Warmaidens | ARC Review

My Review: 3/5 Stars

Title: Warmaidens (Gravemaidens, #2)

Author: Kelly Coon

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 352

Publication Date: 12/15/20

Publisher: Random House Children’s

Categories: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance

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

Warmaidens is the dark, action-packed conclusion to the heartwrenching Gravemaidens fantasy duology. Kammani and the maidens are now going to war against the ruler who tried to entomb them.

In the refuge city-state of Manzazu, Kammani has built a thriving healing practice and a life she’s proud of with her siblings, the maidens, and her love, Dagan. 

But when an assassin murders a healer he believes is Kammani and attempts to kill Arwia, the displaced queen of Alu, they realize they’re not safe in their safe little haven anymore. Uruku, the usurper to Alu’s throne, has found out they escaped the tomb and must kill them to protect his newly acquired power.

Burning for retribution, the ruler of Manzazu wants to unleash her fiercest weapons on Alu–her warmaidens. But when Kammani’s best friend, Iltani, is captured, Kammani must use her intuition and her heart to restore Arwia to the throne before the life she’s built–and a future with Dagan–burn up in the flames of war. 

Thank you to Random House Children’s and NetGalley for giving me a chance to read this eARC.

My Attention: read in five days

World Building: scenery is written wonderfully as in Gravemaidens

Writing Style: easy to read

Crazy in Love: Kammani and Dagan are already in love, Kammani just doesn’t want to be a “wife”

Creativity: Kammani’s life is in danger and they have to get Uruku off the throne

Triggers: violence, grief, misogyny

My Takeaway: You don’t have to give up your dreams when you fall in love with someone.

  • Iltani was my favorite in the first book, Gravemaidens and she comes back again with her sassy, wild self. She has the most personality out of all the characters. The women power vibes of Kammani and her crew were present in this book which is great.
  • Dagan is still trying to get Kammani to marry him but she’s worried about balancing her dreams, life and love. What if she doesn’t want children? What if she doesn’t want marriage? I like that the author let Kammani be happy without these things. The message I got was that it was okay to be independent and in love too.
  • A lot of things go wrong in this book, but I like that no matter what, the friends/families work together to achieve their goal.
  • I liked Gravemaidens more than this one because it was darker and more mysterious than Warmaidens. This is described as a dark story, but it didn’t feel that way at all.
  • Other than Iltani, I felt no connection to anyone else.
  • The way the characters planned out how to take down Uruku felt naive or amateurish, and it was – considering none of them were cold blooded killers, but I lost interest many times when it felt like their plans didn’t feel well thought out.

Though it’s not my favorite book in the duology, I think Warmaidens is a solid conclusion to this series. My favorite character Iltani really came through in personality, and she made the book fun to read. Kammani’s internal questions about how to be in love and not lose her independence really resonated with me and I’m glad to see her make her own choices. If you like stories about family, sisterhood, women power and romance, then you would enjoy this series.

💗 ~ Yolanda

These Violent Delights | ARC Review

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Title: These Violent Delights

Author: Chloe Gong

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 464

Publication Date: 11/17/20

Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books

Categories: Romeo and Juliet Retelling, Romance, Gangs, Shanghai, Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Family

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

The year is 1926, and Shanghai hums to the tune of debauchery.

A blood feud between two gangs runs the streets red, leaving the city helpless in the grip of chaos. At the heart of it all is eighteen-year-old Juliette Cai, a former flapper who has returned to assume her role as the proud heir of the Scarlet Gang—a network of criminals far above the law. Their only rivals in power are the White Flowers, who have fought the Scarlets for generations. And behind every move is their heir, Roma Montagov, Juliette’s first love…and first betrayal.

But when gangsters on both sides show signs of instability culminating in clawing their own throats out, the people start to whisper. Of a contagion, a madness. Of a monster in the shadows. As the deaths stack up, Juliette and Roma must set their guns—and grudges—aside and work together, for if they can’t stop this mayhem, then there will be no city left for either to rule.

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

Let’s break it down:

My Attention: I was along for the wild ride!

World Building: retelling of Romeo & Juliet, Shanghai, 1926 – turf wars between two gangs and a communist faction coming into play

Writing Style: fast paced

Bringing the Heat: 🔥

Crazy in Love: star-crossed lovers, it’s Romeo & Juliet – it was always going to be complicated

Creativity: I loved everything about how this is a Romeo & Juliet retelling, but with gangs in Shanghai.

