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!

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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.

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.

Arc Review: Two Wrongs Make a Right by Chloe Liese

Title: Two Wrongs Make a Right
Author: Chloe Liese
Genre: Adult Contemporary / Romance
Publication Date: November 22nd, 2022
Publisher: Berkley Jove
Rating: ⭐⭐✨

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

“Jamie Westenberg and Bea Wilmot have nothing in common except a meet-disaster and the mutual understanding that they couldn’t be more wrong for each other. But when the people closest to them play Cupid and trick them into going on a date, Jamie and Bea realize they have something else in common after all—an undeniable need for revenge.
Soon their plan is in place: Fake date obnoxiously and convince the meddlers they’re madly in love. Then, break up spectacularly and dash their hopes, putting an end to the matchmaking madness once and for all.
To convince everyone that they’ve fallen for each other, Jamie and Bea will have to nail the performance of their lives. But as their final act nears and playing lovers becomes easier than not, they begin to wonder, what if Cupid’s arrow wasn’t so off the mark? And what if two wrongs do make a right?” (Goodreads)

I wanted to enjoy this one since it has a lot of tropes I usually like, but it ended up just being okay.

The book is told from two point-of-views and they come from Jamie and Bea. They have more in common then they think but getting off on the wrong foot has them bantering from the get-go. I thought that there banter was pretty humorous. They played off each other well. I thought they were both decent characters and liked the neurodiverse rep that was used. You don’t see it often in books.

For their romance, I didn’t entirely buy it. Sure, there are cute moments between them and they do take their time getting to know one another through their fake dating situation but the whole fake dating situation felt too forced. Most of the beginning of the book felt that way. So many things were just happening to them to make them get in close proximity and it just didn’t give me any feels towards it. I also was not a fan of how their plot went at 90%. Communication is important and I feel like it was just thrown in to add another hurdle but it was already too late in the game for that.

The other characters in the book were okay. A couple added more to the plot than others, like her sister and her boyfriend. It did feel like they were only there in a sense to keep the plot moving a long because even though they had plot twists as well they were very quickly handled and then the characters were brushes to the side once again.

I think what I really struggled with the most was the writing. It felt different than her other books and maybe it’s just me. I don’t know. It was a slog to get through the first half but the second half went by a lot quicker.

Overall, this was okay. I can’t say I was a fan but I know there will be readers out there who will enjoy it.

Arc Review: The Banned Bookshop of Maggie Banks by Shauna Robinson

Title: The Banned Bookshop of Maggie Banks
Author: Shauna Robinson
Genre: Adult Contemporary / Romance / Women’s Fiction
Publication Date: November 1st, 2022
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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

I, Maggie Banks, solemnly swear to uphold the rules of Cobblestone Books.
If only, I, Maggie Banks, believed in following the rules.

When Maggie Banks arrives in Bell River to run her best friend’s struggling bookstore, she expects to sell bestsellers to her small-town clientele. But running a bookstore in a town with a famously bookish history isn’t easy. Bell River’s literary society insists on keeping the bookstore stuck in the past, and Maggie is banned from selling anything written this century. So, when a series of mishaps suddenly tip the bookstore toward ruin, Maggie will have to get creative to keep the shop afloat.
And in Maggie’s world, book rules are made to be broken.
To help save the store, Maggie starts an underground book club, running a series of events celebrating the books readers actually love. But keeping the club quiet, selling forbidden books, and dodging the literary society is nearly impossible. Especially when Maggie unearths a town secret that could upend everything.
Maggie will have to decide what’s more important: the books that formed a small town’s history, or the stories poised to change it all.” (Goodreads)

This was such a fun read! If I would have started sooner in the day when I did start it would have easily been a one-sit read.

The book is told from one point-of-view and it comes from Maggie. She is trying to figure out what to do with her life as of currently she is living with her parents and doesn’t have a job. Opportunity knocks when her friend, Rochelle, calls to ask if she would be interested in taking over her bookstore when she is on maternity leave. From that point on, things get quite interesting when she arrives in Bell River and the town will never be the same.

Maggie was a great character. I think we have all been there in wondering what is next in life. We see our friends on social media and have doubts about our future. Maggie is trying to find a job that isn’t just a job. She wants something that will be fun in some ways and keeps her occupied as she has tried many things before but never stuck to it. It was easy to understand her. Plus, she is quite humorous with her jokes, especially when she talks to Malcolm.

