Review: Lore by Alexandra Bracken

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Star rating: 5 ⭐ / 5 ⭐

Synopsis: from StoryGraph

Her name will be legend

Every seven years, the Agon begins. As punishment for a past rebellion, nine Greek gods are forced to walk the earth as mortals, hunted by the descendants of ancient bloodlines, all eager to kill a god and seize their divine power and immortality. Long ago, Lore Perseous fled that brutal world in the wake of her family’s sadistic murder by a rival line, turning her back on the hunt’s promises of eternal glory. For years she’s pushed away any thought of revenge against the man–now a god–responsible for their deaths. Yet as the next hunt dawns over New York City, two participants seek out her help: Castor, a childhood friend of Lore believed long dead, and a gravely wounded Athena, among the last of the original gods. The goddess offers an alliance against their mutual enemy and, at last, a way for Lore to leave the Agon behind forever. But Lore’s decision to bind her fate to Athena’s and rejoin the hunt will come at a deadly cost–and still may not be enough to stop the rise of a new god with the power to bring humanity to its knees.

General information: This book was published in January 2020 by Disney-Hyperion Books.

My thoughts:

Wow!! This book had me hooked!!

It’s about 480 pages, much longer than my usual physical reads, but I could barely put it down. Especially towards the end- the plot took some twists that I did not expect, and it kept me guessing in a way that I loved.

The main characters are all amazing, especially Lore and Castor, my favorites. I loved the found family aspect of the book- and Miles, sweet cinnamon roll Miles. Ugh. I just loved them all. I especially loved Lore’s character arc, and where she ended up. I felt that was done really well.

The plot moved along at a quick pace, despite the length of the book, which I appreciated. It was done really well; like I said, the plot twists kept me guessing, and the way some of the mysteries were resolved had me internally screaming. (In a good way).

There was a lot of upfront information, and certainly a base knowledge of Greek mythology helps when starting this book, but I felt the author did a good job of explaining everything. Even if you’re not overly familiar with Greek mythology, you’d probably still be able to enjoy this book.

Overall, I hugely enjoyed this book and will probably reread it in the future. I’m really glad that I preordered a copy! I highly recommend this book to fans of Greek mythology, urban fantasy, The Hunger Games, and other YA staples. It has good crossover appeal, though, as YA fantasy isn’t usually my thing, but I really enjoyed this one.

Have you read this book? What did you think? Let me know in the comments!

Review: Well Played by Jen DeLuca

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Star rating: 3 ⭐ / 5 ⭐

Synopsis: from StoryGraph

Another laugh-out-loud romantic comedy featuring kilted musicians, Renaissance Faire tavern wenches, and an unlikely love story.

Stacey is jolted when her friends Simon and Emily get engaged. She knew she was putting her life on hold when she stayed in Willow Creek to care for her sick mother, but it’s been years now, and even though Stacey loves spending her summers pouring drinks and flirting with patrons at the local Renaissance Faire, she wants more out of life. Stacey vows to have her life figured out by the time her friends get hitched at Faire next summer. Maybe she’ll even find The One.

When Stacey imagined “The One,” it never occurred to her that her summertime Faire fling, Dex MacLean, might fit the bill. While Dex is easy on the eyes onstage with his band The Dueling Kilts, Stacey has never felt an emotional connection with him. So when she receives a tender email from the typically monosyllabic hunk, she’s not sure what to make of it.

Faire returns to Willow Creek, and Stacey comes face-to-face with the man with whom she’s exchanged hundreds of online messages over the past nine months. To Stacey’s shock, it isn’t Dex—she’s been falling in love with a man she barely knows.

General information: This was published in September 2020 by Berkley Books.

My thoughts:

Meh.

I really wanted to like this one.

It was an easy read- I finished it in less than a week, even with the holidays- but I feel pretty ambivalent about it. I think I gave the first book in the series, Well Met, 3 stars as well, but I finished that one in about 2 days and raved about it to my friends. It had its issues, but I really enjoyed reading it.

This one, I felt much less… rave-y about. Warning, this review will get into mild spoiler territory as I talk about the love interest, so if you want to go into it knowing absolutely nothing, then avoid this post.

I loved Stacey’s character and the fact that she got a whole novel- she was one of my favorites in the first book- and I loved all the glimpses we got of Simon and Emily’s lives.

I also thought the ending was built up well- Stacey had a lot of character growth and I really liked where she ended up as a person.

The love interest? Him, I wasn’t as enthused about.

I knew from the first few pages who the actual love interest would be (not really a surprise, it’s a romcom after all, that’s kind of the point) but I wasn’t happy with the way they fell in love.

I thought the emails and texts were sweet, but the big reveal about his identity fell flat for me. Personally, I would have been much less quick to forgive than Stacey. If someone had been lying to me- basically catfishing- for almost a year? Hell no. Goodbye. Throw the whole man out.

