Sunday, November 20, 2022

The Family Across the Street - Nicole Trope

 


 
Title: The Family Across the Street 
Author: Nicole Trope
Format: E-book
Rating: 4 Stars 

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Sometimes, the most perfect families are hiding the most terrible secrets. How well do you know the people next door…?

Everybody wants to live on Hogarth Street, the pretty, tree-lined avenue with its white houses. The new family, 
the Wests, are a perfect fit. Katherine and John seem so in love and their gorgeous five-year-old twins race screeching around their beautiful emerald-green lawn.

But soon people start to notice: why don’t they join backyard barbecues? Why do they brush away offers to babysit? Why, when you knock at the door, do they shut you out, rather than inviting you in?

Every family has secrets, and on the hottest day of the year, the truth is about to come out. As a tragedy unfolds behind closed doors, the dawn chorus is split by the wail of sirens. And one by one the families who tried so hard to welcome the Wests begin to realise: Hogarth Street will never be the same again.

A completely gripping, twist-packed psychological thriller, perfect for fans of Liane Moriarty, Sally Hepworth and Lisa Jewell.

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I actually did a video review!  Watch it below, and as always, let me know if you've read the book and what you thought of it in the comments.











Friday, November 4, 2022

Blackmail and Bibingka - Mia P. Manansala

 

Title: Blackmail and Bibingka 
Author: Mia P. Manansala 
Format: Audiobook
Rating: 4 stars 

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When her long lost cousin comes back to town just in time for the holidays, Lila Macapagal knows that big trouble can't be far behind in this new mystery by Mia P. Manansala, author of Arsenic and Adobo.

It's Christmastime in Shady Palms, but things are far from jolly for Lila Macapagal. Sure, her new business, The Brew-ha Cafe, is looking to turn a profit in its first year. And yes, she's taken the first step in a new romance with her good friend, Jae Park. But her cousin Ronnie is back in town after ghosting the family fifteen years ago, claiming that his recent purchase of a local winery shows that he's back on his feet and ready to give back to the Shady Palms community. Tita Rosie is thrilled with the return of her prodigal son, but Lila knows that wherever Ronnie goes, trouble follows.

She's soon proven right when Ronnie is accused of murder, and secrets and rumors surrounding her shady cousin and those involved with the winery start piling up. Now Lila has to put away years of resentment and distrust to prove her cousin's innocence. He may be a jerk, but he's still family. And there's no way her flesh and blood could actually be a murderer...right?

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Blackmail and Bibingka is the third book in Mia P Manansala's Tita Rosie's Kitchen series.  This book, like the previous two in the series, solidly lives up to the mystery aspect.  

As soon as I started listening to this book I knew I was going to be delighted.  The book itself is well written, and the characters are as well rounded and developed as in the previous two books. In fact, this book takes things one step further when Lila's cousin Ronnie returns to town.  He's Tita Rosie's son, and meeting him helps give us some insight into Tita Rosie's past and family life before her husband and son just left her and skipped town.

With each new book in this series, the author takes us deeper into the lives of the characters.  We get a chance to learn more about them, their motivations, and who they are.  I love that in this book Lila's two best friends were more prominent.  We got to know them as not just her friends but her business partners (and people who put up with her being a nosy Nelly, and who even assisted her nosiness once in a while.) I enjoyed seeing even more of Jae Park, Lila's dating buddy and definitely future boyfriend.  He had this calm presence and was really good for Lila.  They get along well, and the chemistry they shared was spot on.

I liked the mystery in this book.  We start off thinking we know exactly who did the crime, Ronnie!  But of course we learn how wrong we are.  At a certain point you are able to really connect the dots and figure out what happened to Ronny's fiance, and the build up to get to that point is fantastic.  The author weaves in so many details and surrounds Ronny with enough people that you have to wonder at first who was having a little...fun, shall we say.

With each passing chapter, just enough is revealed that you have to keep going to find out more and solve the mystery.  And when you finally get it, it's great. Maybe I'm a little slow picking up on mystery stuff, but I had to really think about things before I figured out who did what.  BUT I enjoyed every little clue and every little aha moment throughout the book.

I also loved that we got to see Lila and her friends doing more with their business.  They opened a cafe called the Brew-Ha Cafe, where they have coffee, baked goods, and the cutest crafty items.  And seeing how they all work together in the cafe and as co-business owners is fantastic.  

Overall, in my opinion, this is a must read.  And, as always, if you've already read it, let me know what you thought in the comments. 

Saturday, October 22, 2022

What Makes a Worthy Book

I cross posted this on Medium.  I think this debate is important. 

 There is always this debate that crops up in the book world. What makes a book worthy and valuable.

