eARC Review – The Code for Love and Heartbreak

Title: The Code for Love and Heartbreak

Author: Jillian Cantor

Publisher: Inkyard Press

Publication date: October 6th, 2020

304 pages

3.5/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

Emma Woodhouse is a genius at math, but clueless about people. After all, people are unreliable. They let you down—just like Emma’s sister, Izzy, did this year, when she moved to California for college. But numbers…those you can count on. (No pun intended.)

Emma’s senior year is going to be all about numbers, and seeing how far they can take her. When she and George, her Coding Club co-president, are tasked with brainstorming a new project, The Code for Love is born—a matchmaking app that goes far beyond swiping, using algorithms to calculate compatibility. George disapproves of Emma’s idea, accusing her of meddling in people’s lives. But all the happy new couples at school are proof that the app works. At least at first.

Emma’s code is flawless. So why is it that perfectly matched couples start breaking up, the wrong people keep falling for each other and her own feelings defy any algorithm? Emma thought math could solve everything. But there’s nothing more complex—or unpredictable—than love.

Review

A retelling of Jane Austen’s Emma, The Code for Love and Heartbreak follows math nerd Emma as she is beginning her senior year. She is co-president of the coding club, along with George, her sister’s boyfriend’s little brother and her prime rival for valedictorian. Emma doesn’t understand people, but she does understand numbers, and she needs a great idea for her coding club project so she can win in her senior year and get into Harvard. So, she comes up with the idea to create a system to match couples up in her school for dances. It starts off so well, but when couples start breaking up, Emma must rethink her approach to the math, and maybe even love.

This book was super cute, and reminded me of high school when we did matching services. I love reading about coding, I have no idea why but it really interests me in books. I liked the competition aspect of the plot line, and how the lessons in this book aren’t just about life and love, but also about friendship and what it means to be a friend. Emma really grows and changes during the book, which is always a great plot line.

One thing that I didn’t like is that Emma was unnecessarily mean at points in this book. Like, in most stories there is a conflict, where the MC loses friends, alienates people, etc. But I felt like it went too far in this book, and bordered on actual bullying. The same effect could’ve been manufactured without turning Emma into someone who says horribly mean and rude things to her friends.

Overall, the story was adorable and the way the love story progressed was super cute. It was a solid friends to lovers, and the big romantic gesture was super nerdy yet adorable. The main themes of this book were good, I just couldn’t give it a full 4 stars due to the issues I had with Emma.

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

Happy reading, folks!

eARC Review – Legendborn

Title: Legendborn (Legendborn #1)

Author: Tracy Deon

Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books

Publication date: September 15th, 2020

512 pages

5/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

After her mother dies in an accident, sixteen-year-old Bree Matthews wants nothing to do with her family memories or childhood home. A residential program for bright high schoolers at UNC–Chapel Hill seems like the perfect escape—until Bree witnesses a magical attack her very first night on campus.

A flying demon feeding on human energies.

A secret society of so called “Legendborn” students that hunt the creatures down.

And a mysterious teenage mage who calls himself a “Merlin” and who attempts—and fails—to wipe Bree’s memory of everything she saw.

The mage’s failure unlocks Bree’s own unique magic and a buried memory with a hidden connection: the night her mother died, another Merlin was at the hospital. Now that Bree knows there’s more to her mother’s death than what’s on the police report, she’ll do whatever it takes to find out the truth, even if that means infiltrating the Legendborn as one of their initiates.

She recruits Nick, a self-exiled Legendborn with his own grudge against the group, and their reluctant partnership pulls them deeper into the society’s secrets—and closer to each other. But when the Legendborn reveal themselves as the descendants of King Arthur’s knights and explain that a magical war is coming, Bree has to decide how far she’ll go for the truth and whether she should use her magic to take the society down—or join the fight.

