eARC Review – A Midnight Clear

Title: A Midnight Clear

Authors: Sam Hooker, Seven Jane, Alcy Leyva, Laura Morrison, Dalena Storm, Cassondra Windwalker

Publisher: Black Spot Books

Publication date: November 5th, 2019

3/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

Six stories of not-so-merry Yuletide whimsy from the authors of Black Spot Books. A woman so cold she hardens to ice on a winter’s eve. Risen from his grave before his time, a winter god alters the balance between seasons. A wolf’s holiday season is interrupted by a strange curse. From a murder at the Stanley Hotel to demons of Christmas past, present, and future, and a mad elf and Santa’s Candy Court, the authors of Black Spot Books share their love for winter holidays in this collection of dark winter tales, destined to chill your bones and warm your heart for the Yuletide season.

Review

**Thank you to Black Spot Books, the authors, and Netgalley for providing an ebook copy of this book in exchange for an honest review**

Written in the format of six short stories, all with a holiday theme or twist, A Midnight Clear brings six authors who reimagine the holiday season – sometimes in less than ideal ways. From Santa’s elves to Satan’s demons, human like wolves to a religious Solstice dilemma, A Midnight Clear questions what would happen if some of our fairy tales and traditions were turned upside down.

A Midnight Clear was a quick and easy read, likely because it was split into short stories. I certainly had my favorite of the stories and one’s I did not like as much – but I won’t bias you, dear reader, towards or against any. The writing in all short stories is well done, and the plots do make you think twice about the holiday season and what it all means. There was go cohesiveness to all the stories as well, which allowed the book to flow well through them.

As we move into the holiday season, anyone who likes to read holiday or Christmas inspired works should pick this up for a quick read.

Happy reading, bookish friends! 🙂

eARC Review – Gravemaidens

Title: Gravemaidens (Gravemaidens #1)

Author: Kelly Coon

Publisher: Delacorte Press (Random House Children’s)

Publication date: October 29th, 2019

416 pages

4/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

The start of a fierce fantasy duology about three maidens who are chosen for their land’s greatest honor…and one girl determined to save her sister from the grave. 

In the walled city-state of Alu, Kammani wants nothing more than to become the accomplished healer her father used to be before her family was cast out of their privileged life in shame. 

When Alu’s ruler falls deathly ill, Kammani’s beautiful little sister, Nanaea, is chosen as one of three sacred maidens to join him in the afterlife. It’s an honor. A tradition. And Nanaea believes it is her chance to live an even grander life than the one that was stolen from her. 

But Kammani sees the selection for what it really is—a death sentence.

Desperate to save her sister, Kammani schemes her way into the palace to heal the ruler. There she discovers more danger lurking in the sand-stone corridors than she could have ever imagined and that her own life—and heart—are at stake. But Kammani will stop at nothing to dig up the palace’s buried secrets even if it means sacrificing everything…including herself.

Review

**Thank you to Delacorte Press, Netgalley, and Kelly Coon for providing me an ebook copy of Gravemaidens in exchange for an honest review**

Gravemaidens is the first in a new duology about Kammani, a young woman who is trying to hold her family together after their fall from nobility, her mother’s death, and her father’s subsequent drinking problem. She is holding it all together until her sister, Nanaea is chosen to be a Sacred Maiden, one of three beautiful, young women who are chosen to follow their ruler’s path to the afterlife. Kammani seems to be the only person who does not see dying with the Lugal as a high honor, and is trying to save Nanaea’s life… whether she wants it or not.

What she comes to find out is that she has bigger problems that trying to save her sister. Her city-state of Alu is in danger as an unknown person is trying to kill the Lugal and take over as ruler. Only she can stop, but when she becomes the next target, she must fend for herself and decide who to trust.

Kammani is a STRONG, female character. I love her, and felt for her through the entire book. Nanaea did not deserve her, and frankly her character was wildly irritating and bratty. She is the reason this book dropped a star in my review. All other characters has redeeming qualities and were well described, but I can’t get over how badly Nanaea’s character sucks.

Kelly Coon has created a captivating world and a strong, female character to live in it. I look forward to reading the sequel when it releases in 2020.

Happy reading, bookish friends! 🙂

Book Review – Stealing Home

Title: Stealing Home

Author: Becky Wallace

Publisher: Page Street Kids

Publication date: July 9th, 2019

320 pages

4/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

Fight for your dreams, even if it means breaking a few rules.

