Book Review – Serious Moonlight

“Judging other people unfairly doesn’t define them; it defines you. And in the end everyone will be disappointed.” 

Title: Serious Moonlight

Author: Jenn Bennett

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Publication date: April 16th, 2019

426 pages

4.5/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

After an awkward first encounter, Birdie and Daniel are forced to work together in a Seattle hotel where a famous author leads a mysterious and secluded life in this romantic contemporary novel from the author of Alex, Approximately.

Mystery-book aficionado Birdie Lindberg has an overactive imagination. Raised in isolation and homeschooled by strict grandparents, she’s cultivated a whimsical fantasy life in which she plays the heroic detective and every stranger is a suspect. But her solitary world expands when she takes a job the summer before college, working the graveyard shift at a historic Seattle hotel.

In her new job, Birdie hopes to blossom from introverted dreamer to brave pioneer, and gregarious Daniel Aoki volunteers to be her guide. The hotel’s charismatic young van driver shares the same nocturnal shift and patronizes the waterfront Moonlight Diner where she waits for the early morning ferry after work. Daniel also shares her appetite for intrigue, and he’s stumbled upon a real-life mystery: a famous reclusive writer—never before seen in public—might be secretly meeting someone at the hotel.

To uncover the writer’s puzzling identity, Birdie must come out of her shell…discovering that the most confounding mystery of all may be her growing feelings for the elusive riddle that is Daniel.

Review

Let’s go eat some pie and solve a mystery.

JENN BENNETT, SERIOUS MOONLIGHT

Hello friends! I decided to pick up a library book that I have renewed for the umpteenth time this month – so I can feel like I’m making headway with my never ending stack of books to read. I’ve read a few Bennett books, and I LOVE her contemporaries. She writes the sweetest stories, generally involving teenagers, and Serious Moonlight was no exception.

Meet Birdie, an 18 year old woman trying to find her way after losing her mother at a young age, and her grandmother recently. She is trying to become an “adult” and that means working full time – evening if that means overnight. And even if it means working with the guy she met at a diner and had sex with in his car before freaking out and running away and not speaking to him again… YEP.

I love Daniel and Birdie SO MUCH. Daniel is such a sweet, cinnamon roll and when I learned more of his background I swooned and felt so bad for him at the same time. Birdie almost doesn’t deserve him, but she comes around and I start to like her more by the middle/end of the book. They have such an easy friendship and banter, and Daniel allows her to slowly warm back up to him after her initial fright. She has her baggage, and so does he, and I like how they work through it together instead of pretending each other is perfect.

I LOVED BIRDIE’S AUNT. I frankly think everyone needs family like her. She took Birdie in when her mother died, even when her grandmother didn’t want Birdie to keep that connection. They have a close connection that perfectly blends authority figure and friend in a way the fosters trust and openness. I loved her influence and want her in my life.

So to wrap it up, I still love Jenn Bennett. Not going to change! Planning to continue reading her backlist over the next year!

Happy reading, folks! 🙂

eARC Review – Ink in the Blood

Title: Ink in the Blood (Ink in the Blood #1)

Author: Kim Smejkal

Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers

Publication date: February 11th, 2020

448 pages

3.5/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

A lush, dark YA fantasy debut that weaves together tattoo magic, faith, and eccentric theater in a world where lies are currency and ink is a weapon, perfect for fans of Leigh Bardugo and Kendare Blake.

Celia Sand and her best friend, Anya Burtoni, are inklings for the esteemed religion of Profeta. Using magic, they tattoo followers with beautiful images that represent the Divine’s will and guide the actions of the recipients. It’s considered a noble calling, but ten years into their servitude Celia and Anya know the truth: Profeta is built on lies, the tattooed orders strip away freedom, and the revered temple is actually a brutal, torturous prison.

Their opportunity to escape arrives with the Rabble Mob, a traveling theater troupe. Using their inkling abilities for performance instead of propaganda, Celia and Anya are content for the first time . . . until they realize who followed them. The Divine they never believed in is very real, very angry, and determined to use Celia, Anya, and the Rabble Mob’s now-infamous stage to spread her deceitful influence even further.

