Arc Review: The Raven Thief (Secret Staircase Mystery #2) by Gigi Pandian

Title: The Raven Thief (Secret Staircase Mystery #2)
Author: Gigi Pandian
Genre: Adult Contemporary / Cozy Mystery
Publication Date: March 21st, 2023
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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

One murder. Four impossibilities. A fake séance hides a very real crime.

Secret Staircase Construction just finished their first project with Tempest Raj officially a part of the team—a classic mystery novel-themed home interior. Their client is now ready to celebrate her new life without her cheating ex-husband, famous mystery author Corbin Colt. First up, a party, and Tempest and Grandpa Ash are invited to the exclusive mock séance to remove any trace of Corbin from the property—for good. It’s all lighthearted fun until Corbin’s dead body crashes the party.
The only possible suspects are the eight people around the séance table—a circle of clasped hands that wasn’t broken. Suspicion quickly falls on Grandpa Ash, the only one with actual blood on him. To prove her beloved grandfather’s innocence, Tempest must figure out what really happened—and how—or Ash will be cooking his delectable Indian and Scottish creations nevermore.” (Goodreads)

I enjoyed reading the first book in this cozy mystery series and was excited to see the sequel on Netgalley. I’m happy I was able to get the audiobook as the narration was well done!

The book is told from one point-of-view and it comes from Tempest Raj. She is working at the family business with her dad after her magician job didn’t pan out well after the tragedies in book one. I was curious to see what she would be up to and although she isn’t a practicing magician, she still has a few tricks up her sleeve!

I like Tempest. She is strong willed and family is very important to her. It’s not easy to see her grandpa, and even her dad, in tough spots as the investigation gets going for the death of Corbin. The family is always there for one another regardless of the circumstances and they always have friends to back them up to. It’s a really great community. It’s surprising that death is always following them, haha.

Even though there is not a lot of development for the side characters, I didn’t mind. It adds a bit of mystery to them and what we do find out helps give us clues as to who may be the murderer. I never guessed who it was! I did like that a lot of the clues surround books. I love a book about books.

Overall, this was another good book in the series. There is still one mystery that hasn’t been solved yet which deals with Tempest’s mother. Hopefully that means we will get more books!


Book Review | Containment & Salvation (Sanctuary #2 & #3) by Caryn Lix

Title: Containment (Sanctuary #2)
Author: Caryn Lix
Genre: YA Sci-Fi
Publication Date: August 6th, 2019
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐💫

They may have escaped Sanctuary, but Kenzie and her friends are far from safe.

Ex-Omnistellar prison guard Kenzie and her superpowered friends barely made it off Sanctuary alive. Now they’re stuck in a stolen alien ship with nowhere to go and no one to help them. Kenzie is desperate for a plan, but she doesn’t know who to trust anymore. Everyone has their own dark secrets: Omnistellar, her parents, even Cage. Worse still, she’s haunted by memories of the aliens who nearly tore her to shreds—and forced her to accidentally kill one of the Sanctuary prisoners, Matt.

When Kenzie intercepts a radio communication suggesting that more aliens are on their way, she knows there’s only one choice: They must turn themselves in to Omnistellar and destroy the ship before the aliens follow the signal straight to them. Because if the monstrous creatures who attacked Sanctuary reach Earth, then it’s game over for humanity.

What Kenzie doesn’t know is that the aliens aren’t the only ones on the hunt. Omnistellar has put a bounty on Kenzie’s head—and the question is whether the aliens or Omnistellar get to her first.” (Goodreads)

Title: Salvation (Sanctuary #3)
Author: Caryn Lix
Genre: YA Sci-Fi
Publication Date: July 21st, 2020
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

When Kenzie and her friends find themselves trapped on a strange planet, they must risk everything to save themselves and Earth in this thrilling final book in the addictive Sanctuary trilogy!

Fall down seven times, get up eight.

These are the words Kenzie has always lived by. The problem is, she’s fallen down too many times to count.

Kenzie and her friends have already escaped two vicious alien attacks—not to mention the corporate bounty hunters sent to capture them. They’re haunted by the friends they’ve lost and the hard choices they’ve had to make in this war they never asked for.

And now, thanks to superpowers she received from the very aliens she’s fighting, Kenzie has stranded everyone on a strange planet with no way off. She just wanted a safe place from the monstrous creatures terrorizing her world, but this new planet has dangers of its own, and Kenzie will have to uncover its secrets if she has any hope of ever making it home again.