Seventeen-year-old Ryan Russell has life perfectly planned. If she keeps up her hard work, one day she’ll take over the family business: owning the Buckley Beavers, a minor league baseball team, and become one of the only female General Managers in the sport.

But when the newest member of the Beavers, child-phenom Sawyer Campbell, shows up, Ryan’s carefully laid plans are thrown a major curveball. Sawyer is far more charming than the arrogant jocks she usually manages, his ambition rivals her own workaholic nature—and he’s completely out of bounds. Fraternizing is against every rule in the Beaver’s handbook.

Then Ryan’s divorced parents butt heads over the future of the Beavers, and her mom plans to sell her shares to a business group known for relocating teams. If this happens, Ryan’s dreams of becoming GM disappear. In a bid to save her future, she partners with Sawyer to use his star power to draw in sponsors who will keep the team in Buckley. But the more time she spends with him, the more impossible it becomes to play by the Beaver’s rules, and she can’t afford a strikeout on the path to her dreams.

Full count with two outs, Ryan’s one pitch away from losing the whole ball game.

Review

Stealing Home follows main character’s Ryan and Sawyer as they mutually fight for the futures they’ve been working towards their whole lives. Ryan wants nothing more than to be the General Manager of her dad’s minor league baseball team, The Buckley Beavers. She puts all of her spare time and effort into the team. Sawyer is trying to make it big in the MLB to help keep his family’s watermelon farm afloat. When Sawyer is drafted and sent to the Beavers, they have a chance to help each other out, or cause each other to fail in their dreams.

I thought Stealing Home was super cute. I’m a baseball fanatic, have been my whole life, so I adore reading baseball related books. Sawyer and Ryan were so cute together, even when they were trying not to be. They are both stubborn and motivated individuals, which is why they work so well together. The romance is very PG, with some long, lingering glances and heated exchanges.

The supporting characters are the reason I docked this book a star. Ryan’s mom and dad are not great characters (although they get SOME redemption at the end). I really felt bad for Ryan having to deal with them as people. Also, I felt like it was kind of ridiculous that she was 17 and doing all of the grunt work for her dad – like she didn’t have a life. I know it was her choice, but what dad does that?

Overall, this was a very cute, contemporary, sports novel. I enjoyed reading it and read it all in one day. It was fairly light and easy to read. Fans of Jenn Bennett and Brigid Kemmerer should check this one out!

Happy reading, bookish friends! 🙂

eARC Review – The Throne of the Five Winds

Title: The Throne of the Five Winds (Hostage of Empire #1)

Author: S.C. Emmett

Publisher: Orbit

Publication date: October 15th, 2019

704 pages

3.5/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

Two queens, two concubines, six princes. Innumerable hidden agendas. Yala, lady-in-waiting to the princess of a vanquished kingdom, must navigate their captors’ treacherous imperial court.

The Emperor’s palace — full of ambitious royals, sly gossip, and unforeseen perils — is perhaps the most dangerous place in Zhaon. A hostage for her conquered people’s good behavior, the lady Komor Yala has only her wits and her hidden maiden’s blade to protect herself — and her childhood friend Princess Mahara, sacrificed in marriage to the enemy to secure a tenuous peace.

But the Emperor is aging, and the Khir princess and her lady-in-waiting soon find themselves pawns in the six princes’ deadly schemes for the throne — and a single spark could ignite fresh rebellion in Khir.

And then, the Emperor falls ill, and a far bloodier game begins…

The Throne of the Five Winds is the first installment of the Hostage of Empire series, an intricate and ruthless East Asia-inspired epic fantasy trilogy perfect for fans of George R. R. Martin, Ken Liu, Kate Elliott, and K. Arsenault Rivera.

Review

**Thank you to Orbit, S.C. Emmett, and Netgalley for providing me a copy of this ebook in exchange for an honest review**

The Throne of Five Winds is a new Asian inspired Adult Epic Fantasy series that seems to gain inspiration from George R. R. Martin in political intrigue and battles for thrones. You have several nations, however the Empire of Zhaon dominates the novel, with it’s recent acquisition of neighboring land, Khir. In payment to their new overlords, Khir “Great Rider” sends his daughter, Mahara, to marry the Crown Prince of Zhaon. Yala, her best friend, is sent to serve as lady-in-waiting to Mahara. Both girls are very honorable and take their fate in silence.

