Savage Lands | Book Review

My Review: 4/5 Stars

Title: Savage Lands (Savage Lands, #1)

Author: Stacey Marie Brown

Format: ebook (Kindle Unlimited)

Pages: 308

Categories: Dark Urban Fantasy, Paranormal

Almost twenty years after the barrier between Earth and the Otherworld fell in the Fae Wars, Budapest is balancing on the precipice. A battle for dominance is brewing between the elite fae and the privileged humans in Eastern Europe. The prejudice between the sides is bubbling with hate and violence. 

Nineteen-year-old human, Brexley, has grown up in privilege, but not without heartbreak. After being orphaned, she is taken in by General Markos, living in a walled city rife with power grabs and ruthless political games. Then one night the course of her life changes, and Brexley is thrown into the most feared prison in the east. Halalhaz, the House of Death—where you go in but don’t come out. 

She must learn to live with the worst of fae and human criminals. The rule of hierarchy puts humans on the bottom, where the only way to survive each day is to make alliances with the fae.

Here she meets the sexy, vicious legend, Warwick Farkas. A myth among man and fae. He is as brutal, cruel, arrogant, and as lethal as the lore says he is, ruling the prison with unchallenged authority. Brexley can’t deny an intense draw to him, one that might cost her life.
If The Games don’t take her out first—
A fight to the death where only one survives.

  • I haven’t read a paranormal romance in awhile and this hit the spot! There is Brex pining over her childhood love Caden, a normal human guy about to rise in the ranks of his father’s army. And then…there is Warwick, a legend, a myth…nope he’s real, just not fully human.
  • World building ~ I enjoyed this! I love this dystopian/fantasy world of Budapest after the veils come down. Fae and humans hate each other even though the war has ended. I love how dark and gritty it is.
  • Characters ~ The characters are pretty fierce. Brex is a solider, a fighter and she needs that to survive prison time. I’d like to see how her character grows even more. And Warwick? He is lethal and an absolute alpha male. The two of them are intense together. The side characters were great too!
  • Mood ~ so intense. There is prison fighting, and so much sexual tension. It is gritty, raw, dark…and even though it was rough for Brex in this book, she survives it and it makes me wonder what she will endure in book two as they venture into the savage lands.
  • Story ~ very fast paced story and addictive. I want to read book two right now just to get to know these savage lands and find out more about Warwick! And what about Caden? What’s happened to him? So many questions!
  • Triggers: sexual harassment, violence, torture
  • This is the first book I’ve read from this author and now I’m interested in her other books.

This is how I like my paranormal romances, gritty with great world building. I like them intense, with a badass female and an equally deadly alpha male, but the appeal for me is when they can keep up with each other. So far the chemistry between them is off the charts but what about Caden, her childhood love? I don’t know but I’m hooked, give me more savage lands! Glad I gave this book a chance and I look forward to reading more books from this author.

🖤 ~ Yolanda

The Whisper Man | Book Review

My Rating: 3.5/5

Title: The Whisper Man

Author: Alex North

Format: paperback (owned)

Pages: 355

Categories: crime, thriller, adult fiction, contemporary, mystery

In this dark, suspenseful thriller, Alex North weaves a multi-generational tale of a father and son caught in the crosshairs of an investigation to catch a serial killer preying on a small town.

After the sudden death of his wife, Tom Kennedy believes a fresh start will help him and his young son Jake heal. A new beginning, a new house, a new town. Featherbank.

But the town has a dark past. Twenty years ago, a serial killer abducted and murdered five residents. Until Frank Carter was finally caught, he was nicknamed “The Whisper Man,” for he would lure his victims out by whispering at their windows at night.

Just as Tom and Jake settle into their new home, a young boy vanishes. His disappearance bears an unnerving resemblance to Frank Carter’s crimes, reigniting old rumors that he preyed with an accomplice. Now, detectives Amanda Beck and Pete Willis must find the boy before it is too late, even if that means Pete has to revisit his great foe in prison: The Whisper Man.

And then Jake begins acting strangely. He hears a whispering at his window…

My Attention: read in 3 days

World Building: village of Featherbank

Writing Style: easy to read, direct

Crazy in Love: none of that

Creativity: a crime mystery that touches on grief, and facing things from the past

Triggers: crime against children, murder, alcoholism, troubled home, abuse, kidnapping, grief

  • I’m one of those people who likes watching documentaries on serial killers – it freaks me out, but I like learning about the psychology and motivation of these killers. So if you are like me, and liked stories like Silence of the Lambs, then you will like The Whisper Man. There is a spooky children’s rhyme in the village about the Whisper Man. There is a creepy house that Jake and his father move into and of course…whispering heard in the house and Jake talking to himself (or so people think) – everything that will give you some chills and thrills while reading the story.
  • The characters are all pretty fleshed out and have mystery to them as well. Jake has lost his mother and finds himself talking to a little girl only he can see. Tom, Jake’s father, is barely holding it together. We see how parenting and grieving is hard for him. Then there is Pete Willis, the detective on the case that has haunted him for years. He is now a recovering alcoholic with a few regrets in his life. I could feel all their struggles. I love the emotional connections that were made in this story.
  • The case of The Whisper Man is mostly solved except for one body that has never been recovered. And now there is a copycat on the loose, so the mystery reveal was something I didn’t expect and then the ending was…wow.
  • It’s disturbing – as any story about harming children should be disturbing. So when we finally meet the killer…I was scared for all parties involved. I’m a parent so it definitely made me want to grab my kids and not make them leave my house ever!
  • There wasn’t anything mind-blowing about this story but I did enjoy how all the elements came together.
  • The rhyming song creeped me out (because children singing songs about serial killers usually creep me out) – but the story didn’t give me that scary factor, so if you are wanting a book to scare you – this won’t be it. It’s more thrilling mystery than scary.

