eARC Review – Eight Perfect Hours by Lia Louis

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Title: Eight Perfect Hours

Author: Lia Louis

Publisher: Atria Books

Publication date: September 28th, 2021

336 pages

4/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

In this romantic and heartwarming novel, two strangers meet in chance circumstances during a blizzard and spend one perfect evening together, thinking they’ll never see each other again. But fate seems to have different plans.

On a snowy evening in March, 30-something Noelle Butterby is on her way back from an event at her old college when disaster strikes. With a blizzard closing off roads, she finds herself stranded, alone in her car, without food, drink, or a working charger for her phone. All seems lost until Sam Attwood, a handsome American stranger also trapped in a nearby car, knocks on her window and offers assistance. What follows is eight perfect hours together, until morning arrives and the roads finally clear.

The two strangers part, positive they’ll never see each other again, but fate, it seems, has a different plan. As the two keep serendipitously bumping into one another, they begin to realize that perhaps there truly is no such thing as coincidence. With plenty of charming twists and turns and Lia Louis’s “bold, standout voice” (Gillian McAllister, author of The Good Sister), Eight Perfect Hours is a gorgeously crafted novel that will make you believe in the power of fate.

Review

Lia Louis returns with an enchanting and whimsical romance that questions the role of fate and how small the world can really be, when two people who meet while stuck in traffic continue to run into each other. After 8 hours spent on the highway together, Sam and Noel have run into each other multiple times, inexplicably as one is from America and the other from England. But, they are both trying to make relationships with with long term partners and don’t feel they can take the meetings as anything other than coincidence.

I was immediately hooked by this book and I loved the premise of fate and whether people are meant to meet. At it’s heart it’s a conversation on determinism as applied to soul mates and it was a beautiful story.

I truly loved watching Sam and Noel try to justify not being together. There are also side plots around mental health, grief, and difficult family relationships. Anxiety is depicted so well, along with postpartum depression and the grief you feel after losing a family member or a friend.

I read Eight Perfect Hours in one sitting and highly encourage romance fans to pick it up. This is a completely closed door book, the story is really about the lead up to the romance, which isn’t what some people look for in a romance (myself included if I’m being honest) but I think it is worth a read even without it.

Thank you to Edelweiss and Atria Books for an early copy in exchange for an honest review.

Happy reading, folks!

Book Review – The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood

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Title: The Love Hypothesis

Author: Ali Hazelwood

Publisher: Berkley

Publication date: September 14th, 2021

384 pages

5/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

As a third-year Ph.D. candidate, Olive Smith doesn’t believe in lasting romantic relationships–but her best friend does, and that’s what got her into this situation. Convincing Anh that Olive is dating and well on her way to a happily ever after was always going to take more than hand-wavy Jedi mind tricks: Scientists require proof. So, like any self-respecting biologist, Olive panics and kisses the first man she sees.

That man is none other than Adam Carlsen, a young hotshot professor–and well-known ass. Which is why Olive is positively floored when Stanford’s reigning lab tyrant agrees to keep her charade a secret and be her fake boyfriend. But when a big science conference goes haywire, putting Olive’s career on the Bunsen burner, Adam surprises her again with his unyielding support and even more unyielding…six-pack abs.

Suddenly their little experiment feels dangerously close to combustion. And Olive discovers that the only thing more complicated than a hypothesis on love is putting her own heart under the microscope.

Review

“carry yourself with the confidence of a mediocre white man”

Ali Hazelwood, The Love Hypothesis

TW: sexual harassment

I want to preface this by saying I know the author is a scientist and has been in the academic community for a long time, much like the characters in this book. I am not a scientist but have spent a lot of my life in academia as well and I had to suspend a lot of disbelief that this relationship was allowed and not considered unethical or a dual relationship with the power dynamic between the two. I understand they didn’t work directly together, but it still really rides that line. So, going into this understand that depending on your education this might need to be ignored.

When I put that bit to the side, I LOVED THIS BOOK. Olive is a chaotic whirlwind mess and Dr. Adam is a calm, cool, collected villain of the biology department. None of this should have worked, but fake dating makes two people do crazy things. Also, I adore fake dating and is one of the best romance tropes in my humble opinion so I knew I would be trash for this no matter what else happened. BUT… Ali Hazelwood broke the fourth wall and discussed the fact that fake dating is a romance trope and Olive knew exactly what was happening!!! I haven’t had a book really lean into that before and it was very appreciated.

I’m obsessed with these characters and this book and I will scream about it for awhile. So all you romance lovers out there pick up this book stat. I think it also just hit the NY Times Bestseller List!

