This Vicious Grace by. Emily Thiede | Book Review

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Title: This Vicious Grace (#1)

Author: Emily Thiede

Format: Hardcover (own)

Pages: 448

Publication Date: 6/27/22

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Categories: Romance, Young Adult, Fantasy, Series

Three weddings. Three funerals. Alessa’s gift from the gods is supposed to magnify a partner’s magic, not kill every suitor she touches.

Now, with only weeks left until a hungry swarm of demons devours everything on her island home, Alessa is running out of time to find a partner and stop the invasion. When a powerful priest convinces the faithful that killing Alessa is the island’s only hope, her own soldiers try to assassinate her.

Desperate to survive, Alessa hires Dante, a cynical outcast marked as a killer, to become her personal bodyguard. But as rebellion explodes outside the gates, Dante’s dark secrets may be the biggest betrayal. He holds the key to her survival and her heart, but is he the one person who can help her master her gift or destroy her once and for all?

Emily Thiede’s exciting fantasy debut, This Vicious Grace, will keep readers turning the pages until the devastating conclusion and leave them primed for more!

Content Warning: violence, suicidal ideation

I finally read this book and you know I will blame my eyesight. I don’t use glasses (but I think I need them now) and the print in the hardcover copy is smaller than other fonts – so basically I should’ve gotten the ebook for this. Anyway, I finished it and Dante and Alessa are everything! Here’s what did and didn’t work for me:

+ The world building is interesting. Alessa is a Finestra – she basically has the power of death, and she is going to lead an army to find a demon horde coming their way. But in the scriptures, apparently Alessa needs a Fontes, a partner in crime, someone with power as well. But it’s a problem when she kills her Fontes. The search for a new one begins but Alessa is scared she might kill another person. The world felt Italian-inspired, but there were diverse cultures represented as well when they had big events in the town like Carnivale.

+ My favorite part of the story is Alessa and Dante. Their banter and flirting is so good! I loved her naughty banter and seeing how he reacts to it. They are too cute together! She’s the chosen one and he’s some random fighter she picked off the street to be her bodyguard. He’s a bit snarky but she really vibes with him. They play off one another until the attraction builds up to something they cannot deny. The two of them do get into some heated moments but nothing too descriptive. But I think they can be added to my favorite book couples list.

+ Alessa is a fun character. I like her attitude about everything, even when she finds herself back into a corner – she’s fighter. She loves her city, love her people and she loves life even though she causes death. I especially love when her personality shines through when she’s with Dante.

~ The story follows Alessa who needs to find a new Fontes before the demons arrive. She has about 30 something days and it was nice to get to know the Fontes candidates and check out their powers but I did wish there were some more information about the enemy. Maybe more tension leading up to it so we get the high stakes feeling of the situation? We only get to see the battle in the last part of the book and though it’s written like an epic fight it felt anti-climatic even though a lot is happening in the battle.

~ Thought the world building is fascinating, I wanted more from it. I wanted to know why the demon horde was coming ~ they are supposedly evil but I swear Alessa own blood brother was evil. So maybe we get to learn more in book two?

Tropes: chosen one, grumpy/sunshine, bodyguard interest, forbidden love, close proximity, found family

Spice Level: 🌶 🌶

Why you should read it:

  • Alessa and Dante – their romance is my favorite part
  • interesting world building inspired by Italy, and a fight against demons
  • there is a group of Fontes we get to know, but I hope we get to know more about them in book two

Why you might not want to read it:

  • not into YA fantasy ~ ending was a bit anti-climatic

My Thoughts:

I fell in love with Alessa and Dante. They really are what makes this story great. I love that they leaned into their attraction because their flirting was everything. Story-wise I did find the world building interesting but I do want to know more maybe about the enemy? I like how Alessa went about finding her next Fontes and made new friends or a found family. I wonder what will be happening in the next book after some events that take place at the end of the book. I’ll definitely be reading book two to get more of Alessa and Dante.

Book Links:

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Before I Do by. Sophie Cousens | ARC Review

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Title: Before I Do

Author: Sophie Cousens

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 384

Publication Date: 10/11/22

Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons

Categories: Romance, Wedding, Women’s Fiction

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

Thank you to G.P. Putnam’s Sons for giving me a chance to read this eARC in exchange for an honest review!

What would you do if ‘the one that got away’ turned up the night before your wedding?

Head-in-the-stars Audrey is about to marry down-to-earth Josh. Though they are polar opposites, they have a healthy, stable relationship; Josh is just what Audrey needs. But romance should be unpredictable and full of fireworks, and as the big day approaches, Audrey’s found herself wondering if Josh really is The One.

So, when Josh’s sister shows up to the rehearsal dinner with Fred, Audrey’s What If? guy–the man she met six years ago and had one amazing day with–Audrey finds herself torn. Surely Fred’s appearance the night before she is due to get married can’t be a coincidence. And when everything that could go wrong with the wedding starts to go wrong, Audrey has to ask herself: Is fate trying to stop her from making a huge mistake? Or does destiny just have a really twisty sense of humour?