This book had a little bit of everything: crime, mystery, thrills and creepiness. It also delves into the challenges of dealing with grief, addiction, and forgiveness. Overall, an enjoyable read that makes you follow the trail of clues and gives you a little thrill here and there.

🖤 ~ Yolanda

The Song of the Marked (Shadows and Crowns, #1)| Book Review

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

Title: The Song of the Marked (Shadows and Crowns, #1)

Author: S.M. Gaither

Format: eBook (Kindle Unlimited)

Pages: 512

Categories: Fantasy, New Adult, Magic, Gods, Enemies to Lovers

A Devastating Sickness 

For decades, the Kethran Empire has been plagued by a strange illness that leaches the very life and soul from its victims.

The Girl Who Survived 

Casia is one of the Fade-Marked—one of the few people who caught this sickness and lived. Why she lived is a mystery even to her and the outcast crew of mercenaries she calls her family. It also makes her an intriguing target for the young, enigmatic king-emperor, who claims he wants to work alongside her to find a cure. 

Unfortunately, working alongside him also means working with the handsome but infuriating captain of one of the most prestigious branches of the Kethran Army.

A Soldier With No Past 

This infuriating Captain Elander also has secrets: A past that Cas can’t seem to uncover, a powerful but strange brand of magic, and a deep distrust of the very monarch that he’s sworn to serve. She feels oddly drawn to him in spite of these things…

But can she really trust him?

The Fate of an Empire 

As the bodies pile up and strange monsters begin to wreak havoc throughout the realms, Cas and Elander will have to work together to protect their world whether they trust one another or not. Because one thing is clear: Something ancient and evil is stirring in the shadows of Kethra.

And the empire will not survive its full unleashing. 

But how can they save a world where nothing and no one is what they seem to be— including Cas herself? 

My Attention: read in one day

World Building: epic – the Kethran Empire is ruled by a King-Emperor who wants to eradicate people with magic, and there is a Fading Sickness infecting the kingdom and they have to find out the source of the illness

Writing Style: flowed very well

Crazy in Love: enemies to lovers 

Creativity: I enjoyed this world of magic and Gods

Triggers: violence, thieving, anxiety

My Takeaway: Definite Sarah J. Maas vibes and I’m here for it!

  • Love the cover and usually I’m wary about KU Fantasy ebooks because I find them way too short, I mean yes I love that the next installment usually comes out in 3 months but THIS one, is a nice lengthy 500+ which surprised me. I was reading it without knowing the page count and was wondering why it was taking me so long to read (not long…but usually I can devour these short book series in a few hours and usually can binge the whole series in one night). So I am impressed with this one!
  • There is Throne of Glass vibes all over this book BUT there are enough difference to make it exciting. Cas reminds me of Celaena (badass heroine, etc…) but I like that Cas is different enough with her bouts of severe anxiety and needing to take care of her foster mom, Asra. Cas has a fun crew of magic wielders around her, all with different personalities.
  • The world building is addictive: there is a Fading Sickness in the empire, and Cas is one of the few who has survived it. Why? I love the process of finding out why and that plot twist in the end. Total cliffhanger!
  • Enemies to lovers, which is my fave – Elander is dark, blessed by a Death God, and their banter was fun. He was mysterious and she is reckless which makes them a hot combo. And yes there is a sex scene, they need more haha but…we shall see what happens between them!
  • This story was a fun ride, with villains, secrets, fights, danger, Gods – so much to digest but it’s an exciting start to the series.
  • There are a lot of things to discover yet, like Darkhand’s role in the beginning and then he disappeared. I’m sure the story will come back to that but he kind of was introduced and then forgotten.
  • Varen the king-emperor…oh boy, so what will happen now that the truth has been revealed?
  • And Elander…just give me more of him and Cas, and I’ll be happy!

This is the first book I’ve read from S.M. Gaither and I know it won’t be the last. I’ll have to binge her previous series! If you like stories like the Throne of Glass series, you will enjoy The Song of the Marked. I know I’m ready for book two to arrive but I have to wait until January! I was craving a fantasy with an enemies to lovers romance, lots of action and detailed world building and this totally hit the spot.

😍 ~ Yolanda

In A Holidaze | ARC Review

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2

Title: In a Holidaze

Author: Christina Lauren

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 336

Publication Date: 10/6/20

Publisher: Gallery Books

Categories: Romance, Adult Fiction, Groundhog’s Day, Contemporary

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

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. 

My Attention: had it for the most part

World Building: Salt Lake, Utah – annual Christmas trip

Writing Style: flows quickly, great character dialogues

Bringing the Heat: 🔥🔥 

Crazy in Love: friends to lovers

Creativity: it has a Groundhog’s Day movie time loop

Mood: ready for the holidays

Triggers: car accident

My Takeaway: Be careful what you put out into the universe – you might really get what you want. And I mean that in a good way.

  • The bonds between the families is awesome. Mae’s parents and their best friends have a tradition, they meet up in Utah and spend Christmas together. They’ve been doing it for years and the bonds are evident.
  • It’s so hard to hate a Christmas book – it just puts you in a happy mood and this book definitely made me feel like I was watching a Hallmark Channel holiday movie!
  • Andrew and Mae are so cute together. She’s crushed on him forever, since they were kids and now as adults her love has endured but he’s never reciprocated his feelings until something happens – and Mae finally has the guts to tell him. They are friends who become lovers, so there is heat in their touches but laughter too when things get awkward. It’s wonderful!
  • Benny is awesome, he’s the family friend/Uncle figure who is a great listeners and knows Mae’s secrets. We all need a Benny.
  • The groundhog day’s aspect of the story threw me off a little. I was getting into the story and then bam! Haha…it’s not my favorite kind of trope to read but I went with it.
  • Theo, Andrew’s brother is supposedly the closest to Mae. They sounded like they were besties and yet…it didn’t come off that way in the book at all. So I think I wanted to see more of her interaction with Theo.