Happy reading, folks!

Book Review – Majesty by Katharine McGee

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Title: Majesty (American Royals #2)

Author: Katharine McGee

Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers

Publication date: September 1st, 2020

374 pages

4/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

Is America ready for its first queen?

Power is intoxicating. Like first love, it can leave you breathless. Princess Beatrice was born with it. Princess Samantha was born with less. Some, like Nina Gonzalez, are pulled into it. And a few will claw their way in. Ahem, we’re looking at you Daphne Deighton.

As America adjusts to the idea of a queen on the throne, Beatrice grapples with everything she lost when she gained the ultimate crown. Samantha is busy living up to her “party princess” persona…and maybe adding a party prince by her side. Nina is trying to avoid the palace–and Prince Jefferson–at all costs. And a dangerous secret threatens to undo all of Daphne’s carefully laid “marry Prince Jefferson” plans.

A new reign has begun….

Review

“Connor wanted to charge in like a knight in shining amour, offering to rescue her. Whereas Teddy gave her the confidence to rescue herself.”

Katharine McGee, Majesty

I put off this book because I loved American Royals so much and I didn’t want it to end. But then I read this book and I demand more??? That can’t be the end, right???

Majesty picks up after the events of American Royals and I thought I had an idea of where the story line would go and what ships would sail and boy WAS I WRONG. And I’ve never loved being wrong before? The character development from the beginning of book one to the end of Majesty was just *chef’s kiss*.

Can I pick a favorite character? Probably not… but maybe a three way tie between Beatrice, Samantha, and Teddy… with a dash of Marshall & Ethan & Nina… yeah definitely can’t pick. But I do know that I don’t care about Jeff or Daphne so if they’re not in the next book that I’m manifesting into existence that I won’t care at all.

Bottom line, I need more from my favorite Royals, because these kids are so much more interesting than that family in England IRL. Queen Beatrice forever.

Happy reading, folks!

eARC Review – When Sparks Fly by Helena Hunting

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Title: When Sparks Fly

Author: Helena Hunting

Publisher: St Martin’s Griffin

Publication date: September 21st, 2021

320 pages

4/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

Running the Spark House, a hotel/event space that has been in her family for years, has been Avery Spark’s lifelong dream. After years of working hard and making personal sacrifices, Avery and her two younger sisters have turned the Spark House into the premier destination in Colorado Springs. Avery is living her best life—she works with her sisters and loves every minute of it, she has a great group of friends, and she lives in a fantastic condo with her best friend Declan. She might not have any love in her life, but she’s happy.

But everything comes to a screeching halt when Avery is in a car accident, leaving her immobile for weeks. After nearly losing Avery, Declan insists that he will be the one to take care of her while she recovers. However, as Declan becomes Avery’s caretaker, lines begin to blur.

Avery and Declan have been best friends since college and always had an attraction to one another, but when she ended up dating his best friend, Sam, they successfully stamped down any feelings they may have ever had for one another. Now, as Declan and Avery spend more time together, they each begin to wonder what would’ve happened if she’d dated him instead of Sam. What starts as a friend helping out another friend turns into foreplay and, before they realize it, they recognize how deeply they care for one another. But when things get serious their past threatens to destroy everything they have built.

Review

Helena Hunting is one of my sneaky favorite romance authors, I’ve really enjoyed everything I’ve read of hers so far, but When Sparks Fly may be my favorite now. I’m obsessed with the trope where one has to take care of the other so this was right up my alley. Friends to lovers isn’t normally a trope that speaks to me, but that should tell you how great the book was that I enjoyed it so much.

Told in alternating POV’s, we meet roommates and best friends since college, Avery and Declan. Avery is a guy’s girl – plays sports, dresses in athleisure, doesn’t date, is friends with all men, etc. Declan is a player, always bringing home random women but is a complete commitment phobe and doesn’t believe in relationships after watching his parents mess theirs up for years. But, when Declan inadvertently helps cause a huge car accident that leave Avery with two working limbs, his guilt insists he take care of her and in doing so, become so close to her. But can the commitment phobe make a relationship work?

This book hit all the right spots for me. I will say the end dragged a bit and could have wrapped up sooner, but that’s a small piece of the larger story of seeing your friend in a romantic light and bonds changing. There is a decent level of spice to this book, but I would label it as medium spicy by my definition. I hope we can get companion stories for the other two Spark sisters but we’ll see!

Thank you to St Martin’s Griffin and Netgalley for an early copy in exchange for an honest review.

