eARC Review – Between You, Me, and the Honeybees by Amelia Diane Coombs

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Title: Between You, Me, and the Honeybees

Author: Amelia Diane Coombs

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Reader’s

Publication date: June 22nd, 2021

368 pages

4/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

Perfect for fans of Jenn Bennett and Sarah Dessen, this swoon-worthy novel follows a teen girl during her California summer of beekeeping, secrets, and stolen kisses.

Josie Hazeldine has just graduated from high school, and she’s ready for a summer full of sunshine, beekeeping, and…lying to her mom.

Josie’s mom couldn’t be more proud of her daughter going to college, something she never got to do. But Josie wants to stay in her California hometown and take over the family business, Hazeldine Honey. So that college acceptance her mom is thrilled about? Yeah, Josie turned it down. But she’s going to come clean—just not yet.

The neighbor’s artsy, adorable grandson who’s in town for the summer makes Josie’s web of lies even more tangled. He’s into Josie and the feeling is very mutual, but he’s a Blumstein—the sworn enemy of the Hazeldines and their number one competition in the annual Honey Show at the end of July. As their secret fling goes on, Josie knows she’s getting in way too deep to leave him behind when summer’s over.

Can Josie keep the boy she can’t stop thinking about without the secrets she’s juggling crashing down around her?

Review

Between You, Me, and the Honeybees is a sweet, YA contemporary romance about an amateur beekeeper, Josie, who wants nothing more in life than to run her family’s apiary when she graduates high school. She absolutely does not want to go to college, but her mother thinks she is. But that’s not the only secret she’s keeping… She’s also secretly dating the grandson of her family’s fiercest rivals, and her mother hates that family. What’s Josie to do?

I loved learning more about beekeeping in this book! It’s such a unique setting that you don’t think of much but was very interesting to read. The romance portion was very adorable, kind of insta-love but I enjoyed this one whereas I don’t generally like insta-love. The sneaking around and secrets also reminded me of being a teenager and hiding boys from my parents!

I ended up severely disliking one of the side characters by the end, which kept this book from being a 5 star read for me. I just didn’t even like reading about this character by the end, and it cut down on my enjoyment of the book as a whole. But, for fans of Jenn Bennett I definitely suggest giving this one a try!

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

Happy reading, folks!

Book Review – Much Ado About You by Samantha Young

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Title: Much Ado About You

Author: Samantha Young

Publisher: Berkley

Publication date: February 2nd, 2021

308 pages

4/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

The cozy comforts of an English village bookstore open up a world of new possibilities for Evie Starling in this charming new romantic comedy from New York Times bestselling author Samantha Young.

At thirty-three-years old Evangeline Starling’s life in Chicago is missing that special something. And when she’s passed over for promotion at work, Evie realizes she needs to make a change. Some time away to regain perspective might be just the thing. In a burst of impulsivity, she plans a holiday in a quaint English village. The holiday package comes with a temporary position at Much Ado About Books, the bookstore located beneath her rental apartment. There’s no better dream vacation for the bookish Evie, a life-long Shakespeare lover.

Not only is Evie swept up in running the delightful store as soon as she arrives, she’s drawn into the lives, loves and drama of the friendly villagers. Including Roane Robson, the charismatic and sexy farmer who tempts Evie every day with his friendly flirtations. Evie is determined to keep him at bay because a holiday romance can only end in heartbreak, right? But Evie can’t deny their connection and longs to trust in her handsome farmer that their whirlwind romance could turn in to the forever kind of love.

Review

“Unfortunately, we live in a society where we tell our kids to be confident and successful and then as soon as they are, we tell them to shut up about it and be humble. Especially women.”

Samantha Young, Much Ado About You

I have found that books set in or include bookstores in the plot are my new favorites. I think I missed my calling to work in a bookstore and I fully plan to do that when I retire or stop working in my career to be honest.

But back to the book. Evie needs a change in her life and decides to visit England and work in a bookstore on holiday in a small village. She is quickly drawn into the world of the villagers, makes friends, and begins to fall for Roane Robson. I found this book to be extremely engaging, and wishing to be transported into the story myself. It’s a magical story (not literally) of finding what you need in unexpected places. Evie also takes it upon herself to help everyone around her, which leads to her having a profound impact on many people in the story.

