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!

eARC Review – The First to Lie

Title: The First to Lie

Author: Hank Phillippi Ryan

Publisher: Forge Books

Publication date: August 4th, 2020

304 pages

4/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

We all have our reasons for being who we are—but what if being someone else could get you what you want?

After a devastating betrayal, a young woman sets off on an obsessive path to justice, no matter what dark family secrets are revealed. What she doesn’t know—she isn’t the only one plotting her revenge.

An affluent daughter of privilege. A glamorous manipulative wannabe. A determined reporter, in too deep. A grieving widow who must choose her new reality. Who will be the first to lie? And when the stakes are life and death, do a few lies really matter?

Review

trigger warnings: automobile accident, drowning, fertility issues, abortion

First off, I spent most of this book confused, because it was SO WELL TOLD. Like, I couldn’t figure out which way was up and which way was down. Hank Phillippi Ryan seriously has a way of burying every lead so you have no idea what’s going on for most of the book, up until the very bitter end!. I felt the same way about her other book, The Murder List. She has a way of writing about journalism and pharmaceuticals without making it seem boring or making you wonder why you are reading this.

You get a few different POV’s in this book – Ellie, a journalist trying to undercover the secrets of Pharminex, Nora, a sales rep for Pharminex, Brooke, the youngest Vanderwald, and Lacey, a member of the Vanderwald family by marriage. The story sets up Pharminex as a drug company pushing an off market use for a drug called Monifan. It apparently helps increase fertility in women for the most part, except in rare cases where it makes them completely barren. The company is also not telling them of this this chance before administering the drug, so obviously illegal. Nora is selling the drugs and Ellie is trying to break the story. But when people associated with the company start turning up dead, they all realize there is more to the story…

The POV’s at some points were pretty distracting, because Brooke and Lacey’s POVs are told in flashbacks. It happens so randomly that it can be hard to keep track of what time period it is in. But that’s basically my only gripe with this book, because the twists and turns were just so outstanding. Even as you start to suspect what is happening, there is one final OMG moment at the end.

Mystery and Thriller fans, go read Hank Phillippi Ryan if you haven’t already, you won’t be sorry!

Thank you to Netgalley and Forge Books for an early copy of this ebook in exchange for an honest review

Happy reading, folks!

eARC Review – Keep My Heart in San Francisco

Title: Keep My Heart in San Francisco

Author: Amelia Diane Coombs

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Publication date: July 14th, 2020

400 pages

3/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

Sparks fly when two ex-best-friends team up to save a family business in this swoon-worthy and witty debut perfect for fans of Jenn Bennett and Sarah Dessen.

Caroline “Chuck” Wilson has big plans for spring break—hit up estate sales to score vintage fashion finds and tour the fashion school she dreams of attending. But her dad wrecks those plans when he asks her to spend vacation working the counter at Bigmouth’s Bowl, her family’s failing bowling alley. Making things astronomically worse, Chuck finds out her dad is way behind on back rent—meaning they might be losing Bigmouth’s, the only thing keeping Chuck’s family in San Francisco.

And the one person other than Chuck who wants to do anything about it? Beckett Porter, her annoyingly attractive ex-best friend.

So when Beckett propositions Chuck with a plan to make serious cash infiltrating the Bay Area action bowling scene, she accepts. But she can’t shake the nagging feeling that she’s acting irrational—too much like her mother for comfort. Plus, despite her best efforts to keep things strictly business, Beckett’s charm is winning her back over…in ways that go beyond friendship.

If Chuck fails, Bigmouth’s Bowl and their San Francisco legacy are gone forever. But if she succeeds, she might just get everything she ever wanted.

Review

**Thank you to Simon Pulse, Netgalley, and Amelia Diane Coombs for an early book copy in exchange for an honest review**

Caroline “Chuck” Wilson loves San Francisco – she would do anything to stay living there. When her father’s bowling alley, Bigmouth Bowl, starts to go under, Chuck thinks she can help out. Her ex-best friend, turned new best friend, Beckett suggests they participate in illegal bowling gambling by hustling bowlers under the table at lanes across San Fran. While she’s bowling her heart out to stay, she’s giving her heart away to someone who broke her trust a long time ago. Will she be able to save her family’s bowling alley?

A main focus of this book is Chuck’s struggles with her mental health, and the potential of turning out like her mom – who killed herself when Chuck was young. Her mother had bipolar disorder, and Chuck has already experience several depressive episodes. Every decision she makes, she wonders if it’s a decision that should be made or one she made impulsively – which would denote the manic side of bipolar. Due to the afterword, the reader knows this is an Own Voices novel, and I cannot speak on the mental health portrayal in this book as it’s likely very personal for the author.

