eARC Review – Phoenix Flame

Title: Phoenix Flame (Havenfall #1)

Author: Sara Holland

Publisher: Bloomsbury YA

Publication date: March 2nd, 2021

320 pages

4.5/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

After saving the inn at Havenfall from the wicked Silver Prince, Maddie thought all her problems were over. The Silver Prince has been banished, her uncle the beloved Innkeeper is slowly recovering from a mysterious coma, and there are still a few weeks of summer left to spend with her handsome more-than-just-a-friend Brekken.

But danger still looms and Maddie soon realises there’s more work to be done to protect Havenfall, the safe haven between worlds that her family has run for centuries. Maddie must embark on a dangerous mission: to venture into the icy Realm of Fiordenkill and put an end to the black market trading of souls that threatens the balance of the Realms.

As Maddie tries to accomplish these seemingly impossible tasks, she stumbles upon family secrets that could change everything. What if saving everyone means destroying the only home she’s ever known?

Review

Phoenix Flame is the amazing conclusion to the Havenfall, a story about a young girl working to save the Inn that serves as the neutral territory between many different worlds. Maddie is back in this book after saving the Inn, but there is a new challenge in her path. Maddie must figure out who, and what, is most important to her to save, because she might not be able to save it all.

I LOVED this sequel. I enjoyed this book even more than Havenfall, I feel like there was a lot more action and intrigue happening, and was far better paced. I liked the additional characters added to bring some dimension and further the story in ways I didn’t expect. I felt more engaged and interested in this book, and I really didn’t even put it down, even though I should have to get sleep!

I feel like the ending was left open to allow a return to the world in the future, which I generally enjoy. The story is wrapped up however, except for one character’s story line – which is why I say it’s possible there could be a return to this world. Or, it’s just left up to the reader to interpret what happened – which is also possible. Also, at the end you get a chapter from a different POV, which was very interesting!

You should definitely check out this duology if you enjoyed Sara’s Everless duo or A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer.

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

Happy reading, folks!

eARC Review – This Golden Flame

Title: This Golden Flame

Author: Emily Victoria

Publisher: Inkyard Press

Publication date: February 2nd, 2021

416 pages

4/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

Flee across the sun-and-shadow islands of Eratia, where runes have the power to unleash monsters…

Seven years ago, Karis was forced to become an acolyte for the Scriptorium, the rune scholars who rule Eratia. For centuries, these Scriptmasters have sought the key to reanimating the country’s fearsome automaton army, and anyone they deem unable to help them achieve their goal is sent away…including Karis’s brother, Matthias.

Then Karis discovers a unique human-sized automaton and unintentionally wakes him up. Intelligent, with a conscience of his own, Alix has no idea why he was created. Or why his father—Eratia’s greatest traitor—once tried to destroy the automatons.

Upon learning Matthias is being held by the Scriptorium’s sinister leader, Alix and Karis set out to rescue him and uncover the truth about Alix’s past. But when Karis is faced with an unthinkable choice, betraying everyone she cares about may be her only desperate chance to save their world.

Review

This Golden Flame had a lot of wonderful, unique aspects of YA writing. It reminded me a lot of LIFELIKE and brought up a lot of questions of what exactly it means to be alive, human, and free. Exploring a new world where each country has access to Script, the magic to create endless opportunities, one country uses it for war and creates automatons. When one of the best creators shuts down the use of Script and the automatons, the magistrate will do anything to get it back. Flash forward 200 years and you have our main characters trying to sort out the right and wrongs of history & save the country.

The main characters, Karis and Alix, are both very well developed in my opinion. The chapters are rotating POV’s, which I always prefer, because you get a look into both their minds and personalities. Karis is a young acolyte at the Scriptorium, which she hates. She finds Alix, a sentient automaton (which is basically unique and unheard of). They embark on an adventure to find out who he is, what is he, and what his purpose is (because he was created in the before period). Karis is ace (heck yes, representation!) and Alix is basically a robot so there is very little romance in this book. Background characters are given romantic interests but it is NOT a highlight of the book, which I really appreciate. The YA standard is that there is always a romance and the main characters will always fall in love. It was nice to get away from that.