Content Warning: divorce, sexual harassment

Sophie Cousens is becoming a must read author for me. I read one of her books last year and decided to request this one because I liked it so much. She did it again! I really enjoyed this one so let’s take a look at what did and didn’t work for me:

+ I usually hate jumping timelines, but I was hooked from the prologue! There are a few timelines: the present timeline – where Audrey is about to get married. We also follow her childhood to get an idea of her home life and what made her feel underserving of happiness plus how she came to view love and marriage as an adult. Lastly, there is another timeline involving the guy who “got away” – was he the one? I think the way the timelines are written is done so well.

+ Audrey questions if her fiancé, Josh, is really her soul mate or is it that guy, Fred, from the past who she can’t stop thinking about? Is she supposed to follow the signs and fate? Or is she supposed to stick to what’s solid and there for her, like Josh? At some moments the book reminded me of the movies Serendipity and The Wedding Singer…haha – in good ways! I found Audrey so relatable in the ways she questioned soul mates or how she felt about Fred in the past and Josh in the present.

+ I honestly loved Audrey’s meet cute with Fred – I can see why she never forgot about him. But I also fell in love with how she met Josh and how their relationship grew over time. I was Team Josh but because the way the timelines are written, I really wasn’t sure what Audrey was going to do! I was worried for her and it kept me engaged in the story.

+ I love the side characters like her best-friend Clara, who give us a tiny glimpse into her life and dealing with having twins. And Josh’s sister Miranda represented the bridesmaid who is never the bride and feeling bad about it. Honestly weddings bring out the worst emotions in people sometimes. It’s stressful for everyone but I found everyone gathered for the wedding so much fun because of the chaos.

+ This book was full of emotions when it came to the story of Audrey, her dad, and their shared love of astronomy. Then there is her relationship with Josh which in essence is sweet because they are opposites but that’s why they work even though sometimes it got challenging.

~ Oh Audrey was about to throw it all away because she was stressed out about Fred! It was stressing me out because Fred was barely in her life except for as a memory about a day!

~ Audrey’s mother is her own person but she really broke up their family and let Audrey see her go in and out of relationships not even thinking of the consequences. I thought she was lucky Audrey loved her so much and was so forgiving of her constant infidelity. I don’t think i could have been that forgiving! But I think it shows how Audrey was mature enough to let her mother be who she was and not make it her problem – except for Benedict, who is a despicable man.

Tropes: opposites attract, what ifs

Spice Level: 🌶

Why you should read it:

  • it’s a heart felt story filled with humor, emotion, chaos, bad omens, and love
  • great writing – the timelines really drew me into the story, making me want to find out what happened at the wedding!
  • Audrey’s story: her past with her mom and dad, her mom’s infidelity, her own dating choices before meeting Josh, and her what if guy-Fred…I was sucked into the story

Why you might not want to read it:

  • Some people might not be a fan of Audrey having cold feet about Josh before the wedding, but marriage is a big step and weddings are super stressful.

My Thoughts:

This story is entertaining, engaging, funny, sweet and heart warming. I was invested in Audrey and her photo booth meet cute with Fred and then boring Josh comes along and what do you know…he’s not that boring after all. I love this story and it just makes me want to read more books from this author!

Book Links:

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Here are other books by this author that I have read or reviewed on this blog:

Just Haven’t Met You Yet by. Sophie Cousens | ARC Review ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Spells For Lost Things by. Jenna Evans Welch | ARC Review

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Title: Spells for Lost Things

Author: Jenna Evans Welch

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 368

Publication Date: 9/27/22

Publisher: Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers

Categories: Young Adult, Romance, Coming of Age, Family, Witches, Contemporary, Teen Readers

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

Thank you to Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers for giving me a chance to read this eARC in exchange for an honest review!

Willow has never felt like she belonged anywhere and is convinced that the only way to find a true home is to travel the world. But her plans to act on her dream are put on hold when her aloof and often absent mother drags Willow to Salem, Massachusetts, to wrap up the affairs of an aunt Willow didn’t even know she had. An aunt who may or may not have been a witch.

There, she meets Mason, a loner who’s always felt out of place and has been in and out of foster homes his entire life. He’s been classified as one of the runaways, constantly searching for ways to make it back to his mom; even if she can’t take care of him, it’s his job to try and take care of her. Isn’t it?

Naturally pulled to one another, Willow and Mason set out across Salem to discover the secret past of Willow’s mother, her aunt, and the ambiguous history of her family. During all of this, the two can’t help but act on their natural connection. But with the amount of baggage between them—and Willow’s growing conviction her family might be cursed—can they manage to hold onto each other?