Sacrifice is nothing new for Kenzie. She’ll do anything—anything—to destroy the aliens that killed both of her parents. But how can Kenzie save Earth if she can’t even save the people she loves?” (Goodreads)

Apparently I forgot to write a review for the sequel so you get a two-for-one!

The sequel, Containment, was a surprisingly wild ride from beginning to end. You never know what you are going to get when the first book ends on a cliffhanger but this book didn’t have any middle book syndrome.

The book is told from one point-of-view once again and it comes from Kenzie. She is still reeling from the emotions of what happened in the first and at times feels a lot of guilt. Her budding relationship with Cage has been in a bit of turmoil because they are on opposite sides when it comes to a secret they are holding onto. I will say that their relationship isn’t my favorite part of the plot. It feels very quick and continues that way through this book as well. They are cute together but I just need more.

There is so much that happens in the plot when it comes to the corporations and the aliens. I wasn’t sure how everything would come together and I’m glad I never guessed what was going to happen next. It made for a more surprising read! It was very intense.

Overall, I enjoyed the sequel.

In the last installment, Salvation, Kenzie and her friends are back and are still in trouble even if they find themselves on an unknown planet. It’s just as intense as the last two books.

The book is told from one point-of-view as usual and it comes from Kenzie. There are still the little paragraphs from the aliens at the beginning of some chapters and a few at the end of others. It helps to really pull in both groups to understand.

Sometimes finales can be a hit or miss for me but I really liked this one. I thought it wrapped up the plot lines well and gave us a glimpse into what happened to the group we have been following since book one. It was a pretty sad read since not everyone makes it out alive. I had a feeling something like this would happen but I didn’t want to believe that it could happen to characters I really liked, haha. No one is safe!

I still wasn’t 100% vibing with the relationship between Kenzie and cage but that’s fine. I still liked it for what it was.

Overall, this was a good ending and a nice YA sci-fi trilogy!

Book Review | Do I Know You? by Emily Wibberley & Austin Siegemund-Broka

Title: Do I Know You?
Author: Emily Wibberley & Austin Siegemund-Broka
Genre: Adult Contemporary / Romance
Publication Date: January 24th, 2023
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐✨

“Eliza and Graham are anticipating an anything-but-sexy, weeklong getaway to celebrate their five-year anniversary. Nestled on the Northern California coastline, the resort prides itself on being a destination for those in love and those looking to find it. For Eliza and Graham, it might as well be a vacation with a roommate.

When a well-meaning guest mistakes Eliza and Graham for being single and introduces them at the hotel bar, they don’t correct him. Suddenly, they’re pretending to be perfect strangers and it’s unexpectedly…fun? Eliza and Graham find themselves flirting like it’s their first date, and waiting with butterflies in their stomach for the other to text back.

Everyone at the retreat can sense the electric chemistry between Eliza and Graham’s alter egos. But when their scintillating game of roleplaying ends, will they still feel the heat?” (Goodreads)

I haven’t read any books by this author duo yet but wanted to give them a try and this particular piqued my interest due to the blurb.

The book is told from two point-of-views and they come from the couple of the book, Eliza and Graham. I thought that the dual PoV was needed to understand both characters. They had their own thoughts on the matter and Graham also made a friend at the resort who had a side plotline which was nice. I definitely preferred Graham over Eliza. Eliza had a hard time with communication and it felt like Graham was really trying hard while Eliza kept shutting down. It was hard to feel sad for her when I really just shake her.

I’m not going to lie, I didn’t really feel the love between them even when they started making things right. This could be totally due to my feelings on the second-chance trope where I haven’t liked many of them. I also felt like we never got into the nitty gritty as to why their marriage was failing. Everything was just so vague. I think it would have helped and made a better connection for me to the characters.

I did like that they went a very unconventional way to fix their marriage but it did help and they continued with it in a different way. They were also able to communicate their problems by the end.

Overall, this was a good book. I thought the narration was well done. It was a fun setting and pretending to be someone else did help them out.

Book Review | Make Up Break Up by Lily Menon

Title: Make Up Break Up
Author: Lily Menon
Genre: Adult Contemporary / Romance
Publication Date: February 2nd, 2021
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Rating: ⭐⭐

“Love, romance, second chances, fairy-tale endings…these are the things Annika Dev believes in. Her app, Make Up, has been called the “Google Translate for failing relationships.”

