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: The Stars Between Us by Cristin Terrill

Title: The Stars Between Us
Author: Cristin Terrill
Genre: YA Sci-fi / Romance
Publication Date: August 2nd, 2022
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Rating: ⭐⭐

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

“There’s always been a mystery to Vika Hale’s life. Ever since she was a child, she’s had an unknown benefactor providing for her and her family, making sure that Vika and her sister received the best education they could. Now, Vika longs for a bigger life than one as a poor barmaid on a struggling planet, but those dreams feel out of reach. Until one day Vika learns that her benefactor was a billionaire magnate who recently died under suspicious circumstances, and Vika has shockingly been included in his will. Invited to live on a glittering neighboring planet, Vika steps into a world she can hardly believe is real.

The only blight on Vika’s lavish new life is the constant presence of Sky Foster, a mysterious young man from Vika’s past who works for her benefactors. She doesn’t like or trust Sky, but when she narrowly escapes an explosion and realizes someone is targeting the will’s heirs, Vika knows Sky is the only one who can help her discover the identity of the bomber before she becomes their next victim. As Vika and Sky delve into the truth of the attacks, they uncover a web of secrets, murder, and an underground rebellion who may hold the answers they’ve been looking for. But Sky isn’t who he seems to be, and Vika may not escape this new life unscathed.” (Goodreads)

There is a lot I wish I could say about this one but sadly it just didn’t click for me. I at least still like the cover!

The book is told in third-person but it mainly follows Vika Hale. I can’t say that I liked her much. She was very bratty and called others out for their infatuation with money but quickly became elitist it seemed when circumstances changed in her favor. I thought she was rude to one character in particular and didn’t really make sense as to why. It’s not like he ever did anything to her to warrant it. The other characters were okay but none felt like they really had any development.

The one good thing about this book is that it is very easy to read and is not bogged down but an extravagant plot in space. There is no info dumping or anything to be aware of. Personally, I needed more from the characters, the plot, and the world-building. It felt too simplistic for my taste and left something to be desired. It also felt very slow in the beginning as well which usually is a turn off for me. I was hoping it would pick up a bit and it does but still not enough for me to love it.

Overall, it was okay. I did need more from it and that’s sadly why I didn’t love it.

Arc Review: The Fixer Upper by Lauren Forsythe

Title: The Fixer Upper
Author: Lauren Forsythe
Genre: Adult Contemporary / Romance
Publication Date: August 2nd, 2022
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Rating: ⭐⭐

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

“Ever since she can remember, Aly has been fixing everything around her: her parents’ marriage, her colleagues’ work problems, and her friends’ love lives. After a chance meeting with an ex who has gone from a living in his parents’ basement to a married project manager in three years, she realizes she’s been fixing her boyfriends, too…

So, Aly decides to put her talents to good use and, alongside two work friends, sets up The Fixer Upper, an exclusive, underground service for women who are tired of unpaid emotional labor. Using little tricks and tips, Aly and her friends get the men to do the work themselves – to get out of the job they hate, sign up for that growth seminar, to do more parenting. Before long, a high-profile Instagram star hires them to fix-up her app developer boyfriend. There’s just one catch – he’s also Aly’s childhood best friend and first love. As Aly tackles her biggest “fixer upper” yet, she’ll have to come to terms with their complicated history and figure out how much to change someone she’d always thought was perfect as he is…” (Goodreads)

I was excited to have finally picked this one up. The blurb sounded like a funny rom-com and I have been in the mood for that. Sadly, this one just didn’t work out for me as I had hoped. It was more or less about the character growing and not really all that much about romance.

The book is told from one perspective and it comes from Aly. Each boyfriend she has left has moved on to become successful. Her friends from work have this idea to change the world through her gift and come up with a business. Obviously things don’t go as planned and issues arise when they take on their biggest client.

I honestly felt nothing for the characters besides maybe annoyance every now and again. Although Aly grows and understands that maybe she needs to put the same effort into her own life as she wants for others, but she just goes about it so wrong and kind of screws people over in the process. I also felt like their meddling was quickly forgiven or just pushed to the side when concerns arose. It just didn’t sit well for me.

I guess you could say there is a hint of romance since there is a love interest but again, the way it went about was just off since he was seeing someone else. Nothing exclusively happened between him and Aly but emotionally there was some investment.

The book did have it’s moments with being humorous but sadly it couldn’t save the book for me.

