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!

eARC Review – The Circus Rose

Title: The Circus Rose

Author: Betsy Cornwell

Publisher: Clarion Books

Publication date: June 16th, 2020

288 pages

4/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

A queer retelling of “Snow White and Rose Red” in which teenage twins battle evil religious extremists to save their loves and their circus family.

Twins Rosie and Ivory have grown up at their ringmaster mother’s knee, and after years on the road, they’re returning to Port End, the closest place to home they know. Yet something has changed in the bustling city: fundamentalist flyers paper the walls and preachers fill the squares, warning of shadows falling over the land. The circus prepares a triumphant homecoming show, full of lights and spectacle that could chase away even the darkest shadow. But during Rosie’s tightrope act, disaster strikes.

In this lush, sensuous novel interwoven with themes of social justice and found family, it’s up to Ivory and her magician love—with the help of a dancing bear—to track down an evil priest and save their circus family before it’s too late.

Review

**Thank you to Clarion Books, Netgalley, and Betsy Cornwell for a copy of this ebook in exchange for an honest review**

The Circus Rose is a magical fantasy told in alternating POV’s from twin sisters, Ivory and Rosie. The writing is so different based on what twin is narrating, and provides different context. Ivory is the more reliable narrator. Seriously the magic in this book is off the charts. Ivory and Rosie are a part of The Circus Rose, the circus hosted by their mother. For twins, Ivory and Rosie couldn’t be more different – Ivory prefers to be a stagehand behind the scenes and Rosie is the high flying trapeze artist, star of the show. They are like Yin and Yang, fathered by two separate men who both loved their mother.

The main plot of the book revolves around the circus and challenges that pop during the circus. The first part of the book lays a lot of background into the twins and the circus before it gets into the main conflict. I thought the circus aspect was very compelling, along with the amalgamation of Fey, righteous Church groups, humans, a feminist world where girls can go to engineering school.

I loved the LGBTQIA pieces of the book. The Fey are described as being more androgynous, they are non-binary and have the pronouns of fe/fer. Rosie clearly identifies as only being attracted to females, and Ivory is attracted to males and Fey. Being in an open relationship or practicing polyamory is not strange. It’s a very progressive and refreshing book.

The Circus Rose is an easy and quick read. The writing of Betsy Cornwell just flows so easily and it’s simple to lose track of time around you as you delve into the world of the circus. For fans of Caraval, The Circus Rose is an enthralling, magical tale of sisterhood and finding yourself.

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!

Book Review – Undercover Bromance

“There’s no force on Earth as strong as a woman who is good and fed up.”

Title: Undercover Bromance (Bromance Book Club #2)

Author: Lyssy Kay Adams

Publisher: Berkley

Publication date: March 10th, 2020

320 pages

3.5/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

Braden Mack thinks reading romance novels makes him an expert in love, but he’ll soon discover that real life is better than fiction.

Liv Papandreas has a dream job as a sous chef at Nashville’s hottest restaurant. Too bad the celebrity chef owner is less than charming behind kitchen doors. After she catches him harassing a young hostess, she confronts him and gets fired. Liv vows revenge, but she’ll need assistance to take on the powerful chef. 

Unfortunately, that means turning to Braden Mack. When Liv’s blackballed from the restaurant scene, the charismatic nightclub entrepreneur offers to help expose her ex-boss, but she is suspicious of his motives. He’ll need to call in reinforcements: the Bromance Book Club. 

Inspired by the romantic suspense novel they’re reading, the book club assist Liv in setting up a sting operation to take down the chef. But they’re just as eager to help Mack figure out the way to Liv’s heart… even while she’s determined to squelch the sparks between them before she gets burned.

Review

You shouldn’t have to care about a women to recognize that the sexual degradation of all women is a problem. You should recognize that it’s wrong simply because they’re humans.

lyssy kay adams, undercover bromance

TW: sexual assault, sexism, misogyny

I think my favorite part about this book has to do with the quote directly above. Adams tackles misogyny and sexism within this romance book so well. There are men who actively hold conversations in an attempt to educate one of the characters that uses the excuse of “I’m too old to understand”. And it’s done so, so well. As someone who has experience sexism and sexual assault, I was heartened to see how it was dealt with in this book (for the most part). I say for the most part, because one of the main characters says some pretty awful things to someone who experienced assault. I believe it was used in order to later show character growth and development, but it did fall flat. I’m tired of the women attacking other women story line.

