eARC Review – The Baby Group

Title: The Baby Group

Author: Caroline Corcoran

Publisher: Avon

Publication date: September 17th, 2020

400 pages

3/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

Her life was perfect. Until the video. Scarlett’s golden life suddenly unravels when someone sends a shocking video of her to everyone she knows. The only people who claim they haven’t seen it are the friends in her new mothers’ group: Cora, Emma and Asha. Scarlett is forced to delve into her past to discover who is out to get her. But as her circle of trust gathers around her, she has to ask – are her friends as innocent as they seem?

Review

The Baby Group centers on Scarlett, a new mom living in a small town in England. She has a group of mom friends, has a great husband and job, and runs a popular mom blog that is getting close to making money. That is, until someone send a sex tape of her from her 20’s having a threesome with two men. It gets sent to her entire company, family, husband, and friends. Everyone, except her mom group. Spiraling, Scarlett must find out who sent this tape out, and quickly before her other secrets come out…

I thought the concept of this book was very intriguing, and overall it was an easy read. You got Scarlett’s POV and the “Anon” POV of the person who leaked her sex tape and is trying to take her down. This added a fun, twisted aspect to the writing and gave the “bad guy” a voice. The great part was watching paranoia slowly cause Scarlett to spiral, as she began to suspect why this person would do this, along with then narrowing down who it could have been.

I wish the mystery was better. The second the character who ended up doing it was introduced, I knew it was them. I didn’t 100% get the motivations correct or the details, but I knew for most of the book who it would end up being, it was pretty much telegraphed. I also feel like the ending needed to provide more closure for the characters involved, yet it really ended weirdly in my opinion. I also did not like the husband’s character, but this I feel like was done on purpose based on the events of the books.

I gave The Baby Group 3 stars because I feel like the plot was executed well and well thought out. The characters were given good dimension and back stories. Also, it makes you think about the internet and how much putting our lives out there impacts our privacy.

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

Happy reading, folks!

eARC Review – Legendborn

Title: Legendborn (Legendborn #1)

Author: Tracy Deon

Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books

Publication date: September 15th, 2020

512 pages

5/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

After her mother dies in an accident, sixteen-year-old Bree Matthews wants nothing to do with her family memories or childhood home. A residential program for bright high schoolers at UNC–Chapel Hill seems like the perfect escape—until Bree witnesses a magical attack her very first night on campus.

A flying demon feeding on human energies.

A secret society of so called “Legendborn” students that hunt the creatures down.

And a mysterious teenage mage who calls himself a “Merlin” and who attempts—and fails—to wipe Bree’s memory of everything she saw.

The mage’s failure unlocks Bree’s own unique magic and a buried memory with a hidden connection: the night her mother died, another Merlin was at the hospital. Now that Bree knows there’s more to her mother’s death than what’s on the police report, she’ll do whatever it takes to find out the truth, even if that means infiltrating the Legendborn as one of their initiates.

She recruits Nick, a self-exiled Legendborn with his own grudge against the group, and their reluctant partnership pulls them deeper into the society’s secrets—and closer to each other. But when the Legendborn reveal themselves as the descendants of King Arthur’s knights and explain that a magical war is coming, Bree has to decide how far she’ll go for the truth and whether she should use her magic to take the society down—or join the fight.

Review

Meet Bree, a 16 year old girl from rural North Carolina. Her mother just tragically died in a car accident, and she is headed to UNC for an Early College program. Her first night there, she heads to a party off campus and encounters something strange… magic. She’s busted for being off campus and has a mentor assigned to her. Nick, a 2nd year EC student, is with her when she experiences magic, and a magical being for the second time. Not only is he not surprised at this, he fights it off and leaves Bree very confused. Enter the legend of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. In a whirlwind, Bree is brought into a secret society and starts to learn magic, as she comes to believe her mother’s death was NOT an accident. But the fact that she knows anything about magic is dangerous, because she is different and has separate abilities. Her Southern Black Girl Magic threatens the White Boy’s Club that is the Order, and Bree must fight for her life.

