Food and drama and family, oh my | Love á la Mode by Stephanie Kate Strohm [ARC]

Love a la ModeRosie and Henry are both on their way to Paris to live at the Ecole. It’s a culinary high school for teens around the world who love to cook. Rosie is from a small town in Ohio and isn’t sure if she really belongs at the Ecole since her passion is baking, not cooking. Henry is from Chicago and just wishes that his mom would get off his back and let him do what he loves–cook. Both Henry and Rosie will need to prove to themselves that they really belong in Paris and along the way, they may find something else as well–it is the city of love after all.

TL;DR – Loved the food aspect, but everything else (characters, drama) felt exaggerated and shallow.

I really, REALLY liked the premise of this book. I’m not an awesome cook or anything, but I can appreciate good food and I love watching Food Network. Honestly, this book read like it was written by somebody who also just enjoys watching Food Network and doesn’t know much about the culture of cooking, etc. The main characters were in awe of a chef who won Chopped four times…I just have a hard time believing that’s actually what Michelin star winning chefs actually care about. I also questioned teenagers being sent to Paris for high school? But I guess people send their kids to boarding schools all the time, so maybe it’s not that weird.

The characters were okay for me. They seemed relatively immature and there was a bit of an instalove component between Henry and Rosie. I thought the friend group had the potential to have a great dynamic, but in the end it fell kind of flat for me. I felt like each secondary character was a stereotype or caricature of their culture…they all just felt so exaggerated.

Plotwise, again, the book was just okay. The drama between Henry, Rosie, and Bodie felt SUPER fabricated. Henry and Rosie are pretty much with each other 24/7 and they can’t find two seconds to talk and clear the air? I also didn’t appreciate how angry Henry would get at Rosie doing things with Bodie. Henry and Rosie weren’t actually dating and Rosie doesn’t owe him ANYTHING. I mean, she does end up liking Henry, but even if she did like Bodie, Henry has NO RIGHT to be upset about that.

The last criticism I have is how the author treated Henry’s “tiger mom”. Henry is Korean and his mom is super involved with his academics–even going as far as to email his teachers in Paris. To me, it feels like an Asian tiger mom can really be portrayed in a bad light and I feel like Henry’s mom was mostly portrayed negatively in this book. I feel like the tiger mom thing was used as a plot device to inject more drama into the story. Henry’s mom felt like just another character exaggeration and I didn’t really appreciate that coming from a white author.

Overall, this book was just okay. I liked the descriptions of food (hard to go wrong there), but the book itself didn’t really have any weight or depth. I’d probably advise a pass on this one.

Overall Rating: 3
Language: None
Violence: Mild
Smoking/Drinking: Mild
Sexual Content: Mild

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

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Celeb romance with a psychological twist | Tell Me No Lies by A.V. Geiger [ARC]

Note: This is the second book in a duology and may contain spoilers for the first book. For my review on the first book, Follow Me Back, please click here.

Tell Me No LiesTessa is obsessed with Eric Thorn and now her wildest fangirl dreams are coming true–they’re officially dating. It’s not quite the fairytale she imagined, however, as she just had to frame herself for Eric’s murder. Now she and Eric are in hiding, but when another celebrity outs Eric’s death as #fakenews, he’s forced to go back to work for his label and they’re working him harder than ever. Tessa barely gets to see him and she starts to wonder if Eric really still cares for her.

TL;DR – Not as good as the first book in the duology. The author spreads herself over too many minor plot points and the main plot suffers.

I don’t remember really having an issue with the main characters in the last book, but man, in this book both Tessa and Eric are kind of annoying. All of the sudden they both just seemed really young to me. I mean, I think they’re both supposed to be like 17? And they’ve run off together? Um, no. Just no. Their interactions with each other as well as with other characters just seemed kind of immature.

