Top Ten Tuesday: Books On My Summer 2021 TBR

Hello Bookworms!

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018.

Today’s prompt is Books On My Summer 2021 TBR. There are a lot of books I would like to get to but I am honestly just trying to focus on my arcs right now. I have 8 left so I will share those and then add two books that are on my physical shelf at home!

1.) Luminous by Mara Rutherford

2.) Defy the Night by Brigid Kemmerer

3.) You’ve Reached Sam by Dustin Thao

4.) Within These Wicked Walls by Lauren Blackwood

5.) The Keeper of Night by Kylie Lee Baker

6.) Stalking Shadows by Cyla Panin

7.) Bright Ruined Things by Samantha Cohoe

8.) This May End Badly by Samantha Markum

9.) Not Another Love Song by Olivia Wildenstein

10.) The Princess Bride by William Goldman

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Are any of these on your tbr? What’s a book you are looking to read this summer?

Let me know in the comments below!

Find me on Instagram / Goodreads

-Joanna TheGeekishBrunette (1)

Arc Review: Forest of Souls (Shamanborn #1) by Lori M. Lee

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Title: Forest of Souls (Shamanborn #1)
Author: Lori M. Lee
Genre: YA Fantasy
Publication Date: June 23rd, 2020
Publisher: PageStreet YA
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

Thank you to the publisher for giving me a copy to review. All opinions are my own.

synopsis header
Danger lurks within the roots of Forest of Souls, an epic, unrelenting tale of destiny and sisterhood, perfect for fans of Naomi Novik and Susan Dennard.

Sirscha Ashwyn comes from nothing, but she’s intent on becoming something. After years of training to become the queen’s next royal spy, her plans are derailed when shamans attack and kill her best friend Saengo.

And then Sirscha, somehow, restores Saengo to life.

Unveiled as the first soulguide in living memory, Sirscha is summoned to the domain of the Spider King. For centuries, he has used his influence over the Dead Wood—an ancient forest possessed by souls—to enforce peace between the kingdoms. Now, with the trees growing wild and untamed, only a soulguide can restrain them. As war looms, Sirscha must master her newly awakened abilities before the trees shatter the brittle peace, or worse, claim Saengo, the friend she would die for.” (Goodreads)

Edit: Just finished my reread of it as I get ready to start the sequel. I tried the audiobook at first but it was rather dull and I lost interest in reading it so I went back to physically reading my copy. I would say my opinion is still the same although I may have liked it just a tad bit more.

Original Review:

As a most anticipated read I was so excited for to finally have my hands on it early! I screamed when opening it because dang, that cover is everything! The thing is, this is an interesting read for various reasons but I was just expecting there to be a moment that would send me to the next level in my emotions but it just never came to fruition.

Sirscha is a girl that has come from nothing. She was orphaned and raise to be a soldier but even with gaining some rank, there are those who want to see her stay beneath them. I am always a fan of the underdog trope. It makes for great character development. I also like that Sirscha feels real. Her choices aren’t always the best and sometimes she does before she thinks. I’m curious to see how her development will continue in the next book.

Sirscha has a wonderful friend, Saengo. There is a lot that happens between them but it also pulls them closer together. I am always here for a great friendship! I can see how they could be compared to Safiya and Iseult because just like them, Sirscha and Saengo are more than just friends.

The other characters weren’t as memorable for me. I feel like the two males that could potentially cause a love triangle (maybe?) will have more to do in book two with the plot. I am hoping so because their development just lacked a bit for me but I did enjoy what I read so far about them.

As for the plot, I’m glad that it centers around friendship and not romance. Sometimes the romance can make or break it but there is just something about a bond where the friends are more like sisters. There are definitely some twists that I wasn’t expecting and I’m curious to see how it will all play out. My only two complaints when it came to the plot was the pacing and just feeling like I needed more.

It was hard to fully immerse myself in the beginning because it is pretty slow during the first 100+ pages. Whenever something did happen, I was waiting for that spark or, in music terms, that drop where it would just take me to that next level.

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The world building is cool and I love the magic system. There is a awesome glossary in the front of the book that helps explain the kingdoms and what the different magics are. It was very helpful.

Overall, it’s a good YA Fantasy with an interesting setting and magic system but I’m hoping that the sequel will give me that next level I am looking for.

-Joanna TheGeekishBrunette (1)

Arc Review: Plot Twist by Bethany Turner

Title: Plot Twist
Author: Bethany Turner
Genre: Adult Contemporary / Romance
Publication Date: June 15th, 2021
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Rating: ⭐⭐

I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

An aspiring screenwriter has a chance encounter with an actor who could be the man of her dreams. Over the next ten years, she’ll write the story . . . but will he end up being the star?