Overall, this was an okay read. It wasn’t for me but I am sure it will find its people that enjoy it more than me.

Arc Review: Long Story Short by Serena Kaylor

Title: Long Story Short
Author: Serena Kaylor
Genre: YA Contemporary / Romance
Publication Date: July 26th, 2022
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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

“Beatrice Quinn has spent sixteen very serious years studying to get into Oxford University. Homeschooled and a whiz at statistics, Beatrice knows that she belongs at Oxford, where she will finally find people who understand her. She thought the hardest part would be getting in, not convincing her parents to let her go. They’ve put a halt to her plans until she can prove she’s able to make friends with people her own age and function in social situations. Their solution: Shakespearean theater camp and a detailed list of teenage milestones to check off. She has six weeks to show her parents she can pull off the role of “normal” teenager and won’t spend the rest of her life hiding in a library.

Unfortunately, hearts and hormones don’t follow any rules, and there is no textbook for teenage interactions. When she’s adopted by a group of eclectic theater kids, and immediately makes an enemy of the gorgeous popular son of the camp founders, she realizes that relationships are trickier than calculus. As the summer draws to an end, and with Oxford on the line, this girl genius stumbles through illicit parties, double dog dares, and more than your fair share of Shakespeare. But before the final curtain falls, will Beatrice still feel like Oxford alone is enough?” (Goodreads)

I know nothing about theater but I do enjoy Shakespeare and for that, I’m glad I gave this book a shot! It was just the right amount of funny and had the added bonus of being more than just a rom-com as Beatrice learns what it means to actually live.

The book is told from one point-of-view and it comes from Beatrice Quinn. Fun fact, we find out her middle name is Joanna which is my first name so I love it. Haha! She is quirky and highly smart. She also prefers studying and books over people. I mean, who can blame her? I don’t know about the studying but I would much prefer to read a book than socialize! Beatrice is a relatable teen who has a hard time with the task of socializing/understanding people. I liked seeing her growth throughout the book and understanding what it means to have a life outside of her usual routine. It’s a big part of the book and I loved every minute of it!

Since Beatrice was homeschooled, she doesn’t have a friend. From a past experience, it hasn’t been easy to trust others either. She does find two close friends at camp, Nolan and Mia, and they are great! They help get Beatrice out of her shell and push her to try new things. I did like that even though they wanted her to try having a new wardrobe they also didn’t want her to change who she was. I honestly think that would be hard to do with how stubborn she is, ha.

This is a rom-com after all and with that comes a blossoming relationship. If you like enemies-to-lovers then this one is for you! There banter is laugh-out-loud which is something I actually did. I also made the shocked faced more than once as I couldn’t believe what Beatrice was saying! She is a firecracker. The relationship is slow to bloom but I liked that. It showed them getting to know each other and trying to understand the other person, which is especially hard for Beatrice to do.

Overall, this was a fun and enjoyable read! I liked seeing Beatrice grow and learn what it means to have friends and try new experiences. If you don’t have this one on your radar, I’d highly recommend it!

Arc Review: The Daughter of Doctor Moreau by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Title: The Daughter of Doctor Moreau
Author: Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Genre: Adult Fantasy / Retelling / Historical Fiction
Publication Date: July 19th, 2022
Publisher: Del Rey
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐✨

“Carlota Moreau: a young woman, growing up in a distant and luxuriant estate, safe from the conflict and strife of the Yucatán peninsula. The only daughter of either a genius, or a madman.

Montgomery Laughton: a melancholic overseer with a tragic past and a propensity for alcohol. An outcast who assists Dr. Moreau with his scientific experiments, which are financed by the Lizaldes, owners of magnificent haciendas and plentiful coffers.

The hybrids: the fruits of the Doctor’s labor, destined to blindly obey their creator and remain in the shadows. A motley group of part human, part animal monstrosities.

All of them living in a perfectly balanced and static world, which is jolted by the abrupt arrival of Eduardo Lizalde, the charming and careless son of Doctor Moreau’s patron, who will unwittingly begin a dangerous chain reaction.

For Moreau keeps secrets, Carlota has questions, and in the sweltering heat of the jungle, passions may ignite.” (Goodreads)

I am always down to read a book by this author! Her plots are always very unique and out there. In a good way, of course! Although this wasn’t a top hit for me, I still liked the world she created and learning who Carlota really was.

