Legendborn | ARC Review

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Title: Legendborn (Legendborn, #1)

Author: Tracy Deonn

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 512

Publication Date: September 15, 2020

Categories/Themes: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance/Love Triangle, King Arthur, Diversity, Black MC, History, Secret Society, Demons, Magic, Grief, Contemporary

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

After her mother dies in an accident, sixteen-year-old Bree Matthews wants nothing to do with her previous life, family memories, or her childhood home. A residential program for bright high schoolers at a local university seems like the perfect escape—until Bree witnesses a magical attack her very first night on campus.

A flying demon feeding on human energies.

A secret society of so called “Legendborn” students that hunt the creatures down.

And a teenage mage who calls himself a “Merlin” and who attempts—and fails—to wipe Bree’s memory of everything she saw.

The mage’s failure reveals Bree’s own, unique magic and unlocks a buried memory with a hidden connection: the night her mother died, another Merlin was at the hospital. Now that she knows there’s more to her mother’s death than what’s on the police report, Bree will do whatever it takes to find out the truth, even if that means infiltrating the Legendborn by becoming one of their initiates. But when the Legendborn reveal themselves as the descendants of King Arthur and his knights and explain that a magical war is coming, Bree has to decide how far she’ll go for the truth and whether she should use her magic to take the society down—or join the fight. 

Thank you to Margaret K. McElderry Books and NetGalley for giving me a chance to read this eARC.

I was nervous to read this book because I wanted it to be amazing! Look at that blurb, look at that cover! I could hold off no longer and I read all 500+ pages in one night. I was up until 5am in the morning and then was up at 8am to take care of two rowdy kids…I have NO regrets. 😬

My Reactions:

My Attention: totally captured and even though I needed my sleep, I just could not put the book down!

World Building: luscious, layered, epic world building – set in North Carolina, we get this secret society hiding at the University of North Carolina. This story combines the legend of King Arthur, Southern Black history, racism, and intricate magic systems.

Writing Style: the beginning is slower than the second half of the book but it’s because we are meeting Bree and she is dealing with major grief, but I was immersed in every aspect of this book and there are so many quotes I highlighted.

Bringing the Heat: 🔥 – some kisses and flirtation but mostly pretty mild 

Crazy in Love: ohhhhhh boy…the love drama between Arthur, Guinevere and Lancelot is VERY well known…so…I’ll leave it at that! Haha

Creativity: absolutely amazing, I love how everything blended together

Mood: excited, ecstatic, obsessed 

Triggers: grief, racism, prejudice, violence, death

My Takeaway: you think you know and then you don’t

  • World building – I am in love with this world. King Arthur legend, secret society, mixed in with southern black history and magic? It made me feel warm all over, like it was ticking off all the boxes I love in a contemporary fantasy story. It was refreshing to see the King Arthur’s legend brought into our modern day world with a girl dealing with today’s societal issues plus the past and present of racism in America, especially in the South. The story has so many layers.
  • The magic systems combined in this book is so good. We have Merlins (mages) who protect our “knights of the round table” heirs (Legendborns), and the enemy are the Shadowborn or various demons that come through gates. Then we have the Southern black magic or rootcraft magic that I loved SO much. It’s organic, it’s powerful, it’s the magic I would choose to practice because it involves ancestors helping to guide you. It’s beautiful. You borrow magic from your ancestors as opposed to Legendborns who have taken magic at a cost(colonizer magic!).
  • Bree – I love that she’s not perfect and all her pain, all her journey through grief is relatable to me. I recognized all her stages of grief. She makes so many mistakes, but she also tries to do the right thing. And when she comes into her power…it is glorious! I was rooting for her all of the way!
  • Nick and Selwyn…okay – yes, there is a love triangle brewing but according to legend, it’s expected. I love Nick, he is such an Arthur…but Selwyn and the enemies-to-whatever he and Bree are? I can’t help myself with enemies-to-lovers tropes and they aren’t even lovers…YET and I don’t know if they ever will be. 😭 And around them is a diverse bunch of couples – love is love is LOVE.
  • There is action with so many demons to fight and a Page trial as well. There is a mystery about Bree’s mother, there is so much danger, there is friendship and love. There is truth, there is forgiveness, and there is a twist.
  • As I mentioned, if love triangles turn you off – then this book will not be for you.
  • For any new fantasy book with a lot of details and characters, it’s easy to get bogged down with info dumps but personally, I did not feel that way with this story. I was so engrossed in learning about Merlins, rootcraft and everything else in this world.

