The Kinder Poison | Book Review

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2

Title: The Kinder Poison (#1)

Author: Natalie Mae

Format: Hardcover (own)

Pages: 416

Categories: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance, Politics

Zahru has long dreamed of leaving the kingdom of Orkena and having the kinds of adventures she’s only ever heard about in stories. But as a lowly Whisperer, her power to commune with animals means that her place is serving in the royal stables until the day her magic runs dry.

All that changes when the ailing ruler invokes the Crossing: a death-defying race across the desert, in which the first of his heirs to finish—and take the life of a human sacrifice at the journey’s end—will ascend to the throne and be granted unparalleled abilities.

With all of the kingdom abuzz, Zahru leaps at the chance to change her fate if just for a night by sneaking into the palace for a taste of the revelry. But the minor indiscretion turns into a deadly mistake when she gets caught up in a feud between the heirs and is forced to become the Crossing’s human sacrifice. Zahru is left with only one hope for survival: somehow figuring out how to overcome the most dangerous people in the world.

I read this book in one night. And look at that cover! It might be my favorite cover of 2020 releases so far – it’s simple yet oh so vibrant with all that purple. Brilliant!

My Reactions:

My Attention: read this in one sitting

World Building: amazing world building

Writing Style: flowed from beginning to end

Bringing the Heat: 🔥 there is maybe one scene with some heat

Crazy in Love: argh….Zahru and two brothers…a love triangle

Creativity: I love everything about this world, it’s magic, kingdom, the people in it

Mood: amazed 

Triggers: violence

My Takeaway: Be your own hero!

  • Where do I start? I love Zahru – she’s fun, she’s daring, and kind-hearted. She thinks on her feet and is a good listener (she is a Whisperer who can communicate with animals). She loves her family, her friends and her home. I love her heart.
  • The characters from Hen, her best friend, to the Princes and the Princess – it’s an array of personalities and it was fun getting to know everyone!
  • The action – and there is plenty! There is politics involved with three royal sibling vying for the throne by way of a trial. But the drama between these siblings, my goodness – I love how different they were, how they had different goals and motivations and how confused I was about who would make the best ruler. But there is action to the very end!
  • Zahru is the hero of her story. This is such an inspirational story. Throughout the book people look down on her and though it hurts, she doesn’t let it get her down, she keeps moving forward because the race to the finish never lets up. But she digs deep within her to do the right things no matter what obstacle she is faced with. Her power, being a Whisperer seems weak and everyone tells her so – but her strength is kindness, listening and caring. I like that her strength isn’t magic…it’s connecting with people.
  • The world building is lush and vibrant. I love the magic system and the politics. I enjoyed learning about the history of Orkena and wonder what will happen in the next book.
  • The only thing that bugged me was the love triangle. It reminded me a bit of The Red Queen series and I was hoping it wasn’t going to go there…but there it is. It sets off in motion some events that make me want book two in my hands. But I do hope this triangle is nipped in the bud…we shall see.

This is a fun read with an exciting new world. Zahru comes off as the weakest link but her power and strength gets her through many dangers in this story. This is an amazing debut novel and I look forward to book two!

Queen of the Conquered | Book Review

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Title: Queen of the Conquered

Author: Kacen Callender

Format: eBook (own)

Pages: 400

Categories: Slavery, Historical Fantasy, Magic

An ambitious young woman with the power to control minds seeks vengeance against the royals who murdered her family, in a Caribbean-inspired fantasy world embattled by colonial oppression. 

Sigourney Rose is the only surviving daughter of a noble lineage on the islands of Hans Lollik. When she was a child, her family was murdered by the islands’ colonizers, who have massacred and enslaved generations of her people—and now, Sigourney is ready to exact her revenge.

When the childless king of the islands declares that he will choose his successor from amongst eligible noble families, Sigourney uses her ability to read and control minds to manipulate her way onto the royal island and into the ranks of the ruling colonizers. But when she arrives, prepared to fight for control of all the islands, Sigourney finds herself the target of a dangerous, unknown magic.

Someone is killing off the ruling families to clear a path to the throne. As the bodies pile up and all eyes regard her with suspicion, Sigourney must find allies among her prey and the murderer among her peers… lest she become the next victim.

Queen of the Conquered reckons with the many layers of power and privilege in a lush fantasy world—perfect for readers of V. E. Schwab, Kiersten White, and Marlon James.

My Reactions:

My Attention: I had to read this book little by little

World Building: the islands of Hans Lollik (islands in the Caribbean), noble lineages with powers called the kraft

Writing Style: first half was slow, but the second half picks up

Bringing the Heat: no heat except the humidity of the islands!

Crazy in Love: no love

Creativity: this story weaves a dark spell

Mood: mixed feelings 

Triggers: violence, mentions of suicide, whipping, slavery, lynching, mind control, abuse, rape

My Takeaway: What happens when an oppressed person becomes the oppressor?