The book is told from two point-of-views, Carlota and Montgomery. Each one has a different take on religion and the world around them. I think that is why they pair so nicely together. Carlota is optimistic while Montgomery is realistic. I can’t say that I liked one more than the other. I felt for each character in different ways because each one has a different background and it comes to light on the pages. They both continue to make choices they deem are right and sometimes love can make us foolish.

There are other characters, some I liked more than others. It was interesting to feel more for the hybrids than humans but I guess that doesn’t take much when you look at our own world. Humans can suck sometimes. I do wish that there was more from the hybrids, especially more detail in the workings of Dr. Moreau. The reader only gets snippets here and there but nothing too wild really ever happens.

For me, the biggest letdowns were what I mentioned above and the romance. I knew who I wanted Carlota to end up with and even though that came true it was very much a side side plot and the ending just left me unsatisfied after them having a few great scenes together.

I can’t compare this to the original work since I haven’t read it but it does have more curious than anything to want to check it out.

Overall, this was a good read but it just needed a bit more in areas for me.

Arc Review: For Butter or Worse by Erin La Rosa

Title: For Butter or Worse
Author: Erin La Rosa
Genre: Adult Contemporary / Romance
Publication Date: July 26th, 2022
Publisher:  HQN
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

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

They go together like water and oil…

All chef Nina Lyon wants is to make a name for herself in the culinary world and inspire young women everywhere to do the same. For too long, she’s been held back and underestimated by the male-dominated sphere of professional kitchens, and she’s had enough. Now, as co-host of the competitive reality TV series The Next Cooking Champ!, she finally has a real shot at being top tier in the foodie scene.
Too bad her co-host happens to be Hollywood’s smarmiest jerk.

Restaurateur Leo O’Donnell never means to get under Nina’s skin. It just seems to happen, especially when the cameras are rolling. It’s part of the anxiety and stress he has come to know all too well in this line of work. So nothing prepares him for the fallout after he takes one joke a smidge too far and Nina up and quits—on live TV.

To make matters worse, the two are caught in what looks like a compromising situation by the paparazzi…and fans of the show go absolutely nuts. Turns out, a “secret romance” between Nina and Leo may just be what their careers need most.

Now all they have to do is play along, without killing each other…and without catching feelings. Easy as artisanal shepherd’s pie. Right?” (Goodreads)

This one was a cute read but also one that didn’t hit all of the notes for me. I still found enjoyment out of it and liked how the story introduced both characters at the beginning. I wasn’t expecting the plot to go where it went which was a nice surprise.

The book is told from two point-of-views, Nina and Leo. They are very different from one another, especially on camera. Leo could be considered the sunshine and Nina the grump, as per her nickname “Nasty Nina”. I don’t blame Nina for the choices she made to better her career our the outcome that came from those choices. She was a bright chef who wanted more out of life. Leo was a decent guy and knew when he did wrong but still tried to get Nina to show that fiery side. Whatever floats your boat, am I right? haha. They did pair with each other well and I liked the banter that came from it.

The romance is very much a slow-burn but does involve the fake dating trope. They have much to learn from one another and so it was good to see the buildup that would eventually press them into much more than they bargained for. As with any romance, there comes a part where something happens to “break” them apart. This is no different for Leo and Nina. I do wish that it would have happened a bit sooner so that there could have been more time at the end of their happy ending instead of pushing it all into a short epilogue.

Some of the banter or words shared between friends was a bit on the cringey side. I felt that some things that were meant to be humorous just didn’t land as they should have. I’m not really sure how to best describe it. It honestly could just be me and my sense of humor.

Overall, this was a good read for in between my fantasy books. I liked seeing how the communicated with family and their friends. The social media posts were a nice touch to really add to them being celebrities in a way.

Arc Review: Wake the Bones by Elizabeth Kilcoyne

Title: Wake the Bones
Author: Elizabeth Kilcoyne
Genre: YA Horror / Paranormal
Publication Date: July 12th, 2022
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Rating: ⭐⭐

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

“The sleepy little farm that Laurel Early grew up on has awakened. The woods are shifting, the soil is dead under her hands, and her bone pile just stood up and walked away.