  • YA books are NOT a genre in and of themselves. They are books that describe the general age range they were written for. YA books can be romance, sci-fi, fantasy, contemporary, and any other genre that exists.

Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Vespertine - Margaret Roberson

 

Title: Vespertine
Author: Margaret Rogerson 
Format: Audiobook
Rating: 4 Stars 

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The dead of Loraille do not rest.

Artemisia is training to be a Gray Sister, a nun who cleanses the bodies of the deceased so that their souls can pass on; otherwise, they will rise as spirits with a ravenous hunger for the living. She would rather deal with the dead than the living, who trade whispers about her scarred hands and troubled past.

When her convent is attacked by possessed soldiers, Artemisia defends it by awakening an ancient spirit bound to a saint’s relic. It is a revenant, a malevolent being that threatens to possess her the moment she drops her guard. Wielding its extraordinary power almost consumes her—but death has come to Loraille, and only a vespertine, a priestess trained to wield a high relic, has any chance of stopping it. With all knowledge of vespertines lost to time, Artemisia turns to the last remaining expert for help: the revenant itself.

As she unravels a sinister mystery of saints, secrets, and dark magic, her bond with the revenant grows. And when a hidden evil begins to surface, she discovers that facing this enemy might require her to betray everything she has been taught to believe—if the revenant doesn’t betray her first.

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I loved this book -and there's going to be a series!!!  There are not enough words to describe how much I loved this book, but I'll try (and I'll even throw in some gifs and memes just to really show you what I think.

The possession aspect: Hello! Who doesn't love a story about a good potential possession.  Watching Artemisia struggle with the revenant inside her and learn to hone who she was was AMAZING.


The characters were great. Artemisia was my favorite character, but the revenant was a close second.  I know, I know - the REVENANAT?! What am I thinking?  Well, I mean, it did try to possess Artemisia.... And it was well spoken, well written, and fairly devious. 


All the characters were great - well written and not as upstanding as you'd think considering they were nuns and a priest.  That made the story very intriguing and definitely added that extra air of fantastic and depth to the characters.  



I really enjoyed the writing and the narrator.  The author did a fantastic job weaving together a story filled with twists, surprises, and story points that really fit in well, and the narrator of the audiobook did a wonderful job bringing it all to life.  I'm really excited to see where the rest of the series goes.  There was a lot of tension, a lot of humor (surprisingly), and just overall some great writing. 


The book had more than enough twists and surprises, and Artemisia had a lot of great personality and a great ability to mess with her peers but also befriend them at the weirdest of times.  There's a reason she's my favorite character in the book. I'm trying really hard not to spoil anything, so let me just say: the sarcasm is ripe in this one. 


Overall, I personally cannot think of anything I didn't like about this book. It was great and I am hooked.  

If you've read this book, let me know what you thought in the comments!  

If you haven't read the book - what are you waiting for?!



Sunday, October 2, 2022

September Wrap Up


Hey reader friends!  Welcome to OCTOBER.  I feel like, once again, this year has flown by.  Anyway, I am here to share how September went for me.

I read a lot, and most of the books I read last month I really enjoyed.  Let's see if I can remember everything I read:

1. Vespertine - 5 stars, totally FANTASTIC.  This was one of the last books I read in September, and it was a great ending to the month.  (I'll have a review up soon.)


2. A Dark and Starless Night - 5 Stars again!  I LOVED this book.  You can find my review here


3. Hopepunk - 3 Stars - a good book that will both break your heart and make you deliriously happy. 

4. Back in the Burbs - Avery Flynn - 3 Stars.  Totally cute and sweet romance.  

5. The Comeback - Lily Chu - 3 Stars.  This was a great romance, and the characters were delightful.

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Were there any fantastic books you read in September that you want to share?  Let me know in the comments!  And if you've read any of the books I did, let me know what you thought!

Thursday, September 22, 2022

A Dark and Starless Forest - Sarah Hollowell

 

Title: A Dark and Starless Forest 
Author: Sarah Hollowell 
Format: Hardcover 
Rating: 5 stars 

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When her siblings start to go missing, a girl must confront the dark thing that lives in the forest—and the growing darkness in herself—in this debut YA contemporary fantasy for fans of Wilder Girls.

Derry and her eight siblings live in an isolated house by the lake, separated from the rest of the world by an eerie and menacing forest. Frank, the man who raised them after their families abandoned them, says it’s for their own good. After all, the world isn’t safe for people with magic. And Derry feels safe—most of the time.

Until the night her eldest sister disappears. Jane and Derry swore to each other that they’d never go into the forest, not after their last trip ended in blood, but Derry is sure she saw Jane walk into the trees. When another sibling goes missing and Frank’s true colors start to show, feeling safe is no longer an option. Derry will risk anything to protect the family she has left. Even if that means returning to the forest that has started calling to Derry in her missing siblings’ voices.

