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Reviews: MAGIC LESSONS and IN A HOLIDAZE

 

Today I’m sharing reviews of two of my most anticipated reads of 2020, Alice Hoffman’s latest installment in her Practical Magic series and the new holiday-themed novel from Christina Lauren, In a Holidaze.  If these two books are any indication of the caliber of reads we can expect in October, I think we’re all in for a real treat!

 

Reviews:  MAGIC LESSONS and IN A HOLIDAZEMagic Lessons Goodreads

Author: Alice Hoffman

Publication Date: October 6, 2020

Publisher:  Simon & Schuster

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley.  All opinions are my own.

 

Alice Hoffman is one of my favorite authors so, as you can guess, her latest novel, Magic Lessons, is one of my most anticipated reads of 2020.  I’m thrilled to say, not only did Magic Lessons meet my high expectations, it far exceeded them. I haven’t had many 5 star reads this year, but Magic Lessons is definitely one of them.

Magic Lessons is Hoffman’s third venture into the world of her beloved Owens witches.  Where Hoffman’s second venture into this world, The Rules of Magic, gave us the backstory for the Owens sisters who grew up to be the aunts in Practical Magic, with Magic Lessons, Hoffman ventures back to the 1600s and the Salem Witch Trials, this time to give us the origin of the Owens bloodline as well as the events that led to the curse that has haunted their family for generations.

As always, what I love most about Hoffman’s novels is that her storytelling is truly exquisite.  I felt transported back in time as soon as I started reading and was immediately caught up in the life of Maria Owens, the matriarch of the Owens witches.  Hoffman does such a beautiful job creating an unforgettable character and crafting an origin story for her that flows seamlessly into the other two books in the series.  As an infant, Maria was abandoned by her own mother, left in a snowy field in the English countryside.  A woman named Hannah Owens, who is gifted in the “Unnamed Arts” finds Maria and raises her as her own.  She recognizes that Maria shares her gift and therefore teaches her everything she knows.  After Hannah’s death, Maria falls in love with a man and when he abandons her, she decides to follow him. This is how she ends up in Salem, right as the infamous witch hunts are getting underway, and this man’s betrayal of her is what ultimately leads to the Owens curse everyone who has read the other books is so familiar with.

Magic Lessons is a gorgeous and atmospheric read and I found myself completely invested in Maria’s journey, which is filled with both love and heartbreak, but also with hope, and of course with magic.  I especially loved watching all of the pieces fall into place, with little shout outs here and there to the magic we see in the books that come later in the Owens timeline.

If you’re looking for the perfect atmospheric read to kick off spooky season, look no further than Alice Hoffman’s Magic Lessons. It was everything I wanted for this series and more! 5 STARS

 

 

Reviews:  MAGIC LESSONS and IN A HOLIDAZEIn a Holidaze Goodreads

Author: Christina Lauren

Publication Date: October 6, 2020

Publisher:  Gallery Books

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley.  All opinions are my own.

 

I don’t normally start my holiday reading this early in the year, but I’m more than happy to make the exception when it’s to read a new novel by Christina Lauren. Their latest collaboration, In a Holidaze,,  follows Mae Jones, a young woman who has found herself in a bit of a rut. She’s stuck in a job that’s going nowhere and is currently living with her parents.  Mae’s life spirals in an even more downward direction when, at her family’s traditional Christmas vacation at their best friends’ cabin in Utah, two terrible things happen:  1) she drunkenly kisses the brother of the guy she’s in love with, and 2) she learns their friends have decided to sell the cabin.

While Mae is mortified about kissing the wrong brother, she’s truly heartbroken about the cabin because it’s her absolute favorite place in the world and they’ve been coming there every Christmas for her entire life.  As they prepare to leave the cabin for what will be the last time, Mae makes one simple wish to the universe:  “Show me what will make me happy.”  The universe is more than happy to oblige Mae’s request, in its own special way, and Mae ends up somehow reliving this last week at the cabin over and over again because apparently the key to her happiness can only be found there.

I had so much fun reading this book!  I’ve always enjoyed the movie Groundhog Day so having that kind of déjà vu, time travel element in the story was such a treat for me.  I also really loved Mae and found her entire situation, and particularly her sadness about the potential loss of such a huge family tradition incredibly relatable.  I was in her corner every step of the way, hoping she would not only figure out what would make her truly happy but that she would also find a way to convince the family not to sell the cabin.

While I adored Mae, what really made the story such a special read for me was the family tradition and how it brought both family and friends together in such a wonderful way. I loved watching them spend the holidays together, especially all of their often hilarious holiday traditions.  They really did become one giant extended family over the years and it was just so heartwarming to read.

And it wouldn’t be a Christina Lauren book if there wasn’t a romance and I was totally on board with the romance in In a Holidaze.  Mae’s chemistry with the brother she really is attracted to is undeniable, and he’s adorable, so I really wanted her to figure out a way as she keeps reliving this week to make it work out between them.

If a mashup of the film Groundhog Day and your favorite Hallmark Christmas movie sounds good to you, I highly recommend Christina Lauren’s In a Holidaze.  It’s the perfect read to get you into the holiday spirit! 4 STARS

Reviews: TIES THAT TETHER & ALL THIS TIME

 

Today I’m sharing the last of my reviews for September book releases.  Both of these novels feature a bit of romance as well as characters who are struggling to figure out who they are supposed to be.  I enjoyed them both and I hope you will too.  Thanks for stopping by. 🙂

 

Reviews:  TIES THAT TETHER & ALL THIS TIMETies That Tether Goodreads

Author: Jane Igharo

Publication Date: September 29, 2020

Publisher:  Berkley

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley.  All opinions are my own.

 

Jane Igharo’s debut novel Ties That Tether is a thought-provoking and heartfelt story about a young woman who finds herself caught between the man she loves and the expectations her family has for her.  Azere is originally from Nigeria but emigrated to Canada at the age of 12 when her father died.  Azere made a promise to her dad that when she grew up, she would do her best to preserve her Nigerian culture and therefore would only marry a Nigerian man.  Azere’s mother has held her to this promise and has gone so far as to play matchmaker every time she thinks she has found a suitable Nigerian suitor.  There’s just one problem – Azere’s mom is a terrible matchmaker and Azere has hated every man she has been set up with so far.  After a particularly disastrous setup, Azere finds herself drinking alone in a hotel bar and this is where she meets Rafael, a man she feels truly has the potential to be Mr. Right.  What starts off as a scorching hot one-night stand quickly evolves into a more serious relationship, but there’s one major catch – he’s not Nigerian, he’s white and he’s Spanish.  As much as Azere wants to pursue a relationship with Rafael, she knows to choose Rafael is to break her mother’s heart. The bulk of the story follows Azere as she is caught between what her heart wants and what her family wants.