  • All the conflicted feelings this book conjures up made me ask question after question about Sigourney Rose and why she was doing what she was doing. Oh, I wanted to shake her, yet I could understand where she was coming from as well – her trauma, her revenge, her fears, her guilt, her complacency and still, I just wanted her to stop and do the right thing.
  • Sigourney’s kraft allows her to enter people’s minds, read it, and manipulate it as well. She knows how everyone feels about her, sometimes she cares, sometimes she uses it, sometimes she ignores it. She has revenge and power on her mind, she tells herself she needs to rule these islands so she can help free the slaves. She could free the slaves but in this story she does nothing to help them. I don’t like her but she’s a fleshed out, complicated character. I just wish she was using her kraft to take people out. What was she waiting for? She plays the game of the nobles and it’s frustrating.
  • The second half of this book is when things start really happening. The twist was something I was not expecting at all and it makes me wonder what will happen next.
  • This story covers slavery and depicts its brutality without shying away from it. I took a few days to read this book because the visuals just gutted me.
  • The beginning of the story is slow because Sigourney spends a lot of time in people’s heads and it gets repetitive. So we get a story about everyone she encounters and at times I wasn’t patient enough to care about a noble and their thoughts and feelings of hate towards their slaves. 😒 There was a lot of telling and not showing and that also made me put the book down a few times.
  • Sigourney – she’s complicated. I know her background, her stories about her parents and how they were killed. But I just wanted her to free the slaves and walk away. I hated her for seeing the plight of her people and yet, she had them whipped to impress the other families. She uses them. And she has this plot for revenge…but I only saw one people at the receiving end of that revenge. So I didn’t believe her, like Loren, who distrusted her motives.

I definitely have mixed feelings about this book. I think this book has so much potential and it came about in the last part of the story. The beginning was bogged down with Sigourney entering so many minds and telling their stories. Some I cared about, others I didn’t. I think it’s an important story because of the topic of slavery and the thoughts and actions of a black slave owner. The history of the islands and Sigourney’s past lays the groundwork for revenge but she was conflicted about her motivations. The twist in the end makes me wonder what is going to happen in book two and will she eventually join the rebels side? Or will she fight to remain their master? 😞

Daring and the Duke | Book Review

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Title: Daring and the Duke (The Bareknuckle Bastards, #3)

Author: Sarah MacLean

Format: eBook (own)

Pages: 384

Categories/Themes: Historical Romance, Women Empowerment, Fighters

Grace Condry has spent a lifetime running from her past. Betrayed as a child by her only love and raised on the streets, she now hides in plain sight as queen of London’s darkest corners. Grace has a sharp mind and a powerful right hook and has never met an enemy she could not best…until the man she once loved returns. 

Single-minded and ruthless, Ewan, Duke of Marwick, has spent a decade searching for the woman he never stopped loving. A long-ago gamble may have lost her forever, but Ewan will go to any lengths to win Grace back…and make her his duchess. 

Reconciliation is the last thing Grace desires. Unable to forgive the past, she vows to take her revenge. But revenge requires keeping Ewan close, and soon her enemy seems to be something else altogether—something she can’t resist, even as he threatens the world she’s built, the life she’s claimed…and the heart she swore he’d never steal again.

My Reactions:

My Attention: caught

World Building: London life

Writing Style: flowed beautifully

Bringing the Heat: 🔥🔥🔥🔥 – as was expected between these two!

Crazy in Love: so so so crazy!! Lots of angst.

Creativity: we get to learn a little about life in London before Queen Victoria reigns

Mood: happy 

Triggers: violence

My Takeaway: To move forward, you have to forgive the person that hurt you.

  • It’s a book by Sarah MacLean and she’s an auto-buy author for me. I love her writing and her characters.
  • It’s finally Grace and Ewan’s story and I’m not gonna lie, I was hesitant to read it because Ewan has come across so shady. He’s a tortured soul, absolutely in love and obsessed with Grace. But he did some things in the past that made him out to be the enemy. We learn what happens on the fateful night that broke this foursome apart from Ewan.
  • Honestly, I’m glad Grace was conflicted and yet…sought out her pleasure that she only knew Ewan could give. 😉 I mean yes, it gets complicated when their past is involved but their present? That can’t get enough of each other! I love that Grace is a powerful woman on her own, without Ewan. She’s a Queen – not a Duchess!
  • This book ties up the series nicely, everyone gets a happily ever after!
  • I knew there would be angst, especially on Ewan’s part because he is obsessed with her. Did I forgive the things he did?! I don’t know…haha, I feel like I’m still mad at him! HAHA…but he did his best to change and show Grace she wears the pants in the relationship. And I loved that but I haven’t forgiven him yet.
  • It’s a bittersweet story because Ewan and Grace went through so much trauma together and had a growing love for each other. The trauma they both experienced was so sad, but like I said, Grace owns her power. Ewan…he just wants Grace in his life.

While this isn’t my favorite book in the series because of Ewan’s actions in the previous books, I think it tied up up all the loose ends. It was all about Grace and Ewan from the start. They are clearly fated mates and no matter what happens between these two (and a LOT happened), they were always going to end up together again. There is no one else for either of them. I look forward to reading the next series from Sarah MacLean. Keep them coming!

