Arc Review: Well Traveled (Well Met #4) by Jen DeLuca

Title: Well Traveled (Well Met #4)
Author: Jen DeLuca
Genre: Adult Cointemporary / Romance
Publication Date: December 6th, 2022
Publisher: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Thank you to the publisher and netgalley for a complimentary earc to review! All opinions are my own.

“A high-powered attorney from a success-oriented family, Louisa “Lulu” Malone lives to work, and everything seems to be going right, until the day she realizes it’s all wrong. Lulu’s cousin Mitch introduced her to the world of Renaissance Faires, and when she spies one at a time just when she needs an escape, she leaps into the welcoming environment of turkey legs, taverns, and tarot readers. The only drawback? Dex MacLean: a guitarist with a killer smile, the Casanova of the Faire… and her traveling companion for the summer.
Dex has never had to work for much in his life, and why should he? Touring with his brothers as The Dueling Kilts is going great, and he always finds a woman at every Faire. But when Lulu proves indifferent to his many plaid charms and a shake-up threatens the fate of the band, Dex must confront something he never has before: his future.
Forced to spend days and nights together on the road, Lulu’s interest in the kilted bad boy grows as he shows her a side of himself no one else has seen. The stresses of her old lifestyle fade away as she learns to trust her intuition and follow her heart instead of her head. But when her time on the road is over, will Lulu go with her gut, or are she and Dex destined for separate paths?” (Goodreads)

This one was hard to rate. One side, I did like it but on the other, it wasn’t a favorite which is really disappointing. Again, I did like it though! Close proximity, finding oneself, and kilts? Come on!

The book is told from one point-of-view and it comes from Lulu. We were introduced to her in the last book and I loved her! I couldn’t wait to see what her story would be about. She definitely goes through a lot of growth when it comes to her job, family, and love. I do wish that there would have been more when it came to her family but I understand, she was living off-the-grid. It’s just a shame we saw them in the last book with Mitch but not in this one. I think it would have added a bit more.

There are other characters that were present in other books come back for this one. Stacey and Daniel are one of my favorite couples! I am happy they are back and helping Lulu find her purpose. It was nice to see another side from them as well as the others in the Dueling Kilts, especially Dex. He is the definition of not judging a book by its cover and he gets judged a lot from those close to him as well as all of the other people putting on a show at the ren faire. He is hiding a softer interior and I loved getting to know him a whole lot better.

The romance between Dex and Lulu was cute. It involves close-proximity and not knowing what the future holds. They learn a lot about each other before ever getting into anything I liked that approach. The downside is that even though they were getting to know each other, it felt like a rapid stride from somewhat friends to lovers and it just didn’t work for me. Don’t get me wrong, there were cute moments between them and I still loved them but I just wanted more between them. You know what I mean?

Overall, I liked this one. Not a favorite but it was still a good read and I’m glad that Dex had a happy ending after meeting him in book two. I’m also glad we got to see Lulu and understand her better as well. She really is a great character.

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Arc Review: Death Checked Out by Leah Dobrinska

Title: Death Checked Out
Author: Leah Dobrinska
Genre: Adult Contemporary / Cozy Mystery
Publication Date: December 6th, 2022
Publisher: Level Best Books
Rating: ⭐⭐✨

Thank you to the publisher and netgalley for a complimentary earc to review! All opinions are my own.