Happy reading, folks!

eARC Review – Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao

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Title: Iron Widow (Iron Widow #1)

Author: Xiran Jay Zhao

Publisher: Penguin Teen

Publication date: September 21st, 2021

400 pages

5/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

The boys of Huaxia dream of pairing up with girls to pilot Chrysalises, giant transforming robots that can battle the mecha aliens that lurk beyond the Great Wall. It doesn’t matter that the girls often die from the mental strain.

When 18-year-old Zetian offers herself up as a concubine-pilot, it’s to assassinate the ace male pilot responsible for her sister’s death. But she gets her vengeance in a way nobody expected—she kills him through the psychic link between pilots and emerges from the cockpit unscathed. She is labeled an Iron Widow, a much-feared and much-silenced kind of female pilot who can sacrifice boys to power up Chrysalises instead.​

To tame her unnerving yet invaluable mental strength, she is paired up with Li Shimin, the strongest and most controversial male pilot in Huaxia​. But now that Zetian has had a taste of power, she will not cower so easily. She will miss no opportunity to leverage their combined might and infamy to survive attempt after attempt on her life, until she can figure out exactly why the pilot system works in its misogynist way—and stop more girls from being sacrificed.

Review

Iron Widow completely blew my away and I’m not sure I’ll stop thinking about this book for a long time. This is not your usual YA fantasy book – the main characters are seriously morally grey and do not make great choices, but you root for them anyway. Set in a futuristic Chinese inspired world, young women are sold by their parents to the government to power space ships in the war against the Hunduns. Zetian willingly goes into service to avenge her sister’s murder by one of the best pilots in the military.

The world-building is top notch, the characters are so well-rounded and multi-faceted, and the plot kept me guessing the whole way through the book. There were points where this book was difficult to read, so please look at trigger warnings before picking it up. I did know what I was getting into with reading it, but it is still hard to read women be treated as property. Even after all of that, this is the easiest 5 stars I’ve given to a book all year.

I’m here for the open relationship included in this book, which is something I haven’t seen in a YA book yet but it was done so well. As the best continued I felt like the relationships were going to go that way, and I was so excited when it actually happened. The ending killed me though and I’m still not over it. I’m in desperate need of the sequel ASAP.

Thank you to Penguin Teen and Netgalley for an early copy in exchange for an honest review.

TW: depictions of sexual assault, murder, misogyny, assault, alcoholism, domestic violence

Happy reading, folks!

eARC Review – As If on Cue by Marisa Kanter

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Title: As If on Cue

Author: Marisa Kanter

Publisher: Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers

Publication date: September 21st, 2021

352 pages

3.5/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

A pair of fierce foes are forced to work together to save the arts at their school in this swoony YA enemies-to-lovers romance that fans of Jenny Han and Morgan Matson are sure to adore.

Lifelong rivals Natalie and Reid have never been on the same team. So when their school’s art budget faces cutbacks, of course Natalie finds herself up against her nemesis once more. She’s fighting to direct the school’s first ever student-written play, but for her small production to get funding, the school’s award-winning band will have to lose it. Reid’s band. And he’s got no intention of letting the show go on.

But when their rivalry turns into an all-out prank war that goes too far, Natalie and Reid have to face the music, resulting in the worst compromise: writing and directing a musical. Together. At least if they deliver a sold-out show, the school board will reconsider next year’s band and theater budget. Everyone could win.

Except Natalie and Reid.

Because after spending their entire lives in competition, they have absolutely no idea how to be co-anything. And they certainly don’t know how to deal with the feelings that are inexplicably, weirdly, definitely developing between them…

Review

As If on Cue is a hate to love story of childhood friends who were always competing for a spot in the band. When Natalie decided to give up band and joined theater instead, her father became even more invested in Reid, especially since he is the band director. Natalie and Reid have been rivals for years, but now as junior year approaches and all extracurriculars have been cancelled except the band, Natalie must find a way to continue the theater. Even if it’s at Reid’s expense…

I left this book with some mixed feelings. I really enjoyed the theater plot line, the LGBTQ rep, and the Jewish rep for both main characters. There was a lot of diversity mixed into the book which I love to see. There were a lot of themes in this book: finding passions that speak to you, family issues, friendships growing and changing over time.

I desperately wanted more from the romance. I think having Reid’s POV would’ve been incredibly helpful to this book because I didn’t really buy his interest in Natalie, especially after all the pranks. Which brings me to my next point, some of the pranks were really mean spirited and hurtful, which then led to me again – not buying the romance between the two. And the turn around from hate to love was a bit quick after all of this.