To protect their new family from the wrath of a malicious deity and the zealots who work in her name, Celia and Anya must unmask the biggest lie of all—Profeta itself.

Review

**Thank you to HMH Books for Young Readers, Netgalley, and Kim Smejkal for a copy of this ebook in exchange for an honest review**

Ink in the Blood is a dark fantasy with cult/religious involvement, magic, and sacrificing for the greater good. Our MC Celia looks to escape Profeta, the church, in which she was conscripted against her will to be an Inkling. Inklings have the ability to tattoo other people with the church’s instructions on how to change their lives. Celia comes to see the corruption within the church, and with the help of a fellow Inkling, Anya, she escapes with a traveling comedy group.

It took me about 60% percent of this book to really get into it, which was part of why the rating on this is lower. Once I got into it I finished it in one sitting, but it took me awhile to get to that point because it didn’t capture my attention. I want books that will hook me immediately, and this one was not the case. There was a lot of backstory given in the beginning with world-building, but it wasn’t the kind of world-building that drew me in.

The magic in this book fascinated me – I knew I wanted to review it when I saw the tattooing was the magic. I didn’t realize the level of religion involved, which also brought it down a bit for me. Something about this book didn’t sit right with me and I’m having a hard time narrowing down what it was. I almost wish the church had less of a hold on people in the book, because it really portrayed the general population as sheep, incapable of thinking for themselves or making their own decisions.

One thing I loved about this book was the romantic interest for Celia. The Plague Doctor reminded me of Jacks from the Caraval series and I loved it. He is a soft, broken boy who comes across as villainous and detached until she is able to break him down. Swoon. Celia was a good enough MC – she isn’t perfectly moral and she isn’t completely evil, she’s somewhere in the middle like the rest of us.

I do plan on reading the sequel when it is released, because the ending really surprised me. There were some lovely twists and turns in the last 25% of the book that I wasn’t able to see coming, so it helped the overall experience of this book for me. I’m hoping now that the world is set up, the sequel will be more action packed and attention grabbing.

Happy reading, bookish friends! 🙂

eARC Review – The Stars We Steal

Title: The Stars We Steal

Author: Alexa Donne

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Publication date: February 4th, 2020

400 pages

5/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

Engagement season is in the air. Eighteen-year-old Princess Leonie “Leo” Kolburg, heir to a faded European spaceship, only has one thing on her mind: which lucky bachelor can save her family from financial ruin?

But when Leo’s childhood friend and first love Elliot returns as the captain of a successful whiskey ship, everything changes. Elliot was the one that got away, the boy Leo’s family deemed to be unsuitable for marriage. Now, he’s the biggest catch of the season and he seems determined to make Leo’s life miserable. But old habits die hard, and as Leo navigates the glittering balls of the Valg Season, she finds herself failing for her first love in a game of love, lies, and past regrets.

Review

**Thank you to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Netgalley, and Alexa Donne for a copy of this ebook in exchange for an honest review**

I previously read Alexa Donne’s debut novel, Brightly Burning and wasn’t super thrilled with the book – but I loved the writing and when I see Bachelorette… coupled with SPACE… I know that’s a book I 100% need to read, and it did NOT disappoint. Leo is the Princess of her ship in space – where these titles are still used to create a classist society, even when it’s totally not necessary. The Valg is their way of creating marriages (that aren’t with your cousins…) among the elite, rich, and/or titled young people. Leo is participating in The Valg to find a rich husband, because her family is in dire need of funds, not because she wants to. As the oldest child of a man who spends money faster than it could possibly come in, she needs to be the adult and keep their spaceship afloat. Enter, her ex-fiance Elliot whom her family made her break the engagement to because he didn’t have money. Now? He is the sole heir to a prosperous whiskey ship and has plenty of money. Problem? He’s seriously pissed at her…

Ya’lllllll I loved this book. I read it all in one night because I could not put it down. Alexa Donne weaved so many elements together that you wouldn’t expect to work together, but pulled it off perfectly. I’m a huge sucker for Bachelor style plots, but it’s not JUST that. You have murder, intrigue, theft, Robin Hood-esque schemes, rebel groups, cyber attacks, AND wealthy extravagance from young people who have nothing better to do than be petty and make drama. Like, let’s gooo!