Overall, this was an enjoyable, lighthearted holiday romance story that would totally make a good Christmas movie. I look forward to reading more books from this author!

BLOG Tour | Road Out of Winter by. Alison Stine

Welcome to the blog tour for Road Out of Winter by. Alison Stine!

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2

Title: Road Out of Winter

Author: Alison Stine

Format: ebook (NetGalley)

Pages: 320

Publication Date: 9/1/20

Publisher: MIRA

Purchase Links: Harlequin |Barnes & Noble | Amazon | Books-A-Million | Powell’s

Categories: Dystopia, Climate Change, Eco Thriller, Survival

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

Surrounded by poverty and paranoia her entire life, Wil has been left behind in her small Appalachian town by her mother and her best friend. Not only is she tending her stepfather’s illegal marijuana farm alone, but she’s left to watch the world fall further into chaos in the face of a climate crisis brought on by another year of unending winter. So opens Alison Stine’s moving and lyrical cli-fi novel, ROAD OUT OF WINTER (MIRA Trade; September 1, 2020; $17.99).

With her now priceless grow lights stashed in her truck and a pouch of precious seeds, Wil upends her life to pursue her mother in California, collecting an eclectic crew of fellow refugees along the way. She’s determined to start over and use her skills to grow badly needed food in impossible farming conditions, but the icy roads and desperate strangers are treacherous to Wil and her gang. Her green thumb becomes the target of a violent cult and their volatile leader, and Wil must use all her cunning and resources to protect her newfound family and the hope they have found within each other.

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

Let’s break it down:

My Attention: intrigued but kind of waned in the middle

World Building: fascinating – Appalachia Ohio enduring a very long winter, resources are low and people are in survival mode

Writing Style: slow, tense

Bringing the Heat: more like cold, VERY cold 

Crazy in Love: no time for love in this story

Creativity: weed, an endless winter, and trying to survive makes for a very interesting story!

Mood: mixed feelings 

Triggers: drug use, violence, mention of rape

My Takeaway: The currency of the future in a climate crisis will be seeds and someone who knows how to grow them.

  • I don’t read many eco-thrillers but this caught my eye because Wil is a weed grower and it’s a skill that will help her survive this endless winter. Wil comes from a place of poverty and heavy drug use, she’s been around all kinds of drug users since she was a child, and that helps her navigate her way out in this new cold world.
  • I like how the author describes what’s happening in the towns as winter doesn’t let up. We see resources grow scarce, people panicking and leaving for someplace else. There is no internet, no way to really communicate, no news…it’s a dire situation and it’s something that could happen in reality. That’s the thrilling and scary part of the story.
  • Wil is on a mission to get to her mom, so she needs to leave her town but she meets people along the way, and the further they get from home – they get into harrowing situations and meet other people on the road. They encounter different groups of people out there which made me wonder if Wil would get to her destination at all or intact?
  • Who knew being a weed grower would be a skill to come in handy? There isn’t much weed growing happening in this story but I understand that once she settles down somewhere it will be the knowledge that will help her grow food to survive.
  • I didn’t connect much to any character. But I think the story gets much more interesting when Jamey and Starla enters the picture.
  • The beginning for me was a slow build but the later half is definitely when things pick up. There is more action as Wil and her friends try to get out of certain situations.
  • The ending felt rushed, but will there be a sequel? I felt like more of the story could be told.

I think this was a solid eco-thriller. It made me feel this story could become reality in the future especially with how our planet is undergoing climate change. Wil is an interesting character who has survival skills because she grew up around drug users and she herself is a weed grower. Wil’s journey to her destination is filled with challenges and terror. If you like eco-thrillers, I think you will really enjoy this one.

About the Author:

ALISON STINE lives in the rural Appalachian foothills. A recipient of an Individual Artist Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), she was a Stegner Fellow at Stanford University. She has written for The Atlantic, The Nation, The Guardian, and many others. She is a contributing editor with the Economic Hardship Reporting Project.

Author Website | Twitter: @AlisonStine | Instagram: @AliStineWrites | Goodreads

The Traitor Queen |Book Review

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Title: The Traitor Queen (The Bridge Kingdom, #2)

Author: Danielle L. Jensen

Format: eBook (own)

Pages: 346

Categories: Adult Fiction, Romance, Fantasy

Lara has only one thought when her husband is taken prisoner: I will do whatever it takes to set you free.

A queen now in exile as a traitor, Lara has watched Ithicana be conquered by her own father, helpless to do anything to stop the destruction. But when she learns her husband, Aren, has been captured in battle, Lara knows there is only one reason her father is keeping him alive: as bait for his traitorous daughter.

And it is bait she fully intends to take.

Risking her life to the Tempest Seas, Lara returns to Ithicana with a plan not only to free its king, but for liberating the Bridge Kingdom from her father’s clutches using his own weapons: the sisters whose lives she spared.

But as Lara and her companions formulate a plan to free Aren from her father’s palace, they soon discover that while it is easy to get in, it will be quite another thing to get Aren, and themselves, back out. Not only is the palace inescapable, there are more players in the game than Lara ever realized, enemies and allies switching sides in the fight for crowns, kingdoms, and bridges. But her greatest adversary of all might be the very man she’s trying to free – the husband she betrayed.

With everything she loves in jeopardy, Lara must decide who – and what – she is fighting for: her kingdom, her husband, or for herself.

My Attention: read in one night

World Building: warring kingdoms, a bridge that controls trade between them, an evil King who raised assassin daughters for one goal…absolutely love this world

Writing Style: so much tension, action and emotion

Crazy in Love: they are crazy for each other but will Lara’s deception end it between the two of them? 😫

Creativity: this series got me in the first chapter of book one when Lara has done something heinous…until we find out her motivations

Triggers: violence, death, torture, snakes, sharks, drowning

My Takeaway: Fight for what you love.

  • I like how fast pace this book is, it continued right away from book one. There is high stakes, political chess moves, rescue mission, reunions, and a few battle scenes. The story had me from beginning to finish.
  • There is so much tension in this book from Aren being a prisoner and tortured, his struggle to make sense of his feelings for Lara and then what to do when he gets out. Lara on the other hand is living with guilt, trying to fix what she had done, and making hard decisions along the way. I was torn for both of them. I just wanted them to be together, but they had a lot of things to work through on to of saving the people of Ithicana.
  • We are introduced to Keris, Lara’s older brother and Lara’s half sisters! I definitely want to know more about Keris and his motivations but wow…Lara’s sisters are ah-mazing. I loved their reunion and I hope we get to see them again sometime in future books!
  • The ladies kick major butt in this book. I love how they are strong and smart they are, even the women in the harem who would be looked upon as just slaves and docile – nope…they had their ways to fight as well.
  • This book had me emotional, I even shed a few tears at the end. I wondered how much more Lara can give of herself – yet I understood the distrust of the people she betrayed as well. Yet how can someone who was raised in torture, learn what love is? She was bound to make mistakes after being so brainwashed by her dad…but I love Lara. I loved watching her transformation, with Aren by her side.
  • Like I said, I hope we get to see Lara’s sisters again. I do know Keris’ story will be told next and he is such a mystery, it will be interesting to know how he grew up.

The Traitor Queen was the perfect conclusion to The Bridge Kingdom duology. It had everything I wanted: action, humor, broken hearts, and it took me on an emotional journey. I was on the edge of my seat the whole time I read this book. I can’t believe Lara and Aren’s story is over because I love them so much but I look forward to reading whatever Danielle L. Jensen writes next.

💕 ~ Yolanda

The Last Story of Mina Lee | ARC Review

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Title: The Last Story of Mina Lee

Author: Nancy Jooyoun Kim

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 384

Publication Date: 9/1/20

Publisher: Park Row

Categories: Adult Fiction, Contemporary, Mother/Daughter Relationship, Korean Culture, Mystery, Family, Grief, Immigration, Identity

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

Margot Lee’s mother, Mina, isn’t returning her calls. It’s a mystery to twenty-six-year-old Margot, until she visits her childhood apartment in Koreatown, LA, and finds that her mother has suspiciously died. The discovery sends Margot digging through the past, unraveling the tenuous invisible strings that held together her single mother’s life as a Korean War orphan and an undocumented immigrant, only to realize how little she truly knew about her mother.

Interwoven with Margot’s present-day search is Mina’s story of her first year in Los Angeles as she navigates the promises and perils of the American myth of reinvention. While she’s barely earning a living by stocking shelves at a Korean grocery store, the last thing Mina ever expects is to fall in love. But that love story sets in motion a series of events that have consequences for years to come, leading up to the truth of what happened the night of her death.

Told through the intimate lens of a mother and daughter who have struggled all their lives to understand each other, The Last Story of Mina Lee is a powerful and exquisitely woven debut novel that explores identity, family, secrets, and what it truly means to belong.

Thank you to Park Row and NetGalley for giving me a chance to read this eARC.

Now let’s break it down!

My Attention: it had my attention

World Building: Koreatown, Los Angeles

Writing Style: beautiful, lyrical writing

Bringing the Heat: none 

Crazy in Love: not a romance story

Creativity: I don’t usually enjoy flashbacks in a story, but it worked so well in this particular story as we see both journey of mom and daughter

Mood: broken hearted

Triggers: grief, suicidal thoughts/attempts, depression, death, mentions of abuse, harassment, deportation

My Takeaway: Everyone has a past – some stories we just don’t know until we dig for the truth. Also sometimes love looks different to people.

  • This is an introspective tale about a mother and daughter whose relationship isn’t close. It’s tense, and there are so many differences separating them. This is a painful story…you can feel the despair and loneliness that Mina Lee feels all her life from the moment she is separated from her parents. Mina has lived with trauma all her life and it has affected her and her daughter. Imagine, not having family? ☹️
  • This story goes deep. It’s not a happy story at all. It is heartbreaking – it doesn’t shy away from Mina’s suicidal thoughts. Mina experiences so much loss and struggle, her story broke my heart over and over. And then her daughter Margot who just wanted to be away from her…I could feel her struggle to love her daughter and yet not know how to love her the way Margot wanted her to. There is no bridge between them while Mina is alive. It’s only after her death that Margot starts to piece things together and heal as she faces the truths about her life and her mother.
  • Usually mystery stories don’t hold my attention, because it’s a slow build but in this story Mina’s life intrigued me since she was so private about her past.
  • The story touches on the struggle of immigrants, documented or not, as they assimilate in America. In this instance Mina and Margot make their life in Koreatown – Los Angeles, California. I love how the author brings issues of the Korean American experience to the surface. My parents are Filipino immigrants and in that sense I could relate to the story a lot. When the author touches on the language barriers, the job opportunities, the American “dream” and what it looks like for different people, it really resonated with me and made me think of my own parents. Do immigrants truly ever feel like they belong here?
  • The writing is beautiful. I was highlighting sentences like crazy.
  • This is a slow unfolding story – don’t go into it thinking it’s a fast paced story. The mystery of how Margot’s mom dies is why Margot starts digging yet she can only get the version the few people who knew Mina could tell her. And seriously, only one person knew Mina, Mrs. Baek and even then, she didn’t know Mina fully! Mina was secretive, because she didn’t want to love people and lose them again.
  • Margot has one friend, Miguel, who helps her out in Los Angeles, but though they seem close – even that relationship seems somewhat superficial. He’s there for her but Margot doesn’t seem to let people get super close to her as well. I’m glad she wasn’t totally alone, because that would have been even more tragic.
  • Mina’s lost everyone and then she dies? When the mystery is solved I felt like it was so unfair! How realistic was the conclusion though? I think that part threw me off a little. I did like Margot’s journey to the truth though, that’s the most important thing.

This story pummeled me in the heart. I found myself agreeing with Margot so many times because I grew up with immigrant parents as well. Mina’s story is absolutely heartbreaking and I wish so much she had a happier ending but real life is not like that. At least Margot has a chance to change things in her life and to heal. This is a moving, heartbreaking, eye-opening Own Voices story about the strained relationship between a mother and daughter as well as the search for identity.

Read an EXCERPT here: https://pastmidnight.home.blog/?p=5209

Master of Poisons | ARC Review

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2

Title: Master of Poisons

Author: Andrea Hairston

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 464

Publication Date: 9/8/20

Publisher: Tor.com

Categories: Fantasy, Adult Fiction

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

The world is changing. Poison desert eats good farmland. Once-sweet water turns foul. The wind blows sand and sadness across the Empire. To get caught in a storm is death. To live and do nothing is death. There is magic in the world, but good conjure is hard to find.

Djola, righthand man and spymaster of the lord of the Arkhysian Empire, is desperately trying to save his adopted homeland, even in exile.

Awa, a young woman training to be a powerful griot, tests the limits of her knowledge and comes into her own in a world of sorcery, floating cities, kindly beasts, and uncertain men.

Awash in the rhythms of folklore and storytelling and rich with Hairston’s characteristic lush prose, Master of Poisons is epic fantasy that will leave you aching for the world it burns into being.

Thank you to Tor.com and NetGalley for giving me a chance to read this eARC.

My Attention: waned

World Building: African epic fantasy – the most amazing thing about this story is the world building of the Arkhysian Empire. The reader travels across so many terrains and come across different kinds of people and tribes.

Writing Style: beautifully written

Bringing the Heat: no

Crazy in Love: there is love but it isn’t crazy 

Creativity: imaginative world building of magic, griots and politics

Mood: inspired

Triggers: violence

My Takeaway: African inspired fantasies are so rich in culture and magic!

  • The world building in this epic story takes center stage. It is an African inspired fantasy, and filled with lush scenery and characters. There is political intrigue, danger, music, adventure, gods, spirits and so much magic.
  • One thing I love about fantasy stories is that diversity is usually a given. This book is no exception.
  • The story follows two main characters Djola who is the Master of Poisons, and Awa a young griot. I think both of them were interesting but I was drawn towards Awa more, maybe because she was the female character and griots are something I’ve been reading more about lately in other African inspired fantasies. Djola is an Elder and is knowledgable and knows the political landscape of the Arkhysian Empire. He has magic as well. The story moves faster when Awa and Djola finally meet. I like their interactions because they both learn from one another.
  • The writing is so visual, like when Awa’s bees surround her. I can see this book translated into a fantasy series on screen. I can only imagine how amazing the scenes would look. This story is beautiful in the way some sentences flow and sound like proverbs. There are deep meanings and messages in this story.
  • The story is written beautifully but it lost my attention in the middle because it moved too slow and I was learning about the different people, their magic, and the language. Djola is tasked to basically the cure to the land and Awa is a young griot new to her growing powers. I wanted it to move faster in the beginning but I understand the scope of the storytelling especially with the world building.
  • While the world building is fantastic, I wish I had connected to the characters more. Awa was my favorite, and her character was vibrant but emotionally, I felt like I didn’t connect to anyone in the story.

This landscape of African inspired fantasy is a wonderful eye-opening reading experience for me. I’m usually a reader of young adult fantasy, but this adult fantasy, Master of Poisons, is epic. Maybe because I’m so used to young adult fiction the slow building of this story challenged my attention span. The world-building for me is the stand out in this book, it is so seamless and imaginative. Lovers of fantasy will definitely enjoy this one.

💕 ~ Yolanda

BLOG TOUR | The Last Story of Mina Lee by. Nancy Jooyun Kim

Welcome to the blog tour for The Last Story of Mina Lee by. Nancy Jooyun Kim!

THE LAST STORY OF MINA LEE

Author: Nancy Jooyoun Kim

Publication Date: September 1, 2020

Publisher: Park Row Books

Buy Links: Harlequin  Barnes & Noble |Amazon | Books-A-Million |Powell’s

THE LAST STORY OF MINA LEE opens when Margot Lee’s mother, Mina, doesn’t return her calls. It’s a mystery to twenty-six-year-old Margot, until she visits her childhood apartment in Koreatown, Los Angeles, and finds that her mother has suspiciously died. The discovery sends Margot digging through the past, unraveling the tenuous and invisible strings that held together her single mother’s life as a Korean War orphan and an undocumented immigrant, only to realize how little she truly knew about her mother.