WOW oh WOW. I loved this book so much! Hands down, Legendborn will be in my top five for the year. Everything about this book pulled me in and kept me captivated until the very end. I am absolutely obsessed. The writing is superb, the characters are interesting, insightful, and dynamic, and the plot is action packed and filled with plot twists and shocking moments. I adored the romance and would have even loved more of it. Bree’s struggle with racism from the Order, the school, and police along the way was so well written, and Bree was really given a strong voice to push back against the rhetoric.

The magic system is very complex and there is a lot of information about the Order given, which can be hard to grasp. It isn’t info-dumped, it’s sprinkled in along the way and it was like creating a word map throughout the story for all the different elements. More information was introduced through to the very end, so if you prefer books with a carefully laid out magic system and world-building in the beginning, this may not be the book for you.

With a splash of Cassandra Clare’s Shadowhunters and a sprinkle of ACOTAR, Tracy Deonn has created a rich world not too different from our own, but one where demons exist and the past needs to be told from all perspectives in order to be understood. Legendborn is a retelling involving a secret school society and black girl magic in a part of the world that is still working towards anti-racism.

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

Happy reading, folks!

eARC Review – These Vengeful Hearts

Title: These Vengeful Hearts

Author: Katherine Laurin

Publisher: Inkyard Press

Publication date: September 8th, 2020

336 pages

4.5/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

Anyone can ask the Red Court for a favor…but every request comes at a cost. And once the deed is done, you’re forever in their debt.

Whenever something scandalous happens at Heller High, the Red Court is the name on everyone’s lips. Its members–the most elite female students in the school–deal out social ruin and favors in equal measure, their true identities a secret known only to their ruthless leader: the Queen of Hearts.

Sixteen-year-old Ember Williams has seen firsthand the damage the Red Court can do. Two years ago, they caused the accident that left her older sister paralyzed. Now, Ember is determined to hold them accountable…by taking the Red Court down from the inside.

But crossing enemy lines will mean crossing moral boundaries, too–ones Ember may never be able to come back from. She always knew taking on the Red Court would come at a price, but will the cost of revenge be more than she’s willing to sacrifice?

Review

**Thank you to Inkyard Press, Netgalley, and Katherine Laurin for an early copy of this ebook in exchange for an honest review**

These Vengeful Hearts is set in Heller High, a school that is ruled by a secret society named the Red Court. Headed by the Queen of Hearts, they sell favors in which you can ask for a rigged election, a breakup, a love connection, or even a takedown – where that person is destroyed socially. The Red Court has access to a stunning amount of information, but you will owe them for giving you a favor. When a takedown went wrong, Ember’s older sister April ended up paralyzed and in a wheelchair. Since then, Ember made it her mission to get invited to the Red Court, find the Queen of Hearts, and destroy everything once and for all. But what will she sacrifice in her journey?

If you are as obsessed with books about secret societies as I am, you will definitely want to read this books. I found it completely captivating and thought provoking. It makes you think about whether the ends justify the means, and where the line is between retribution and hurting others. I loved learning about the set up to the Red Court and how it works. I loved the road to finding out who the Queen of Hearts is and the fact that Ember had a corkboard in her room filled with string and pictures and she identified members of the court a la detective shows. I loved just about everything about this book.

The ending stopped me cold though. There could be a potential for the author to revisit this story to create another book, though I’m not sure she will. I can’t say the ending was a total surprise, but it was chilling all the same.

Overall, if you read and enjoyed the Private series or Good Girls Lie by J. T. Ellison, These Vengeful Hearts will be a good book for you.

Happy reading, folks!

BLOG TOUR – Impersonation

Title: Impersonation

Author: Heidi Pitlor

Publisher: Algonquin Books

Publication date: August 18th, 2020

336 pages

3.5/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

Allie Lang is a professional ghostwriter and a perpetually broke single mother to a young boy. Years of navigating her own and America’s cultural definitions of motherhood have left her a lapsed idealist. Lana Breban is a powerhouse lawyer, economist, and advocate for women’s rights with designs on elected office. She also has a son. Lana and her staff have decided she needs help softening her public image and that a memoir about her life as a mother will help.