Thank you to Simon and Shuster Books for Young Readers and Netgalley for an early copy in exchange for an honest review.

Happy reading, folks!

eARC Review – Her Perfect Life by Hank Phillippi Ryan

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Title: Her Perfect Life

Author: Hank Phillippi Ryan

Publisher: Forge Books

Publication date: September 14th, 2021

336 pages

4/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

Review

I’ve read Ryan’s last two thrillers and both times I couldn’t predict what was going to happen. Her Perfect Life was no different – I did not see the big twist ending and had no idea what was going on until everything was revealed, which I’m sure was the plan.

Her Perfect Life is told in multiple POV’s with some flashbacks from one POV. Lily is a successful tv journalist, Greer is her producer, and Cassie is her long lost sister who went missing when she was 18 and Lily was 7. When Lily starts getting tips from Mr. Smith, an anonymous person who helps her with stories, she becomes even more successful. But when Mr. Smith starts to bring Lily and Greer into the investigation into Cassie, and reuniting Lily’s daughter with her father – the situation gets a lot more personal. What happened to Cassie all those years ago?

I will always read Ryan’s thrillers/mysteries. They are exactly perfect for me, not too dark, edge more to the domestic side, and always have an unforeseen twist. I’m not afraid to sleep at night afterwards but they make me stop and think back through the story to see what foreshadowing I missed that got us to the end result. This book is also coming out at the perfect time, with spooky season starting soon.

I did feel like the end wrapped up more quickly than it should have, from all POV’s. I would’ve liked an epilogue to see where everyone is say 6 months later. But I am historically a huge fan of epilogues so that may just be a me thing!

Thank you to Forge Books and Netgalley for an early copy in exchange for an honest review.

Happy reading, folks!

Book Review – Warmaidens by Kelly Coon

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Title: Warmaidens (Gravemaidens #2)

Author: Kelly Coon

Publisher: Delacourte Press

Publication date: October 20th, 2020

352 pages

4/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

Warmaidens is the dark, action-packed conclusion to the heartwrenching Gravemaidens fantasy duology. Kammani and the maidens are now going to war against the ruler who tried to entomb them.

In the refuge city-state of Manzazu, Kammani has built a thriving healing practice and a life she’s proud of with her siblings, the maidens, and her love, Dagan.

But when an assassin murders a healer he believes is Kammani and attempts to kill Arwia, the displaced queen of Alu, they realize they’re not safe in their safe little haven anymore. Uruku, the usurper to Alu’s throne, has found out they escaped the tomb and must kill them to protect his newly acquired power.

Burning for retribution, the ruler of Manzazu wants to unleash her fiercest weapons on Alu–her warmaidens. But when Kammani’s best friend, Iltani, is captured, Kammani must use her intuition and her heart to restore Arwia to the throne before the life she’s built–and a future with Dagan–burn up in the flames of war.

Review

Warmaidens is a solid conclusion to Gravemaidens, which I read as an ARC in 2019 I believe. I put off the put because I really enjoyed Gravemaidens and wasn’t prepared for the conclusion. But, the library desperately wants their copy back so I decided now was the time and there was no waiting more for it. And I’m glad I didn’t, because it went nowhere I thought it was going to, but it was great.

Warmaidens picks up 9 months after the events of Gravemaidens, where Kammani and her friends are hiding in a neighboring city-state from Uruku. The action picks up pretty quickly when there is an attempt on Arwia’s life and the gang must make the decision to return to Alu to save everyone.

There isn’t much that I can say about this book without spoilers – but if you enjoyed Gravemaidens you’ll enjoy the conclusion. It left me feeling satisfied and all the end were tied up well. I enjoyed reading it, but will I remember this duology clearly in the future? I don’t think so. As a whole the duo is missing a quality that take fantasy books to the next level, where they stick with you for awhile.

Happy reading, folks!

eARC Review – Defy the Night by Brigid Kemmerer

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Title: Defy the Night (Defy the Night #1)

Author: Brigid Kemmerer

Publisher: Bloomsbury YA

Publication date: September 14th, 2021

496 pages

5/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

From New York Times bestselling author Brigid Kemmerer comes a blockbuster fantasy series about a kingdom divided by corruption, the prince desperately holding it together, and the girl who will risk everything to bring it crashing down.

The kingdom of Kandala is on the brink of disaster. Rifts between sectors have only worsened since a sickness began ravaging the land, and within the Royal Palace, the king holds a tenuous peace with a ruthless hand.