I wish this book was a series. I truly think the world was developed so well and thoroughly that it had the potential to go even more in depth and create a larger series. Of course, this is always up to the author, but I think it’s a positive to note that the book was so interesting and the world so complex that I wanted more to it. Also, there is no info dumping. The author does an amazing job letting necessary background information join the story when it makes sense to, instead of spending most of the first 5 chapters just setting the scene.

Overall, I truly enjoyed this story from debut author Emily Victoria.

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

Happy reading, folks!

eARC Review – I Hope You’re Listening

Title: I Hope You’re Listening

Author: Tom Ryan

Publisher: Albert Whitman & Company

Publication date: October 6th, 2020

368 pages

5/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

EVERY MISSING PERSON HAS A STORY.

In her small town, seventeen-year-old Delia “Dee” Skinner is known as the girl who wasn’t taken. Ten years ago she witnessed the abduction of her best friend, Sibby. And though she told the police everything she remembered, it wasn’t enough. Sibby was never seen again.

At night, Dee deals with her guilt by becoming someone else: the Seeker, the voice behind the popular true crime podcast Radio Silent, which features missing persons cases and works with online sleuths to solve them. Nobody knows Dee’s the Seeker, and she plans to keep it that way.

When another little girl in town goes missing, and the case is linked to Sibby’s disappearance, Dee has a chance to get answers with the help of her virtual detectives and the intriguing new girl at school. But how much of her own story is she willing to reveal in order to uncover the truth?

Review

I Hope You’re Listening is a YA thriller that is coming out at the perfect time! It has enough spookiness and mystery to make it perfect for October. When Dee Skinner was 6, she was playing in the woods with her BFF Sibby, when Sibby is captured by strange men and never seen again. Fast forward 10 years, Dee is still dealing with the guilt of being left behind. She started a podcast called Radio Silent, bent on solving some missing persons cases – when her case can’t be. She’s had major success with it. When another young girl goes missing from the same house Dee lived in when Sibby went missing – it brings the original case back up. A Radio Silent listener sends Dee a clue to Sibby’s whereabouts, and Dee is thrust back into the past. Can Dee figure out the two cases?

I LOVED THIS BOOK. I stayed up until 1am reading it (which only upped the thriller ante), and gobbled it up whole. Were there some problems, sure, but overall this book was so well written and interesting that it’s easy to overlook them. Starting with the plot, I loved the podcast element. The fact that a young woman an create such a successful enterprise & actually help find missing people (with the help of the Laptop Detectives) is so cool to read. I also just love missing person mysteries, they are the hardest for me to predict! And I could NOT predict where this book was going at all. Every revelation was a shock.

In terms of characters, Dee had some issues. She wasn’t exactly the nicest, and she was pretty self-absorbed at times. I think she made decent growth over the span of the book, but she also wasn’t held responsible for any of her mistakes or actions. And a lot of what she does is somewhat unrealistic for a 16 year old. BUT, in her own way, she made for the perfect character in this story. Also, there was a touch of LGBTQ romance, which is always a plus!

Thank you to Albert Whitman & Company and Netgalley for an early copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Happy reading, folks!

eARC Review – In a Holidaze

Title: In a Holidaze

Author: Christina Lauren

Publisher: Gallery Books

Publication date: October 6, 2020

320 pages

4/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…but not for Maelyn Jones. She’s living with her parents, hates her going-nowhere job, and has just made a romantic error of epic proportions.

But perhaps worst of all, this is the last Christmas Mae will be at her favorite place in the world—the snowy Utah cabin where she and her family have spent every holiday since she was born, along with two other beloved families. Mentally melting down as she drives away from the cabin for the final time, Mae throws out what she thinks is a simple plea to the universe: Please. Show me what will make me happy.

The next thing she knows, tires screech and metal collides, everything goes black. But when Mae gasps awake…she’s on an airplane bound for Utah, where she begins the same holiday all over again. With one hilarious disaster after another sending her back to the plane, Mae must figure out how to break free of the strange time loop—and finally get her true love under the mistletoe.

