Book Review – The Dark Tide by Alicia Jasinska

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Title: The Dark Tide

Author: Alicia Jasinska

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Publication date: August 4th, 2020

336 pages

3/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

Every year on St. Walpurga’s Eve, Caldella’s Witch Queen lures a boy back to her palace. An innocent life to be sacrificed on the full moon to keep the island city from sinking.

Lina Kirk is convinced her brother is going to be taken this year. To save him, she enlists the help of Thomas Lin, the boy she secretly loves, and the only person to ever escape from the palace. But they draw the queen’s attention, and Thomas is chosen as the sacrifice.

Queen Eva watched her sister die to save the boy she loved. Now as queen, she won’t make the same mistake. She’s willing to sacrifice anyone if it means saving herself and her city.

When Lina offers herself to the queen in exchange for Thomas’s freedom, the two girls await the full moon together. But Lina is not at all what Eva expected, and the queen is nothing like Lina envisioned. Against their will, they find themselves falling for each other as water floods Caldella’s streets and the dark tide demands its sacrifice.

Review

“Betrayal cut so much deeper when you loved the hand that held the knife.”

Alicia Jasinska, The Dark Tide

I read The Dark Tide as part of the 12 Reads from 12 Friends challenge – but it had been on my list for awhile because of this beautiful, mysterious cover. But, I was sadly disappointed overall by this book. It was almost too atmospheric for me, if that makes sense? Like it just flew right over my head.

There is very little world-building happening in this book, which would’ve been very helpful for me. I don’t understand the magic system and how it works, though I know it can be sold and each witch only has a certain amount of magic to use in their lifetime. But I would’ve loved some more explanation around the magic, the festival, and the history of Caldella. But I imagine that would’ve required more books and there wasn’t enough plot for that.

I respected the sapphic love story, especially when it seemed like the love interest was Thomas but it turned into Queen Eva – against all the odds. Always here for an enemies to lovers romance arc, especially a deadly one. The fun twist was that the magic required Queen Eva to fall in love with Lina in order to save the island, but Eva didn’t want to just on principle – but then did anyway. It was a ride.

The plot and setting were dark and spooky befitting the season, so I’m glad I read it when I did. But, it’s not a fantasy that will stick with me very long.

Happy reading, folks!

eARC Review – Donut Fall in Love by Jackie Lau

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Title: Donut Fall in Love

Author: Jackie Lau

Publisher: Berkley

Publication date: October 26th, 2021

368 pages

3.5/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

A baker provides the sweetest escape for an actor in this charming romantic comedy.

Actor Ryan Kwok is back in Toronto after the promotional tour for his latest film, a rom-com that is getting less-than-stellar reviews. After the sudden death of his mother and years of constant work, Ryan is taking some much-needed time off. But as he tries to be supportive to his family, he struggles with his loss and doesn’t know how to talk to his dad—who now trolls him on Twitter instead of meeting him for dim sum.

Innovative baker Lindsay McLeod meets Ryan when he knocks over two dozen specialty donuts at her bakery. Their relationship is off to a messy start, but there’s no denying their immediate attraction. When Ryan signs up for a celebrity episode of Baking Fail, he asks Lindsay to teach him how to bake and she agrees.

As Lindsay and Ryan spend time together, bonding over grief and bubble tea, it starts to feel like they’re cooking up something sweeter than cupcakes in the kitchen.

Review

Fair warning, this book will make you want donuts. Like seriously, with the amount of time spent talking about donuts I think a half dozen should be delivered with each book.

So this book has a actor/normal person romance that I think was done really well – two people with anxieties, insecurities, and experiencing the grief of losing a parent find each other in a donut filled meet cute in Canada. There’s a baking competition, a lot of boba tea, and some spicy scenes. Also, this has Chinese representation, and I’ve been loving Asian romances lately. It’s great to see more diversity in romance books.

It is a dual POV romance which is always my favorite, so that’s a huge plus. But I felt like the conflicts were resolved too quickly. There was just something missing from the story that took some points away for me.

Overall, a solid romance that will have you craving chocolate espresso donuts.

Thank you to Berkley and Edelweiss for an early copy in exchange for an honest review

Happy reading, folks!

Book Review – Horrid by Katrina Leno

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Title: Horrid

Author: Katrina Leno

Publisher: Little, Brown Books For Young Readers

Publication date: September 15th, 2020

327 pages

3/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

Following her father’s death, Jane North-Robinson and her mom move from sunny California to the dreary, dilapidated old house in Maine where her mother grew up. All they want is a fresh start, but behind North Manor’s doors lurks a history that leaves them feeling more alone…and more tormented.