He didn’t even have an especially good defense, in my opinion. And he kind of oozed a specific sort of creepiness, to me? He felt too good to be true, in a bad way.

Of course, I still read the whole book because I was invested in Stacey, but him? Couldn’t have cared less about. Part of me wishes she had just done her own thing in the ending but hey, what do I know.

This one wasn’t for me, ultimately, but someone else may love it. I’m glad I got it from the library because I don’t plan on reading this one again, unlike the first one.

Thanks for reading! Have you read this installment in the series yet? What did you think about it? Let me know in the comments!

ARC Review: The Ruthless Lady’s Guide to Wizardry by C.M. Waggoner

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Star rating: 5 ⭐ / 5 ⭐

Synopsis: from Goodreads

A charming historical fantasy with a tender love story at its core, from the author of Unnatural Magic.

Hard-drinking petty thief Dellaria Wells is down on her luck in the city of Leiscourt—again. Then she sees a want ad for a female bodyguard, and she fast-talks her way into the high-paying job. Along with a team of other women, she’s meant to protect a rich young lady from mysterious assassins.

At first Delly thinks the danger is exaggerated, but a series of attacks shows there’s much to fear. Then she begins to fall for Winn, one of the other bodyguards, and the women team up against a mysterious, magical foe who seems to have allies everywhere.

General information: This book will be published on January 12th 2021 by Ace Books. A big thank you to the publisher for the ARC of this book!

My thoughts:

Y’all, this book was so good!

It made me laugh out loud at least once a chapter. I loved all of the characters, especially Delly Wells and Winn, her love interest. Their relationship was beyond adorable, and the friendships of the women in the book were all interesting and well written.

The use of language was inventive, funny, and perfect for the setting. I felt immersed in the world from the very first page, something I love in fantasy books. The setting was well done and very creative- I love a good historical fantasy!

This book felt quick, in a good way. I never felt the pace dragging on too much and I was invested in the various misadventures of Delly and company. It almost felt like a Terry Pratchett novel and that’s a really, really good thing.

The plot was fairly simple- you didn’t see too many twists and turns- but I feel like it worked well to the book’s advantage. There was a lot of worldbuilding to keep up with, so I’m glad the plot wasn’t too convoluted. The worldbuilding was done well, though, and I really enjoyed learning about the Victorian-esque world of Dellaria Wells.

The ending was very satisfying, to me. I loved the culmination of Delly and Winn’s romance arc- they were adorable and I loved their slow burn. They were charming and a little awkward in a perfect way.

I highly recommend this to fans of historical fantasy, sapphic romance, funny fantasy, or an adventurous novel that moves along quickly! This book comes out today so grab a copy if you can!

Content warnings:

This book contains depictions of addiction, violence, and major character death.

Have you read this one? What did you think? Let me know in the comments!

Review: Bringing Down the Duke by Evie Dunmore

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Star rating: 3.5 /5 ⭐

Synopsis: from Goodreads

England, 1879. Annabelle Archer, the brilliant but destitute daughter of a country vicar, has earned herself a place among the first cohort of female students at the renowned University of Oxford. In return for her scholarship, she must support the rising women’s suffrage movement. Her charge: recruit men of influence to champion their cause. Her target: Sebastian Devereux, the cold and calculating Duke of Montgomery who steers Britain’s politics at the Queen’s command. Her challenge: not to give in to the powerful attraction she can’t deny for the man who opposes everything she stands for.

Sebastian is appalled to find a suffragist squad has infiltrated his ducal home, but the real threat is his impossible feelings for green-eyed beauty Annabelle. He is looking for a wife of equal standing to secure the legacy he has worked so hard to rebuild, not an outspoken commoner who could never be his duchess. But he wouldn’t be the greatest strategist of the Kingdom if he couldn’t claim this alluring bluestocking without the promise of a ring…or could he?

Locked in a battle with rising passion and a will matching her own, Annabelle will learn just what it takes to topple a duke….

General information: This was published in 2019 by Berkley Books.

My thoughts:

Happy New Year!!! I’m ringing in 2021 with a review of a historical romance, a genre I don’t usually read. Look at me, branching out.

Another change for 2021: I’m rating with half-stars now! I feel like it gives me a little more nuance in my ratings. I’m also going to stop using Goodreads- I’m trying StoryGraph this year and I really like it so far.

Now onto the actual review.

I read this in 2 days, which is rare for me these days. I absolutely devoured this book!

I loved the focus on the women’s suffrage movement. That was really interesting, and it seems like the author did her homework on it. I also loved the female friendships in this book; that’s something that’s not always a focus of romance novels, but it worked well in this particular one. Lucie, Catriona, Hattie… I loved all of them and hope they get their own sequels one day! (Of course, one of the sequels is out already, so go check that out!)