Mood: Excited for sequel

Triggers: violence, gore, bugs, death

My Takeaway: “These violent delights have violent ends” – Shakespeare

  • Where do I start? Aesthetics: from the title to the cover…the darkness, the monster…ALL of it. It is perfection and matches the story to a T. Whoever did the cover design…BRAVO.
  • All the historical content about Shanghai in the 1920’s with foreign powers trying to take a piece of the city was well done. I learned a lot! We also get Juliette’s perspective of being a Chinese young woman being raised in America and the racism she experienced there.
  • Romeo & Juliet always made a good gangster story, two houses that hate each other. The same vibe in the original is alive in this version except for maybe the romance part. Roma and Juliette have a bloody, heartbreaking past – but their lifestyles don’t allow them to dwell on feelings like that. So in that sense it wasn’t as close to the original but I loved it.
  • Speaking of romance…there isn’t much of it. The two lovers have basically been torn apart and are given a second chance at love but wow…there is so much keeping Roma and Juliette apart. There is a lot of heartbreak between them, when they do finally acknowledge the past though, it’s further into the story.
  • The monster or virus that is infecting Shanghai makes this story darker and brings some gore to it. And I enjoyed it a lot. There is a mystery and the two gangs have to find out where this “virus” is coming from and who are the major players.
  • All the characters are great – but Juliette shines like a diamond that can cut glass. And she wouldn’t be afraid to cut anybody! She is hard edges, she is going to rule the Scarlet Gang one day, she can fight, she can kill and she’s smart.
  • This is not a full retelling of Romeo & Juliet because it’s going to be a series, so I really want to know more about Juliette’s cousins Kathleen and Rosalind! It almost felt like the story was going to wrap up like the original and then there is a twist…and made an opening for a sequel!
  • Pacing wise – for me it dragged a little in the middle but it picked up speed right after.

This is how I like my Romeo & Juliet – dark and violent! This had action, mystery, a race against the clock to stop a virus killing people (quite violently) in the city of Shanghai. It has politics, gangster drama and so much heart break. It touches on identity, family bonds and betrayal. This is an amazing retelling of a classic and I cannot wait to read the sequel.

🖤❤️ ~ Yolanda

Cast in Firelight | ARC Review

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Title: Cast in Firelight (Wickery, #1)

Author: Dana Swift

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 448

Publication Date: 11/17/20

Publisher: Delacorte Press

Categories: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance

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

The first book in an epic, heart-pounding fantasy duology about two royal heirs betrothed to be married, but whose loyalties are torn, and a ruthless enemy who threatens their world, perfect for fans of Sabaa Tahir, Hafsah Faizal, and Renée Ahdieh.

Adraa is the royal heir of Belwar, a talented witch on the cusp of taking her royal ceremony test, and a girl who just wants to prove her worth to her people.

Jatin is the royal heir to Naupure, a competitive wizard who’s mastered all nine colors of magic, and a boy anxious to return home for the first time since he was a child.

Together, their arranged marriage will unite two of Wickery’s most powerful kingdoms. But after years of rivalry from afar, Adraa and Jatin only agree on one thing: their reunion will be anything but sweet.

Only, destiny has other plans and with the criminal underbelly of Belwar suddenly making a move for control, their paths cross…and neither realizes who the other is, adopting separate secret identities instead.

My Attention: totally caught

World Building: India inspired with magic – so good

Writing Style: quick, easy read with romance and humor

Bringing the Heat: 🔥

Crazy in Love: slow burn, enemies to lovers

Creativity: I love the India inspired world with different gods that bestow certain magic powers

Mood: happy 

Triggers: violence

My Takeaway: Be honest and keep trying.