I did not like Liv’s character in The Bromance Book Club and frankly I did not like her more in this book. I inherently liked this one more than the first as I am more interested in a new love story than reviving an old love. But Liv honestly sucks. She does get better – but I can’t with her for the first 75% of the book.

I am here for BRADEN FREAKING MACK though. Braden Mack makes this book bearable because he is a sweet, cinnamon roll of a man who can do no wrong. I would die for Braden Mack and I am jealous of Liv because I would take him as my husband in a heartbeat. There were so many swoonworthy parts to this book, and they were all due directly to Braden Mack.

Overall, a decent book that tackled some serious issues while still being a good romance novel. I am still excited for the third book, Crazy Stupid Bromance, coming later this year.

Happy reading, folks!

Book Review – Stalking Jack the Ripper

“Fear is a hungry beast. The more you feed it, the more it grows.”

Title: Stalking Jack the Ripper (Stalking Jack the Ripper #1)

Author: Kerri Maniscalco

Publisher: Jimmy Patterson

Publication date: September 20th, 2016

327 pages

4/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

Presented by James Patterson’s new children’s imprint, this deliciously creepy horror novel has a storyline inspired by the Ripper murders and an unexpected, blood-chilling conclusion…

Seventeen-year-old Audrey Rose Wadsworth was born a lord’s daughter, with a life of wealth and privilege stretched out before her. But between the social teas and silk dress fittings, she leads a forbidden secret life.

Against her stern father’s wishes and society’s expectations, Audrey often slips away to her uncle’s laboratory to study the gruesome practice of forensic medicine. When her work on a string of savagely killed corpses drags Audrey into the investigation of a serial murderer, her search for answers brings her close to her own sheltered world.

The story’s shocking twists and turns, augmented with real, sinister period photos, will make this dazzling, #1 New York Times bestselling debut from author Kerri Maniscalco impossible to forget.

Review

There’s nothing better than a little danger dashed with some romance.

kerri maniscalco, stalking jack the ripper

I reread STJR in order to continue the series, and it was exactly how I remembered. I like historical retellings, but not historical fiction (which I know, doesn’t exactly make sense. I just don’t always like historical fiction, but STJR gave the Jack the Ripper story more interesting pieces by writing a story about a girl investigating the crimes. Add in the fact that women were not supposed to do that kind of work at the time period? I’m down. Audrey Rose Wadsworth is queen & I’m here for it.

I have to say a large part of my enjoyment from this book is that I didn’t see the ending coming the first time I read it. During my reread, I was able to catch some more details that I missed the first time around – but only because I’d already read it. I like the Kerri is able to keep the mystery alive.

Thomas Cresswell makes my heart beat faster & he’s entirely fictional. I want him to myself, but I absolutely adore the relationship he builds with Audrey Rose. He’s not there to shackle her like her father or society, he respects her for her intelligence & allows her to be independent. Thomas is a seriously amazing character, I only wish we were able to read from his POV as well as Audrey Rose’s.

Stalking Jack the Ripper is a great beginning to a series. The end wraps up well, no cliffhanger. But you’re excited to see what adventures Thomas and Audrey Rose get up to next.

Happy reading, folks!

eARC Review – Up Close and Personal

Title: Up Close & Personal

Author: Kathryn Freeman

Publisher: One More Chapter

Publication date: June 12th, 2020

??? pages

3.5/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

Sizzling chemistry, a page-turning will they/won’t they romance and the hottest twist on one of your favourite movies…

British actor Zac Edwards is the latest heartthrob to hit the red carpets. Hot, talented and rich, he sends women wild…all except one.

Close protection officer Kat Parker hasn’t got time to play celebrity games. She has one job: to protect Zac from the stalker that seems to be dogging his every move.