As Derry spends more time amidst the trees, her magic grows more powerful . . . and so does the darkness inside her, the viciousness she wants to pretend doesn’t exist. But saving her siblings from the forest and from Frank might mean embracing the darkness. And that just might be the most dangerous thing of all.
 

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Reader friends, let me tell you - this is one hell of a book.  I've been having trouble not telling everyone exactly what happened because one of the characters is JUST OVERWHELMING.  

I will try my best to keep this review spoiler free. 

The writing is good, it was good enough to help the story flow well and keep me hooked.  The story itself was fantastic - I found the plot worthy of being read. The sisters, their home, their world were all well written and well developed.  The big moments throughout the story were weaved into the smaller day to day things very well.  

I liked all the characters except Frank.  You'll see why if you read the book.  He has a motivation for why he does what he does, but the girls also have a motivation for why they do what they do - and it all evens out in the end.  Each of the girls was well written and well developed, and had their own personalities, their own things that made them who they are, their own reason for being, and their own powers that really drove home who they are as "alchemists."  (Franks word.  The girls later reclaim the word witch, and that really suits them.) 

The way this book shows that each girl has their own power is awesome - with the flowers, and the FLOWERS (You'll see.  Derry is amazing.) The flowers glow when each girl is tested on their abilities, and that helps Frank learn things, which weaves together everything else that happens in this book to Frank and to the girls. Each thing we see, from the flowers, to the hidden trail, to the deep dive into Franks private room, all weave more detail into this book and help us learn so much about what has happened and what will happen. 

The forest being written as this almost living breathing thing in the book was great.  The forest was its own character that felt so alive, and that really helped the girls in the end.  That added more dimension again because it was such an integral part of everything that happened in this story - without the forest and what it can do there is no story and no past for the characters. 

Basically, I found the whole book a little shocking, and wholly amazing. 



If you have not read this book yet and like horror fantasy, I highly recommend reading this book as soon as you can. And then coming back here and telling me what you thought about it.  

If you've already read it, drop some thoughts about it in the comments! 

Monday, September 5, 2022

The Comfort of Reading

 


Hi Friends.

There's always so much going on in the world.  People are dying, warring, fighting, and it feels like things are not getting better sometimes. There are many things we should keep up with in the world, but at the same time, we need to take a break.  We need to refresh ourselves through whatever works for us. For me, and for most of you reading this post, there is a deep comfort in reading. 

You can pick up your hardcover or paperback and feel the cover in your hands.  You can flip the pages and feel that fond feeling you get when touching a book. Or, if you're like me, you can pick up a kindle and read books that way as well. Turn it on, open whatever book you want, and read through it with the press of your finger. 

If you are an audio listener, also like me, you also turn to whatever platform you use for audiobooks. You can pick out a book, and let the narrator take you away while you listen to the words as they surround you. 

It's coming on autumn here in the northern hemisphere, which means it's spooky season. It's cover up under a blanket with a cup of hot coffee or tea and a book season.  I find that to be a comfort personally.  I love the feeling of starting a new story, and finding out where it's going to go.  I love the feeling of laughing out loud at some fabulous rom-com. I love entering a new fantasy world filled with swords, or magic, or dragons, or all three of those things. 

This is what brings me comfort.  I can't remember a time in my life when I didn't feel comforted by words and reading.  As a young kid, I dragged my parents into my bedroom and made them listen to me read when I nailed my first picture book. That was great.  As a middle grade reader I lost myself in The Babysitters Club books.  I devoured book after book after book about the adventures of Mallory, Kristy, and all their friends. 

When I was a teenager I got solidly into the Sweet Valley High books, and also developed a deep love of classics.  I am totally dating myself here, friends. Yes, I was, in fact, a teenager during the 90's.  That's the 1990's.  


Seriously though, I'm grateful for books, and I love that they welcome any and all people. Anyone can pick up a book by Tahira Mafi, or Leigh Bardugo, or the romance likings of Talia Hibbert and Abby Jimenez.  You can pick up any book that sounds appealing to you and read it and find an amazing comfort and feeling of joy in that book. 

As the publishing world changes again, and again, and again, I will simply continue to remember my love of books and the comfort they bring me, and will continue to fight so that all people who want to tell their stories with the world have the chance to do that.



Sunday, September 4, 2022

The Feeling of Falling in Love - Mason Deaver

 


Title: The Feeling of Falling in Love 
Author: Mason Deaver 
Format: Hardcover 
Rating: 4.5 Stars 

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From the bestselling author of I Wish You All the Best, comes a new kind of love story, about the bad decisions we sometimes make... and the people who help get us back on the right path.

