Book Review – The Guest List

Title: The Guest List

Author: Lucy Foley

Publisher: William Morrow

Publication date: June 2nd, 2020 (first pub date March 19th, 2020 in the UK)

330 pages

3/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

The bride ‧ The plus one ‧ The best man ‧ The wedding planner ‧ The bridesmaid ‧ The body

On an island off the coast of Ireland, guests gather to celebrate two people joining their lives together as one. The groom: handsome and charming, a rising television star. The bride: smart and ambitious, a magazine publisher. It’s a wedding for a magazine, or for a celebrity: the designer dress, the remote location, the luxe party favors, the boutique whiskey. The cell phone service may be spotty and the waves may be rough, but every detail has been expertly planned and will be expertly executed.

But perfection is for plans, and people are all too human. As the champagne is popped and the festivities begin, resentments and petty jealousies begin to mingle with the reminiscences and well wishes. The groomsmen begin the drinking game from their school days. The bridesmaid not-so-accidentally ruins her dress. The bride’s oldest (male) friend gives an uncomfortably caring toast.

And then someone turns up dead. Who didn’t wish the happy couple well? And perhaps more important, why?

Review

I picked The Guest List as my June BOTM choice as I try to open up the genres that I read. AS one of my first thriller/mystery books, I had high hopes. However, it didn’t exactly do much for me, which was fairly disappointing. However, I plan to keep trying this genre because I like to mix up my books these days so it’s not all the same.

Anyway, onto The Guest List. There are 5 POVs in this book, which was really the crux of my issues with this book. It was just so much. I enjoy multiple POV books but 5 seems excessive to me. I also didn’t particularly like any of the characters in the books (but I think this is part of the point in this book). I ended up just being really confused, and it took me time to really get into this book because it kept switching around to different POVs.

On a more positive note, I could not for the life of me figure out who did it. It really came down to the wire for who killed the person, and there’s was no expecting it. On top of that main mystery, you find out so many more shocking things. The last 25% of the book is just bomb after bomb being dropped. So as much as it was hard to read for the first 75% of the book, the last quarter really picked up and heightened my experience of this book.

Happy reading, folks!

Book Review – Crown of Midnight

Title: Crown of Midnight (Throne of Glass #2)

Author: Sarah J Maas

Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens

Publication date: August 15th, 2013

420 pages

4/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

From the throne of glass rules a king with a fist of iron and a soul as black as pitch. Assassin Celaena Sardothien won a brutal contest to become his Champion. Yet Celaena is far from loyal to the crown. She hides her secret vigilantly; she knows that the man she serves is bent on evil.

Keeping up the deadly charade becomes increasingly difficult when Celaena realizes she is not the only one seeking justice. As she tries to untangle the mysteries buried deep within the glass castle, her closest relationships suffer. It seems no one is above questioning her allegiances—not the Crown Prince Dorian; not Chaol, the Captain of the Guard; not even her best friend, Nehemia, a foreign princess with a rebel heart.

Then one terrible night, the secrets they have all been keeping lead to an unspeakable tragedy. As Celaena’s world shatters, she will be forced to give up the very thing most precious to her and decide once and for all where her true loyalties lie… and whom she is ultimately willing to fight for.

Review

“But death was her curse and her gift, and death had been her good friend these long, long years.”

sarah j maas, crown of midnight

Well this book was so intense! As a sequel the Throne of Glass, Crown of Midnight picks up right after TOG ends. Celaena is the king’s assassin and has been working to fulfill his orders. Celaena, Dorian, Chaol, and Nehemia are all still large factors in this book, and they have much to work on. Celaena continues trying to understand her calling from Elena down in the tunnels. These books truly manage to put so much plot and action into a fairly normal sized book.

The magic in this book is so interesting, and you just know that so much more with it will happen over the course of the series. The romance in this book was also very interesting. It was surprising, but also not surprising, at the same time. I thoroughly approved, even if heartbreak comes later for the characters. Also, Celaena is a crazy cook assassin and even though she murders people with joy, you somehow also end up feeling badly for her. She really is a complex character, not at all redeemable but you kinda want to forgive her.

THAT ENDING. Frankly, the ending of this book was spoiled for me due to bookstagram, but if you’re one of those rare birds who hasn’t read this series yet, and hasn’t had it spoiled, there is a HUGE BOMB DROPPED at the end of this book. Just be aware the last chapter is so intense! It isn’t a huge cliffhanger though, so I wasn’t itching to pick up the next book, Heir of Fire.

Happy reading, folks!

eARC Review – Where Dreams Descend

Title: Where Dreams Descend (Kingdoms of Cards #1)

Author: Janella Angeles

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Publication date: August 25th, 2020

464 pages

4/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

In a city covered in ice and ruin, a group of magicians face off in a daring game of magical feats to find the next headliner of the Conquering Circus, only to find themselves under the threat of an unseen danger striking behind the scenes.