The other main plots are the bowling and the romance. As someone who has been bowling for over 20 years, I have to say that there are several bowling inaccuracies in this manuscript, which could potentially be cleaned up in edits or with further research. However, the romance felt very flat and unconvincing to me. I’m all for friends to lovers and hate to love tropes but Beckett as a character was very one dimensional and I didn’t buy the romance. The date scene was good and unique, but it all fell flat for me.

Overall KMHISF was a decent Young Adult rom com with the unique twist of bowling. It wasn’t my favorite, but I guarantee there are many people who will read it and love it.

Happy reading, folks!

BLOG TOUR Book Review – In the Neighborhood of True

Title: In the Neighborhood of True

Author: Susan Kaplan Carlton

Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers

Publication date: April 9th, 2019

320 pages

4/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

A powerful story of love, identity, and the price of fitting in or speaking out.

After her father’s death, Ruth Robb and her family transplant themselves in the summer of 1958 from New York City to Atlanta—the land of debutantes, sweet tea, and the Ku Klux Klan. In her new hometown, Ruth quickly figures out she can be Jewish or she can be popular, but she can’t be both. Eager to fit in with the blond girls in the “pastel posse,” Ruth decides to hide her religion. Before she knows it, she is falling for the handsome and charming Davis and sipping Cokes with him and his friends at the all-white, all-Christian Club.

Does it matter that Ruth’s mother makes her attend services at the local synagogue every week? Not as long as nobody outside her family knows the truth. At temple Ruth meets Max, who is serious and intense about the fight for social justice, and now she is caught between two worlds, two religions, and two boys. But when a violent hate crime brings the different parts of Ruth’s life into sharp conflict, she will have to choose between all she’s come to love about her new life and standing up for what she believes.

Review

TW: racism, anti-Semitism, bombing

Set in Atlanta in the 1950’s, In the Neighborhood of True tackles anti-Semitism and racism through the eyes of 16 year old Ruth Robb. Ruth just moved to Atlanta and want to participate in being a debutante, but has to hide her Jewish faith as she wouldn’t be allowed to participate if people knew. She meets new friends, gets a boyfriend, and thinks all is swell until her temple is bombed by by someone with the KKK. The bomber took issues with her temple and rabbi assisting black churches in the efforts of integration and the equality of Black people in the South. Ruth must make a choice – honor her heritage or her newfound friends.

This story has a lot of timeliness, as there is much going on right now in America that frankly doesn’t feel much different than is portrayed in this book. The millennium may change, but people and hate have stayed consistent. It was interesting to read in the dialect and slang of the South at the time, and see just how different life was. Ruth’s story was eye opening in many ways.

The story felt slow in the beginning and the middle, I wasn’t quite sure where it was going. But by the last 100 pages, it really picked up and showed the true struggle that Ruth was going through. Because what 16 year old doesn’t want to fit in? But is it worth changing who you are, just to please others? I felt it was well done by the author to show Ruth not only learning to accept herself as Jewish, but see Black people as equal and deserving. Ruth messed up often in the book, but was open to correction, and sometimes that’s all we can do.

I highly recommend reading this if you have an interest in social justice and the current events happening now.

Thank you to Algonquin Young Readers for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review

Happy reading, folks!

eARC Review – Just Saying

Title: Just Saying

Author: Sophie Ranald

Publisher: Bookouture

Publication date: July 3rd, 2020

300 pages

4/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

I almost gave up on love. My ex, who called his private parts ‘Nigel’, was enough to put me off men forever. But then I met Joe.

Alice thought she’d found Mr Right. Her blue-eyed boyfriend Joe gives her butterflies, makes her bacon sandwiches when she’s hungover, and doesn’t have a nickname for any of his body parts.

She should have known it was too good to be true. Because one day, Alice and Joe bump into Zoe. According to him, Zoe’s ‘just an old friend’. But Alice saw the way they froze, and heard the strange note in Joe’s voice when he said her name.

Then, out of the blue, Zoe needs a place to live. And Joe has the bright idea of inviting her, and her fluffy ginger cat Frazzle, to stay with them.

Alice tries her hardest not to feel threatened. But the thing is, Zoe doesn’t survive off microwave meals, or go days without washing her glossy copper-coloured hair, or accidentally get mascara in her contact lenses.