I felt for Azere right away. What an impossible choice to have to make. Of course she doesn’t want to crush her mother, but she also doesn’t want to crush her own heart.  I was rooting for her so hard to find a way to get her mom to come around to seeing what a wonderful guy Rafael is and how great he treats Azere.  I could understand where Azere’s mom was coming from in terms of not wanting Azere to forget her roots, but she was just so frustrating and unyielding about it.  There were times I just wanted to yell at her to just let Azere be with someone who makes her happy and that it’s totally possible to marry someone from another culture without losing yourself.  Azere’s mom has Azere so conflicted that instead of achieving clarity on what to do, she is more torn than ever.  One of the things I really loved about this story is that it’s a journey of learning and growth for all of the major characters, Azere, Rafael, and yes, even stubborn mom.

Even though Ties That Tether is being promoted as a romance, I honestly think it’s so much more than that. The family expectations and the preservation of culture drive the story along, just as much if not more than the romance.  I loved the chemistry between Azere and Rafael, and I always devour books that feature family drama of any kind so all of the tension between Azere and her mother had me flying through the pages.  There were also lots of rom-com references that added a fun element to offset some of the more dramatic moments. I really enjoyed that aspect of the story as well.

If you’re looking for a moving story about following your heart versus following your family’s desires, be sure to check out Ties That Tether. I thoroughly enjoyed it and look forward to reading whatever Jane Igharo writes next! 4 STARS

 

Reviews:  TIES THAT TETHER & ALL THIS TIMEAll This Time Goodreads

Author: Mikki Daughtry and Rachael Lippincott

Publication Date: September 29, 2020

Publisher:  Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley.  All opinions are my own.

 

All This Time by Mikki Daughtry and Rachael Lippincott is a unique and heart-wrenching story about family and friends, love and loss, and a story about guilt, healing and forgiveness.  All This Time follows Kyle Lafferty, a young man who is graduating from high school. He and his longtime girlfriend Kimberly have been making plans to attend UCLA together in the fall and he’s very excited for what the future holds.  That is, until the night of their graduation party when Kyle’s life is turned upside down.  At the party, Kimberly informs Kyle that she is not attending UCLA and then tells him she doesn’t want to be his girlfriend anymore.  They fight in the car on the way home and end up in a horrific car accident that leaves Kyle in the hospital with a brain injury and Kimberly dead.

Kyle is struggling to move on from the accident, both in terms of his physical recovery and because he is wracked with guilt about Kimberly’s death.  When he is at his lowest, Kyle meets a girl named Marley at the cemetery. She’s there mourning the death of her twin sister and, like Kyle, she feels guilty and responsible for the death of her loved one.  Slowly Kyle and Marley get to know each other as they open up about everything they’re feeling, especially the guilt.  They begin the healing process together, but Kyle is plagued by this nagging feeling that the happiness he is finally starting to feel is too good to be true and that something is going to happen to take it all away from him. Are his fears justified or is this just more guilt about Kimberly?

What a tearjerker of a book this was for me!  I actually lost track of how many times I cried while I was reading.  My heart just broke for Kyle from the moment we meet him.  It’s like no matter what he does, he just can’t catch a break.  The writing is so powerful and vivid too, especially with respect to Kyle’s emotions. His heartbreak, his confusion, his grief, and even his hope were just palpable as I was reading. As much as I adored Kyle though, I think it was Marley who really stole my heart. She’s just such a unique character and I was truly captivated by her.  Marley loves to write original fairytales, she has a small army of ducks that follow her at the park because she feeds them popcorn, and she also nurtures small creatures like snails, moving them off of foot paths so they won’t get stepped on.  Marley is almost too pure for this world, which made it all the more heartbreaking that she was carrying around so much grief and sadness for her dead sister.  I loved Marley and I loved the person Kyle started to become when he was around her.

My only real issue with All This Time is that there’s a major unexpected plot twist about two-thirds of the way through the book and it completely changes the direction the story is going in.  I’m always up for a good dramatic plot twist, but I just didn’t find this twist and subsequent events to be all that believable.  It didn’t hamper my overall enjoyment of the story very much; it just felt like one twist too many and that the story didn’t really need it. Even with that issue, however, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend All This Time to anyone who enjoys heartfelt stories about love, grief, and healing. If you need a good cry, this is definitely your book!  3.5 STARS.

Reviews: DON’T LOOK FOR ME & WE ARE NOT FROM HERE

 

 

 

Reviews:  DON’T LOOK FOR ME & WE ARE NOT FROM HEREDon't Look for Me Goodreads

Author: Wendy Walker

Publication Date: September 15, 2020

Publisher:  St. Martin’s Press

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley.  All opinions are my own.

 

Who’s in the mood for an exciting psychological thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat?  If you are, then look no further that Wendy Walker’s new novel, Don’t Look for Me.  This is my third read from Walker and it’s my favorite yet.

The story follows Molly Clark, whose life is just a mess.  As soon as we meet her, we learn that one evening while driving through her neighborhood, she accidentally struck and killed her youngest daughter, who had unexpectedly darted into the street.  Instead of the rest of Molly’s family coming together to grieve their loss, they choose to collectively give Molly the cold shoulder.  Her other two children constantly say cruel things to her, and Molly is pretty sure, based on his standoffish behavior, that her husband is having an affair.  One night while out driving, Molly’s car runs out of gas.  As she sits there pondering what to do, she thinks about taking it as a sign that she should just walk away from everything in her life.  No one will even miss her and in fact, they’ll probably consider themselves better off without her.  The next morning, Molly’s car is found abandoned and a note is left behind indicating that Molly has done exactly that – left her family with no intention of returning.  Is that really what happened though?

One of my favorite aspects of Don’t Look for Me is that the story comes to us from two points of view, one is Molly and the other is her eldest daughter, Nicole.  Nicole doesn’t buy it for one second that her mother just took off and abandoned the family.  Riddled with guilt over some of the awful things she has said to her mother recently, Nicole vows not to rest until she has found her mother and brought her back home.  The story alternates between giving us glimpses of what has happened to Molly since we saw her in her car and Nicole’s amateur sleuthing to try to track down her mom.  The journey is equal parts riveting and downright creepy, especially the deeper Nicole digs and the longer Molly stays missing.  I was glued to my seat as it became more and more apparent that something way more sinister than a mom abandoning her responsibilities was afoot.

