ARC Review: Again Again by E. Lockhart [6/2]

I just wrote a very long review for this book and then proceeded to accidentally delete it, so I’m a little frustrated and am now just going to write a brief summary of what I’d previously written.

The multiple different timelines was an interesting concept. I liked that we didn’t have to follow specific timelines all the way through the story. Instead, we just saw a glimpse of the possibilities that are out there.

Lockhart sets up this book like it’s going to be an Adelaide/Jack love story, but it’s really not. It’s about Adelaide coming to terms with her brother’s addiction. I thought their story was really heartbreaking, but ultimately hopeful. Something I especially like is that this is coming from the perspective of an older sibling having to watch their younger sibling go through it. I think a lot of books are about a younger sibling watching an older sibling become an addict. Adelaide is protective of her brother and doesn’t really know what to do with those feelings if he’s doing this to himself in some ways.

Adelaide as a character was okay. I thought she was a little weird and not entirely realistic, but I did think she was sympathetic. Other characters didn’t feel fully fleshed out and I wish we’d gotten more time with her parents or from their perspective.

Overall, I enjoyed reading this book. I thought it was a fresh and original take on alternate timelines. I didn’t think there was a ton of closure at the end, but I felt okay with that.

Order: Hardcover | Kindle

Overall Rating: 4
Language: Mild
Violence: Mild
Smoking/Drinking: Moderate
Sexual Content: Mild

Note: I received this book free from NetGally in exchange for an honest review.

ARC Review: The Court of Miracles by Kester Grant [6/2]

Nina is the Black Cat of the Thieves Guild–there’s nowhere that she can’t break into. When the notorious Tiger sets his eyes on her father’s ward, Ettie, Nina will do whatever it takes to save her from him. In revolutionary France, this Les Miserables retelling brings Eponine into the spotlight.

I’ll be honest, I’m not super familiar with the original plot of Les Mis. I saw the movie when it came out, so I know very vaguely what’s going on, but I didn’t know enough to recognize what all is changed in this book. I think it may have been a more enjoyable read if I did know a little more? But maybe it would have been the same. It felt like maybe there were some times when I was supposed to be able to anticipate what might happen next, but I couldn’t do that.

I liked Nina as a main character. Her motivations were very clear and I felt like she was pretty consistent. I did think it was a little overkill to have three guys falling over themselves for her though? Just one would be enough, thanks. I liked Ettie as well and almost wish we’d gotten some more from her. She had really great development as a character and the Ettie at the end of the book is miles away from the Ettie at the beginning (in a really good way).

The plot itself was confusing to me at times. Obviously the driving plot is that Nina is trying to save Ettie from the Tiger, but the way certain things happened wasn’t always super clear. I missed one of the time jumps too I think because all of the sudden Nina was talking about how she’d been a cat for a few years when I thought it had only been a few days. I really liked the concept of the guilds and Lords, though. I wish I had been reading a physical copy instead of an eARC so I could keep referring back to the pages at the beginning that listed all the guilds and key players.

Overall, I thought this book was good and I did feel like it helped fill the Six of Crows shaped hole in my heart. I can’t say if Les Mis fans will especially like this one, but I thought it was good and I haven’t seen any other Les Mis retellings out there. I’m definitely looking forward to where this series goes.

Preorder: Hardcover | Kindle

Overall Rating: 3.5
Language: Mild
Violence: Moderate
Smoking/Drinking: Moderate
Sexual Content: Mild

Note: I received a copy of this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

ARC Review: More Than Maybe by Erin Hahn [7/21]

Originally this book was supposed to be published on May 12th, but the pub date got pushed back.

I really loved Erin Hahn’s first book, You’d Be Mine, so I was excited to see this one on NetGalley. Unfortunately, this book didn’t do it for me as much. Both books feature music heavily, so if that’s something you like in a book, I’d recommend giving these a try.

Luke and Vada were fine as main characters, but I didn’t LOVE them like I loved Annie Mathers and Clay Coolidge (from YBM). I didn’t feel like they had much depth and I wasn’t super invested in the things they were trying to accomplish. The romance between them is a bit of a slow burn, but almost too slow? They both like each other for the whole book, it just takes them forever to finally admit it to each other. Secondary characters were also fine. We just didn’t really get to know any of them very well. I liked that Vada had a good relationship with her mom’s boyfriend/boss. I think it’s important to show something besides the “evil step-parent” trope every once in a while.

I wanted more from the relationship between Luke and Cullen. Honestly, it felt like they were just friends–not brothers and certainly not twins. I mean…I’m not a twin so I obviously can’t say what that relationship is like, but it seems like they’d be a lot closer. Zack seemed more like a brother to Luke than Cullen did at times.

The plot didn’t really grab me–I think there were just too many moving parts. Vada’s trying to go to college and write for Rolling Stone and she and Luke have the senior showcase and they’re also trying to save the bar and then Luke’s dad is opening a rival club and all the podcast drama…there’s just too much! I think the story itself needed to be pared down a bit. If we could have really focused on a couple of the elements, I think the story would have worked better.

Overall, I thought this book was just okay. I think it hurt that I came in with really high expectations. Or it could just be me. Its rating on Goodreads is over 4 stars, so perhaps I’m just missing something. My last critique is that this book has a lot of swearing in it. A LOT. More than I deemed necessary to be honest. So just a warning there.

Preorder: Hardcover | Kindle

Overall Rating: 3
Language: Heavy
Violence: Mild
Smoking/Drinking: Moderate
Sexual Content: Mild

Note: I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

BLOG TOUR: The Lost Lieutenant by Erica Vetsch

The Lost Lieutenant (Serendipity & Secrets #1)
by Erica Vetsch
Release Date: April 21, 2020
Genres: Historical Romance, Christian Fiction

Goodreads|Amazon

SYNOPSIS: Evan Eldridge never meant to be a war hero–he just wanted to fight Napoleon for the future of his country. And he certainly didn’t think that saving the life of a peer would mean being made the Earl of Whitelock. But when the life you save is dear to the Prince Regent, things can change in a hurry.

Now Evan has a new title, a manor house in shambles, and a stranger for a bride, all thrust upon him by a grateful ruler. What he doesn’t have are all his memories. Traumatized as a result of his wounds and bravery on the battlefield, Evan knows there’s something he can’t quite remember. It’s important, dangerous–and if he doesn’t recall it in time, will jeopardize not only his marriage but someone’s very life.

Readers who enjoy Julie Klassen, Carolyn Miller, and Kristi Ann Hunter will love diving into this brand-new Regency series filled with suspense, aristocratic struggles, and a firm foundation of faith.

Read an excerpt from Kregel by clicking here!

He’s doing what he can to save the Prince Regent’s life . . . but can he save his new marriage as well?

REVIEW: There’s something about the arranged marriage turned real love setup that I always like. I think the tension that’s created from being married to someone and falling in love with them while not being sure if they like you is always good for some extra drama. It’s always especially enjoyable because we, as the reader, always know that the two characters like each other way before they realize it. In that regard, this book does not disappoint. I thought that both Diana and Even were likable characters and I was rooting for them the whole time. They ended up having such a sweet relationship and watching them fall in love was enjoyable.

One thing I didn’t love about this book was the abundance of bad/mean characters. I felt like almost every character was a terrible, mean person and I wish there had been more nice characters to root for and get attached to. Overall, I thought this book was really harsh on the aristocracy. They can’t ALL have been that terrible…right? Another slight critique that I have is that there were quite a few times where Even referred to Diana as “his”. I could definitely see some people being offended by that, but personally I don’t find it super offensive and feel that it’s a least partially a reflection of the time period. I still felt like Even respected Diana.

Overall, I thought this book was a really sweet and enjoyable romance. It’s still Christian Fiction, so there’s talk of God and religion, but it isn’t over the top. I’ve mentioned before that while I enjoy Christian Fiction, I don’t enjoy being bashed over the head by scripture verses when I’m just trying to read the story. That was definitely not the case here. I thought the author struck a good balance with keeping the story at the forefront, while also showing that her characters were Christians.

Overall Rating: 4
Language: None
Violence: Mild
Smoking/Drinking: Mild
Sexual Content: Mild


Prize pack 3

Click on the photo above to be taken to the giveaway!



Erica VetschABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Erica Vetsch is a New York Times best-selling and ACFW Carol Award–winning author. She is a transplanted Kansan now living in Minnesota with her husband, who she claims is both her total opposite and soul mate.

Vetsch loves Jesus, history, romance, and sports. When she’s not writing fiction, she’s planning her next trip to a history museum and cheering on her Kansas Jayhawks and New Zealand All Blacks.

A self-described history geek, she has been planning her first research trip to England.

Website|Goodreads|Twitter|Facebook|Instagram|Pinterest


Note: I received this book free from the author/blog tour in exchange for an honest review.

BLOG TOUR: Tweet Cute by Emma Lord

Tweet CuteTweet Cute
by Emma Lord
Release Date: January 21st, 2020
Genres: Contemporary

Goodreads|Amazon|Publisher

SYNOPSIS: Meet Pepper, swim team captain, chronic overachiever, and all-around perfectionist. Her family may be falling apart, but their massive fast-food chain is booming — mainly thanks to Pepper, who is barely managing to juggle real life while secretly running Big League Burger’s massive Twitter account. 

Enter Jack, class clown and constant thorn in Pepper’s side. When he isn’t trying to duck out of his obscenely popular twin’s shadow, he’s busy working in his family’s deli. His relationship with the business that holds his future might be love/hate, but when Big League Burger steals his grandma’s iconic grilled cheese recipe, he’ll do whatever it takes to take them down, one tweet at a time. 

All’s fair in love and cheese — that is, until Pepper and Jack’s spat turns into a viral Twitter war. Little do they know, while they’re publicly duking it out with snarky memes and retweet battles, they’re also falling for each other in real life — on an anonymous chat app Jack built. 

As their relationship deepens and their online shenanigans escalate — people on the internet are shipping them?? — their battle gets more and more personal, until even these two rivals can’t ignore they were destined for the most unexpected, awkward, all-the-feels romance that neither of them expected.

REVIEW: Tweet Cute is a fun update to the “You’ve Got Mail” kind of story. Pepper and Jack are both likable as our main characters and I liked that they addressed the “PepperJack” name coincidence instead of just letting it be a weird unsaid thing (especially with all the grilled cheese drama). Secondary characters were pretty enjoyable too, though I feel like Pooja needed more exploring–I’d read a book centered on her.

There were parts of the book’s premise that I found a bit improbable. It makes sense to me that Jack might be in charge of running their “hole in the wall” Twitter account, but for Big League Burger to be pawning off Twitter stuff on Pepper? Taffy clearly needed to be fired and BLB needed to hire a competent social media person. I just don’t see Pepper runnin ghte Twitter account in the real world. I also found Pepper’s mom to be an enormous piece of work. She really wasn’t likable…ever. It seemed a bit extreme.

With that being said, I quite liked this book. While there was some semi-fabricated drama, I liked that characters had conversations with each other and worked things out quickly instead of the drama dragging on and on and on because no one would talk to each other. I would recommend this book, but be careful because with all the talk of grilled cheeses and Pepper’s baked goods, you WILL get hungry.

Overall Rating: 3.5
Language: Moderate
Violence: None
Smoking/Drinking: Mild. References and secondary characters participating, but neither of the main characters do anything.
Sexual Content: Mild


Tweet Cute Blog Tour



Emma LordABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Emma Lord is a digital media editor and writer living in New York City, where she spends whatever time she isn’t writing either running or belting show tunes in community theater. She graduated from the University of Virginia with a major in psychology and a minor in how to tilt your computer screen so nobody will notice you updating your fan fiction from the back row. She was raised on glitter, grilled cheese, and a whole lot of love. Her sun sign is Hufflepuff, but she is a Gryffindor rising. TWEET CUTE is her debut novel. You can find her geeking out online at @dilemmalord on Twitter.

Goodreads|Twitter|Instagram


Note: I received this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

REVIEW: The Map from Here to There by Emery Lord

The Map from Here to ThereI LOVED The Start of Me and You, so when I heard that a sequel was coming I was very excited! I loved Paige and her girl friends and thought that she and Max had a very cute story. Luckily, those things did carry on into this book, though I felt there was a little more drama around both. In the last book, I remember really liking Paige, but in this book I found her to be a little bit annoying. Like…was she this annoying in the last book? I just had a hard time being patient with her.

Plot-wise, I didn’t feel like this book was strictly necessary. A lot of contemporary romance books are good left the way they are and I kind of felt that way with this story, but it was still pleasant to get a little peek at “after the HEA”. I thought Hunter was a really interesting character that I was glad was included. He was written in a way where in another book, he would definitely have been the love interest. But instead, Lord develops him as a surprisingly deep side character. Paige has a moment where she reflects on what that “other book” could have looked like, and I enjoyed that.

Overall, I thought this was a good book, but not quite as good for me as the original. Just a small spoiler, we don’t ever find out what college Paige picks (which annoyed me to no end). I would maybe be here for some of my other contemporary romance faves to get sequels, but then again…maybe not.

Preorder: Hardcover | eBook

Overall Rating: 3.5
Language: Moderate
Violence: Mild
Smoking/Drinking: Moderate
Sexual Content: Mild

Note: I received this book free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

California Winter | November Wrap-Up & TBR Update

This month hasn’t been great blogging wise (you might have noticed) but it’s been pretty good reading wise! I was able to snag some library copies of a couple of my anticipated November releases, so that was awesome. It always feels like I’m slogging through a book that’s taking me too much time, so then I’m surprised when I see how much I’ve actually read in a month.

monthly tbr

Also read/reading:

Books finished this month: 12
Books currently reading: 
3

Overall TBR:

TBR at the beginning of the year = 383
TBR at the beginning of November =305
Books added to TBR = 2
Books read/deleted from TBR = 7
Total on TBR now = 300

How did your reading go this month?

November ARC Mini-Reviews

mini-reviews
Secrets & Suitors by Joanna Baker

I’m always down for a good Regency romance–I love the feel-goodishness of them. There’s something about the propriety of the time that somehow makes the leading men that much more swoon-worthy too. With that being said, it’s still important to have a feisty heroine and I mostly felt like Nora was a wet blanket. I hoped that she would develop and mature as the book went on, but I was to be disappointed. Honestly, I think Susanna would have been a MUCH more interesting protagonist. I just thought Nora was too down on herself! She can’t be charming and desirable while simultaneously being COMPLETELY oblivious to any of her good qualities. Nora also had an unbearable amount of angsty internal dialogue. If I had a dollar for every time she thought something like, “We are only friends” or “I must control my heart” or “He doesn’t feel the same” I would have much money. In the end, I didn’t think this book was SO bad, but it wasn’t great either. Just okay. 3/5

Order: Paperback | eBook

Deadly Little Scandals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

I really liked the first book in this series (Little White Lies) and I was super excited to continue the story. From the beginning, I’ve found Sawyer to be an extremely likable protagonist (if somewhat overly capable). In this book especially, I really liked Sawyer’s relationship with both Lily and John David. I love how protective Sawyer is of Lily and their relationship. Sawyer grew up without any extended family, so that relationship is really precious to her. I also liked the main friend group of Sawyer, Lily, Campbell, and Sadie Grace. They’re all supportive and mostly nice to each other which is refreshing. Unfortunately, the plot in this book was just so complicated. There are two main plot points that get mashed together and I feel like the author should have just picked one of them. It almost feels like this book just got away from her? There are elements of it too that I don’t feel like jive with how characters were portrayed in the first book. I still liked the book (Sawyer really carries it for me) and I’ll read the next one (if there is one) but man, some really weird stuff went down in this book. 4/5

Order: Hardcover | eBook

Sisters of Shadow & Light by Sara B. Larson

I thought this book was maybe going to be a Sleeping Beauty kind of thing (I mean, there’s a giant hedge) but it’s not. So if you thought that too, just know it’s not. Zuhra as a main character was…okay. I really wanted to like her, but I just found her to be a little whiny and overdramatic at times. I also thought she lacked consistency? I hoped this book would be really focused on the sister relationship and while that was semi-present, it felt like both Zuhra and Inara’s romances got in the way of developing that. And (as is often the case in YA unfortunately) there was almost no basis for the TWO romantic threads that we’re given. Literally, almost no context for why the romantic interests are drawn to our leads. *sigh* I guess I’ll just keep waiting for a well-developed YA romance. My main issue with the book, though, was pacing. It took me SO LONG to read this book. Honestly, I felt like the author could have cut out half the words and it still would have been a well-written book. HALF THE WORDS. At around 70%, I just started skimming. In addition to that, hardly anything happens from chapter to chapter and a lot of them alternate perspectives between the sisters which does NOT help–it just makes the story end up feeling really jerky. In the end, I’m a little intrigued by where the story goes next, but I probably won’t continue the series. 2.5/5

The Guinevere Deception by Kiersten White

I’m trying to remember if I’ve ever read a King Arthur retelling…? At the very least, I haven’t read one in a long time. I mostly liked Guinevere as our main character, but she kept coming to these conclusions that just seemed completely wrong to me and barreling full steam ahead. I mean, I recognize that the reader usually has more information than the characters do, but she just really needed to slow her roll. It was also difficult to fully embrace Guinevere because she doesn’t really know who she is (literally). Her memory of her past is super spotty and it made it hard for me to get a good sense of who she is as a character. So while I liked her, I didn’t feel like I could get completely on board with her. The plot was intriguing enough and we’ll see where the next book goes. I have one big issue with this book, but it’s kind of spoiler-y so I won’t talk about it, but I wasn’t a huge fan of the ending. I’ll just close by saying that book two better have like five times as many Arthur/Guinevere moments. 3.5/5

Order: Hardcover | eBook

Note: I received copies of these books free from NetGalley in exchange for honest reviews.

Twins, mountains that are castles, and evil princes | Crown of Coral & Pearl by Mara Rutherford [ARC]

Crown of Coral and PearlOnce a generation, the Varenians send their most beautiful girl to Ilara to marry the prince. It is a great honor and twins Nor and Zadie have been groomed their whole lives to become a princess. However, because of a childhood accident involving some blood coral, Nor’s cheek is scarred and she knows she could never be chosen. Nobody is surprised when Zadie is selected, but she’s in love with a boy from home and begs Nor to help her get out of it. In the end, Nor takes Zadie’s place, but she is unprepared for what she will find on the mainland and what she will need to do to save her home.

TL;DR – Nor says many unwise things and makes many unwise decisions, but is still a likable character. Some things don’t make a ton of sense, but can be ignored.

Preorder: Hardcover | eBook

This book was a little different than I thought it would be but at the same time is also exactly what I thought it would be. Does that make sense? Plotwise, there were many things that the reader knows is going to happen (because of course) but the author takes her sweet time getting there. For example, it took FOREVER for Nor to come to the conclusion that she needs to take Zadie’s place. I understand in the context of the story that it wasn’t that simple, but we probably could have saved at least 50 pages. It’s when Nor gets to Ilara that things take some interesting turns that I didn’t really anticipate.

I thought the relationship between Nor and Zadie was a really interesting one. The author herself is a twin (as I found out in the Acknowledgements section) and that gives authenticity to the sister relationship. Never having been a twin myself, I felt like I understood better what it would be like to go through life with someone always at your side. I appreciated that there was no jealousy between the girls. They were legitimately the best of friends and sisters.

There were some minor plot points that didn’t quite make sense to me. Some of them were explained (kind of), but some weren’t. There were times when Nor’s plans didn’t make sense and I can’t tell if that was purposeful to show her naivety or…what. I also felt like she didn’t act or speak with the appropriate amount of caution, especially when Talin was involved. Ceren is this seriously dangerous dude and she’s just randomly mouthing off to him or snubbing him in favor of Talin whenever possible. HE COULD END YOU, NOR.