The Throne of Five Winds has many characters, so it is hard to pin down a “main” character. There is 1 Emperor, 2 Queens, 2 Concubines, 6 Princes, 2 Princesses, Mahara, Yala, etc. It is very difficult, especially in the beginning to keep everyone straight. This is also due to them having traditional and similar Asian names. The chapters are told by different points of view, but aren’t denoted as such like usual, which makes it difficult to follow along as well.

I have many thoughts about this book. For one, the writing if very beautiful and flowery, but overdone for my taste. However, this is on brand for Asian inspired novels as well as Adult Epic Fantasy. There was very little that happened except pointed conversations and some general court intrigue for the first 70% of this book. I like to think of it like chess, where most of it was used to set up the events of the final quarter of the book, which then sets up the next book in the series. However, this got old at points and it was a struggle to keep interest in this book for that reason.

This being said, the last quarter of the book was fairly interesting. I think the second book will be more exciting because of how this one ended (no spoilers!). I did become invested in the characters, even the ones that were meant to create tension and turmoil by being bad. The ending brought this book up in rating for me, which I was happy to have happen.

I suggest The Throne of the Five Winds for fans of Epic Fantasy, Asian inspired stories, and George R. R. Martin. Readers should have good patience and interest in chess game style novels. Whereas this book was not always my cup of tea, I would suggest it for those who enjoy the above.

Happy reading, bookish friends! 🙂

Book Review – Spin the Dawn

Title: Spin the Dawn (The Blood of Stars #1)

Author: Elizabeth Lim

Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers

Publication date: July 9th, 2019

392 pages

4.5/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

Project Runway meets Mulan in this sweeping YA fantasy about a young girl who poses as a boy to compete for the role of imperial tailor and embarks on an impossible journey to sew three magic dresses, from the sun, the moon, and the stars.

Maia Tamarin dreams of becoming the greatest tailor in the land, but as a girl, the best she can hope for is to marry well. When a royal messenger summons her ailing father, once a tailor of renown, to court, Maia poses as a boy and takes his place. She knows her life is forfeit if her secret is discovered, but she’ll take that risk to achieve her dream and save her family from ruin. There’s just one catch: Maia is one of twelve tailors vying for the job.

Backstabbing and lies run rampant as the tailors compete in challenges to prove their artistry and skill. Maia’s task is further complicated when she draws the attention of the court magician, Edan, whose piercing eyes seem to see straight through her disguise.

And nothing could have prepared her for the final challenge: to sew three magic gowns for the emperor’s reluctant bride-to-be, from the laughter of the sun, the tears of the moon, and the blood of stars. With this impossible task before her, she embarks on a journey to the far reaches of the kingdom, seeking the sun, the moon, and the stars, and finding more than she ever could have imagined.

Steeped in Chinese culture, sizzling with forbidden romance, and shimmering with magic, this young adult fantasy is pitch-perfect for fans of Sarah J. Maas or Renée Ahdieh.

Review

“Seize the wind,” I whispered. “Don’t become the kite that never flies.”

Elizabeth lim, spin the dawn

Spin the Dawn follows Maia, the only daughter of a renowned tailor. Her three brothers did not have her talent for tailoring, but women are not allowed to have jobs or run a shop, so she would never be able to fulfill her dream. After her mother dies, her father falls into a great depression and she must keep the shop alive by completing all the work. Her brothers are drafted into the army and she is left alone to run the family. When two of her brothers die at war and the third comes back unable to walk, she knows something must be done. A Crown messenger shows up at the door requiring her father to enter a competition to be the new future Queen’s personal tailor, but he is in no shape to go. Ala Mulan, Maia knows what she must do – she must go in her father’s place and win the competition, or die trying.

Y’all, Mulan was always my favorite Disney movie. It was the first that portrayed Princesses and women as anything but helpless, waiting for a man to come save them. I also used to be obsessed with Project Runway during the early seasons. So when I saw this book billed as Mulan meets Project Runway, I knew I needed to read it – and it did not disappoint. Shoutout to Owlcrate for knowing I needed this and including it in a monthly box.

Maia goes through such a journey during this book to find herself and her worth. She is sent on an impossible quest with a man that will try her every nerve, but also soften every edge. She will give up anything to save her family and those she loves, even if it is from herself. I loved her character.

One thing I will note about this book is that I felt the love story happened too quickly. The trope was enemies to lovers, but the transition went wayyy to quickly in my opinion. I felt it was rushed and really didn’t need to be.

I cannot wait for the sequel, Unravel the Dusk, to be released. I must know what happened to my baby Maia after that ending!!