I don’t want to say anything else because you really need to experience these two women’s journeys for yourself, but if you’re looking for an excellent atmospheric thriller to kick off your fall reading, Don’t Look for Me is a great choice.  4 STARS 

 

Reviews:  DON’T LOOK FOR ME & WE ARE NOT FROM HEREWe Are Not From Here Goodreads

Author: Jenny Torres Sanchez

Publication Date: May 19, 2020

Publisher:  Philomel Books

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley.  All opinions are my own.

 

Jenny Torres Sanchez’s latest novel, We Are Not From Here, is an absolutely heart-wrenching story about three teenagers, Pequena, Pulga, and Chico, who are trying to escape the abusive and dangerous conditions they’ve been surrounded by for most of their young lives. Traveling from Guatemala and up through Mexico, the teens are desperate to find a way across the Mexican border into America where they have a chance to live a better and safer life.

I became invested in Pequena, Pulga, and Chico from the moment I first met each of them.  My heart broke for them because they felt like they had no choice but to take off on such a dangerous and potentially deadly journey, but I also admired their courage and their loyalty to one another.  It was impossible not to root for them to make it safely into America.  In that sense, it was a very emotional read for me.  I laughed with them at times, but then I also cried a lot and just felt so angry and frustrated that their lives are so hard.  As touched as I was by these incredible kids though, it was the tension and suspense that really pulled me along through the story.  Every moment of their journey is downright terrifying and tragedy touches them way too many times along the way.  I was on the edge of my seat and flew through the pages waiting to see what their fate would be.

We Are Not From Here is a powerful and emotional read, and it’s also an important and timely one.  It’s one of those stories I wish everyone would read because I think it would help to create some much needed empathy and understanding toward those who are so desperately looking for a better life for themselves and their loved ones.

If you’re looking for a timely and thought provoking read filled with unforgettable characters and experiences that will move you to tears, We Are Not From Here should be on your reading list.  4.5 STARS

Reviews: August Book Releases That Should Be on Your Reading List

I’ve been quiet on the blog for a few days because I found myself lost in some pretty amazing reads.  If these three novels are anything to go by, August is going to be a fabulous month for new releases.  I’m also a big mood reader and my mood was all over the place this week so there’s a little something here for everyone – a heartwarming contemporary, a suspenseful mystery/thriller, and a compelling work of historical fiction.

Reviews:  August Book Releases That Should Be on Your Reading ListVanessa Yu's Magical Paris Tea Shop Goodreads

Author: Roselle Lim

Publication Date: August 4, 2020

Publisher:  Berkley

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley.  All opinions are my own.

Roselle Lim’s new novel, Vanessa Yu’s Magical Paris Tea Shop is a heartwarming story about love, family, second chances, and most importantly, about finding one’s self.  Vanessa Yu, the protagonist, is a fortune teller but wishes she wasn’t.  For most of her life, Vanessa has been unable to control her “gift,” blurting out fortunes at random and driving away friends and potential boyfriends.  Because the gift has been nothing but a curse her entire life, Vanessa longs to just be rid of it so she can live a normal life.  That doesn’t appear to be an option so when her aunt Evelyn, the only other family member who can tell fortunes, offers to train her, Vanessa jumps at the chance, especially once she realizes it means she’ll be traveling with Evelyn to Paris where Evelyn is opening up a new branch of her popular tea shop.

One of my absolute favorite parts about this book were the author’s lush descriptions of the sights, sounds, and especially the FOOD of Paris.  My mouth was watering with each turn of the page as I read about decadent French pastries and the like.  Vanessa is also a very likeable character, so it was easy to root for her.  I felt so much sympathy for her as she began to fear she would live her entire life alone if she didn’t get control over her abilities. I can’t even imagine that kind of pressure.

The story isn’t just about Vanessa though.  There’s also a fabulous subplot involving Aunt Evelyn. She’s actually leaving the Yu family permanently and relocating to Paris. When it becomes clear to Vanessa that Evelyn’s trip to Paris isn’t a temporary one, she is dying to know why, and since Evelyn isn’t talking, she enlists the wonderful Yu Aunties, who are more than willing to go undercover and find out what Evelyn is up to. I adored the closeness of the Yu family overall and those Yu Aunties are a hilarious addition to what is already an entertaining story.

I don’t want to say much more but I will say that I think this is a story that romance fans are going to love.  Love is in the air for several characters as Vanessa discovers that while she may hate fortune telling, she thoroughly enjoys playing matchmaker and bringing lovers together.  If you’re in the mood for a charming and romantic story that will tug at your heartstrings and leave a smile on your face, be sure to pick up a copy of Vanessa Yu’s Magical Paris Tea Shop.  4 STARS

 

Reviews:  August Book Releases That Should Be on Your Reading ListThe Night Swim Goodreads

Author: Megan Goldin

Publication Date: August 4, 2020

Publisher:  St. Martin’s Press

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley.  All opinions are my own.

With her latest thriller, The Night Swim, Megan Goldin explores the connections between two criminal cases that took place in the same small town 25 years apart.  Rachel Krall, the protagonist of the novel, is a successful crime podcaster.  For the first two seasons of her podcast, “Guilty or Not Guilty, the Podcast that Puts You in the Jury Box”, Rachel looked back at cold cases with a fresh set of eyes.  Now that her show has become immensely popular, Rachel wants to up her game by going to court and sitting in on a live, ongoing trial to present and interpret the evidence to her listeners as it becomes available.  The trial she has chosen in set in a small town and the accused is the town’s golden boy, a talented swimmer who hopes to make the Olympic team someday.  He is accused of brutally raping a high school student who also happens to be the granddaughter of the sheriff.  Tensions are high and opinions are very divided as to whether or not the young man is guilty.

Things take an odd turn, however, when she starts receiving mysterious handwritten letters imploring her to take a look at an old case from 25 years ago.  The case was ruled a drowning because there were no witnesses aside from the victim’s nine-year-old sister who couldn’t really provide any information.  The incident received little press at the time, but the letter writer, who turns out to be the younger sister of the drowning victim, swears her sister’s death was not an accident.  Rachel is laser focused on the current case but the pleading tone of the letters get to her and so she starts to casually ask some of the townsfolk about what happened 25 years ago.  When it becomes clear that no one wants to talk to her about it, Rachel starts to dig deeper and soon discovers some disturbing connections between the old case and the new case.  Will Rachel discover the truth about both of the crimes and thus justice for the victims or will someone try to stop her from exposing long hidden secrets in this small town?