I also really enjoyed the stakes in this novel. That’s another thing that romances don’t always do well- sometimes as I’m reading a romance, I just want to scream “Talk to each other and you wouldn’t have this problem!”. In this one, I totally believed the stakes and why they were apart. It felt very real and I felt the conflict was done well.

However… I just didn’t feel particularly compelled by the male lead, Sebastian Devereux. I felt that he was kind of a jerk sometimes and I wasn’t particularly rooting for him the way I was rooting for Annabelle. I’m sure some readers will love him, but his character just didn’t connect with me.

I was also slightly annoyed by the intense instant physical attraction the main characters experience. Of course, it happens in real life, but we spend so much time in the book talking about how attractive they find each other that I feel the romance part wasn’t developed as strongly. They have some good banter, but they know each other for all of a few weeks when they start declaring their love. (Which is probably a common trope in romance, but it bothers me all the same).

Overall, I really enjoyed the author’s writing style and will probably read the sequel. I might even start reading more historical romance in general!

Have you read this book? What did you think? Let me know in the comments!

WWW Wednesday!

Welcome to my WWW Wednesday post, a weekly meme hosted by Sam @ Taking On A World of Words.

What did you recently finish reading?

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Written in the Stars by Alexandria Bellefleur! Review will be posted in the coming weeks.

What are you currently reading?

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The Cousins by Karen M. McManus!

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The Ruthless Lady’s Guide to Wizardry by C.M. Waggoner! This one is an ARC and it releases soon so expect a review around the release date.

What will you read next?

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A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab! I got this one from the library and will probably give it a shot next. I really liked Addie LaRue so I have high expectations for this one.

What does your WWW Wednesday look like? Let me know in the comments!

Most Anticipated 2021 Releases (January-March)

This is definitely not a comprehensive list, just a some books that I’ve heard buzz about!

January 5th

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Lore by Alexandra Bracken!

Synopsis: from Goodreads-

Every seven years, the Agon begins. As punishment for a past rebellion, nine Greek gods are forced to walk the earth as mortals, hunted by the descendants of ancient bloodlines, all eager to kill a god and seize their divine power and immortality.
Long ago, Lore Perseous fled that brutal world in the wake of her family’s sadistic murder by a rival line, turning her back on the hunt’s promises of eternal glory. For years she’s pushed away any thought of revenge against the man–now a god–responsible for their deaths.

Yet as the next hunt dawns over New York City, two participants seek out her help: Castor, a childhood friend of Lore believed long dead, and a gravely wounded Athena, among the last of the original gods.

The goddess offers an alliance against their mutual enemy and, at last, a way for Lore to leave the Agon behind forever. But Lore’s decision to bind her fate to Athena’s and rejoin the hunt will come at a deadly cost–and still may not be enough to stop the rise of a new god with the power to bring humanity to its knees.

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Persephone Station by Stina Leicht!

Synopsis: from Goodreads-

Hugo award-nominated author Stina Leicht has created a take on space opera for fans of The Mandalorian and Cowboy Bebop in this high-stakes adventure.

Persephone Station, a seemingly backwater planet that has largely been ignored by the United Republic of Worlds becomes the focus for the Serrao-Orlov Corporation as the planet has a few secrets the corporation tenaciously wants to exploit.

Rosie—owner of Monk’s Bar, in the corporate town of West Brynner—caters to wannabe criminals and rich Earther tourists, of a sort, at the front bar. However, exactly two types of people drank at Monk’s back bar: members of a rather exclusive criminal class and those who sought to employ them.

Angel—ex-marine and head of a semi-organized band of beneficent criminals, wayward assassins, and washed up mercenaries with a penchant for doing the honorable thing—is asked to perform a job for Rosie. What this job reveals will affect Persephone and put Angel and her squad up against an army. Despite the odds, they are rearing for a fight with the Serrao-Orlov Corporation. For Angel, she knows that once honor is lost, there is no regaining it. That doesn’t mean she can’t damned well try.

January 12th

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The Ruthless Lady’s Guide to Wizardry by C.M. Waggoner! (I’m currently reading an ARC of this so expect a review near the release date)

Synopsis: from Goodreads-

Hard-drinking petty thief Dellaria Wells is down on her luck in the city of Leiscourt—again. Then she sees a want ad for a female bodyguard, and she fast-talks her way into the high-paying job. Along with a team of other women, she’s meant to protect a rich young lady from mysterious assassins.

At first Delly thinks the danger is exaggerated, but a series of attacks shows there’s much to fear. Then she begins to fall for Winn, one of the other bodyguards, and the women team up against a mysterious, magical foe who seems to have allies everywhere.

January 19th

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Shipped by Angie Hockman!

Synopsis: from Goodreads-

Between taking night classes for her MBA and her demanding day job at a cruise line, marketing manager Henley Evans barely has time for herself, let alone family, friends, or dating. But when she’s shortlisted for the promotion of her dreams, all her sacrifices finally seem worth it.