Content Warning: foster care, parent with drug addiction, running away, divorce

I requested this book because I loved the colors of the book cover and the title. I love books about witches. The name of the author seemed so familiar to me and of course it is, since she wrote the Love & Gelato series. Here is what did and didn’t work for me:

+ I love Willow and Mason. The characters don’t meet until about 20% into the story but we get a good background of Willow and her need to travel, her feelings of being trapped with a mom who has pushed her away and a dad busy with his new family. Mason’s mom is a drug addict and he’s been in the foster care system for a long time but all he wants is to be with his mom again, but he can’t find her. He moves to a new foster family but maybe this time it will be different or not.

+ The story is set in Salem, Massachusetts and with their history of witches its the perfect setting. Willow learns more of her mother’s secretive past there and meets Mason. I love uncovering the Bell women’s past, including meeting Willow’s aunts who all dabble in a little witchcraft – they are so sweet and funny. The restored house that is part of the secret history sounds absolutely magical.

+ The romance is sweet and really beautiful. I love how Willow and Mason meet, become friends and partners, but feel a magical bond between them. They are still young and have a future wide open to them but I love how they start falling for one another even with their futures undecided. I like the hope of the two of them together.

+ I found myself tearing up at the end of this story mostly because of Mason’s story. He’s had a tough time and all he wants is his mom. He has to realize in the end that she might not be the best person to raise him and I can only imagine his pain and hurt. It’s a surprisingly emotional story! On the other hand, Willow has her own issues with her mom and it does get resolved in the end. I’m just happy Willow found her family and home…same as Mason.

~ Willow’s mom is a hard one to crack – she’s kept her past secret and it hurt Willow a lot. Willow doesn’t know her mom like she thought and I was so frustrated with her mom because all Willow wants, is to be close to her mom. It’s a sad situation. This book was about romance and family, but definitely the bonds between a mom and her child which I can relate to.

~ I thought Nova, one of Mason’s new sister was an interesting character who was there in the beginning but as Mason and Willow spent more time together, we heard less of her – but I’d love to know more about her!

~ the characters don’t meet right away and I do wish they meet sooner. We get a lot of background information on Willow and Mason in the first few chapters, but I do think some of that could have moved quicker to them meeting.

Tropes: broken families, family secrets, first love

Why you should read it:

  • it’s a heartfelt story with innocent romance, and tells a story about bonds between sisters, family, mom and child
  • it’s got a little bit of witchcraft, and mystery
  • Willow and Mason’s romance is the sweetest thing
  • Willow and Mason have their personal life challenges and I like that each had to deal with it in their own way, but they come out safe and loved in the end

Why you might not want to read it:

  • it’s not a book about witchcraft – there isn’t much of it

My Thoughts:

This is such a heartwarming story, especially around the themes around family and moms. Mason’s story brought tears to my eyes as he struggles with moving to a new foster home and trying to find his mom. I love that he meets Willow in the process, a girl who is always dealing with trying to find a place that feels like home. There isn’t much witchcraft in the story but I feel like whatever was tied to witches or witchcraft was used to help them hope for something better for both of them in their separate situations. Lovely story and I look forward to reading more from this author.

Book Links:

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Here are other books by this author that I have read or reviewed on this blog:

Love & Olives by. Jenna Evans Welch | Book Review ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫


Love & Gelato by. Jenna Evans Welch ~ never reviewed on blog but goodreads says I gave it ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.

The Ballad of Never After by. Stephanie Garber | Book Review

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Title: The Ballad of Never After (Once Upon a Broken Heart, #2)

Author: Stephanie Garber

Format: ebook (borrowed)

Pages: 416

Publication Date: 9/12/22

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Categories: Romance, Young Adult, Fantasy, Series

Not every love is meant to be.

After Jacks, the Prince of Hearts, betrays her, Evangeline Fox swears she’ll never trust him again. Now that she’s discovered her own magic, Evangeline believes she can use it to restore the chance at happily ever after that Jacks stole away.

But when a new terrifying curse is revealed, Evangeline finds herself entering into a tenuous partnership with the Prince of Hearts again. Only this time, the rules have changed. Jacks isn’t the only force Evangeline needs to be wary of. In fact, he might be the only one she can trust, despite her desire to despise him.

Instead of a love spell wreaking havoc on Evangeline’s life, a murderous spell has been cast. To break it, Evangeline and Jacks will have to do battle with old friends, new foes, and a magic that plays with heads and hearts. Evangeline has always trusted her heart, but this time she’s not sure she can. . . .

Content Warning: violence

I’ll just get this off my chest – but I’m mostly here for Jacks lol…

+ Jacks wants the stones, Chaos and Lala wants Eva to open the Valory Arch, and Eva wants the curse on Apollo and her to be lifted. EVERYONE wants something in this book and it’s about getting what you wish for but having consequences. The consequences are big in this sequel.

+ Jacks, Jacks, Jacks…you most awful of bad boys. I’m here to see him protect Evangeline and entice her and break her heart all over again…just because I know his heart is breaking too. 😅 They both suffer! He’s so toxic and yet addicting – poor Evangeline falling for a bad boy like Jacks. And Jacks for falling for someone who isn’t the “right” one for him. We get a good moment with Jacks and Evangeline when they sort of put down their walls…it’s a lovely moment too. But nothing happy seems to last forever in this series!