The Night Swim is a riveting mystery that kept me on the edge of my seat from start to finish. The podcast aspect of the novel was also very well done. As Rachel produces each episode, we then get to listen to it before returning to the courthouse to hear more.  I was completely invested in both mysteries and dying to learn the truth as the clues were slowly revealed.  Be forewarned that because this story does deal with rape, there are some violent and heartbreaking scenes as we get closer and closer to the truth.  I found myself near tears a couple of times as the truth came to light.

I enjoyed Megan Goldin’s last thriller, The Escape Room, but I have to say that with her latest effort, The Night Swim, she really knocks it out of the park.  4 STARS.

 

Reviews:  August Book Releases That Should Be on Your Reading ListThe Lions of Fifth Avenue Goodreads

Author: Fiona Davis

Publication Date: August 4, 2020

Publisher:  Dutton Books

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley.  All opinions are my own.

I love historical fiction and I love New York City, so I’m always drawn to the novels of Fiona Davis because she sets each one in an iconic NYC location.  This time around, Davis has selected the beloved New York Public Library as her setting.

In 1913, Laura Lyons is living in the library with her two young children and her husband, who is the Superintendent of the library.  She aspires to be a journalist and enrolls at Columbia University’s Journalism School.  Her journalism classes take her to the doorstep of an all-women’s club called the Heterodoxy Club. While attending club meetings and listening to “radical” women discuss women’s issues like suffrage and birth control, Laura begins to question her own existence as little more than wife and mother.  There’s a whole world out there she wants to experience.  Her thoughts of taking an alternative path in life are cut short, however, when rare books start disappearing from the library and it’s thought to be an inside job, which places her husband squarely on the suspect list.

In 1993, we meet Sadie Donovan, who also works at the New York Public Library.  Everyone at the library knows Sadie loves her job and is passionate about books, so it’s a given that she’s the best choice to curate the library’s next big exhibit featuring rare books.  What everyone doesn’t know about Sadie is that she’s actually the granddaughter of Laura Lyons.  With her family’s muddled history regarding the library and missing books, Sadie figures the little said about that the better, especially when, to her shock and dismay, rare books she plans to use in her exhibit start to disappear from the library.  As only a small handful of people have keys to the rare books room, it’s considered an inside job and Sadie finds herself on the suspect list.  Sadie becomes determined to find out how the books are being stolen and who is responsible and also hopes deep down that she can somehow redeem the Lyon name and legacy with respect to the library.

What intrigued me the most about this story is that we learn early on in Sadie’s timeline that Laura Lyons, although now deceased, had become a famous feminist essayist at some point in her life. In addition to being eager to find out how the book thefts were being pulled off in each timeline, I was also even more eager to find out what had transpired in Laura’s life to transform her from wife and mother on the verge of tragedy to world renowned author.  I loved how the author wove these two timelines together to gradually reveal the answers to both questions.

It actually surprised me how emotional I found myself getting as I was reading this book. I actually gasped a few times when certain beloved rare books went missing and in one case, where a page was torn out of a beloved treasure.  If you are passionate about books, libraries, New York, and historical fiction, The Lions of Fifth Avenue is the perfect book for you.  4.5 STARS

Reviews: THE EXTRAORDINARIES & CINDERELLA IS DEAD

 

I’ve got two great YA fantasies to share with you today.  The first is a hilarious new superhero story from T.J. Klune.  This was my first time reading one of Klune’s novels and it did not disappoint! The second is an entertaining and fresh take on the beloved fairytale, Cinderella.

 

Reviews:  THE EXTRAORDINARIES & CINDERELLA IS DEADThe Extraordinaries Goodreads

Author: T.J. Klune

Publication Date: July 14, 2020

Publisher:  Tor Teen

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley.  All opinions are my own.

 

T.J. Klune’s YA debut, The Extraordinaries, is one of the most laugh-out loud funny books I’ve read in a long time.  A cross between Marissa Meyers’ Renegades and Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl, The Extraordinaries follows Nick, a gay teen and popular fanfiction writer who writes stories for the Extraordinaries superhero fandom. Nick’s fanfiction centers around Shadow Star, the Extraordinary he has a major crush on.  Nick dreams of meeting Shadow Star and winning his affections, and Nick’s dream only increases when against all odds, he has a chance meeting with Shadow Star, that leaves him utterly awestruck and formulating a hilarious yet slightly unrealistic plan as to how he too can become a superhero so he and Shadow Star can be a real team and live happily ever after.

Nick and his “adorkableness” are really what made me love this book.  His nerdy crush on Shadow Star is just adorable, as is his passion for his fanfiction.  I think Nick is going to be a character that a lot of readers relate to as well. Nick has an amazing queer friend group that supports his crush and yet has fun mocking him relentlessly over it.  He’s also got an ex-boyfriend that just won’t go away, which makes life interesting yet awkward for everyone.  On a more serious note, Nick has ADHD that he takes medication for to help him stay focused, and he’s also dealing with the loss of his mom, who was killed during a robbery.  One of my favorite parts of the novel is actually Nick’s relationship with his ultra-supportive Dad as they try to navigate their new normal without Nick’s mom in their lives.  As much as I was sitting there giggling right along with Nick’s friends as they gently poke fun at his crush, I also had moments where I just wanted to grab him and give him a big hug because he just needs one every now and then.

I don’t want to say much more because with superheroes, secret identities and even a bit of a mystery thrown in the mix, it’s just way too easy to run into spoilers, but I will say if you’re looking for a read that is as heartwarming as it is funny, The Extraordinaries should be on your must-read list.  I highly recommend it to anyone who loved Renegades and Fangirl and to anyone who enjoys a good friends-to-lovers romance.  The Extraordinaries has something for everyone!  4 STARS

 

 

Reviews:  THE EXTRAORDINARIES & CINDERELLA IS DEADCinderella Is Dead Goodreads

Author: Kalynn Bayron

Publication Date: July 7, 2020

Publisher:  Bloomsbury YA

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley.  All opinions are my own.

 

Those who follow my blog know that I love fairytale retellings, so it was a given that I would want to read Kalynn Barton’s feminist Cinderella retelling, Cinderella is Dead.  As the title states, Cinderella is long dead when this story opens but her story is being used by the King of Lille to control his young female citizens.  Girls are required to commit Cinderella’s tale to memory and they are taught that they should want a happy ending just like Cinderella’s.