I wouldn’t say this is specifically a romance but Maggie does find herself going after a certain someone in the book. It is very much a slow-burn but it’s cute and had me rooting for them from the beginning. She is the shine to his grump! I liked that they both pushed each other to venture out of their comfort zone.

All of the other characters in the book were great as well. Some had bigger roles than others, but they all felt like they had a purpose. I even liked learning about Edward Bell and the secrets that could be hiding in the closet.

The plot has a little bit of everything. There is some romance, secrets, drama, and finding one’s self. It is fast-paced but not too fast where you feel like it is missing information. The town was a fun setting and I liked learning about the people who lived there and what is up with the addiction to Edward Bell.

Overall, this was a great read! I enjoy a book about books and this was no different.

Arc Review: She’s Gone by David Bell

Title: She’s Gone
Author: David Bell
Genre: YA Mystery / Thriller
Publication Date: November 1st, 2022
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

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

When a girl disappears, who do you suspect?
When 17-year-old Hunter Gifford wakes in the hospital on the night of homecoming, he’s shocked to learn he and his girlfriend, Chloe Summers, have been in a terrible car accident. Hunter has no memory of the crash, and his shock turns to horror when he is told Chloe’s blood has been found in the car―but she has disappeared.
Back at school, his fellow students taunt him, and his former best friend starts making a true-crime documentary about the case―one that points the finger directly at Hunter. And just when things can’t get any worse, Chloe’s mother stands in front of the entire town at a candlelight vigil and accuses Hunter of murder.
Under mounting pressure from the police, Hunter takes matters into his own hands by questioning anyone who might know the truth and posting videos to prove his innocence. When Hunter learns he and Chloe were seen arguing loudly outside the dance, he faces a sickening possibility. Was he angry enough to kill the person he loved?” (Goodreads)

I have mixed feelings about this one. On the plus side, I finished it in less than a day. On the down side, I just needed more character development.

The book is told from one point-of-view and it comes from Hunter. He was in a car accident with his girlfriend. He made it to the hospital somehow, but she is still missing. There is a lot he needs to recall since his memory hasn’t been the same since that fateful day.

I wouldn’t say that there is much going for Hunter besides trying to solve what happened to his girlfriend. I would say the same about all of the other characters as well. The character development was lacking and this could honestly be because the book was more plot-driven. I just tend to like a bit of both. Olivia was definitely my favorite character as she really cared about her brother and the outcome of the mystery.

The plot was pretty good. It did have me guessing but I did figure out who it was before the big reveal but not how it happened. The how it happened was not what I was expecting and I’m still not sure how I feel about it.

Overall, this was a fine YA Mystery. It will definitely reel you in and at least it is easy to get through.

Audiobook Review: The Darkening by Sunya Mara

Title: The Darkening
Author: Sunya Mara
Genre: YA Fantasy
Publication Date: July 5th, 2022
Publisher: Clarion Books
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐✨

“Vesper Vale is the daughter of revolutionaries. Failed revolutionaries. When her mother was caught by the queen’s soldiers, they gave her a choice: death by the hangman’s axe, or death by the Storm that surrounds the city and curses anyone it touches. She chose the Storm. And when the queen’s soldiers—led by a paranoid prince—catch up to Vesper’s father after twelve years on the run, Vesper will do whatever it takes to save him from sharing that fate.

Even arm herself with her father’s book of dangerous experimental magic.

Even infiltrate the prince’s elite squad of soldier-sorcerers.

Even cheat her way into his cold heart.

But when Vesper learns that there’s more to the story of her mother’s death, she’ll have to make a choice if she wants to save her city: trust the devious prince with her family’s secrets, or follow her mother’s footsteps into the Storm.” (Goodreads)

When I first started this, I wasn’t sure how I would feel about it. I’ve seen good things about it but you still never know how you will actually feel about it. I did like a lot of what I read. There are some interesting and unique aspects to this story. I think it set up for a sequel well and I am curious to read on. I do think that some aspects could have been done a bit better for my taste but it’s nothing that really makes or break the story one way.

The book is told from one point-of-view and it comes from Vesper Vale. She is the daughter of revolutionaries and her whole life has been running from the past with her father. These events lead to a very exciting beginning because the past has finally caught up.

