Incendiary | Book Review

My Review: ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 1/2

Title: Incendiary (Hollow Crown, #1)

Author: Zoraida Cordova

Format: eBook (borrowed)

Pages: 384

Categories: Magic, Fantasy, Young Adult, Romance

I am Renata Convida.
I have lived a hundred stolen lives.
Now I live my own.

Renata Convida was only a child when she was kidnapped by the King’s Justice and brought to the luxurious palace of Andalucia. As a Robari, the rarest and most feared of the magical Moria, Renata’s ability to steal memories from royal enemies enabled the King’s Wrath, a siege that resulted in the deaths of thousands of her own people.

Now Renata is one of the Whispers, rebel spies working against the crown and helping the remaining Moria escape the kingdom bent on their destruction. The Whispers may have rescued Renata from the palace years ago, but she cannot escape their mistrust and hatred–or the overpowering memories of the hundreds of souls she turned “hollow” during her time in the palace.

When Dez, the commander of her unit, is taken captive by the notorious Sangrado Prince, Renata will do anything to save the boy whose love makes her place among the Whispers bearable. But a disastrous rescue attempt means Renata must return to the palace under cover and complete Dez’s top secret mission. Can Renata convince her former captors that she remains loyal, even as she burns for vengeance against the brutal, enigmatic prince? Her life and the fate of the Moria depend on it.

But returning to the palace stirs childhood memories long locked away. As Renata grows more deeply embedded in the politics of the royal court, she uncovers a secret in her past that could change the entire fate of the kingdom–and end the war that has cost her everything.

My Attention: read in 3 days

World Building: epic world building inspired by Spanish Inquisition era

Writing Style: flowed nicely, story slowed down a bit in the middle

Crazy in Love: so in love 

Creativity: Moira people have magic, Whispers are the Moira rebels fighting the king of Puerto Leones

Triggers: grief, violence, death, torture

My Takeaway: Who can you really trust?

  • That cover is pretty amazing!
  • I liked learning about the world of the Moira, people with different magic. Renata is a Robari, she can take memories and even do it to the extent to kill or “hollow” out a person. Other magics include persuasion, illusions and reading minds. The Moira have been pushed out of their homes and they are being hunted by the King of Puerto Leones. Now the king has a weapon that would ensure the destruction of the Moira for good.
  • Renata is a Robari so a lot of what her character does is taking memories and examining them. But her past is a mystery to her – she remembers some things, but not everything. This is a weakness for her. She’s a fighter, she’s tough and brave, but because she can’t fully face the memories of her past, there are things she misses and it causes her to make some mistakes. I thought it was fascinating to watch her deal with feeling like an outcast with both the rebels and being in the palace.
  • There are some twists and turns in this story that was like putting together a puzzle. But I could only really piece them together through Ren taking memories. It definitely drew an unexpected picture of evil Prince Castian!
  • This story is dark – I mean the Spanish Inquisition, with all that torture? 😒
  • The story starts off fast, with action but it dies off somewhere in the middle. Then picks up again to finish strong. I think what was missing for me was Prince Caspian making a real appearance throughout the book. He is there at the beginning and the end, the middle felt like a mystery and slow…I just wished he was there throughout the whole thing, just to give Ren someone to battle.
  • The beginning starts off with no world building, you get thrown into the story with a lot of action – so I did have to get my bearings.
  • So that cliffhanger ending…what the heck is going to happen in book two?!

This story grew on me. I found the world building interesting, even though the rebels with magic versus the king who hated magic trope is pretty similar to many young adult fantasy books out there. I think the Spanish Inquisition inspiration makes it stand out. Renata with her missing memories and taking memories is a fascinating character, and so is Prince Castian who we still don’t really know much about! And yes, I will be reading book two because that ending was pretty crazy.

💕 ~ Yolanda

BLOG TOUR | Smash It! by. Francina Simone

Welcome to the blog tour for SMASH IT! by. Francina Simone.

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Title: Smash It!

Author: Francina Simone

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 269

Publication Date: 9/22/20

Publisher: Inkyard Press

Buy Book Here: Amazon | B & N | IndieBound | Books-A-Million | AppleBooks | GooglePlay

Categories: Coming of Age, Romance, Drama Club, Theater, Identity, Sex, Body Image, Family, Friendship

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

Olivia “Liv” James is done with letting her insecurities get the best of her. So she does what any self-respecting hot mess of a girl who wants to SMASH junior year does…

After Liv shows up to a Halloween party in khaki shorts—why, God, why?—she decides to set aside her wack AF ways. She makes a list—a F*ck-It list.

