April Haul – 2021 Edition

The end of another month! Each month seems to be going faster than the one before it, time is passing so quickly. I wasn’t as diligent this month with my bookish purchases, but I don’t regret any of my choices.

Below are the books I bought or received this month. Special thanks to Wednesday Books for the ARC they sent me!

SUBSCRIPTION BOXES

  1. Bone Crier’s Dawn (Bone Grace #2), Kathryn Purdie – Owlcrate Special Edition
  2. Blessed Monsters (Something Dark and Holy #3), Emily A. Duncan – Owlcrate Special Edition
  3. Firekeeper’s Daughter, Angeline Boulley – BOTM
  4. People We Meet on Vacation, Emily Henry – BOTM

AMAZON

  1. The Prison Healer (The Prison Healer #1), Lynette Noni
  2. Jade City (The Green Bone Saga #1), Fonda Lee
  3. Jade War (The Green Bone Saga #2), Fonda Lee

PUBLISHERS

  1. Where It All Lands, Jennie Wexler

Happy reading, folks!

eARC Review – The Secret Bridesmaid by Katy Birchall

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Title: The Secret Bridesmaid

Author: Katy Birchall

Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin

Publication date: May 4th, 2021

400 pages

4/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

Matrimony meets mayhem in a modern British romcom about a young woman charged with pulling off the biggest aristocratic wedding of the year––and the misadventures that ensue.

Sophie Breeze is a brilliant bridesmaid. So brilliant, in fact, that she’s made it her full-time job.

As a professional bridesmaid, Sophie is hired by London brides to be their right-hand woman, posing as a friend but working behind the scenes to help plan the perfect wedding and ensure their big day goes off without a hitch. When she’s hired by Lady Victoria Swann––a former model and “It Girl” of 1970’s London; now the Marchioness of Meade––for the society wedding of the year, it should be a chance for Sophie to prove just how talented she is.

Of course, it’s not ideal that the bride, Lady Victoria’s daughter, Cordelia, is an absolute diva and determined to make Sophie’s life a nightmare. It’s also a bit inconvenient that Sophie finds herself drawn to Cordelia’s posh older brother, who is absolutely off limits. But when a rival society wedding is announced for the very same day, things start to get…well, complicated.

Can Sophie pull off the biggest challenge of her career––execute a high-profile gala for four hundred and fifty guests in record time, win over a reluctant bride, and catch the eye of handsome Lord Swann––all while keeping her true identity a secret, and her dignity intact?

Heartwarming and hilarious, The Secret Bridesmaid celebrates the joys (and foibles) of weddings, the nuances of female friendship, and the redeeming power of love in its many unexpected forms.

Review

Sophie is the ultimate bridesmaid… for a price. For brides who need help with planning, a shoulder to cry on, and a professional who knows her way around weddings – they call Sophie. Sophie seamlessly assimilates into the bride’s life as a long lost friend, college pal, etc and helps them plan the most important day of their life. When she gets her biggest client to date, Lady Cordelia the Marchioness of Meade’s daughter, Sophie knows she needs to pull out all the stops to rocket herself to the next level in her career. But Cordelia has no interest in Sophie’s brand of bridesmaid and does everything she can to make Sophie quit. Can Sophie pull of the wedding of the century in England or will she crash and burn?

As someone who is getting married shortly after the release of this book, I knew it would be topical and was excited to read it. I found the antics in this book incredibly funny and enjoyable while maintaining the Adult Contemporary aspects. The hint of romance was very much welcome and appreciated. I loved the pranks Cordelia plays on Sophie and the emotional journey both women take together.

I could have used a bit more romance in this book, however I don’t think the book was diminished by being more light on the romance side – it’s just my preference. This leans more on the literary fiction side of the line, so if that is a favorite genre of yours I would recommend this title. No stand out critiques, though something was missing that could have taken it to a five star book in my opinion.

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

Happy reading, folks!