Some books give you that feeling: heart pumping, adrenaline in your veins, wanting to relive the world again and even wishing you could see the story come to life on screen. That was how I felt after I read this book. I was on this wild, emotional ride with Bree. I want more of the characters, more rootcraft, more of Bree and Selwyn, okay I don’t mind Nick too. I want book two in my hands right now. I think I’ve found a new book to obsess over.❤️

ARC Review | These Vengeful Hearts

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2

Title: These Vengeful Hearts

Author: Katherine Laurin

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 384

Publication Date: September 8, 2020

Categories: Young Adult, Contemporary, Revenge, Secret Society, Romance

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

Anyone can ask the Red Court for a favor…but every request comes at a cost. And once the deed is done, you’re forever in their debt.

Whenever something scandalous happens at Heller High, the Red Court is the name on everyone’s lips. Its members–the most elite female students in the school–deal out social ruin and favors in equal measure, their true identities a secret known only to their ruthless leader: the Queen of Hearts.

Sixteen-year-old Ember Williams has seen firsthand the damage the Red Court can do. Two years ago, they caused the accident that left her older sister paralyzed. Now, Ember is determined to hold them accountable…by taking the Red Court down from the inside.

But crossing enemy lines will mean crossing moral boundaries, too–ones Ember may never be able to come back from. She always knew taking on the Red Court would come at a price, but will the cost of revenge be more than she’s willing to sacrifice?

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

These Vengeful Hearts is a mean girls story. There is a secret group at Heller High called The Red Court and they rule the school in a way. If you want something to happen, you can get in touch with The Red Court and they can help you with your goal. But in turn, they can come to collect a favor from you when it’s needed.

Ember Williams has revenge on her mind, but when she’s finally a part of the infamous court, can she carry out her plans?

  • Love the cover of this book and the concept of the story. Ember Williams is going to take down the red court because they hurt someone she loves. But once she is in, she admits she likes being part of a group that is in control of people’s lives. I liked seeing Ember walk her tight rope balancing revenge, lies, romance and eventually truth.
  • Ember has a cool best friend, Gideon, and I love their relationship. He tells her things straight out and tries to keep her level-headed about her revenge scheme.
  • The romance, though it starts off because of a Red Court mission…is something I did enjoy because Ember comes clean, but Chase does too. Anyway I’m glad even through it, things work out. The romance isn’t the main story which is nice too, it just shows how lies can hurt.
  • I liked the twist in the story, it made things even worse for Ember but…it made her realize, truth was the right thing in the end.

  • As much as I love the concept of the book, I didn’t feel like the story was sinister enough at times. The first half was losing steam and thank goodness it picked up in the second half but The Red Court just seemed to be breaking couples up and rigging homecoming election. So, it didn’t seem like a big deal at first but that was my biggest issue with the book.
  • Maybe it was all too predictable and it had so much potential to be more…I was expecting more.
  • Triggers: bullying

Overall, I enjoyed the story okay enough, mostly in the second half when Ember has to decide her course of action but I do believe this story had so much potential and fell a bit short. Main lesson from the story: if you live honestly then you have nothing to hide! It’s a good lesson. The teaser of a Black Court in the end left me intrigued! I’m not sure if there is a sequel…but if there is, I may read it to see where the story goes.

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

ARC Review | The Silvered Serpents (The Gilded Wolves, #2)

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2

Title: The Silvered Serpents (The Gilded Wolves, #2)

Author: Roshani Chokshi

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 416

Publication Date: September 22, 2020

Categories: Historical, Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult

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

They are each other’s fiercest love, greatest danger, and only hope.

Séverin and his team members might have successfully thwarted the Fallen House, but victory came at a terrible cost ― one that still haunts all of them. Desperate to make amends, Séverin pursues a dangerous lead to find a long lost artifact rumoured to grant its possessor the power of God.

Their hunt lures them far from Paris, and into icy heart of Russia where crystalline ice animals stalk forgotten mansions, broken goddesses carry deadly secrets, and a string of unsolved murders makes the crew question whether an ancient myth is a myth after all.

As hidden secrets come to the light and the ghosts of the past catch up to them, the crew will discover new dimensions of themselves. But what they find out may lead them down paths they never imagined.

A tale of love and betrayal as the crew risks their lives for one last job.