February 4, 2003, promises to be a typical day for Olivia Ross—a greeting card writer whose passion project is a screenplay of her own. But after she and a handsome actor have a magical meet-cute in a coffee shop, they make a spontaneous pact: in ten years, after they’ve found the success they’re just sure they’re going to achieve, they’ll return to the coffeehouse to partner up and make a film together. The only problem? Olivia neglected to get the stranger’s name. But she doesn’t forget his face—or the date.

Every February 4 for the next ten years, Olivia has a day full of coincidences and ironies. As men come and go and return to her life, she continues to write, but still wonders about the guy from the coffee shop—the nameless actor she’s almost certain has turned out to be Hamish MacDougal, now a famous A-lister and Hollywood leading man.

But a lot can happen in ten years, and while waiting for the curtain to rise on her fate, the true story of Olivia’s life is being written—and if she’s not careful, she’ll completely miss the real-life romantic comedy playing out right before her eyes.” (Goodreads)

I thought this would be an interesting read as the encounter from the blurb sounded really interesting. Sadly, this book just didn’t work for me and maybe it’s just a me thing.

The book begins on February 4th, 2003 with an encounter that Olivia will never forget and it also will play a huge role in her life on the same day for the next ten years. I can’t recall reading a book like this besides maybe One Day in December which I couldn’t get into so my brain is a little hazy on how that one worked out.

I can’t say that I ever connected to Olivia but I did like that she didn’t give up on her dream of writing a script even if it took longer than she had first anticipated. The rest of her life was kind of a mess which I get. No life is perfect and we all do rash things but a lot of her actions were pretty selfish, especially when it came to her friend and ex-boyfriend.

Spoilers in this next Paragraphs:

There is one thing that I can’t stand and that is cheating. Although Olivia wasn’t in a relationship at the time, her ex was and she kissed him not only once but twice when he was in two different relationships, one being her friend. That is just not okay and it really turned me off.

It also made me not like Liam because in the beginning he was this laid back guy and then when they broke up and she found herself in a relationship with his friend who cheated on her, Liam had a lot to say about it but also does the same thing. It doesn’t matter if you only have eyes for one person, don’t be in a relationship or stay far away from the person who keeps trying to get you back but then still walks away.

End of Spoilers.

The plot does match the title as it definitely didn’t turn out like I thought it would but I also think the plot was bogged down by all of the celebrity name dropping and the drama of Olivia’s life.

Overall, this was okay but it just wasn’t a book for me as I’m just not the right reader for it.

Arc Review: Son of the Storm (The Nameless Republic #1) by Suyi Davies Okungbowa

Title: Son of the Storm (The Nameless Republic #1)
Author: Suyi Davies Okungbowa
Genre: Adult Fantasy / African Culture
Publication Date: May 11th, 2021
Publisher: Orbit
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Thank you to the publisher and netgalley for an earc to read in exchange for a review!

A young scholar’s ambition threatens to reshape an empire determined to retain its might in this epic tale of violent conquest, buried histories, and forbidden magic.

In the thriving city of Bassa, Danso is a clever but disillusioned scholar who longs for a life beyond the rigid family and political obligations expected of the city’s elite. A way out presents itself when Lilong, a skin-changing warrior, shows up wounded in his barn. She comes from the Nameless Islands–which, according to Bassa lore, don’t exist–and neither should the mythical magic of ibor she wields. Now swept into a conspiracy far beyond his understanding, Danso will have to set out on a journey that reveals histories violently suppressed and magic only found in lore.” (Goodreads)

What a journey this book was!

The book starts off with a prologue introducing a character named Oke, who is in charge of a big secret. We don’t know what it is but the setup has it to be something big and too grave to be put in the wrong hands. Later on in the book there is more about Oke and her role in everything that ends up unfolding. I do wish there was more from her but I do have a feeling that she will be in the next book.

The next chapter is from Danso. He is learning at a university and is worried about expulsion. As a jali novitiate, he is learning to be a scholar-historian. His complexion is not dark enough for those in his city of Bassa. He is ridiculed by it and called a Shashi, which is a slur. Danso also has a lot more on his shoulders. His father wants him to be the head of the household and remain loyal to his duties whether he wants that life or not. It’s a lot of pressure, especially if you are a dreamer who wants more.

As the story progresses, more point-of-views are introduced. Including the two talked about, there are nine in total. This is definitely a lot. This may not be a book for you if you don’t like multiple point-of-views, but each one does add to the overall plot and we learn more about the characters and why each of them chooses the road they take.