Review

Meet Bree, a 16 year old girl from rural North Carolina. Her mother just tragically died in a car accident, and she is headed to UNC for an Early College program. Her first night there, she heads to a party off campus and encounters something strange… magic. She’s busted for being off campus and has a mentor assigned to her. Nick, a 2nd year EC student, is with her when she experiences magic, and a magical being for the second time. Not only is he not surprised at this, he fights it off and leaves Bree very confused. Enter the legend of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. In a whirlwind, Bree is brought into a secret society and starts to learn magic, as she comes to believe her mother’s death was NOT an accident. But the fact that she knows anything about magic is dangerous, because she is different and has separate abilities. Her Southern Black Girl Magic threatens the White Boy’s Club that is the Order, and Bree must fight for her life.

WOW oh WOW. I loved this book so much! Hands down, Legendborn will be in my top five for the year. Everything about this book pulled me in and kept me captivated until the very end. I am absolutely obsessed. The writing is superb, the characters are interesting, insightful, and dynamic, and the plot is action packed and filled with plot twists and shocking moments. I adored the romance and would have even loved more of it. Bree’s struggle with racism from the Order, the school, and police along the way was so well written, and Bree was really given a strong voice to push back against the rhetoric.

The magic system is very complex and there is a lot of information about the Order given, which can be hard to grasp. It isn’t info-dumped, it’s sprinkled in along the way and it was like creating a word map throughout the story for all the different elements. More information was introduced through to the very end, so if you prefer books with a carefully laid out magic system and world-building in the beginning, this may not be the book for you.

With a splash of Cassandra Clare’s Shadowhunters and a sprinkle of ACOTAR, Tracy Deonn has created a rich world not too different from our own, but one where demons exist and the past needs to be told from all perspectives in order to be understood. Legendborn is a retelling involving a secret school society and black girl magic in a part of the world that is still working towards anti-racism.

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 – Ever Cursed

Title: Ever Cursed

Author: Corey Ann Haydu

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Publication date: July 28th, 2020

304 pages

4.5/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

Damsel meets A Heart in a Body in the World in this incisive and lyrical feminist fairy tale about a princess determined to save her sisters from a curse, even if it means allying herself with the very witch who cast it.

The Princesses of Ever are beloved by the kingdom and their father, the King. They are cherished, admired.

Cursed.

Jane, Alice, Nora, Grace, and Eden carry the burden of being punished for a crime they did not commit, or even know about. They are each cursed to be Without one essential thing—the ability to eat, sleep, love, remember, or hope. And their mother, the Queen, is imprisoned, frozen in time in an unbreakable glass box.

But when Eden’s curse sets in on her thirteenth birthday, the princesses are given the opportunity to break the curse, preventing it from becoming a True Spell and dooming the princesses for life. To do this, they must confront the one who cast the spell—Reagan, a young witch who might not be the villain they thought—as well as the wickedness plaguing their own kingdom…and family.

Told through the eyes of Reagan and Jane—the witch and the bewitched—this insightful twist of a fairy tale explores power in a patriarchal kingdom not unlike our own.

Review

**Thank you to Simon Pulse, Netgalley, and Corey Ann Haydu for an early copy of this ebook in exchange for an honest review**

TW: sexual assault, eating disorders, insomnia, gaslighting

Ever Cursed is a fairytale style story of witches and royals. Don’t be fooled though, there are seriously dark themes in this book, on’s that need to be discussed and addressed. Several years ago a witch named Reagan cast the Spell of Without on the Princesses of Ever. Each one lost something that day – can’t eat, can’t sleep, can’t love, can’t hope, and can’t remember. The Queen was trapped in a glass box. The princesses must find a way to reverse the spell, or it will stay forever. In an unlikely twist, Reagan begins to help the princesses gather what is needed to reverse the spell. But will it be enough?

This story is told through alternating POV’s of Princess Jane, the oldest Princess, and Reagan. I thought Ever Curse was so well done, I finished it in just a few hours and just couldn’t put it down. Firstly, I loved the writing style. Ever Cursed is written in a fairy tale format so it seems very whimsical and fairy-like, but the tone of the book is very serious and tackles matter such as sexual assault, sexism, and conquering fears. It is a hard line to walk, but Haydu does it very well.