BLOG TOUR} Mayhem by. Estelle Laure

Mayhem by. Estelle Laure

Publication Date: July 14, 2020

It’s 1987 and unfortunately it’s not all Madonna and cherry lip balm. Mayhem Brayburn has always known there was something off about her and her mother, Roxy. Maybe it has to do with Roxy’s constant physical pain, or maybe with Mayhem’s own irresistible pull to water. Either way, she knows they aren’t like everyone else. 

But when May’s stepfather finally goes too far, Roxy and Mayhem flee to Santa Maria, California, the coastal beach town that holds the answers to all of Mayhem’s questions about who her mother is, her estranged family, and the mysteries of her own self. There she meets the kids who live with her aunt, and it opens the door to the magic that runs through the female lineage in her family, the very magic Mayhem is next in line to inherit and which will change her life for good. 

But when she gets wrapped up in the search for the man who has been kidnapping girls from the beach, her life takes another dangerous turn and she is forced to face the price of vigilante justice and to ask herself whether revenge is worth the cost. 

From the acclaimed author of This Raging Light and But Then I Came Back, Estelle Laure offers a riveting and complex story with magical elements about a family of women contending with what appears to be an irreversible destiny, taking control and saying when enough is enough.

Excerpt:

three Santa Maria

“Trouble,” Roxy says. She arches a brow at the kids by the van through the bug-spattered windshield, the ghost of a half-smile rippling across her face.

“You would know,” I shoot. “So would you,” she snaps.

Maybe we’re a little on edge. We’ve been in the car so long the pattern on the vinyl seats is tattooed on the back of my thighs.

The kids my mother is talking about, the ones sitting on the white picket fence, look like they slithered up the hill out of the ocean, covered in seaweed, like the carnival music we heard coming from the boardwalk as we were driving into town plays in the air around them at all times. Two crows are on the posts beside them like they’re standing guard, and they caw at each other loudly as we come to a stop. I love every- thing about this place immediately and I think, ridiculously, that I am no longer alone.

The older girl, white but tan, curvaceous, and lean, has her arms around the boy and is lovely with her smudged eye makeup and her ripped clothes. The younger one pops some- thing made of bright colors into her mouth and watches us come up the drive. She is in a military-style jacket with a ton of buttons, her frizzy blond hair reaching in all directions, freckles slapped across her cheeks. And the boy? Thin, brown,

hungry-looking. Not hungry in his stomach. Hungry with his eyes. He has a green bandana tied across his forehead and holes in the knees of his jeans. There’s an A in a circle drawn in marker across the front of his T-shirt.

Anarchy.

“Look!” Roxy points to the gas gauge. It’s just above the E. “You owe me five bucks, Cookie. I told you to trust we would make it, and see what happened? You should listen to your mama every once in a while.”

“Yeah, well, can I borrow the five bucks to pay you for the bet? I’m fresh out of cash at the moment.”

“Very funny.”

Roxy cranes out the window and wipes the sweat off her upper lip, careful not to smudge her red lipstick. She’s been having real bad aches the last two days, even aside from her bruises, and her appetite’s been worse than ever. The only thing she ever wants is sugar. After having been in the car for so long, you’d think we’d be falling all over each other to get out, but we’re still sitting in the car. In here we’re still us.

She sighs for the thousandth time and clutches at her belly. “I don’t know about this, May.”

California can’t be that different from West Texas.

I watch TV. I know how to say gag me with a spoon and

grody to the max.

I fling open the door.

Roxy gathers her cigarettes and lighter, and drops them in- side her purse with a snap.

“Goddammit, Elle,” she mutters to herself, eyes flickering toward the kids again. Roxy looks at me over the rims of her sunglasses before shoving them back on her nose. “Mayhem, I’m counting on you to keep your head together here. Those kids are not the usual—”

“I know! You told me they’re foster kids.”

“No, not that,” she says, but doesn’t clarify. “Okay, I guess.”

“I mean it. No more of that wild-child business.”

“I will keep my head together!” I’m so tired of her saying this. I never had any friends, never a boyfriend—all I have is what Grandmother calls my nasty mouth and the hair Lyle always said was ugly and whorish. And once or twice I might’ve got drunk on the roof, but it’s not like I ever did anything. Besides, no kid my age has ever liked me even once. I’m not the wild child in the family.

“Well, all right then.” Roxy messes with her hair in the rear- view mirror, then sprays herself with a cloud of Chanel No. 5 and runs her fingers over her gold necklace. It’s of a bird, not unlike the ones making a fuss by the house. She’s had it as long as I can remember, and over time it’s been worn smooth by her worrying fingers. It’s like she uses it to calm herself when she’s upset about something, and she’s been upset the whole way here, practically. Usually, she’d be good and buzzed by this time of day, but since she’s had to drive some, she’s only nipped from the tiny bottle of wine in her purse a few times and only taken a couple pills since we left Taylor. The with- drawal has turned her into a bit of a she-demon.

I try to look through her eyes, to see what she sees. Roxy hasn’t been back here since I was three years old, and in that time, her mother has died, her father has died, and like she said when she got the card with the picture enclosed that her twin sister, Elle, sent last Christmas, Everybody got old. After that, she spent a lot of time staring in the mirror, pinching at her neck skin. When I was younger, she passed long nights telling me about Santa Maria and the Brayburn Farm, about how it was good and evil in equal measure, about how it had desires that had to be satisfied.