High efficiency break-ups, flashy start-ups, penthouses, fast cars…these are the things Hudson Craft believes in. His app, Break Up, is known as the “Uber for break-ups.” It’s wildly successful—and anathema to Annika’s life philosophy.

Which wouldn’t be a problem if they’d gone their separate ways after that summer fling in Las Vegas, never to see each other again. Unfortunately for Annika, Hudson’s moving not just into her office building, but into the office right next to hers. And he’ll be competing at the prestigious EPIC investment pitch contest: A contest Annika needs to win if she wants to keep Make Up afloat. As if it’s not bad enough seeing his irritatingly perfect face on magazine covers when her own business is failing. As if knowing he stole her idea and twisted it into something vile—and monumentally more successful—didn’t already make her stomach churn.

As the two rival app developers clash again and again—and again—Annika finds herself drawn into Hudson Craft’s fast-paced, high velocity, utterly shallow world. Only, from up close, he doesn’t seem all that shallow. Could it be that everything she thought about Hudson is completely wrong? Could the creator of Break Up teach her what true love’s really about?” (Goodreads)

This was okay but also, I just wasn’t a fan.

The book is told from one point-of-view and it comes from Annika. She is driven to start up an app that will allow those help for their relationship. She has a competitor though and his name is Hudson Craft. He is here to cause break-ups to be easier and more efficient, usually for one side though.

I thought the characters were fine but it was clear they didn’t have a deep connection outside of wanting to bone the other. Annika had a lot of thoughts about him and they were usually mixed in with the “I hate him, but dang I want him.” I just needed more substance outside of the physical. This can also correlate with everything outside of the romance/relationships as well.

I thought the concept for the novel about two opposite apps was cool. I just don’t think it was executed well.

Overall, this just wasn’t for me in the end.

Goodreads Monday | Under This Forgetful Sky by Lauren Yero

Hello Readers!

Goodreads Monday was hosted and created by Lauren’s Page Turners and has now been taken over by Budget Tales Book Blog. To participate, choose a random book from your TBR and show it off.

Title: Under This Forgetful Sky
Author: Lauren Yero
Genre: YA Sci-fi / Dystopian
Publication Date: July 18th, 2023
Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers

In the spirit of Paolo Bacigalupi and Laini Taylor, this futuristic star-crossed love story follows two teens struggling to find their place in a starkly unequal world.

Sixteen-year-old Rumi Sabzwari has spent his entire life behind the armored walls of St. Iago, which protect citizens of the Union of Upper Cities from the outside world’s environmental devastation. But when rebels infect his father with a fatal virus, Rumi escapes St. Iago, desperate to find a cure.

In the ruined city of Paraíso, Rumi meets fifteen-year-old Paz, who agrees to guide him on his journey. As they travel together, Rumi finds himself drawn to Paz—and behind her tough exterior, she begins to feel the same way. But Paz knows more about Rumi’s father’s illness than she’s saying and has her own agenda. With the powerful forces at play in their cities putting them at odds, can the two learn to trust in each other—enough to imagine a different world?” (Goodreads)


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Book Review | Sunbeams in the Sky Vol. 1 by Monika Kaname

Title: Sunbeams in the Sky Vol. 1
Author: Monika Kaname
Genre: YA Manga
Publication Date: March 21st, 2023
Publisher: Yen Press
Rating: ⭐⭐

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

“Twin sisters Himari and Mio are perfect copies on the outside, but their personalities couldn’t be any more different. When Himari decides to stay home from school due to an unfortunate incident, Mio decides the best way to convince her to return is to take her place! ” (Goodreads)

This one just didn’t work for me.

I thought that the setup was interesting but to me it felt rushed and nothing ever really came out of the situations they got themselves into. Mio obviously had plans as to why her sister needed to pretend to be her but it was never talked about. It may be to try and get her back in school but at what cost? They do care for one another but I did expect more from their bond.

I’m sure in the next few volumes there will be more about the romance but I am just not interested in seeing how it will play out.

Overall, this was okay but I just needed it to hook me more.

Book Review | The Renaissance of Gwen Hathaway by Ashley Schumacher

Title: The Renaissance of Gwen Hathaway
Author: Ashley Schumacher
Genre: Ya Contemporary / Romance
Publication Date: March 14th, 2023
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

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

“Since her mother’s death, Madeline “Gwen” Hathaway has been determined that nothing in her life will change ever again. That’s why she keeps extensive lists in journals, has had only one friend since childhood, and looks forward to the monotony of working the ren faire circuit with her father. Until she arrives at her mother’s favourite end-of-tour stop to find the faire is under new management and completely changed.