The only problem? Graeme Crawford-Collins, the remote social media manager and the bane of her existence, is also up for the position. Although they’ve never met in person, their epic email battles are the stuff of office legend.

Their boss tasks each of them with drafting a proposal on how to boost bookings in the Galápagos—best proposal wins the promotion. There’s just one catch: they have to go on a company cruise to the Galápagos Islands…together. But when the two meet on the ship, Henley is shocked to discover that the real Graeme is nothing like she imagined. As they explore the Islands together, she soon finds the line between loathing and liking thinner than a postcard.

With her career dreams in her sights and a growing attraction to the competition, Henley begins questioning her life choices. Because what’s the point of working all the time if you never actually live?

January 26th

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The Ex Talk by Rachel Lynn Solomon!

Synopsis: from Goodreads-

Public radio co-hosts navigate mixed signals in Rachel Lynn Solomon’s sparkling romantic comedy debut.

Shay Goldstein has been a producer at her Seattle public radio station for nearly a decade, and she can’t imagine working anywhere else. But lately it’s been a constant clash between her and her newest colleague, Dominic Yun, who’s fresh off a journalism master’s program and convinced he knows everything about public radio.

When the struggling station needs a new concept, Shay proposes a show that her boss green-lights with excitement. On The Ex Talk, two exes will deliver relationship advice live, on air. Their boss decides Shay and Dominic are the perfect co-hosts, given how much they already despise each other. Neither loves the idea of lying to listeners, but it’s this or unemployment. Their audience gets invested fast, and it’s not long before The Ex Talk becomes a must-listen in Seattle and climbs podcast charts.

As the show gets bigger, so does their deception, especially when Shay and Dominic start to fall for each other. In an industry that values truth, getting caught could mean the end of more than just their careers.

February 2nd

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On Fragile Waves by E. Lily Yu!

Synopsis: from Goodreads-

Firuzeh and her brother Nour are children of fire, born in an Afghanistan fractured by war. When their parents, their Atay and Abay, decide to leave, they spin fairy tales of their destination, the mythical land and opportunities of Australia.

As the family journeys from Pakistan to Indonesia to Nauru, heading toward a hope of home, they must rely on fragile and temporary shelters, strangers both mercenary and kind, and friends who vanish as quickly as they’re found.

When they arrive in Australia, what seemed like a stable shore gives way to treacherous currents. Neighbors, classmates, and the government seek their own ends, indifferent to the family’s fate. For Firuzeh, her fantasy worlds provide some relief, but as her family and home splinter, she must surface from these imaginings and find a new way.

February 9th

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A Lady’s Formula for Love by Elizabeth Everett!

Synopsis: from Goodreads-

What is a Victorian lady’s formula for love? Mix one brilliant noblewoman and her enigmatic protection officer. Add in a measure of danger and attraction. Heat over the warmth of humor and friendship, and the result is more than simple chemistry—it’s elemental.

Lady Violet Hughes is keeping secrets. First, she founded a clandestine sanctuary for England’s most brilliant female scientists. Second, she is using her genius on a confidential mission for the Crown. But the biggest secret of all? Her feelings for protection officer Arthur Kneland.

Solitary and reserved, Arthur learned the hard way to put duty first. But the more time he spends in the company of Violet and the eccentric club members, the more his best intentions go up in flames. Literally.

When a shadowy threat infiltrates Violet’s laboratories, endangering her life and her work, scientist and bodyguard will find all their theories put to the test—and learn that the most important discoveries are those of the heart.

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The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna!

Synopsis: from Goodreads-

The start of a bold and immersive West African-inspired, feminist fantasy series for fans of Children of Blood and Bone and Black Panther. In this world, girls are outcasts by blood and warriors by choice.

Sixteen-year-old Deka lives in fear and anticipation of the blood ceremony that will determine whether she will become a member of her village. Already different from everyone else because of her unnatural intuition, Deka prays for red blood so she can finally feel like she belongs.

But on the day of the ceremony, her blood runs gold, the color of impurity–and Deka knows she will face a consequence worse than death.

Then a mysterious woman comes to her with a choice: stay in the village and submit to her fate, or leave to fight for the emperor in an army of girls just like her. They are called alaki–near-immortals with rare gifts. And they are the only ones who can stop the empire’s greatest threat.

Knowing the dangers that lie ahead yet yearning for acceptance, Deka decides to leave the only life she’s ever known. But as she journeys to the capital to train for the biggest battle of her life, she will discover that the great walled city holds many surprises. Nothing and no one are quite what they seem to be–not even Deka herself.

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The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah!

Synopsis: from Goodreads-

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Nightingale and The Great Alone comes an epic novel of love and heroism and hope, set against the backdrop of one of America’s most defining eras—the Great Depression.