Brayburns, she would say. In my town, we were the legends.

These were the mumbled stories of my childhood, and they made everything about this place loom large. Now that we’re here, I realize I expected the house to have a gaping maw filled with spitty, frothy teeth, as much as I figured there would be fairies flitting around with wands granting wishes. I don’t want to take her vision away from her, but this place looks pretty normal to me, if run-down compared to our new house in Taylor, where there’s no dust anywhere, ever, and Lyle prac- tically keeps the cans of soup in alphabetical order. Maybe what’s not so normal is that this place was built by Brayburns, and here Brayburns matter. I know because the whole road is named after us and because flowers and ribbons and baskets of fruit sat at the entrance, gifts from the people in town, Roxy said. They leave offerings. She said it like it’s normal to be treated like some kind of low-rent goddess.

Other than the van and the kids, there are trees here, rose- bushes, an old black Mercedes, and some bikes leaning against the porch that’s attached to the house. It’s splashed with fresh white paint that doesn’t quite cover up its wrinkles and scars. It’s three stories, so it cuts the sunset when I look up, and plants drape down to touch the dirt.

The front door swings open and a woman in bare feet races past the rosebushes toward us. It is those feet and the reckless way they pound against the earth that tells me this is my aunt Elle before her face does. My stomach gallops and there are bumps all over my arms, and I am more awake than I’ve been since.

I thought Roxy might do a lot of things when she saw her twin sister. Like she might get super quiet or chain-smoke, or maybe even get biting like she can when she’s feeling wrong about something. The last thing I would have ever imagined was them running toward each other and colliding in the driveway, Roxy wrapping her legs around Elle’s waist, and them twirling like that.

This seems like something I shouldn’t be seeing, some- thing wounded and private that fills up my throat. I flip my- self around in my seat and start picking through the things we brought and chide myself yet again for the miserable packing job I did. Since I was basically out of my mind trying to get out of the house, I took a whole package of toothbrushes, an armful of books, my River Phoenix poster, plus I emptied out my underwear drawer, but totally forgot to pack any shoes, so all I have are some flip-flops I bought at the truck stop outside of Las Cruces after that man came to the window, slurring, You got nice legs. Tap, tap tap. You got such nice legs.

My flip-flops are covered in Cheeto dust from a bag that got upended. I slip them on anyway, watching Roxy take her sunglasses off and prop them on her head.

“Son of a bitch!” my aunt says, her voice tinny as she catches sight of Roxy’s eye. “Oh my God, that’s really bad, Rox. You made it sound like nothing. That’s not nothing.”

“Ellie,” Roxy says, trying to put laughter in her voice. “I’m here now. We’re here now.”

There’s a pause.

“You look the same,” Elle says. “Except the hair. You went full Marilyn Monroe.”

“What about you?” Roxy says, fussing at her platinum waves with her palm. “You go full granola warrior? When’s the last time you ate a burger?”

“You know I don’t do that. It’s no good for us. Definitely no good for the poor cows.”

“It’s fine for me.” Roxy lifts Elle’s arm and puckers her nose. “What’s going on with your armpits? May not eat meat but you got animals under there, looks like.”

“Shaving is subjugation.”

“Shaving is a mercy for all mankind.”

They erupt into laughter and hug each other again.

“Well, where is she, my little baby niece?” Elle swings the car door open. “Oh, Mayhem.” She scoops me out with two strong arms. Right then I realize just how truly tired I am. She seems to know, squeezes extra hard for a second before letting me go. She smells like the sandalwood soap Roxy buys sometimes. “My baby girl,” Elle says, “you have no idea how long I’ve been waiting to see you. How much I’ve missed you.”

Roxy circles her ear with a finger where Elle can’t see her.

Crazy, she mouths. I almost giggle.

About the AUTHOR:

Estelle Laure, the author of This Raging Light and But Then I Came Back believes in love, magic, and the power of facing hard truths. She has a BA in Theatre Arts and an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts in Writing for Children and Young Adults, and she lives in Taos, New Mexico, with her family. Her work is translated widely around the world.

Note From the AUTHOR:

Dear Reader,
Like Mayhem, I experienced a period of time when my life
was extremely unstable. I can still remember what it was like to
be shaken so hard I thought my head would come off, to watch
the room vibrate, to feel unsafe in my own home, to never
know what was coming around the next corner. I wanted to
run. I always wanted to run.
I ran to friends, but also movies and books, and although
girls were more passively portrayed in movies like The
Lost Boys back then, that feeling of teenagers prowling the
night, taking out bad people, being unbeatable . . . that got
me through it.
I guess that’s what I tried to do here. I wanted girls who feel
powerless to be able to imagine themselves invincible. And
yes, I used a rape as the seed for that fierce lineage, not without
thought. For me, there is nothing worse, and I like to think
great power can rise up as a result of a devastating trespass.
Please know I took none of this lightly. Writing this now, my
heart is beating hard and my throat is dry. This is the first time
I not only really looked at my own past, the pain of loss, the
pain of the loss of trust that comes when someone puts hands
on you without permission, the pain of people dying, the
shock of suicide, and put all of it to paper in a way that made
me feel victorious, strong, and warrior-like. It is also
terrifying. I know I’m not the only one who had a scary
childhood, and
I know I’m not the only one who clings to stories as salve to
smooth over burnt skin. I am so sick of girls and women being
hurt. This was my way of taking my own vengeance and trying
to access forgiveness.
Thank you for reading and for those of you who can relate,
I see you and you are not alone.