As the cold New England autumn arrives, and Jane settles in to her new home, she finds solace in old books and memories of her dad. She steadily begins making new friends, but also faces bullying from the resident “bad seed,” struggling to tamp down her own worst nature in response. Jane’s mom also seems to be spiraling with the return of her childhood home, but she won’t reveal why. Then Jane discovers that the “storage room” her mom has kept locked isn’t for storage at all — it’s a little girl’s bedroom, left untouched for years and not quite as empty of inhabitants as it appears….

Is it grief? Mental illness? Or something more…horrid?

Review

“The combined smell of coffee and used books felt like the intersection of all things good and necessary.”

Katrina Leno, Horrid

Somebody teach the main character how to use Google for goodness sake.

Okay – so I had a real issue with this book. Up until the very end, I was pretty invested in this story. Haunted house thrillers are one of my fave sub genres and this cover is GORGEOUS, so I was super excited to read it. But, the generall outline of a haunted house thriller is that the traumatic events happened in the past, the new owners of the house know about the stories but are cynical, and then the creepy things start happening. Or, it is set in ye olden times and there’s no internet to research the place. In Horrid, you have the traumatic event that happened in the past, but our MC is a high school student who DOESN’T GOOGLE THE LEGEND AROUND THE HOUSE?? Throughout the book she keeps thinking – wow, people seem to be keeping secrets from me, weird things are happening in this house, I want to know what happened here.

There is no believable way to write a story that banks on a 21st century teenage girl NOT googling what happened at the house in the past. I just don’t buy it. It’s absolutely the first thing I would do. ESPECIALLY when you find out at the end what the secret is – 100000% there would have been newspaper articles and internet postings about it. The girl had a phone, had the internet, and knew there was something going on. No way she doesn’t look it up. I just can’t get over it.

So, I’m sorry folks but this is the only review I have. Nothing else is important about the book because none of it should have happened.

Happy reading, folks!

Book Review – The Heart Principle by Helen Hoang

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Title: The Heart Principle (The Kiss Quotient #3)

Author: Helen Hoang

Publisher: Berkley

Publication date: August 31st, 2021

352 pages

5/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

When violinist Anna Sun accidentally achieves career success with a viral YouTube video, she finds herself incapacitated and burned out from her attempts to replicate that moment. And when her longtime boyfriend announces he wants an open relationship before making a final commitment, a hurt and angry Anna decides that if he wants an open relationship, then she does, too. Translation: She’s going to embark on a string of one-night stands. The more unacceptable the men, the better.

That’s where tattooed, motorcycle-riding Quan Diep comes in. Their first attempt at a one-night stand fails, as does their second, and their third, because being with Quan is more than sex—he accepts Anna on an unconditional level that she herself has just started to understand. However, when tragedy strikes Anna’s family she takes on a role that she is ill-suited for, until the burden of expectations threatens to destroy her. Anna and Quan have to fight for their chance at love, but to do that, they also have to fight for themselves.

Review

“No one should need a diagnosis in order to be compassionate to themself.”

Helen Hoang, The Heart Principle

I adore this series by Helen Hoang so very much. I reread these all the time when I need to read something that I know I’m going to love and enjoy. First is The Kiss Quotient and the second is The Bride Test, followed by the newest – The Heart Principle. This one is Quan’s story, and it seems to be a few years after the events of TBT – which honestly was fairly confusing. My only criticism for this book is that I don’t feel like enough time is given in the beginning to set the scene, because a lot has happened to Quan since the last book and it’s just brushed over. This is important to me because Quan is very different in this book than in the past books, and that change isn’t really depicted so it seems ingenuine to his character.

But outside of that, this is definitely the most emotional of the series so far. I found myself crying by the end at Anna’s story with her family. Anna has always been different, and never understood by her family. After going viral for her violin playing, she loses the ability to create and is stuck in a perfection paralysis cycle. Her perseveration and anxiety in social situations leads her therapist to diagnose her with autism – which her family does not accept and is very rude about. Also, her boyfriend decides he needs to sow his wild oats and have sex with a lot of other women before he proposes to her, so he demands a break. In enters Quan, and she attempts to sow some oats herself.

Like I mentioned, this book is emotional while Anna struggles with her family relationships, her diagnosis, violin playing, and trying to open up to Quan. Be prepared to cry, but make sure you read the author’s note at the end because that made me cry even more. I love Helen Hoang and her decision to make a character so similar to herself and work through her pain.