I am obsessed. Her writing worked so well with these elements and I found it SO much more enjoyable than her other classics spin in space. Currently starting a petition to re-write all the classics in a futuristic space society. Needs to happen.

The Stars We Steal, Alexa Donne’s second book, is a stand-alone space adaption of Persuasion by Jane Austen and will have you hooked from the first few pages. Leo is a strong character who is put in an untenable situation and trying to make the most of it. Pick it up if you enjoyed her first book, Brightly Burning, or are a fan of retellings and/or space!

Happy reading, bookish friends! 🙂

January Wrap-Up!

Happy end of January folks! It’s always the month that will never end, and I swear today is January 57th instead of the 31st. However, I still did not manage to read my entire planned TBR, but I got pretty darn close!

I ended up switching up some of the Netgalley books because I got approved for a few in early February at the last minute, so I had to switch some titles over to February’s TBR (check back tomorrow for that post!). I was a little stressed over this because I had 3 books due February 4th that I hadn’t read yet and only 9 days to read them all. BUT I managed it and my last second approval ended up being one of my favorite reads this month!

So without further ado, see below for my 16 finished books this month! I had a nice even split of physical books and ebooks, which was one thing I wanted to be more conscious of this year!

PHYSICAL BOOKS

  1. City of Fallen Angels (The Mortal Instruments #4), Cassandra Clare – 4.5/5 stars
  2. City of Lost Souls (The Mortal Instruments #5), Cassandra Clare – 3.75/5 stars
  3. City of Heavenly Fire (The Mortal Instruments #6), Cassandra Clare – 4.25/5 stars
  4. Lady Midnight (The Dark Artifices #1), Cassandra Clare – 4.25/5 stars
  5. Lord of Shadows (The Dark Artifices #2), Cassandra Clare – 4/5 stars
  6. Queen of Air and Darkness (The Dark Artifices #3), Cassandra Clare – 4.25/5 stars
  7. My Favorite Half-Night Stand, Christina Lauren – 3.75/5 stars
  8. Love Her or Lose Her (Hot & Hammered #2), Tessa Bailey – 4.5/5 stars

NETGALLEY ARC’S

  1. The Silvered Serpent (The Gilded Wolves #2), Roshani Chokshi – 4.25/5 stars
  2. The Shrike & the Shadows, Chantal Gadoury & A.M. Wright – 3/5 stars
  3. Unravel the Dusk (Blood of Stars #2), Elizabeth Lim – 4.5/5 stars
  4. Heart of Flames (Crown of Feathers #2), Nicki Pau Preto – 3.75/5 stars
  5. Break in Case of Emergency, Brian Francis – 3/5 stars
  6. The Kissing Game, Marie Harte – 3/5 stars
  7. The Gravity of Us, Phil Stamper – 4.5/5 stars
  8. When We Were Magic, Sarah Gailey – 5/5 stars

BOOKS I DID NOT GET TO AS PLANNED

All of these books have been bumped to February’s TBR, with some additions of course!

  1. The Women’s War (Women’s War #1), Jenna Glass – I’m actually about 170 pages into this right now, just couldn’t get super into it so moved onto something else!
  2. Queen of the Unwanted (Women’s War #2), Jenna Glass – couldn’t read it without read the first!
  3. The Wicked Fox (Gumiho #1), Kat Cho
  4. The Beckoning Shadow (The Beckoning Shadow #1), Katharyn Blair
  5. The Electric Heir (Feverwake #2), Victoria Lee
  6. Havenfall (Havenfall #1), Sara Holland

Overall, I don’t think I did too bad! I planned to read 19 books, and managed to read 16. Let me know in the comments how many books you accomplished, and if we read any of the same!

Happy reading, folks! And happy almost February!

eARC Review – How to Build a Heart

Title: How to Build a Heart

Author: Maria Padian

Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers

Publication date: January 28th, 2020

352 pages

4.25/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

One young woman’s journey to find her place in the world as the carefully separated strands of her life — family, money, school, and love — begin to overlap and tangle.  