I’m obsessed with Roane as a love interest. I absolutely love when it’s unrequited love on the man’s side as he just quietly pines over her. I only wish you got Roane’s POV for the story, but this book is told entirely from Evie’s POV.

Happy reading, folks!

eARC Review – The Tragedy of Dane Riley by Kat Spears

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Title: The Tragedy of Dane Riley

Author: Kat Spears

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Publication date: June 22nd, 2021

320 pages

3/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

Dane Riley’s grasp on reality is slipping, and he’s not sure that he cares. While his mother has moved on after his father’s death, Dane desperately misses the man who made Dane feel okay to be himself. He can’t stand his mother’s boyfriend, or the boyfriend’s son, whose favorite pastime is tormenting Dane. Then there’s the girl next door: Dane can’t quite define their relationship, and he doesn’t know if he’s got the courage to leave the friend zone.

An emotional novel about mental health, and dealing with grief and growing up, The Tragedy of Dane Riley is the story of a teenager looking to make sense of his feelings in the wake of tragedy, and finding the strength he needs to make life worth living.

Review

TW: discussions of death, suicidal ideation, depression, anxiety, physical violence, attempted sexual violence, mental illness

The Tragedy of Dane Riley centers on Dane, an 18 year old senior in high school whose father recently died of cancer. Dane has been struggling with the loss and his mother’s reaction to it – to immediately begin dating his father’s best friend and business partner. Mom and son don’t see eye to eye throughout the story, which is a look at Dane’s journey through coping with his grief and trying to survive high school.

The triggers in this book are endless, which is why so many are listed. This book is very deep and philosophical, but Dane spends a lot of time in his head thinking about the above topics in detail – so I want to ensure everyone is prepared going into this book with the subject matter. Overall, I found myself relating to Dane so deeply. Throughout the book he had me cheering him on, shaking my head, and often commiserating with him. There is general teenage angst, including a touch of romance – but the story is really centered on Dane learning better coping skills.

The ending left me unsatisfied, but that’s all I will say about that. Even with relating to Dane, I found many parts hard to read given his intense feelings that I myself have experience with. It was almost like reading my own feelings on paper, which was disconcerting at times.

Again, be mindful going into this book with the subject matter, but I think the journey is important to read.

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

Happy reading, folks!

eARC Review – The House of Always by Jenn Lyons

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Title: The House of Always (A Chorus of Dragons #4)

Author: Jenn Lyons

Publisher: Tor Books

Publication date: May 11th, 2021

544 pages

4/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

For fans of Brandon Sanderson and Patrick Rothfuss, The House of Always is the fourth epic fantasy in Jenn Lyons’ Chorus of Dragons series that began with The Ruin of Kings.

What if you were imprisoned for all eternity?

In the aftermath of the Ritual of Night, everything has changed.

The Eight Immortals have catastrophically failed to stop Kihrin’s enemies, who are moving forward with their plans to free Vol Karoth, the King of Demons. Kihrin has his own ideas about how to fight back, but even if he’s willing to sacrifice everything for victory, the cost may prove too high for his allies.

Now they face a choice: can they save the world while saving Kihrin, too? Or will they be forced to watch as he becomes the very evil they have all sworn to destroy.

Review

The fourth installment in the A Chorus of Dragons series picks up the gang’s story after the events of The Memory of Souls. As is usual for this series, the story is told in a very unique way – a combination of POV switching, flashbacks, and footnotes by the character writing the compilation after the events of the story. Each book in this series is told in a unique way, The House of Always being no different.

In this book, you get more perspectives, and different perspectives than you really have in previous books. All the big players across the first three books are in this book, whereas in the past they’ve been separated. In the usual fashion of this series, The House of Always is complex, epic, and very fast-paced. There is a lot of action due to the flashbacks, and a lot of previous events are explained during this book – which is helpful for overall comprehension.

This series is decidedly adult, epic fantasy so if that isn’t your jam – this book may be confusing and hard to follow. There are so many fantasy elements in this series that it will appeal to those folks who love fantasy more than anything else, like me!

Thank you to Tor Books and Netgalley for an early copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Happy reading, folks!

eARC Review – Ace of Spades by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé

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Title: Ace of Spades

Author: Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé

Publisher: Feiwel and Friends

Publication date: June 1st, 2021

pages

5/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

Gossip Girl meets Get Out in Ace of Spades, a YA contemporary thriller by debut author Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé about two students, Devon & Chiamaka, and their struggles against an anonymous bully.