+ Chaos…the other bad boy but he isn’t as cold as Jacks! I swear this book has all the kinds of bad boys I like – the cold and calculating kind (Jacks) and the vampire kind (Chaos). I liked his storyline and learning more about the Valors. Speaking of vampires, I thought Luc was so funny.

+ The ending twist is very interesting and unexpected and makes me wonder what in heck is going to happen in book three. As if Evangeline and Jacks need to be tortured enough…

~ Evangeline, our heroine, gets on my nerves. She is so naive and I get she is Jack’s opposite. She’s the dreamer…he’s the one that is blunt and cuts to the chase. They are attracted to each other because of it…but she is hunting for love. And every guy who shows her attention is a potential for this great love she is searching for (since Jacks is bad news and she should…really should not even go there….not that she can help herself). But she’s still married to Apollo, and obviously she wants Jacks. 😅 Like girl…pick someone! Whenever Jacks comes into play he makes the girls look both ways! lol…

~ I want more. I get that this series is staying fairly clean but it’s Jacks – give me some sexy scenes with him! This is a slow burn but Jacks is the personified broody, snarky, sexy, bad boy. I like the almost kisses and there is some touching but they need to fight and make up or something. Like I need an intense scene between him and Evangeline because I want to see how wicked he can get without killing her. 😅 They don’t have to go all the way, but half the time I was thinking nah, Evangeline is so wrong for him – he needs someone with a little more fight in her. Maybe I’m comparing her to Tella? I don’t know…but maybe I’m wrong and it’s the naive girl that is perfect for Jacks. I’m not totally convinced though.

~ I have some questions about Apollo at the end….

Tropes: slow burn, naive heroine, good girl/bad boy, pining/longing, a kiss would kill, curses

Spice Level: 🌶 (some heated glances, some touching, almost kisses)

Why you should read it:

  • some good twists in the story
  • Jacks
  • more information about the Valors

Why you might not want to read it:

  • Evangeline to me is the weakest link in this book – she’s naive and frustrating at times

My Thoughts:

I think this was a solid sequel and we get more of Jacks and some moments when he lets down his guard. ❤️ I liked getting to know more about the history of the Valory Arch and the cursed books were interesting. There is always a mystery and it’s never one that’s easy to figure out. The clues include stories, ballads, and never all the information given at once. What I love about the series is Jacks – he is such a dark, cold, mysterious character. He shouldn’t be likable but just like Evangeline, we all can’t stay away from him. I don’t blame her for the attraction but that girl is a little too naive for my taste. The ending was not what I was expecting and makes me eager to see what will happen in book three. Will Evangeline get her dream happy life? Will Jacks ever find the love he can’t kill? I think we all want to see Jacks in love with someone that won’t die because of him…and happy.

Book Links:

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Seoulmates by. Susan Lee | ARC Review

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

Title: Seoulmates

Author: Susan Lee

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 320

Publication Date: 9/19/22

Publisher: Inkyard Press

Categories: Young Adult, Romance, Contemporary, Childhood Friends to Lovers

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

Thank you to Inkyard Press for giving me a chance to read this eARC in exchange for an honest review!

Her ex-boyfriend wants her back. Her former best friend is in town. When did Hannah’s life become a K-drama?

Hannah Cho had the next year all planned out—the perfect summer with her boyfriend, Nate, and then a fun senior year with their friends.

But then Nate does what everyone else in Hannah’s life seems to do—he leaves her, claiming they have nothing in common. He and all her friends are newly obsessed with K-pop and K-dramas, and Hannah is not. After years of trying to embrace the American part and shunning the Korean side of her Korean American identity to fit in, Hannah finds that’s exactly what now has her on the outs.

But someone who does know K-dramas—so well that he’s actually starring in one—is Jacob Kim, Hannah’s former best friend, whom she hasn’t seen in years. He’s desperate for a break from the fame, so a family trip back to San Diego might be just what he needs…that is, if he and Hannah can figure out what went wrong when they last parted and navigate the new feelings developing between them.

Content Warning: bullying

I love reading K-Pop romances and though the character in here, Jacob is Kdrama star through his acting and not singing, I still love that we get an inside look at the life of a Kdrama star. Here’s what did and didn’t work for me:

+ It’s great that we get Hannah’s perspective as a Korean-American who isn’t quite into or informed about her culture even though right now Korean culture is popular because the K-pop bands dominating the music charts. I found Hannah relatable. Also she’s going through some things about her dad working overseas and I thought it was nice to see her talk to her mom to work through her emotions.

+ Jacob’s character is really interesting because he used to live in America, then moved to Korea and tried his hand at acting and is now blowing up big. I like that he is still that vulnerable kid who used to be bullied and who still wasn’t confident about some things about himself even though his star is rising. Jacob has so many insecurities and pressures to deal with. He has to make decisions regarding his family, his goals, the people he works for and Hannah.