As far as the other characters, I felt like the author was maybe trying to create some moral grey-ness with Ceren? But then she also wanted to make sure we knew he was a BAD GUY. It just made his character seem inconsistent and I didn’t feel like that worked with the story. Also, his and Talin’s relationship made approximately 5% of sense to me.

Overall, I actually liked this book quite a bit and will definitely be reading the second. Though, I’m not really sure where the plot can go from here? I have some suspicions, but if my suspicions are correct, I don’t like it. I guess we’ll see!

Overall Rating: 4
Language: None
Violence: Moderate
Smoking/Drinking: Mild
Sexual Content: Mild

Note: I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Probably the darkest 12 Dancing Princesses retelling you’ll ever read | House of Salt & Sorrows by Erin A. Craig [ARC]

House of Salt and SorrowsAnnaleigh just wants her sisters to stop dying. There used to be twelve of them but now that Ava, Octavia, Elizabeth, and Eulalie are all dead, there are only eight of them left. As she struggles to mourn the latest death, Eulalie’s, Annaleigh must also find a way to comfort her younger sisters when the town starts theorizing about a family curse. Frustrated that all of the young men are too afraid of “the curse” to court them, the sisters realize they must try to find young men that have never heard of them or their dead sisters. They think they might have found a way, but what will it cost them?

TL;DR – The story of the 12 Dancing Princesses darker than you’ve ever heard it. Part mystery and part fairytale retelling, it comes together better than expected even if a little confusing at times.

Order: Hardcover | eBook

Sometimes I request books on NetGalley and then when it’s finally time to read and review, I’ve forgotten what the book was supposed to be about. I went into this book pretty blind–I didn’t realize at first that it was a retelling until they were buying their “fairy shoes”. With that being said, I love a good retelling and I’ve actually read quite a few retellings of the 12 Dancing Princesses. This one was different. A lot of the ones I’ve read stick to the “secret door in their room that leads to another place” outline. I’ve even read one or two where the princesses are forced to dance against their will. Craig’s take on the story felt a lot more insidious. I think part of it was Camille’s desperation and refusal to let go of this outlet she’d found and part of it was the spooky stuff that was going on with Verity.

Annaleigh was a likable character from the beginning. Her sisters varied in likability depending on what was going on, but they were all enjoyable. The only thing I wished was that we got to see the softer, kinder side of Camille. Annaleigh states that they grew up as best friends, but we never really see that side to their relationship. Camille is mostly just bratty and grumpy the whole book. Craig did a good job of making a lot of the secondary characters feel kind of grey. I wasn’t sure who was supposed to be good and who was supposed to be bad until almost the very end. It seemed like maybe we were getting set up for a love triangle, but the author managed to turn that on its head as well. I wasn’t super into Cassius as the love interest. I mean, he seemed perfect, but (as is often the case) we’re not really given any concrete reasons as to why he likes Annaleigh. He seems like this perfect guy (too perfect) so what exactly does he want with or flawed main character? Authors! We need an explanation for this!

The plot was twisty and suspenseful. I genuinely didn’t know what was going to happen next or what the conclusion was going to be until it was upon us. Without giving anything away, I will say that I’m a little disappointed by some character resolutions…I’ll just leave it at that. I thought the religious system could have used a little more explanation. Maybe the author could have started each chapter with a myth or legend about the gods that these people believed in. It’s just that almost nothing is said about their gods in the first 2/3 of the book, and then all of the sudden they start playing this huge role.

Overall, I would recommend this book for people who are looking for darker fairytale retellings. While it has a happy(ish) ending, I wouldn’t say that it’s feel good at all. It was definitely darker and creepier than I had anticipated–I was surprised by the touch of horror! I would definitely say this could be a good book to read in late September or in October to get ready for Halloween.

Overall Rating: 4
Language: None
Violence: Moderate
Smoking/Drinking: Moderate
Sexual Content: Mild

Note: I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.