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

I don’t know what I was expecting from this book but wow, I waited to read this arc because the publication got pushed back but I’m glad I finally did read it!

We return to the world of The Gilded Wolves, but the crew has been torn apart by the death of Tristan, Severin’s brother. They come together again for another mission to find a mythological artifact – The Divine Lyrics. This time their quest takes them to Russia and Siberia. Severin wants it badly to make him and his friends, gods. Yet Laila needs it to stay alive. Once again we have the amazing characters I came to love in book one, but this time they are dealing with grief and questioning their self-worth. The heists, puzzles, riddles, action and surprises make this sequel so much more exciting to me than the first book. But this one also broke my heart! 🥺

  • The characters are what make this series. They are awesome and diverse! I love how they are all different and have fascinating back stories. Enrique is my favorite, but Hypnos really shined in this one too. They are all smart and skilled in their own ways but in this sequel we see their vulnerabilities and it got me in the feels. I am heartbroken for all of them, for losing Tristan. But Enrique and Zophia kept this mission afloat – they had to since Severin and Laila were falling apart.
  • The clues, riddles, high stakes, and heists are so much fun to me. I love, love, love Enrique’s inquisitive mind and capacity for memorizing historical information. But there are dangerous moments in this sequel as well and the twists in the story were good too!
  • There is so much emotion in this book: grief being a major part of it for Severin and all of them really, but Severin most of all. Also the wall between Severin and Laila was hurting my heart. They love each other but Severin fears love because it can be lost, like how Tristan was. The same for Laila – why love Severin when knowing her life could be lost soon, she doesn’t want to hurt him. They all want love and to be loved yet there is so much fear in it too. The ending gutted me, when love is explained as something that looks different to people – I felt that strongly.
  • Hypnos…I mentioned him earlier, but thank goodness he brings such humor to this story. I love him.
  • Severin takes a back seat in this story…and he is COLD hearted in this one. He is dealing with grief but wow…he is not the same guy from book one – and I was scared how far he’d gone at the end! We shall see what happens to him in the next book.
  • Sometimes there is so much information that Enrique is spewing out, I get lost LOL…which is funny because he mentions he feels like no one cares or listens to him. He is my fave but even sometimes his incessant talking goes over my head…and why am I talking about him like he’s real?! 🤣😍
  • Triggers: blood (a new character, a blood forger is introduced), violence, grief

I loved this book more than the first one! It was faster in pace, with another high stakes quest but with the crew falling apart at times. Yet there were funny moments too especially with Hypnos helping them out. I loved seeing the characters deal with their vulnerabilities, which was so relatable. And the thing I take away from this book is love – how it looks different to every one of us but we all want love. Love from family, from a friend, or from a partner. ❤️ But love is scary too because the pain of losing a loved one is hell. There are a few quotes from this book that I absolutely adore but can’t post since it’s an arc…but it made me want to weep, for Severin and the rest of the crew. Definitely looking forward to the next book!

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 

Chosen Ones |ARC Review

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️1/2

Title: Chosen Ones (The Chosen One, #1)

Author: Veronica Roth

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 419

Categories: Adult Fiction, Supernatural, Paranormal, Sci-Fi/Fantasy

The first novel written for an adult audience by the mega-selling author of the Divergent franchise: five twenty-something heroes famous for saving the world when they were teenagers must face even greater demons–and reconsider what it means to be a hero . . . by destiny or by choice.

A decade ago near Chicago, five teenagers defeated the otherworldly enemy known as the Dark One, whose reign of terror brought widespread destruction and death. The seemingly un-extraordinary teens—Sloane, Matt, Ines, Albie, and Esther—had been brought together by a clandestine government agency because one of them was fated to be the “Chosen One,” prophesized to save the world. With the goal achieved, humankind celebrated the victors and began to mourn their lost loved ones.

Ten years later, though the champions remain celebrities, the world has moved forward and a whole, younger generation doesn’t seem to recall the days of endless fear. But Sloane remembers. It’s impossible for her to forget when the paparazzi haunt her every step just as the Dark One still haunts her dreams. Unlike everyone else, she hasn’t moved on; she’s adrift—no direction, no goals, no purpose. On the eve of the Ten Year Celebration of Peace, a new trauma hits the Chosen: the death of one of their own. And when they gather for the funeral at the enshrined site of their triumph, they discover to their horror that the Dark One’s reign never really ended.

Thank you to John Joseph Adams/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and NetGalley for giving me a chance to read this eARC.