Book Review – The Ex Talk by Rachel Lynn Solomon

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Title: The Ex Talk

Author: Rachel Lynn Solomon

Publisher: Berkley

Publication date: January 26th, 2021

336 pages

5/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

Public radio co-hosts navigate mixed signals in Rachel Lynn Solomon’s sparkling romantic comedy debut.

Shay Goldstein has been a producer at her Seattle public radio station for nearly a decade, and she can’t imagine working anywhere else. But lately it’s been a constant clash between her and her newest colleague, Dominic Yun, who’s fresh off a journalism master’s program and convinced he knows everything about public radio.

When the struggling station needs a new concept, Shay proposes a show that her boss green-lights with excitement. On The Ex Talk, two exes will deliver relationship advice live, on air. Their boss decides Shay and Dominic are the perfect co-hosts, given how much they already despise each other. Neither loves the idea of lying to listeners, but it’s this or unemployment. Their audience gets invested fast, and it’s not long before The Ex Talk becomes a must-listen in Seattle and climbs podcast charts.

As the show gets bigger, so does their deception, especially when Shay and Dominic start to fall for each other. In an industry that values truth, getting caught could mean the end of more than just their careers.

Review

“Sometimes I wonder if content is really just a synonym for complacent.”

Rachel Lynn Solomon, The Ex Talk

Holy banter! I am here for so many parts of this book; the enemies to lovers, workplace romance, the diversity, the Jewish/Asian representation, and the podcast spin! Truly, this book was a joy to read and the only thing that could have made it better was if it was dual POV {which is just my all time favorite and I want all my romances to be dual POV}.

I love so much that the whole storyline revolved around Dominic and Shay pretending to be exes, but instead falling in love. It’s a whole new take on enemies to lovers romance that I haven’t read before and it made for some seriously amazing banter and a great dynamic. The steam level was pretty moderate/high, so it that isn’t your jam just know there is more spice than average in this one.

I legit hated the boss, anytime he was on the screen I wanted to throw my kindle across the room because he was the absolute worst. I wanted more of a take down sequence for him from Shay, but alas it was not to be had. Might be my one big critique of the book is I feel like Shay needed to stand up to him more, instead of waiting for Dominic to do it. If you want power and equality, you need to demand it – not wait for the man to do it.

Excuse me while I go fantasize about my own Dominic. Read this book!

Happy reading, folks!

eARC Review – Before I Saw You by Emily Houghton

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Title: Before I Saw You

Author: Emily Houghton

Publisher: Gallery Books

Publication date: May 4th, 2021

400 pages

4/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

For fans of Close Enough to Touch and Me Before You comes a poignant and moving novel about two patients who fall in love as they recover from traumatic injuries in the same hospital ward…all without seeing each other.

Alice Gunnersley and Alfie Mack sleep just a few feet apart from one another. They talk for hours every day. And they’ve never seen each other face-to-face.

After being in terrible accidents, the two now share the same ward as long-term residents of St. Francis’s Hospital. Although they don’t get off to the best start, the close quarters (and Alfie’s persistence to befriend everyone he meets) brings them closer together. Pretty soon no one can make Alice laugh as hard as Alfie does, and Alfie feels like he’s finally found a true confidante in Alice. Between their late night talks and inside jokes, something more than friendship begins to slowly blossom between them.

But as their conditions improve and the end of their stay draws closer, Alfie and Alice are forced to decide whether it’s worth continuing a relationship with someone who’s seen all of the worst parts of you, but never seen your actual face.

A tender novel of healing and hope, Before I Saw You reminds us that connections can be found even in the most unexpected of places—and that love is almost always blind.

Review

Before I Saw You was a very different type of contemporary romance novel, set in a rehab unit of a hospital in Europe. Our two MC’s are recovering from traumatic accidents and help each other along the way as they share a room. Alfie loses a leg in a horrible car accident, but doesn’t let it dim his positivity and outlook on life. Alice is the opposite, she is severely burned while at work in her office and doesn’t speak for weeks after being admitted to the hospital. Alfie recognizes the pain and suffering in Alice, and works to make her feel comfortable in the unit.