Something I did like is that this book kind of takes a look at social media and some of the potentially damaging effects of it. However, I didn’t feel like it was always seamlessly integrated. I also liked the mental health representation. I liked the fact that it was there, but I did find myself wondering every once in a while about the authenticity of it. I just felt like a lot of Tessa’s actions and reactions didn’t make much sense to me, but that’s coming from someone without an anxiety disorder. So if anyone has any input on how authentic they felt Tessa’s anxiety disorder was portrayed, please let me know.

The plot in this book was just not as good as the last book was. I felt like the author spread herself a little thin with her other minor plot points like Tessa’s relationship with her mom and the other thing that happens that I don’t want to mention because of spoilers. These other plot points, while potentially interesting, just seemed kind of random and unnecessary. I wish the author had spent more time developing the main plot. While the book still had me guessing who was behind everything, I don’t feel like it was as twisty-turny as the first book and that’s something that I really loved.

Overall, this book isn’t awful, but I also didn’t think it was that good. I just remember feeling really amazed and confused at the end of the first book and this one did not leave me with that same feeling.

Overall Rating: 3
Language: None
Violence: Mild
Smoking/Drinking: None
Sexual Content: Mild

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

BLOG TOUR: Ace of Shades by Amanda Foody [GIVEAWAY]

Ace of ShadesAce of Shades
by Amanda Foody
Release Date: April 10, 2018
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy

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SYNOPSIS: Welcome to the City of Sin, where casino families reign, gangs infest the streets…and secrets hide in every shadow.

Enne Salta was raised as a proper young lady, and no lady would willingly visit New Reynes, the so-called City of Sin. But when her mother goes missing, Enne must leave her finishing school—and her reputation—behind to follow her mother’s trail to the city where no one survives uncorrupted.

Frightened and alone, her only lead is a name: Levi Glaisyer. Unfortunately, Levi is not the gentleman she expected—he’s a street lord and a con man. Levi is also only one payment away from cleaning up a rapidly unraveling investment scam, so he doesn’t have time to investigate a woman leading a dangerous double life. Enne’s offer of compensation, however, could be the solution to all his problems.

Their search for clues leads them through glamorous casinos, illicit cabarets and into the clutches of a ruthless mafia donna. As Enne unearths an impossible secret about her past, Levi’s enemies catch up to them, ensnaring him in a vicious execution game where the players always lose. To save him, Enne will need to surrender herself to the city…

And she’ll need to play.

REVIEW: This book was giving me major Six of Crows vibes with a little bit of Caraval mixed in. It was honestly kind of hard for me to give up the Six of Crows comparisons which I think took a little away from the enjoyment of the book for me. I kept trying to compare Levi to Kaz and he was just not measuring up. I wanted Levi to be harder and more ruthless, but I can also kind of see why he wasn’t written that way.

Enne as a character was so hard for me to deal with at first. She’s scared of her own shadow, but at the same time she gets mad at Levi when he tells her that she’s going to get robbed or killed if she acts a certain way/goes to a certain part of the city. Sorry Enne, but the guy lives there and I’d believe him. I’m so tired of female protags trying to insist that they know better than the guy who is acting as their guide in a new city. This is something that I feel happens ALL THE TIME and it’s aggravating. After a while, though, I actually did start to really like Enne and I’m definitely on the Enne-train now. The Levi/Enne ship though? Not quite as on board. I’m just not convinced.

Secondary characters were interesting even if we didn’t get very much time with them. I feel like some of them could have been more developed, but the story is told from Enne and Levi’s perspectives so I understand why they weren’t. I hope in future books we get to know them a little bit more though.

The overall world building was pretty good. I was a little confused about some things because they have cars and pay phones? But then they pay for things with what’s called “volts” which are kept in these glass orbs. I just wasn’t exactly sure what kind of technology existed in this world. I feel like the reader needed to learn a little bit more about the world’s history than we were actually given. I really liked the concept of “talents”, though, being passed down by blood and how you can tell what someone’s talent is by their name.

Lastly, I thought the plot was good and well-paced. The hunt for Lourdes lasted an appropriate amount of time and I thought the characters were portrayed as realistically looking for her while also taking the time to do their normal every day duties like, you know, working and sleeping. I especially thought the ending was well-paced. A lot of times I get to the end of the book and I feel like 50 million things happen within two chapters. That did not happen in this book. I thought the Shadow Game was SO INTERESTING and felt like it was given the appropriate amount of time.