When two Niveus Private Academy students, Devon Richards and Chiamaka Adebayo, are selected to be part of the elite school’s senior class prefects, it looks like their year is off to an amazing start. After all, not only does it look great on college applications, but it officially puts each of them in the running for valedictorian, too.

Shortly after the announcement is made, though, someone who goes by Aces begins using anonymous text messages to reveal secrets about the two of them that turn their lives upside down and threaten every aspect of their carefully planned futures.

As Aces shows no sign of stopping, what seemed like a sick prank quickly turns into a dangerous game, with all the cards stacked against them. Can Devon and Chiamaka stop Aces before things become incredibly deadly?

With heart-pounding suspense and relevant social commentary comes a high-octane thriller from debut author Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé.

Review

Ace of Spades is a YA thriller/mystery set in a private school with dual POV from Chiamaka and Devon – two students who couldn’t be more different, but find themselves the target of an anonymous texter called Aces. Aces is similar to A from Pretty Little Liars, they send text messages to the whole school dropping secrets about students and overall trying to ruin their lives. But what do these two have in common to derive such treatment?

Wow oh wow, first off I LOVE boarding/private school mysteries as a rule and this was no exception. At 27 years old I can’t say why I love teenage drama and pettiness but I don’t hate it. Both characters have a lot of depth to them as you learn more and it just draws you more and more into the plot with every message from Aces. It was hard to tell what the ending would be throughout the book, it’s not a plot line that is easy to guess.

There is also a lot of representation in this book – both MCs are BIPOC and on the LGBTQIAP spectrum. There is a fantastic conversation about race wrapped up in this book. I can’t even explain exactly how great this book was, and if YA mystery/thrillers are your jam you should definitely check it out.

Thank you to Feiwel and Friends and Netgalley for an early copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Happy reading, folks!

eARC Review – These Feathered Flames by Alexandra Overy

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Title: These Feathered Flames (These Feathered Flames #1)

Author: Alexandra Overy

Publisher: Inkyard Press

Publication date: April 20th, 2021

496 pages

4/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

A queer retelling of “The Firebird,” a Russian folktale

When twin heirs are born in Tourin, their fates are decided at a young age. While Izaveta remained at court to learn the skills she’d need as the future queen, Asya was taken away to train with her aunt, the mysterious Firebird, who ensured magic remained balanced in the realm.

But before Asya’s training is completed, the ancient power blooms inside her, which can mean only one thing: the queen is dead, and a new ruler must be crowned.

As the princesses come to understand everything their roles entail, they’ll discover who they can trust, who they can love—and who killed their mother.

Review

These Feathered Flames is the beginning of a new fantasy, retelling of The Firebird fairy tale. I found this book to be extremely enjoyable, while also being very hard to get into. Personally, I have a harder time reading Russian inspired books due to the names and lore – so this is likely a me thing, not necessarily a fault of the book. The Russian influence is heavy within the plot, names, and backgrounds of the characters so it has a large presence in the story.

I LOVED the concept of the two twin sisters being born, one to be queen and one to become the mythical Firebird. It reminded me a lot of the Three Dark Crowns series by Kendare Blake in terms of the sisters. When their mother, the Queen, dies the Firebird is called back to the palace after many years to begin the Mourning period. But politics and maneuvering take over, with many attempting to depose the sister meant to be the next Queen.

The writing in this book is beautiful, and whereas it took me some time to become invested in the story, the ending 10% had me on the absolute edge of my seat and taking me on a shocking journey to set up the next book. The sister’s dynamic was engaging and interesting, as they both came into their own powers and became what was expected of them at court.

Thank you to Inkyard Press and Netgalley for an early copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Happy reading, folks!

Book Review – Iron Heart by Nina Varela

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Title: Iron Heart (Crier’s War #2)

Author: Nina Varela

Publisher: HarperTeen

Publication date: September 8th, 2020

400 pages

4/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

Critically acclaimed author Nina Varela delivers a stunning sequel to the richly imagined queer epic fantasy Crier’s War, which SLJ called “perfect for fans of Sarah J. Maas’s Throne of Glass.”

For too long, Automae have lorded over the kingdom of Rabu, oppressing its human citizens. But the human revolution has risen, and at its heart is Ayla. Once a handmaiden, now a fugitive, Ayla narrowly escaped the palace of Lady Crier, the girl she would’ve killed if she hadn’t fallen in love first. 