If I had to sum up this book in a word it would be “heartwarming”. Before I Saw You is a tale of grief and suffering, but also trust and redemption and finding love in the most unexpected places. Alfie and Alice’s journey together was incredible to watch as they both dealt with their traumas and helped each other through it all. I loved the side characters and the serious notes. This is a not a light and fluffy rom com, it tackles intense emotions and topics while keeping a bit of humor.

I would have loved to see more of the romance aspect between Alfie and Alice, which would be my only critique. But that comes from someone who is just super romance minded and loves to read that! If you’re looking for a fantastic contemporary read, light on romance, this will be right up your alley. I’ve always enjoyed TV shows set in hospitals but this is the first book I’ve read with that setting and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Thanks to Gallery Books and Netgalley for an early copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Happy reading, folks!

ARC Review – Hurricane Summer by Asha Bromfield

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Title: Hurricane Summer

Author: Asha Bromfield

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Publication date: May 4th, 2021

400 pages

4/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

Tilla has spent her entire life trying to make her father love her. But every six months, he leaves their family and returns to his true home: the island of Jamaica.

When Tilla’s mother tells her she’ll be spending the summer on the island, Tilla dreads the idea of seeing him again, but longs to discover what life in Jamaica has always held for him.

In an unexpected turn of events, Tilla is forced to face the storm that unravels in her own life as she learns about the dark secrets that lie beyond the veil of paradise—all in the midst of an impending hurricane.

Hurricane Summer is a powerful coming of age story that deals with colorism, classism, young love, the father-daughter dynamic—and what it means to discover your own voice in the center of complete destruction.

Review

TW: death, sexual assault, domestic violence, fat shaming

Hurricane Summer is raw and real in a way that you don’t always see in YA Contemporary novels. Set in Jamaica, Tilla is trying to bond with her wayward father and experience her homeland for the first time. But when she arrives, Jamaica is nothing like she expected it to be, and she gets caught up in dangerous love, dark secrets, and a destructive hurricane.

Tilla’s experience in Jamaica is so heartbreaking with how she is treated by family and friends, but it goes to show the inherent judgment that is held for ‘foreigners’ in many different places. Tilla learns that the American version of ‘poor’ is leaps and bounds above the Jamaican version of well off, and that the cultural hierarchy of men over women is deafening and threatening. Many topics explored in this book are difficult to read and could be triggering, so please read with care.

I appreciate Tilla’s journey through this book so much. For just spanning a summer, Tilla really grows and learns so much of what it means to be Jamaican, a woman, and part of a family. I wished for a better ending for Tilla, but this ending felt very real, just like life and there are no magical, perfect endings in real life. It was hard to read Tilla being treated the way she was, but it’s one of those instances where the story isn’t happy – but still deserves to be told.

For a debut novel, Asha Bromfield knocked it out of the part. Read with caution for triggers, but definitely read.

Happy reading, folks!

Book Review – A Heart So Fierce and Broken by Brigid Kemmerer

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Title: A Heart So Fierce and Broken (Cursebreakers #2)

Author: Brigid Kemmerer

Publisher: Bloomsbury YA

Publication date: January 7th, 2020

450 pages

3/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

Find the heir, win the crown.

The curse is finally broken, but Prince Rhen of Emberfall faces darker troubles still. Rumors circulate that he is not the true heir and that forbidden magic has been unleashed in Emberfall. Although Rhen has Harper by his side, his guardsman Grey is missing, leaving more questions than answers.

Win the crown, save the kingdom.

Rumored to be the heir, Grey has been on the run since he destroyed Lilith. He has no desire to challenge Rhen–until Karis Luran once again threatens to take Emberfall by force. Her own daughter Lia Mara sees the flaws in her mother’s violent plan, but can she convince Grey to stand against Rhen, even for the good of Emberfall?

The heart-pounding, compulsively readable saga continues as loyalties are tested and new love blooms in a kingdom on the brink of war.

In the sequel to New York Times bestselling A Curse So Dark and Lonely, Brigid Kemmerer returns to the world of Emberfall in a lush fantasy where friends become foes and love blooms in the darkest of places.

Review

“Ah yes, the most dangerous person at the party is always the girl sitting alone with a book.”

Brigid Kemmerer, A Heart So Fierce and Broken

Well, you may want to read my original review of A Curse So Dark and Lonely before continuing to read this review. I don’t plan on writing spoilers, but I have strong feelings about this book and they might come out no matter how careful I try to be.

So, I loved Curse. I loved Rhen, Harper, and Grey. They were a fantastic trio and Curse was an amazing Beauty and the Beast retelling. I feel Curse could’ve been a standalone, and after reading this book – wish it had been left as a standalone.

My main issue with Heart is the character change that happened with Rhen and Harper, specifically. The friendship and camaraderie that was fostered in the first book seemed to go out the window during Heart. The strong, female character that Harper was presented as fizzled out and she turned into the meek, in love female character who can’t see flaws in their partner. It just doesn’t make sense for the characters based on their portrayal in Curse.

Still, I liked Grey’s character and the addition of Lia Mara as a character. I was prepared to dislike her, but she did in fact win me over. I even liked the side characters of her family, though they were seen as the ‘villains’. I seriously loved Isaak and the addition of the new magical character. AND on the topic of magic I respect the addition of magic to the story’s overall plot line – however, I would have loved more explanation and world-building around it.

Basically, I have super mixed feelings about this book. I love the overall world, the characters and how they interact, and the additions made – but I take serious issue with some actions the characters took that didn’t jive with their arcs. I’m interested to see where the next book takes the series, but am nervous that I will continue to feel the same way about the characters.

Happy reading, folks!

eARC Review – Slingshot by Mercedes Helnwein

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Title: Slingshot

Author: Mercedes Helnwein

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Publication date: April 27th, 2021

352 pages

3/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

An exciting debut contemporary young adult novel perfect for fans of Rainbow Rowell and Mary H. K. Choi

Grace Welles had resigned herself to the particular loneliness of being fifteen and stuck at a third-tier boarding school in the swamps of Florida, when she accidentally saves the new kid in her class from being beat up. With a single aim of a slingshot, the monotonous mathematics of her life are obliterated forever…because now there is this boy she never asked for. Wade Scholfield.

With Wade, Grace discovers a new way to exist. School rules are optional, life is bizarrely perfect, and conversations about wormholes can lead to make-out sessions that disrupt any logical stream of thoughts.

So why does Grace crush Wade’s heart into a million tiny pieces? And what are her options when she finally realizes that 1. The universe doesn’t revolve around her, and 2. Wade has been hiding a dark secret. Is Grace the only person unhinged enough to save him?

Acidly funny and compulsively readable, Mercedes Helnwein’s debut novel Slingshot is a story about two people finding each other and then screwing it all up. See also: soulmate, friendship, stupidity, sex, bad poetry, and all the indignities of being in love for the first time.

Review

I have been waiting on this review for awhile after finishing the book as I’m really not sure what to say about it besides… it just wasn’t for me. I’m sure there’s an audience for this book, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to read it – but I wouldn’t read it again and I didn’t enjoy it.

Grace is 15, at boarding school, and alone. No friends, living in the life of a rich kid without being rich. One day, she uses a slingshot to save the new kid from being beat up by the school bully. And just like that, she has the friend she never wanted in Wade. But Grace makes a ton of mistakes and ends up destroying their relationship, and friendship, before learning Wade’s deepest secret.

So, let’s start on the characters. Grace is mean. She is quite literally a rude person to everyone she comes in contact with. She starts off the book over the top in love with her teacher? And unsure why he didn’t love her back? To be honest it creeped me out. And throughout the book she continues to be mean to everyone around and it’s supposed to be her “quirkiness”. But really she just makes bad decisions and lashes out. Next up, the plot. I found myself 50% into the book and wondering what the point of this book is. It felt like I was reading and reading and nothing was happening.

I think this book did bring up important conversations around sex, love, friendship, and family life. There were aspects that I found enjoyable, but overall it didn’t do it for me. I’m sure it has the right audience out there, and I hope those readers find it!

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

Happy reading, folks!

eARC Review – Gilded Serpent by Danielle L. Jensen

Title: Gilded Serpent (Dark Shores #3)

Author: Danielle L. Jensen

Publisher: Tor Teen

Publication date: April 27th, 2021

576 pages

4.5/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

THEIR BATTLES ENDED IN VICTORY

Lydia returns to Mudaire to enter training at the healing temple. But instead of fighting to save lives, she’s convinced she is doing more harm than good. She delves into the history of the gods only to discover a truth that will change her life forever.

His birthright as commander of the Royal Army is finally in his grasp, but Killian feels anything but victorious. Burdened by his past, he embraces the darker side of his mark—and in doing so, risks starting a war.

BUT THE WAR HAS ONLY JUST BEGUN

Having defeated the tyrant Urcon, Marcus struggles to form a lasting alliance with the Arinoquians. But he is plagued by the knowledge that there is a traitor among his friends, and it could cost him everything that he’s fought for.

Torn between her growing allegiance to the Thirty-Seventh legion and her need to liberate her people, Teriana finds herself mired in a web of secrets. She embarks upon a path that will either save everyone she loves—or put them all in their graves.

Review

After loving Dark Shores and Dark Skies, I knew I needed to read Gilded Serpent ASAP. And I was NOT disappointed!

Gilded Serpent contains POV’s from all four of our main characters: Teriana, Marcus, Lydia, and Killian. It was so lovely to have all my babies on the pages together (even if they weren’t physically together in the story, ya know). Gilded Serpent ramps up the action and continues the story lines posed in the first two books, with many twists and turns to keep you on your toes.

I absolutely love the world that Danielle L. Jensen has created, and no matter how much I read I will always want more. I came to love the characters even more over the course of this book, and I honestly wasn’t even sure that was possible. I adore having access to all the POV’s so you know all the character’s secrets, even when the others don’t know the secrets and you’re waiting for the other shoe to drop. Well let me tell you, shoes dropped in this book!! But even more secrets were kept so I am stoked to keep reading in the series.

Gilded Serpent truly set up the series for an epic finale in the last book and I immediately wanted that book after reading the ending. I have high hopes and I highly recommend this series. The action, magic, and suspense is unparalleled and if you’re a fantasy fan please read this series.

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

Happy reading, folks!

Book Review – Fat Chance, Charlie Vega by Crystal Maldonado

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Title: Fat Chance, Charlie Vega

Author: Crystal Maldonado

Publisher: Holiday House

Publication date: February 2nd, 2021

352 pages

4/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

Coming of age as a Fat brown girl in a white Connecticut suburb is hard.
Harder when your whole life is on fire, though.

Charlie Vega is a lot of things. Smart. Funny. Artistic. Ambitious. Fat.

People sometimes have a problem with that last one. Especially her mom. Charlie wants a good relationship with her body, but it’s hard, and her mom leaving a billion weight loss shakes on her dresser doesn’t help. The world and everyone in it have ideas about what she should look like: thinner, lighter, slimmer-faced, straighter-haired. Be smaller. Be whiter. Be quieter.

But there’s one person who’s always in Charlie’s corner: her best friend Amelia. Slim. Popular. Athletic. Totally dope. So when Charlie starts a tentative relationship with cute classmate Brian, the first worthwhile guy to notice her, everything is perfect until she learns one thing–he asked Amelia out first. So is she his second choice or what? Does he even really see her? UGHHH. Everything is now officially a MESS.