  • The world building is lush with the India inspired setting. I love the magic system where gods touch certain people with power, and they are then marked on their arms. There are different levels of power one acquires and they chant words/phrases to conjure up the magic.
  • The story is told between two perspectives, Adraa and Jatin. Their first meeting doesn’t go as planned and it starts off a relationship between them that is competitive. I love these two as individuals and a couple. The enemies to lovers romance is perfect, with the competition between and the deception. I loved watching them befriend one another and ultimately fall in love. They compliment each other so well.
  • Adraa as a soon-to-be Maharani has depth. She’s got magic, she’s has her challenges (she’s got a temper and can be impulsive), she cares about her people, and she’s an inventor. What can this girl not do? Well…she can’t conjure up white magic. Adraa also is an undercover agent and a cage caster (ring fighting but with magic!), she is bad ass This girl is ready to lead and not afraid to lead. She never gives up.
  • I liked the mystery that forces Adraa to go undercover. It introduces so many aspects of the world building from Jatin and Adraa’s home towns to the seedier aspects of the cities where cage casting, drugs and the black markets exists. It gives these two characters on the verge of leading to know more about what’s going with their people.
  • The mystery, action, humor and romances balances out so nicely in this book!
  • The author reveals in her notes this is not an OwnVoices story. She mentions being in an interracial relationship and that the characters will look like her children. I think that’s awesome.

Cast in Firelight is exciting, magical, funny, heartwarming and has wonderful world building. I was craving an enemies to lovers story and this was perfect! It had the right balance of humor, romance, action and magic. I look forward to reading more stories created in this world.

A Curse of Ash and Embers | ARC Review

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Title: A Curse of Ash & Embers

Author: Jo Spurrier

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 272

Publication Date: 11/3/20

Publisher: Voyager

Categories: Young Adult, Fantasy, Witches

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

A dead witch. A bitter curse. A battle of magic.

Some people knit socks by the fire at night. Gyssha Blackbone made monsters.

But the old witch is dead now, and somehow it’s Elodie’s job to clean up the mess.

When she was hired at Black Oak Cottage, Elodie had no idea she’d find herself working for a witch; and her acid-tongued new mistress, Aleida, was not expecting a housemaid to turn up on her doorstep.

Gyssha’s final curse left Aleida practically dead on her feet, and now, with huge monsters roaming the woods, a demonic tree lurking in the orchard and an angry warlock demanding repayment of a debt, Aleida needs Elodie’s help, whether she likes it or not.

And no matter what the old witch throws at her, to Elodie it’s still better than going back home.

Thank you to Voyager and NetGalley for giving me a chance to read this eARC!

My Attention: it couldn’t hold my attention

World Building: Black Oak Cottage, witches and a mystery to uncover

Writing Style: atmospheric

Bringing the Heat: none

Crazy in Love: nope – not crazy

Creativity: magic, witches and monsters

Mood: mixed feelings

Triggers: violence

My Takeaway: Elodie is a strong and brave young woman who can take care of herself.

  • I enjoyed the story of Aleida and Gyssha, the witches of Black Oak Cottage. When Elodie meets Aleida, Black Oak Cottage isn’t in good condition. We learn about Gyssha’s demise and then more about the witches’ history but Aleida is pretty fierce.
  • The female characters in this book are strong. Elodie is a great character because she is literally just turned out from her home. Her step-father wants her gone and unfortunately her mother agrees it’s time for her to go. She’s a young woman, away from family and home. Elodie is smart, and isn’t afraid to ask questions. I liked her inquiring mind as she met different people like the wizard.
  • The writing is wonderful and atmospheric. There is action and danger to keep things somewhat exciting.
  • Unfortunately, I found myself bored at times reading this story because it moves slowly like a mystery.
  • Would have liked a little more romance, but that’s a personal thing for me because I love romance in my stories.

This book may have not captured my full attention but many people who read young adult fantasy will enjoy this story very much. It has witches, action, danger and a girl named Elodie who finds a new home in the most unexpected place.

Kingdom of the Wicked | ARC Review

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Title: Kingdom of the Wicked

Author: Kerri Maniscalco

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 448

Publication Date: 10/27/20

Publisher: JIMMY Patterson

Categories: Historical Fantasy, Witchcraft, Family, Romance, Young Adult/New Adult, Demons

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

Emilia and her twin sister Victoria are streghe – witches who live secretly among humans, avoiding notice and persecution. One night, Victoria misses dinner service at the family’s renowned Sicilian restaurant. Emilia soon finds the body of her beloved twin…desecrated beyond belief. Devastated, Emilia sets out to discover who did this, and to seek vengeance at any cost—even if it means using dark magic that’s been long forbidden.