Now Ayla has pledged her allegiance to Queen Junn, who can help accomplish the human rebellion’s ultimate goal: destroy the Iron Heart. Without its power, the Automae will be weakened to the point of extinction. Ayla wants to succeed, but can’t shake the strong feelings she’s developed for Crier. And unbeknownst to her, Crier has also fled the palace, taking up among traveling rebels, determined to find and protect Ayla.

Even as their paths collide, nothing can prepare them for the dark secret underlying the Iron Heart.

Review

“If the universe were static, I could stand anywhere in this world and I swear my line of sight would end on you. I swear I’d find you in the dark.”

Nina Varela, Iron Heart

Iron Heart is the sequel to Crier’s War, a sapphic science fiction/fantasy with humans and Automae. Crier and Ayla find themselves on opposite sides of the kingdom, but secretly on the same side of the war. Iron Heart is a dramatic conclusion with action, politics, and a great love story.

I loved how this book wrapped everything up from Crier’s War. Iron Heart starts shortly after Crier’s War ends and is told in the dual POV’s of Ayla and Crier. This book is fast paced with a lot of adventure, magic, and searching for answers. Personally, I think some of the “conflicts” were too easily solved just to keep the plot moving, but that’s just me. I read through this book quickly and it held my attention from start to finish.

For Pride Month, I’m trying to read some of my backlist queer books, and this was an obvious choice with the sapphic romance. I also love that it was an Automae/human relationship – because a star crossed love story is always fun!

If you love sci-fi/fantasy, definitely check this duology out!

Happy reading, folks!

Book Review – Crier’s War by Nina Varela

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Title: Crier’s War

Author: Nina Varela

Publisher: Quill Tree Books

Publication date: October 1st, 2019

464 pages

4/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

Impossible love between two girls —one human, one Made.
A love that could birth a revolution.

After the War of Kinds ravaged the kingdom of Rabu, the Automae, Designed to be the playthings of royals, took over the estates of their owners and bent the human race to their will.

Now, Ayla, a human servant rising the ranks at the House of the Sovereign, dreams of avenging the death of her family… by killing the Sovereign’s daughter, Lady Crier. Crier, who was Made to be beautiful, to be flawless. And to take over the work of her father.

Crier had been preparing to do just that—to inherit her father’s rule over the land. But that was before she was betrothed to Scyre Kinok, who seems to have a thousand secrets. That was before she discovered her father isn’t as benevolent as she thought. That was before she met Ayla.

Set in a richly-imagined fantasy world, Nina Varela’s debut novel is a sweepingly romantic tale of love, loss and revenge, that challenges what it really means to be human.

Review

“If longing is madness, then none of us are sane.”

Nina Varela, Crier’s War

I was immediately sucked into Crier’s War when I began reading it – it is my definition of a perfect YA fantasy novel. There is action, intrigue, a case of forbidden love, a science fiction twist – it has it all. Add in some sapphic romance and it was a million percent up my alley. I couldn’t wait to keep reading it to see what was going to happen next.

The angst and pining in this book is divine. Ayla has no reason to like Crier after her parents are killed but everything Crier does makes her feel conflicted. Crier doesn’t understand how she has such feelings, as an automaton she was Made differently. The writing is incredibly immersive and I loved the snippets of the past at the beginning of chapters. I felt like I was in Rabu with them throughout the book, watching it happen.

Sure, some people may say this is “typical YA” as a negative, but I would never be that person. I love typical YA something fierce, and the pinch of sci fi is a delightful addition that adds a lot of depth to the plot line. I also have no idea how Iron Heart will go based on the ending of Crier’s War, but I’m incredible excited to find outl

Happy reading, folks!

Book Review – Life’s Too Short by Abby Jimenez

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Title: Life’s Too Short (The Friend Zone #3)

Author: Abby Jimenez

Publisher: Forever

Publication date: April 6th, 2021

384 pages

4/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

A brilliant and touching romantic comedy from the USA Today bestselling author of The Friend Zone and The Happy Ever After Playlist.

Vanessa lives life on her own terms — one day at a time, every day to its fullest. She isn’t willing to waste a moment or miss out on an experience when she has no idea whether she shares the same fatal genetic condition as her mother. Besides, she has way too much to do, traveling the globe and showing her millions of YouTube followers the joy in seizing every moment.