Joe’s ex might be pretty much perfect, but there’s no way that Alice will let Zoe steal him. She’s on a mission to prove that three (four, if you count the cat) is definitely a crowd…

Review

TW: sexual assault

Just Saying follows Alice and Joe, trainee lawyers in England as they finish up their training years. Alice and Joe have been dating for a long time, and it’s just natural that they will continue to be together. Until it all starts to come apart. They bump into Joe’s college girlfriend Zoe, Alice loses her job prospect and becomes a bartender at a dive, and Zoe moves in with them when she breaks up with her boyfriend. Alice is convinced Zoe is there to steal her man, and it doesn’t help that Joe doesn’t particularly approve of her new profession. But as Alice comes to love her work at the bar and Joe becomes more distant, Alice wonders if they can continue like this. Are they meant to be together, or has he been in love with Zoe since college? Time will tell…

I genuinely thought this was a cute story with a LOT of layers to it. Just Saying tackles not only relationships and the drama that comes from exes, but sexual assault, career crises, and just in general being friends with the opposite sex. There are some communication problems between the characters, but I didn’t feel the main conflict could’e been resolved with one conversation so that’s a positive for me. As much as there are a lot of layers in this book, I didn’t feel like they were overwhelming or popping up randomly. The story arc flowed pretty smoothly even with new topics being broached.

The book in the end did not go how I was expecting, in a GOOD way. It avoided the one part of romance novels that I don’t like. I can’t really be more clear without giving away a spoiler, but it ended the way I would have wanted it to. Alice makes tremendous progress in tackling her own issues through this book, and as much as he is her boyfriend Joe really is a side character in this story almost. It is THEIR story as a couple it’s really Alice’s story which I appreciate.

The story was missing something to take it to a full 5 star level, I think some subplots were cut off too quickly or easily. Some more depth could have been added to take this to a 5 star level for me. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed it and stayed up until about 2am to finish it!

Thank you to Bookouture, Netgalley, and Sophie Ranald for an early copy of this ebook in exchange for an honest review

Happy reading, folks!

July TBR!

If you read yesterday’s post you know that I didn’t do so well with structured reading in June. I’ve been having some rough mental health days and took a step back from reading. For July, I’d like to get back into it because reading always makes me feel better. Also, I’m going on a week vacation so I’m sure I’ll be able to do lots of reading!

For July, I’m taking part in #fournationsreadathon, an Avatar the Last Airbender themed readathon! I’m going to read in honor of the Water Nation, so some of my planned books will be going towards that readathon, and that will be denoted in the list. If you’re interested – visit instagram @fournationsreadation.

PHYSICAL BOOKS

  1. The Storm Crow (The Storm Crow #1), Kalyn Josephson
  2. The Crow Rider (The Storm Crow #2), Kalyn Josephson
  3. The Merciful Crow (The Merciful Crow #1), Margaret Owen
  4. The Faithless Hawk (The Merciful Crow #2), Margaret Owen
  5. Where Dreams Descend (Kingdom of Cards #1), Janella Angeles (also for netgalley)
  6. The Hunger Games (The Hunger Games #1), Suzanne Collins
  7. Catching Fire (The Hunger Games #2), Suzanne Collins
  8. Mockingjay (The Hunger Games #3), Suzanne Collins
  9. A Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes (The Hunger Games #0), Suzanne Collins
  10. Heir of Fire (Throne of Glass #3), Sarah J. Maas (fournations)
  11. In the Neighborhood of True, Susan Kaplan Carlton (also for netgalley)
  12. The Tao of Pooh, Benjamin Hoff (fournations)

NETGALLEY/EDELWEISS/AUTHOR EARCS

  1. Set Fire to the Gods (Set Fire to the Gods #1), Sara Raasch, Kristen Simmons
  2. The Morning Flower (The Omte Origins #2), Amanda Hocking
  3. One Hundred Dogs and Counting: One Woman, Ten Thousand Miles, and A Journey into the Heart of Shelters and Rescues, Cara Sue Achterberg
  4. A Tortured Soul, L.A. Detwiler
  5. The First to Lie, Hank Phillippi Ryan (fournations)
  6. Hieroglyphics, Jill McCorkle (fournations)
  7. The Baby Group, Caroline Corcoran
  8. I Hope You’re Listening, Tom Ryan
  9. In a Holidaze, Christina Lauren

AUDIOBOOKS

  1. The Lost City (The Omte Origins #1), Amanda Hocking
  2. Mortal Heart (His Fair Assassins #3), Robin LaFevers

It’s a lot of books, and I definitely won’t read them all. But I plan to choose between these books in a mood reading way, so we’ll see how far I get! I’m currently in the middle of In the Neighborhood of True and The Tao of Pooh.