Then Emilia meets Wrath, the outlier among the seven demon brethren, always choosing duty over pleasure. He’s been tasked by his master with investigating a series of women’s murders on the island. When Emilia and Wrath’s fates collide, it’s clear this disturbing mystery will take a bewitching turn…

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

My Attention: engrossed

World Building: 19th century Sicily, there are practicing witches, there are hot Princes of Hell, scary demons, a murderer on the loose, and so much FOOD

Writing Style: a quick moving story, great dialogue

Bringing the Heat: 🔥🔥

Crazy in Love: slow burn in hell…ha!

Creativity: this whole story is dark and delicious

Mood: witchy 

Triggers: violence, gore, rituals, death

My Takeaway: Hooking up with a Prince of Hell might be a bad idea…but it sounds pretty hot.

  • Let’s start with aesthetics – the cover is to die for. A pre-Halloween publication date? A cover like that and this story has witches and demons? Come on! It is perfection.
  • Speaking of witches and demons…whew! Emilia and Vittoria are twins and have been learning witchcraft since they were born. Their Nonna is the one who taught them all the spells they know and how the Malgavi will return to collect on a blood debt. As far as these Princes from Hell, they are exactly as Nonna said they would be: Trouble.
  • The setting of Sicily is fantastic and made me crave all kinds of pasta and cheese ALL week. I felt like I was there, or I wished I was. I wanted to be eating at the Sea & Vine and tasting Nonna’s delicious meals.
  • This story is dark and doesn’t shy away from gore. Someone is murdering girls and ripping their hearts out of their chests! Ugh…but why? There is a mystery. Emilia and a hell prince named Wrath is trying to put the pieces together to find out who it is before another girl dies.
  • Wrath and Emilia’s growing relationship is an enemies to lovers romance- or should I say…we shall see if they ever become lovers? They are enemies but start working together. Their dialogue is fun since they drive each other crazy.
  • At times I thought this book was going into New Adult territory – it totally could with the hotness factor of the Princes and Emilia’s scandalous thoughts about one in particular haha.
  • I wanted this to be fast paced because of the danger at every corner that Emilia was being exposed to but at times, the mystery (and this is a personal thing for me – always happens with mysteries)…made it go a bit too slow for me at times.
  • There is a cliffhanger.

Kingdom of the Wicked is the perfect book to read for fall! It has danger, gore, hot Princes and food…so much good food. I loved the family and community bond Emilia has in her home town. I could feel the warmth of her Nonna’s love and glares! We get a little bit of everything in this story and it is quite entertaining. This book will put you in a very witchy mood.

💕 ~ Yolanda

BLOG TOUR | Kingdom of Sea and Stone by. Mara Rutherford

Welcome to the blog tour for Kingdom of Sea and Stone by Mara Rutherford!

My Review: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Title: Kingdom of Sea and Stone (Crown of Coral and Pearl, #2)

Author: Mara Rutherford

Format: ebook (NetGalley)

Pages: 368

Publication Date: 10/6/20

Publisher: Inkyard Press

Buy Links: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | IndieBound | Books-A-Million | AppleBooks | Google Play

Categories: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance, Sibling Fiction

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

“A fabulous interweaving of fantasy, politics, and sisterhood – this unusual, tense tale will have you on the edge of your seat!” –#1 New York Times bestselling author Tamora Pierce on Crown of Coral and Pearl

The Cruel Prince meets Ash Princess in this thrilling fantasy, the much-anticipated sequel to Crown of Coral and Pearl.

Ever since Nor was forced to go to a nearby kingdom in her sister’s place, she’s wanted nothing more than to return to the place and people she loves. But when her wish comes true, she soon finds herself cast out from both worlds, with a war on the horizon.

As an old enemy resurfaces more powerful than ever, Nor will have to keep the kingdom from falling apart with the help of Prince Talin and Nor’s twin sister, Zadie. There are forces within the world more mysterious than any of them ever guessed—and they’ll need to stay alive long enough to conquer them…

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

My Attention: read in three days

World Building: In this sequel we get to venture into the land of the Galethians

Writing Style: easy to read, descriptive

Crazy in Love: definitely

Creativity: We learn more about magic in this sequel.

Triggers: blood magic, manipulation, violence

My Takeaway: You can be more than beautiful on the outside.