1. Be bold—do the thing that scares me. 

2. Learn to take a compliment.

3. Stand out instead of back.

She kicks it off by trying out for the school musical, saying yes to a date and making new friends. Life is great when you stop punking yourself! However, with change comes a lot of missteps, and being bold means following her heart. So what happens when Liv’s heart is interested in three different guys—and two of them are her best friends? What is she supposed to do when she gets dumped by a guy she’s not even dating? How does one Smash It! after the humiliation of being friend-zoned? 

In Liv’s own words, “F*ck it. What’s the worst that can happen?”  

A lot, apparently.

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

Let’s break it down:

My Attention: caught

World Building: Orlando, Florida

Writing Style: raw and relatable

Bringing the Heat: 🔥🔥🔥

Crazy in Love: love triangle…sorta…

Creativity: It’s an Othello retelling, which I don’t remember much of – but I love how we get Liv who’s basically in a Desdemona situation

Mood: drama…and let’s talk about sex  

Triggers: cheating, negative body image, insecurity

My Takeaway: F#ck it lists are great! As long as you don’t take it too far.

  • I liked being in Liv’s thoughts because we get to see her insecurities. Being a teen is all about insecurities! She’s best friends with two guy, one of which she is in love with – but maybe in honesty she’s attracted to both. Confusing? Can’t pick a lane? Yeah maybe, but she’s trying something new – it’s a year of saying YES to things that make her scared, or like she says…a year of F#ck Its. She writes a f#ck it list, and it leads her to so many new experiences. She’s a teen, making mistakes – and oh so relatable.
  • There is a lot of sex talk in this story – and not adults talking, teens talking and honestly I can’t say that my friends and I talked that honest about sex in high school. I WISH. It was the 90’s and we had songs like “Let’s Talk About Sex”…which was awesome, but I only talked about it when I went to college and let me tell you, it was a relief to have friends you can talk to about sex.
  • Lennox and Jackie become Liv’s first female friends! Liv grows a lot when she opens herself up to more experiences like auditioning for Othello and hanging out with the drama kids. I totally loved Lennox’s vibe – she wasn’t ashamed of her love of sex. But I thought it was cool that it was okay to be like Liv too – unsure about sex and not into something casual.
  • Diversity abounds in this book – we have POC characters, and bisexual representation. Now Liv isn’t someone exposed to much it seems – she’s shocked about Lennox’s sexual freedom, embarrassed at Jackie’s loudness at being black and proud (Jackie is from Atlanta). Mind you Liv is black but her mom taught her to basically be quiet about it. Her new black friends help her to embrace her body image and identity.
  • This story touches so many topics about identity, body image, race, cheating, sex, love, friendship and family.
  • I love how real the characters are. It’s the first book I’ve read from this author, but now I’m curious to read more. It had me laughing out loud at many parts because I felt like the characters were so relatable!
  • If you don’t like love triangles, this book may put you off. It’s not a “love” triangle, per se, she knows who she loves but it’s complicated. I thought the guys were fun, but at times I did want her to stand up for herself when she tried to shine within their little trio. I think the mistakes come when Liv is trying to figure out love, lust, like, etc…and it’s okay that she’s confused.
  • Liv’s problems become messy when certain events take place…I was happy with the conclusion, but this won’t work for some people. I would have equally happy if she ended up with no guy and just happy she had new girlfriends!

Smash It! is an engaging, drama-filled, coming of age story of a girl named Liv caught between trying to find her identity, loving herself – imperfections and all, and opening herself up to new experiences. Liv makes some mistakes along the way but with a new outlook on life and some new friends, she finds the strength to own up to it. This one got me cackling out loud and reminded me how we always make mistakes in life, we just better recognize it and fix it when they do happen.

💕 ~ Yolanda

About the Author:

Francina Simone believes in one thing: authenticity. She writes YA stories full of humor and hard life lessons with sprinkles of truth that make us all feel understood. Her craft focuses on stories about girls throwing caution to the wind to discover exactly who they are and what it means to love. Francina is also known for her BookTube channel, where she discusses controversial topics in books.  http://www.francinasimone.com/

Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads | YouTube

Red, White & Royal Blue | Book Review

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Title: Red, White & Royal Blue

Author: Casey McQuiston

Format: eBook (KU)

Pages: 421

Categories: M/M Romance, American Politics, LGBTQIA+, Family, Royalty, Adult, Contemporary

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

The plan for damage control: staging a fake friendship between the First Son and the Prince. Alex is busy enough handling his mother’s bloodthirsty opponents and his own political ambitions without an uptight royal slowing him down. But beneath Henry’s Prince Charming veneer, there’s a soft-hearted eccentric with a dry sense of humor and more than one ghost haunting him.