When Allie lands the job as Lana’s ghostwriter, it seems as if things will finally go Allie’s way. At last, she thinks, there will be enough money not just to pay her bills but to actually buy a house. After years of working as a ghostwriter for other celebrities, Allie believes she knows the drill: she has learned how to inhabit the lives of others and tell their stories better than they can.

But this time, everything becomes more complicated. Allie’s childcare arrangements unravel; she falls behind on her rent; her subject, Lana, is better at critiquing than actually providing material; and Allie’s boyfriend decides to go on a road trip toward self-discovery. But as a writer for hire, Allie has gotten too used to being accommodating. At what point will she speak up for all that she deserves?  

A satirical, incisive snapshot of how so many of us now live, Impersonation tells a timely, insightful, and bitingly funny story of ambition, motherhood, and class.

Review

Impersonation is about a ghostwriter, Allie Lang, who writes books for celebrities or other famous people – without getting any of the credit. She lives a simple life with her son, Cass, in Western Massachusetts. Her life may look different than the norm, but she strives to be a good mother while also teaching her son how to grow up well in the years following the 2016 election. Allie is hired to ghostwrite for a feminist activist, Lana Breban, who is looking to improve her image and seem more “motherly”. But getting information for the book from Lana is like pulling teeth, and Allie is forced to supplement from within her own life. Things get complicated, and Allie must figure out how to continue on.

I felt that the message of this book was very powerful. It’s something that realistically could happen in this presidency, and a lot of it is focused on the aftermath of the 2016 election. It is a somewhat political book, it takes hard stances on certain people. The overall message of the book Allie is ghostwriting is how to raise boys to be feminists, and respect women – which is really a questions plaguing society. The highlight of this book is how real Allie is. She’s honest, raw, and not trying to be someone she isn’t. She doesn’t have the typical nuclear family, she has flaws and makes mistakes. So often books pain the prettiest pictures of characters, but that isn’t Allie – which I think is the whole point.

This leads into the characters. No one is particularly “great”. Each and every characters has a mountain of flaws, so if those aren’t characters you enjoy reading about, this book may not suit you. I guess this book also just made me sad that this is the state of our country right now, but it’s real! There’s no getting around that, and Pitlor is right to call it out and grow attention to it. Especially in an election year.

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

Happy readings, folks!

BLOG TOUR – Body Talk

Title: Body Talk

Editor: Kelly Jensen

Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers

Publication date: August 18th, 2020

256 pages

5/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

It’s time to bare it all about bodies!

We all experience the world in a body, but we don’t usually take the time to explore what it really means to have and live within one. Just as every person has a unique personality, every person has a unique body, and every body tells its own story.

In Body Talk, thirty-seven writers, models, actors, musicians, and artists share essays, lists, comics, and illustrations—about everything from size and shape to scoliosis, from eating disorders to cancer, from sexuality and gender identity to the use of makeup as armor. Together, they contribute a broad variety of perspectives on what it’s like to live in their particular bodies—and how their bodies have helped to inform who they are and how they move through the world.

Come on in, turn the pages, and join the celebration of our diverse, miraculous, beautiful bodies!

Review

Body Talk is a nonfiction, anthology with over 30 writers, of all diversities and backgrounds, sharing essays on the topic of the human body. Any topic you can expect is covered, sexuality, disability, race, mental illness, etc. All of these topics end up touching on the human body at some point. Tyra Banks is included, along with social media icons and authors in the YA community. It’s truly a wonderful collection of powerful stories. This type of broad perspective is exactly what people should be reading in order to grow and learn about the differences in humans.

This book is powerful. There’s no better word to describe it than powerful. For such short essays, the authors pack a lot of information, medical and personal, into them. I learned so much from this book, especially from the essays that I don’t personally relate to. For the essays that I did personally relate to, it evokes a feeling of validation. It’s wonderful to have your deeply felt thoughts written out in a way that is so much more clear and concise than I ever could.