  • I liked that the story ventured to Galeth and we get to meet new characters like Roan and Adriel. I especially thought Roan was an intriguing character. Adriel brings more knowledge about magic and healing, so now Nor can actually learn something about her rapid healing abilities and about blood magic.
  • Zadie, Nor’s twin sister comes back into the story and it’s nice to get to know her a bit. She’s very much in love with Sam still and the book focuses on traveling to Galeth to find him.
  • Nor and Talin is very much in love still though the business of taking Ceren down interrupts their happy ever after. We get to meet Talin’s mother and sister in this book as well.
  • Nor’s personal journey on becoming more than just the most beautiful girl/wife in the world was the main message for me in this series. She wants to travel, she has skills as a healer, there is so much she wants to do and I thought it was noble of Talin to let her realize those dreams.
  • The beginning was a bit slow for me. This had more political intrigue between the kingdoms of Galeth, Ilara and Varenia. Prince Talin and his mom need people to join their fight to take the throne from Ceren so they have to work on convincing the Galethians.
  • Ceren doesn’t really show up a lot in this book. He’s still evil and want to keep his throne. We get glimpses of his childhood because he is bonded to Nor. But I felt the ending with him was anti-climatic.
  • Honestly, I thought Roan was going to change Nor’s mind about Talin! Haha…it would have made the story maybe a little more interesting. Talin was his usual princely self, but it seemed like for a moment there, there would be some problem in their relationship.

Overall, I enjoyed the first book more than book two because I was so amazed with Varenia. Also, Ceren’s character made the story so intriguing. In this sequel we get more of Nor and Talin’s romance, some new characters and much less Ceren. Ultimately, Nor’s journey from flawed beauty and a future as a perfect wife to a healer and adventurer has a great message. We are more than our beauty. This is a solid end to an enjoyable, and creative duology.

💕 ~ Yolanda

About the Author:

Mara Rutherford began her writing career as a journalist but quickly discovered she far preferred fantasy to reality. Originally from California, Mara has since lived all over the world with her marine-turned-diplomat husband. A triplet born on Leap Day, Mara holds a master’s degree in cultural studies from the University of London. When she’s not writing or chasing after her two sons, she can usually be found pushing the boundaries of her comfort zone, whether at a traditional Russian banya or an Incan archaeological site. Mara is a former Pitch Wars mentee and three-time mentor.

https://www.mararutherford.com/

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Daughters of Jubilation | ARC Review

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2

Title: Daughters of Jubilation

Author: Kara Lee Corthron

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 352

Publication Date: 10/13/20

Publisher: Simon Shusters Books for Young Readers

Categories: Racism, Magic, Sexual Abuse, Romance, Historical Fiction, Fantasy, Jim Crow South

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

In the Jim Crow South, white supremacy reigns and tensions are high. But Evalene Deschamps has other things to worry about. She has two little sisters to look after, an overworked single mother, and a longtime crush who is finally making a move.

On top of all that, Evvie’s magic abilities are growing stronger by the day. Her family calls it jubilation—a gift passed down from generations of black women since the time of slavery. And as Evvie’s talents waken, something dark comes loose and threatens to resurface…

And when the demons of Evvie’s past finally shake free, she must embrace her mighty lineage, and summon the power that lies within her.

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

Let’s break it down:

My Attention: very intrigued

World Building: Jim Crow, South Carolina while Kennedy is President

Writing Style: it flowed well

Bringing the Heat:  🔥🔥

Crazy in Love: Clay and Evvie are definitely in love 

Creativity: I enjoyed learning the magic of Jubilation

Mood: bittersweet

Triggers: rape, sexual assault, physical abuse, violence, racism, n-word, stalking, murder

My Takeaway: Take back your power when someone steals it from you!

  • The book takes place in Jim Crow South Carolina so the writer gives it the distinct accents and sayings from that area.  You can feel change is in the air with JFK as president, but some are skeptical, and others are hopeful that change may or may not happen.  
  • I liked the concept of jubilation as being magic that black women have passed down in their families because it was magic for protection.  Jubilation was used to counter some of the horrors of slavery that black women experienced and like Clay’s grandmother says, she didn’t realize they would still need to use jubilation today.  
  • Evalene and Clay’s relationship isn’t insta-love though their sex scene seems quite instant.  She crushed on him for a long time and he finally notices her and things go fast.  But then as their relationship grows, they take time to date and so it slows down which is nice, because then we get to know both of them well.  They are obviously crazy about each other.
  • Indigo, Evvie’s mom, gives her the talk about using protection without shying away from the topic.  Go mom!
  • Evalene is an interesting character – she’s at times impulsive and because she’s so new with her power, sometimes can’t control it.  But she learns how to do it with help from her eccentric grandmother and she needs it to help battle a demon from her past. 
  • I don’t mind cursing in books but if you don’t like cursing, then this book might not be for you because it has a lot of it.
  • Evalene has a dark past and it is traumatic.  The ending is very sad and bittersweet.