Interwoven with Margot’s present-day search is Mina’s story of her first year in Los Angeles as she navigates the promises and perils of the American myth of reinvention. While she’s barely earning a living by stocking shelves at a Korean grocery store, the last thing Mina ever expects is to fall in love. But that love story sets in motion a series of events that have consequences for years to come, leading up to the truth of what happened the night of her death.

Here is an EXCERPT:

Margot 2014

Margot’s final conversation with her mother had seemed so uneventful, so ordinary—another choppy bilingual plod. Half-understandable. 

Business was slow again today. Even all the Korean businesses downtown are closing. 

What did you eat for dinner?

Everyone is going to Target now, the big stores. It costs the same and it’s cleaner.

Margot imagined her brain like a fishing net with the loosest of weaves as she watched the Korean words swim through. She had tried to tighten the net before, but learning another language, especially her mother’s tongue, frustrated her. Why didn’t her mother learn to speak English?

But that last conversation was two weeks ago. And for the past few days, Margot had only one question on her mind: Why didn’t her mother pick up the phone?

****

Since Margot and Miguel had left Portland, the rain had been relentless and wild. Through the windshield wipers and fogged glass, they only caught glimpses of fast food and gas stations, motels and billboards, premium outlets and “family fun centers.” Margot’s hands were stiff from clenching the steering wheel. The rain had started an hour ago, right after they had made a pit stop in north Portland to see the famous 31-foot-tall Paul Bunyan sculpture with his cartoonish smile, red-and-white checkered shirt on his barrel chest, his hands resting on top of an upright axe.

Earlier that morning, Margot had stuffed a backpack and a duffel with a week’s worth of clothes, picked up Miguel from his apartment with two large suitcases and three houseplants, and merged onto the freeway away from Seattle, driving Miguel down for his big move to Los Angeles. They’d stop in Daly City to spend the night at Miguel’s family’s house, which would take about ten hours to get to. At the start of the drive, Miguel had been lively, singing along to “Don’t Stop Believing” and joking about all the men he would meet in LA. But now, almost four hours into the road trip, Miguel was silent with his forehead in his palm, taking deep breaths as if trying hard not to think about anything at all.

“Everything okay?” Margot asked.

“I’m just thinking about my parents.”

“What about your parents?” Margot lowered her foot on the gas.

“Lying to them,” he said.

“About why you’re really moving down to LA?” The rain splashed down like a waterfall. Miguel had taken a job offer at an accounting firm in a location more conducive to his dreams of working in theatre. For the last two years, they had worked together at a nonprofit for people with disabilities. She was as an administrative assistant; he crunched numbers in finance. She would miss him, but she was happy for him, too. He would finally finish writing his play while honing his acting skills with classes at night. “The theatre classes? The plays that you write? The Grindr account?”

“About it all.”

“Do you ever think about telling them?”

“All the time.” He sighed. “But it’s easier this way.”

“Do you think they know?”

“Of course, they do. But…” He brushed his hand through his hair. “Sometimes, agreeing to the same lie is what makes a family family, Margot.”

“Ha. Then what do you call people who agree to the same truth?”

“Uh, scientists?”

She laughed, having expected him to say friends. Gripping the wheel, she caught the sign for Salem.

“Do you need to use the bathroom?” she asked.

“I’m okay. We’re gonna stop in Eugene, right?”

“Yeah, should be another hour or so.”

“I’m kinda hungry.” Rustling in his pack on the floor of the backseat, he found an apple, which he rubbed clean with the edge of his shirt. “Want a bite?”

“Not now, thanks.”

His teeth crunched into the flesh, the scent cracking through the odor of wet floor mats and warm vents. Margot was struck by a memory of her mother’s serene face—the downcast eyes above the high cheekbones, the relaxed mouth—as she peeled an apple with a paring knife, conjuring a continuous ribbon of skin. The resulting spiral held the shape of its former life. As a child, Margot would delicately hold this peel like a small animal in the palm of her hand, this proof that her mother could be a kind of magician, an artist who told an origin story through scraps—this is the skin of a fruit, this is its smell, this is its color.

“I hope the weather clears up soon,” Miguel said, interrupting the memory. “It gets pretty narrow and windy for a while. There’s a scary point right at the top of California where the road is just zigzagging while you’re looking down cliffs. It’s like a test to see if you can stay on the road.”

“Oh, God,” Margot said. “Let’s not talk about it anymore.”

As she refocused on the rain-slicked road, the blurred lights, the yellow and white lines like yarn unspooling, Margot thought about her mother who hated driving on the freeway, her mother who no longer answered the phone. Where was her mother?

The windshield wipers squeaked, clearing sheets of rain.

“What about you?” Miguel asked. “Looking forward to seeing your mom? When did you see her last?”

Margot’s stomach dropped. “Last Christmas,” she said. “Actually, I’ve been trying to call her for the past few days to let her know, to let her know that we would be coming down.” Gripping the wheel, she sighed. “I didn’t really want to tell her because I wanted this to be a fun trip, but then I felt bad, so…”

“Is everything okay?”

“She hasn’t been answering the phone.”

“Hmm.” He shifted in his seat. “Maybe her phone battery died?”

“It’s a landline. Both landlines—at work and at home.”

“Maybe she’s on vacation?”

“She never goes on vacation.” The windshield fogged, revealing smudges and streaks, past attempts to wipe it clean. She cranked up the air inside.

“Hasn’t she ever wanted to go somewhere?”

“Yosemite and the Grand Canyon. I don’t know why, but she’s always wanted to go there.”

“It’s a big ol’ crack in the ground, Margot. Why wouldn’t she want to see it? It’s God’s crack.”

“It’s some kind of Korean immigrant rite of passage. National Parks, reasons to wear hats and khaki, stuff like that. It’s like America America.”

“I bet she’s okay,” Miguel said. “Maybe she’s just been busier than usual, right? We’ll be there soon enough.”

“You’re probably right. I’ll call her again when we stop.”

A heaviness expanded inside her chest. She fidgeted with the radio dial but caught only static with an occasional glimpse of a commercial or radio announcer’s voice.

Her mother was fine. They would all be fine.

With Miguel in LA, she’d have more reasons to visit now.

The road lay before them like a peel of fruit. The windshield wipers hacked away the rivers that fell from the sky.

Excerpted from The Last Story of Mina Lee by Nancy Jooyoun Kim, Copyright © 2020 by Nancy Jooyoun Kim Published by Park Row Books

About the AUTHOR:

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Nancy Jooyoun Kim is a graduate of UCLA and the MFA Creative Writing Program at the University of Washington, Seattle. Her work has appeared in the Los Angeles Review of Books, Guernica, The Rumpus, Electric Literature, Asian American Writers’ Workshop’s The Margins, The Offing, the blogs of Prairie Schooner and Kenyon Review, and elsewhere. Her essay, “Love (or Live Cargo),” was performed for NPR/PRI’s Selected Shorts in 2017 with stories by Viet Thanh Nguyen, Phil Klay, and Etgar Keret. THE LAST STORY OF MINA LEE is her first novel.

Social Links:

Author Website | Twitter: @njooyounkim | Instagram: @njooyounkim | Goodreads

BLOG TOUR} Here to Stay by. Adriana Herrera | Review + Excerpt

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for Here to Stay by. Adriana Herrera!

REVIEW

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2

Title: Here to Stay

Author: Adriana Herrera

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Publication Date: August 25, 2020

Buy HERE: Amazon | Barnes & Noble| Harlequin | Apple Books | Google Play | Kobo

Categories: Contemporary Romance, Workplace Romance

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

“Hot, heartwarming, and hilarious…This is a knockout.”
—Publishers Weekly, starred review

Award-winning, highly-acclaimed author Adriana Herrera delivers the sexy, modern enemies-to-lovers romance you’ve been waiting for.

Starting over is more about who you’re with than where you live…

Julia del Mar Ortiz is not having the best year.

She moved to Dallas with her boyfriend, who ended up ditching her and running back to New York after only a few weeks. Left with a massive—by NYC standards, anyway—apartment and a car lease in the scorching Texas heat, Julia is struggling…except that’s not completely true. Running the charitable foundation of one of the most iconic high fashion department stores in the world is serious #lifegoals.

It’s more than enough to make her want to stick it out down South.

The only monkey wrench in Julia’s plans is the blue-eyed, smart-mouthed consultant the store hired to take them public. Fellow New Yorker Rocco Quinn’s first order of business? Putting Julia’s job on the chopping block.

When Julia is tasked with making sure Rocco sees how valuable the programs she runs are, she’s caught between a rock and a very hard set of abs. Because Rocco Quinn is almost impossible to hate—and even harder to resist.

Thank you to Carina Press and NetGalley for giving me a chance to read this eARC.

My Reactions:

My Attention: it’s a quick read

World Building: Dallas, Texas with New York City nostalgia

Writing Style: flowed nicely, except for some typos (but this is an arc copy)

Bringing the Heat: 🔥🔥🔥🔥

Crazy in Love: Julia and Rocco are crazy for one another

Creativity: I like the Dominican representation

Mood: content

Triggers: abuse

My Takeaway: You can find love and make your own family in a new place away from home.

  • Julia is a confident, Dominican woman who is focused on the work she does with immigrant and refugee children. I liked her NYC pride even while living in Dallas. She’s doing her best to move on from her ex and making the most of life in a new city.
  • Rocco is trying to make a life in Dallas as an expat from NYC as well. He has a troubled past but he’s determined to live a good life and help his sister and niece as well. He and Julia connect on that level of being expats and for their love of family and friends.
  • Julia and Rocco are hot together. I mean their sex scenes were on fire! Their relationship grows steadily from co-workers, to friends, to lovers and more.
  • I like the Dominican culture representation because I don’t know much about it. But the author brought Dominican food to life and I was wanting to try everything they were eating in the book!
  • This copy is an arc so I hope the errors are fixed, but there were some typos that I had to reread to make sure and understand what the author was trying to convey.
  • This was a quick read and I wished I could connect to the characters more. I think I was hoping for more an enemies to lovers interaction but from the beginning they seemed like fast friends and not enemies at all. They are co-workers with Rocco being the person to evaluate her work, but still…they were friendly. I’d have love more tension between them.

This is a cute, workplace romance story between a sexy and smart Dominican woman and her co-worker. Seeing them get to know each other and flirt was fun and their sex scenes were hot! I love that they both valued family and friendship plus we get treated to Dominican and Latinx culture. Julia and Rocco are perfect for each other and they get their happy ending, as they should.

Check out this EXCERPT from Here to Stay:

Julia

I stepped into the elevator and shoved my phone into the pocket of my dress, took a moment to send a prayer to the employee discount that let me buy bomb clothes on a nonprofit worker budget, and did some mental math of what could be going on.

Was the program really in trouble? Could we actually get shut down?

Nope, I would not go there. I would not think about what it would be like to get on a plane back to New York dumped and unemployed. Not happening.