Zac might get her hot under her very starched collar, but Kat’s a professional – and sleeping with Zac is no way part of her remit…

Review

**Thank you to One More Chapter, Netgalley, and Kathryn Freeman for an early copy of this ebook in exchange for an honest review**

Up Close and Personal follows Zac Edwards, new movie star being stalked and harassed by a female fan, and Kat Parker, his new bodyguard hired by the production company of the film he is shooting. The problem? Zac and Kat are hopelessly attracted to each other and have giant personal secrets that they won’t share with the other. It’s a story full of push and pull in this relationship, made more complicated by someone trying to kill Zac…

I really enjoyed this book, which didn’t surprise me because I also really enjoyed Kathryn’s most recent book as well. The characters had a great rapport and dialogue from the beginning, and I enjoy a forbidden romance. Both Kat and Zac have their demons that affect them but also have a lot to do with their character development and in their future relationship development. The plot was intense and incorporated a realistic kind of villain.

In some parts of the book the relationship super dragged. I get why because it was forbidden, but I think it could have been more interesting if more happened when it was still forbidden. Also, there was a sub plot that really wasn’t followed up on, and I have questions about it.

Up Close and Personal was a cute, easy to read, romance that included forbidden love, emotional baggage, and a crazy stalker. It is also mostly clean for those who aren’t interested in a lot of smut in their romance books.

Happy reading, folks!

eARC Review – The House Guest

Title: The House Guest

Author: Mark Edwards

Publisher: Thomas and Mercer

Publication date: June 3rd, 2020

294 pges

3.5/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

A perfect summer. A perfect stranger. A perfect nightmare.

When British twenty-somethings Ruth and Adam are offered the chance to spend the summer housesitting in New York, they can’t say no. Young, in love and on the cusp of professional success, they feel as if luck is finally on their side.

So the moment that Eden turns up on the doorstep, drenched from a summer storm, it seems only right to share a bit of that good fortune. Beautiful and charismatic, Eden claims to be a friend of the homeowners, who told her she could stay whenever she was in New York.

They know you’re not supposed to talk to strangers—let alone invite them into your home—but after all, Eden’s only a stranger until they get to know her.

As suspicions creep in that Eden may not be who she claims to be, they begin to wonder if they’ve made a terrible mistake…

Review

**Thank you to Thomas and Mercer, Netgalley, and Mark Edwards for an early copy of this ebook in exchange for an honest review**

The House Guest is a thrilling tale of being swept up in a world you never knew existed, and certainly didn’t bargain for. When Eden shows up on Ruth and Adam’s doorstep saying she knows the owners of the house they are watching, why would they turn her away? Eden knew details of Jack and Mona’s life, so she must know who they are – and they are set to get back from their vacation in a few days. But when Adam wakes up one morning with a head full of regrets and a hangover he’ll never forget, he finds that Ruth and Eden are missing – and all evidence of Eden’s existence is gone. Adam must work hard to find out where Ruth is, before it’s too late.

Holy wow this book didn’t turn out the way I expected it to. Every time I wrote off the story line assuming I “knew” the ending and “whodunnit”, I was wrong. Or at least, not completely right. Edwards has a way of making important information seem innocuous, at least until the very end when you realize it isn’t. His writing really kept the plot line moving forward, and captured the feelings of Adam and Ruth while they go through this journey.

None of the characters are completely “likable”. Ruth and Adam aren’t bad people, but they each have their own insecurities and doubts that make them human, but certainly not super likable. Adam turns on the hero persona to find Ruth, but he let her down in ways he couldn’t even imagine. Ruth seems like a normal woman, an actress about to get her big break. But inside, she has abandonment issues and has been searching for a group to belong to. It’s the perfect storm for what happens.

HOWEVER. That ending though! I honestly can’t get over it. I can’t really say more than that, without it being spoiler-y. But the ending is not at all what you would expect, and I believe I will be thinking about it for a long time trying to puzzle it out.

Happy reading, folks!

June TBR!

Happy (or frankly, not so happy as the protests continue) June! I am filled with hope for this month. I hope for freedoms to be given and change to be in the air. I hope for lives to be spared and differences to be made for POC across the world. In less serious terms, I also hope I read another ridiculously large stack of books.