Estelle Laure

BLOG TOUR} In the Neighborhood of True by. Susan Kaplan Carlton

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Title: In the Neighborhood of True

Author: Susan Kaplan Carlton

Format: Paperback (gifted for review)

Pages: 314

Categories: Young Adult, Social Justice, Racism, Antisemitism, American Southern History, Religion, Romance, Identity, Historical Fiction

Disclaimer: **I received this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.**

A powerful story of love, identity, and the price of fitting in or speaking out.

After her father’s death, Ruth Robb and her family transplant themselves in the summer of 1958 from New York City to Atlanta—the land of debutantes, sweet tea, and the Ku Klux Klan. In her new hometown, Ruth quickly figures out she can be Jewish or she can be popular, but she can’t be both. Eager to fit in with the blond girls in the “pastel posse,” Ruth decides to hide her religion. Before she knows it, she is falling for the handsome and charming Davis and sipping Cokes with him and his friends at the all-white, all-Christian Club.

Does it matter that Ruth’s mother makes her attend services at the local synagogue every week? Not as long as nobody outside her family knows the truth. At temple Ruth meets Max, who is serious and intense about the fight for social justice, and now she is caught between two worlds, two religions, and two boys. But when a violent hate crime brings the different parts of Ruth’s life into sharp conflict, she will have to choose between all she’s come to love about her new life and standing up for what she believes. 

Thank you to Algonquin Young Readers for a copy of this book and giving me a chance to join this blog tour!

My Reactions:

My Attention: engrossed

World Building: Atlanta, Georgia, 1958

Writing Style: to the point, story was a quick read, flowed wonderfully

Bringing the Heat: 🔥 some make out scenes

Crazy in Love: there is love, but not so crazy

Creativity: I like how this story is coming from a girl who is Jewish and moves from New York to Georgia at a time when racial tensions are high

Mood: contemplative

Triggers: bombing, lynching story, racism, antisemitism

My Takeaway: We have to know history so we don’t repeat it and this story reminds us how are civil rights history isn’t so far in the past. It weighs heavily on our country today.

  • I honestly didn’t know the story about Stone Mountain in Georgia until the Black Lives Movement protests just recently after George Floyd was killed. I learned even more about it in this book through Ruth’s eyes. I also didn’t know about Leo Frank, so this book was eye-opening to me. The setting of the 1950’s south comes through in this story. As a kid I was listening to 1950’s music because that was my parents’ childhood songs and they played it a lot in the house. The description of the clothes, and the way they talked felt authentic. When Max is described as looking like Buddy Holly haha, I had an imagine in my mind right away!
  • This is a coming of age story of a girl who is grieving, falling in love, and wanting to be a Southern Jewish Debutant Belle. But is that allowed? She wants to belong, but if her friends knew she was Jewish, what would they do? She learns the hard way that she needs to pick a side, but which side will she choose?
  • I love how quick and to the point this book is. It’s a fast read, showing this world Ruth is thrust into but…Ruth has moments where she also questions some parts of her life in New York as well. Did she know many black people when she was living in New York? I like that the author reminds us racism is everywhere even if you think it’s not around you.
  • I like Ruth’s family – her mom who is a reporter and tries to get the truth at things and her sisters are awesome. If she didn’t have any true friend, at least she had her sisters! Also her family isn’t perfect. Her grandmother is always pushing Ruth to hide being Jewish, to be a true southern belle and I get it…it starts with family, so her grandma was raised that way with prejudices even though she doesn’t think she is. I have family like that too, so that’s realistic.
  • For a book with heavy topics I think I wanted more emotion to come through. I felt Ruth falling in love, it’s insta-love but it was the 1950’s! People were falling in love and marrying quick back then. Sometimes I felt her grief, but that was shielded by her new life and friends. Ruth is who she is – and she did like the dressing up and shopping. So maybe her being a little shallow at times is why I wanted more emotion.
  • The ending with the bombing felt rushed. That’s a big event! But I think because the story starts off in the court room, I was expecting more courtroom drama? But that was quick.
  • Also – there is no love triangle. It’s hinted in the blurb but, nope.

Though this story takes place in the 1950’s, it is so very relevant today. Here we are in 2020, still fighting racism, antisemitism, sexism and all kinds of hate. I’m glad I learned about a few things in this book like the history of Stone Mountain, Leo Frank and antisemitism in the American South. At the heart of this story is Ruth’s search for her identity and I’m glad to see her choose to fight hate.

Monthly Wrap Up | June 2020

Hi Lovelies!