King Harristan was thrust into power after his parents’ shocking assassination, leaving the younger Prince Corrick to take on the brutal role of the King’s Justice. The brothers have learned to react mercilessly to any sign of rebellion–it’s the only way to maintain order when the sickness can strike anywhere, and the only known cure, an elixir made from delicate Moonflower petals, is severely limited.

Out in the Wilds, apothecary apprentice Tessa Cade is tired of seeing her neighbors die, their suffering ignored by the unyielding royals. Every night, she and her best friend Wes risk their lives to steal Moonflower petals and distribute the elixir to those who need it most–but it’s still not enough.

As rumors spread that the cure no longer works and sparks of rebellion begin to flare, a particularly cruel act from the King’s Justice makes Tessa desperate enough to try the impossible: sneaking into the palace. But what she finds upon her arrival makes her wonder if it’s even possible to fix Kandala without destroying it first.

Set in a richly imaginative world with striking similarities to our own, Brigid Kemmerer’s captivating new series is about those with power and those without . . . and what happens when someone is brave enough to imagine a new future.

Review

I love love love this book and immediately need the sequel. I need to know what happens next with these characters that I love so much! Prince Corrick has a reputation for being ruthless and violent as the King’s Justice, and is tasked with keeping the peace as a virus rages through the kingdom and the plant that cures the virus grows exclusively in two areas and everyone has to pay out the nose for the plants. Tessa is a Robin Hood-esque character, stealing the plants to give to those who can’t afford to purchase them.

I almost immediately spied the big “twist” of the book and I’m okay with that because it’s what I wanted to happen! I don’t need there to be huge surprises, sometimes I love to pat myself on the back on catching it early and being right. But, I loved this book for the world-building, characters, plot, and pacing. Everything was exactly how I like it. There was a touch of romance without it being overkill & taking over the plot. I wanted to give all of the main characters a hug by the end.

In a world currently devastated with a virus, there is a level where this read hits a bit close to home. It is by no means an exact comparison and I don’t believe it was even intentional based on the author’s interviews, but if that sounds triggering to you – might be one to skip. Otherwise, I highly recommend picking this one up for young adult fantasy lovers.

Thank you to Bloomsbury YA and Netgalley for an early copy in exchange for an honest review.

Happy reading, folks!

Book Review – Serpent & Dove by Shelby Mahurin

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Title: Serpent & Dove (Serpent & Dove #1)

Author: Shelby Mahurin

Publisher: HarperTeen

Publication date: September 3rd, 2019

513 pages

4/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

Bound as one to love, honor, or burn.

Two years ago, Louise le Blanc fled her coven and took shelter in the city of Cesarine, forsaking all magic and living off whatever she could steal. There, witches like Lou are hunted. They are feared. And they are burned.

Sworn to the Church as a Chasseur, Reid Diggory has lived his life by one principle: thou shalt not suffer a witch to live. His path was never meant to cross with Lou’s, but a wicked stunt forces them into an impossible union—holy matrimony.

The war between witches and Church is an ancient one, and Lou’s most dangerous enemies bring a fate worse than fire. Unable to ignore her growing feelings, yet powerless to change what she is, a choice must be made.

And love makes fools of us all.

Review

“Wicked are the ways of women—and especially a witch. Their guile knows no bounds.”

Shelby Mahurin, Serpent & Dove

I am late to the Serpent & Dove party for sure but I see the hype now! I am nervous for the next two books because I’ve seen a lot of mixed reviews for the second and third books. But, I’m committed to see what happens to Lou and Reid throughout the series.

Lou is a witch in Cesarine, where witches are persecuted by the crown and the church through the Chasseurs (policemen) under the instruction of the Archbishop. Reid is a captain of the Chasseurs and his life goal is to kill as many witches as possible. But when Lou and Reid find themselves married and having to learn to work together, they can’t help but develop feelings for each other. But Reid doesn’t know Lou is a witch, and war is coming to a head.

It took me about 75-100 pages to get into this book. I kept putting it down and not feeling pulled to pick it back up. But thanks to a long care ride I was able to get more into it, and I flew through the rest of the book as events picked up. Hands down Ansel is my favorite character, which is funny because he’s a side character, but he’s so precious and pure and I just want to give him a huge. I was so nervous by the end that I wanted to pull a Joey and put the book in the freezer.

There were several surprises that I didn’t foresee, which really added extra pressure to the storyline. I like that there isn’t a huge cliffhanger at the end, though I do plan to read Blood & Honey next month and continue the series. I wish there was some more explanation into the magic system, but I loved that the Chasseurs really had no idea what was going on. The world-building is really something special.

Happy reading, folks!