Review

Christmas books are great no matter what time of year. Christina Lauren does it again with a cute and romantic story and a woman who gets stuck in a time loop, living the Christmas holiday over and over again until she gets it right. Mae’s large group of family and friends get together every year at a cabin for Christmas, and she’s always been in love with Andrew – one of the members of the group. They’ve known each other all their lives but she’s never been able to say anything. In a near death experience, Mae asks the universe to show her what would make her happy – and the time loop begins.

Mae’s antics in this book had me cracking up at times. She starts off so careful and focused on keeping the traditions of the holiday that doesn’t really allow her to be herself. The time loop gives her the opportunity to freak out and just be real with everyone, and not take everything so seriously, which allows Andrew to see a different side of her. Andrew is an interesting character and seems very nice and normal – but I don’t feel like he was developed very well. There’s little back story of him or personality building. There were also so many side characters that it was hard to keep everything straight.

I loved the time loop concept. It was so fun and I haven’t read a romance novel with this concept. The plot was obviously not science fiction so the time loop isn’t explained or explored, just something that you accept as happening. Each time loop sequence was so cool because Mae just came off as crazy before she figured out what was happening and had to convince people what was happening. It was a really zany situation that ws just hilarious at times. I wish that she had been reset in time just one more time than she was, because I feel like it would’ve added depth and more conflict to make it more interesting.

If you like Christina Lauren books, you’ll like this one. And just in time for the holidays!

Thank you to Netgalley and Gallery Books for an advance copy of this ebook in exchange for an honest review.

Happy reading, folks!

eARC Review – The Code for Love and Heartbreak

Title: The Code for Love and Heartbreak

Author: Jillian Cantor

Publisher: Inkyard Press

Publication date: October 6th, 2020

304 pages

3.5/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

Emma Woodhouse is a genius at math, but clueless about people. After all, people are unreliable. They let you down—just like Emma’s sister, Izzy, did this year, when she moved to California for college. But numbers…those you can count on. (No pun intended.)

Emma’s senior year is going to be all about numbers, and seeing how far they can take her. When she and George, her Coding Club co-president, are tasked with brainstorming a new project, The Code for Love is born—a matchmaking app that goes far beyond swiping, using algorithms to calculate compatibility. George disapproves of Emma’s idea, accusing her of meddling in people’s lives. But all the happy new couples at school are proof that the app works. At least at first.

Emma’s code is flawless. So why is it that perfectly matched couples start breaking up, the wrong people keep falling for each other and her own feelings defy any algorithm? Emma thought math could solve everything. But there’s nothing more complex—or unpredictable—than love.

Review

A retelling of Jane Austen’s Emma, The Code for Love and Heartbreak follows math nerd Emma as she is beginning her senior year. She is co-president of the coding club, along with George, her sister’s boyfriend’s little brother and her prime rival for valedictorian. Emma doesn’t understand people, but she does understand numbers, and she needs a great idea for her coding club project so she can win in her senior year and get into Harvard. So, she comes up with the idea to create a system to match couples up in her school for dances. It starts off so well, but when couples start breaking up, Emma must rethink her approach to the math, and maybe even love.

This book was super cute, and reminded me of high school when we did matching services. I love reading about coding, I have no idea why but it really interests me in books. I liked the competition aspect of the plot line, and how the lessons in this book aren’t just about life and love, but also about friendship and what it means to be a friend. Emma really grows and changes during the book, which is always a great plot line.

One thing that I didn’t like is that Emma was unnecessarily mean at points in this book. Like, in most stories there is a conflict, where the MC loses friends, alienates people, etc. But I felt like it went too far in this book, and bordered on actual bullying. The same effect could’ve been manufactured without turning Emma into someone who says horribly mean and rude things to her friends.

Overall, the story was adorable and the way the love story progressed was super cute. It was a solid friends to lovers, and the big romantic gesture was super nerdy yet adorable. The main themes of this book were good, I just couldn’t give it a full 4 stars due to the issues I had with Emma.