The characters aren’t exactly redeemable. If you’re looking for a book about perfect people, you won’t find it here. Everyone has made mistakes or done terrible things, but I think this story is more about fixing wrongs than being perfect. The character growth is real and Princess Jane comes to realize some terrible truths about her father, the King, and Reagan learns the real consequences of actions and magic.

I felt like the ending could have been stronger and had a better message it. The whole book ramped up to a pretty serious ending but it felt like it wasn’t given enough attention. For that reason, but overall rating was pulled down but I still very much enjoyed this books.

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 – House of Salt and Sorrows

“We are born of the Salt, we live by the Salt, and to the Salt we return.”

Title: House of Salt and Sorrows

Author: Erin A. Craig

Publisher: Delacourte

Publication date: August 6th, 2019

403 pages

4/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

In a manor by the sea, twelve sisters are cursed.

Annaleigh lives a sheltered life at Highmoor, a manor by the sea, with her sisters, their father, and stepmother. Once they were twelve, but loneliness fills the grand halls now that four of the girls’ lives have been cut short. Each death was more tragic than the last—the plague, a plummeting fall, a drowning, a slippery plunge—and there are whispers throughout the surrounding villages that the family is cursed by the gods.

Disturbed by a series of ghostly visions, Annaleigh becomes increasingly suspicious that the deaths were no accidents. Her sisters have been sneaking out every night to attend glittering balls, dancing until dawn in silk gowns and shimmering slippers, and Annaleigh isn’t sure whether to try to stop them or to join their forbidden trysts. Because who—or what—are they really dancing with?

When Annaleigh’s involvement with a mysterious stranger who has secrets of his own intensifies, it’s a race to unravel the darkness that has fallen over her family—before it claims her next.

Review

Nights like this were meant to be shared, remembered, and talked about for years. Skies like this were meant to be kissed under.

Erin A. Craig, House of Salt and Sorrows

In a retelling of 12 Dancing Princesses, Annaleigh is one of eight sisters left after four died tragically. The family has suffered so much loss, and Annaleigh can’t help but wonder if it’s too much loss to just be attributed to bad circumstances or coincidence. She starts to think the most recent death was a murder, so she starts investigates. The more she finds out, the more she realizes she has no idea what is happening in Highmoor – and everything and everyone is in question. Will Annaleigh figure out what’s happening before more death comes to call?

House of Salt and Sorrows is seriously dreamy and magical. Whereas it is a serious story with death and terrible things happening, you can’t not notice the fairytale feel and magical essence to the writing. I was able to read this book in one sitting, it captured and held my attention throughout. There was even a bit of a mystery element to it as you tried to figure out who is bringing the darkness down on the family – and I totally didn’t see the ending coming until it was there.

Annaleigh was a good narrator, she is a middle sister and is somewhere in the middle between oblivious and too suspicious, if that makes sense. Her older sister seems completely oblivious to everything happening around them, but one of her younger sisters seems too involved in the mystery – even seeing visions and ghosts. I think it was a good decision to make someone in the middle be the narrator, and then experience the whole spectrum from the outside.

I very much enjoyed House of Salt and Sorrows, and goodness just look at that cover?! Absolutely amazing. I loved that it was a standalone and the whole story was wrapped up in one book. If you’re looking for retellings with magical qualities, or a ghost story go check out House of Salt and Sorrows!

Happy reading, folks!

Book Review – Sky Without Stars

Title: Sky Without Stars (System Divine #1)

Authors: Jessica Brody & Joanne Rendell

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Publication date: March 26th, 2019

582 pages

4/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

A thief. An officer. A guardian. 

Three strangers. One shared destiny . . .

When the Last Days came, the planet of Laterre promised hope. But five hundred years later, it’s now a place where an extravagant elite class reigns supreme; where the clouds hide the stars and the poor starve in the streets; where a rebel group, long thought dead, is resurfacing.

Whispers of revolution have begun—a revolution that hinges on three unlikely heroes…

Chatine is a street-savvy thief who will do anything to escape the brutal Regime, including spying on Marcellus, the grandson of the most powerful man on the planet.