Texas, 1934. Millions are out of work and a drought has broken the Great Plains. Farmers are fighting to keep their land and their livelihoods as the crops are failing, the water is drying up, and dust threatens to bury them all. One of the darkest periods of the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl era, has arrived with a vengeance.

In this uncertain and dangerous time, Elsa Martinelli—like so many of her neighbors—must make an agonizing choice: fight for the land she loves or go west, to California, in search of a better life. The Four Winds is an indelible portrait of America and the American Dream, as seen through the eyes of one indomitable woman whose courage and sacrifice will come to define a generation.

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A Pho Love Story by Loan Le!

Synopsis: from Goodreads-

When Dimple Met Rishi meets Ugly Delicious in this funny, smart romantic comedy, in which two Vietnamese-American teens fall in love and must navigate their newfound relationship amid their families’ age-old feud about their competing, neighboring restaurants.

If Bao Nguyen had to describe himself, he’d say he was a rock. Steady and strong, but not particularly interesting. His grades are average, his social status unremarkable. He works at his parents’ pho restaurant, and even there, he is his parents’ fifth favorite employee. Not ideal.

If Linh Mai had to describe herself, she’d say she was a firecracker. Stable when unlit, but full of potential for joy and fire. She loves art and dreams pursuing a career in it. The only problem? Her parents rely on her in ways they’re not willing to admit, including working practically full-time at her family’s pho restaurant.

For years, the Mais and the Nguyens have been at odds, having owned competing, neighboring pho restaurants. Bao and Linh, who’ve avoided each other for most of their lives, both suspect that the feud stems from feelings much deeper than friendly competition.

But then a chance encounter brings Linh and Bao in the same vicinity despite their best efforts and sparks fly, leading them both to wonder what took so long for them to connect. But then, of course, they immediately remember.

Can Linh and Bao find love in the midst of feuding families and complicated histories?

February 23rd

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Honey Girl by Morgan Rogers!

Synopsis: from Goodreads-

A refreshingly timely and relatable debut novel about a young woman whose life plans fall apart when she meets her wife.

With her newly completed PhD in astronomy in hand, twenty-eight-year-old Grace Porter goes on a girls’ trip to Vegas to celebrate. She’s a straight A, work-through-the-summer certified high achiever. She is not the kind of person who goes to Vegas and gets drunkenly married to a woman whose name she doesn’t know…until she does exactly that.

This one moment of departure from her stern ex-military father’s plans for her life has Grace wondering why she doesn’t feel more fulfilled from completing her degree. Staggering under the weight of her father’s expectations, a struggling job market and feelings of burnout, Grace flees her home in Portland for a summer in New York with the wife she barely knows.

In New York, she’s able to ignore all the annoying questions about her future plans and falls hard for her creative and beautiful wife, Yuki Yamamoto. But when reality comes crashing in, Grace must face what she’s been running from all along—the fears that make us human, the family scars that need to heal and the longing for connection, especially when navigating the messiness of adulthood.

March 9th

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Act Your Age, Eve Brown by Talia Hibbert!

Synopsis: from Goodreads-

In Act Your Age, Eve Brown the flightiest Brown sister crashes into the life of an uptight B&B owner and has him falling hard—literally.

Eve Brown is a certified hot mess. No matter how hard she strives to do right, her life always goes horribly wrong—so she’s given up trying. But when her personal brand of chaos ruins an expensive wedding (someone had to liberate those poor doves), her parents draw the line. It’s time for Eve to grow up and prove herself—even though she’s not entirely sure how…

Jacob Wayne is in control. Always. The bed and breakfast owner’s on a mission to dominate the hospitality industry—and he expects nothing less than perfection. So when a purple-haired tornado of a woman turns up out of the blue to interview for his open chef position, he tells her the brutal truth: not a chance in hell. Then she hits him with her car—supposedly by accident. Yeah, right.

Now his arm is broken, his B&B is understaffed, and the dangerously unpredictable Eve is fluttering around, trying to help. Before long, she’s infiltrated his work, his kitchen—and his spare bedroom. Jacob hates everything about it. Or rather, he should. Sunny, chaotic Eve is his natural-born nemesis, but the longer these two enemies spend in close quarters, the more their animosity turns into something else. Like Eve, the heat between them is impossible to ignore—and it’s melting Jacob’s frosty exterior.

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Synopsis: from Goodreads-

In Sophie Gonzales’ Perfect on Paper, Leah on the Offbeat meets To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before: a bisexual girl who gives anonymous love advice to her classmates is hired by the hot guy to help him get his ex back

Her advice, spot on. Her love life, way off.

Darcy Phillips:
• Can give you the solution to any of your relationship woes―for a fee.
• Uses her power for good. Most of the time.
• Really cannot stand Alexander Brougham.
• Has maybe not the best judgement when it comes to her best friend, Brooke…who is in love with someone else.
• Does not appreciate being blackmailed.