Vesper will do anything for her family. You can tell she cares deeply for her father and would leave safety to continue to stay with him. Although this can be a weakness for her, she still remains loyal and I respect that. I can understand wanting to do anything for family. Her love for her father leads into the wolves den and we begin to really meet and get to know those who are in charge and take care of the storms.

The storms were a fun aspect. I can only think of one other book with storms and that would be Roar by Cora Carmack. Each writer uses storms in a different way so reading this one felt like a fresh take. Who knew beasts could come forth and wreak havoc?

There are other characters that play bigger roles and ones that feel smaller but do have impactful plot points. I think it was a good mix to have. I will say that for some I felt more for than others and this did effect how I felt about certain plot points, or lack of feelings. The romance was okay but I feel like it didn’t have enough time to develop for me to be rooting for them. I hope there is better development in the next book.

Another thing I wish I had more of was world-building. I feel like there was a bit but I am still confused by certain things. There may be more explained in the next book since I guess I would say it is a part of the plot but we will see.

Overall, this was interesting enough for me to want to continue. I do think that the narrator did a great job and it left me wanting to keep listening.

Arc Review: Cruel Illusions by Margie Fuston

Title: Cruel Illusions
Author: Margie Fuston
Genre: YA Urban Fantasy / Vampires
Publication Date: November 1st, 2022
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

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

“Ever since a vampire murdered her mother, Ava has been determined to get revenge. This all-encompassing drive has given her the fuel she needed to survive foster home after foster home.
But it’s been ten years since anyone’s seen a vampire, and Ava has lost hope that she’ll ever find one…until she stumbles across a hidden magic show where she witnesses impossible illusions. The magicians may not be the bloodsuckers she’s hunting, but Ava is convinced something supernatural is at play, so she sneaks backstage and catches them in acts they can’t explain.
But they’ve been waiting for her.
The magicians reveal they’re part of an ancient secret society with true magic, and Ava has the same power in her blood that they do. If she joins them, they promise to teach her the skills she needs to hunt vampires and avenge her mother. But there’s a catch: if she wants to keep the power they offer, she needs to prove she’s worthy of it. And to do so, she must put on the performance of her life in a sinister and dangerous competition where illusion and reality blur, and the stakes are deadly.” (Goodreads)

The cover is definitely what drew me in when it came to this book. It’s so unique! Although at the time of requesting, I didn’t realize this was written by an author I had read before. Her debut novel was fine but it didn’t invoke any feelings in me. Unfortunately, this was the same case for her latest.

The book is told from one point-of-view and it comes from Ava. Both her parents died in strange cases, one more so than the other which couldn’t be chalked up to just any old animal attack. This puts a lot of pressure on her when it comes to vengeance and even finding a place to actually call home.

Ava is very fearless and I feel like she has to be when dealing with vampires. I would say being on stage in front of crowd is pretty fearless too. I know I couldn’t do it. Although she has many good qualities about her, she was way too trusting when it came to meeting strangers. For someone that is always looking over her shoulder for vampires, she should probably not trust someone down a dark alley.

The other characters in the book are fine, some more than others. I felt like some of the relationships she had with characters could have been axed and it wouldn’t have made a difference (i.e. her brother). I also think that some in the troupe were just for show and didn’t have much complexity to them like others.

What really shines in this book is the magic and the unique take on vampires. I have not read anything like it before. It was a strange mix but one that paired well in the grand scheme of things!

The plot is pretty slow in the beginning and doesn’t pick up until farther in. This does tend to play a role with my attention span. Sadly, there just wasn’t enough to really hook me even with the turn of events. Don’t get me wrong. There is a lot of plot twists, especially ones that involve deception!

Overall, this was good but it just didn’t shine for me. I did like certain aspects more than others so it wasn’t all a bust. If you like vampires, or even magic, I would give this one a go!