Hello July, goodbye June. I want to say goodbye 2020 with a vaccine on hand haha, I’m ready for 2021 folks. Anyway, I think I read more in June because Hawaii’s flattened our covid curve to 0 cases in June and then…it’s starting to creep back up again, but not high, just the usual range we had pre-lockdown. My anxiety lessened in June, but we shall see for July. My son starts 2nd grade in 4 weeks. 😱 And we aren’t sure what the rest of the year will be like…will schools shutdown again and I’ll be his 2nd grade teacher? 😩 Will dwell on that when it comes, but here’s what I read in June:

Eleven books, not bad! But I’m pretty sure I read a few others on Kindle Unlimited, but because it’s a series, I’m trying to wait for the last book to do a mini review of the whole series. Also I read some books that have later publications and those reviews won’t post until late in the year.

My goal for June was to add more black authors and yay, I reached my goal! I read 6 books written by black authors and 2 by POC-Asian authors.

How was your month of June? I hope you have an awesome July!

Dark Skies | Book Review

My Review: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2

Title: Dark Skies (Dark Shores, #2)

Author: Danielle L. Jensen

Format: eBook (own)

Pages: 464

Categories: Fantasy, Young Adult, Politics, War, Magic

A RUNAWAY WITH A HIDDEN PAST
Lydia is a scholar, but books are her downfall when she meddles in the plots of the most powerful man in the Celendor Empire. Her life in danger, she flees west to the far side of the Endless Seas and finds herself entangled in a foreign war where her burgeoning powers are sought by both sides.

A COMMANDER IN DISGRACE
Killian is Marked by the God of War, but his gifts fail him when the realm under the dominion of the Corrupter invades Mudamora. Disgraced, he swears his sword to the kingdom’s only hope: the crown princess. But the choice sees him caught up in a web of political intrigue that will put his oath – and his heart – to the test.

A KINGDOM UNDER SIEGE
With Mudamora falling beneath the armies of the Corrupter, Lydia and Killian strike a bargain to save those they love most—but it is a bargain with unintended and disastrous consequences. Truths are revealed, birthrights claimed, and loyalties questioned—all while a menace deadlier and more far-reaching than they realize sweeps across the world.

This is book two in Dark Shores series but the awesome thing is that it’s not a continuation of book one. It’s a parallel story, but Lydia’s story! You can read either Dark Shores or Dark Skies first and you won’t be lost, isn’t that cool? I read them in order but I do love that each girl got their own book!

My Reactions:

My Attention: intrigued

World Building: this Dark Shores world is amazing – in Celendor, it is definitely inspired by Rome and the “west”. In Dark Skies we go across the Endless see into Mudamora. So it was fantastic getting to know this side of the world that believe in the power and gifts of the Six (gods that bestow gifts).

Writing Style: less intense than Dark Shores, but it builds nicely into some crazy battles

Bringing the Heat: where is the heat?! Ugh…my one complaint haha

Crazy in Love: more like impossible love… ☹️

Creativity: I love this way of travel called the xenthier stem, touch it and you could end up somewhere unexpected, or in the case of the East, maybe entombed! But I love this world of powers, the Six, deimos and the west about to find out the East’s secrets

Mood: ready for book three!

Triggers: violence

My Takeaway: Lydia is slowly coming into her power and Killian has so much power but is bound to an oath to protect someone else. They better have a happy ending in book three. 😔

  • Teriana from Dark Shores is my girl and I loved her friendship with Lydia. But this is Lydia’s side of the story. Lydia is a scholar, who was adopted by a powerful Senator and has lived a life of privilege because of it. She and Teriana are opposites in personality. I always wanted to know what happened to Lydia and now we know…and it is definitely unexpected! Lydia is tested. She has been forced out of her protective bubble and her eyes have been opened to the world around her and her power.
  • I love that either Dark Skies or Dark Shores can be read first in this series. We get two perspectives that will combine in the third book and I absolutely love this format! It didn’t feel like things were too repetitive from Dark Shores since we are getting Lydia’s perspective on events that happened.
  • There is a lot of political intrigue happening in this story. Mudamora is ruled by King Serrick and his High Lords. This half of the world still believe in the Gods and the powers they bestow on chosen people. Lydia is from Celendor where do not believe in Gods, and who’s government is ruled by a governing body of Senators. Lydia is thrust into a conflict brewing between King Serrick, his daughter Princess Malahi and the leader of the Corrupted, Rufina. There is a power play going on at court, the Corrupted are threatening to take over their kingdom and they don’t even know the West is about to invade them as well!
  • Killian is trapped and has such a strong sense of honor and loyalty. I felt his struggle. He loves his family, he loves his people, he is marked by the god of war and feels an obligation to be the hero his kingdom want him to be. He may even be starting to love Lydia but…and that’s a big BUT. 😔 I love how he picked women warriors to guard Malahi. He has a reputation as this handsome ladies man but I saw no evidence of it, he barely even flirted! His main love is for his kingdom.
  • Lydia and Killian are trying to fix their mistakes, at least Killian is – Lydia is trying to get back to Celendor so she can help her best friend. In their separate personal lives, they blame themselves for events that have taken place which have meant harm to those they care about. They are both on this path to right their wrongs and yet…I get this sense the harder they try, the tighter this web taround them gets. It’s why I want these two to have a happy ending in book three. They deserve it!
  • I feel like this book is a drumbeat of upcoming war…you know it’s coming, the trap is being set, Mudamora is dying (there is blight on the land and water, there are monsters attacking at night, people are turning Corrupted), the tension is being pulled taut, the battle is coming, the war is coming, both East and West are about to collide (in book three) and I cannot wait to find out what is going to happen.
  • Where is the love?! Not even a kiss, a near kiss, ugh, I’m a romance lover so this killed me! Haha…the story didn’t actually need it, but oh my heart. I was just broken for these two. There is not time for their romance to build with war coming, there are paths to take, choices to make and all Killian and Lydia wants to do, is the RIGHT thing for the people they love. But I want them together so bad…it broke my heart in the end! 💔
  • Lydia’s story is going to reveal some secrets in book three, I can feel it! And I can’t wait to see how it affects everything.