Due to the sheer amount of authors, there are also a lot of variations in the tone and seriousness of the essays. Some authors take a more humorous tack to relay the information and concepts they want to get across, and some take a very serious note to impress upon the reader the severity of the situation or depth of the emotions. Together, it creates a very comprehensive picture of not only human bodies, but the REACTION each person has to their own body. Truly wonderful.

Thank you to Algonquin Young Readers and Netgalley for an early copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Happy readings, folks!

BLOG TOUR – A House Is a Body

Title: A House Is a Body

Author: Shruti Swamy

Publisher: Algonquin Books

Publication date: August 11th, 2020

208 pages

4/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

In two-time O. Henry-prize winner Swamy’s debut collection of stories, dreams collide with reality, modernity collides with antiquity, myth with true identity, and women grapple with desire, with ego, with motherhood and mortality. In “Earthly Pleasures,” Radika, a young painter living alone in San Francisco, begins a secret romance with one of India’s biggest celebrities. In “A Simple Composition,” a husband’s moment of crisis leads to his wife’s discovery of a dark, ecstatic joy and the sense of a new beginning. In the title story, an exhausted mother watches, distracted and paralyzed, as a California wildfire approaches her home. With a knife blade’s edge and precision, the stories of A House Is a Body travel from India to America and back again to reveal the small moments of beauty, pain, and power that contain the world.

Review

Shruti Swamy crafts a collection of such beautifully written and evocative short stories, depicting women in all different areas of life and situations. Each story is so gripping that you get lost in it, and wish for more when it inevitably ends far too soon. But there is something so right about the abrupt ends to the stories, because life continues on for women, not matter what happens to you. Your responsibilities continue on endlessly, and the short stories seem to really try to just catch a snapshot of these women going about their lives.

The writing in this collection is truly the highlight. The prose is so lyrical and emotional, it’s hard to tear yourself away from reading the next perfectly crafted line. Swamy really weaves intricate tales, giving detail when necessary, withholding information when needed. Some stories appear to be set in the current world, some could be set in worlds gone and dead. She travels back and forth from India to America in her stories, without it feeling disjointed or broken up.

A short, but powerful read for anyone who enjoys short stories and women’s lit.

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

Happy reading, folks!

eARC Review – Strictly Come Dating

Title: Strictly Come Dating

Author: Kathryn Freeman

Publisher: One More Chapter

Publication date: August 15th, 2020

Unknown pages

4/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

Saturday nights are strictly for dancing…

As the glitter ball shimmers and sequins flash, forty-year-old Maggie remembers the pull of the dancefloor. But now, as a newly divorced mum of two, Maggie’s certain her dancing days are over. Or are they…?

Encouraged by her friends, Maggie dusts off her silver stilettoes and enrols for dancing classes, all she needs now is the perfect partner.

Enter Seb. Young, carefree and hot as hell, Seb is definitely a perfect 10! Even though everything about him is outrageously inappropriate! But as Seb sweeps her across the dancefloor every week, Maggie begins to see a new side to him; kind, caring, funny, strong.

And Maggie realises that he’s the only one she’d like to foxtrot with…perhaps even forever?

Review

Strictly Come Dating is a loose pun around a popular dancing show, Strictly Come Dancing. Almost 40 year old Maggie loves the show, and watches every week with her best friends, Alice and Sarah, and her daughters, Tabby and Penny. But when Alice and Sarah’s younger brother Seb comes home from Australia, he joins the group after meeting Maggie and becoming infatuated. Despite being 10 years her junior, Seb desperately wants to prove to Maggie he deserves a chance. When he comes up with the idea to create a dancing competition at the local youth center he works at, he knows he has his shot and asks Maggie to be his partner. Their relationship begins hot and heavy, but can the adventurer in Seb be cooled for domestic life with Maggie and her kids?

I find Kathryn Freeman’s books to be so completely endearing. They are easy reads, the type of romance I crave to be honest. Just a pure love story, with real people. It just happens to be located in England! I am also here for all the British slang because I get to read in my British head voice. Anyway. I love how real Maggie and Seb seem. I can totally imagine groups of ladies sitting around every week watching a dancing competition, in America we do it for the Bachelor. I am also HERE for the age gap romance, because love doesn’t always revolve around your age. Once you’re an adult, it really should matter what the birth certificate says. And I love that it was the woman being older than the man for once.

