband, Jacob, worrying about his wife's deteriorating mental state, gives her a digital assistant called Maxine, Rowena actually starts to feel better. Until Maxine starts predicting some awful stuff that will change Rowena’s life forever.

I am a sucker for a domestic suspense novel, but add in Black Mirror-esque technology, and I'm right there. I was intrigued by Rowena's character and empathised with her greatly in these new suburbs, surrounded by people she didn't get along with, people who seemed to judge her, not to mention a husband who seemed disinterested in her except for when he was 'concerned' about her welfare and a young child. Basically, a very understandable recipe for why Rowena's anxiety and depression might be at full force. Then, came Maxine. 

I didn't find the storyline as compelling as the synopsis promised it would. I found the plot dragged in places and I kind of wanted the author to get to the point, but I give them solid points for a solid structure, solid characters, solid prose and a decent suspense formula. Maxine, I felt, could have been creepier than she was – if the intention was to have a broader conversation about technology and reliance on technology in our society, I felt like the book fell short of that; frankly, I wasn't surprised that Rowena was placing her trust in Maxine, because, well, Maxine seemed to be the only one on her side. That being said, I did appreciate the queer vibes I got from Rowena and Maxine's relationship, and how the author didn't side-step it at all. I was shipping them in the end. The ending itself seemed to happen too quickly for my tastes; Rowena got all of the answers within a few pages, and there wasn't enough connection to the entirety of the book that I felt shocked by the reveals. Still, I'll say that overall, I enjoyed the story.
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I don’t enjoy being the outlier with the unpopular opinion, and I had high hopes for this one, as it had lots of 5-stars when I requested it, and I thought the premise sounded interesting. However, since the main point of a review is to help other readers decide whether to buy or start a book, I’m going to explain why I’ve given this 2 stars and stress that this is NOT a bad book, I just really didn’t enjoy reading it. I’m aware this reflects my personal preferences and is not a criticism of the author, but if I steer someone who shares my bias profile away from it, that’s not a bad thing. I look for low star reviews when I’m debating whether to acquire a book as some people’s negatives (eg not enough romance) are positives for me! In this case, there was nothing lower than a 4 when I requested it.

Amen Maxine is a near-future psychological suspense novel about a young mother, Rowena, whose whirlwind lockdown romance and subsequent unplanned pregnancy have left her stuck at home with a baby on the other side of the country. Away from her limited family and friends in New York, with her new husband Jacob working long hours at his tech job in Silicon Valley and facing frequent interference from her rather inappropriate mother-in-law, Rowena is lonely and isolated. When Jacob brings home an advanced AI Digital Assistant called Maxine, that his company is beta-testing, in the hope it will help her, Rowena is initially suspicious, but with her mental health unravelling, reluctantly tries it out. She soon finds that Maxine’s warm supportive counsel and uncanny predictive abilities are invaluable - so when warned that loving adorable geek Jacob is going to try to kill her, who should she believe?

My problem here was I was expecting an intriguing speculative fiction story, but this is fundamentally another unreliable narrator/possibly dangerous husband domestic suspense like all the others of the past few years, and since there’s really only two possibilities - either you are being gaslit into losing your mind or he really is out to get you - the plots of these hold little suspense for me. Even worse was that I couldn’t stand Rowena - without wanting to victim-blame someone with chronic psychiatric issues, she’s pathetic: temperamentally unsuited to motherhood, she’s gone ahead with it anyway (I could start ranting here about recent events but I won’t, this is not the place) and just allowed herself to drift into the situation she finds herself in, then does nothing to try and fix her problems other than popping lorazepam like candy. She’s vain, snobby and judgemental, with horrendous double standards - she’s enraged when she thinks Jacob is lying or cheating, but lies constantly to both herself and the people around her, and is emotionally unfaithful at the first opportunity, fantasising about her new friend and only not doing anything about it because her interest is unreciprocated.

The whole novel is told from Rowena’s first person present perspective - experiencing her endless internal monologue and chronic neuroses was deeply unpleasant, and I did contemplate DNFing, but did want to know how it turned out. Maxine was the most interesting character here - an increasingly self-aware AI who may or may not have her best interests at heart. The way Rowena gradually learns just how much access she has given Maxine into her life, including her bank accounts, private calls and past history was genuinely creepy - think of the way Facebook listens to us in order to target advertising and dial it up to 11! The author subtly shows us how robots are likely to populate our homes in a way that felt realistic - in fact at times I couldn’t tell what was futuristic and what currently exists in affluent sections of the USA. The writing was fine, I liked that the pandemic & lockdowns are referenced but clearly in the past, and there were some mildly amusing characters like the truly awful therapist and Rowena’s snarky best friend Dane.

Ultimately, if you love psychological/domestic suspense and tend not to be bothered by the issues I am raised, ignore me, read the glowing 5 star recommendations and buy the book, whereas if it’s the light sci-fi aspects that appeal to you or you like protagonists with gumption, look elsewhere.
Thanks to NetGalley and Mirror House press for the ARC, I am posting this honest review voluntarily.
Amen Maxine is published on July 23rd.
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This one will keep you on your toes. Who or what can be trusted? I saw several of my GR friends raving about this book and now I know why. This is brilliant. Rowena and her husband Jacob have just moved to California from NYC and have a new baby named Michelle. Rowena is struggling with being a stay-at-home mom after working in publishing. So many of us women remember that feeling. Jacob works in the tech sector and brings home Maxine to "help" Rowena. The AI features turn Maxine into more than a digital assistant. Rowena's dedication to her daughter and doubts about her husband are so relatable. The book group scenes are a hoot, too. This would make a fabulous read for an IRL book group. So much to discuss regarding social media and the ways we might rely on technology in unhealthy or unsafe ways. As with The Echo Wife, this book brings some issues with advancing technology to the forefront. Just because we can, does that mean we should? Faith Gardner has a promising future if this first adult indie title is any indication of things to come. I will be watching for her books in the future.

Thank you to Mirror House Press and NetGalley for a DRC in exchange for an honest review.
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