However, when Brougham catches her in the act of collecting letters from locker 89―out of which she’s been running her questionably legal, anonymous relationship advice service―that’s exactly what happens. In exchange for keeping her secret, Darcy begrudgingly agrees to become his personal dating coach―at a generous hourly rate, at least. The goal? To help him win his ex-girlfriend back.

Darcy has a good reason to keep her identity secret. If word gets out that she’s behind the locker, some things she’s not proud of will come to light, and there’s a good chance Brooke will never speak to her again.

Okay, so all she has to do is help an entitled, bratty, (annoyingly hot) guy win over a girl who’s already fallen for him once? What could go wrong?

March 23rd

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Lost in the Never Woods by Aiden Thomas!

Synopsis: from Goodreads-

When children go missing, people want answers. When children go missing in the small coastal town of Astoria, people look to Wendy for answers.

It’s been five years since Wendy and her two brothers went missing in the woods, but when the town’s children start to disappear, the questions surrounding her brothers’ mysterious circumstances are brought back into light. Attempting to flee her past, Wendy almost runs over an unconscious boy lying in the middle of the road, and gets pulled into the mystery haunting the town.

Peter, a boy she thought lived only in her stories, claims that if they don’t do something, the missing children will meet the same fate as her brothers. In order to find them and rescue the missing kids, Wendy must confront what’s waiting for her in the woods.

Thanks for reading! Have you read any of these? Let me know what you thought!

Five Star Reads of 2020

Welcome to my last blog post of the year! I wanted to do a round-up of all my highest-rated books that I read since I started blogging in September 2020.

In chronological order of when I read them, here we go:

  1. Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Synopsis: via Goodreads“The Jazz Age is in full swing, but Casiopea Tun is too busy cleaning the floors of her wealthy grandfather’s house to listen to any fast tunes. Nevertheless, she dreams of a life far from her dusty small town in southern Mexico. A life she can call her own.

Yet this new life seems as distant as the stars, until the day she finds a curious wooden box in her grandfather’s room. She opens it—and accidentally frees the spirit of the Mayan god of death, who requests her help in recovering his throne from his treacherous brother. Failure will mean Casiopea’s demise, but success could make her dreams come true.

In the company of the strangely alluring god and armed with her wits, Casiopea begins an adventure that will take her on a cross-country odyssey from the jungles of Yucatán to the bright lights of Mexico City—and deep into the darkness of the Mayan underworld.”

See my review here!

2. The City We Became by N. K. Jemisin

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Synopsis: via Goodreads

Five New Yorkers must come together in order to defend their city in the first book of a stunning new series by Hugo award-winning and NYT bestselling author N. K. Jemisin.

Every city has a soul. Some are as ancient as myths, and others are as new and destructive as children. New York City? She’s got five.

But every city also has a dark side. A roiling, ancient evil stirs beneath the earth, threatening to destroy the city and her five protectors unless they can come together and stop it once and for all.

See my review here!

3. Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas

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Synopsis: via Goodreads

A trans boy determined to prove his gender to his traditional Latinx family summons a ghost who refuses to leave in Aiden Thomas’s paranormal YA debut Cemetery Boys, described by Entertainment Weekly as “groundbreaking.”

Yadriel has summoned a ghost, and now he can’t get rid of him.

When his traditional Latinx family has problems accepting his true gender, Yadriel becomes determined to prove himself a real brujo. With the help of his cousin and best friend Maritza, he performs the ritual himself, and then sets out to find the ghost of his murdered cousin and set it free.

However, the ghost he summons is actually Julian Diaz, the school’s resident bad boy, and Julian is not about to go quietly into death. He’s determined to find out what happened and tie off some loose ends before he leaves. Left with no choice, Yadriel agrees to help Julian, so that they can both get what they want. But the longer Yadriel spends with Julian, the less he wants to let him leave.

See my review here!

4. Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward

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Synopsis: via Goodreads

A searing and profound Southern odyssey by National Book Award–winner Jesmyn Ward.

In Jesmyn Ward’s first novel since her National Book Award–winning Salvage the Bones, this singular American writer brings the archetypal road novel into rural twenty-first-century America. Drawing on Morrison and Faulkner, The Odyssey and the Old Testament, Ward gives us an epochal story, a journey through Mississippi’s past and present that is both an intimate portrait of a family and an epic tale of hope and struggle. Ward is a major American writer, multiply awarded and universally lauded, and in Sing, Unburied, Sing she is at the height of her powers.

Jojo and his toddler sister, Kayla, live with their grandparents, Mam and Pop, and the occasional presence of their drug-addicted mother, Leonie, on a farm on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi. Leonie is simultaneously tormented and comforted by visions of her dead brother, which only come to her when she’s high; Mam is dying of cancer; and quiet, steady Pop tries to run the household and teach Jojo how to be a man. When the white father of Leonie’s children is released from prison, she packs her kids and a friend into her car and sets out across the state for Parchman farm, the Mississippi State Penitentiary, on a journey rife with danger and promise.