Daughter of Jubilation is a story about battling demons from the past. Jubilation is a gift of magic, born in a time of slavery to help black women deal with the horrors happening in their lives. Now Evalene has inherited this magic to face a stalker that hurt her a long time ago but she can’t do it alone. Evvie uses her jubilation to try and protect the people she loves and to break free from the past.

💕 ~ Yolanda

BLOG TOUR | The Code for Love and Heartbreak

Welcome to the blog tour for The Code for Love and Heartbreak by. Jillian Cantor!

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Title: The Code for Love and Heartbreak

Author: Jillian Cantor

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 304

Publication Date: 10/6/20

Publisher: Inkyard Press

Buy Links: Harlequin  | Indiebound | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-A-Million | Walmart | Google | iBooks | Kobo

Categories: Jane Austen Emma Retelling, Coding, Contemporary Romance, Young Adult, Dating App

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

In this contemporary romcom retelling of Jane Austen’s Emma by USA TODAY bestselling author Jillian Cantor, there’s nothing more complex—or unpredictable—than love.

When math genius Emma and her coding club co-president, George, are tasked with brainstorming a new project, The Code for Love is born.

George disapproves of Emma’s idea of creating a matchmaking app, accusing her of meddling in people’s lives. But all the happy new couples at school are proof that the app works. At least at first.

Emma’s code is flawless. So why is it that perfectly matched couples start breaking up, the wrong people keep falling for each other, and Emma’s own feelings defy any algorithm?

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

My Attention: took some time to get into story

World Building: high school romance

Writing Style: easy to read

Bringing the Heat: none

Crazy in Love: very slow love story

Creativity: I thought it was cool the story featured the Coding Club

Mood: mixed feelings 

Triggers: parent health scare, bullying

My Takeaway: Sometimes you have to stop coding and get out there and have a little fun!

  • This was a super quick read and I could recognize it as Jane Austen’s Emma retelling right away, since Emma’s name is kept the same and the other characters as well.
  • Emma is fairly independent as her dad is always at work. Her mom had passed away and her older sister moved away for college, so a lot of the times, Emma is without family. She spends a lot of her time excelling at school and more importantly, coding. Emma doesn’t like social interaction much, she’s a homebody who likes to stay home and chill.
  • George is a good friend to Emma, and yes they get into some high school drama with the matchmaking app they create for the coding club – but I knew they’d end up to together…because it followed the original Emma story. Are there sparks? Not really? But it’s a friendship that grows into something more, something safe and perfect for Emma. His declaration was really sweet.
  • I’m glad the coding, STEM kids got the spotlight in this book. Coding is awesome and creative, just in a different way – but the little parts that come together to make the app was interesting to see step by step. They had to tweak it a few times to make sure it worked right.
  • Personally, I like a little angst in my rom-coms. I thought this was cute, not a little of angst, some drama yes, but it was slow to get into. I was bored at some parts.
  • It’s a retelling so yes, it was definitely predictable but I was still intrigued to see how the author carried out the story.
  • This is a perfect romance for teens. It’s pretty G rated and has that innocence of a first love.

I think this story showed us Emma’s naiveté in the world of dating because she has no real experience with it. Yet she still had the strong desire to succeed at creating a winning matchmaking app! Creating this app gave Emma the courage to go out and try new things, like go to a dance, make new friends…and even fall in love. Overall, I think this was a cute but predictable retelling of a Jane Austen classic.

💕 ~ Yolanda

About the Author:

Jillian Cantor is the author of award-winning and bestselling novels for adults and teens, including In Another Time, The Hours Count, Margot, and The Lost Letter, which was a USA Today bestseller. She has a BA in English from Penn State University and an MFA from the University of Arizona. Cantor lives in Arizona with her husband and two sons.

https://www.jilliancantor.com/

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Book Excerpt:

PROLOGUE

 I’ve always loved numbers a whole lot more than I love people. For one thing, I can make numbers behave any way I want them to. No arguments, no questions. I write a line of code, and my computer performs a specific and very regulated task. Numbers don’t play games or hide behind some nuance I’ve missed. I write an equation, then formulate a definitive and absolutely correct answer. 