+ It’s a childhood friends to lovers romance so it’s really cute because they have history. Of course when Jacob leaves, Hannah feels abandoned again, but Jacob also feels like she ghosted him when he was going through all his acting training. Then trying to heal the past and go forward together was really cute.

+ ~ I was super surprised that this sweet love story had some emotional drama and…a spicy scene! It caught me off guard because I thought for the most part it was going with the sweet childhood friends theme but then boom – it got kinda spicy in one scene and a little descriptive.

~ Speaking of spicy if you aren’t into F-bombs in a story, you may not like this one.

Tropes: childhood friends to lovers, kdrama star falls for regular girl

Why you should read it:

  • I liked both Jacob and Hannah’s perspectives – they are both Korean but grew up in different places and experienced different things.
  • cute love story
  • getting an inside look of the Kdrama life

Why you might not want to read it:

  • some F bombs and a spicy scene that is a bit descriptive

My Thoughts:

This one is a cute read and though it’s not a Kpop kind of romance it still is a cute love story. It has the childhood friends to lovers trope, the boy is a Kdrama star who is only getting more popular and he falls in love with Hannah who is a Korean-American girl just being a normal teenager. I liked that we get both their perspectives and they deal with some emotional issues too. I look forward to reading more books from this author!

Book Links:

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Bad Girl Reputation by. Elle Kennedy | ARC Review

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️

Title: Bad Girl Reputation (Avalon Bay, #2)

Author: Elle Kennedy

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 320

Publication Date: 10/4/22

Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin

Categories: Romance, New Adult, Young Adult, Contemporary, Series

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

Thank you to St. Martin’s Griffin for giving me a chance to read this eARC in exchange for an honest review!

When former bad girl Genevieve West returns home for her mother’s funeral, she’s prepared to keep her distance from her ex-boyfriend, Evan Hartley. Their history is rife with turbulence. And passion. A heck of a lot of passion… which she’s trying desperately to forget.

But it’s impossible not to run into Evan in the small coastal town where they once ran wild. And the moment she sees her gorgeous ex again, it’s clear to Gen that Evan is still as unruly, sexy, and irresistible as ever. This time around, however, she’s resolved to walk a new path. No more partying. No more foolish mistakes. Her plan is to temporarily remain in town to help her father run his business, but the second he finds somebody else, she’s out of there.

Evan has other ideas. He knows they can be good together, but he just has to convince Genevieve of that, even if it means turning over a new leaf himself. But can a bad reputation ever truly be shed? Do second chances really work? Genevieve and Evan are about to find out.

Content Warning: sexual harassment, drug use, death of a parent

This is the second book in the Avalon Bay series, and I enjoyed the first one, Good Girl Complex, a lot so was definitely going to read this one. Sadly, I wasn’t into Evan and Gen’s story like I was with Cooper and Mac. Here’s what did and didn’t work for me:

+ The beginning of the story is good – we get to know Gen and Evan and their history. Obviously these two cannot stay away from one another as much as they try. The physical attraction is undeniable but then the feelings part is when the trouble begins. They both have issues.

+ Gen has a lot going on and I do see growth. Evan also has some things to work on when it comes to Gen and his mom, Shelley.

+ Cooper and Mac make cameos in the story. Cooper doesn’t like Evan and Gen together but the heart wants what it wants!

~ I think I got bored with the story. It’s repetitive. It’s a constant back and forth between Evan and Gen, and the sexual attraction is easy for them. Everything else is hard. I think it felt flat on the emotional side of their relationship. They are also a bit toxic for one another. So I wasn’t invested with the second chance romance. Gen tries to date someone else, but we all know who is end game, so it felt like a waste of time.

~ I didn’t connect to any of the characters.

Tropes: second chance romance

Spice Level: 🌶🌶🌶

Why you should read it:

  • you might like this better than the first one if you like second chance romances

Why you might not want to read it:

  • it hit a lull in the middle and never managed to suck me back into the story

My Thoughts:

This one was just okay. I did like Good Girl Complex more because it was the rich girl/poor boy trope. If you like second chance romances with a lot of spice, you will enjoy this one, because one thing is for sure and that is Gen and Evan can’t keep their hands off one another.

Book Links:

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Good Girl Complex by. Elle Kennedy – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

A Cuban Girl’s Guide to Tea and Tomorrow by. Laura Taylor Namey | Book Review

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

Title: A Cuban Girl’s Guide to Tea and Tomorrow

Author: Laura Taylor Namey

Format: ebook (borrowed)

Pages: 320

Publication Date: 11/9/20

Publisher: Anetheum Books for Young Readers

Categories: Romance, Coming of Age, Young Adult, Contemporary, Grief, Mental Health, Food

For Lila Reyes, a summer in England was never part of the plan. The plan was 1) take over her abuela’s role as head baker at their panadería, 2) move in with her best friend after graduation, and 3) live happily ever after with her boyfriend. But then the Trifecta happened, and everything—including Lila herself—fell apart.