“When in doubt, go to the library…and solve the murder mystery!
Greta Plank, library director in the small, lakeside town of Larkspur, Wisconsin, prefers her rose-tinted glasses extra rosy, thank you very much. It’s how she copes with the hard stuff in life…like her sister’s death and her ex-boyfriend’s deception. But Greta’s cheery resolve takes a hit when she stumbles upon a dead body on her way home from work. What she assumes is a terrible accident Greta soon learns is something more sinister, and to make matters worse, a new-to-town detective cites her as not only his primary source for the case, but his top suspect.
To clear her name and save her reputation, Greta decides to do some off-the-books clue cataloging of her own. After all, asking questions is what she does best. With the help of her fellow librarians and her lawyer mom, Greta flips through the pages of the murder, uncovering details about Larkspur’s real estate market and the deceased’s rare book collection as she tries to understand why anyone would have authored his death.
With friends and neighbors stacking up as both victims and suspects, Greta must cross reference the facts and put a hold on her idyllic worldview if she wants to get the full story without paying the fine of her life.” (Goodreads)

I’ve been getting into cozy mysteries a lot more and when I saw this one on Netgalley I figured why not give it a try! It had a librarian as the MC and that’s pretty cool to me.

The book is told from one point-of-view and it comes from Greta who is a small-town library director. I didn’t think that she was a bad character in any way, but I didn’t feel a connection towards her or any of the other characters. They all just felt very basic and it didn’t feel like anyone had a personality. I think this is why I had such a hard time getting into the book. The romance, start of it/love interest, didn’t feel natural and I wasn’t a fan.

It doesn’t take long in the beginning to get the murder mystery started. I was actually kind of sad with the choice of the first victim and I didn’t even know them that well, ha. The best part of this book was definitely the murder mystery. I didn’t guess who it was or what the reasoning would be. The author does a good job keeping the reader off the trail and that can be hard to do.

Overall, this an alright read. I do wish the characters had a bit more personality. I think it would have helped to make this book shine. I did at least like the mystery!

Arc Review: Curse of Shadows (Amassia #2) by A.K. Wilder

Title: Curse of Shadows (Amassia #2)
Author: A.K. Wilder
Genre: YA Fantasy
Publication Date: December 6th, 2022
Publisher: Entangled: Teen
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

Thank you to the publisher and netgalley for a complimentary earc to review! All opinions are my own.

“Amassia teeters on the brink of the next Great Dying.
The second sun has returned as our Bone Throwers foresaw–casting the nine realms into war.
My name is Ash, and I fell in the battle for Baiseen. But I’m awake now, slowly putting the pieces back together.
My Heir has lost his throne.
My sailor is gone.
And there is an emptiness inside me I can’t explain.
Amid the chaos, someone must collect the original twelve whistle bones from all corners of the world. Marcus is named to lead the cause, but with his volatile phantom, he’ll need diplomacy as much as his sword. And we are not the only ones to seek the bones.
Yet succeed we must.
Because if we don’t, it will be death to all…” (Goodreads)

I was excited to dive back into this world after the initial shock from the cliffhanger of the first book. It was such a thrilling book filled with humor, adventure, and plot twists. Who wouldn’t want to continue on?

Unfortunately, although I liked parts of the sequel I didn’t find myself having the exact same feeling as the first book. Things just felt a bit different. I will say that it could potentially be due to my mood since Fantasy hasn’t been my top genre lately.

The book is told from multiple point-of-views just like in the first. I always like seeing this and was surprised to see a couple more point-of-views as well. It made for interesting developments and added to the overall plot to help have everything come together. I did like some characters more than others. Marcus was a good one and had a lot going on when it came to his family as well as learning what his new role meant. Ash also had more going on for her, mostly at the end though which was kind of disappointing especially not knowing if there will be another book. I haven’t heard anything so I can’t confirm. It does have a cliffhanger so who knows!

There were a lot of plot twists happening as the book progressed. I felt like some were more dramatic than others and that could be due to one happening to a character that hasn’t been present until this book and even then he didn’t have much page time. It makes it hard to connect and feel something when I don’t know much about him.

I feel like this book lacked the humor the first one had. Kaylin was very charming and had a very swoon-worthy persona. It could be due to wanting more from his relationship with Ash but there wasn’t much development there either.

Overall, this was a decent sequel. I didn’t love it but I liked aspects of it. I am curious to see if there is going to be another book because of the ending. Only time will tell!