Read this series, that’s all I can say.

Happy reading, folks!

Book Review – The Boy Toy by Nicola Marsh

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Title: The Boy Toy

Author: Nicola Marsh

Publisher: Berkley

Publication date: November 17th, 2020

352 pages

3/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

For almost a decade, successful 37-year-old Samira Broderick has used her bustling LA practice as an excuse to avoid a trip home to Australia. She still resents her meddling Indian mother for arranging her marriage to a man who didn’t stick around when the going got tough, but now with a new job Down Under, she’s finally ready to reconnect with her. And while she’s there, a hot international fling might be just what she needs to get out of her recent funk.

Aussie stuntman, Rory Radcliffe, has been hiding his stutter for years by avoiding speaking roles. When a job he can’t refuse comes up as a reality show host, he knows he’ll need some help for the audition: a dialect coach. But he finds himself at a loss for words when he discovers it’s the same sexy woman with whom he just had a mind-blowing one-night stand…

Samira can think of many reasons why Rory is completely wrong for her: he’s ten years her junior, for one, and he’s not Indian–something Samira’s mother would never approve of. Even if things were to get serious, there’s no reason to tell her mother…is there?

Review

I listed to The Boy Toy on audio as my first foray into trying to improve my auditory processing – and it was largely a success. I’m so happy to be able to read via audio now so that I can read while driving to work or doing chores at home. This book is set in Australia, so it makes sense that the audio was done in an Australian accent.

This romance features age gap (younger man, older woman), insta-attraction, and the MC is Indian and her mother is trying to set her up with another Indian man. However, Samira’s mother set her up with her first husband who cheated and dismissed her when she had fertility issues. Basically, Samira wants nothing less than to be set up by her mother again. But when a one night stand with a much younger man steals her attention, she may have found what she was looking for all along.

I didn’t live this one, and I didn’t hate this one. There was a lot of steamy, spicy scenes that were open door, so for my clean-preferring friends here’s your warning. These two go at it more often than they have actual conversations. Which might speak to why I didn’t buy the romance between the two. Attraction & lust, sure. But love? Eh. I feel like more could have been done to show an emotional side to the relationship rather than just a physical.

Certainly one you could miss, but I think there is a companion novel coming and I’m open to testing it out.

Happy reading, folks!

Book Review – The Night Country by Melissa Albert

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Title: The Night Country (The Hazel Wood #2)

Author: Melissa Albert

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Publication date: January 7th, 2020

331 pages

3/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

The New York Times bestselling sequel to Melissa Albert’s beloved The Hazel Wood!

In The Night Country, Alice Proserpine dives back into a menacing, mesmerizing world of dark fairy tales and hidden doors of The Hazel Wood. Follow her and Ellery Finch as they learn The Hazel Wood was just the beginning, and that worlds die not with a whimper, but a bang.

With Finch’s help, Alice escaped the Hinterland and her reclusive grandmother’s dark legacy. Now she and the rest of the dregs of the fairy tale world have washed up in New York City, where Alice is trying to make a new, unmagical life. But something is stalking the Hinterland’s survivors—and she suspects their deaths may have a darker purpose. Meanwhile, in the winking out world of the Hinterland, Finch seeks his own adventure, and—if he can find it—a way back home…

Review

“Do you really think that’s how it works? The Hinterland was never a place, it was always us. Wherever you go, that’s the Hinterland.”

Melissa Albert, The Night Country

I wasn’t a huge fan of The Hazel Wood, I spent most of it confused and unsure of what was happening. It was almost too fairy tale-like for me and just didn’t suit. But, I’ve been working on audiobooks lately & this was available and fits in with spooky season so I thought why not. I don’t like to not finish series so there were good reasons to pick this one up.

The Night Country picks up with Alice and Finch after the end of the Hinterland. Alice is back in New York with other Stories who fled the Hinterland and trying to re-acclimate. But this proves difficult when Stories wind up murdered by the same power that Alice Three-Times claimed – but Alice is not the culprit. She gets drawn back into the world trying to figure it out. Meanwhile, Finch is bouncing around other universes on his own quest to find Alice again.

The first half of this book was interesting, which is more than I expected after not enjoying The Hazel Wood. It was a lot easier to follow for me and the almost murder mystery aspect was intriguing. This is a dual POV, so you do get to see what Finch is doing while Alice is in New York. There is some level of suspense as Alice is accused of the murders and she tries to figure out what is going on. But the second half? Went back to the same confusing type of plot with an ending that I still don’t understand.