As President Claremont kicks off her reelection bid, Alex finds himself hurtling into a secret relationship with Henry that could derail the campaign and upend two nations. And Henry throws everything into question for Alex, an impulsive, charming guy who thought he knew everything: What is worth the sacrifice? How do you do all the good you can do? And, most importantly, how will history remember you?

My Attention: read in 3 days

World Building: the political First Family world of the USA and the Royal family of England

Writing Style: dialogue was great, moved fast

Crazy in Love: so crazy, the first son and a royal prince 

Creativity: Love how we get a fictitious peek at the American political life, on the verge of a re-election campaign, and what being a royal in England would be like if one was a gay prince

Triggers: homophobia, anxiety, depression, grief

My Takeaway: Love is love and sometimes you have to fight for the one you love.

  • This is an enemies to lovers queer romance that had a lot of spark to it. I can’t say they are true enemies since the hate was one sided and misunderstood. I loved the dialogue between Alex and Henry, there were some pretty funny scenes. Alex is the loud, confident one and Henry is the quiet, mysterious guy. There is a lot of love making, a lot of it were booty calls at first but things change between them with romantic emails and confessions.
  • I love Nora and June who rounds out the White House Trio with Alex. They are young, ambitious, smart, and a force to be reckoned with! Alex’s parents are divorced but they work together to help each other out the best they can, so they have a modern family. Alex and June are also half white and half Mexican which adds to the diversity of this story.
  • Alex is on a road to self-discovery in this story. Henry is gay and always knew he was. Alex has been with girls, but has fooled around with guys too and just never thought he was bi, until Henry. I liked that we got into Alex’s thought process when he felt confused about his past and actions.
  • There are some mental health issues touched on in this story as well. Henry’s dad passed when he was a child, and he has his moments of depression, a wall that at times Alex can’t understand or get through. But he wants to know and understand. Alex on the other hand keeps moving, jumping from project to project so he doesn’t have to stay still and deal with life issues like his parents divorce.
  • I went into this thinking it was a young adult book, but with how many times they have sexy scenes, I’d say it’s more like a new adult/adult book. It didn’t get super detailed though, but you know what happens. Thing is Alex and Henry are apart most of the time, because they live in different countries, so the romance grew mostly through texts, phone calls, emails and the occasional hook-ups.
  • Alex was the main character…but he wasn’t my favorite. Like I said, he’s a firecracker or a tornado, he was busy and overwhelming. I related more to Henry who was quieter haha. I guess that’s why they work, opposites attract. But Henry has a great scene where he finally explodes and it was quite emotional.
  • Since Alex is the First Son and his mom is the first female President of the USA, and from Texas – I thought the take on White House life was fascinating and optimistic. In current reality? I’d say it’s volatile haha, but yes there is American politics in this book.

Overall, I had fun reading this one, and I think it’s the first true M/M romance I’ve read. I’ve read books in the fantasy genre where there are M/M relationships. Red, White & Royal Blue is an enjoyable queer romance that has fun dialogue, sexy scenes, a great cast of secondary characters, and a happily ever after.

💕 ~ Yolanda

You Should See Me in a Crown | Book Review

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2

Title: You Should See Me in a Crown

Author: Leah Johnson

Format: eBook (borrowed)

Pages: 328

Categories: Contemporary, Young Adult, F/F Romance, Racism, Sickle Cell Disease, Friendship

Liz Lighty has always believed she’s too black, too poor, too awkward to shine in her small, rich, prom-obsessed midwestern town. But it’s okay — Liz has a plan that will get her out of Campbell, Indiana, forever: attend the uber-elite Pennington College, play in their world-famous orchestra, and become a doctor.

But when the financial aid she was counting on unexpectedly falls through, Liz’s plans come crashing down . . . until she’s reminded of her school’s scholarship for prom king and queen. There’s nothing Liz wants to do less than endure a gauntlet of social media trolls, catty competitors, and humiliating public events, but despite her devastating fear of the spotlight she’s willing to do whatever it takes to get to Pennington.