Marcellus is an officer—and the son of a traitor. Groomed to command by his legendary grandfather, Marcellus begins to doubt the government he’s vowed to serve when he discovers a cryptic message that only one person, a girl named Alouette, can read.

Alouette is living in an underground refuge, where she guards and protects the last surviving library on the planet. But a shocking murder will bring Alouette to the surface for the first time in twelve years…and plunge Laterre into chaos.

All three have roles to play in a dangerous game of revolution—and together they will shape the future of a planet.

Power, romance, and destiny collide in this sweeping reimagining of Victor Hugo’s masterpiece Les Misérables.

Review

This book is a chunker y’all. I picked Sky Without Stars up on a Barnes and Noble sale awhile back because this cover is gorgeous. I was lucky enough to receive an ARC of the next book, Between Burning Worlds, through Netgalley so it was time to dive into this world!

First off, I’ve recently become super into classics re-imagined in space. I’ve only read a few, but I’ve really enjoyed the ones I’ve read, even though I always thought the sci-fi genre was low on my list. Sky Without Stars is basically Les Mis in space, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The characters were interesting, while also having fatal flaws, which was a really good balance.

First off, the characters. I am here for them all (with a special shout-out to my girl, Chatine, who just can’t seem to get her shit together). I like how you get the story told in alternating POV’s – it goes back and forth between the three main characters; Chatine, Marcellus, and Alouette. They each have a distinct voice, which I think was very well done. I appreciate the differences between these three characters, and how you just know they will all be interconnected by the end somehow.

The plot was great. I really enjoyed the retelling aspect. There were parts that were a throwback to my high school History classes learning about the French Revolution (hey there guillotine) that really showed the class issues that were happening at the time. Humans are broken into three social classes; First Estate (royalty and nobles), Second Estate (middle class), and Third Estate (lower class and workers). You can really see how terribly the Third Estate is treated, and can totally understand why riots and rebellions are breaking out.

Lastly, I thought the Bastille adaptation was genius. A horrible prison built on an orbiting moon where people are sent to mine in hazardous conditions? LOVE IT (the concept, not the actual thing obvi). I thought it added a level of pressure to the story, because no one wants to be sent there. Also, a nod to the actual Bastille in France. It’s like a combination of Azkaban and the mines in the Ash Princess series.

As you can see, I can go on about this book for awhile. Some criticisms include the length, I don’t feel like it needed to be this long to get the point across, and the weird love triangle. I don’t mind love triangles, but this one was just strange. I don’t actually ship any of the budding relationships at this point, but we’ll see what the next book brings!

Happy reading, folks!

eARC Review – The Shrike & the Shadows

Title: The Shrike & the Shadows

Authors: Chantal Gadoury & A.M. Wright

Publisher: The Parliament House Press

Publication date: March 3rd, 2020

365 pages

3/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

Men have gone missing before.

The village of Krume is plagued by a haunted wood and a hungry witch. It’s been that way for as long as Hans and Greta can remember, though they have never seen the witch themselves; no one has. 

When men start to disappear once again in the cover of night – their bloody hearts turning up on doorsteps – the village falls into frenzied madness.

Hans and Greta, two outcast orphans, find themselves facing accusations of witchcraft and are met with an ultimatum: burn at the stake, or leave the village forever. 

With nowhere else to go, they abandon their only home. 

As they venture into the strange forest, their path is fraught with horrific creatures, wild and vivid hallucinations, and a mysterious man tied to the witch’s past.

The Shrike is watching, just beyond the deep darkness of the woods.

Review

**Thank you to The Parliament House Press, Netgalley, and the authors for a copy of this ebook in exchange for an honest review**

The Shrike & the Shadows gives us different version of Hansel and Gretel than we may be used to. Twins Hans and Greta are orphans living in the village of Krume. Their mother died from going into the woods, and their father died shortly after. The village thinks Greta is a witch and they are eventually cast out in to the woods for her ‘crimes’. The downside? There is a mysterious woman called ‘The Shrike’ that torments men in the village by seducing them and ripping out their hearts to put the outside their family’s house. The woods hold terrors the twins can’t even imagine, and the ending will be surprising.