Perfect for fans of Red, White, and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston and What If It's Us by Adam Silvera and Becky Albertalli.

Just days before spring break, Neil Kearney is set to fly across the country with his childhood friend (and current friend-with-benefits) Josh, to attend his brother's wedding—until Josh tells Neil that he's in love with him and Neil doesn't return the sentiment.

With Josh still attending the wedding, Neil needs to find a new date to bring along. And, almost against his will, roommate Wyatt is drafted.

At first, Wyatt (correctly) thinks Neil is acting like a jerk. But when they get to LA, Wyatt sees a little more of where it's coming from. Slowly, Neil and Wyatt begin to understand one another… and maybe, just maybe, fall in love for the first time…

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This was an absolutely adorable and yet sometimes heartbreaking novel.  I loved everything about it. 

The characters in this book were so so well written, even including Neil's transphobic and homophobic grandparents.  Like, I couldn't stand his grandparents, but yes, they were well written and I believed their characters and wanted to swear at them a lot and kick them in the kneecaps.Wyatt, Neil, Josh, Michael, Neil's mom - they were all very well written, and very believable.  It was great to see that.  

I loved that Neil went through some really great changes throughout this book, as did Wyatt and Josh.  Neil is a trans boy who has had, um, some sort of issues with the way he treats people.  He's not really kind when we first meet him.  When was at home with his mother he snuck out of the house so many times, and would take the car and get into 18+ clubs where he would just sit and hang out.  His mother got tired of this and sent him to a boarding school in N. Carolina.  Anyway, no more spoilers (I hope) but this is where he met Wyatt and also became, ahem, more than friends with Josh.

It was truly heartwarming to watch Wyatt learn about themselves as well.  Wyatt learns that it's okay to be who you are and they start dipping into learning more about themselves and their gender identity.  The author explores this learning with great care. 

Josh even learns and grows and realizes that yes, he was in love with Neil, but Neil wasn't really the person he was supposed to be with. He learns to look into himself and find out what he really wants in a boyfriend/partner.  

This whole book was also filled with humor and heart.  There were so many funny moments, and tropes that will make your little queer (or straight ally) heart very happy. Mason Deaver weaved in so much fun in this book, which is fair because you need fun on a cross country week long trip, amiright?! 

I personally feel like the book can be described fairly well with the following two pics: 



If you have read this book, let me know what you thought of it, and if you haven't GO DO IT NOW!












Sunday, August 28, 2022

Part of Your World - Abby Jimenez


Title: Part of Your World
Author: Abby Jimenez
Format: Paperback
Rating: 4 Stars 

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After a wild bet, gourmet grilled-cheese sandwich, and cuddle with a baby goat, Alexis Montgomery has had her world turned upside down. The cause: Daniel Grant, a ridiculously hot carpenter who’s ten years younger than her and as casual as they come—the complete opposite of sophisticated city-girl Alexis. And yet their chemistry is undeniable.

While her ultra-wealthy parents want her to carry on the family legacy of world-renowned surgeons, Alexis doesn’t need glory or fame. She’s fine with being a “mere” ER doctor. And every minute she spends with Daniel and the tight-knit town where he lives, she’s discovering just what’s really important. Yet letting their relationship become anything more than a short-term fling would mean turning her back on her family and giving up the opportunity to help thousands of people.

Bringing Daniel into her world is impossible, and yet she can’t just give up the joy she’s found with him either. With so many differences between them, how can Alexis possibly choose between her world and his?

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This book was the cute romcom i needed.  I absolutely loved every moment of this book. 

The characters were so fun (Except Jessica and Gabby - you'll see what I mean if you read it.)  I LOVED Alexis and Daniel.  They were both fantastic characters and they were so well developed and well written. Alexis started out not really being very self aware, but she grew so much throughout the book. It was great to see everything she learned about herself, her family, her ex, Daniel, and what she really wanted from life. It was wonderful to see her realize her family and her ex sucked and that some of the people she spent time with were not good people.  She realized a lot about herself that helped her change and grow into someone who actually wanted to help people and do good things. Daniel was able to look at who he was as well and learn that he was worth more than what he believed. He learned to be confident in his abilities and learn that he had value. 

I feel like the whole story was very well written and well developed. And in true Abby Jimenez fashion this book was absolutely hilarious. There were obviously some down moments (life isn't always funny, after all) but there were so many moments were I literally laughed my ass off.  Not only was the story well written but the characters were as well.  Also, there was clearly some GREAT chemistry between Alexis and Daniel - more than she ever had with Neil. 