The only thing that makes it halfway bearable is the new girl in school, Mack. She’s smart, funny, and just as much of an outsider as Liz. But Mack is also in the running for queen. Will falling for the competition keep Liz from her dreams . . . or make them come true?

My Attention: read in 3 days

World Building: Campbell County, Indiana – where prom is the event of the year

Writing Style: easy to read, flowed beautifully

Crazy in Love: cautious in love 

Creativity: a prom giving away prize money? I can see the appeal of running for prom court!

Triggers: racism, outing, mention of death, illness, homophobia

My Takeaway: “I was born royalty. All I had to do was pick up my crown.” ~ Leah Johnson

  • Liz Lighty, is smart, talented and queer. Only her friends and family know but now she’s running for prom court because there is a money prize she needs to attend the college of her dreams. So everything about her now is in the spotlight at school – who she talks to, who she hangs with and who she likes.
  • The f/f romance was so cute and Amanda’s promposal was a winner! These two don’t have it easy dating each other but it’s obviously easier for Amanda because she’s a new girl, quirky and white. Liz is black, in Indiana and queer. She has it harder on all levels but they try to make it work and mostly do with some challenges.
  • For me the friendship stories really stood out in this book. Liz has a different crew of friends, each with their own quirks and talents – but Gabi is her best friend. Gabi is also all in with helping Liz win prom court, but it gets too be a bit overwhelming for their friendship. And an old friend, Jordan, reunites with Liz because they are both running for prom court – but they have a troubled past and relearn to be friends again.
  • The message of taking the crown for your own is empowering. Liz stays classy while fighting for her right to run for prom Queen despite her race and who she loves. I absolutely loved that moment when her friends help her come up with her motto! It was so inspirational.
  • I can see this one as a movie or tv show.

This story is an inspirational story about a black girl, Liz, who is trying to be prom queen and win a crash prize in a small conservative town while being queer. What starts off as a story about winning money to attend her dream college ends with a girl who takes the crown by being unapologetically herself. YES. “Eff your fairy tale.” 👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼

💕 ~ Yolanda

The Traitor Queen |Book Review

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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

Author: Danielle L. Jensen

Format: eBook (own)

Pages: 346

Categories: Adult Fiction, Romance, Fantasy

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

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

And it is bait she fully intends to take.

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

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

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

My Attention: read in one night

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

Writing Style: so much tension, action and emotion

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

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

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

My Takeaway: Fight for what you love.

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

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

💕 ~ Yolanda

The Hunter and the Mage | ARC Review

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2

Title: The Hunter and the Mage (The Raven and the Dove, #2)

Author: Kaitlyn Davis

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 525

Publication Date: 9/21/20

Publisher: Kaitlyn Davis

Categories: Fantasy, Young Adult, Romance

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

A mage written in prophecy… 

When Lyana wakes in the Sea of Mist, adventure is the first thing on her mind. But between her unruly new magic and an unyielding young king, the world below comes with more responsibility than she ever dreamed. An entire civilization exists within the fog, and its survival depends entirely on her. 

A hunter forged in blood… 

Adrift at sea on a ship full of strangers, Rafe fights to cope with his new reality. He’ll do anything to return to the sky and the people he left behind. When a surprising offer comes his way, he instantly accepts, sparing no time to consider the consequences. 

Loyalties are tested and an ancient war begins anew… 

With rebellion in her heart, Cassi defies her king and befriends the prince she’s been ordered to kill. Oblivious to the threat, Xander welcomes her into his inner circle, determined to rescue his mate. As one works to help and the other to hinder, an ancient enemy stirs, forcing Cassi to choose between trusting the man who broke her heart and turning her back on everything she’s ever known.

Thank you to Kaitlyn Davis for giving me a chance to read a copy of this book for an honest review.

Let’s break it down:

My Attention: intrigue by the world in the mist

World Building: love the world building of these two worlds separated by mist and lore…but two different versions

Writing Style: easy to digest, flows nicely

Bringing the Heat: 🔥

Crazy in Love: Rafe and Lyana will always be…but the other couple? We shall see… 

Creativity: I enjoyed learning more about this world of magic and winged people

Mood: curious  

Triggers: violence, betrayal

My Takeaway: Forgiveness.