Audiobook Review: The Dead Romantics by Ashley Poston

Title: The Dead Romantics
Author: Ashley Poston
Genre: Adult Contemporary / Romance / Paranormal
Publication Date: June 28th, 2022
Publisher: Berkley
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

“Florence Day is the ghostwriter for one of the most prolific romance authors in the industry, and she has a problem—after a terrible breakup, she no longer believes in love. It’s as good as dead.
When her new editor, a too-handsome mountain of a man, won’t give her an extension on her book deadline, Florence prepares to kiss her career goodbye. But then she gets a phone call she never wanted to receive, and she must return home for the first time in a decade to help her family bury her beloved father.
For ten years, she’s run from the town that never understood her, and even though she misses the sound of a warm Southern night and her eccentric, loving family and their funeral parlor, she can’t bring herself to stay. Even with her father gone, it feels like nothing in this town has changed. And she hates it.
Until she finds a ghost standing at the funeral parlor’s front door, just as broad and infuriatingly handsome as ever, and he’s just as confused about why he’s there as she is.
Romance is most certainly dead… but so is her new editor, and his unfinished business will have her second-guessing everything she’s ever known about love stories.” (Goodreads)

This was probably one of the most unique romance books I have ever read to date. I feel like it will be hard top this when it comes to that category. For the most part, I liked this book but there were some things that led me to have a disconnect from the story.

The book is told from one point-of-view and it comes from Florence Day. She comes from a family of undertakers but decided that wasn’t for her and wanted to pursue writing. I did like learning about her family and they do take up a significant role in the book. Florence is dealing with the loss of her father and the grief that comes with it as well as being on a deadline for a book. It’s tough for her and it doesn’t help she can’t seem to write romance after the ending of her last relationship. The author paints a great picture of how a person’s life is never perfect and there are struggles and sometimes they just pile on and it’s hard to breathe. In this sense, and the grief, I did connect with Florence, but I also didn’t fully connect and when big plot twists happen it just didn’t grip me.

The other characters in this book were also nice to get to know as well. I don’t think that there were any that left me wanting more for. They weren’t flat, not even her dillweed of an ex.

The uniqueness of this story is that Florence sees ghosts and sometimes helps them move on. It wasn’t always easy for her to have this gift and in the past it had led to bullying. The ghost that unexpectedly showed up was a surprise but with a couple hints thrown out within a few scenes of them I knew where the book was going and predicted the end. It was still a nice ending but did lose it shock value.

Overall, this was a good book. I would definitely recommend it if you are looking for a different type of romance and one that is perfect for this season.

Arc Review: Built to Last by Erin Hahn

Title: Built to Last
Author: Erin Hahn
Genre: Adult Contemporary / Romance
Publication Date: October 18th, 2022
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Rating: ⭐⭐

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

“Shelby Springfield has spent the last ten years trying to overcome her past, sanding it away like she does the rough spots on the vintage furniture finds she makes over. But as a former child star, it’s hard to forget a mediocre pop career, a meltdown widely documented by the paparazzi, and a huge public break with her former co-star Lyle Jessup. It’s also hard to forget her other co-star and childhood sweetheart, Cameron Riggs — the one who got away.
Anytime Shelby has called, Cameron has come running… And then he runs right off again to chase stories around the world by making documentaries, too scared to admit what he really wants. But when Lyle stirs the pot, getting the two back in the spotlight with a home renovation show, Cameron can’t help but come on board.
There’s something in it for everyone — almost. Cameron wants to come home and set down some roots. Shelby wants to prove to the world she’s not the messy party girl anymore. And Lyle wants to twist the screws on his two childhood friends who had more chemistry than he could dream of with anyone. Sparks and sawdust fly as Shelby and Cameron film the pilot for “Homemade” and battle Lyle’s shenanigans at every turn.” (Goodreads)

I was really looking forward to this one. The blurb had me with talks of HGTV type of shows and I haven’t read many second chance romance books so I wanted to give this one a go!

The book is told from two point-of-views and they come from Shelby and Cameron. I didn’t really like either character. Cameron does a stupid thing in the beginning and it’s really hard to forgive him after that. Shelby makes a lot of choices and I wouldn’t say they are all great. That’s life though. We all have choices to make and some are bad, but why would you decide to do a show when you know that your ex who is a douche canoe will be there every step of the way? I just don’t get it. I guess it makes for an entertaining book, but I was one who didn’t find it all that entertaining.

The romance was okay but there are a lot of communication issues and I wish they would have sat down sooner instead of just hiding the problems.

I did like the aspects of home improvement and will pretty much read anything with it, haha. My mother-in-law always has the HGTV station on and it’s hard to not watch it. They are pretty crafty!

Overall, this was okay but just not for me. I think others will enjoy it if they like a bit of drama, second chances, and HGTV!