There’s a cruel twist to the King’s version of the fairy tale, however.  Once they reach a certain age, the young ladies are required to attend the King’s annual ball.  They are to dress up in the finest gowns and present themselves to potential suitors, who are then charged with selecting a mate.  Girls who aren’t chosen are allowed to return to the ball twice more but then after that, their lives are deemed forfeit and they are never heard from again.  Being chosen isn’t necessarily a happily ever after either as the men in the kingdom view their wives as property and often beat and verbally abuse them.

Sophia, the protagonist, wants no part of this dystopian disaster. She’s not looking for a Prince Charming and in fact would much rather marry her childhood best friend, Erin.  She decides that she will not take part in this sick ritual and makes it her mission to not only escape from the King’s ball, but to also come back once she finds a way to bring the whole patriarchal system crashing down.  I really loved Sophia. She’s bright, fierce, independent, and she’s loyal.  She’s also not perfect, which makes her all the more likeable and relatable.  Once she makes her escape, she meets up with an unexpected member of the Resistance and that’s when the story really takes off and takes turn after unexpected turn to shake up the original Cinderella tale.

Sophia is definitely the shining star of this story, but what I loved most is just how unique and fresh the story is even though it uses so many elements from the original fairytale.  The author will have you questioning every aspect of the tale you thought you knew so well.  Were the stepsisters really evil?  Who was the fairy godmother?  Was Prince Charming all that charming after all?  What really happened to Cinderella?  Did she really have a happy ending?

Cinderella is Dead is a quick and entertaining read that I breezed through in less than a day.  If feminist retellings, queer protagonists, and smashing the patriarchy are your thing, then this is the book for you! 4 STARS.

Reviews: THE HEIR AFFAIR & NOT LIKE THE MOVIES

 

I hope everyone who was celebrating this weekend had a safe and fun 4th of July holiday.  I spent most of my holiday weekend reading so today I’m sharing reviews for a couple of fun contemporary reads that are coming out this week.  The Heir Affair and Not Like the Movies are the perfect reads to escape into this summer.

 

Reviews:  THE HEIR AFFAIR & NOT LIKE THE MOVIESThe Heir Affair (Royal We, #2) Goodreads

Author: Heather Cocks & Jessica Morgan

Publication Date: July 7, 2020

Publisher:  Grand Central Publishing

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley.  All opinions are my own.

 

If you enjoy books about royalty or have ever fancied yourself marrying the future King of England, The Royal We series by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan needs to be on your must read list.  The Royal We, the first book in the series, follows American college student Rebecca Porter (Bex) and Prince Nicholas (Nick), the future King of Great Britain as they meet, fall in love, and navigate the many obstacles that stand in the way of Bex becoming a member of the Royal Family, while the newest novel in the series, The Heir Affair, picks up with Nick and Bex as a newly married couple starting out their lives together.

While I thoroughly enjoyed both of these books, what I really loved about The Heir Affair is that it really takes a deep dive into Nick and Bex’s relationship.  Some very dramatic events from the first book have really shaken them.  They need time to heal and regroup, and then they also need to work to try to reconcile with Nick’s brother, Freddie, as well as mend their reputations with respect to the people of Great Britain.  The authors do a wonderful job of making Bex and Nick’s relationship easy to relate to.  Even though they are royalty and many of their issues and challenges are royal problems that most of us can only imagine in our wildest dreams, many of the other challenges they face are normal, everyday couple issues.

Of course there are still plenty of humorous moments sprinkled throughout the book, particularly with respect to Bex’s relationship with the Queen and with Bex and Nick’s circle of friends from college who are always entertaining.  As much as Bex and Nick’s journey through married life and, in particular, their strained relationship with Freddie, tugged at my heartstrings, the humorous moments really balanced things out, as did some of the long-buried, juicy royal secrets that come to light and shake things up for everyone.

As much as I enjoyed The Royal We, I couldn’t have asked for a better sequel in The Heir Affair. Overall, a very satisfying read. 4 STARS

 

 

Reviews:  THE HEIR AFFAIR & NOT LIKE THE MOVIESNot Like the Movies (Waiting for Tom Hanks, #2) Goodreads

Author: Kerry Winfrey

Publication Date: July 7, 2020

Publisher:  Berkley Books

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley.  All opinions are my own.

 

I went into Kerry Winfrey’s new novel, Not Like the Movies, hoping for a bit of light rom-com goodness, but I have to say that I fully underestimated this book because Not Like the Movies has turned out to be one of my favorite reads of the summer so far.  While yes, it has plenty of that rom-com goodness I was looking for, it also has so much more.

Chloe Sanderson is the protagonist of the story and I adored her and just found her so relatable. Chloe has a big heart, always going out of her way to do nice things for others.  She also has a lot on her plate, working as a waitress and baker at Nick’s Café, going to school to finish her business degree, and, most importantly, caring for her aging father who has Alzheimer’s.  Chloe’s life is further complicated when her best friend Annie, an up and coming filmmaker, writes a rom-com screenplay inspired by Chloe’s life and her romance with her boss, Nick.  There’s just one problem…Chloe and Nick are not in a relationship and never have been.

When Annie’s screenplay is actually picked up by a major studio, Chloe’s fictionalized life is suddenly everywhere and everyone thinks she and Nick are together. Awkward!  Things become even more awkward as Chloe starts to consider the possibility of dating her boss. She doesn’t have time for it with everything else on her plate and doesn’t even know if she believes in love, but Nick is kind of irresistible in a sexy, grumpy yet super sweet Luke Danes from Gilmore Girls kind of way. I loved Nick and Chloe’s chemistry and immediately became fully invested in the “Will they or won’t they?” pull of the story.

As much as I adored the rom-com aspect of Nick and Chloe’s evolving relationship, what really took Not Like the Movies to the next level for me was Chloe’s journey as she tries to balance everything she has going on in her life.  It’s an emotional one for her because she’s always so worried about caring for others, especially her Dad, and leaves her own self-care out of the equation.  Even though the journey is a struggle for her, I loved watching Chloe grow as a person, and I especially enjoyed watching her assert herself when it comes to her brother, who has conveniently stayed away and not pulled his weight when it comes to matters of their family.