See my review here!

5. The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren

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Synopsis: via Goodreads

Olive is always unlucky: in her career, in love, in…well, everything. Her identical twin sister Ami, on the other hand, is probably the luckiest person in the world. Her meet-cute with her fiancé is something out of a romantic comedy (gag) and she’s managed to finance her entire wedding by winning a series of Internet contests (double gag). Worst of all, she’s forcing Olive to spend the day with her sworn enemy, Ethan, who just happens to be the best man.

Olive braces herself to get through 24 hours of wedding hell before she can return to her comfortable, unlucky life. But when the entire wedding party gets food poisoning from eating bad shellfish, the only people who aren’t affected are Olive and Ethan. And now there’s an all-expenses-paid honeymoon in Hawaii up for grabs.

Putting their mutual hatred aside for the sake of a free vacation, Olive and Ethan head for paradise, determined to avoid each other at all costs. But when Olive runs into her future boss, the little white lie she tells him is suddenly at risk to become a whole lot bigger. She and Ethan now have to pretend to be loving newlyweds, and her luck seems worse than ever. But the weird thing is that she doesn’t mind playing pretend. In fact, she feels kind of… lucky.

See my review here!

6. The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V. E. Schwab

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Synopsis: From Goodreads

A Life No One Will Remember. A Story You Will Never Forget.

France, 1714: in a moment of desperation, a young woman makes a Faustian bargain to live forever and is cursed to be forgotten by everyone she meets.

Thus begins the extraordinary life of Addie LaRue, and a dazzling adventure that will play out across centuries and continents, across history and art, as a young woman learns how far she will go to leave her mark on the world.

But everything changes when, after nearly 300 years, Addie stumbles across a young man in a hidden bookstore and he remembers her name.

See my review here!

7. In a Holidaze by Christina Lauren

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Synopsis: from Goodreads-

One Christmas wish, two brothers, and a lifetime of hope are on the line for hapless Maelyn Jones in In a Holidaze, the quintessential holiday romantic novel by Christina Lauren, the New York Times bestselling author of The Unhoneymooners.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…but not for Maelyn Jones. She’s living with her parents, hates her going-nowhere job, and has just made a romantic error of epic proportions.

But perhaps worst of all, this is the last Christmas Mae will be at her favorite place in the world—the snowy Utah cabin where she and her family have spent every holiday since she was born, along with two other beloved families. Mentally melting down as she drives away from the cabin for the final time, Mae throws out what she thinks is a simple plea to the universe: Please. Show me what will make me happy.

The next thing she knows, tires screech and metal collides, everything goes black. But when Mae gasps awake…she’s on an airplane bound for Utah, where she begins the same holiday all over again. With one hilarious disaster after another sending her back to the plane, Mae must figure out how to break free of the strange time loop—and finally get her true love under the mistletoe.

Jam-packed with yuletide cheer, an unforgettable cast of characters, and Christina Lauren’s trademark “downright hilarious” (Helen Hoang, author of The Bride Test) hijinks, this swoon-worthy romantic read will make you believe in the power of wishes and the magic of the holidays.

See my review here!

And, last but certainly not least…

8. Red, White, & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston!

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Synopsis: via Goodreads

First Son Alex Claremont-Diaz is the closest thing to a prince this side of the Atlantic. With his intrepid sister and the Veep’s genius granddaughter, they’re the White House Trio, a beautiful millennial marketing strategy for his mother, President Ellen Claremont. International socialite duties do have downsides—namely, when photos of a confrontation with his longtime nemesis Prince Henry at a royal wedding leak to the tabloids and threaten American/British relations. The plan for damage control: staging a fake friendship between the First Son and the Prince.

As President Claremont kicks off her reelection bid, Alex finds himself hurtling into a secret relationship with Henry that could derail the campaign and upend two nations. What is worth the sacrifice? How do you do all the good you can do? And, most importantly, how will history remember you?

See my review here!

Thanks for reading! What were your favorite reads of 2020? Let me know in the comments!

Review: The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow

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Star rating: 4/5 stars

Synopsis: from Goodreads

In 1893, there’s no such thing as witches. There used to be, in the wild, dark days before the burnings began, but now witching is nothing but tidy charms and nursery rhymes. If the modern woman wants any measure of power, she must find it at the ballot box.

But when the Eastwood sisters–James Juniper, Agnes Amaranth, and Beatrice Belladonna–join the suffragists of New Salem, they begin to pursue the forgotten words and ways that might turn the women’s movement into the witch’s movement. Stalked by shadows and sickness, hunted by forces who will not suffer a witch to vote-and perhaps not even to live-the sisters will need to delve into the oldest magics, draw new alliances, and heal the bond between them if they want to survive.

There’s no such thing as witches. But there will be.

General information: This book was published in October 2020 by Orbit Books.