Overall, I think I would have liked this book a little more if I hadn’t already read Six of Crows, but I still quite liked it. I’m not sure what direction this series is going to take (seems like it might dive into the world’s politics?) but I’ll definitely be in line for the next book.

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

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Amanda FoodyABOUT THE AUTHOR: 
Amanda Foody has always considered imagination to be our best attempt at magic. After spending her childhood longing to attend Hogwarts, she now loves to write about immersive settings and characters grappling with insurmountable destinies. She holds a Masters in Accountancy from Villanova University, and a Bachelors of Arts in English Literature from the College of William and Mary. Currently, she works as a tax accountant in Philadelphia, PA, surrounded by her many siblings and many books.

DAUGHTER OF THE BURNING CITY is her first novel. Her second, ACE OF SHADES, will follow in April 2018.

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

Sense and Sensibility and Tea | Jane of Austin by Hillary Manton Lodge [ARC]

 

Okay, so I know I’ve been a little MIA for a couple of weeks, but we’ve had a lot going on lately. The main thing is that we moved! Just seven blocks away, but still. It was far enough. With the baby coming, we just needed a bigger apartment. So that’s what’s been taking my time lately–the packing, moving, and unpacking…it’s never-ending. But we’re just about done, so hopefully I’ll be back with more wonderful content soon! In the meantime, here’s a review for a book that I read (and enjoyed) last month.


Jane of Austin

Jane Woodward and her sisters had been doing pretty good for themselves after their father’s business scandal. They had found a nice location on Valencia Street with an attached apartment to open their dream tea shop. But when their landlord dies, his son (well, really his son’s wife) forces them out. After trying all of their contacts, the sisters are left with no choice but to move into their cousin’s guest house in Austin, Texas. As they struggle to find a new location for their tea shop, the sisters also have to adjust to a different pace of life.

TL;DR – Overall, a good Jane Austen retelling. I liked all the characters, but found Celia hard to read at times. This book also heavily features food which is a definite plus in my opinion.

First off, I have always loved the idea of books that come with recipes. Have I ever tried any of those recipes? No. But that’s beside the point. Books that center around food are wildly attractive to me. I love food and I love reading about good food even if it makes me jealous and hungry. That’s why having books with recipes is so genius. Not only can you read about the food, but you could (hypothetically) actually make it afterwards.

With three sisters, you might think that it would be hard to connect with all of them or to make them distinguishable. However, I thought the author did a great job of helping us to understand each of the sisters as individuals even though Jane was clearly the main character. I still felt like I connected with both Celia and Margot. I also thought Callum was a good character and I enjoyed his narrations as well as Jane’s.

Sometimes I like multiple POV books and sometimes I don’t. This time I think it worked, but wasn’t necessary–or at least, wasn’t necessary from Callum’s point of view. I didn’t mind it, but I thought that having Celia as a narrator might have made more sense? Of course, that may have made it so the book was more about the sister relationship than the romance, but would that have been so bad? There were just times when I felt like Celia was hard to figure out, so I wished that she got a chance to narrate.

Overall, the plot was pretty similar to the original Sense and Sensibility. I always love retellings and this one was as good as any. I will say that I thought the ending was a little abrupt and fairy tale-ish (especially the epilogue portion). Despite that, I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who wants a fun, clean romance or anyone who enjoys Jane Austen retellings.

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

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

Sibling rivalry is brought to a whole new level | Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

Three Dark CrownsThree queens are born, but only one can survive. Every generation, triplet queens are forced to fight to the death. Whoever survives reigns as the new queen. Arsinoe, Mirabella, and Katherine have known this their whole lives. Unfortunately, both Arsinoe and Katherine are still working to master the gifts that the goddess has given them. Everybody knows that Mirabella is going to end up queen, but Arsinoe, Katherine, and the families that fostered them aren’t willing to go down without a fight.