  • We get more of Xander and Cassi. Yes I wanted more of Cassi and honestly, but wow…Cassi. Oh Cassi. She fascinated me in book one, especially after that cliffhanger ending. I wanted to know her motivations and how far she would go…and how she could put aside her love and friendship with Lyana. She almost went too far for her to be redeemed in my eyes…but Lyana has a bigger heart than I do!
  • The world building is as lush as ever. I love this innovative story of bird people, it’s so different.
  • Since this is mostly Xander and Cassi’s story, we get a few chapters on Rafe and Lyana. They are going through their own challenges and hardships but it’s a trial they have to go through.
  • The twist was unexpected! It came at the end and made me wish book three was out.
  • The are many perspectives in the story and this time around for some reason there were times I felt like I was zoning out of the story. There is Xander, Cassi, Rafe, Lyana, Malek and even Brighty (a new character), gets a chapter. So there was a lot going on.
  • This is a light fantasy and for me the second half of the book was better than the first half because it had so much more action with people finally coming together after being apart for most of the book.
  • Malek is an interesting character because he’s training Lyana to use her real magic and comes off as maybe someone who isn’t conniving and scheming – he even made me forget for a moment that he sent Cassi to infiltrate Lyana’s world. But he really is a villain…ugh…

There is a lot to like in this sequel, especially if you were waiting for Xander and Cassi to get some page time. You get it in this book! We get to venture into the mist with Rafe and Lyana. Also, we get to learn more about Malek. It makes me wonder what book three will be like…what will Malek do? How will everyone react to Lyana and Rafe? Will Cassi ever find happiness? And will Brighty’s role be in all of this?! So many more questions to answer and I look forward to reading book three.

💕 ~ Yolanda

The author, Kaitlyn Davis is having a giveaway! Go to this link to check out the details:

https://www.kaitlyndavisbooks.com/p/pre-order-giveaway.html

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 | 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 

The Damned | Book Review

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Title: The Damned (The Beautiful, #2)

Author: Renee Ahdieh

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 456

Categories: Vampires, Young Adult, New Orleans, Romance, Historical Fantasy

Following the events of The Beautiful, Sébastien Saint Germain is now cursed and forever changed. The treaty between the Fallen and the Brotherhood has been broken, and war between the immortals seems imminent. The price of loving Celine was costly. But Celine has also paid a high price for loving Bastien. 

Still recovering from injuries sustained during a night she can’t quite remember, her dreams are troubled. And she doesn’t know she has inadvertently set into motion a chain of events that could lead to her demise and unveil a truth about herself she’s not quite ready to learn. 

Forces hiding in the shadows have been patiently waiting for this moment for centuries. And just as Bastien and Celine begin to uncover the danger around them, they learn their love could tear them apart.

My Attention: struggled to stay interested

World Building: lovely world building of New Orleans

Writing Style: slow…writing is lovely, but to slow paced for me

Bringing the Heat: 🔥 – I was expecting more 

Crazy in Love: not much of a love triangle because it’s clear who Celine wants

Creativity: I did enjoy the supernaturals and in this book more of the fey world is explained

Mood: mixed feelings 

Triggers: blood, violence

My Takeaway: Family can betray you.

  • The reason I enjoyed the first book in the series was the lush setting of New Orleans. Once again, the setting is enjoyable plus we get to travel to another world, that of the Lady of the Vale (the fey).
  • We learn more about the past – we find out how vampires were made. We are introduced to the fey and we get to know backstories about a few characters.
  • I like knowing more about Celine’s past and makes me wonder about her future.
  • The secondary characters like Odette, Jae and Arjun stand out in this volume more than Bastien and Celine. I really got into Jae’s story.
  • I like the diversity in the book with the characters whether it be their ethnicity or sexual preferences.
  • I was expecting way more from this book (like WAY more action) but was disappointed with the slow pace of the beginning.
  • Bastien and Celine’s relationship was what was enticing about The Beautiful but in this one they are mostly apart…or try to stay apart. It left me with mild feelings and I was expecting a burning longing between them. There were some moments between them…but again, my expectations were high.
  • As much as I did enjoy learning about the fey…I think it took away from the whole vampire element – at least for me. It took off in a direction that was unexpected…and I’m not sure if it was a good surprise, at least to me. Maybe I’m still processing…
  • There are SO many questions still -Emilie for one hasn’t been dealt with at all. Also there is a cliffhanger…one that was shocking but, does it make want to read book three? Right now…I’d say no. But who knows how I will feel next year?

The world building is still lush, the cast of characters is diverse, and it’s a world of supernaturals from vampires, werewolves and fey. The romance is predictable since we obviously can see Michael has no chance in hell with Celine if Bastien’s around. There is a lot here to keep readers entertained but for me it fell short of my expectations.

💕 ~Yolanda