All sixteen-year-old Izzy Crawford wants is to feel like she really belongs somewhere. Her father, a marine, died in Iraq six years ago, and Izzy’s moved to a new town nearly every year since, far from the help of her extended family in North Carolina and Puerto Rico. When Izzy’s hardworking mom moves their small family to Virginia, all her dreams start clicking into place. She likes her new school—even if Izzy is careful to keep her scholarship-student status hidden from her well-to-do classmates and her new athletic and popular boyfriend. And best of all: Izzy’s family has been selected by Habitat for Humanity to build and move into a brand-new house. Izzy is this close to the community and permanence she’s been searching for, until all the secret pieces of her life begin to collide.

How to Build a Heart is the story of Izzy’s journey to find her place in the world and her discovery that the choices we make and the people we love ultimately define us and bring us home.

Review

**Thank you to Algonquin Young Readers, Netgalley, and Maria Padian for a copy of this ebook in exchange for an honest review**

How to Build a Heart follows 16 year old Izzy Crawford as she handles high school, prejudice, and being part of a low income family. Her Mami is super strict and won’t let her hang out with her best friend, she pretends to everyone she doesn’t live in a trailer park, and she secretly wishes her life was different – and she’s also ALOT jaded. In comes Aubrey, a new freshman at her school that she takes under her wing (also her older brother is the hottest boy alive, Sam). Izzy starts down the path of a double life, hiding who she is from her new rich friends. When her family is nominated to receive a Habitat for Humanity home, her double life comes back to haunt her and she has to escape to some long lost family.

I had a hard time getting into this book in the very beginning, but once it hooked me I was HOOKED. I stayed up late to finish it and I have #NoRagrets. It’s not exactly a rags to riches story, but it has some similar features. I think the prejudice situations were handled well and I loved all the characters (except Roz, and I don’t apologize). I feel bad for Roz of course, but her personality was really grating, and it felt like all Izzy did for awhile was seek her approval because she was “cool”. I loved Sam and Aubrey’s character and I was really happy the “rich” family wasn’t prejudiced against the trailer park girl.

I loved the addition of the Habitat for Humanity plot line. I haven’t read a book where Habitat was mentioned, but it was so beautiful that this family was able to be built a Habitat house and I darn near cried when a lot of the town started pitching in – including long lost family.

I adored the little romance between Izzy and Sam – they had such a glorious connection and chemistry on paper. I think they brought out the best in each other and Same helped Izzy heal a bit. It was a really heartwarming and real feeling story, it just grabs hold and won’t let go.

Please go check this one out!

eARC Review – No, We Can't Be Friends

Title: No, We Can’t Be Friends

Author: Sophie Ranald

Publisher: Bookouture

Publication date: January 10th, 2020

295 pages

3.5/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

Everyone knows a girl like Sloane. She was always The Single One. She never brought a plus-one to weddings. She was the woman you’d set up with your single cousin. She joined ballroom dancing classes to meet men and was the queen of online dating. 

But then she met Myles. Perfect Myles, with denim-blue eyes and a dazzling smile that melted her insides. She’d finally found The One. 

Except she didn’t imagine that Myles’s idea of Happy Ever After would include Sloane battling an overflowing laundry basket, buying birthday cards for his family, and ironing his Calvin Klein underpants. 

Then Sloane finds out that Myles has a secret. 

The fairy tale is well and truly over. Her heart is blown to smithereens. Eating her weight in Ben & Jerry’s and large Meat Feast pizzas can only get Sloane so far before she has to make a decision… Can she learn to love herself more than she loved the love of her life? 

Review

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

Sophie and Myles are married and Sophie has everything she thought she wanted in life. She has a great job that she absolutely loves, and adoring husband, and is getting ready to try for a baby. One small problem? Myles is cheating and her whole world view flips upside down. It takes her some time to figure out how to handle the situation, while drawing strength and inspiration from her friends and clients at work. She becomes homeless, but over the course of the book everything works out for her, helped along by carefully placed moments that change her thought process and decisions. Myles is scum, but she learns she is more than her marriage – and it’s important to love yourself, not just your husband.