As each act becomes more and more risky and the number of missing magicians piles up, three are forced to reckon with their secrets before the darkness comes for them next.

The Star: Kallia, a powerful showgirl out to prove she’s the best no matter the cost

The Master: Jack, the enigmatic keeper of the club, and more than one lie told

The Magician: Demarco, the brooding judge with a dark past he can no longer hide

Review

Kallia is a female magician, stronger than most others, in a world where stage magicians are only accepted if they are male. She learned everything she knows from Jack, the master of Hellfire House, a club near the city of Glorian. She is the headliner of the club, but she longs to be on stage as a true magician, not a show girl. So she escapes to Glorian to enter a magic competition being held – but not before she finds out Jack has been lying to her all along. Now in Glorian, she is faced with opposition like never before, and she must remember that not everything is as it appears, especially when looking into mirrors…

I had a hard time reviewing this book, because the beginning and middle of the book were very different than the end. Throughout the book, I had no trouble putting it down. I just wasn’t fully drawn into the plot and the cast. BUT the ending was crazy insane and completely changed my mind on the entire book. Kallia is a great character, and her assistant Aaros made me laugh through the whole book. But Demarco wasn’t exactly what I would look for in a love interest, BUT I have high hopes for him in the second book! There was a lot of Kallia having to be strong against male opposition, due to all the misogyny in the book.

The world Angeles has built is super interested. You don’t know much about the world outside of Glorian or the Hellfire House, but it’s all very intriguing and mysterious which makes for a good read. I would’ve liked some more explanation into the magic system, I didn’t leave the book feeling like I truly understood how it all worked. BUT the descriptions and writing of the magic and the circus and the competition was glorious and so well done.

As you can see, this is a bit of a mixed review. I’m very much invested in reading the sequel when it eventually comes out, because I just MUST know what happens to everyone after that ending. Prepare yourselves for a decently large cliffhanger!

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 – Love Sold Separately

Title: Love Sold Separately

Author: Ellen Meister

Publisher: MIRA

Publication date: August 25th, 2020

352 pages

4/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

Dana Barry’s life is a mess, until she hears The Shopping Channel is auditioning new hosts. She dives right in and is stunned when she lands the job. Her keen eye for detail, knack for knowing what makes people tick and sheer bravado make her perfect for the role.

Then the star host is found shot to death in her office. Dana can’t help but involve herself in tracking down the killer. Never one to mind her own business, she winds up at the center of every drama. She also knows the prime suspect is innocent–they happened to have been together on the roof for some “alone time” when they heard the gunshot. His record may not be perfect, but she can tell the single father has a heart of gold. He may even be marriage material–something she’d focus on more if only Detective Marks wasn’t so handsome and their chemistry so electric. Dana is so close to having it all if, just this once, she doesn’t screw up. But trouble usually comes easier and is always a lot more fun…

Review

**Thank you to MIRA, Netgalley, and Ellen Meister for an early copy of this ebook in exchange for an honest review**

Love Sold Separately is part murder mystery part love story, and it’s really good! Dana Barry is maybe not the best person in the world, but she knows it and doesn’t care. Her dream is to be an actress, and when an audition comes up for The Shopping Channel she jumps on it and nails it. BUT, on her first day – the star of the show is murdered in her office while Dana is on the roof sharing a joint with a coworker. She finds the body, and immerses herself immediately in the investigation. The detective leading the investigation rubs Dana the wrong way instantly, and they spend a good part of the book going back and forth.

I thought Dana was a good character, enough faults to make her interesting. I thought adding in her family dynamic was a good touch, because you can really see why she is the way she is. Her father is stingy with his approval and her sister is almost her complete opposite. There were some plot lines with Dana that felt unnecessary to me, because they didn’t end up going anywhere and weren’t really discussed again.

I think the murder mystery part of this was the most interesting. I figured about half of the ending out before it ended, but there were some twists that I didn’t see coming. The love story is really more of an afterthought, but the progression of the MC’s love affair is interesting to read. It just takes a backseat to the murder, so if you’re reading this just for the love story – know that is isn’t the main focus.

I have to say I enjoyed this more than I thought I would after realizing it wasn’t a love story. Even without that, it was interesting, twisty, and showed that a normal human can help investigate a murder and actually help solve it. Love Sold Separately is a fun, easy to read, novel that will keep you guessing.

Happy reading, folks!