There’s just so much to love about Not Like the Movies. I flew through it in a couple of sittings and even though I was completely satisfied with the ending, I was actually still just a little sad just because I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to Chloe and Nick yet.  If you’re in the mood for a story that features romance, family drama, and friendship, this is your book.  Oh and there’s pie too!  Lots of pie!  4.5 STARS

Review: MEXICAN GOTHIC by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Review:  MEXICAN GOTHIC by Silvia Moreno-GarciaMexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
four-stars
Published by Del Rey on June 30, 2020
Genres: Horror, Historical Fiction
Pages: 352
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository
Goodreads

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I don’t normally read much in the way of horror, but when I read the synopsis for Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s new novel, Mexican Gothic, and saw the comparisons to gothic classics Jane Eyre and Rebecca, I just couldn’t resist stepping out of my comfort zone and giving it a try.  I’m so glad I did too because Mexican Gothic is one wild and seriously creepy ride!

Set in Mexico during the 1950’s, the story follows Noemi Taboada, a stylish debutante who spends much of her time either going to parties or studying anthropology.  She’s trying to figure out what she wants to do with her life when her family receives a disturbing and cryptic letter from Noemi’s recently married cousin, Catalina.  In her letter, Catalina rants and raves, makes it sound like she’s being held against her will, and begs for someone to come and save her from a mysterious doom.  Noemi and her family hadn’t heard from Catalina much since she moved away with her new husband so her letter comes as a huge shock.  Fearful for both her physical and mental well-being, Noemi sets out on the long journey to visit Catalina and assess the situation.

As soon as Noemi arrives at High Place, the remote mansion in the countryside where Catalina is living, she can tell that something is just off.  The mansion is creepy, rundown, and there are signs of decay everywhere, and the family themselves doesn’t appear much better off.  Howard Doyle, the patriarch of the household, is practically on his deathbed, and all rules of the house are set up so as not to disturb him, with the ultra-stern housekeeper Florence enforcing them.  Catalina’s husband Virgil is equally creepy and has a predatory vibe about him that Noemi immediately dislikes, and she quickly begins to understand why Catalina could be distressed by her living arrangements.  Speaking of Catalina, Noemi is rarely allowed to see or speak to her cousin, and is told that she is recovering from an illness.  The few times Noemi does speak to her, she seems agitated and not at all like herself.  The longer Noemi stays in the house, the more she starts to sense that something is very wrong and that it may be starting to affect her as well.

I really enjoyed the character of Noemi.  She’s smart, resourceful, and quite brave.  She went to that house wanting answers and she wasn’t leaving without them. She also refused to back down to anyone who got in her way, no matter how much they tried to intimidate or threaten her.

I don’t want to say anything else about the plot since the bulk of the book deals with Noemi trying to figure out what is going on in this house.  I will say though that what Noemi finds blows her mind, and mine as well.  Mexican Gothic is a dark, disturbing, utterly twisted and such a unique story that all of the big reveals kept me guessing.  In addition to the uniqueness of the story itself, I also loved the gothic atmosphere of the setting, especially the rundown mansion with the creepy graveyard on the property.   Everything about this story had me on the edge of my seat from the moment Noemi started poking around in the mansion.  One of my favorite elements of the storytelling was that the author creates an environment where it becomes hard to distinguish what is real from what is illusion or perhaps an imagination run wild.  I mention this in part because I do want to give a trigger warning for some graphic scenes involving a real or imagined sexual assault.

Circling back to touch on those comparisons to Jane Eyre and Rebecca, I think both of those are apt and I would also toss in a little V.C. Andrews’ Flowers in the Attic as well.  If you’re craving a dark and haunting read, Mexican Gothic is sure to satisfy your appetite.

four-stars

About Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Silvia Moreno-Garcia is the author of several novels, including Gods of Jade and Shadow. She has also edited a number of anthologies, including the World Fantasy Award-winning She Walks in Shadows (a.k.a. Cthulhu’s Daughters). Mexican by birth, Canadian by inclination.

Mini Reviews: The “Slow Burn” Edition

 

Today I’m sharing reviews of some new and recent releases that are sure to please anyone who enjoys a fun and heartwarming read with a side of slow burn romance.

 

Mini Reviews:  The “Slow Burn” EditionReal Men Knit Goodreads

Author: Kwana Jackson

Publication Date: May 19, 2020

Publisher:  Berkley Books

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley.  All opinions are my own.

 

Kwana Jackson’s new novel, Real Men Knit, is a heartwarming story about what happens when a prominent Harlem business owner, Mama Joy Strong, unexpectedly passes away and her four adoptive sons are left to determine what happens to Strong Knits, her beloved knitting shop.

I was drawn into this story right away because of Mama Joy.  Even though she’s deceased, Mama Joy is still such a major presence in the book. She’s the thread that ties everyone together and was clearly loved and respected by all who knew her. I also just loved that she chose to adopt not just one or two, but four (!) troubled boys who were in foster care and made them all into a family.  She just struck me as one of those people you instantly wish you had had the opportunity to meet because she was clearly a force of nature.

What surprised me about Real Men Knit is that I went into it expecting a romance based on the synopsis, but while the story does have a hint of romance, I would consider it more a story about family and about growing up.  One of the main characters is Jesse, one of Mama Joy’s sons.  Jesse is the butt of many a joke in the Strong household because 1) he has no real direction in life yet in terms of a career, and 2) because he has a reputation as a ladies’ man, specifically for moving from one woman to the next, leaving a trail of broken hearts in his wake.  The other thing about Jesse though is that he loved Mama Joy more than anything and it’s Jesse who is the driving force behind wanting to save Strong Knits and preserve his mama’s legacy.  He also wants to prove to his brothers that he’s not the screw up they think he is.  Jesse won me over right away, mainly because of his intense devotion to Mama Joy, and I was rooting for him to win his brothers over to the cause of saving Strong Knits.

The hint of romance comes in the form of Kerry Fuller, the other main character, who also grew up thinking of Strong Knits as her home away from home and Mama Joy as her second mom. Kerry is invested in saving the shop as well and agrees to help Jesse.  Sparks fly and there is definitely chemistry between them, but it’s a slow burn affair because Jesse has to get past thinking of Kerry as ‘Little Kerry’ that he grew up with, and Kerry has to get past Jesse’s reputation as the neighborhood heartbreaker.  It’s sweet watching the two of them come together to save the shop but I definitely would have preferred a little less of a slow burn.

Real Men Knit is a wonderful story about family and community, and yes, about love too.  If you’re in the mood for a heartwarming story that will put a smile on your face, look no further.

 

 

Mini Reviews:  The “Slow Burn” EditionSomething to Talk About Goodreads

Author: Meryl Wilsner

Publication Date: May 26, 2020

Publisher:  Berkley Books

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley.  All opinions are my own.