I will be counting the days until book three, The Gilded Serpent, releases next year. I love this series and the characters. I love the world building, the political intrigue, and I want to see everything come together. I’m ready to see how our four characters grow and come together to defeat the enemies around them!

ARC Review | More Than Maybe

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2

Title: More Than Maybe

Author: Erin Hahn

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 336

Publication Date: July 21, 2020

Categories: Young Adult, Romance, Music

Disclaimer: **I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.**

Growing up under his punk rocker dad’s spotlight, eighteen-year-old Luke Greenly knows fame and wants nothing to do with it. His real love isn’t in front of a crowd, it’s on the page. Hiding his gift and secretly hoarding songs in his bedroom at night, he prefers the anonymous comfort of the locally popular podcast he co-hosts with his outgoing and meddling, far-too-jealousy-inspiringly-happy-with-his-long-term-boyfriend twin brother, Cullen. But that’s not Luke’s only secret. He also has a major un-requited crush on music blogger, Vada Carsewell.

Vada’s got a five year plan: secure a job at the Loud Lizard to learn from local legend (and her mom’s boyfriend) Phil Josephs (check), take over Phil’s music blog (double check), get accepted into Berkeley’s prestigious music journalism program (check, check, check), manage Ann Arbor’s summer concert series and secure a Rolling Stone internship. Luke Greenly is most definitely NOT on the list. So what if his self-deprecating charm and out-of-this-world music knowledge makes her dizzy? Or his brother just released a bootleg recording of Luke singing about some mystery girl on their podcast and she really, really wishes it was her? 

Thank you to Wednesday Books and NetGalley for giving me a chance to read this eARC.

More Than Maybe is a cute young adult romance novel and it has a playlist also, which makes it even more fun to read.

Luke Greenly, is popular because of his dad who used to be a part of a famous band back in the day. Now Luke and how twin Cullen have a podcast that has gained them some fans. But that’s not the only thing, Luke also secretly makes music and he has a big crush on a blogger named Vada.

Vada is a music review blogger and is trying to accomplish all her goals when Luke happens into her life. Music brings these two characters together and helps them stay together when things threaten to tear them apart.

  • I like the cutesy, quirky things Vada and Luke would do like send each other links to their favorite music. They both love music and it’s the way to their hearts, but yes…so cute to watch their crush, turn into friendship, then turn again into something more.
  • The music that is mentioned…at least some of them because a few of them I was like…??🤔 I’m too old for some of these newer bands maybe? But yes I was a freshman in high school when Nirvana made it big, so those bands they mentioned are definitely from my youth. And Colorblind by Counting Crows…ahhh memories! Heartaching, heartbreaking memories and goosebumps. So it was that way this book pulled on my heart strings at times.
  • I really enjoyed their growing friendship while they crushed on each other. They were becoming best friends and music tied them together, which is a beautiful thing. It’s cute how Luke is so crazy about Vada.
  • When Luke describes what love is like…I was like…awwwwww. 😍
  • I had a hard time connecting to the characters and I don’t know why. It took me awhile to get into the story – they did grow on me eventually when Luke and Vada started spending so much time together.
  • It’s a slow burn, maybe too slow at times for me but perfect for people who like a easy going romance story like this. There isn’t much angst (I need some angst haha), and the drama in the end is totally fixable and predictable but again, very grand sweet gesture on Luke’s part.
  • Triggers: active shooter drill – it was an “oh wow moment” to me that I was not expecting but such a real thing kids face today.

Overall, this was a cute read and would be perfect for music lovers out there! The mentions of some songs brought back so many feelings and memories for me but in a good way, it made me feel young again. 😅 If you like a slow burn romance between two teens who love music, then you will definitely enjoy this one.

ARC Review | Mayhem

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2

Title: Mayhem

Author: Estelle Laure

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 304

Publication Date: July 14, 2020

Categories: Paranormal, Young Adult

Disclaimer: **I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.**

It’s 1987 and unfortunately it’s not all Madonna and cherry lip balm. Mayhem Brayburn has always known there was something off about her and her mother, Roxy. Maybe it has to do with Roxy’s constant physical pain, or maybe with Mayhem’s own irresistible pull to water. Either way, she knows they aren’t like everyone else. But when May’s stepfather finally goes too far, Roxy and Mayhem flee to Santa Maria, California, the coastal beach town that holds the answers to all of Mayhem’s questions about who her mother is, her estranged family, and the mysteries of her own self. There she meets the kids who live with her aunt, and it opens the door to the magic that runs through the female lineage in her family, the very magic Mayhem is next in line to inherit and which will change her life for good. But when she gets wrapped up in the search for the man who has been kidnapping girls from the beach, her life takes another dangerous turn and she is forced to face the price of vigilante justice and to ask herself whether revenge is worth the cost.