Worried about Lila’s mental health, her parents make a new plan for her: spend three months with family friends in Winchester, England, to relax and reset. But with the lack of sun, a grumpy inn cook, and a small town lacking Miami flavor (both in food and otherwise), what would be a dream trip for some feels more like a nightmare to Lila…until she meets Orion Maxwell.

A teashop clerk with troubles of his own, Orion is determined to help Lila out of her funk, and appoints himself as her personal tour guide. From Winchester’s drama-filled music scene to the sweeping English countryside, it isn’t long before Lila is not only charmed by Orion, but England itself. Soon a new future is beginning to form in Lila’s mind—one that would mean leaving everything she ever planned behind.

Content Warning: self harm, grief, death of loved one, illness of loved one

I got this book from Book Outlet and decided to make it the book I would read when waiting for my kids in the car pick up line. Well…that didn’t work out so this book was in my car for a few weeks! lol I finally took it out, sat down and read it and I didn’t expect this one to make me emotional, but it did.

+ Lila has a mental breakdown because she got dumped by her boyfriend, her best friend stopped being friends with her and her grandmother died. I loved her character growth throughout the book. She’s stubborn, strong willed and pushy but eventually learns to slow down and listen to the people in her life.

+ Lila and Orion’s love story is a slow burn and so, so sweet. I really liked how it went from a friendship to something more. I love how they fed each other through food and emotions. She fed him Cuban food, he brewed her tea and it was perfect! It made me hungry for Cuban food and afternoon tea all at one time!

+ I loved the side characters like Jules, Flora, Remy and Lila’s Aunt Cate. Family is a big theme in this book as well as friendship but Lila comes from such a big, tight-knit Cuban family that it was so important to her every aspect of her life.

+ Lila is grieving her grandmother, her best friend and her ex-boyfriend and I found myself emotional at times because it is a story about changes and dealing with a new normal. It’s true some friendships don’t last, definitely true some loves end and because it’s life we lose people to death, which is natural. But it can be so much – too much – at one time and Lila really did have to untangle and work through many difficult emotions. She had to learn to be kind to herself and see what she was doing.

~ Though realistic, I was hoping there would be some happy ending for her and her best friend, Stef who we hear a lot about but never get to really meet. It’s sad that their friendship just ends…amicably but still.

Tropes: travel to another country and fall in love, slow burn, summer romance

Spice Level: barely any – few sweet kisses

Why you should read it:

  • super sweet, slow burn romance – Orion is the sweetest
  • Lila’s character growth
  • I like the theme of family, Lila and her roots, Orion and his own family problems and heartaches
  • love all the food references: Cuban food and English teas

Why you might not want to read it:

  • some sad topics like grief

My Thoughts:

I found myself getting very emotional in some parts of this book especially when Lila has to make choices about where she belongs. I love her and Orion together, they really did feel like a cozy sweater kind of love, and exactly what Lila needed. I fell in love with their sweet friendship and love. The themes about grief, roots, and family…blood and found, really resonated with me. I look forward to reading more from this author and even to see how the movie turns out!

Book Links:

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Soul of the Deep by. Natasha Bowen | ARC Review

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Title: Soul of the Deep (Skin of the Sea, #2)

Author: Natasha Bowen

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 304

Publication Date: 9/27/22

Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers

Categories: Young Adult, Fantasy, Series

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

Thank you to Random House Books for Young Readers for giving me a chance to read this eARC in exchange for an honest review!

One life.
One choice.
One sacrifice.

To save those closest to her, Simi traded away everything: her freedom, her family, and the boy she loves. Now she is sworn to serve a new god, watching over the Land of the Dead at the bottom of the ocean.

But when signs of demons begin to appear, it’s clear there are deeper consequences of Simi’s trade. These demons spell the world’s ruin . . . and because of Simi, they now have a way into the human realm.

With the fate of the world at stake, Simi must break her promise and team up with a scheming trickster of a god. And if they succeed, perhaps Simi can also unbreak her heart along the way, and find herself again.

Content Warning: violence, slavery, death

When I saw Skin of the Sea had a sequel I needed to read it. I will say this duology has the most beautiful book covers – take a look at this one! Here is what did and didn’t work for me:

+ I loved Simidele in book one and I love her here again in book two. I love her bravery, her grace, and she’s always giving of herself to do the right thing. She loves taking care of people. Here in book two she tries to help an imprisoned orisha, the trickster, Esu and in turn he would help her. The sequel has a few beautiful, emotional scenes and once again, I really appreciate how we are shown how the dead are respected and sent off in this story. It really touches me especially knowing that many of the dead in the sea are due to the slave ships. This author has a way with words that can break through to my emotions.

+ The story is rich in West African mythology – there are a lot of orishas (gods/goddesses) involved in the life of people.

+ It’s filled with so much action. There is a quest, there is the problem with the other tribes and just a lot going on and makes it a quick read. Simi is a fighter in this sequel.