My thoughts:

So…. I really thought this would be a 5/5 for me when I read the blurb. I mean, suffragette witches? Sign me up!

But it just didn’t quite land emotionally with me like I thought it would, especially the ending.

Don’t get me wrong, this book was amazing! The main characters are all flawed but loveable and interesting, and I really related to all of them in different ways. There was really strong character development as well and I loved how well it was worked into the narrative.

There were some plot twists that took me by surprise and had me turning pages (metaphorically- I listened to the audiobook).

And I loved the way the romantic interests of the sisters were worked into the plot. I was really rooting for the romance subplots, especially one character’s (no spoilers).

Another really strong point of the book was its social and historical grounding- the author obviously did her homework and I loved the alternate history she presented. The social issues mentioned were relevant and interesting in ways that worked well for the plot.

I even cried at one part in the middle. No spoilers, but damn, the sisterly bond got me emotional.

So what didn’t connect with me about this book?

Honestly, I have no clue. Maybe it was the audiobook narration. Maybe it was the slow pace. Maybe it was the large cast of characters. Who knows? I just didn’t fall in love with this book like I thought I would.

This book felt very slow-paced to me, which felt out of place during the huge, eventful climax; I wanted to speed up the audiobook narration at some points, which is a problem I’ve never had before with an audiobook. The slow pace didn’t feel purposeful, like in other fantasy books I’ve read before. It was a definite turn-off and I almost DNF’ed the book.

Speaking of DNF’ing- I actually got a physical copy of this book on release day, read a few chapters, and then put it down until a couple of weeks ago, when I caved and got the audiobook. I came so close to a permanent DNF, and as good as this book was, I don’t think I would have regretted it.

Do I recommend this book? Absolutely! It was a really good read, it just wasn’t for me.

Trigger warnings: ***possible spoilers ahead***

Major character death (and a gruesome one, at that), torture, homophobia/transphobia, sexism, racism, violence

Have you read this book? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

Review: Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

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Star rating: 5/5 stars

Synopsis: via Goodreads

First Son Alex Claremont-Diaz is the closest thing to a prince this side of the Atlantic. With his intrepid sister and the Veep’s genius granddaughter, they’re the White House Trio, a beautiful millennial marketing strategy for his mother, President Ellen Claremont. International socialite duties do have downsides—namely, when photos of a confrontation with his longtime nemesis Prince Henry at a royal wedding leak to the tabloids and threaten American/British relations. The plan for damage control: staging a fake friendship between the First Son and the Prince.

As President Claremont kicks off her reelection bid, Alex finds himself hurtling into a secret relationship with Henry that could derail the campaign and upend two nations. What is worth the sacrifice? How do you do all the good you can do? And, most importantly, how will history remember you?

General information: This book was published in May 2019 by St. Martin’s Griffin.

My thoughts:

I absolutely devoured this book and I have no regrets. I read all 420 pages in a day and a half. Was it worth it? 100%.

I’ve been hearing so much praise about this book and I though “there’s no way this can live up to the hype.” But, dear reader, this book did more than live up to the hype. It EXCEEDED the hype. (*insert Andy Samberg Parks & Rec gif here*)

Seriously, I will be recommending this book to everyone, forever. I was already hyped for One Last Stop, McQuiston’s next novel involving sapphics and time-travel, but now I’m even more excited.

Okay, okay, enough fangirling.

The characters. The ending. The sense of hope. The humor. Everything was full-on amazing.

Yummy Natasha Lyonne GIF by Team Coco

Be warned, however: homophobia was used as a plot point in this book. Understandably, considering it involves a romance between two political figures, but it might not be everyone’s cup of tea.

Personally, though, it hit all the right notes and I didn’t mind the use of homophobia due to the way the conflict was resolved in the end. No spoilers, of course, but I feel like the ending was saccharine and loving and heart-warming in all the best ways.

Y’all know I’m a sucker for enemies-to-lovers.

Do I recommend this book? Absolutely, to nearly everyone. Do I plan on re-reading it? YES, and soon! This is going on the list of my favorite comfort books.

How have I not read this book sooner? I don’t know! Fangirl with me in the comments!

WWW Wednesday!

Welcome to my WWW Wednesday post, a weekly meme hosted by Sam at Taking on a World of Words.

What did you recently finish reading?

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Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston! I seriously adored this book. My (glowing) review is coming up this week.

What are you currently reading?

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Bringing Down the Duke by Evie Dunmore! I’ve heard a lot of good things about this book so I’m excited about it.

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The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow! I’m most of the way through the audiobook and loving the main characters. I’m on the edge of my seat trying to see what will happen to them.

What do you think you’ll read next?

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I think I’ll continue my holiday romcom read-a-thon with Royal Holiday by Jasmine Guillory! I’ve heard a lot of good things about this one, as well.

Thanks for reading! What does your WWW Wednesday look like? Let me know in the comments!