And maybe most importantly, numbers never leave me. I tell this to Izzy as she’s sitting on her suitcase, trying to force it closed, having just packed the last of her closet before leaving for her freshman year at UCLA, which is exactly 2,764 miles from our house in Highbury, New Jersey. A number which seems insurmountable, and which makes me think that after this day, Izzy’s last one at home until Christmas break, we’ll be more like two strangers floating across a continent from one another than sisters.

 “Numbers,” I say to Izzy now, “are much better than people.”

 “You’re such a nerd, Em,” Izzy says, but she stops what she’s doing and squeezes my arm affectionately, before finally getting the suitcase to zip. She’s a nerd, too, but not for numbers like me—for books. Izzy is running 2,764 miles away from New Jersey to read, to major in English at UCLA. Which is ridiculous, given she could’ve done the same at Rutgers, or the College of New Jersey, or almost any one of the other sixty-two colleges in our state, any of which would’ve been within driving distance so we could’ve seen each other on weekends. Izzy says she’s going to California for the sunshine, but Dad and I both know the real reason is that her boyfriend, John, decided to go to UCLA to study film. Izzy chose John over me, and that part stings the most. 

“I can’t believe you’re actually going,” I say, and not for the first time. I’ve been saying this to Izzy all summer, hoping she might change her mind. But now that her suitcase is zipped, it feels like she’s really leaving, and my eyes start to well up. I do love numbers more than people. Most people.

 Izzy and I are only seventeen months apart, and our mom died when we were both toddlers. Dad works a lot, and Izzy and I have barely been apart for more than a night in as long as I can remember, much less months.

 She stops messing with her suitcase now, walks over to where I’m sitting on her bed and puts her arm around me. I lean my head on her shoulder, and breathe in the comforting scent of her strawberry shampoo, one last time. “I’m going to miss you, too, Em,” she says. “But you’re going to have a great senior year.” She says it emphatically, her voice filled with enthusiasm that I don’t believe or even understand. 

“You really could stay,” I say. “You got into two colleges in New Jersey.” This has been my argument to her all summer. I keep thinking if I say it enough she really will change her mind. But even as I say it, I know it’s probably too late for her to change anything for fall semester now, no matter how much I might want her to. And she just looks back at me with worry all over her face. 

“Em, you know I can’t.” 

“Can’t or won’t?” I wipe my nose with the back of my hand, pulling away from her. 

She leaves me on her bed, and goes back to her suitcase. She shifts it around, props it upright and then looks back at me. “You know what you need?” she says, breathing hard from managing the weight of her entire life, crammed inside this giant suitcase. “To get out there this year. Be more social. Get some friends. Maybe even a boyfriend.”

 “A boyfriend?” I half laugh, half sniffle at the ridiculousness of it. 

“If you keep busy, you won’t even notice I’m gone.” She speaks quickly, excitedly. There’s nothing Izzy likes more than a good plan, but this sounds terrible to me. “Christmas will be here before you know it—” she’s still talking “—then next year, you’ll be off to college, too.”

 Maybe that would be true for her, if I were the one leaving, and if she were staying here. If I were the older one, leaving for California first, Izzy would stay here, spend the year with John and barely even notice my absence. Which is what I guess she’s about to do at UCLA. But I’ve always needed Izzy much more than she’s needed me. 

“I hate being social. And I don’t want a boyfriend,” I say. “And anyway, you know what the boys are like at our high school. No thanks.” Mostly, they’re intimidated by me and my penchant for math, and I find their intimidation so annoying that I can barely even stand to have a conversation with them, much less a date. And the few that aren’t? Well, the one that isn’t—George—is my equal and co-president of coding club. He also happens to be John’s younger brother. We’re something like friends, George and I. Or maybe not, because we don’t really hang out outside of family stuff, school or coding club, and I guess in a way we’re supposed to be rivals. One of us will for certain be valedictorian of our class this year. The other will be salutatorian. And knowing George, he’s going to be more than a little bit annoyed when he’s staring at my back during graduation. 

“You love numbers so much and you’re so good at coding,” Izzy says now with a flip of her blond curls over her shoulder. She wheels the suitcase toward her bedroom door and stops and looks back at me. “You could always code yourself a boyfriend.” She shrugs, then laughs a little, trying to make this moment lighter. 