After dropping out of college, all she wanted was to resume her life as a tobacco hand and taxidermist and try not to think about the boy she can’t help but love. Instead, a devil from her past has returned to court her, as he did her late mother years earlier. Now, Laurel must unravel her mother’s terrifying legacy and tap into her own innate magic before her future and the fate of everyone she loves is doomed.” (Goodreads)

I’m not even really sure where to begin with this one. I sat down to write this review, but I am just having a hard time putting it into words. So hopefully it will make sense to you, haha. It’s just a very weird book and was different than what I was expecting. This usually isn’t a bad thing but it left a lot to desire when it came to development.

The book is told from multiple perspectives told in third person. Usually I would be on board with this but I didn’t feel like all of them were necessary. It also was a tad confusing at first because I wasn’t expecting their to be more than one point-of-view. The reason I feel that it was unnecessary at times was due to the fact that it makes it hard to have character development when the book is already short and the reader is going back in forth between point-of-views. This could also be due to there being two different plot points that really didn’t mesh together or give the main one, the horror aspect, any extra details. A couple of the characters did realize what they wanted out of life but again, it wasn’t the main point of the story and it gets lost in the rest of the action.

As I previously mentioned, the plot felt like two separate stories. There was the romance between two characters and then the horror/haunting part that involved the character we met first, Laurel. It was intriguing at the beginning and I thought her hobbies of taxidermy and collecting bones was odd but again, intriguing. The thing is there isn’t enough development and I am left with more questions than answers. I’m still so very confused and feel like I learned nothing. It was just very disappointing.

I will leave the Content Warning from the author here and will say that it can be on gory side: mental and physical abuse, violence, suicide, guns, postpartum depression, drug usage, animal death, and blood.

Overall, this was okay. I honestly feel like I would have loved it more if it felt more cohesive as well as having more answers to the horror part of the story.

Arc Review: The Charmed List by Julie Abe

Title: The Charmed List
Author: Julie Abe
Genre: YA Contemporary / Romance / Urban Fantasy
Publication Date: July 5th, 2022
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐✨

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

“After spending most of high school as the quiet girl, Ellie Kobata is ready to take some risks and have a life-changing summer, starting with her Anti-Wallflower List—thirteen items she’s going to check off one by one. She’s looking forward to riding rollercoasters, making her art Instagram public (maybe), and going on an epic road-trip with her best friend Lia.

But when number four on Ellie’s list goes horribly wrong—revenge on Jack Yasuda—she’s certain her summer has gone from charmed to cursed. Instead of a road trip with Lia, Ellie finds herself stuck in a car with Jack driving to a magical convention. But as Ellie and Jack travel down the coast of California, number thirteen on her list—fall in love—may be happening without her realizing it.

In The Charmed List, Julie Abe sweeps readers away to a secret magical world, complete with cupcakes and tea with added sparks of joy, and an enchanted cottage where you can dance under the stars.” (Goodreads)

Ever since seeing this cover on Instagram I knew I needed to read it! I’m a sucker for a good cover. Although this book wasn’t exactly what I thought it would be, it was still a fun read with tropes that I enjoy.

The book is told from the perspective of Ellie Kobata. She is very much an introvert which is something that I could relate to. She also has a secret world around her filled with magic. I guess I must not have read the blurb before requesting or maybe forgot, but the magical aspect came as a surprise to me. Haha. I didn’t realize this was a rom-com mixed with urban fantasy. It took me a bit to get into because of it, not because it was bad, just had to get my head wrapped around it all!

Ellie has a great relationship with her friend Lia. They do everything together and are always there for one another. This friendship does hit a bump but I liked seeing where it would go and how they would work it out in the end. The biggest relationship change in the book is between Ellie and Jack. They didn’t always start out as enemies, although I guess you could say it’s more one-sided, but it has changed how they have interacted. It was fun to have them go on a road trip together because it made time for them to try and understand one another’s perspective on their whole messed up relationship. It also made for great moments!

Although I did like a majority of the book, it’s still hard for me to fully get into a urban fantasy/magical realism style plot. This has nothing to do with the book and is solely a me thing.

Overall, this was a fun read and I can see it being a hit for so many people!

Arc Review: Daughter of Redwinter by Ed McDonald

Title: Daughter of Redwinter
Author: Ed McDonald
Genre: Adult Fantasy
Publication Date: June 28th, 2022
Publisher: Tor Books
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

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

Those who see the dead soon join them.

From the author of the critically-acclaimed Blackwing trilogy comes Ed McDonald’s Daughter of Redwinter, the first of a brilliant fantasy series about how one choice can change a universe.