What are you reading this month?

Happy reading, folks!

June Wrap Up!

I was very unmotivated to read this month. This month really was hard emotionally as I’m trying to work on my mental health (unsuccessfully). I didn’t at all read near the amount of books I planned, but honestly it’s okay. I’m up to date on my publisher and ARC reviews – and that’s really what matters. Next month I’m hoping to pick my reading up again because I do miss it, but I want to make sure I have the time and mental capacity for it – so we’ll see!

PHYSICAL BOOKS

  1. Escaping from Houdini (Stalking Jack the Ripper #3), Kerri Maniscalco – 4/5 stars
  2. Crown of Midnight (Throne of Glass #2), Sarah J Maas – 4/5 stars
  3. The Guest List, Lucy Foley – 3/5 stars
  4. The Bone Houses, Emily Lloyd-Jones – 4.5/5 stars
  5. The Kiss Quotient (The Kiss Quotient #1), Helen Hoang – 5/5 stars

LIBRARY EBOOKS

  1. Mirage (Mirage #1), Somaiya Daud – 4/5 stars
  2. If I Never Met You, Mhairi MacFarlane – 4/5 stars
  3. Redwall (Redwall #1), Brian Jacques – 5/5 stars

NETGALLEY EARCS

  1. Ever Cursed, Corey Ann Haydu – 4.5/5 stars
  2. These Vengeful Hearts, Katherine Laurin – 4.5/5 stars
  3. Court of Lions (Mirage #2), Somaiya Daud – 4/5 stars
  4. Faking It, Rebecca Smith – 3/5 stars
  5. Chosen Ones (The Chosen One’s #1), Veronica Roth – 3.5/5 stars
  6. Just Saying, Sophie Ranald – 4/5 stars

What did you read this month?

Happy reading, folks!

June Haul

In a month where so much stuff happened, I managed to acquire a good amount of books from several different outlets. Quarantine has definitely made me more click happy with purchasing books, but next month I need to purchase a wedding dress so I will need to work on not buying more books! Though I do know I have another order or two that will come in early July…

SUBSCRIPTION BOXES

I received both May and June OwlCrates during this month along with my larger than normal BOTM haul!

  1. Ashlords (Ashlords #1), Scott Reintgen – BOTM
  2. Home Before Dark, Riley Sager – BOTM
  3. The Last Flight, Julie Clark – BOTM
  4. Incendiary (Hollow Crown #1), Zoraida Cordova – OwlCrate
  5. Where Dreams Descend (Kingdom of Cards #1), Janella Angeles – OwlCrate

GIVEAWAY WIN

I won a giveaway on bookstagram so I got an ARC of this book!

  1. The Other Mrs., Mary Kubica

BARNES AND NOBLE

Due to everything going on in the world, I decided to buy two books by BIPOC authors in order to support them in the book community. Too often they are underrepresented not just as characters in books but as agented and signed authors as well.

  1. Kingdom of Souls (Kingdom of Souls #1), Rena Barron
  2. A Song of Wraiths and Ruin (A Song of Wraiths and Ruin #1), Roseanne A. Brown

BLACK OWNED BOOKSTORES

With everything going on in the world, I also bought two book from black owned bookstores in order to support them.

  1. The Boundless (The Beholder #2), Anna Bright
  2. Aurora Burning (The Aurora Cycle #2), Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

AMAZON

There was a sale, what can I say. I’m not a perfect person.

  1. The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes (The Hunger Games #0), Suzanne Collins
  2. Wild at Heart (Wild #2), K. A. Tucker

BOOK OUTLET

So Book Outlet sucks now, but I ordered this haul before they posted horribly discriminatory and racial stereotyping nonsense.

  1. Dark Shores (Dark Shores #1), Danielle L. Jensen
  2. Through the White Wood, Jessica Leake
  3. The Last Namsara (Iskari #1), Kristen Ciccarelli
  4. This Cruel Design (This Mortal Coil #2), Emily Suvada
  5. Frost Like Night (Snow Like Ashes #3), Sara Raasch

What books did you all acquire this month?

Happy reading, folks!

eARC Review – The Never Have I Ever Club

Title: The Never Have I Ever Club

Author: Mary Jayne Baker

Publisher: Aria

Publication date: June 18th, 2020

??? pages

3.5/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

Robyn Bloom thought Ash Barnes was the love of her life – until one day he announced he was leaving her to fly halfway across the world.