The plot, like all romances, had the usual meet cute, romantic buildup, and the big event that made them wonder if they should really be together - and all those things worked so well together.  It was wonderful to watch these characters fall in love, and realize that they actually were in love, and fight for that love through some pretty shitty obstacles. Abby Jimenez did a really great job of writing characters that were well developed and who grew and learned about themselves throughout the course of the book.  They learned what they were willing to do, and Alexis learned that it was okay for her to stand up for herself and what she wanted instead of being bullied around by her dad.  

I will give a warning - this book covers the topics of both emotional and physical abuse.  If you feel like you can't read a book that has those topics in it, I would suggest skipping this book.  I appreciate that the author weaved those topics in with such sensitivity.  Getting out of an abusive situation can be hard, and it was great to see that both the characters who were abused were able to get the help they needed and to get away from their abusers.  If you are in that type of situation, please don't be afraid to get help.  It's not always easy but there are people out there who want to and will help in any way they can. 

This is definitely a book I'd recommend to all people who love rom-coms.  It's adorable and sweet.  If you've already read the book, drop me a comment and let me know what you thought of it! 













Thursday, August 18, 2022

Bout of Books - A Review

 


Hi Reader Friends - I hope you're having a delightfully bookish week.  I've been reading a lot this week, go figure.  AND here's what I've accomplished so far for that dear old friend called Bout of Books 


I finished 3 books that were already in progress: 

- Count Your Lucky Stars by Alexandria Bellefleur 
- Inconvenient Wife by Natasha Boyd 

I am having a massive fibro brain fart right now, and can't remember what the third book was that I finished!  Anyway, after completing those books, I started: 

- Devil's Knot by Mara Leveritt
- Part of Your World by Abby Jimenez 
- Long Story Short by Serena Kaylor 

So far, I've listened to 1.5 hours of audio and read over 300 pages, so I feel like it's been a pretty bang up week.  

If you're doing Bout of Books, how has everything been going for you?  If you're not doing Bout of Books - WHY NOT.  Ok, I'm slightly joking - but for penance you have to tell me the top 5 books you've read so far this year. 

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Bout of Books 35


 

Hey reader friends!  GUESS WHAT?!  It's almost time for Bout of Books 35.  Yep, I said 35.  

Bout of Books 35 starts next Monday August 15 - and I'm totally joining in, of course!  

If you've never heard of Bout of Books, here's a little description of it from their blog: 

The Bout of Books readathon is organized by Amanda Shofner and Kelly Rubidoux Apple. It’s a weeklong readathon that begins 12:01am Monday, August 15th and runs through Sunday, August 21st in YOUR time zone. Bout of Books is low-pressure. There are reading sprints, Twitter chats, and exclusive Instagram challenges, but they’re all completely optional. For all Bout of Books 35 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. - From the Bout of Books team

I hope you'll consider joining in - it's very, very fun! 

I have no list prepared for what I want to read - but when I make up a BoB TBR I'll keep you in the loop, reader friends! 






Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Romance Review Roundup

 


Hi reader friends!  Welcome to a mini romance book review.  I have three reviews for you for some very fun rom-com's you've got to read!  


Title: Sweet Talk
Author: Cara Bastone 
Format: Audiobook
Rating: 3 Stars 

Sweet Talk was a sweet cute book similar to Call me Maybe in the sense that the two main characters don't know who the other is in real life until the end of the book.  I should rephrase that - She knows who he is.  He has no idea who she is until the end of the book. And that's part of the fun!  

Both Eliot and the lady (whose name I forgot because it's not revealed until the end of the book) are both insomniacs. One night she accidentally drunk texts Eliot, which leads to the two of them getting to know each other via text message.  Their messages and conversations are filled with humor and candidness that makes it obvious they are interested in each other and have a good romantic connection. 

I loved the phone only contact they had that gave them a chance to develop a connection and get to know each other in a different way that worked for them.  I liked that she saw him dancing before they actually met face to face, and had the chance to see him and how he interacted with other people in a public setting.  I loved really the entire cute aspect of the book, and I'd definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a sweet cute rom-com to read.



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Title: The Break Up Artist
Author: Erin Clark and Laura Lovely
Format: Audiobook
Rating: 3 Stars 

Zelda had a little wine drinking adventure with her best friend one night, and they ended up hanging up posters all over town advertising an anonymous break up service ran by Zelda.  She made up an email address and people who wanted an impersonal letter written to the person they wanted to dump would email her - and she'd send said letter to the dumpee.  Great idea, right?  I don't think so, but it did lead to Zelda meeting a man. I had mixed feelings about this book. I loved that Zelda had a sweet romance, but I hated that she built her little outside of work hobby on breaking couples up. There's some stuff we find out part way through the book that makes you see why her little side hobby is devastating for people.  

Anyway, I loved that this book featured a disabled MC, and that it showed that disabled people are just like everyone else.  Things you can learn from this book:

* Wheelchair users are not different from the rest of us.  They can do a lot for themselves, and if they need help, they will let you know.
* Wheelchairs are an extension of a wheelchair users body - don't touch them unless you have permission!