So, I’m glad I read it so my messed up brain that can’t handle unfinished things is appeased – but I wouldn’t read it again and on a whole the duo was not for me. I know a lot of people love it though, so take this with a grain of salt!

Happy reading, folks!

eARC Review – Within These Wicked Walls by Lauren Blackwood

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Title: Within These Wicked Walls

Author: Lauren Blackwood

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Publication date: October 19th, 2021

336 pages

4/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

What the heart desires, the house destroys…

Andromeda is a debtera—an exorcist hired to cleanse households of the Evil Eye. When a handsome young heir named Magnus Rochester reaches out to hire her, Andromeda quickly realizes this is a job like no other, with horrifying manifestations at every turn, and that Magnus is hiding far more than she has been trained for. Death is the most likely outcome if she stays, but leaving Magnus to live out his curse alone isn’t an option. Evil may roam the castle’s halls, but so does a burning desire.

Kiersten White meets Tomi Adeyemi in this Ethiopian-inspired debut fantasy retelling of Jane Eyre.

Review

Within These Wicked Walls is pitched as an Ethiopian inspired Jane Eyre retelling. I’m unfamiliar with the Jane Eyre story, so I can’t confirm how closely this story aligns with Jane Eyre, BUT it is an excellent story no matter what. The story revolves around a haunted house, exorcisms, and an unlikely romance.

Andromeda is a debtera (exorcist) hired by the rich and mysterious hermit Magnus Rochester to cleanse his home of a curse. A dozen older and more experienced debteras have tried and failed to cleanse the mansion, but Andi is desperate. Quickly she realizes she has bitten off more than she can chew with the sheer amount of work needed, in addition to the moody and entitled employer who she is strangely attracted to.

For a stand alone, this book is plotted and paced really well. Fantasy stand alones can often run into a pacing problem but I felt this book was well balanced with plot & world-building. There is not a lot of explanation around the magic system involving exorcising the Evil Eye, but enough is given to have an understanding of what is happening. There is also a theme of family and second chance love during some background plots.

The slow burn romance had some superb tension and banter, but I wasn’t completely sold on the whole thing. Maybe that means I wouldn’t love the original Jane Eyre, but it was somehow slow burn but also too fast? Andi did a complete flip flop at one point for no reason but, hey it happens in romances.

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

Happy reading, folks!

Book Review – Lost in the Never Woods by Aiden Thomas

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Title: Lost in the Never Woods

Author: Aiden Thomas

Publisher: Swoon Reads

Publication date: March 23rd, 2021

384 pages

3/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

When children go missing in the small coastal town of Astoria, people look to Wendy for answers.

It’s been five years since Wendy and her two brothers went missing in the woods, but when the town’s children start to disappear, the questions surrounding her brothers’ mysterious circumstances are brought back into light. Attempting to flee her past, Wendy almost runs over an unconscious boy lying in the middle of the road, and gets pulled into the mystery haunting the town.

Peter, a boy she thought lived only in her stories, claims that if they don’t do something, the missing children will meet the same fate as her brothers. In order to find them and rescue the missing kids, Wendy must confront what’s waiting for her in the woods. 

Review

“But that’s what happens when you grow up—you forget about the magic you’ve seen.” 

Aiden Thomas, Lost in the Never Woods

I’ve never been one for Peter Pan as a story personally, but this one sounded perfect for spooky season and I was able to listen to the audio through my library. Also, isn’t this cover gorgeous? It was basically calling to me to try it out. But, as expected it ended up being only an average read for me overall.

A lot of the average feelings I had were definitely due to me generally not liking the source material. This is definitely a dark retelling of Peter Pan, where Wendy is grown up and John & Michael went missing years ago from their small towns. When children begin to go missing again, Wendy worries it’s related to her brothers. But when a boy who says he’s Peter Pan shows up – Wendy learns just how complicated the situation is.

I didn’t foresee the big reveal, which is always a positive for me. The pacing and plot were solid but Wendy as a character bothered me, along with her parents – especially her father. Reading about verbally abusive parents is just not a high point for me, and I was frustrated with Wendy for being a passive character and not standing up for herself. The plot line with Peter growing up because something is wrong in Neverland was an interesting twist. I missed Captain Hook though 😉

Happy reading, folks!

eARC Review – Well Matched by Jen DeLuca

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Title: Well Matched (Well Met #3)

Author: Jen DeLuca

Publisher: Berkley

Publication date: October 19th, 2021

336 pages

5/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

An accidentally in-love rom-com filled with Renaissance Faire flower crowns, kilts, corsets, and sword fights.