Overall, super cute. I LOVED Tabby and Penny, it isn’t often you read romances where there are kids from a prior marriage involved. It adds a whole new level to the dynamic, because you’re not just dating the woman, you’re dating the kids and sometimes even the ex-husband. But Seb was fantastic with the kids, and is there anything more swoon worthy than guys being good with kids? AND THAT EPILOGUE. Love epilogues.

Thank you to One More Chapter and Netgalley for an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Happy reading, folks!

eARC Review – Faking It

Title: Faking It

Author: Rebecca Smith

Publisher: One More Chapter

Publication date: August 7th, 2020

400 pages

3/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

Meet Hannah Thompson: wife, mother, teacher and… secret erotica author?

My Guilt List:

1. If we have a date night then I’m always asleep before it’s halfway through and honestly, if I had to choose, I’d rather have a hot bath and read my book than engage in any other nocturnal activity.

2. If we do actually have you-know-what then it’s not unheard of for my mind to wander… and I’m not talking about sexy things – I’m talking about what food there is in the fridge and when the car is due for its next service.

3. I am struggling to write about anything that could be classed as even a little bit sexually adventurous which is a problem when I’m supposed to be an erotica writer and I am speaking at Sex Con in exactly one month.

With a book to publicise, Hannah has no choice but trade her M&S cardis for S&M parties, and become her writing alter-ego. What could possibly go wrong…

Review

Thank you to One More Chapter and Netgalley for an early copy of this ebook in exchange for an honest review.

I didn’t realize until after finishing this book that it is a companion novel to another book on the same characters, but it didn’t really matter as you don’t need to read the first to understand what is going on in the second. The plot is fully identified and explained without relying on previous knowledge.

I was very excited about the premise of this book. I could totally imagine a normal woman starting a career as an erotica novelist and having doubts about being known as someone who writes erotica. The main character, just seemed so normal. Three kids, middle aged life, working as a teacher, having financial problems. But this book just fell seriously flat for me.

First everything about Hannah seemed so contrived. She writes erotica and believed that her sex scenes were pushing the boundaries, then we find out her editor actually thinks they are more humorous than sexy. Hannah is appalled, so she tries to be “sexier” in order to write the next book. But all she does is basically slut shame herself and everyone else for most of the book? I seriously didn’t get it. She made terrible assumptions, put her husband in weird positions, (literally and figuratively) and just overall was a strange character. Also, the snippets of her book we got to read? Not at all entertaining or funny or even erotic.

I’m also missing how this is a romance novel. Hannah is contentedly married, and there really isn’t much focus on her relationship with Nick. There’s more focus on her relationship with her sons and daughter or her friends than there is about her and Nick. Even the main plot, getting ready to attend Sex Con, takes 80% of the book to get to – and then it’s only like a chapter long. Her arguments with her daughter took up more page time.

I think I went into this book expecting humor, romance, and some ~sexy~ writing – and that just wasn’t this. It’s possible that because my expectations were totally different I didn’t enjoy it because I was so focused on getting to the parts that I wanted to be there… but didn’t exist. So reader, if you’re looking for a true romance novel, this isn’t it. it’s more Women’s Fiction/Chick Lit. I’m sure there’s an audience for this book, who will find it to be funny & relatable but that just isn’t me!

Happy reading, folks!

BLOG TOUR – With or Without You

Title: With or Without You

Author: Caroline Leavitt

Publisher: Algonquin Books

Publication date: August 4th, 2020

288 pages

4/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

After almost twenty years together, Stella and Simon are starting to run into problems. An up-and-coming rock musician when they first met, Simon has been clinging to dreams of fame even as the possibility of it has grown dimmer, and now that his band might finally be on the brink again, he wants to go on the road, leaving Stella behind. But when she falls into a coma on the eve of his departure, he has to make a choice between stardom and his wife—and when she wakes a different person, with an incredible artistic talent of her own, the two of them must examine what it is that they really want.
 