Overall, this was a fun one time read. 



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Title: Call Me Maybe 
Author: Cara Bastone
Format: Audiobook
Rating: 4 Stars

This was THE CUTEST book!  I loved it so much   It definitely is my favorite out of the three in this post.  

Vera, frazzled and upset because her website keeps crashing, calls customer service and meets Kal, customer service rep extraordinaire!  They spend the next several days talking on the phone A LOT regarding her website.  During their chats, they order each other food, laugh about silly things that happened to them throughout their days, and generally flirt with each other in a very adorable way.  

I loved the way that Kal and Vera talked to each other.  They had this instant chemistry, even through just conversations. They both just had this vibe that fit with the other person.  

There was a lot of comedy throughout this book - tons of cute one liners, and the two MC's jabbing at each other a bit.  I felt like that added to the overall fun vibe this book had. It just fit with this book and really added a lot to what was going on. 

Watching the characters develop feelings for each other and then finally meeting in real life was so fun! I'd definitely recommend this book to anyone who loves rom-coms.

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If you've read any of these books let me know what you thought of them in the comments! 

Sunday, July 24, 2022

Two Truths and a Lie - April Henry


Title: Two Truths and a Lie 
Author: April Henry
Format: Hardcover 
Rating: 2.5 Stars 

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A group of teens are trapped in an old motel with a murderer in this chilling YA mystery by New York Times bestselling author April Henry.

Nell has always wanted to be an actor, but doubts her ability. As a member of her school’s theater program, she prefers working backstage. On the way to a contest, an unexpected blizzard strands her acting troupe in a creepy motel. Soon they meet a group of strangers from another high school—including the mysterious and handsome Knox, who insists they play the game Two Truths and a Lie. When it’s Nell’s turn, she draws a slip of paper inked in unfamiliar handwriting:

I like to watch people die.
I’ve lost count of how many people I’ve killed.


Suddenly a night of harmless fun turns into a matter of life and death. As guests go missing, it becomes clear that a murderer is hiding in their midst ready to strike again. In a room full of liars and performers, the truth is never quite what it seems. Nell is going to have to act like her life depends on it—because it does.

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Two Truths and a Lie had an interesting premise, and there were parts that were definitely thrilling and scary.  I don't know if I'd read it again, but it was a good one time read.  

I personally felt like it was pretty easy to figure out exactly who had committed the murders in the 80's.  BUT that's just me.  

Other than figuring out who exactly the bad guy was, I did enjoy trying to figure out what that person was going to try and when.  I thought there was some good tension and thrill in that aspect.  

Since I know what midwest winters can be like, I found the scene of them being trapped in a blizzard totally plausible.  (It happens - ask me about the night we spent in a school during my freshman year at a speech tournament.)  The weird creepy motel added even more to the story and made me never want to stay in some country motel ever!

When both groups of kids arrived at the motel, one group had an actual teacher with them, and the other group had a student teacher with them.  The actual teacher went to bed, stating she was going to take a sleeping pill and was not to be woken up until the following morning under any circumstances.  The student teacher stayed up all night with the kids and played games with them.  Don't be like either one of these adults.  That was very frustrating to me.  They both should have done a better job supervising the kids during that first night. 

I liked Travis's development throughout the book.  He had some things going on, but I think he was really a sweet guy who just wanted to make other people happy.  

The book was a quick read, and scary enough to keep me hooked.  If you want something that's thrilling yet quick, check it out.  

If you've read the book already, let me know what you thought! 

Wednesday, July 13, 2022

Eyes of the Forest - April Henry

 

Title: Eyes of the Forest
Author: April Henry 
Format: Hardcover 
Rating: 2 Stars 

SPOILERS AHEAD

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After a bestselling fantasy author disappears, only his biggest fan believes he’s in danger and has the courage to uncover the truth in this fast-paced mystery with a chilling psychological twist.

Bridget is RM Haldon's biggest fan. His epic fantasy series, Swords and Shadows, created a lifeline between Bridget and her mom as she lost her battle with cancer. When Bridget met Haldon at his only book signing, she impressed the author with her encyclopedic knowledge of the fantasy world he'd created. Bridget has been working for him ever since as he attempts to write his final book. Now, Haldon is missing, and Bridget is the only person who seems concerned. Can Bridget piece together Haldon’s clues and save him before it’s too late?

Master mystery-writer April Henry weaves another heart-stopping young adult thriller in this story that seamlessly blends suspense with fan culture. For readers of Courtney Summers and Karen McManus.

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I was told there'd be a thriller. There was, in fact, no thriller.  