Single mother April Parker has lived in Willow Creek for twelve years with a wall around her heart. On the verge of being an empty nester, she’s decided to move on from her quaint little town, and asks her friend Mitch for his help with some home improvement projects to get her house ready to sell.

Mitch Malone is known for being the life of every party, but mostly for the attire he wears to the local Renaissance Faire–a kilt (and not much else) that shows off his muscled form to perfection. While he agrees to help April, he needs a favor too: she’ll pretend to be his girlfriend at an upcoming family dinner, so that he can avoid the lectures about settling down and having a more “serious” career than high school coach and gym teacher. April reluctantly agrees, but when dinner turns into a weekend trip, it becomes hard to tell what’s real and what’s been just for show. But when the weekend ends, so must their fake relationship.

As summer begins, Faire returns to Willow Creek, and April volunteers for the first time. When Mitch’s family shows up unexpectedly, April pretends to be Mitch’s girlfriend again…something that doesn’t feel so fake anymore. Despite their obvious connection, April insists they’ve just been putting on an act. But when there’s the chance for something real, she has to decide whether to change her plans–and open her heart–for the kilt-wearing hunk who might just be the love of her life.

Review

LOVE LOVE LOVE. I admit I was very surprised when I saw Well Met 3 would be Mitch & April’s story because I didn’t really see the connection between the two – but wow oh wow did I love this book!

Age gap, fake dating, ONLY ONE BED. The “I stand up to your rude family on your behalf & completely shock you” swoon. Seriously, I loved everything about this book. It’s not just a great return to the world of the Maryland Renn Faire, but a conversation on how dreams and goals can change over time – and that’s okay.

I would have loved Mitch’s POV in this story – but I say that about every single POV romance story. I just so much prefer dual POV romances to see the misunderstandings and attraction grow from both sides. I also feel like the story line with April’s ex wasn’t developed enough and didn’t have a satisfying ending.

But, I will put Well Matched as an exact tie with Well Met (love Emily & Simon forever). I can’t pick, you can’t make me!

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

Happy reading, folks!

eARC Review – The Brightest Star in Paris by Diana Biller

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Title: The Brightest Star in Paris

Author: Diana Biller

Publisher: St Martin’s Press

Publication date: October 12th, 2021

400 pages

4/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

In Diana Biller’s The Brightest Star in Paris, love is waiting; you only have to let it in.

Amelie St. James, prima ballerina of the Paris Opera Ballet and the people’s saint, has spent seven years pretending. In the devastating aftermath of the Siege of Paris, she made a decision to protect her sister: she became the bland, sweet, pious “St. Amie” the ballet needed to restore its scandalous reputation. But when her first love reappears, and the ghosts of her past come back to haunt her, all her hard-fought safety is threatened.

Dr. Benedict Moore has never forgotten the girl who helped him embrace life again after he almost lost his. Now, he’s back in Paris after twelve years for a conference. His goals are to recruit promising new scientists, and, maybe, to see Amelie again. When he discovers she’s in trouble, he’s desperate to help her—after all, he owes her.

When she finally agrees to let him help, they disguise their time together with a fake courtship. But reigniting old feelings is dangerous, especially when their lives are an ocean apart. Will they be able to make it out with their hearts intact?

Review

The Brightest Star In Paris is a historical romance set in Paris {obvi} a decade after the Franco Prussian War. Our MC is a prima ballerina forced into a pious caricature of a proper lady in order to be the city’s hope for the future. Amelie just wants to make enough money to secure her & her sister’s future after being orphaned. But when Amelie starts seeing ghosts and her long lost love returns, who knows what will happen.

Highlights include : second chance love, a ghost story, and dual timeline stories. The dual timeline made sense and definitely added to the overall story. I LOVED the ghost aspect of the story, the idea of mediums and spirits in this time period (and how it is just generally accepted in the book) was fascinating – along with the actual ghosts depicted in the story. It was perfect for an October release. There is also two POV’s in this romance, which we love to see.

I really loved being immersed in this book & reading Amelie’s story. It was so atmospheric & easy to read – it just sucked me in and didn’t let go. I appreciated the journey Amelie went on for character growth and how much effort she put into changing her life by the end. There were a lot of themes in this book, tackling prostitution, drug use, death, murder, sexual harassment, and more. There are heavier moments, so beware of that.

Thank you to St Martins Press and Netgalley for an early copy in exchange for an honest review.

Happy reading, folks!