My Attention: struggled

World Building: urban fantasy, Chicago

Writing Style: writing flows well, I just thought the beginning was hard to get into because it takes the form of an investigation/reports and that usually kills my interest

Bringing the Heat: 🔥

Crazy in Love: nope

Creativity: ten years ago, there were 5 chosen ones who fought of the Dark One…here they are on the anniversary still dealing with the PTSD of what took place in that fight

Mood: not feeling it

Triggers: violence, PTSD, suicide

My Takeaway: Heroes can come out scarred.

  • Sloane is an interesting, morally grey, character – she is spunky, blunt and angry. She’s dealing with a lot of stuff and mostly because she was one of the chosen ones 10 years who fought the Dark One. And it messed her up. She knows it messed her up even though her boyfriend Matt says this side of her, is “not” her. I’m glad we got into her head and thoughts.
  • The premise about what happens to the heroes after they defeat the bad guy, is an awesome topic to explore. Some of them move on, some of them suffer from PTSD and don’t know how to accept who they are after what happened. I really liked how mental health issues were on display in this story.
  • On top of the PTSD, these chosen ones became “celebrities” whether they wanted to be or not. They saved the world and was thrown into the spotlight. Matt navigated fame expertly, but Sloane despises it. I like how the author brought to light the issues heroes would have to deal with after saving the world.
  • This story is imaginative and different. I appreciate that the story is thought-provoking.
  • This is an adult fiction book but for me it reads like NA (New Adult) or even could pass for YA at times.
  • Sci-Fi/Fantasy is a challenging genre for me to delve into especially when there are a lot of flashbacks. It didn’t help me that the story unraveled slowly. The writing is good but it just didn’t hook me with the flashbacks.
  • I couldn’t connect with any of the characters.
  • Definitely a mood read kind of book for me – and I think I was in the wrong mood for this.

Overall, this wasn’t for me. I’m a fan of the author’s previous work but this one was too slow for me and the flashbacks didn’t engage me. I did enjoy how the story explored how heroes deal with the aftermath of saving the world. I think fans of sci-fi will enjoy this one a lot.

Fable | ARC Review

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Title: Fable

Author: Adrienne Young

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 368

Publication Date: 9/01/20

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Categories: Pirates, Young Adult, Adventure, Romance, Family, Survival, Fantasy

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

As the daughter of the most powerful trader in the Narrows, the sea is the only home seventeen-year-old Fable has ever known. It’s been four years since the night she watched her mother drown during an unforgiving storm. The next day her father abandoned her on a legendary island filled with thieves and little food. To survive she must keep to herself, learn to trust no one and rely on the unique skills her mother taught her. The only thing that keeps her going is the goal of getting off the island, finding her father and demanding her rightful place beside him and his crew. To do so Fable enlists the help of a young trader named West to get her off the island and across the Narrows to her father.

But her father’s rivalries and the dangers of his trading enterprise have only multiplied since she last saw him and Fable soon finds that West isn’t who he seems. Together, they will have to survive more than the treacherous storms that haunt the Narrows if they’re going to stay alive.

Welcome to a world made dangerous by the sea and by those who wish to profit from it. Where a young girl must find her place and her family while trying to survive in a world built for men.

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

WOW.

My Reactions:

My Attention: absolutely swept away – read this in one sitting

World Building: epic – the setting is in the islands I’m sure inspired by the Caribbean but I could feel the humid air, see the school of fish in the reef, feel the pressure of the water as Fable dove deep….SO good.

Writing Style: flowed beautifully

Bringing the Heat: 🔥 – barely any but it didn’t need it

Crazy in Love: slow burn love story

Creativity: I loved everything about Fable and her gem mage powers, I want to learn more about it

Mood: Excited 

Triggers: violence, thieving

My Takeaway: Fable is abandoned by the only parent she has but makes a promise to herself to survive and take what is hers.