For this month, I have planned 22 books to be read. This is indeed fewer than I read last month for those of you who are playing along at home. However, I feel like last month was largely a fluke and won’t be replicated for another hundred years. So, I will continue to prioritize my Netgalley list and continue working on getting those numbers down. I’m currently at ~87% ratio, and have many books planned for this month!

PHYSICAL BOOKS

  1. Escaping from Houdini (Stalking Jack the Ripper #3), Kerri Maniscalco
  2. Capturing the Devil (Stalking Jack the Ripper #4), Kerri Maniscalco
  3. The Bone Houses, Emily Lloyd-Jones
  4. Beyond a Darkened Shore, Jessica Leake
  5. Crown of Midnight (Throne of Glass #2), Sarah J. Maas
  6. The Beholder (The Beholder #1), Anna Bright
  7. The Boundless (The Beholder #2), Anna Bright
  8. DEVIATE (LIFELIKE #2), Jay Kristoff

LIBRARY EBOOKS

  1. Mirage (Mirage #1), Somaiya Daud
  2. Mortal Heart (His Fair Assassin #3), Robin LaFevers
  3. Courting Darkness (Courting Darkness #1), Robin LaFevers
  4. Smoke in the Sun (Flame in the Mist #1), Renee Ahdieh
  5. Ninth House (Alex Stern #1), Leigh Bardugo
  6. If I Never Met You, Mhairi MacFarlane
  7. The Ruin of Kings (A Chorus of Dragons #1), Jenn Lyons
  8. The Name of All Things (A Chorus of Dragons #2), Jenn Lyons

NETGALLEY EARCS

  1. Just Saying, Sophie Ranald
  2. Court of Lions (Mirage #2), Somaiya Daud
  3. Ever Cursed, Corey Ann Haydu
  4. These Vengeful Hearts, Katherine Laurin
  5. The Memory of Souls (A Chorus of Dragons #3), Jenn Lyons
  6. Igniting Darkness (Courting Darkness #2), Robin LaFevers – sampler

What books are you planning to read this month?

Happy reading, folks!

May Wrap Up!

Okay, we’re in for a loooong post today because I somehow managed to read TWENTY-SIX books this month! Thank you quarantine! I have never read this money book in one month before so I’m very proud of myself. There were some great reads in here, and I raised my Netgalley ratio pretty high! Helps to read 13 eARCs in one month! I can’t imagine ever having a month like this again, but one can dream!

Below is an itemization of the books I read! There were only a few books from my May TBR post that I didn’t get to, and it was more due to me switching up my Netgalley reads a bit. I pushed Igniting Darkness and Where Dreams Descend back so I could get to titles that release sooner. My library also doesn’t have Mortal Heart or Courting Darkness, so I have to figure out an alternative. Lastly, something went wrong with my loan of The Night Circus, and now I won’t have it until June/July – so it is just pushed back for now.

LIBRARY EBOOKS

  1. Get a Life, Chloe Brown (The Brown Sisters #1), Talia Hibbert – 4/5 stars
  2. The Bromance Book Club (Bromance Book Club #1), Lyssy Kay Adams – 4.5/5 stars
  3. American Royals (American Royals #1), Katharine McGee – 4/5 stars
  4. Undercover Bromance (Bromance Book Club #2), Lyssy Kay Adams – 3.5/5 stars
  5. Grave Mercy (His Fair Assassin #1), Robin LaFevers – 3/5 stars
  6. Dark Triumph (His Fair Assassin #2), Robin LaFevers – 4.5/5 stars

NETGALLEY EARCS

  1. Dark Skies (Dark Shores #1), Danielle L. Jensen – 5/5 stars
  2. The Trouble with Hating You, Sajni Patel – 4/5 stars
  3. Queen of the Unwanted (The Women’s War), Jenna Glass – 3.5/5 stars
  4. The Bride, Wendy Clarke – 4/5 stars
  5. The Plus One Pact, Portia MacIntosh – 4.5/5 stars
  6. Love Sold Separately, Ellen Meister – 4/5 stars
  7. The House Guest, Mark Edwards – 3.5/5 stars
  8. Dear Emmie Blue, Lia Louis – 4/5 stars
  9. Up Close and Personal, Kathryn Freeman – 3.5/5 stars
  10. The Never Have I Ever Club, Mary Jayne Baker – 3.5/5 stars
  11. Crushing It, Lorelai Parker – 3.5/5 stars
  12. Keep My Heart in San Francisco, Amelia Diane Coombs – 3/5 stars
  13. More Than Maybe, Erin Hahn – 4.5/5 stars