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

Happy reading, folks!

eARC Review – Kingdom of Sea and Stone

Title: Kingdom of Sea and Stone (Crowl of Coral and Pearl #2)

Author: Mara Rutherford

Publisher: Inkyard Press

Publication date: October 6th, 2020

pages

3.5/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

Ever since Nor was forced to go to a nearby kingdom in her sister’s place, she’s wanted nothing more than to return to the place and people she loves. But when her wish comes true, she soon finds herself cast out from both worlds, with a war on the horizon.

As an old enemy resurfaces more powerful than ever, Nor will have to keep the kingdom from falling apart with the help of Prince Talin and Nor’s twin sister, Zadie. There are forces within the world more mysterious than any of them ever guessed—and they’ll need to stay alive long enough to conquer them…

Review

Sequel to Crown of Coral and Pearl, Kingdom of Sea and Stone is a direct follow up to the events of the first book. I do like when sequels start up right at the end of the first, without having to wonder really what happened in the midst of the two books. The story is still told from Nor’s POV exclusively.

I love the concept of the duology so much. The villain is the perfect, no redeemable but you still feel kinda bad for him, character. Nor is a super capable and intelligent main character. Tallin is the hero you live for as a YA reader. The setting is rich and beautifully told, and the magic system that was only slightly touched on in book one is expanded in this one in amazing ways. It is truly unique and I would love to have more information and stories about it, even in companion novels!

I found myself less invested in the romance in this book. I actually felt like a background character would be a better love interest for Nor than Tallin. I knew it wouldn’t happen, but Tallin was not great in this book. I also felt like the ending left much to be desired. It is fairly open ended, so I could see the author returning to the world in the future – which would be open to and would read. Some of the scenes and writing in this book just felt disjointed and off pace compared to the first book.

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

Happy reading, folks!

eARC Review – The Love Study

Title: The Love Study

Author: Kris Ripper

Publisher: Carina Press

Publication date: September 29th, 2020

Unknown pages

4/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

Declan has commitment issues. He’s been an office temp for literally years now, and his friends delight in telling people that he left his last boyfriend at the altar.

And that’s all true. But he’s starting to think it’s time to start working on his issues. Maybe.

When Declan meets Sidney—a popular nonbinary YouTuber with an advice show—an opportunity presents itself: as part of The Love Study, Declan will go on a series of dates arranged by Sidney and report back on how the date went in the next episode.

The dates are…sort of blah. It’s not Sidney’s fault; the folks participating are (mostly) great people, but there’s no chemistry there. Maybe Declan’s just broken.

Or maybe the problem is that the only person he’s feeling chemistry with is Sidney.

Review

The Love Study is an experiment in queer dating in the 21st century. With a great friend group, Declan has just about everything he wants. He doesn’t want or need a committed relationship like some people and he loves his temp job because he doesn’t like to be tied down. When he meets Sidney, a genderqueer Youtuber, he agrees to go on their channel to do a dating experiment to help others. What he doesn’t expect is the feelings he develops for them.

This story was super cute! I really enjoyed Declan’s forays into dating and his journey to define what a relationship looks like for him. I think the main takeaway from this book is that all types of definitions and dating behaviors are valid, as long as both (or all) parties agree and feel comfortable with the decision! Declan and Sidney’s relationship definitely doesn’t fit the general “mold” that heteronormative society prescribes to, and that. is. okay.

I enjoyed that both Declan and Sidney tried really hard to be sensitive to each others opinions, feelings, and thoughts. However, it got in the way of their communication most times, because in the effort of being open and accepting to the other person, they stopped being true to themselves. It can be hard to buck traditional gender and dating roles, because it gives structure to the relationship and how to act in it. Finding a good balance is what Declan and Sidney struggled with throughout the book, but their journey to discovering each other was very insightful and informative.

This is a type of relationship that doesn’t get written about often because it doesn’t fit the general model. But truly, more genderqueer/nonbinary/LGBTQ relationships should be written about so it becomes more accepted, understood, and validated.

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

Happy reading, folks!

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!