+ I love how Simi and Kola has a slow burn romance but one that is left open ended. It’s not rushed at all and it shows Simi has to do a few things before being with Kola. But I think it’s safe to say that they love one another – I mean Simi did sacrifice a lot for him. So I’m glad she’s going to take some time for herself!

~ The one thing I do wish this book had, is a glossary. There are so many words I didn’t know and had to guess at their meaning. Also a list of the orishas would be fantastic too! There are so many characters in this book, it can be hard to follow.

~ The beginning was slow but once the action kicks in the story moves faster.

Tropes:

Why you should read it:

  • story filled with West African mythology and lots of action/fighting scenes
  • you enjoyed the first book
  • the emotional aspects of the story when it comes to death, sacrifice, and love

Why you might not want to read it:

  • you didn’t enjoy the first book

My Thoughts:

I didn’t re-read the first book so I jumped into this one right away trying to get acclimated with all the names of the orishas, and the big cast of characters. Once I started remembering a few things, the story moved quicker for me – plus there is a lot of action in this book so that also made the story move along. What I love about this book and the series in general is Simidele who was human and turned into a mermaid, but she never forgets her humanity and caring for others. I love that about her and I’m glad there was a good ending for her. This is a solid conclusion to the series and I look forward to reading more from this author.

Book Links:

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Here are other books by this author that I have read or reviewed on this blog:

Skin of the Sea by. Natasha Bowen | ARC Review ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Defend the Dawn by. Brigid Kemmerer | ARC Review

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Title: Defend the Dawn (Defy the Night, #2)

Author: Brigid Kemmerer

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 448

Publication Date: 9/13/22

Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Children’s Books

Categories: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance, Politics

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

Thank you to Bloomsbury USA Children’s Books for giving me a chance to read this eARC in exchange for an honest review!

To save their kingdom, they must embark on a dangerous journey…

The kingdom of Kandala narrowly avoided catastrophe, but the embers of revolution still simmer. While King Harristan seeks a new way to lead, Tessa and Prince Corrick attempt to foster unity between rebels and royals.

But the consuls who control the Moonflower will not back down, and Corrick realizes he must find a new source for the lifesaving Elixir.

When an emissary from the neighboring kingdom of Ostriary arrives with an intriguing offer, Tessa and Corrick set out on an uncertain journey as they attempt to mend their own fractured relationship.

This could be their only chance to keep the peace and bring relief to the people of Kandala, but danger strikes during the journey to Ostriary, and no one is who they seemed to be. . .

Content Warning: violence

I have to say this series is addictive! I loved book one and getting to know Corrick and Tessa – there was so much political intrigue in that one. It continues here in book two:

+ I didn’t mean to finish this book in one night, but I did. The writing is tight and flows well, it moves quickly even though parts of the book feel more like a filler. It doesn’t matter because I think there was enough new elements to make this feel like the story was moving – I was hooked!

+ The story picks up right after events in book one but I love that we have new characters, and one very intriguing Captain Blackmore/Rian. I was like, move aside Corrick…Rian is confident, he is a leader, and patient, which I love. I need more of Rian. I also love the twists in this story.

+ With the new characters come a new set of problems and political intrigue/suspicions for Harristan and Corrick. Can they trust this Rian who claims to have enough Moonflower to trade with them for Kandala steel. I love the way Rian questioned how Kandala’s people were being treated, making Corrick and Tessa do some inner reflection on a few things. The story also moves to sea, on Rian’s ship heading to Ostriary which for me was so much fun. Harristan has his own problems back in Kandala though.

+~ Tessa and Corrick are so frustrating. They are hot and cold! I understand his desire to put Kandala first and I understand how she feels like there is no future for them if it’s always first. Most of this book was Tessa questioning Corrick and trying to find out if he is the person she fell in love with before. But Corrick was also coming off as a jerk at times, especially when dealing with Rian. I did like all the suspicion though, it kept me on my toes! The tension throughout the story is fantastic.

~ Tessa – I liked the suspicions because it kept me engaged but I could not stand Tessa’s back and forth about Corrick. They have some issues to resolve. And it’s a slow burn, they only get as far as kissing. There was almost a love triangle brewing and honestly I was into Rian more than Corrick. I was even hoping something with Tessa and Rian would happen. BUT…then I realized Corrick and Tessa deserved each other haha. Let them have their hot/cold relationship ugh…those two. Give Rian a stronger woman please! Tessa is a good person, but I think Rian needs someone with more of a backbone. She just came off naive at times and

~ + It has a cliffhanger ending…of course! 😆 Looking forward to book three.

Why you should read it:

  • this series is addictive! Tessa and Corrick has to deal with a lot of problems in their relationship but I like how they aren’t perfect
  • Rian, the new character
  • having most of this story be on a ship was fun, plus there are some great twists!