Meeting Arthur, the son of the new owners and an actual lute-playing bard, messes up Maddie’s plans even more. For some reason, he wants to be her friend – and ropes her into becoming Princess of the Faire. Now Maddie is overseeing a faire dramatically changed from what her mother loved and going on road trips vastly different from the routine she used to rely on. Worst of all, she’s kind of having fun.

Ashley Schumacher’s The Renaissance of Gwen Hathaway is filled with a wise old magician who sells potion bottles, gallant knights who are afraid of horses and ride camels instead, kings with a fondness for theatrics, a lazy river castle moat with inflatable crocodile floaties, and a plus-sized heroine with a wide-open heart… if only she just admits it.” (Goodreads)

I was really looking forward to this one after loving her first two books. Sadly, this ended up not being a favorite but still a good read for what it had to offer.

The book is told from one point-of-view and it comes from Madeline Hathaway. It’s been almost a year since she lost her mother and she is still learning to deal with the grief that comes with loss. She isn’t in a typical family either because they had and still are, now with just her dad, travel around to the different Ren Faires.

Madeline doesn’t just deal with grief. She is also plus-size which comes with it’s own insecurities and obstacles. I can relate to her on that front because I have been overweight my whole life. The scene where she is trying on pants really resonated with me as I have been one to feel defeated while trying on clothes. It sucks and it’s nice to see it talked about in books.

The romance is where I struggled. Arthur is a cinnamon roll but he is definitely a “too good to be true” kind of guy. He doesn’t do anything hurtful, communicates well, and is oblivious to things that normal people wouldn’t be. I just had a hard time believing she liked him when she kept calling him annoying and being really mean towards him, but he was quite persistent. There also just wasn’t enough time for their relationship to blossom.

Side characters felt very one-dimensional and they were just okay.

I do wish we would have got more from the setting as well. There wasn’t too much going on with it like I have seen other books do with a similar setting.

Overall, this was good but could have been better. Even if this one didn’t wow me I would still recommend it for those who want a simpler YA Romance. I’ll definitely still check out whatever else she writes because I am a sucker for her books!

Book Review | Sanctuary by Caryn Lix


Title: Sanctuary (Sanctuary #1)
Author: Caryn Lix
Genre: YA Sci-fi
Publication Date: July 24th, 2018
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐✨

“Kenzie holds one truth above all: the company is everything.

As a citizen of Omnistellar Concepts, the most powerful corporation in the solar system, Kenzie has trained her entire life for one goal: to become an elite guard on Sanctuary, Omnistellar’s space prison for superpowered teens too dangerous for Earth. As a junior guard, she’s excited to prove herself to her company—and that means sacrificing anything that won’t propel her forward.

But then a routine drill goes sideways and Kenzie is taken hostage by rioting prisoners.

At first, she’s confident her commanding officer—who also happens to be her mother—will stop at nothing to secure her freedom. Yet it soon becomes clear that her mother is more concerned with sticking to Omnistellar protocol than she is with getting Kenzie out safely.

As Kenzie forms her own plan to escape, she doesn’t realize there’s a more sinister threat looming, something ancient and evil that has clawed its way into Sanctuary from the vacuum of space. And Kenzie might have to team up with her captors to survive—all while beginning to suspect there’s a darker side to the Omnistellar she knows.” (Goodreads)

I’m pretty sure I have been wanting to read this book for quite some time, probably around since it came out last year. A couple months ago I picked it up from Book Outlet for under $2 for a hardcover. I am so glad I did because what a wild ride this book is!

From the first chapter, I was hooked. The relationship dynamic between mother and daughter isn’t so black and white when your mother is your commander. Kenzie has a hard time seeing her mother this way and her mother is literally a dillweed! At least Kenzie has better qualities than her mother and learns to trust those she never thought she could, the prisoners of Sanctuary.

The prisoners aboard are unique in that 1.) they are teens and 2.) they each have a special ability too. They play a major role in the plot and it was crazy!

I really liked a lot of the characters but some didn’t get as much attention or have a background story that was talked about. I wish I would have got a little more from them.

The plot is really where this book shined through. It kept me intrigued and not wanting to put it down for a moment. The plot twists were also surprising which I am always a fan of. My only complaint here would be the romance. It felt forced and quick which is something I am not a fan of.

