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!

eARC Review – In Case You Missed It

Title: In Case You Missed It

Author: Lindsey Kelk

Publisher: HarperCollins

Publication date: September 8th, 2020

400 pages

3.5/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

When Ros steps off a plane after four years away she’s in need of a job, a flat and a phone that actually works. And, possibly, her old life back. Because everyone at home has moved on, her parents have reignited their sex life, she’s sleeping in a converted shed and she’s got a bad case of nostalgia for the way things were.

Then her new phone begins to ping with messages from people she thought were deleted for good. Including one number she knows off by heart: her ex’s.

Sometimes we’d all like the chance to see what we’ve been missing…

Review

Ros moved to America for the job of a lifetime, but returns to England, tail between her legs. She’s forced to move back in with her parents, who are having a sexual reawakening, and finds out they build her a shed in the backyard to live in. She gets back together with her ex-boyfriend, Patrick, whom her friend group doesn’t particularly like, but something seems to be missing. Her new job requires her to work with a 14 year old video gaming prodigy named Snazzlechuff on a podcast. Basically, she is missing the earlier days of life when she was in her 20’s and everything was better. But her friends and family are moving on, so will Ros be left behind or realize the best days of her life are still happening?

I enjoyed Ros as a character, she was funny and witty without taking herself too seriously. Patrick, was the worst. He was definitely the example of who NOT to date, but he truly helped Ros along in figuring out what she was wanting from life in the present instead of the past. And Ros’ friend group was AMAZING. I legit want a separate book for Sumi, and to know more about Lucy and Creepy Dave! I loved that even though she was in America for 3 years, she came back and they fell back together like nothing had changed.

I genuinely wish there was more romance with the endgame guy. He was a part of the book, but not enough in my opinion. You don’t get to know much about him, and the romance didn’t feel very organic because they really didn’t have a lot of interaction together, let alone positive interaction. It would have helped if his POV was included in the book.

The Snazzlechuff plot line was actually pretty funny, along with her parents and their sexual reawakening. I will never look at sushi the same way (if you know, you know). I gave this book 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4 for GR purposes. It was cute and easy to read, I read it all in one sitting, but there were just some things that could have taken it to an even better read.

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

Happy reading, folks!

eARC Review – Recommended for You

Title: Recommended For You

Author: Laura Silverman

Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books

Publication date: September 1st, 2020

272 pages

4/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

Shoshanna Greenberg loves working at Once Upon, her favorite local bookstore. And with her moms fighting at home and her beloved car teetering on the brink of death, the store has become a welcome escape.

When her boss announces a holiday bonus to the person who sells the most books, Shoshanna sees an opportunity to at least fix her car, if none of her other problems. The only person standing in her way? New hire Jake Kaplan.

Jake is an affront to everything Shoshanna stands for. He doesn’t even read! But somehow his sales start to rival hers. Jake may be cute (really cute), and he may be an eligible Jewish single (hard to find south of Atlanta), but he’s also the enemy, and Shoshanna is ready to take him down.

But as the competition intensifies, Jake and Shoshanna grow closer and realize they might be more on the same page than either expects…

Review

Recommended for You is a short, cute YA Contemporary with a hint of adorable romance, and all the book loving vibes! Shoshanna works at a book store in the mall, and it’s Christmastime so it is very busy. She gets a new coworker, Jake, who gasp DOESN’T READ! They don’t exactly hit it off right away, so they are instant rivals. When the book store owner announces a contest to see who can make the most sales, Shoshanna is sure she will win. But Jake is sneaky good at sales, so she has her work cut out for her…

I’m serious when I say this book is super cute. I loved that the main characters were Jewish, it’s not something you see in books often but really should be represented more. It was pretty short, less than 300 pages, but didn’t FEEL short. Like sometimes short books can see underdeveloped, or too quickly paced, but I felt like this book did a lot with a little. The pacing and flow was spot on, and it covered a good few weeks worth of time.

In terms of the characters, I like Jake more than Shoshanna. Shoshanna is a bit… much. She’s uber perky and bubbly, but it’s almost unrealistic with just how happy and optimistic she is, all the time. Or maybe I just can’t imagine being that happy! It’s certainly a bone of contention with Jake, because he initially interprets it as immaturity (they are 16). But Jake. Now Jake is that brooding, hot guy who is quiet and snarky, which is just a type of character I love reading about. But then you learn his backstory and it rounds him out so. well. BUT, I desperately wanted his POV. I would’ve adored to hear his snarky remarks in his head to Shoshanna and her perkiness, so I did feel like it was missing that opportunity.

Overall, a well done and interesting read, very quick and reminiscent of Jenn Bennett. I recommend if you’re looking for Jewish MC, a quick read, or a good rivals love story.

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 – 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!

BLOG TOUR – Impersonation

Title: Impersonation

Author: Heidi Pitlor

Publisher: Algonquin Books

Publication date: August 18th, 2020

336 pages

3.5/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

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

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

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

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

Review

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

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

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

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

Happy readings, folks!

BLOG TOUR – Body Talk

Title: Body Talk

Editor: Kelly Jensen

Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers

Publication date: August 18th, 2020

256 pages

5/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

It’s time to bare it all about bodies!

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

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

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

Review

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

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

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

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

Happy readings, folks!

BLOG TOUR – A House Is a Body

Title: A House Is a Body

Author: Shruti Swamy

Publisher: Algonquin Books

Publication date: August 11th, 2020

208 pages

4/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

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

Review

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

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

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

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

Happy reading, folks!

eARC Review – Strictly Come Dating

Title: Strictly Come Dating

Author: Kathryn Freeman

Publisher: One More Chapter

Publication date: August 15th, 2020

Unknown pages

4/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

Saturday nights are strictly for dancing…

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

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

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

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

Review

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

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

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

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

Happy reading, folks!

eARC Review – Faking It

Title: Faking It

Author: Rebecca Smith

Publisher: One More Chapter

Publication date: August 7th, 2020

400 pages

3/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

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

My Guilt List:

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

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

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

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

Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy reading, folks!