I really didn’t think I was going to finish this book, the first part has a lot of issues due to the crumbling relationship of Sophie and Myles. Myles is clearly cheating, and Sophie just needs to have her “aha” moment and leave him. However, when she finally confronts him, he gaslights her so bad she starts to second guess herself. I really wasn’t sure where the author was going with it, but gaslighting is my hands down least favorite part of any book that features it. It’s such a tired cliche and I was worried the book would just follow in that vein and annoy the crap out of me. BUT! Sophie really has a transformative journey and I’m glad I stuck with it. I really loved the characters (especially the side characters) and the side stories were fun and interesting.

I am so glad the author moved past the gaslighting plot line and Myles got called out the way he deserved (if you read this, you’ll know the part I’m talking about!). It was really great to see Sophie grow as a person into her life, even though she takes several hard knocks.

Y’all should read this if you have a terrible ex, because you could definitely relate. No, We Can’t Be Friends is a solid, quick chick lit read for those who gravitate to this genre. It’s also set in Britain, so the British slang was fun to read for an American like me.

Happy reading, bookish friends! 🙂

Book Review – My Favorite Half-Night Stand

“I should have been more offended. But I only have one emotion, and it’s hunger.”

Title: My Favorite Half-Night Stand

Author: Christina Lauren

Publisher: Gallery Books

Publication date: December 4th, 2018

384 pages

3.75/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

Millie Morris has always been one of the guys. A UC Santa Barbara professor, she’s a female-serial-killer expert who’s quick with a deflection joke and terrible at getting personal. And she, just like her four best guy friends and fellow professors, is perma-single.

So when a routine university function turns into a black tie gala, Mille and her circle make a pact that they’ll join an online dating service to find plus-ones for the event. There’s only one hitch: after making the pact, Millie and one of the guys, Reid Campbell, secretly spend the sexiest half-night of their lives together, but mutually decide the friendship would be better off strictly platonic.

But online dating isn’t for the faint of heart. While the guys are inundated with quality matches and potential dates, Millie’s first profile attempt garners nothing but dick pics and creepers. Enter “Catherine”—Millie’s fictional profile persona, in whose make-believe shoes she can be more vulnerable than she’s ever been in person. Soon “Catherine” and Reid strike up a digital pen-pal-ship…but Millie can’t resist temptation in real life, either. Soon, Millie will have to face her worst fear—intimacy—or risk losing her best friend, forever.

Review

You’re honestly too good for me, but it doesn’t mean that I don’t want you anyway.

Christina lauren, my favorite half-night stand

I’m back with another CLo read! I picked this up from Barnes and Noble because it was one of their half off sale books and I’ve loved all the CLo books I’ve read so far. Whereas this one was not my favorite, I still enjoyed reading it and I will still read everything they have, and will, write!

Millie is a college professor with not a lot of luck with dating. Neither does her 4 best friends, all straight men who also can’t seem to navigate the dating scene. Millie’s never considered any of her friends as possible romances, until she drinks too much wine one night and jumps Reid’s bones. Reid lets it happen, and they both end up confused afterwards. The gang decides to make a pact to use a dating app to find a date to the university’s black tie gala, and they can’t take each other. Millie doesn’t have much luck, so she creates a fake persona on the site and matches with Reid. She tries to play it off so he realizes it is her, but he doesn’t. What started as a fun gag gets out of hand, and Reid is starting to like her alternate persona more than her. What’s a girl to do when her best guy friend wants to date the fake, online version of her?

My major, major critique of this book is the catfish plot. It really doesn’t seem believable that this would happen. Also, Millie was kind of an annoying character as she got bad at Reid for being into the alt version of her… which is still actually her? It got a bit confusing what she was mad about after awhile. While this is happening, the real her is also still sleeping with Reid?? So confused.

The hook up happened too soon, as in the first 2 chapters. We barely have any information on these characters and they are already boning. It’s hard to believe they “never considered it before” when it happened almost immediately.

Frankly, the side characters were scads more interesting than Millie and Reid. I wanted more information on the other 3 guys, and hell even Reid’s parents after the scene where they all visit for Reid’s birthday. The side characters were somehow more fleshed out than the main characters, and I was rooting more for them than Millie and Reid.

Outside of all that, I still love CLo books. I read it all in one day and their books are always easy, breezy books that I don’t have to think so hard about. I love reading them after a heavy Fantasy novel just to come back to earth and real life. But honestly, this book just made me want to read The Unhoneymooners again.

Happy reading, folks!