Overall, I loved this book! It was a great YA Sci-fi which I haven’t read in awhile. It is heartbreaking, adventurous, and will literally leave you hanging on to the edge of your seat! I would say more but I would give a lot of the book away so just do me a favor and read it!

Book Review | Part of Your World by Abby Jimenez

Title: Part of Your World
Author: Abby Jimenez
Genre: Adult Contemporary / Romance
Publication Date: April 19th, 2022
Publisher: Forever
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

“After a wild bet, gourmet grilled-cheese sandwich, and cuddle with a baby goat, Alexis Montgomery has had her world turned upside down. The cause: Daniel Grant, a ridiculously hot carpenter who’s ten years younger than her and as casual as they come—the complete opposite of sophisticated city-girl Alexis. And yet their chemistry is undeniable.

While her ultra-wealthy parents want her to carry on the family legacy of world-renowned surgeons, Alexis doesn’t need glory or fame. She’s fine with being a “mere” ER doctor. And every minute she spends with Daniel and the tight-knit town where he lives, she’s discovering just what’s really important. Yet letting their relationship become anything more than a short-term fling would mean turning her back on her family and giving up the opportunity to help thousands of people.

Bringing Daniel into her world is impossible, and yet she can’t just give up the joy she’s found with him either. With so many differences between them, how can Alexis possibly choose between her world and his?” (Goodreads)

I picked this one up on a whim and I am glad I did.

The book is told from two point-of-views and they come from Alexis and Daniel. They have an awkward meeting and one thing leads to another. Both are from different worlds but something keeps pulling them back together and if you ask a town local it’s the town saying it needs her.

I thought their romance was cute. It was a tad bit more steamy than I would have liked and it starts off with a one night stand, but I was able to overlook that for the rest of the book and really enjoyed it lol. I don’t usually read romances with an age gap but I liked how this was done and thought that the woman being older was a good switch. Alexis is a bit bothered by it but Daniel has no qualms about it. He loves her for her and age isn’t getting in the way of it. He was very sweet to her.

There is a lot of drama that surrounds Alexis’s life. A lot of it involves her family but also her ex. Her dad and ex are one in the same and disliked them very much. Dillweeds I tell you! Her mom was at least willing to listen at one point and try to have a relationship with her kids. Daniel was very understanding of the situations, but I do wish Alexis would have filled him in more but I understand why she lived two separate lives once meeting him.

The town setting was everything I loved about small towns. The people are great and friendly and they help one another without expecting anything.

Overall, this was a nice read. I’m sure I will be checking out this author’s other books.

Book Review | The Murder of Mr. Wickham by Claudia Gray

Title: The Murder of Mr. Wickham
Author: Claudia Gray
Genre: Adult Mystery / Historical Fiction / Retelling
Publication Date: May 3rd, 2022
Publisher: Vintage
Rating: ⭐⭐

“The happily married Mr. Knightley and Emma are throwing a house party, bringing together distant relatives and new acquaintances—characters beloved by Jane Austen fans. Definitely not invited is Mr. Wickham, whose latest financial scheme has netted him an even broader array of enemies. As tempers flare and secrets are revealed, it’s clear that everyone would be happier if Mr. Wickham got his comeuppance. Yet they’re all shocked when Wickham turns up murdered—except, of course, for the killer hidden in their midst.

Nearly everyone at the house party is a suspect, so it falls to the party’s two youngest guests to solve the mystery: Juliet Tilney, the smart and resourceful daughter of Catherine and Henry, eager for adventure beyond Northanger Abbey; and Jonathan Darcy, the Darcys’ eldest son, whose adherence to propriety makes his father seem almost relaxed. The unlikely pair must put aside their own poor first impressions and uncover the guilty party—before an innocent person is sentenced to hang.” (Goodreads)

I think I am just tired of Pride and Prejudice and other Austen retellings. I have read many and they just never work for me, and yet I still try to make them work. Haha 😅.

The book is narrated well and it was easy to listen to. It’s nice when a narrator does a great job! The plot of the book and everything that comes with it was just alright. I didn’t feel like it was very high-stake when it came to the mystery which is fine, but I just didn’t feel invested in the story because of it.

It is definitely unique since it has to do with characters from Austen’s world and I always give props to those who find a way to make them new again.

Overall, this was okay but just wasn’t meant for me.