TL;DR – Great main characters and plot, but the world building could use a little work/additional explanation. Also, get ready to be overloaded by secondary characters.

This book had been sitting on my shelf forever it seems. I finally got around to reading it, and immediately after I finished I made my husband go to Barnes & Noble to pick up the second book. I didn’t really think that I’d like it as much as I did–I think I might have heard a couple of negative reviews about it.

The first thing I noticed is that Blake did a really good job making all three queens likable. I didn’t necessarily have a favorite and I was really torn about which queen I wanted to end up winning. I think it could have been really easy to paint one queen as the hero and the other two as villains, but the whole premise of the book means their relationships and decisions are so complicated. I love how each sister has her own conflicting desires. It really makes you wonder how previous queens felt and reacted.

The overall plot was great and I really liked how politics played so strongly into the story line. I’m really intrigued to see how this series ends and I appreciate that the author is taking her time. I wouldn’t have been surprised if this book had ended with one of the sisters killing another, but it seems like that kind of thing won’t happen until later books. I will say, though, that the ending was very unexpected for me and was part of why I was so eager to get my hands on the second book.

The world building is the only part that I find a little weak. This is a very complicated world and it’s not fully explained. We’re not really given any history or background for how this place came to be or who/why the goddess is, etc. Why triplets? Why don’t queens reign longer? Who reigns while the triplets are growing up? How does the queen know what gifts the babies have? Why do people live in groups based on ability? Is it possible for a poisoner to be born to elementals? What would happen to them? Just so many questions.

My last little issue is that there were SO MANY secondary characters. Seriously. I only started to figure out who everyone was after about 2/3 or 3/4 of the book. Other than that, though, I really enjoyed this book and am also enjoying the second book so far. I would definitely recommend.

Overall Rating: 4
Language: None
Violence: Moderate
Smoking/Drinking: Mild
Sexual Content: Moderate (a couple of scenes, no explicit descriptions)

BLOG TOUR: The Sweetest Kind of Fate by Crystal Cestari [GIVEAWAY]

The Sweetest Kind of FateThe Sweetest Kind of Fate
by Crystal Cestari
Release Date: February 13, 2018
Genres: Young Adult, Paranormal, Fantasy

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SYNOPSIS: GREAT. I’ve somehow found myself tangled up with a siren, a mermaid, and a homicidal wicked witch who once tried to strangle me to death. Way to go, Amber!

Amber Sand, legendary matchmaker, couldn’t be more surprised when her arch nemesis, Ivy, comes asking for her help. Ivy’s sister, Iris, is getting married, and Ivy wants to prove her sister is making a huge mistake. But as Amber looks into Iris’s eyes, there doesn’t seem to be a problem—Iris has clearly found her match.

It seems happily ever after is in the cards, but when Iris seeks out a dangerous, life-altering spell, it’s up to Amber and Ivy to set aside their rivalry and save the day.

While Iris is willing to put everything on the line for love, Amber continues to wrestle with her own romantic future. Her boyfriend, Charlie, is still destined for another, and no matter how hard she clings to him, fear over their inevitable breakup shakes her belief system to the core.

Because the Fates are never wrong—right?

REVIEW: I really enjoyed the first book in this series. I thought Amber was such a delightful character. Unfortunately, I felt like she wasn’t quite as delightful this time around. I think some of that centers around her jealousy of another character. It was just kind of annoying and immature. I mean, what did she expect to happen? I just feel like she should have had more foresight and done something about it.

Amani and Kim were great secondary characters even if we didn’t get to see too much of Kim. Charlie seemed a lot less present in this book than in the last one. His relationship with Amber is kind of weird for me though. Because she knows that he’s not her match, so I don’t really understand how she can justify feeling jealous or why she thinks that their relationship will last.

The plot itself was interesting, but I felt like it got pushed to the side at times to deal with Amber’s drama. There seemed to be an overarching theme of “love” throughout the book and the author hit it pretty hard a few times–I’m just not exactly sure why. It almost felt like this book had some kind of deeper meaning, but if it did, it went over my head.

Overall, this book was still pretty good, but not as good as the first in my opinion. I still love the descriptions of Chicago and all the baked goods, but there were just some other things that weren’t quite as enjoyable.

Overall Rating: 3
Language: None
Violence: Moderate
Smoking/Drinking: Mild
Sexual Content: Mild


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Crystal Cestari 2ABOUT THE AUTHOR: 
With rainbows in my hair and stories in my head, I am a writer drawn to magic in the everyday world.

My debut novel, The Best Kind of Magic, arrives May 16, 2017 from Hyperion. Follow Amber Sand, a magical matchmaker who can actually see true love, as she takes off on a fun and romantic adventure toward happily ever after.

Website|Goodreads|Twitter|Instagram


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

This book was so Jake | The Diviners by Libba Bray

The DivinersAfter a careless night of drinking and partying, Evie is being sent to live with her uncle in New York. New York of the 1920s doesn’t seem like such a punishment to Evie especially when she gets there and finds out that her uncle runs a museum based on the occult and all things supernatural. Her uncle seems pretty cool but his assistant, Jericho, is a total wet blanket. Evie plans to just have a good time in the big city with her friend Mabel and her new friend Theta but that’s brought to a screeching halt when a serial killer is discovered. That alone is scary enough, but this killer seems to have ties with the occult and Evie, her uncle, and Jericho soon find themselves in the middle of the investigation.

If you liked this, you should also read: In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters

TL;DR – A great setting and murder mystery were hampered by a slow pace and multiple subplots that don’t add to the main plot (but will probably come into play later in the series).

I LOVE the 1920s as a time period. Not that I would have wanted to be alive back then, but looking back at that decade is always fun. There’s just so much glitz and glamour. Every day is a party. I know that this is incredibly romanticized, but I can’t help it. This book does a great job of evoking all of those feelings but also showing some of the rougher sides of the 1920s. I especially appreciate the frank depiction of Theta and Memphis’ relationship as an interracial couple. I also feel like Bray did a good job of showing a little bit of what every day life was like in the 1920s–not just the speakeasies. The language seemed super authentic to me and that was something I really enjoyed.

The plot of this book was pretty fantastic but it started off SO SLOW. Honestly, the only reason I kept with it past the first 200 pages is because I know how many people really love this book and series. There was nothing inherently wrong with the beginning of the book, but there wasn’t much that made me want to get back into it after I set it down. Not much was happening and I didn’t find Evie to be a very likable character.

Speaking of Evie…she just wasn’t my favorite. She was immature, selfish, and impulsive. While she did show some growth throughout the book, it wasn’t much (especially not 600 pages worth). She’s pretty much the same character at the end as she is in the beginning. She just doesn’t think things through or think about other people! The rest of the characters were fine and I felt like there was a lot to be explored with them, which will probably happen in future books.

Another issue I had was just with how LONG this book is. I don’t necessarily mind a 600 page book, but not all of the characters and subplots were essential to the story. Obviously the author is setting up the rest of the series, but I just don’t feel like that was necessary to do in the first book. If she had cutout all the extra things about Theta, Memphis, and Henry, then the book probably would have been a much more manageable 300 pages. The whole time, I was expecting a bunch of characters to come together in the end with their special skills to take down the bad guy but…that never happened. So then here I am at the end of the book feeling unfulfilled and not really caring about Theta or Sam Lloyd or Henry DuBois (or the girl from the Chinese restaurant–what does she have to do with anything???).

Overall, I actually did like this book (despite my critiques). I thought the murders were creative and the way the characters solved the mystery seemed logical and was fairly easy to follow. However, while I think I would probably enjoy the rest of the series, I have no drive to actually pick up the next book. I would recommend this book for those who don’t mind a slower pace and are willing to invest for the long haul.

Overall Rating: 4
Language: None
Violence: Heavy (slightly graphic but not too descriptive)
Smoking/Drinking: Heavy
Sexual Content: Moderate