Unapologetically honest and intimately written, With or Without You is a contemporary story of what happens to relationships as the people in them change, whether slowly or in one cataclysmic swoop.

Review

Stella and Simon have spent 20 years of their life together, even though they are very different. Stella is an organized nurse, Simon is a rocker whose band never quite hit the big time. She is buttoned up and professional, he is dressed down and casual. They love each other, even though the people in their life don’t exactly understand it. One night during a fight, Simon suggests they take drugs like they did in their younger day, except Stella ends up in a coma for a long time. When Stella wakes up, she and Simon are markedly different people, and now must learn to live together again – even though it seems their roles have reversed.

This story was absolutely fantastic. It’s told from three different perspectives: Stella, Simon, and Libby, one of Stella’s doctors and her friend. Each has a rich history and backstory that is revealed, with inner turmoil and stress. Together they create and odd group, but each needs the other in different ways. I LOVED Libby as a character, and was less invested in Stella after she woke up from the coma. She was so different, but it really shows how one event in your life can really derail and change you at a fundamental level. I thought the artist savant story line of Stella post coma was very intriguing and added depth to her character. The growth in each character, regardless of the end, was fascinating to read.

I read this book all in one night. I was so invested in each character separately, and as a group. I definitely felt there was some hypocrisy in Stella during the event that caused the main conflict, because she basically did the same thing too but never owned up to it. I feel like that thread was just dropped without much thought. I would’ve wanted that to be explored more. And I thought the amount of page time each perspective got was a bit unequal.

If you enjoy contemporary fiction, please read this book. It’s so insightful, and raw, about the experience of life and living with others. It also has theme of change, growth, and really figuring out who you are. The art plot line just adds to it. Absolutely stunning.

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

Happy reading, folks!

eARC Review – Court of Lions

Title: Court of Lions (Mirage #2)

Author: Somaiya Daud

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Publication date: August 4th, 2020

320 pages

4/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

Two identical girls, one a princess, the other a rebel. Who will rule the empire?

After being swept up into the brutal Vathek court, Amani, the ordinary girl forced to serve as the half-Vathek princess’s body double, has been forced into complete isolation. The cruel but complex princess, Maram, with whom Amani had cultivated a tenuous friendship, discovered Amani’s connection to the rebellion and has forced her into silence, and if Amani crosses Maram once more, her identity – and her betrayal – will be revealed to everyone in the court.

Amani is desperate to continue helping the rebellion, to fight for her people’s freedom. But she must make a devastating decision: will she step aside, and watch her people suffer, or continue to aid them, and put herself and her family in mortal danger? And whatever she chooses, can she bear to remain separated, forever, from Maram’s fiancé, Idris?

Review

**Thank you to Flatiron Books, Netgalley, and Somaiya Daud for an early copy of this ebook in exchange for an honest review**

A stunning conclusion to the Mirage duology, Court of Lions continues Amani and Maram’s journey. The book picks up about 6 weeks after the end of Mirage, but mostly fills in what has gone on during this time. A different aspect of Court of Lions that we didn’t see in Mirage is POV chapters from Maram – some in flashback and some in real time. Maram undergoes a lot of character development in this book, and this insight into her character really helps give her depth.

This book is really centered around Amani and Maram’s friendship. Their development around each other, with each other, BECAUSE of each other, is truly a marvel to read. These characters were written so well, and seem to be meant to be seen as polar opposites, whereas they are actually two ends of a spectrum and eventually meet in the middle. The side characters and plotting are great as well, but this book truly is about Amani and Maram.

The pacing of this book is a tad off, some things happen too quickly, without enough time or justification. Some of it seems too “easy”. As an avid reader of fantasy novels I’ve come to expect certain hiccups or things to go wrong in the plot – but there wasn’t much in this book. It reads as a touch unbelievable. I found myself confused about how quickly events were happening & there just didn’t seem to be much struggle for the characters.

Overall, I really did enjoy this conclusion and found the world-building just as amazing as the first book. Also, there is LGBTQIA representation in this one, which helped you understand a character a bit better.

Happy reading, folks!