Arc Review: To Get to the Other Side by Kelly Ohlert

Title: To Get to the Other Side
Author: Kelly Ohlert
Genre: Adult Contemporary / Romance
Publication Date: December 6th, 2022
Publisher: Alcove Press
Rating: ⭐⭐

Thank you to the publisher and netgalley for a complimentary earc to review! All opinions are my own.

“Trixie isn’t exactly sure what she was thinking when she stopped her car in the middle of downtown Chicago, scooped up a chicken struggling to cross the road, and drove off… but she does know that she has to find a new home for herself and her new feathered friend. The landlord at her apartment doesn’t allow pets and has caught Trixie in one too many pet-smuggling attempts in the past.

Bear likes his quiet life with his close-knit family, who own a flower business, but he’s in for a rude awakening when his meddlesome sisters post an ad to rent the spare room in his simple home, without asking his permission. Still, when Trixie responds to the ad, he agrees to let her move in, despite immediate worries about keeping things platonic.

Determined to keep her new room, befriend Bear, and give her rescue chicken the care she deserves, Trixie fights to keep her walls up and resist her romantic feelings for Bear. However, it’s not long before the pair’s proximity and chicken parenting ignite flames that have Trixie and Bear testing the boundaries of their platonic ground rules. They have to figure out how to save a family business, pay for mounting vet bills, and navigate their own emotional baggage if they want to find the love that they all deserve.” (Goodreads)

This book may be someone else’s cup of tea, but it wasn’t for me. This isn’t the worst book I have read and had some decent aspects to it but it wasn’t as cute as I had wanted it to be.

The book is told from two point-of-views, Trixie and Bear. They are complete opposites and have one run-in before she notices an ad for a roommate and it happens to be his home. Not of his doing though, pesky sisters. Although I liked the setup for the book, I felt like the characters stayed the same throughout and kind of fell flat. I also felt that out of all of the people he could have as a roommate it’s her and he has only seen her chase a chicken, literally. The romance feels very insta-lovey from this point and that is not my vibe.

I did think that the plot line which included a chicken was real unique. I had never seen it done before. As someone who has chickens in the backyard it was fun to see. This plot line does drag on a bit and can get old and boring because it feels like it should have been resolved sooner than it had.

Overall, this was interesting and had a unique setup but it lost it’s charm and ended up only being an okay read for me.

Arc Review: The Poison Season by Mara Rutherford

Title: The Poison Season
Author: Mara Rutherford
Genre: YA Fantasy
Publication Date: December 6th, 2022
Publisher: Inkyard Press
Rating: ⭐⭐

Thank you to the publisher and netgalley for a complimentary earc to review. All opinions are my own.

“Leelo has spent her entire life on Endla, coexisting with the bloodthirsty Forest and respecting the poisonous lake that protects her island from outsiders who seek to destroy it. But as much as Leelo cares for her community, she struggles to accept that her younger brother will be exiled by his next birthday, unless he gains the magic of enchanted song so vital to Endla.
When Leelo sees a young outsider on the verge of drowning in the lake, she knows exactly what she’s supposed to do. But in a moment that will change everything, Leelo betrays her family, her best friend, and Endla by making an unthinkable choice.
Discovery could lead to devastating consequences for both Leelo and the outsider, Jaren, but as they grow closer, Leelo realizes that not all danger comes from beyond the lake—and they can only survive if Leelo is willing to question the very fabric of her society, her people, and herself.” (Goodreads)

I keeping going back and forth with this author. Although I liked her debut duology, the last two books (this one is included in that) she has written have just not been for me. I don’t know if it is because they are standalones or the writing. It could honestly be both. The writing, especially for this one, felt on the younger YA side and I’m just not a fan of that.

The book is told from multiple point-of-views but done in third-person narrative. The point-of-views came more from Leelo though than Jaren. It does make sense as to why it is done this way since they are from different areas but she is the one who lives on a mysterious island where outsiders are not welcome.