  • First off – that COVER. It is to die for! Absolutely beautiful.
  • Fable’s story is pretty amazing – she is surviving on her own, trying to get back to the father that left her to die (or survive). She has grit, brains and courage! It also helps she’s a gem mage, it helps her skills as a dredger (a diver). She does what she has to do to survive. My heart broke for her when it came to her relationship with her father.
  • In any pirate story, it’s ALL about the crew and the crew of the Marigold is great. We have a gay couple, siblings and lots and lots of secrets. West is the helmsman who commandeers the ship and he is as mysterious as they come but we learn about his background.
  • Fable’s dad, Saint, tells Fable she doesn’t belong in this world. She feels like he means in the world in general…but he means HIS world, this rough, dangerous, cold trading world of the Narrows. It’s cutthroat and he meant for her to be safe. I like the complicated feelings and history between them.
  • Danger is everywhere in this story and the author captures the setting so well. I was rooting for Fable and nervous for her from the moment I started the book and I could not STOP reading. And when the book came to an end, I wanted the next book.
  • I’ve read this author’s previous series but this one to me takes her writing to a whole new level. I was so immersed in this story.
  • The magic Fable has is as a gem mage and though she uses it while doing her work as a dredger – I think there is more to learn about her skill and her mother’s history. I want to definitely learn more about her mom’s family!
  • The romance doesn’t overtake this story, it’s slowly building and you wonder if it will turn into something and when it does…wow. We shall see what this means for the sequel!

I love a good pirate story, there is danger, high stakes, traders trying to be or stay the top dog and keeping their territories under their rule. This story hooked me right away! I loved everything about this book and I cannot wait to read the sequel.

Today Tonight Tomorrow | ARC Review

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2

Title: Today Tonight Tomorrow

Author: Rachel Lynn Solomon

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 384

Publication Date: July 28, 2020

Categories: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance

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

Today, she hates him.

It’s the last day of senior year. Rowan Roth and Neil McNair have been bitter rivals for all of high school, clashing on test scores, student council elections, and even gym class pull-up contests. While Rowan, who secretly wants to write romance novels, is anxious about the future, she’d love to beat her infuriating nemesis one last time.

Tonight, she puts up with him.

When Neil is named valedictorian, Rowan has only one chance at victory: Howl, a senior class game that takes them all over Seattle, a farewell tour of the city she loves. But after learning a group of seniors is out to get them, she and Neil reluctantly decide to team up until they’re the last players left—and then they’ll destroy each other.

As Rowan spends more time with Neil, she realizes he’s much more than the awkward linguistics nerd she’s sparred with for the past four years. And, perhaps, this boy she claims to despise might actually be the boy of her dreams.

Tomorrow…maybe she’s already fallen for him

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

My Reactions:

My Attention: caught

World Building: landmarks in Seattle – I’ve never been, so it was nice to learn the favorite local spots

Writing Style: loved the dialogue between Rowan and Neil

Bringing the Heat: whoa…🔥🔥🔥, definite sparks between them – and then some awkward teenage sex (which was actually sweet)

Crazy in Love: enemies to lovers

Creativity: love the HOWL game incorporated into the story

Mood: story made me go awww

Triggers: anti-semitism

My Takeaway: That boy you been hating so hard on might be the boy that you love. Also, it’s okay to love romance novels!!

  • It’s a feel good, last day of high school, emotional, and yet sweet story! This author made me feel like I was in high school again and yeah…that’s been a little over two decades for me so I loved how happy this story made me feel.
  • Enemies to lovers is my favorite trope and although this story takes place in one night, it works because Rowan and Neil have MAJOR history. They have competed against one another all throughout high school. They have been trying to best one another until the very end of high school! 😅 I loved their dialogue and I how the love to hate on each other. But I enjoyed seeing how finally for one night they can truly enjoy one another’s company. It was so cute and these two have sparks, I loved it!
  • Rowan is a romance novel lover (YAY). She wants to be a romance novel writer but see people put her down about her love of the genre. I felt her on all of it. Why do we have to be shamed for reading what we love? It was nice to see her share her fears about what she really wanted to be.
  • Neil…aww I like that he wasn’t the drop dead gorgeous hunky jock that’s the usual love interest. Nope, he’s a nerd, ambitious, competitive and loves his family. But there is a lot going on under his persona of co-president and valedictorian.
  • This is a sex positive book which is really refreshing. Rowan has open dialogue with her parents about sex, isn’t afraid about knowing and having sex, she is informed and it’s awesome. Neil is the virgin in this case haha, which was sweet (when he blushes). I liked that their first time together was awkward and not perfect but sweet because they are so into each other.
  • Another issue that was addressed in the book was Rowan being Jewish and how she dealt with it in school. I liked hearing her experiences because my kids are being raised Jewish (dad side), though I am Catholic, but we celebrate both holidays.
  • Incorporating a Senior game on the last day of school called HOWL where they had to go around Seattle to do a scavenger hunt was awesome – it gave me so much insight into the city of Seattle, which I don’t know much about since I’ve never been. I felt the love for the city in this story.
  • This is a sex positive book which I love so there is sex in it which totally fits the story – it’s awkward, sweet and realistic! But it appears right at the very end of the book and I think by then, even without that scene, the story would have been great. For me it wasn’t needed – I could already feel the fire between these two the moment they kissed. 😍 The sex scene is fairly quick and not very descriptive though. The kiss was what made my heart pitter-patter!