EDELWEISS EARC

  1. Sisters of Sword & Song, Rebecca Ross – 4.5/5 stars

PHYSICAL BOOKS

  1. Stalking Jack the Ripper (Stalking Jack the Ripper #1), Kerri Maniscalco – 4/5 stars
  2. Beach Read, Emily Henry – 4.5/5 stars
  3. The Assassin’s Blade (Throne of Glass #0.5), Sarah J. Maas – 4/5 stars
  4. Throne of Glass (Throne of Glass #1), Sarah J. Maas – 5/5 stars (reread)
  5. Hunting Prince Dracula (Stalking Jack the Ripper #2), Kerri Maniscalco – 4.5/5 stars

EBOOKS FROM AUTHORS

  1. Quarantined by Love, Hilari T. Cohen – 4/5 stars

How many books did you read this month? Any of the same that I read?

Happy reading, folks!

Book Review – American Royals

“That was the thing about success, it could be even more draining than failure.” 

Title: American Royals (American Royals #1)

Author: Katharine McGee

Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers

Publication date: September 3rd, 2019

448 pages

4/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

What if America had a royal family? 

When America won the Revolutionary War, its people offered General George Washington a crown. Two and a half centuries later, the House of Washington still sits on the throne.

As Princess Beatrice gets closer to becoming America’s first queen regnant, the duty she has embraced her entire life suddenly feels stifling.

Nobody cares about the spare except when she’s breaking the rules, so Princess Samantha doesn’t care much about anything, either . . . except the one boy who is distinctly off-limits to her.

And then there’s Samantha’s twin, Prince Jefferson. If he’d been born a generation earlier, he would have stood first in line for the throne, but the new laws of succession make him third. Most of America adores their devastatingly handsome prince . . . but two very different girls are vying to capture his heart.

Review

“All I know is that when I need to eat my feelings, my feelings taste like Wawa milkshakes with extra M&Ms.” 

katharine mcgee, american royals

American Royals is set in an alternate reality where George Washington created a monarchy when helping America achieve it’s independence instead of a democracy. Now, 200 some years later his descendants still rule America. Princess Beatrice is first in line for the throne and must marry – but will her love of a commoner win out over royal duty? Princess Samantha knows she is the spare – it’s painfully obvious even in her code name of Sparrow. She is the wild child because she knows she will never be tasked to rule. Prince Jefferson is third in line and is unknowingly caught in a love triangle with his potentially dangerous ex-girlfriend and his commoner childhood best friend. Who will win out?

American Royals is deliciously dramatic. It is exactly what I would imagine when envisioning America with royalty. There is love, love triangles, unrequited love, and forbidden love – it is love tropes galore! I also adore how the author built in a breaking of the fourth wall in several instances – some lines like:

“Elect the king or queen—what a funny concept. Everyone knew that elections only worked for judges and Congress. Making the executive branch pander to the people, go out begging for votes—that could only end in disaster. That structure would attract the wrong sort of people: power-hungry people with twisted agendas.”

Katharine mcgee, american royals

The author makes a clear statement about how politics is today but with a cushion of fiction and snark, and I adore it. I also enjoyed the characters, who were all SO different. They each have their own “main” personality points or plot lines, but each have a separate, more secret plot or personality quirk that strongly affects who they become by the end of the series.

One thing I didn’t like was how closely part of the plot aligned with the move First Daughter with Katie Holmes. The King’s daughter falls in love with a guard. It’s different, but is too strongly related for my taste. I think it needed a new element to make it more unique.

However, THAT ENDING. Talk about shocking and cliffhanger-y. I’m so glad the decision was made to turn this into at least a duology because so much more of this story DESERVES to be told.

Happy reading, folks!