Happy reading, bookish friends! 🙂

Book Review – The Right Swipe

Title: The Right Swipe (Modern Love #1)

Author: Alisha Rai

Publisher: Avon Books

Publication date: August 6th, 2019

387 pages

4/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

Alisha Rai returns with the first book in her sizzling new Modern Love series, in which two rival dating app creators find themselves at odds in the boardroom but in sync in the bedroom.

Rhiannon Hunter may have revolutionized romance in the digital world, but in real life she only swipes right on her career—and the occasional hookup. The cynical dating app creator controls her love life with a few key rules:

– Nude pics are by invitation only

– If someone stands you up, block them with extreme prejudice

– Protect your heart

Only there aren’t any rules to govern her attraction to her newest match, former pro-football player Samson Lima. The sexy and seemingly sweet hunk woos her one magical night… and disappears.

Rhi thought she’d buried her hurt over Samson ghosting her, until he suddenly surfaces months later, still big, still beautiful—and in league with a business rival. He says he won’t fumble their second chance, but she’s wary. A temporary physical partnership is one thing, but a merger of hearts? Surely that’s too high a risk…

Review

Every time you hurt someone, you break off a little piece of them. Not only do they have to live with that broken piece, then the next person who comes along has to figure out a way to spackle that spot. Your behavior has ripple effects.

Alisha rai, The Right Swipe

Rhi is exactly where she wants to be in life and she worked damn hard to get there, and she’s not about to waste her life on a relationship. Especially after her one night stand that she decided to bend her rules for, ghosted her… Everything was fine until he showed up on stage at a work event, working for her competition. See Rhi is the CEO and founder of a dating app and she has two main competitors. One is her manipulative ex-boyfriend who drove her out of the company, and the other is a site that’s so far behind the times it barely counts as competition. She wants to buy the site to finally get a win against her ex. The problem is… it’s the site her ghoster is working for…

The Right Swipe follows Rhi as she tries to navigate her relationship with the man who ghosted her, Samson. There is still an intense connection between them, but she has to decide if she wants to give him a second chance. It also follows her journey in trying to build her business even high and acquire her competitor.

Rhi is a strong, independent woman who knows exactly what she wants, and it is so good to read a romance novel where the woman has her own life outside of the main love interest. Without Samson, she is still a strong, independent woma.

There are some smutty, love scenes – but nothing over the top or graphic. Some details and explanations but it’s not the new Fifty Shades. Mild trigger warning for sexual harassment and the blow back of accusing your abuser. There is always mention of mental health in the form of social anxiety by Rhi’s best friend, Katrina.

The Right Swipe is the first in a new series by Alisha Rai. The next book, Girl Gone Viral, is releasing in April 2020. If you are a fan of Contemporary Romance or Tessa Bailey, this book will be for you.

Happy reading, bookish friends! 🙂

October TBR

Happy spooky October! October is my birth month and also Halloween and the beginning of the holiday season (in my mind) so it’s one of my favorite months of the year. It’s currently 90 degrees in Baltimore so it’s not feeling super fall like, but I can’t wait to curl up in flannel with a cup of hot cider reading a book. All time favorite thing to do in the fall. So below are the books I will hopefully be doing that with this month! Still hardcore behind on Netgalley but it’s fine!!! I’m ok!!

PHYSICAL BOOKS

  1. The Girl the Sea Gave Back – Adrienne Young
  2. Stalking Jack the Ripper – Kerrie Maniscalco

NETGALLEY EARC’S

  1. The Throne of the Five Winds – S. C. Emmett
  2. A Midnight Clear – Sam Hooker, et al
  3. Coral – Sara Ella
  4. The Wickerlight – Mary Watson
  5. A Violet Fire – Kelsey Quick
  6. Safe Harbour – Christina Kilbourne
  7. All That’s Bright and Gone – Eliza Nellums
  8. Good Girls Lie – JT Ellison
  9. Hearts, Strings, and Other Breakable Things – Jacqueline Firkins
  10. The Map From Here to There – Emery Lord
  11. Don’t Read the Comments – Eric Smith
  12. The Silvered Serpents – Roshani Chokshi
  13. The Stars We Steal – Alexa Donne
  14. A Love Hate Thing – Whitney D. Grandison
  15. Ink in the Blood – Kim Smejkal
  16. The Sounds of Stars – Alechia Dow

Any of these books grace your list as well? Let’s talk in the comments!

Happy reading, bookish friends! 🙂