Months later, Robyn is struggling to move on – but then she has a brainwave: The Never Have I Ever Club. Her handsome next-door neighbour Will helps her bring their fellow Yorkshire villagers together for some carpe-diem-inspired fun.

From burlesque dancing to Swedish massages, everyone has plenty of bucket-list activities to try, but it doesn’t take long for Robyn to realise what – or who – her heart truly desires: Will.

There’s just one problem: he’s Ash’s twin brother.

Make that two problems: Ash is moving home… and he wants Robyn back.

Review

**Thank you to Aria, Netgalley, and Mary Jayne Baker for an early copy of this ebook in exchange for an honest review**

Set in the UK, The Never Have I Ever Club features Robyn Bloom, a 35 year old woman who is still getting over her sudden breakup with Ash when he decided to move to Australia and begin a relationship with a woman 25 years her junior. Left in his wake, Robyn is struggling to move on as Ash is her next door neighbor, along with his identical twin brother Will. Robyn can’t even see Will without being reminded of her heartbreak, even though they’ve been best friends and neighbors their whole lives. Robyn and her friends decide to create a village club encouraging it’s members to learn new things and have those experience they’ve always put off. When Ash returns to win Robyn back, she is left flustered and angry but he isn’t ready to give up. But is he the right twin for her?

I enjoyed this book, I liked the characters and Robyn’s relationship with her friends and her aunt. The characters are quirky, relatable, and unique enough to give the dialogue and events an interesting quality. I just really didn’t like either of the love interests? Both twins – Will and Ash – got on my nerves for different reasons. Ash is selfish and impetuous, only looking after himself. Will is the opposite, he doesn’t even stop for a second to think of doing something that would benefit him. I imagine the author created this dichotomy for a reason, and trust me the effect worked, but there needed to be some ‘in the middle’ qualities for both of them. No one is that selfish or selfless.

This book does kind of include a love triangle trope, but it doesn’t follow the norm. For most of the book, the characters don’t know there is any triangle to speak of, so even if love triangles aren’t your jam – don’t let that keep you from reading this book if you’re interested.

I actually enjoyed the subplots more than the main love story plot. I cheered for Freya and Eliot and Aunty Fliss. This book is also very clean, for those who don’t enjoy smut in their romance novels.

Happy reading, folks!

Book Review – The Assassin’s Blade

“This girl wasn’t like wildfire—she was wildfire. Deadly and uncontrollable. And slightly out of her wits.”

Title: The Assassin’s Blade (Throne of Glass #0.5)

Author: Sarah J Maas

Publisher: Bloomsbury Children’s

Publication date: March 4th, 2014

448 pages

4/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

Contains all five novellas.

Celaena Sardothien is Adarlan’s most feared assassin. As part of the Assassin’s Guild, her allegiance is to her master, Arobynn Hamel, yet Celaena listens to no one and trusts only her fellow killer-for-hire, Sam. In these action-packed novellas – together in one edition for the first time – Celaena embarks on five daring missions. They take her from remote islands to hostile deserts, where she fights to liberate slaves and seeks to avenge the tyrannous. But she is acting against Arobynn’s orders and could suffer an unimaginable punishment for such treachery. Will Celaena ever be truly free? Explore the dark underworld of this kick-ass heroine to find out.

Review

She was fire, she was darkness, she was dust and blood and shadow.

sarah j maas, the assassin’s blade

First off, this cover may be the best out of the entire series, don’t @ me. The blue background with the purple cape is exquisite and Celaena looks amazing. Next, I appreciated the novellas – they weren’t too short that it seemed the story wasn’t developed, but they weren’t overly long either. Getting the background into Celaena’s history was very helpful and it explained some things that weren’t fully clear in Throne of Glass. I know there’s debate on what order to read these – so for me I read TOG first and then TAB and then on to Crown of Midnight and the rest. It worked for me, but I know some say to wait until after Crown. I don’t personally see how it could matter.

I think this book does an even better job of showing the different facets of Celaena than TOG. You really see her softer side, whereas TOG is really showcasing her ruthlessness and assassin abilities. TAB gives you more of her thought process in relation to her work for Arobynn because when TOG starts she is already done working for Arobynn. Basically what I’m trying to say is: The Assassin’s Blade is worth it to read as part of the series.

I particularly loved the story of her in the desert learning from the other assassins. I could where that history will play a part in future books, and that foreshadowing is exciting. I’m very much looking forward to continuing the series.

Happy reading, folks!