A sensitive, funny, and painful coming-of-age story with a wry voice and tons of chisme, Fat Chance, Charlie Vega tackles our relationships to our parents, our bodies, our cultures, and ourselves.

Review

“It’s the first year where I don’t waste my wish on being skinny; I wish for more happy moments like this.”

Crystal Maldonado, Fat Chance, Charlie Vega

TW: disordered eating, negative self talk, talks of dieting, body shaming

I had to take some time before writing this review as I saw myself in the main character just a little too much, so it created a more triggering reading experience for me. This does not mean I didn’t enjoy the title, it just hit home more than expected and created a very emotional reaction. If you struggle with eating disorders, dieting, body image, or have experience body shaming I urge you to make sure you’re emotionally prepared for the topics covered in this book.

Charlie wants nothing more than to be kissed. But she loves in a world where she is told she is wrong – too big, too brown, too loud. She wants nothing more than to love herself as she is, but her own mother forces diet culture and negative body image down her throat like a weight loss smoothie. But when someone finally expresses interest Charlie is finally happy – but it comes crashing down when she realizes he asked her best friend out first. Amelia is Charlie’s ideal, everything she thinks she should want to be, so Charlie doesn’t know what to do.

Taking a step back from my own baggage, Fat Chance is a very well written, real book about a young woman struggling with body image. Charlie’s story is one a lot of people will identify with – including myself. Whereas I can only be an Own Voices reviewer for the disordered eating/body image plot – I have the privilege of being in a white body and can’t even imagine how the extra dynamic of being Latinx would play into the complexity. I do feel the disordered eating/body image plot line is handled well over all, with some nit-picky things that I could mention.

Overall, I highly recommend this book. I feel like there are pieces of Charlie’s story that can be related to by a lot of different people, especially with the prevalence of diet culture and body shaming in this country.

Happy reading, folks!

Book Review – Namesake by Adrienne Young

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Title: Namesake (Fable #2)

Author: Adrienne Young

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Publication date: March 16th, 2021

360 pages

4/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

Welcome to a world made dangerous by the sea and by those who wish to profit from it. Where a young girl must find her place and her family while trying to survive in a world built for men.

With the Marigold ship free of her father, Fable and the rest of the crew were set to start over. That freedom is short-lived when Fable becomes a pawn in a notorious thug’s scheme. In order to get to her intended destination, she must help him to secure a partnership with Holland, a powerful gem trader who is more than she seems.

As Fable descends deeper into a world of betrayal and deception, she learns that the secrets her mother took to her grave are now putting the people Fable cares about in danger. If Fable is going to save them, then she must risk everything—including the boy she loves and the home she has finally found.

Review

“There are some things that can’t be carved from a person, no matter how far from home they’ve sailed.”

Adrienne Young, Namesake

Please feel free to take a look at my review of Fable if you haven’t already seen it before reading this review. However, I will keep it as spoiler free as possible.

Namesake completes the Fable duology, and it was good – but not as good as Fable was for me. I would have loved for more of the book to take place on the Marigold with my favorite characters, but so much time is spent on another portion of the story with other people and I was just reading waiting to catch up with the crew again without really experiencing it. It definitely took a different direction than I was expecting for the series.

That being said, the overall plot of Namesake was very intriguing with the new characters brought in and the new dynamic with Fable, Holland, and her father. You find out more of Fable’s origin story and can see her father in a different light. The writing is still incredible and evocative and you can almost feel yourself on the sea or in the waters dredging. I loved the redemption of one smaller character in Fable and the incorporation of that callback.

Furthermore, Adrienne recently released a companion novel in this world! Titled The Last Legacy, the book will follow the story line of a new family that enters the story in Namesake. I’m highly anticipating this book and can’t wait to read more in this world. It publishes in September 2021 – and I am in awe of Adrienne’s ability to publish 3 books in basically a 1 year span. Very excited to return to this world in the future!

Happy reading, folks!