Thank you to Wednesday Books and NetGalley for giving me a chance to read this eARC.

My Reactions:

My Attention: what is this magic water? 🤔

World Building: Late 80’s California coast inspired – think…Lost Boys. The magic system? Vague.

Writing Style: lyrical

Bringing the Heat: 🔥🔥

Crazy in Love: insta-Love

Creativity: magic water gives drinker powers (at times confusing)

Mood: dark 🌑 and a little nostalgic

Triggers: domestic abuse, drug use, death, killing, toxic relationship

My Takeaway: there is magic in the water and it can make you see things

  • The cover and title. Love it.
  • I liked the whole Santa Maria, California beach 80’s vibe in this book. You can definitely tell it is inspired by The Lost Boys. I felt some nostalgia and I haven’t watched that movie in awhile so I can’t compare it side by side, but it definitely got the vibe right.
  • Roxy and Mayhem’s relationship is complex. They confront many issues like suicide, the family’s past, domestic abuse and drug addiction. I’m glad that Mayhem and Roxy come to terms with their “roots” and their family history. Roxy had a lot of secrets she kept from Mayhem but she was drowning in a lot of her own pain and misery.
  • This whole story intrigued me because it’s starts off as an abuse story and then…things just get twisted in a strange way that at times worked and then a lot of times that didn’t.
  • This magical, addictive “water” that was being described in the story was aggravating me a little because of how vague it was. It could make the drinker see who was good and evil and that made the Brayburn bloodline powerful. But at times I was almost hoping this was The Lost Boys remake and vampires were gonna jump out somewhere – that didn’t happen.
  • They use this magic power basically at the end to stop a serial killer. But there is a lot going on already with Roxy and Mayhem, this killer is just not a focus of the book or it didn’t seem urgent enough to me until the second half of the book.
  • The insta-love between Jason and Mayhem felt unnecessary. He became her “great love” in a span of days!

Without the magic elements of this book, I found Mayhem’s story gripping as she and her mother try to start over their lives in Santa Maria. The magic water introduction felt a bit weak to me and confusing but I did like the nostalgia of The Lost Boys. Mayhem standing up to her abuser and learning about her family and the magic they have is a powerful message that everyone can learn from.

ARC Review | A Sweet Mess

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Title: A Sweet Mess

Author: Jayci Lee

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 320

Publication Date: July 14, 2020

Categories: Contemporary, Romance, Foodie, Adult

Disclaimer: **I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.**

Bake a chance on love. 

Aubrey Choi loves living in her small town nestled in the foothills of California, running her highly successful bakery away from the watch of her strict Korean parents. When a cake mix-up and a harsh review threaten all of her hard work and her livelihood, she never thought the jaded food critic would turn out to be her one-night stand. And she sure as hell never thought she’d see her gorgeous Korean unicorn again. But when Landon Kim waltzes into her bakery trying to clean up the mess he had a huge hand in making, Aubrey is torn between throwing and hearing him out.

When she hears his plan to help save her business, Aubrey knows that spending three weeks in California wine country working with Landon is a sure recipe for disaster. Her head is telling her to take the chance to save her bakery while her heart—and her hormones—are at war on whether to give him a second chance. And it just so happens that Landon’s meddling friends want them to spend those three weeks as close as possible…by sharing a villa.

When things start heating up, both in and out of the kitchen, Aubrey will have to make a choice—to stick it out or risk her heart.

My Sweet Mess is a foodie romance – meaning if you like romance and stories with cooking in it, especially baked goods, then this will be up your alley.

Aubrey is a pastry chef and owns a small bakery in a very small town. A one-night stand with Landon, a well known food critic (except not known to Aubrey), ruins her business when he does an article on her bakery.

To make amends Landon has a plan. Now it’s strictly business between them but their attraction between them is undeniable and gets in the way.

  • Food! I love a romance story with food in it, most especially when it centers around baked goods – since that is my weakness. So I loved all the cooking references.
  • It’s a light-hearted romance and a very quick read. The story comes with its share of timely drama and resolves easily into a happy ever after. It’s a cute ending.
  • I like that it’s main characters are Asian because it’s nice to see more diversity in the romance genre.
  • The story is very predictable. One-night stand, woman’s life is ruined by a man, man comes into save her business, attraction is still there, conflict, resolution – HEA. So…it’s got all the elements but nothing really stood out to make it wow me.
  • I didn’t connect to the characters. Their attraction happens in an instant, which is fine, but when things become a problem and they are back together, things almost fall easily into place. There is no real tension between them, I think I wanted more tension.
  • And this might be the fault of it being a digital arc but some paragraphs were running into each other and I would get thrown off wondering if it was supposed to be a new chapter. So that might just be formatting because it being a digital copy.

Overall, this was a light hearted romance novel with love of food present throughout the story. For me I wish I could connect to the characters more but ff you like a love story about food and falling in love then you will enjoy this one.