I don’t think the characters were bad. I just didn’t connect with them. They do go through some harsh things, especially Leelo. She has to maneuver her feelings and still try to be there for her family even though it feels like some of them belittle her. A lot of the side characters had very little page time and were mostly there for certain plotlines. Leelo very much as the “not like other girls” vibe going on and it’s one trope I just can’t do.

Even though the setting was interesting I felt like the world-building lacked overall and I still had some unanswered questions. I wouldn’t say that this book was any different than others I have read with similar styles. It was just average. 🤷‍♀️

Overall, this wasn’t for me. I wanted to like it but it is hard when the writing doesn’t work for you and you can’t connect with the characters. I love the cover though!

Book Review: Married by Fate by Jenny Hickman

Title: Married by Fate
Author: Jenny Hickman
Genre: YA Fantasy / Romance
Publication Date: September 16th, 2022
Publisher: Indie
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

“He’s a Prince bound by duty.
She’s his brother’s fae bride.
Until fate intervenes.
Lady Roisin knew her fate was to marry a human prince, helping to heal the rift between the humans and the fae. Luckily, she fell desperately in love with her betrothed, the dashing heir to the Vellanian throne, Prince Alrec. One day soon, she will be his queen. A day Roisin has been looking forward to for as long as she can remember.
As the king’s youngest son, Prince Caiman knew his fate was to live in his older brother Alrec’s shadow. One day soon, Alrec will be crowned king. A day Caiman has been dreading for as long as he can remember.
When tragedy strikes the kingdom, Caiman is forced to ascend to the throne in his brother’s stead. But becoming King of Vellana means upholding the alliance with the fae by marrying his brother’s betrothed. And marrying a woman who has despised him for years cannot end in happily-ever-after . . .” (Goodreads)

I don’t always like short books but when I do, I definitely do!

This book is told from two point-of-views and they come from Roisin and Caiman. Roisin is a fae who was told she would be contracted to marry a prince from the human world. Caiman is the second son/prince who wasn’t what she wanted and would be in the shadow of his older brother. This pair was to die for! I loved their banter and the sweet moments they shared together as they learned to rely on one another. It just made my heart melt.

Plus, I just love books with brothers. I am addicted!

It is very fast paced but I feel like I had a good grasp on the characters, plot, and world-building. Like with most short books, I needed more because I enjoyed it so much.

Overall, this was a good stand-alone and I will be checking out this author’s books since this was my first time reading a work from her and I enjoyed her writing.

Book Review: Blackmail and Bibingka by Mia P. Manansala

Title: Blackmail and Bibingka (Tita Rosie’s Kitchen Mystery #3)
Author: Mia P. Manansala
Genre: Adult Cozy Mystery / Contemporary
Publication Date: October 4th, 2022
Publisher: Berkley Books
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

“It’s Christmastime in Shady Palms, but things are far from jolly for Lila Macapagal. Sure, her new business, The Brew-ha Cafe, is looking to turn a profit in its first year. And yes, she’s taken the first step in a new romance with her good friend, Jae Park. But her cousin Ronnie is back in town after ghosting the family fifteen years ago, claiming that his recent purchase of a local winery shows that he’s back on his feet and ready to give back to the Shady Palms community. Tita Rosie is thrilled with the return of her prodigal son, but Lila knows that wherever Ronnie goes, trouble follows.
She’s soon proven right when Ronnie is accused of murder, and secrets and rumors surrounding her shady cousin and those involved with the winery start piling up. Now Lila has to put away years of resentment and distrust to prove her cousin’s innocence. He may be a jerk, but he’s still family. And there’s no way her flesh and blood could actually be a murderer…right?” (Goodreads)

I was hesitant on starting this one since I wasn’t really a fan of the second book. I’m happy to say that this one worked well and I enjoyed solving the mystery right along side Lila.

The book is told from one point-of-view and it comes from Lila Macapagal. She is still very curious about solving crimes and somehow she always ends up at a crime scene. Her dog is still the star of the show and they definitely got a lot of page time!

The other characters were also interesting to get to know. Ronnie has been her estranged cousin and moved back recently to start a winery after being away for 15 years. It’s not the best time to show up when a murder happens at the winery but at least he has a cousin like Lila. Although, there is some built up anger between them.

I’m always happy when I don’t know who the murderer is and this was exactly that! I kept going back and forth on who I thought it was and I would have never guessed the outcome of it all.

Overall, this was another fun cozy mystery. I’m glad I read the acknowledgement because it said there will be three more books. Woo! Can’t wait to see what the next plot consists of.

Arc Review: House of Yesterday by Deeba Zargarpur

Title: House of Yesterday
Author: Deeba Zargarpur
Genre: YA Contemporary / Paranormal
Publication Date: November 29th, 2022
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Thank you to the publisher and netgalley for a complimentary audiobook to review! All opinions are my own.

“Struggling to deal with the pain of her parents’ impending divorce, fifteen-year-old Sara is facing a world of unknowns and uncertainties. Unfortunately, the one person she could always lean on when things got hard, her beloved Bibi Jan, has become a mere echo of the grandmother she once was. And so Sara retreats into the family business, hoping a summer working on her mom’s latest home renovation project will provide a distraction from her fracturing world.
But the house holds more than plaster and stone. It holds secrets that have her clinging desperately to the memories of her old life. Secrets that only her Bibi Jan could have untangled. Secrets Sara is powerless to ignore as the dark truths of her family’s history rise in ghostly apparitions — and with it, the realization that as much as she wants to hold onto her old life, nothing will ever be the same.
Told in lush, sweeping prose, this story of secrets, summer, and family sacrifice will chill you to the bone as the house that wraps Sara in warmth of her past becomes the one thing she cannot escape…” (Goodreads)

This was a unique read and one with a powerful message that many will be able to relate to. The audiobook was nicely done and I enjoyed listening to the narrator.

The book is told from one point-of-view and it comes from Sara. Her story isn’t the only one we are following though. There are flashbacks from her families life and they are very interesting! They can also be on the darker side as well. I haven’t read many inter-generational books but I enjoyed learning more about Sara’s family past and what it means for her future.

Sara is very strong willed and it can put her in dangerous situation, and does, as well having her come off as selfish in a way. I think that all of her feelings are valid though. Her parents are going through a divorce and it isn’t easy on her or seeing her mother have to deal with the aftermath. It is very messy and when you add in her father being in a new relationship it just takes it to a whole other level. I have not personally had to deal with divorce parents but my husband has and I’ve had to see him deal with it when we were younger as well as trying to play it safe when figuring out holidays etc. It is a lot of work and can definitely be stressful and hard.

Her grandmother is a key part of the story and the key to unraveling the mystery that surrounds her family. I could understand trying to find answers and hitting a brick road when the person you need to talk to the most is struggling with the decline of their mind. I have seen it happen with my own grandmother and it is heartbreaking to watch.

There is so much to unpack from this story and it feels like I have only touched the surface.

Overall, this was worth the listen. I liked the narrator and the beautiful story that unfolded even if it was sad. I do think that there was some hope sprinkled in, especially at the end.

Arc Review: On Spine of Death (By the Book #2) by Tamara Berry

Title: On Spine of Death (By the Book #2)
Author: Tamara Berry
Genre: Cozy Mystery / Contemporary
Publication Date: November 29th, 2022
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Thank you to the publisher and netgalley for a complimentary earc to review! All opinions are my own.

“In the aftermath of solving their first murder, bestselling author Tess Harrow and her teenage daughter Gertrude have decided to stay in Winthrop permanently. Now that they’ve made some updates to their cabin in the woods, they’re turning to the family hardware store that Tess inherited and converting it into the town’s first independent bookstore. But when renovations unearth bones from a cold case and send them toppling—literally—onto Tess’s head, the work comes to a grinding halt. With the whole town convinced that her grandfather was a serial killer, Tess has to call in a fellow horror author for reinforcements. Together, they’ll come up with a perfect story to make all the clues fit…and solve a mystery more than thirty years in the making.” (Goodreads)

What another thrilling book in this series!

The book is told once again from the point-of-view of Tess Harrow, a mystery writer who recently moved to the small town of Winthrop. It hasn’t been a quiet time either because bodies keep popping up. Tess is on the case and somehow keeps stumbling into trouble.

I love Tess. She is funny and loves pestering the sheriff. He still may not want to admit his feelings but I can see her weaseling her way into his heart. They both have different ways of handling situations and her method is usually going in guns a blazing, it doesn’t always work out in her favor though. Her daughter is another great character and I like that she has been diving into her own hobbies which still end up involving mysteries and bodies. What a weird family, haha.

New characters have also popped up and I am curious to see if they will have more to their story arc, one in particular!

As with the last book, I did not see the big reveal going down the way that it did, let alone figure out who it was! I didn’t suspect them and kind of feel like an idiot for not, ha. It was a great plot and I loved going along for the ride.

Overall, this was another great cozy mystery. I am very happy that I found this author.

Arc Review: A Wilderness of Stars by Shea Ernshaw

Title: A Wilderness of Stars
Author: Shea Ernshaw
Genre: YA Fantasy / Romance
Publication Date: November 29th, 2022
Publisher:  Simon & Schuster Books for Young
Rating: ⭐⭐

Thank you to the publisher and netgalley for a complimentary earc to review! All opinions are my own.

If magic lives anywhere, it’s in the stars…
Vega has lived in the valley her whole life—forbidden by her mother to leave the safety of its borders because of the unknown threats waiting for her in the wilds beyond. But after her mother dies, Vega begins to see stars falling from the sky. It’s an omen she can no longer ignore, forcing her to leave the protective boundaries of the valley. But the outside world turns out to be much more terrifying than Vega could have imagined. People are gravely sick—they lose their eyesight and their hearing, just before they lose their lives.
What Vega keeps to herself is that she is the Last Astronomer—a title carried from generation to generation—and she is the only one who carries the knowledge of the stars. Knowledge that could hold the key to the cure. And so when locals spot the tattoo on Vega’s neck in the shape of a constellation—the mark of an astronomer—chaos erupts as the threats her mother warned her about become all too real.
Fearing for her life, Vega will be rescued by a girl named Cricket who will lead her to Noah, a boy marked by his own mysterious tattoos. On the run from the men who are hunting her, Vega, Cricket, and Noah will set out across the plains in search of the cure the stars speak of. But as the lines between friend and prisoner begin to blur, Vega must decide whether she will protect the sacred knowledge of an astronomer. Or if she will risk everything to try to save them all.” (Goodreads)

I need to tell myself that this author just isn’t for me but I keep coming back when I see the blurb of the latest book by her.

The book is told from one point-of-view and it comes from Vega. There are a couple chapters that are past tense from a different astronomer which is what Vega is as well. I wouldn’t say that there is too much to her character or even the others in the book. I have said this when reviewing her other books and I will say it again, the character development was lacking. I thought the romance was fine. They weren’t bad together and they felt bonded due to their jobs, but it’s also hard to feel anything when you aren’t connecting to the characters.

I do think that the plot was very unique. I have not read a book that was filled with astronomy and I liked the details here and there about it. The problem is that the plot is very slow in the beginning and nothing exciting really happens until you get farther into the book. A lot of secrets and breadcrumbs but I just needed more to be hooked by it.

As always, her writing is beautiful and it’s one thing that keeps me coming back. I just wish there was more substance to it all.

Overall, this okay but ultimately it ended up being a miss. Even though that was the case for me, it could be for you! Give it a try if it piques your interest.