I love that this book took place in a span of 24 hours but so much happened with the HOWL game giving me a tour around Seattle, the fun bantering between Rowan and Neil, the enemies to lovers trope, Rowan sharing her experiences about being Jewish and her feelings about wanting to be a writer – at times I was wondering how these kids fit ALL of this activity into one night, ah…youth! And speaking of youth, this book gave me all the feelings of last day of school, wondering about summer and going off to college (and it got me thinking about it all in this time of a pandemic where graduations were altered drastically 😞). All those feelings combined in this one book worked so beautifully.

The Black Kids | ARC Review

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Title: The Black Kids

Author: Christina Hammonds Reed

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 368

Publication Date: August 4, 2020

Categories: Racism, Los Angeles History, Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Family, Friendship, Rodney King Riots, Coming of Age, Identity

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

Los Angeles, 1992

Ashley Bennett and her friends are living the charmed life. It’s the end of high school and they’re spending more time at the beach than in the classroom. They can already feel the sunny days and endless possibilities of summer.

But everything changes one afternoon in April, when four police officers are acquitted after beating a black man named Rodney King half to death. Suddenly, Ashley’s not just one of the girls. She’s one of the black kids.

As violent protests engulf LA and the city burns, Ashley tries to continue on as if life were normal. Even as her self-destructive sister gets dangerously involved in the riots. Even as the model black family façade her wealthy and prominent parents have built starts to crumble. Even as her best friends help spread a rumor that could completely derail the future of her classmate and fellow black kid, LaShawn Johnson.

With her world splintering around her, Ashley, along with the rest of LA, is left to question who is the us? And who is the them? 

Thank you to Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers and NetGalley for giving me a chance to read this eARC.

I had to request this book because of the cover and it’s subject matter. It did not disappoint!

My Reactions:

My Attention: caught

World Building: Los Angeles, California 1992

Writing Style: slow beginning but the message is strong

Bringing the Heat: 🔥 the heat of the riots – yes, the sex or romantic scenes, not so much

Crazy in Love: not so crazy, there is a growing relationship but it’s in the second half of the story

Creativity: during the Rodney King riots, Ashley is coming of age and dealing with family problems/history, friendship problems, dating problems and being black in an affluent part of Los Angeles

Mood:  eyes opened to Los Angeles history

Triggers: racism, bullying, violence

My Takeaway: When Ashley’s world comes crumbling down she finds out the truth about her friends, family and herself – and that’s a good thing.

  • This was the book I needed to read because I went to college in Los Angeles, back in 1996. I was only there for four years but this book opened my eyes very wide to the history of Los Angeles that I never knew about! I was unaware of the segregation of Santa Monica and the coastal towns but it explains what I see on the news today when I see white supremacist that are prevalent there! Also, this story takes place in 1992 and I was a high school freshman back then but the time setting definitely made me nostalgic for the music, which is tied into Ashley’s story.
  • Ashley is friends with the popular white girls in her school, and some of them use racial slurs around her casually. She likes fitting in but at what cost? Throughout the story she starts to question her friendships with these girls. It was a relief to see her venture out and talk to other people outside her group.
  • Speaking of Los Angeles history, another important history that Ashley explores is her family history. It’s so powerful when she says the history she knows starts with slavery in America…and that’s what was robbed from black people when they were taken from their motherlands and sold into slavery here in America, their true histories…histories that began in Africa, lost. At times Ashley doesn’t seem to care, she’s a teen going through friend and boy problems and the world outside doesn’t seem to matter. How much does it affect her that her grandma’s vacuum shop gets looted in the riots? She’s not close to that side of the family or it’s history, so how much should she care? So many of the mention of history in this story is powerful.
  • Her family problems are realistic. Every family has drama, and they are going through it with her older sister, who becomes part of the riots. Her parents have their marriage problems, her uncle and cousin being affected by the riots also appear in the story – so I felt like those issues were relatable. Also, I love her relationship with her nanny, Lucia – she was someone super close to her it seems, the one real friend she had maybe.
  • This story builds – at first it feels superficial being in Ashley’s head, in her life with her perfect white friends as they do whatever they want to do. But that’s what I think is great about this story, Southern California has that beach, casual, blasé, and Hollywood vibe. But this story gives us a history lesson about Los Angeles. I was waiting for this story to make an impact on me and it snuck up quietly, it was a crescendo. And though this was in 1992…it happened again in 2020, except the riots took over more than one city. It’s what makes this story so important today.
  • This is set in the 1990’s but at times I thought it was set in 2020! The racism, the violence of the riots, it was a repeat this year and on a bigger scale.
  • Another issue that was big in the 80’s and 90’s was HIV/AIDs. It does appear in this story very briefly. Also the teens in this story are out doing all kinds of things like smoking pot, drinking or doing drugs like E at prom. There is even a quick sex scene memory but it’s not graphic.
  • Ashley comes off superficial, especially in the beginning because of the friends she has and where she lives but it’s important that we are in her head. We do see growth throughout the story.