Raine can see–and more importantly, speak–to the dead. It’s a wretched gift with a death sentence that has her doing many dubious things to save her skin. Seeking refuge with a deluded cult is her latest bad, survival-related decision. But her rare act of kindness–rescuing an injured woman in the snow–is even worse.

Because the woman has escaped from Redwinter, the fortress-monastery of the Draoihn, warrior magicians who answer to no king and who will stop at nothing to retrieve what she’s stolen. A battle, a betrayal, and a horrific revelation forces Raine to enter Redwinter. It becomes clear that her ability might save an entire nation.

Pity she might have to die for that to happen…” (Goodreads)

I was really drawn into requesting this one because of the cover. I see beauty and I want! This is the start to a new fantasy series by an author I hadn’t read before so I won’t be able to compare this to his previous work. I thought it was decent for what it was but didn’t fully mesh with the main character or the pacing of the story.

The book is told from the point-of-view of Raine. I thought she was a pretty interesting character for the most part but didn’t understand her actions, especially in the beginning of the book. One minute it seems that she has some form of a relationship with another character and next she is telling someone else that he is going to get them all killed. It was also a pretty quick jump. There was also another time where something tragic happened and she just shrugged it off like it was no big deal when discussing it with someone.

I wouldn’t say that I ever connected fully with any of the characters and it may have to do with the pacing. Right from the beginning of the book there is a lot of action but it was also confusing as I didn’t understand the motives of any or really any of the relational dynamics. It led me to be more confused than anything. Even though the second half was better it’s hard for me to form a better connection when I have already felt disconnected.

Overall, this was good but it was hard to get fully invested. The issues I mentioned may not be an issue for other readers and so if you have read his previous works or find this one to sound interesting, I’d still give it a chance.

Arc Review: How to Fake It in Hollywood by Ava Wilder

Title: How to Fake It in Hollywood
Author: Ava Wilder
Genre: Adult Contemporary / Romance
Publication Date: June 14th, 2022
Publisher: Dell
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐✨

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

“A talented Hollywood starlet and a reclusive A-lister enter into a fake relationship . . . and discover that their feelings might be more than a PR stunt in this sexy debut for fans of Beach Read and The Unhoneymooners.

Grey Brooks is on a mission to keep her career afloat now that the end of her long-running teen soap has her (unsuccessfully) pounding the pavement again. With a life-changing role on the line, she’s finally desperate enough to agree to her publicist’s scheme . . . faking a love affair with a disgraced Hollywood heartthrob who needs the publicity, but for very different reasons.

Ethan Atkins just wants to be left alone. Between his high-profile divorce, his struggles with drinking, and his grief over the death of his longtime creative partner and best friend, he’s slowly let himself fade into the background. But if he ever wants to produce the last movie he and his partner wrote together, Ethan needs to clean up his reputation and step back into the spotlight. A gossip-inducing affair with a gorgeous actress might be just the ticket, even if it’s the last thing he wants to do.

Though their juicy public relationship is less than perfect behind the scenes, it doesn’t take long before Grey and Ethan’s sizzling chemistry starts to feel like more than just an act. But after decades in a ruthless industry that requires bulletproof emotional armor to survive, are they too used to faking it to open themselves up to the real thing?” (Goodreads)

I’ve been feeling like reading a romance lately so I figured why not dive into this one! The cover is awesome and I really liked what the blurb had to offer. Fake dating? A trope I have previously enjoyed and also tend to request/read books with it, haha. Although this book didn’t check all of my boxes, I still found enjoyment in it and finished it rather quickly.

The book is told from two point-of-views, Grey Brooks and Ethan Atkins. I am very much a fan of dual perspectives in romance books because I want to know what both parties are thinking in terms of their love interest and even what motivates them. I thought that the author did it nicely and had both characters dealing with turmoil outside of their “fake” relationship. The turmoil does tend to have more page time and development than the relationship. It’s one reason I didn’t fully connect with their relationship, but I at least liked seeing where their arc went with the turmoil.

Since this is about celebrities, there is a lot of drama that comes with it! I am not usually one for the drama but it does work well with these characters, their job, and the setting. I actually liked a lot of it which surprised me.

Overall, this was a fun read. I wish that it had been longer to get more development between the two and to have the side characters feel more present, but I did like what it had to offer nonetheless. If you want a quick read with fake dating and the one bed trope, I’d say give it a chance!