A distraction. That’s what I needed. Just as the door to the elevator was about to close, someone got in. The fact that I was eye level with the base of his throat was a good clue as to who it was, but when he opened his mouth and the now familiar knee-weakening baritone echoed off the walls of the elevator, I got my confirmation.

“Morning, Ms. Ortiz.” That voice could be used for interrogation tactics. Every muscle in my body loosened at the same time whenever I heard it.

I squeaked out a “Morning” and took my time lifting my head all the way up to look at the last person in the world I wanted overhearing my conversation with my mother.

Him.

Rocco Fucking Quinn, otherwise known as the “Team Leader” for the consulting firm looking to bag my job. The guy with the New York City-est name on the planet. I hadn’t exactly gotten personal with Mr. Quinn, but I picked up on that accent the first time we met.

“What’s good?” I really tried to sound polite, but my Queens jumped out in situations like this. I did not gulp, because I could not let this fucker see me sweat. I managed not to cut my eyes at him, but it was a close call.

I took him in, ramrod straight, every hair in its place, not a wrinkle in sight, and decided he could not be the proprietor of the laugh-choke from before. The man seemed to be completely lacking a sense of humor. I knew he must have teeth but I’d never seen them.

Yeah, definitely not him. That fact rallied my spirits a little bit as I stood close enough to pick up on how he smelled. Like the ocean and something woodsy. That was not helpful information.

Without saying another word, I ran my eyes over him. It struck me that he was not wearing something bespoke like pretty much everyone here. Don’t get me wrong, he still looked good enough to eat, but he was clearly on a budget. And at a place where everyone looked like they were heading to a New York Fashion Week photo shoot, it was sort of jarring. Still, the suit fit him well. And there was no question, this guy could wear the fuck out of a suit. I held back a whimper when I envisioned him in a Brioni or a Zegna. They’d have to put out a heat advisory for the building if that ever happened.

“I thought I could detect a familiar accent when I was coming down the hall.” His perfectly blue eyes twinkled at what I was certain was an expression of utter mortification on my face. He sounded pleasant enough, but he was also alluding to the fact that I was yapping on my phone. This wasn’t the first time he tried to be cute. Rocco Quinn seemed to like fucking with me. And it was only a matter of time before he stepped on my last nerve and I reamed him out.

Thankfully, just as I was scrambling to respond to his comment, the elevator got to my floor. I was planning to just leave him hanging and run off, but he was hot on my heels.

Dammit.

“Sounds like your mom misses you.”

Oh, for fuck’s sake. Why did he have to act all fake nice?

I nodded without looking at him. “She does. Listen, Mr. Quinn—”

“You can call me Rocco.”

Nope, that was not happening. I was not letting this sexy bastard talk me into getting all chummy with him. I was already on thin ice as it was. He could keep his pheromones and his slick-as-fuck expressions to his damn self. I came to a dead stop a few feet away from the conference room door where my boss—and whatever shitty news she was about to give me—was waiting.

When I turned around, Rocco was looking down at me with an expectant smile. God he was handsome, that jet-black hair so dark it almost had a tinge of blue and those eyes, piercing. And I guess he had teeth after all, and of course they were perfect. Asshole. I shook my head hard when my traitorous brain started wondering what Pantone color his eyes would be.

Get your head in the game, Julia del Mar.

I straightened my back, determined to fight off the debilitating effects of those gleaming teeth and perfectly pink lips. I had to remember this niceness was probably his way of getting us to let our guard down. He was here to find ways to cut jobs. I was not about to mouth off and get myself fired, but I needed to get some things clear.

“Look.” I was proud of myself for not rolling my neck or pointing at his face. “I know you’re trying to be nice, but you make me nervous.” I pulled on the hem of my blue polka-dot dress and smoothed my yellow cardigan, avoiding eye contact at all costs.

“Why do I make you nervous?”

Uh, maybe because you’re here to close down as much of the foundation as you can.

I refrained from actually saying that because I had not been raised by a Puerto Rican man and Dominican woman just so I could act like I had no home training with the guy who could get me fired. But it was a close call.

“I’m sorry for saying that. You don’t make me nervous.”

Lies.

Rocco Quinn didn’t just make me nervous. He made me want to run my hands all over that big-ass body and moon over his almost but not quite curly hair and blue eyes, in spite of the fact that I knew he was out here gunning for my entire program. And yet, I still wanted to kiss the hell out of him while I climbed him like a sequoia.

Copyright © 2020 by Adriana Herrera

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Adriana was born and raised in the Caribbean, but for the last fifteen years has let her job (and her spouse) take her all over the world. She loves writing stories about people who look and sound like her people, getting unapologetic happy endings.

When she’s not dreaming up love stories, planning logistically complex vacations with her family or hunting for discount Broadway tickets, she’s a trauma therapist in New York City, working with survivors of domestic and sexual violence.

Her Dreamers series has received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Booklist and has been featured in The TODAY Show on NBC, Entertainment Weekly, NPR, Library Journal and The Washington Post. Her debut, American Dreamer, was selected as one of Booklist’s ‘Best Romance Debuts of 2019’, and one of the ‘Top 10 Romances of 2019’ by Entertainment Weekly. Her third novel, American Love Story, was one of the winners in the first annual Ripped Bodice Award for Excellence in Romantic Fiction. Adriana is an outspoken advocate for diversity in romance and has written for Remezcla and Bustle about Own Voices in the genre. She’s one of the co-creators of the Queer Romance PoC Collective. Represented by Taylor Haggerty at Root Literary.

Connect with Adriana Herrera

Website: https://adrianaherreraromance.com 

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ladrianaherrera 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/laura.adriana.94801 

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ladriana_herrera/ 

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/18639202.Adriana_Herrera