Ashley’s experience with the Rodney King riots, living on the outskirts of the rioting has a powerful and unexpected impact on her. She thinks the issues don’t affect her until she realizes it really does. She’s black. The racism against her and her family, her people, it affects her deeply but she’s been trying to fit in or blend in – but she can’t. I loved watching her change and grow as she confronts all the issues converging on her at once. This is a powerful story of an important time in history that’s absolutely relevant and relatable today.

ARC Review | The Dark Tide

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Title: The Dark Tide

Author: Alicia Jasinska

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 336

Publication Date: August 4, 2020

Categories: Dark Fantasy, Young Adult

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

Every year on St. Walpurga’s Eve, Caldella’s Witch Queen lures a boy back to her palace. An innocent life to be sacrificed on the full moon to keep the island city from sinking.

Lina Kirk is convinced her brother is going to be taken this year. To save him, she enlists the help of Thomas Lin, the boy she secretly loves, and the only person to ever escape from the palace. But they draw the queen’s attention, and Thomas is chosen as the sacrifice.

Queen Eva watched her sister die to save the boy she loved. Now as queen, she won’t make the same mistake. She’s willing to sacrifice anyone if it means saving herself and her city.

When Lina offers herself to the queen in exchange for Thomas’s freedom, the two girls await the full moon together. But Lina is not at all what Eva expected, and the queen is nothing like Lina envisioned. Against their will, they find themselves falling for each other. As water floods Caldella’s streets and the dark tide demands its sacrifice, they must choose who to save: themselves, each other, or the island city relying on them both.

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

My Reactions:

My Attention: wavered

World Building: dark fantasy world with witches

Writing Style: atmospheric

Bringing the Heat: 🔥 – not much heat, there is a slow burn romance

Crazy in Love: Lina has a major crush on Thomas and basically sets off to rescue him so is she crazy about him? YES…but…things change when Eva comes into the picture.

Creativity: love the dark witchy vibe

Mood: gave me a little but of The Hazel Wood vibes

Triggers: violence

My Takeaway: the Witch Queen is not all she seems

  • I like when a book about witches goes into the dark side. When Lina and her brother Finley make it to the Witch Queen’s palace is where things get fantastical, and dark! The world building is great – we learn about the cursed island and the witches that have to sacrifice a boy to keep the curse away. It’s a very dark story.
  • The Witch Queen Eva at first comes off evil…but…we learn she’s more than a witch queen needing a sacrifice to the sea serpent. She’s complicated. I liked learning about her past and her motivations, she has a lot riding on her shoulders to do the right thing.
  • Lina and her brother’s relationship made me a laugh a few times because they bicker like siblings do. They do not hold back with one another!
  • Lina was so in love with Thomas (the boy who escaped being sacrificed), that went to the witch’s castle to free him…like whoa…but at the end of the story, she starts having feelings for Eva. Like where did that crazy crush on Thomas go?! Haha…
  • I think Eva was the most interesting character in this story. At times the other characters felt flat and the story lacked depth.
  • Triggers: violence

I definitely would have been more in the mood to read this in the fall. I enjoyed the dark and witchy vibe. The world building with cursed island and the witch’s castle intrigued me and kept me reading until the end. At times I thought the story fell flat but I think if you like stories about witches, you may enjoy this one.