 

Meryl Wilsner’s debut romance Something to Talk About was such a fun read for me.  It centers on Jo Jones, a showrunner for a popular TV series who is now looking to make her move to the big screen when she signs on to pen the script for the next installment in a hugely popular action series.  Hollywood being what it is, there are plenty of people lined up ready and waiting to gossip about how Jo’s not up for the job.  Jo is already tired of fielding questions about the new film and whether she’s the right person for the job, so when she has to attend a major award ceremony, she asks her trusted assistant Emma to accompany her and serve as a buffer to drive away the reporters.  An innocent moment between Jo and Emma is caught on camera and the rumor mill runs wild with it, declaring them a couple and trying to spin it into a scandal worthy of the tabloids.

We watch the story unfold from the alternating perspectives of Jo and Emma, and I thought this was very well done. I liked seeing how each woman reacted to the growing scandal, and, in particular, how worried they were for each other.  Would Jo be deemed as a predatory employer taking advantage of her assistant?  Or would Emma be seen as trying to sleep her way to the top?  Ever-present paparazzi and on-set leaks have both women on edge, second guessing their every interaction and who might be watching them. It makes for some very awkward moments between them, especially since the more closely they work together to make it look like they aren’t romantically involved, the more they begin to realize they actually do have feelings for one another.  I really liked both Jo and Emma so I was definitely cheering them on, both to beat back the rumor mongers and to take the leap to coupledom.

Something to Talk About is an entertaining read that also takes a hard look at some of the more toxic elements of working in show business.  I loved this aspect of the story, especially since it featured Jo kicking butt and taking names, reminiscent of today’s Me Too movement.  About the only real downside of the book for me was that it felt like the actual romance I was looking for and expecting took a back seat to everything else.  I don’t mind a slow burn romance at all, but I felt like I was nearly finished with the book before we really started to get a hint of any potential romance between Emma and Jo. If that had happened, just a little sooner, it would have been an even better read for me.  Even with that though, I would highly recommend Something to Talk About to anyone who enjoys women’s fiction and an inside look at Hollywood culture.

Book Reviews: April 2020 Releases That Will Make You Laugh and Cry

 

Today I’m sharing reviews of some new and recent releases that are sure to please anyone who enjoys emotional reads.  The Big Finish is a heartwarming and fun read that put a smile on my face, while You and Me and Us had me reaching for my tissues and doing the ugly cry.

 

Book Reviews:  April 2020 Releases That Will Make You Laugh and CryThe Big Finish Goodreads

Author: Brooke Fossey

Publication Date: April 14, 2020

Publisher:  Berkley

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley.  All opinions are my own.

 

Brooke Fossey’s debut novel The Big Finish is an absolutely delightful story that follows a lovable cast of characters at an assisted living facility and the young woman who shows up unexpectedly and turns all of their lives upside down in the best way possible.  I’ll confess right now that I requested this book because I fell in love with the adorable cover as soon as I saw it.  I couldn’t resist the elderly man sitting on the back of the motorcycle waving his cane in the air.  That’s the promise of a hilarious read right there and thankfully I was not disappointed.

I got so much more than a humorous read though.  The Big Finish is a heartwarming story about family, friendship, love and loss. It centers around longtime roommates, Carl and Duffy.  Duffy is a bit of a curmudgeon, while Carl is a total sweetheart.  Even though they’re polar opposites, their friendship and living arrangements work seamlessly.  That is, until Josie, the granddaughter Carl has never met, comes climbing in their bedroom window in the middle of the night one night, with nothing but the clothes on her back, alcohol on her breath, and a black eye.  It’s clear Josie is in trouble and Duffy wants no part of it.  If she creates drama for them, their nasty landlord will surely give them a one-way ticket to the nearest nursing home and that is not how Duffy wants to live out his final days.  Duffy’s friendship with Carl means everything to him though so he reluctantly agrees to do whatever he can to help Carl get to know his granddaughter and to help her out of whatever toxic situation she is running from.  What starts out as a mission on the down-low soon draws in more and more of the home’s residents as they fall in love with Josie and want to help her.

I don’t want to say anything more about the plot because you just have to experience it for yourself, but I promise this is a cast of characters you will fall in love with, especially Duffy, who is nowhere near as grumpy and gruff as he would have you believe.  Duffy and Carl’s friendship is what really made the book such a special read for me and I also adored Duffy’s friendship with another resident, Alice.  He would clearly love for their relationship to be more than just friends and every scene with her brings out his softer side.  The Big Finish is one of those books I’d love to see made into a movie and was practically casting it in my mind the whole time I was reading it (with the cast of Grace and Frankie actually, haha).

If you’re looking for a fun and heartwarming read about friendship and the things we’re willing to do for our loved ones, you should definitely check out The Big Finish.

4 STARS

 

 

Book Reviews:  April 2020 Releases That Will Make You Laugh and CryYou and Me and Us Goodreads

Author: Alison Hammer

Publication Date: April 7, 2020

Publisher:  William Morrow

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley.  All opinions are my own.

 

Alison Hammer’s new novel You and Me and Us is the heartbreaking story of what happens to a family when a diagnosis of terminal cancer turns their lives upside down.  Alexis and her teen daughter, CeCe, haven’t been close in years.  The ad agency Alexis founded keeps her so busy that she’s rarely ever around and has missed many of her daughter’s important milestones.  While Alexis and CeCe aren’t close, the opposite is true for CeCe and her dad, Tommy.  Tommy is CeCe’s rock and has been there for everything her mom has missed and then some.  Tommy is devoted to both Alexis and CeCe, and neither of them know what they would do without him.  When Tommy, who has been nursing a nagging cough for months, finally confesses to his girls that he has cancer and only has a few months to live, they are understandably devastated but are determined to make the most of every moment they have left with him.

Oh my gosh, guys, this book is such an emotional journey!  I loved that the author presents the story to us from the perspectives of both CeCe and Alexis.  I thought it gave a very full picture of what each of them was feeling at every step along the way – the sadness, the anger and frustration at the situation, CeCe’s resentment of her mother, Alexis’ sorrow at having missed out on so much of her daughter’s life (and Tommy’s for that matter).  The author also beautifully captured how fearful both Alexis and CeCe were of what life was going to be like once Tommy was gone.  Would Alexis finally make CeCe a priority?  Would CeCe actually let her mom back into her life?  I felt like the range of emotions they were experiencing were portrayed very realistically, which made the story all the more heartbreaking and engrossing.

As sad as the story is, it also has some beautiful and uplifting moments that really help to balance and round out the story.  I really did love watching Tommy interact with both CeCe and Alexis. He’s just such a wonderful guy and his bond with each of them was so special.  I also loved the secondary cast of characters – friends who are there for both CeCe and Alexis as they get closer and closer to the end of Tommy’s life.  I was also a huge fan of the ending, which although it had me in tears, it also left me with a smile on my face and hope in my heart. If books that pack an emotional punch are your thing, I highly recommend You and Me and Us4.5 STARS

Mini Reviews – April 2020 Releases

 

It’s time for a new batch of mini reviews and this time it’s April ARCs. I’ve got a bit of a mixed bag here in terms of genre – YA contemporary, YA fantasy, and Historical Romance, but these are the books that have gotten me through the first week of my state’s stay-at-home order.

 

Mini Reviews – April 2020 ReleasesJack Kerouac Is Dead to Me Goodreads

Author: Gae Polisner

Publication Date: April 7, 2020

Publisher:  Wednesday Books

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley.  All opinions are my own.

 

Gae Polisner’s Jack Kerouac is Dead to Me is an oh-so-relatable YA contemporary about the challenges of being a teenager.  The story follows 15-year-old JL Markham who is firmly caught between the pressure of being forced to grow up too fast vs. those of not being allowed to grow up fast enough.  When the novel opens, we learn that JL has had a falling out with her lifelong best friend, Aubrey, and that she is trying to make amends.  It remains to be seen exactly what the falling out was over, but it’s clear the two have been drifting apart for a while now. Aubrey has a whole new circle of friends, while JL is left on the outside looking in.  JL is also dealing with the everyday peer pressure that confronts high school students – parties, drinking, dating, and especially in JL’s case because her boyfriend Max is four years older than she is, the added pressure to have sex, perhaps before one is ready.

Then as if being a teenager isn’t challenging enough, JL is also dealing with absentee parents and thus is pretty much on her own, without any guidance whatsoever, to navigate the issues she is facing.  Her father, although he hasn’t technically abandoned her, has been on the other side of the country for 18 months for his job and rarely checks in, except to push back his return home date.  This is especially disturbing considering JL’s mother is clearly suffering from a mental illness that has left her barely functioning. She sits around wearing kimonos most of the time, drinks a lot, and of all random things, writes love letters to Jack Kerouac (yes, the dead famous author).

Polisner does a tremendous job of making JL a sympathetic character.  She lets the reader inside JL’s head so we can see firsthand how she is coping and what her thoughts are about everything that is going on around her. She’s so lost and overwhelmed, and just hoping that she’s making the right decisions as she tries to figure things out day-by-day.  Max is the only one who is there for her, but is he there for the right reasons?  And where I was sympathetic to JL, I was unfortunately not a big fan of any of the other characters in the book, Max included. It seemed like they were all just either flat out awful to JL or just not there for her at all even though they should have been.  I honestly found myself angry and frustrated at all of them.

Jack Kerouac is Dead to Me is a quick read but it’s also one that packs an emotional punch because of everything JL goes through.  The only reason my rating isn’t higher is because I felt the ending was somewhat abrupt and left me with several questions that weren’t resolved.  Even with my lingering questions, however, it was still another great read from Gae Polisner.  3.5 STARS

 

 

Mini Reviews – April 2020 ReleasesRuthless Gods Goodreads

Author: Emily A. Duncan

Publication Date: April 7, 2020

Publisher:  Wednesday Books

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley.  All opinions are my own.

 

Ruthless Gods is the second book in Emily A. Duncan’s YA fantasy trilogy, Something Dark and Holy. It’s hard to review the middle book of a trilogy for fear of spoiling it for those who haven’t read the first book, but I’m going to do my best and will keep my remarks as general as possible.

What struck me the most about Ruthless Gods is that it definitely took a darker turn than Wicked Saints, which was already pretty dark.  In that sense, it kind of reminded me of The Empire Strikes Back vs. A New Hope.   There are dark forces at work everywhere, and those dark forces are impacting everyone, especially the main characters from the first book.  Nadya, the cleric who is the only one who can communicate with her Gods, can suddenly no longer reach them. It’s like they’ve cut her off.  Serefin, the Prince of Tranavia, is haunted by voices and feels as if his entire body has literally been taken over by someone or something else. And then there’s Malachiasz, the Prince’s brother, who is torn between who he once was and the monster he has become after incidents at the end of book one.  All three are battling inner demons and trying to figure out what is expected of them because it becomes clear they are pawns in someone else’s game.  Watching them struggle, I quickly found myself enamored with and rooting for all three characters all over again and anxious to see what awaited them.

As with Wicked Saints, the world building is phenomenal and I loved how dark and atmospheric it was and that it all felt tinged with the supernatural.  As much as I enjoyed the world building, the characters, and the overall story, I do have to admit that the pacing was a bit slow early on.  As Duncan starts to weave together the pieces that bind Nadya, Serefin, and Malachiasz, however, the book, thankfully, really takes off and I flew through the last half.

Even though I thought this second book was a little uneven in terms of its delivery, Ruthless Gods still gave me enough in that second half to have me anxiously awaiting the final book in the series.  If you enjoy slow-burn, dark fantasies, be sure to check out Wicked Saints and Ruthless Gods.  3.5 STARS

 

Mini Reviews – April 2020 ReleasesTo Have and to Hoax Goodreads

Author: Martha Waters

Publication Date: April 7, 2020

Publisher:  Altria Books

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley.  All opinions are my own.

 

Martha Waters’ debut novel To Have and to Hoax is the hilarious, feel good read we all need in our lives right now. I breezed through it in a couple of sittings and just sat there chuckling to myself the entire time I was reading.  The book is set in Regency, England, and reads very much like a Jane Austen novel, which I loved since I’m a huge Austen fan.

To Have and to Hoax follows a young couple, Lady Violet Grey and Lord James Audley, who meet, fall in love, and marry within just a few months of becoming acquainted.  A fierce quarrel between the two of them early on in their marriage has left them completely alienated from one another.  Both Violet and James are apparently not only stubborn as mules, but they are also quite juvenile and so 4 years have passed with them at a stalemate.   Deciding enough is enough, the two of them start to play mind games with one another – feigning sick to make the other one worry, pretending to have a paramour to make the other jealous. They even actually start to bring outsiders into their games as actors to up the stakes to try to get under each other’s skin.  These two idiots and their antics are just so silly and ridiculous that I couldn’t stop laughing at them and especially at their hilarious sniping banter.

To Have and to Hoax is exactly the bit of fluffy goodness I was hoping for when I started reading and I definitely recommend it to anyone who is looking for a light-hearted read about a couple of stubborn fools.  3.5 STARS