I don’t even crack a smile. “That’s a really ridiculous thing to say,” I tell her. “Thank God you’re going to be an English major.”

 But later, after it all fell apart, I would blame her. I’d say that it was all Izzy’s fault, that she started the unraveling of everything with her one stupid offhand comment on the morning that she left me.

Excerpted from The Code For Love and Heartbreak by Jillian Cantor Copyright © Jillian Cantor. Published by Inkyard Press.

Warrior of Wing and Flame | ARC Review

My Review: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Title: Warriors of Wing and Flame (Sisters of Shadow and Light, #2)

Author: Sara B. Larson

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 384

Publication Date: October 27, 2020

Categories: Romance, Young Adult, Fantasy, Paladin

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

The doorway between the magical Visempirum and the human world has been reopened. Paladin are once more living in the citadel where Zuhra and Inara grew up completely isolated by the magical hedge that trapped them there. Amidst the brewing conflict between the Paladin and humans looms the threat of Barloc, who has stolen Inara’s immense power and continues to elude the Paladin who are desperately searching for him.

In this sequel to Sisters of Shadow and Light, Inara and Zuhra must navigate the treacherous paths of self-discovery, their love for each other, and for the boys who have captured their hearts. Together, they search for the strength within themselves to bridge the divide between the two worlds they inhabit, even as war threatens to destroy everything—and everyone—they love.

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

I loved the first book of this duology and was looking forward to reading this sequel. There was a lot to digest in this final book but it was a very emotional, enjoyable ride.

My Reactions:

My Attention: I read this book in two days so it’s safe to say it had my attention.

World Building: I really love this world the author created. I want to ride on a gryphon and be a paladin! It’s what made me love the first book.

Writing Style: With the dual perspective, I thought it was uneven. I loved Inara’s perspective more than Zuhra’s.

Bringing the Heat: 🔥🔥 – there is a bunch of kissing

Crazy in Love: we already know Zuhra and Raidyn are crazy about each other but Inara’s love story emerges in this book and that was unexpected!

Creativity: The world of Paladins is awesome with their beautiful city, powers, gryphons and blazing eyes.

Mood: roller-coaster of emotions while reading this 

Triggers: violence

My Takeaway: Zuhra and Inara step into their power. 💪🏾 They start off in book one sheltered, with no outside contact and social skills. They come out of book two SO strong apart and together.

  • The sisterhood bond between Zuhra and Inara is palpable. Zuhra has always been the caretaker, and Inara is always being used to being different. They make separate journeys and learn to stand on their own. It made me emotional in the end – maybe because I have a sister and understand the bond as well.
  • I love Zuhra and Raidyn. But I think I love Inara’s love story even more than Zuhra’s. It was so unexpected. Both love stories in this book are pretty intense. Inara’s love story gave us insight into how she felt being different all her life – the two of them coming together made my heart hurt a little, in a good way! So glad they got a happy ending as well.
  • There is a lot of action as Zuhra, Inara and the Paladin’s that crossed the gateway plan to go after Barloc. So they travel a lot but it keeps the story moving. But I absolutely love when they are in Visperium because the world of the Paladin is so lush and different.
  • Depression is featured in this story as well as social anxiety (Zuhra). Both girls, Zuhra and Inara have led such a closed life, both have anxieties grown out of their upbringing. They have a mother that basically abandoned caring for them when their father left. When they do encounter the outside world, so to speak, they are challenged in many, many ways. At times we are immersed in each girl’s fears and sorrows, going with them in the dark places of their minds. But love brings them back though.
  • The story is as uneven as the first book, it felt so choppy at times. In the first book, I was more drawn to Zuhra, but in this book, I only wanted to follow Inara! So I do wish it wasn’t dual perspectives and each girl had their own book. But I can see what the author was trying to do, it made me see the bond between Zuhra and Inara more with their journeys side by side.
  • Their mom had a long ways to go to become a better parent and does she turn it around in book two? Not really…she’s just there but the girls understand her more now.

Zuhra and Inara, both raised in seclusion, come into their own because the love they have for each other. They learn to be strong without one another and even stronger together when they both learn to accept who they are and how to use their powers. This is a beautiful story of sisterhood, finding one’s strength, falling in love, and finding a family in the world of Paladins.

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.❤️