But after her half-sister suddenly leaves Vanessa in custody of her infant daughter, she is housebound, on mommy duty for the foreseeable future, and feeling totally out of her element.

The last person she expects to show up offering help is the unbelievably hot lawyer who lives next door, Adrian Copeland. After all, she barely knows him. But as they get closer, Vanessa realizes that her carefree ways and his need for a structured plan could never be compatible for the long term. Then again, she should know better than anyone that life’s too short to fear taking the biggest risk of all. . .

Review

“I liked that she didn’t feel the need to impress me and I didn’t feel the need to impress her. There was something comforting about it, about just being you in whatever state you happened to be in.”

Abby Jimenez, Life’s Too Short

The third iteration in Jimenez’s romance series features Adrian and Vanessa, neighbors who cross paths and become close friends. Vanessa is a famous travel Youtuber, now living in one place fostering her niece. Adrian is a lawyer who spends way too much time working and not enough time having fun. Their friendship is unlikely, but helpful to each in such a big way. But Vanessa may have a rare genetic condition that kills the women in her family early in life, and she refuses to get tested or get treatment.

First off, I want to say that there are some parts to this book I take issue with, and I will get to that. On the other side, the writing in this book is glorious and emotional. It packs a similar level of emotion into 300 some pages that The Happy Ever After Playlist does. You can’t help but feel for Vanessa and her decision, she is so strong and set in her beliefs after years of questions and doubts. I highly respect the strength and courage that takes – and Adrian’s love for her is beautiful and heartwarming.

However. I have heard mixed reviews about the way anxiety is written about in this book. I myself am not diagnosed specifically with an anxiety disorder, however my Major Depressive Disorder comes with a side dish of anxiety. I personally did not have as much of an issue with the representation of anxiety in this book, but I will not take away from other own voice reviewers who did. Each person’s experience and perception is different, and valid. So, if you do deal with anxiety, here is your trigger warning for a potentially harmful experience.

All in all, I would not put this as the best in the series, but it does edge out The Friend Zone in my opinion.

Happy reading, folks!

June TBR – 2021 Edition

Happy June!! I have SO MANY books planned for this month to make up for the last few months where my reading wasn’t quite where it normally is. I’m currently drowning in ARCs that I need to catch up on so it’s time to buckle down! I have no regrets about the books I read the last few months and that it didn’t go according to plan – but I also hold myself responsible for the ARCs that I sign up for so I’m excited to get back on track.

PHYSICAL

  1. Geekerella (Once Upon a Con #1), Ashley Poston
  2. Bone Crier’s Moon (Bone Grace #1), Kathryn Purdie
  3. Bone Crier’s Dawn (Bone Grace #2), Kathryn Purdie
  4. Conventionally Yours (True Colors #1), Annabeth Albert
  5. Spoiler Alert (Spoiler Alert #1), Olivia Dade
  6. Warmaidens (Gravemaidens #2), Kelly Coon
  7. Iron Heart (Crier’s War #2), Nina Varela

EBOOKS

  1. Circe, Madeline Miller
  2. Yes & I Love You (Say Everything #1), Roni Loren

ARCS

  1. Ember of Night (Ember of Night #1), Molly E. Lee
  2. These Feathered Flames (These Feathered Flames #1), Alexandra Overy
  3. Between You, Me, and the Honeybees, Amelia Diane Coombs
  4. These Hollow Vows (These Hollow Vows #1), Lexi Ryan
  5. Where it All Lands, Jennie Wexler
  6. Mother of All (Women’s War #3), Jenna Glass
  7. Daughter of Lies & Ruin (Tales of the Blackbone Witches #2), Jo Spurrier
  8. Hot Under His Collar, Andie J. Christopher
  9. How Sweet It Is, Dylan Newton
  10. Ace of Spades, Faridah Abike-Iyimide
  11. The Tragedy of Dane Riley, Kat Spears
  12. To Sir, With Love, Lauren Layne
  13. The House of Always (A Chorus of Dragons #4), Jenn Lyons
  14. The Queen Will Betray You (Kingdoms of Sand and Sky #2), Sarah Henning
  15. What If You & Me (Say Everything #2), Roni Loren
  16. Out of Character (True Colors #2), Annabeth Albert
  17. Tower of Fools (Hussite Trilogy #1), Andrzej Sapkowski

Happy reading, folks!