Why you might not want to read it:

  • the back and forth between Tessa and Corrick can be a little frustrating but that’s their relationship

My Thoughts:

Brigid Kemmerer is a must read author for me, even though I didn’t care for how Rhen changed in the Cursebreaker series but I will say this author really does a great job with writing about complicated relationships. I think that’s why I’m so drawn to her books, the characters aren’t perfect but readers can relate in some way. I was scared Corrick was going to be another Rhen situation but Corrick at least was always morally gray. We get to see all the imperfect sides of him and try to decide, like Tessa – if we like what we know and see. Defend the Dawn has lots of tension, which I love in a story, because there are trust issues everywhere! Harristan and Corrick can’t trust Rian, Tessa doesn’t know who to trust (which was the most frustrating), Karri and Lochland don’t trust Corrick but the twists are wonderful. I love the addition of Rian and want to see if finally Corrick and his brother can get some help with their own kingdom. The story was fast moving and I want the next book in the series! It’s a great series so far and I hope it ends on a high note!

Book Links:

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Forging Silver into Stars by. Brigid Kemmerer – ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

Defy the Night by. Brigid Kemmerer – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

A Vow So Bold and Deadly by. Brigid Kemmerer – ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

The Cruelest Mercy by. Natalie Mae | Book Review

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Title: The Cruelest Mercy (The Kinder Poison, #2)

Author: Natalie Mae

Format: hardcover (own)

Pages: 384

Publication Date: 6/14/21

Publisher: Razorbill

Categories: Fantasy, Series, Romance, Young Adult

The magical kingdom of Orkena is on the brink of war, and the only person who can save it is Zahru, the girl they once doomed for death.

After surviving the Crossing, Zahru has sworn off adventures. While crown prince Jet navigates the looming threat of war, she’s content to simply figure out what the future holds for them. But they’re dealt a devastating blow when prince Kasta returns with a shocking claim: he’s the true winner of the Crossing and the rightful heir, and he bears the gods’ mark as proof. Even more surprising–he’s not the only one.

Somehow, Zahru possesses the very same mark, giving her equal right to the throne. The last thing she wants is to rule beside her would-be executioner, but she can’t let Orkena fall into his merciless hands. So Zahru, Jet, and their allies must race against the clock to find a way to stop Kasta, because once he’s crowned, there’s no telling what horrors he’ll unleash to win the war.

Zahru will do whatever it takes to keep Kasta from taking the throne…but to stop a villain, is she willing to become one herself?

Content Warning: violence

Let me first say that I thought this was a duology so I wasn’t sure why this book wasn’t moving “faster” and then I came to the ending and thought WHAT IS HAPPENING?! lol…I was mistaken – there is definitely a book three. And there better be after THAT ending! This is what I thought:

+ I love, love, love the book covers in this series. It’s simple, classy and the bold colors are just everything.

+ I haven’t re-read The Kinder Poison so I vaguely had an idea of what the story was about but when I started reading it, I didn’t feel lost at all. I jumped right in and I remember why I liked the characters so much. Zahru is by Jet’s side now but of course before he can rule, surprise, surprise Kasta shows up – he is clearly not dead, but that doesn’t mean he becomes the ruler either. Zahru has an opportunity to thwart any evil plans Kasta has – because…he is evil right?

+ This story made me suspicious of Kasta, but also made me wonder if Zahru was jumping to conclusions about him. Clearly she should be on her guard with him, but can he change? That’s what was driving me crazy about the story. I don’t know if he was playing her or not. And what about her feelings about him? That was madness…but it was kinda awesome how they were distrustful and yet attracted to one another. So toxic…but kinda fun…also what about Zahru? Is she about to stoop to his level? Does having power corrupt? We shall see…I don’t know if I’m supposed to hate or love Kasta! I feel Zahru’s pain lol..he’s that complex villain you find yourself obsessed with.

+ The epilogue…what?! 😅 That was unexpected and give me book three NOW.

~ This one is a little slower than book one because Zahru has to unravel Kasta’s motives, she has to figure out how to stay a step of him and she can’t trust him. You know who I was also suspicious of? Jet. So book three will be very interesting!

Tropes: slow burn, enemies to lovers, love triangle, peasant becomes a ruler, morally gray characters

Spice Level: 🌶

Why you should read it:

  • for the Zahru and Kasta moments, especially the last one 😳
  • fascinating to see how Zahru deals and changes with power – will she be having a villain era?
  • you liked the first book

Why you might not want to read it:

  • a little slower than the first one but I think it’s worth it to push through, it sets up book three for what I hope is an amazing ending to this series

My Thoughts:

My mistake was thinking this was a duology and wondering why Kasta was coming in too late into this book. The story is just way more interesting with him in it because it throws Zahru off kilter. He makes her feel complicated emotions and I want to see what is going to happen with these two. It really could go either way, will Zahru embrace all of Kasta’s flaws? Will Kasta really learn to have mercy and not let the trauma of his past dictate his actions? Will these two meet half way and fall passionately in love with one another?! Or will they kill one another? 😅 I can’t wait to find out!

Book Links:

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Here are other books by this author that I have reviewed on this blog and books I have read but never reviewed: