In arc review

ARC REVIEW: You Were There Too


Title: You Were There Too
Author: Colleen Oakley
Genre(s):  Adult, Romance
Release: January 7th, 2020
Rating: ✭✭✭/5

This first review of 2020 is a very confusing one. You Were There Too has both good and bad aspects, but I'm not completely sure I love the final product. 

We follow Mia, who, though having a seemingly perfect life, has been having dreams containing a guy she's never met. When she comes face to face with the guy in real life, the two discover that they both share the same secret. Now, Mia must choose between her husband and the guy she seems to be irrevocably connected with.

To start off this review with something positive, I was really intrigued by the premise of this book. The paranormal aspect this book possesses isn't something you'd think of when you see the cover. It also reminded me in some way of Josie Silver's One Day in December or Jewel E. Ann's Transcend duet. 

Furthermore, I also really liked the topic at hand. Mia has been dealing with miscarriages all throughout her marriage, and the book really digs into how taxing the grieving process is, as well as the struggles she faces trying to conceive again. Both of these heavily affect her marriage and I liked the drama that it brought with.

Now, here comes my main issue with the book. I didn't fully think this should be classified as a 'romance' per sé. The book does heavily feature romantic relationships, but the ending is so unsatisfying in the romantic department, that I think I would have enjoyed this a lot more if it was marketed as a drama, or women's fiction. I went in expecting some kind of romance to develop, but the end result just didn't fully deliver on that front.

This all being said, I didn't hate the book. I thought it was fine, and certainly kept me reading, however I wouldn't say I was satisfied in the end, which is the main reason I'm giving this book 3 stars. I urge you to pick this up if you're into dramas, and want to read about grief/miscarriage or if you're looking for something with a hint of paranormal, but I'm not so convinced on the romance of it all.

*ARC provided by Berkley in exchange for an honest review.

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In arc review

ARC REVIEW: A Heart So Fierce and Broken



Title: A Heart so Fierce and Broken
Author: Brigid Kemmerer
Genre(s):  Young Adult, Fantasy
Release: January 7th, 2020
Rating: ✭✭✭/5

“I’m staring down at . . . a creature I can’t identify. It’s somewhat human-shaped, with dark-gray skin, the color of a cloudy night sky. Wings bound with rope sprout from its back, and there’s a length of tail that curls limply along the ground of the cage. It has clawed hands and feet, and a shock of black hair that’s matted with sweat. It’s not moving.”

Nothing worse than going into a book expecting to be blown away because you loved the first one, but then end up struggling throughout the second because it's the opposite from what you've expected. That's what happened with this book.

We follow Grey, a side character in the first book, on his own journey. Where A Curse so Dark and Lonely was an excellent Beauty and the Beast retelling, this one doesn't really follow a story. It just feels like a bunch of tropes mixed together at random.

Where this book loses most of its stars, however, is the way in which it treats its already established characters. Going into A Heart so Fierce and Broken, the reader expects Harper and Rhen, two character we already know and love to make a cameo, to at least have some kind of importance within the story. The sad reality of this book, though, is that any and all character development from the previous instalment is undone in this book. Harper has a few quick appearances and one itty bitty chapter written in her POV. Additionally, Rhen, a character I loved in book one, has turned into someone that is very hard to even like in book two. It feels like we're watching completely different characters from the very first book.

A second issue I had with A Heart so Fierce and Broken is that the plot feels very lack-luster. The new characters introduced were underdeveloped and kind of hard to care about. The ending also left a lot to be desired. Going in, I knew this book was going to be about Grey, but to completely ignore most of the characters that made book 1 attractive was an oversight on the author's part. I kept waiting for some kind of action, but a lot of the plot consisted of plot-points that I just couldn't fully care about as they seemed so out of touch with the previous instalment. 

All in all, this was a very mediocre sequel to an otherwise amazing first book. I hope to see Kemmerer return with a mind-blowing third instalment that rivals the first one, but this one sadly only gets a 3 star rating from me. 

*ARC received from Bloomsbury in exchange for an honest review

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In 2019 wrap-up

2019 WRAP-UP: My Favorite YA Books I Read This Year!


Earlier this week I uploaded my favorite Romance books of 2019, which means this post couldn't be far behind. I present to you, my 2019 YA favorites! All of these are quality books that I think you should definitely add to your 2020 TBR's! Anyway, enough talking, let's get into the list!

The Last Magician by Lisa Maxwell
Narrowing down this list was hard, and I honestly think this shares the spotlight with The Gilded Wolves, but, as I technically read that one last year in ARC form, the top spot is for The Last Magician. This contains everything I need for a good YA fantasy to work, and adds that little extra. The Last Magician follows modern-day thief Esta, who has the affinity to travel through time. In order to save magicians in her own time, she is tasked to travel to early 1900's New York to retrieve a magical artefact and defeat the last magician. However, none of it is ever that easy, right? This is a multi-POV heist-story with beautiful, well-rounded characters, delightful interactions, and the intrigue and atmosphere of 1900's New York City. What an absolute BEAUTY this book is!

The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi
Okay, so as I mentioned, I didn't actually read this book in 2019, but it came out this year so it technically counts! The Gilded Wolves follows a group of misfits in belle epoque Paris. Leader of the gang, Séverin, has lost his inheritance and is desperate to get it back. When a powerful order makes him an offer he can't refuse, him and his group of unlikely allies will have to team up to get it. I'm not exaggerating when I say that The Gilded Wolves is the height of heist stories. It sets itself apart with its beautifully diverse characters, poignant social commentary, and its beautiful writing. This book is a hidden gem!

Serpent & Dove by Shelby Mahurin
Just reading the premise for this book already sold me on it. Serpent and Dove follows the delightful hate-to-love romance between a witch and a witch-hunter as they get stuck in an unexpected marriage. Lou and Reid hate each other, as in actually hate each other. He thinks she's vile, she wants to literally murder him. Put them together in holy matrimony and you'll receive some delicious banter, steamy scenes, and peak comedy! I absolutely adored Serpent and Dove, and if you're a lover of romance, I think you will too!

We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal
This is definitely a book I was very excited about at the beginning of 2019, and it didn't disappoint! We Hunt the Flame follows huntress Zafira, who, in order to provide for her people, braves a forbidden forest to hunt. The forest is ever-growing and the only way to stop it is to find a magical artefact. Setting out on her journey, Zafira encounters Nasir, the crown-prince and set out to kill the mysterious hunter defying his father's rule. This book has some amazing characters, intricate writing, and a very atmospheric setting. I might be in love.

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden
I feel like I jumped on the hype-train 1000 years too late, but better late than never. The Bear and the Nightingale is the first instalment in the Winternight series, and provides a spin on an enchanting Russian fairytale. This follows Vasya, who, determined to not confine to the norms of being an ideal Russian wife, comes into contact with beings only fables have told her about. When she meets the frost-demon Morozko, the two embark on a magical and wintery journey. Arden's incredible writing, mixed with the atmospheric setting of Russia in winter makes this book so insanely compelling. I can't wait to sink my teeth into the sequel but this is definitely a 2019 favorite!

Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim
I am a simple soul: I see a book pitched as a Mulan retelling, I read. Spin the Dawn promised Project Runway meets Mulan and did more than deliver! This follows Maia, who, as a tailor, wants nothing more than to work at the royal palace. Dressed as a boy, she enters a competition to win a spot as the royal tailor, but in order to win, she is tasked with gathering the moon, stars, and sun and sew them into dresses. This beautiful story just screams magic, which is why it's one of my favorites of the year!

Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo
And last on the list, the biggest surprise of the year. I'm not a horror person, I'm just not. Reading the divisive opinions on the book beforehand, I was not convinced I'd enjoy Ninth House. A girl is allowed to be wrong. Ninth House has the vaguest premise ever, but let me try to rehash the brunt of it. Girl (Alex) meets scholar (Darlington) who invites her to join his weird-ish Yale cult that cuts up dead people and talks to ghosts. When Darlington goes missing, Alex has to piece together what happened to their leader. Honestly, if this doesn't sound like your thing because I butchered the premise, that's fine, but please read it because this was fantastic. 

What were your favorite YA books of 2019?



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In 2019 wrap-up

2019 WRAP-UP: My Favorite Romance Books of the Year!


2020 is right around the corner so what better time for a romance wrap-up. This time my seven favorite romances of 2019. Most of these are rom-coms, but feature important and deeper themes nonetheless. Continue reading to discover some potential new faves!

Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston
Bookdepository
You've probably seen this book everywhere by now, but in the unlikely case you haven't, this follows the prince of England and the son of the United States who strike up an unlikely romance. This also won the Goodreads Choice Award, which is wholly deserved!

Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert
Bookdepository
Much like Red, White & Royal Blue, this is also not the first time I've talked about this book on my blog. Get a Life, Chloe Brown might be a fairly recent read, but it jumped to the top of my list nonetheless. This story follows chronically ill Chloe, who falls in love with her superintendent 'Red'. All I'll say is it involves a cat. This is definitely one of the cutest, funniest and steamiest romances of the year

The Kingmaker by Kennedy Ryan
Bookdepository
What I love about Kennedy Ryan's work is that every single one covers an important topic, and, is supported by tons of research. The Kingmaker is no exception. This follows Native American activist Lennix who, while protesting a pipeline, meets the son of the company that wants to take her land. I think the topics covered in combination with Ryan's amazing writing truly adds something special to the genre.

Waiting for Tom Hanks by Kerry Winfrey
Bookdepository
You know those books that you read at exactly the right place and time? This was it for me. Waiting for Tom Hanks is about Annie who's desperately looking for her own rom-com Tom Hanks. But, faced with famous actor Drew Danforth, she's convinced this guy can't be it. Or can he? I found that I related to the main character and the topics mentioned so incredibly much that there's no doubt if this would be one of my favorites of the year. It just is.

The Friend Zone by Abbi Jiminez 
Bookdepository
Another romance that covers important topics. Though I've read very dividing opinions regarding this one, I absolutely adored it. The Friend Zone follow Kristen and Josh who meet through mutual friends. The two connect but there's one thing that prevents Kristen from being all-in. Josh desperately wants kids, but Kristen can't have them. I found that this book packed an emotional punch but also made me feel warm and fuzzy!

The Flatshare by Beth O'Leary
Bookdepository
This follows to people in central London who share the same bed. While night-nurse Leon only sleeps during the day,  Tiffy needs some place to stay during the nights. What if they just share? It all seems simple in theory, but when the two start communicating via small notes in their apartment, something magical happens. The Flatshare has such a ridiculous premise, but it just works and there is no question that this book deserves a spot on the list.

Tangled Like Us by Krista and Becca Ritchie
Bookdepository
The last book on here is a bit of a controversial one. Tangled Like Us is the fourth instalment in the Like Us series and follows Jane Cobalt, American princess, who has fallen hopelessly in love with her stoic and handsome bodyguard. While the summary might seem a little generic, the strengths of this series is its expansive universe and cast of characters. While the rest of this series does not manage to live up to the hype for me, Tangled Like Us is absolutely worth a read!

What were your favorite 2019 romances?

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In book review

REVIEW: The Beautiful


Title: The Beautiful
Author: Renee Ahdieh
Genre(s):  Young Adult, Fantasy
Release: October 2019
Rating: ✭✭✭✭,5/5

"She was no lamb. 
She was a lion."

I am a simple mind. I hear "historical vampire YA," I read. The Beautiful was pitches as the "next Twilight" by many, and, while I'm not someone who 100% believes Twilight still holds up in the 2010s, I was very much intrigued by the premise of this book, and couldn't wait to read more of Ahdieh's works after loving The Wrath and the Dawn so much. 

The Beautiful takes place in historical New Orleans, and follows Celine who has fled Paris after committing a crime. Celine wants to find her new normal, but after arriving in NOLA, she soon discovers that normal might just not be her thing. Trying to solve a murder case, she gets caught up in a secret society that deals with the occult. 

What is this book about?
Celine's character was the most interesting to me. While I enjoyed Odette and Bastien, Celine has certain layers to her character that made a very entertaining reading experience. She's not simply black or white, which seems to be a current trend in YA, but her multifaceted personality added an interesting layer to her character.

What did I think of The Beautiful?
I also really enjoyed the setting, as expected. Historical YA is typically an automatic pull for me, and I will read anything that's set in the 19th/early 20th century. I really enjoyed the dark, gritty, and diverse society of 19th century NOLA, and the gloomy setting made for a perfect fall read. 

In addition, Ahdieh makes an interesting writing choice by including a third, mysterious POV. Aside from both Celine and her love-interest, we get the narrative of - the supposed - killer. I thought this added a very interesting dynamic to this book, something I hadn't seen in YA.

One thing I thought where this book went wrong (and something that could have prevented the divided opinions in regards to this book) is the marketing. I think, because a lot of people expected to find the "new Twilight" (which this was not) people went in with misconstrued expectations. 

Lastly, Adding talk of racism and oppression to historical YA is always something I really appreciate. When writing a genre like this, many authors tend to focus on the supposed 'magic' of the era, but neglect to mention how gross a lot of the historical circumstances were for minorities. Ahdieh, a Korean-American author herself, touches on Celine's experiences as a woman of Korean descent who's situated in 19th century Europe/America. By including this perspective, Ahdieh adds an extra layer to her book.

While this was pitched as Twilight, I was pleasantly surprised that this wasn't at all like it. Celine and Bastien were much more interesting than Bella and Edward, and I found that this book had really upped the stakes by the end of the story. The concept and the execution far surpassed my expectations, and I adored every addictive minute of this book.


What did you think of The Beautiful?




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In book review

REVIEW: Get a Life, Chloe Brown



Title: Get a Life, Chloe Brown
Author: Talia Hibbert
Genre(s):  Romance, Adult
Release: November 2019
Rating: ✭✭✭✭✭/5

Romance books, oh romance books, how I love you so! Expected to love this book, ended up loving this book, now off to read the entirety of Talia Hibbert's backlist... bye. No, really. If you see me screaming about this on twitter, please remember I'm fine.

We follow Chloe Brown, a fat black woman with fibromyalgia, who just wants to get a life. Chloe has lived her life in the confines of her safe bubble, so when she has an almost-death experience in the form of a car-crash, she decides to make a bucket list. Enter superintendent/artist Redford "Red" Morgan, who is tasked with the delightful job of helping Chloe "find her life." After helping her rescue a cat from a tree, the two of them don't hit it off immediately. But, when they discover more about each other's pasts, there might be no turning back for them.

Get a Life, Chloe Brown is pitched alongside works of some of my absolute favorite romance authors (Sally Thorne, Helen Hoang), so this was an auto-read for me. But it remained a question if this would actually fulfill my high expectations. I am pleased to say, Get a Life, Chloe Brown more than fullfilled them. 

Talia Hibbert's writing is definitely like Sally Thorne's. It's quick, flows nicely, and so incredibly funny. The amount of times I had to put this book down to have a good laugh is more than I can count at this point. Chloe's POV, especially, has an intensely relatable and funny quality to it. I don't think I've fallen in love with a rom-com like this ever since I read Red White and Royal Blue earlier this year.  Also, the representation in this book is own voices, which shows through the writing.

The development of the main relationship, then, was my absolute favorite. Red and Chloe go from dislike, to attraction to love. The way both of them uncovered each other's secrets and pasts was so incredibly heart-felt. Aside from these warm moments, Hibbert also touches on subjects such as the consequences of domestic abuse. The two character go through pretty monumental development, and it's so incredibly well done. I'm not a lover of dark romances, hence why I read mostly rom-coms, and Red's respect and care for Chloe was so apparent in this novel. This was pure love in book form.

If you've made it this far through me gushing about this (a little bit clichéd, but very heart-warming) rom-com, I have but one message for you: READ THIS ABSOLUTE JOY OF A BOOK.

What did you think of Get a Life, Chloe Brown?

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In book review

REVIEW: Ninth House



Title: Ninth House
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Genre(s):  Adult, Mystery, Thriller
Release: October 2019
Rating: ✭✭✭✭✭/5

"I let you die. To save myself, I let you die.
That's the danger in keeping company with survivors."

To be perfectly honest, I wasn't sure if Ninth House was going to be a book for me. While I've loved Bardugo's other series (specifically Six of Crows), I would even go so far as to say she is one of my favorite writers, the many mixed reviews for Ninth House in combination with the fact this was pitched as a horror-y adult thriller didn't really manage to excite me. But, boi, am I glad to say that I was WRONG. Ninth House proved to be such a perfect read for the gloomy fall months.

I thought the concept of this book was very unique, albeit a little bit vague, as expected from Bardugo. We follow Alex Stern, who is a member of a secret society at Yale university. What happens at this society is very much a mystery. All that is clear is that it involves death, ghosts, and magic. Alex goes on a hunt for Darlington, one of the leaders of this society, as he has disappeared a month prior. 

The writing never let me down in this one, and Bardugo definitely shows why she's such a popular author. I didn't peg myself as someone who loves dark adult reads, but the mystery aspect in combination with the atmospheric setting (that is lovingly termed "Dark Academia" by many) really did it for me. I've seen people say that Ninth House was too slow-paced for them, which I can definitely see as a negative, however, I wasn't really bothered by it myself. The pacing, for me, was just right. It might be the atmospheric writing, or the fact that I was very intrigued by the mystery aspect (as I never really read thrillers), but I really flew through this, as opposed to a lot of fantasies with heavy worldbuilding, for example.

I might not be the most seasoned thriller/mystery reader, but I highly enjoyed the mystery aspect in this. However, I did think that for almost half of the book the story wasn't very apparent. It took a long time to set up, which I personally didn't mind, as it added to the suspense of the novel, but I can see how this would turn a lot of readers off.

An interesting writing decision in Ninth House is the non-linear timeline. We follow Alex in the Winter season, after Darlington has disappeared, and we get flashbacks to the previous fall, when Darlington initiates Alex into their society. While not a fan of flashbacks in, for example, romance books, I thought this format worked really well for Ninth House as it maintained a lot of the suspense and mysterious elements.

Additionally, we follow two POV's: Alex and Darlington's, who are polar opposites of each other. While Alex has drug-issues, and is only trying to survive amidst the chaos of her life, Darlington is an academic. I've seen some people say that Darlington is an older version of Gansey from The Raven Cycle, which is an apt comparison. The contrast between the two characters, however, is what makes their dynamic so interesting to read about. Darlington invites Alex into their cultish society because of her ability to see ghosts, and, as we soon learn, there's a distinct chemistry between the two.

As this is Bardugo's first published attempt at writing and Adult series, I think a lot of people expected this to still have a YA feel. This is definitely NOT the case, and I think the marketing also has tried their best to convey this. Ninth House is definitely not suited for a younger audience, as it contains a lot of heavy and dark topics, that could be more pronounced before starting the book. Accordingly, there are trigger warnings for: sexual assault, non-con, over drug use, addiction, gore, violence, murder. 

I've read that Bardugo plans to make this a five-book series, which I'm not sure how I feel about, as I initially thought this would be a duology. However, with the introduction of so many complex secret societies, I'm sure there will be enough material to explore for any future books. Ninth House, in the end, managed to completely surprise me (in a positive way) and I can't wait for the sequel.

Goodreads

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