I have never been a huge fan of the Hansel and Gretel fairy tale, and I didn’t like it much more in this book. I think I would have enjoyed it more if the characters were more interesting and redeemable. Hans screws Greta over from start to finish and Gretel is a doormat. She lets everything happen to her and her ‘innocence’ feels more like blank slate. I think her character should have been fleshed out more.

There was a level of dark and twisty to this book that was refreshing. It didn’t pull punches in that way and the terrors that Hans and Greta experience were interesting. Overall, this book wasn’t quite for me but if you like Hansel and Gretel, retellings, and dark & twisty than definitely check this out!

Happy reading, folks!

Book Review – A Curse So Dark and Lonely

Title: A Curse So Dark and Lonely (Cursebreakers #1)

Author: Brigid Kemmerer

Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing

Publication Date: January 29, 2019

484 pages

5/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

Fall in love, break the curse.

Cursed by a powerful enchantress to repeat the autumn of his eighteenth year, Prince Rhen, the heir of Emberfall, thought he could be saved easily if a girl fell for him. But that was before he turned into a vicious beast hell-bent on destruction. Before he destroyed his castle, his family, and every last shred of hope.

Nothing has ever been easy for Harper. With her father long gone, her mother dying, and her brother constantly underestimating her because of her cerebral palsy, Harper learned to be tough enough to survive. When she tries to save a stranger on the streets of Washington, DC, she’s pulled into a magical world.

Break the curse, save the kingdom.

Harper doesn’t know where she is or what to believe. A prince? A curse? A monster? As she spends time with Rhen in this enchanted land, she begins to understand what’s at stake. And as Rhen realizes Harper is not just another girl to charm, his hope comes flooding back. But powerful forces are standing against Emberfall . . . and it will take more than a broken curse to save Harper, Rhen, and his people from utter ruin.

Review

The choices we face may not be the choices we want, but they are choices nonetheless.

A Curse so dark and loney, brigid Kemmerer

It’s finally Friday! The end of the week always makes me so happy, even when I took two days off work in the beginning of the week! I started ACSDAL while away in Lewes, DE over the weekend and finished it all in one day. Vacation reading really is the best. I’ve had ACSDAL since Memorial Day and I’ve been super stoked to read it. After reading her most recent YA Contemporary, Call It What You Want, I knew I needed to read more of her work.

In a new Beauty and the Beast retelling, Kemmerer creates a kingdom that resides in a universe adjacent to ours. Emberfall was cursed when Prince Rhen messed around with an enchantress who went on to curse the kingdom. Rhen needs to make a woman fall in love with him, otherwise the curse will continue on forever while Emberfall is left defenseless. Oh, and at the end of every season Rhen turns into a scary monster, so there’s that.

Harper is the latest woman taken from Washington, DC for Rhen to charm. His Army Commander travels to DC to find women, though Harper wasn’t his first choice – just a concerned citizen who noticed a hulking man carrying and unconscious woman down an alleyway in a city. Totally normal. Harper is stolen from her very ill mother and brother who is doing unspeakable things to make up for their dad’s drug debts.

ACSDAL is a good retelling novel that follows the fairy tale pretty closely with the added benefit of some seriously snarky characters. Harper also has cerebral palsy, which adds a layer of disability rep. She is portrayed as not letting her CP stand in her way, but accepting her limitations and learning to work around then – without letting anyone believe she is lacking. To Rhen’s credit, he only underestimated her once in the beginning.

Kemmerer wove a tale that will captivate you and feel all the feels for Rhen, Harper, and Grey. The ending is a small level cliffhanger, but will lead into the next book seamlessly. This was also announced to be a trilogy, so I’m really excited to keep going in Harper and Rhen’s story for another two books – praying for a happy ending for my two love birds.

Happy reading, bookish friends 🙂