Book Review – Mirage

Title: Mirage (Mirage #1)

Author: Somaiya Daud

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Publication date: August 28th, 2018

320 pages

4/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

In a star system dominated by the brutal Vathek empire, eighteen-year-old Amani is a dreamer. She dreams of what life was like before the occupation; she dreams of writing poetry like the old-world poems she adores; she dreams of receiving a sign from Dihya that one day, she, too, will have adventure, and travel beyond her isolated moon.

But when adventure comes for Amani, it is not what she expects: she is kidnapped by the regime and taken in secret to the royal palace, where she discovers that she is nearly identical to the cruel half-Vathek Princess Maram. The princess is so hated by her conquered people that she requires a body double, someone to appear in public as Maram, ready to die in her place.

As Amani is forced into her new role, she can’t help but enjoy the palace’s beauty—and her time with the princess’ fiancé, Idris. But the glitter of the royal court belies a world of violence and fear. If Amani ever wishes to see her family again, she must play the princess to perfection…because one wrong move could lead to her death.

Review

“You do not kneel or bend, I told myself. To anyone. You continue.”

somaiya daud, mirage

Amani is a simple girl, living in a small farming village. Her planet has been conquered by a oppressive race, who views them as degenerates and less than. One day, she is captured by the empire to serve as the stand-in for the Princess, Maram. They are almost identical, and is in need of someone to take on the risk of public events. Maram is cruel and vicious, she is half and half, so everyone despises her for her race for some reason. Amani and Maram are able to form an uncertain companionship, but Amani soon is in over her head.

I really enjoyed the mix of science fiction, corrupt government, and rebellion plot lines and themes. There’s interplanetary travel and technology but also class divisions and haves and have nots. I loved the juxtaposition of Amani and Maram, they are truly opposites in every way of life and personality while being almost identical. I enjoyed reading about Amani’s thoughts as she is pretending to be Maram, she really took on the “character” well and it was like she was acting and playing a part.

Some of the middle of the book went somewhat slowly and became less interesting, but I still highly enjoyed the read. You start to see a more human side of Maram, which is nice, and I imagine the sequel will further her story – as this is really focused on Amani and her story. As always, it is hard to read about racism and the general insults that come when racism is apparent – but it is a major plot line in the book and it wouldn’t be the same without it.

For fans of Illuminae and Sky Withouts Stars, Mirage is an interesting take on rebellions in space, and the meaning of race and friendship.

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 – A Tortured Soul

Title: A Tortured Soul

Author: L. A. Detwiler

Self Published

Publication date: August 11th, 2020

234 pages

3.5/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

Everyone has a breaking point.

At twenty, an unplanned pregnancy seals Crystal Holt into a marriage to the abusive Richard Connor. After a stillborn birth, Crystal insists they have the baby baptized postmortem. A cynic, a drunk, and a poor man, Richard has other plans. When her monstrous husband tosses the baby into the woods to be forgotten, Crystal instantly spirals. After beating her within an inch of her life, Richard does something else he’s done before—he disappears. This time, however, things feel very different…

With her husband gone, Crystal battles with the demons of abuse, dark childhood memories, and a declining mental state worsened by horrific nightmare sequences. As the story unfolds, it becomes clear that something’s not quite right about the way Richard disappeared this time, and Crystal is in more danger than ever. After all, not all of the dark secrets belong to Richard.

Will Crystal be able to escape from a lifetime of torture unscathed, or will she succumb to the dark secrets she’s fallen prey to before?

A twisted page-turner that will shake even the toughest horror and thriller fans…

Review

TW: domestic abuse, sexual violence, rape, assault, murder

If you enjoy psychological thrillers, you’ll want to read this book. Told from the perspective of Crystal, she details her life as an abused woman. She grew up with abusive parents, married an abusive man, and lives her life being abused. But when she loses her baby, things change. Her husband leaves, which isn’t unusual, and she is left alone. She doesn’t know how much time she has until he reappears, but she starts to enjoy some things she hasn’t been able to since he left. But when people start looking for him, the story gets a lot more complicated, and Crystal starts to unravel.

Before I get too far into this, I want everyone to take my trigger warnings seriously. This book is graphic. The author did not sugar coat anything, and the topics touched on are very serious and could seriously impact someone if they aren’t prepared. So be very mindful as you read this book. Moving along, I was captivated by this book almost from the beginning. My heart ached for Crystal, between her parents and her husband she really had no chance at happiness in life, especially after she lost the baby. There are some chapters where she flashes back and some that depict, I believe, when she is dreaming while her husband is gone. It adds extra dimension to the story, which I think helped a lot.

Let me say again, this book is graphic. There were points where it was too much for me. I don’t read many thrillers, but I have to imagine the descriptions were above average graphic for the genre. It served a purpose though, it clearly shows all the abuse Crystal went through, and the result.

Thank you to the author for providing an early copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Happy reading, folks!