This is the first April Henry book I've read, so I didn't know what to expect.  The only reason I rated this book two stars was because it was not, in my opinion, a thriller.  It was not this heart pounding, "That person's been kidnapped" story. Rather, it was a book we go into fully knowing that the author has been kidnapped, and who did it.

Bridget, the books MC, is a superfan of a local fantasy author whose books have been popular since before she was born.  She's continued holding them close to her heart because she read them with her mom, who died when Bridget was 12.  In the second chapter we learn that Bob, author of this beloved fantasy series, organized his kidnapping with a local teen - Derrick.  Bob knows Derrick because Derrick's mom is Bob's cleaner/secretary. 

Anyway, during this "kidnapping" Derrick brings Bob things, and forces Bob to write, then sells the writing to people in the dark web.  It's not until halfway through the book that Bridget, who was apparently drafted into helping Bob keep track of his books because she has an encyclopedic knowledge base of said book, realizes that something is wrong and emails Bob. This leads him to email her, and it takes her just as long to realize the email is a code and MY GOD IT WAS SO SLOW AND SO INSIPID. 

So, before I go and spoil anything else (sorry, kind of) let me tell you about the following:

The Characters. They were not well developed at all.  They were all pretty one dimensional with no depth and nothing to make me care about them, not even a little bit.  There was literally not a single character in this book that I genuinely liked and wanted to root for.  

The Writing.  Mediocre at best.  There was just enough there to make me want to finish just so I could see HOW Bob got out, but otherwise, the phrasing of things just fell flat. 

The Story.  BORING.  The last time I was this bored reading a book that was supposed to be thrilling was when I read Lucy Foley's The Guest List.  When you know what's happening from the very beginning, it sort of takes all the fun out of it.

Friends, if you've read this book, I'm sorry.  And if you haven't read this book, DON'T.  

Drop some recs for awesome YA and adult thrillers and horror in the comments if you've got them!

Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Chef's Kiss - TJ Alexander

 

Title: Chef's Kiss 
Author: TJ Alexander 
Format: Paperback
Rating: 5 Stars 

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A high-strung pastry chef’s professional goals are interrupted by an unexpected career transition and the introduction of her wildly attractive nonbinary kitchen manager in this deliciously fresh and witty queer rom-com.

Simone Larkspur is a perfectionist pastry expert with a dream job at The Discerning Chef, a venerable cookbook publisher in New York City. All she wants to do is create the perfect loaf of sourdough and develop recipes, but when The Discerning Chef decides to bring their brand into the 21st century by pivoting to video, Simone is thrust into the spotlight and finds herself failing at something for the first time in her life.

To make matters worse, Simone has to deal with Ray Lyton, the new test kitchen manager, whose obnoxious cheer and outgoing personality are like oil to Simone’s water. When Ray accidentally becomes a viral YouTube sensation with a series of homebrewing videos, their eccentric editor in chief forces Simone to work alongside the chipper upstart or else risk her beloved job. But the more they work together, the more Simone realizes her heart may be softening like butter for Ray.

Things get even more complicated when Ray comes out at work as nonbinary to mixed reactions—and Simone must choose between the career she fought so hard for and the person who just might take the cake (and her heart).

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I absolutely adored this book.  The author did a great job of melding together two of my favorite things: Food and Romance. 

Simone and Ray were wonderfully written characters and I fell in love with both of them.  They were both well written and well developed.  It was fantastic to watch them both go through the changes they did and the self discovery they both experienced throughout the novel.  Simone really opened up and learned that it was okay to be more open not only with other people, but also with herself.  Ray had a lot to do with that because they were so open and so honest with Simone about who they were and what they wanted, and I think that showed Simone that she could be herself, even in the face of complete jackasses like Chase.

Speaking of Chase, he was one character in this book that I absolutely LOATHED.  He was a toady, ignorant jerk.  Ray came out to Simone as non-binary.  They then made the decision to come out to the rest of the employees of The Discerning Chef.  Most of the people who worked there were like "Okay, cool.  You are who you are." But Chase and some of the TDC execs were so awful to Ray.  These people would intentionally misgender Ray, using feminine pronouns for them, instead of they/them pronouns.  Chase would also repeatedly use Ray's dead name even after Ray told him they are called Ray.  It was absolutely infuriating.  Simone and several other employees really had Ray's back, and really worked hard to make sure they were all open to and accepting of Ray. 

I feel like this story was really well developed, and it drew me in from the beginning.  It also made me wish that Ray and Simone were real people doing real videos about beer and food because the videos they made together in the book sounded epic!  The author did a great job of developing the romance and chemistry between Simone and Ray, and also did a wonderful job of showing how hard it was for Ray to come out and be vulnerable in a place where a lot of people didn't accept them for who they are. 

Watching the characters get to know each other and develop these awesome bonds of friendship throughout the book was great.  (And, of course, the more between Ray and Simone.) It was great the way this helped them really stand together when Ray was being discriminated against because of who they were.  

I loved the slow burn aspect of the book as well.  You could tell that Ray and Simone were attracted to each other, but it was great that this book really took the time to develop that relationship and have those characters really get to know each other.  I'm not a big fan of insta-love, so having this slow development of the relationship was amazing.

Overall, this was a great read that I'd recommend to anyone who loves romance.  

If you've already read this book let me know what you thought of it in the comments! 

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Pride Month Reading Recs


Hey reader friends!  Happy Pride Month.  If you're here because you just HAVE TO KNOW what books I'd rec for pride month - you're in luck. Here are just some of the amazing LGBTQ+ books that exist in this world.

YA Recs

Simon Vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda - Becky Albertalli 
Camp - Lee Rosen 
The Heartstopper Series - Alice Oseman 
The Diviner Series - Libba Bray 
Jay's Gay Agenda - Jason June 
They Both Die At the End - Adam Silvera 
Cemetery Boys - Aiden Thomas 
The Love and Lies of Rukhsana Ali - Sabina Kahn 


Adult Recs 

Written in the Stars - Alexandria Bellefleur 
Hang the Moon - Alexandria Bellefleur 
The Boyfriend Project - Alexis Hall 
Red, White, and Royal Blue - Casey McQuiston
One Last Stop - Casey McQuiston 
The Guncle - Steve Rowley 

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There are so many fantastic books that should be read not only in this pride month but year round. Do you have more suggestions and recs?  Drop them in the comments below!


Friday, May 6, 2022

My Dearest Darkest - Kayla Cunningham

Title: My Dearest Darkest 
Author: Kayla Cottingham
Format: Paperback 
Rating: 5 Stars 

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WILDER GIRLS meets THE CRAFT in this Sapphic horror debut that asks: What price would you be willing to pay to achieve your deepest desires?

Finch Chamberlin is the newest transfer student to the ultra-competitive Ulalume Academy... but she's also not what she seems. Months before school started, Finch and her parents got into an accident that should have left her dead at the bottom of a river. But something monstrous, and ancient, and terrifying, wouldn't let her drown. Finch doesn't know why she woke up after her heart stopped, but since dying she's felt a constant pull from the school and the surrounding town of Rainwater, like something on the island is calling to her.

Selena St. Clair sees right through Finch, and she knows something is seriously wrong with her. But despite Selena's suspicion, she feels drawn to Finch and has a sinking feeling that from now on the two will be inexplicably linked to one another.

One night Finch, Selena, and her friends accidentally summon a carnivorous creature of immense power in the depths of the school. It promises to grant every desire the girls have kept locked away in their insecure hearts―beauty, power, adoration―in exchange for a price: human body parts. But as the cost of their wanting becomes more deadly, Finch and Selena must learn to work together to stop the horror they unleashed, before it consumes the entire island.

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I have been searching all year for a book that hits the nail on the five star head.  The Mary Shelley Club was one, and this was the other!  This book was creepy and weird and gave me all the 5 star shivers. 

Was the book without faults? No.  After all, Finch could have been just a smidge *deeper* and more developed. But overall, the feels this book gave me were enough to overlook the fact that the MC needed more development. 

The rest of the characters were wonderful. There was the angst that is typical in YA novels, but come on - being a teenager is hard. Being a teenager at a school with a weird creature living under the tunnels is even harder. I mean, Damn. 

There were some really gross moments in this book, and a lot of body horror. (Seriously, if you can't handle body horror, don't read this book.) But for me, that added to the tension and mystery in the book.  I loved the mystery behind Nerosi.  There was this spirit behind her and a change to her as each sacrifice happened that really opened her character.  Each appearance if the stag and the past people who were lost to Nerosi's weird life were also great looks into her character and what she was really like. 

I loved the aspect of this horrific creature and all these events happening at an old boarding school (old as in the building has been has been around for a while.)  Having all the hidden tunnels under the school added a mysterious element because you never new what was going to happen to the students or what they were going to really fund when they went to the tunnels. 

The thing that did seem strange to me was that students at a boarding school would be able to live basically off campus like Selena, Kyra, and their other friend did.  Teenagers are certainly much more independent than younger kids, but these kids are still in school, and I'm assuming that when teens go to a boarding school, the parents are trusting the staff to take care of the kids and keep an eye on them.  These kids living off campus in that light house definitely opened the door to the kids being able to cause a lot of fuss (hello Nerosi!) 

Overall, though, I really love this book.  It has the perfect amount of weird and creepy with some great self exploration and self discovery thrown in.