One of those characters that makes a big impact on the page is Esheme. She is a very strong woman and quite scary at times. Just like Danso, she knows what it is liked to be marginalized by others which is why she understands him. She grows through a lot of character growth and she does do very questionable things for the sake of power. Honestly, she surprised me the most.

When it comes to Bassa, you are judged by the color of your skin as I mentioned above. The darker skin you have the better. The Upper Council (who’s in charge of Bassa) believes that their city is being diluted due to the enormous population of immigrants. The ones with power, who are true citizens (as they would say) hire private security. The Bassai Upper Council are in it for themselves and what they can gain out of it all.

Since this deals with a city and their government, the books plot has a lot to do with politics. There is a lot of talk about immigration and what happens when the people are not heard, as well as smaller topics. There is so much to dive into and the author does a great job of making the topics standout as well as making them resemble the very same topics in our own world.

The plot doesn’t focus on any romances but there are minor sex scenes. There is also quite a bit of gore but it’s not often that it happens.

When it comes to the pacing, there is a lot going on for the characters but it can be slow going at times. Some chapters (point-of-views) were easier to get through than others but I still managed to read this book in a decent time because I needed to know what would happen next.

There were good plot twists that kept it all going and the ending was nicely done but also left on a cliffhanger.

The only thing I have left to talk about is the magic system. There isn’t a lot about it but what is included in the first book was fun to learn about. Not everyone can wield it but those that do have crazy powers, but it all comes with a price. I am hoping to see more about it in the next book.

Overall, this was really good. It was a solid start to a new series and I will be looking forward to reading the sequel.

E-Arc Review: The Life and Deaths of Frankie D. by Colleen Nelson

Title: The Life and Deaths of Frankie D.
Author: Colleen Nelson
Genre: YA Fantasy / Magical Realism / Contemporary
Publication Date: May 11th, 2021
Publisher: Dundurn

Thank you to the publisher and netgalley for an earc to read in exchange for a review!




Could a hundred-year-old circus sideshow be the key to Frankie’s mysterious past?

Seventeen-year old Frankie doesn’t trust easily. Not others, and not even herself. Found in an alley when she was a child, she has no memory of who she is, or why she was left there. Recurring dreams about a hundred-year-old carnival sideshow, a performer known as Alligator Girl, and a man named Monsieur Duval have an eerie familiarity to them.

Frankie gets drawn deeper into Alligator Girl’s world, and the secrets that kept the performers bound together. But a startling encounter with Monsieur Duval when she’s awake makes Frankie wonder what’s real and what’s in her head.

As Frankie’s and Alligator Girl’s stories unfold, Frankie’s life takes a sharp twist. Are the dreams her way of working through her trauma, or is there a more sinister plan at work? And if there is, does she have the strength to fight it?” (Goodreads)

I was intrigued by this one because of the title and the cover. Both are just really enticing. I did like certain aspects of this book but there were also a lot that I didn’t like or they just felt rushed which is why this book ended up not being one that was for me.

The first thing that didn’t work for me was the labeling of this book. It is labeled as YA but I think that the target genre is more Middle Grade. This is just how the writing style is and I don’t think there is anything wrong with it. I do think that someone in the Middle grade would really enjoy this over a teen.

The book is split into past memories and present time. I always like double timelines so this was fun to see.

I did enjoy seeing where Frankie’s story took her. There was a lot of mystery surrounding her and this circus she kept dreaming about. That part easily pulls in a reader. The thing is, I just think there were too many topics put into the plot and some of them just didn’t get fleshed out enough because of the length of the book. The ending also was rushed and I just hate when that happens.

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

Arc Review: Sky Breaker (Night Spinner #2) by Addie Thorley

Title: Sky Breaker (Night Spinner #2)
Author: Addie Thorley
Genre: YA Fantasy / Retelling
Publication Date: May 4th, 2021
Publisher: Page Street Kids

Thank you to the publisher and netgalley for an earc to read in exchange for a review!




Wicked Saints meets the Grishaverse in this stunning and relentless conclusion to the Night Spinner duology

Enebish has been deceived by everyone she once considered a friend. On the run across the tundra, her only allies are her best friend Serik and a band of ill-tempered shepherds. Her only hope of bringing peace to Ashkar is to unite the people of the Protected Territories and make a stand against the tyrannical Sky King and the hostile nation of Zemya. But that’s easier said than done. As supplies dwindle, the shepherds become far more desperate for food than freedom.

Meanwhile, Zemyan forces have stormed the Ashkarian capital. Imperial Army Commander Ghoa throws all of her power into a last-ditch effort to save her king, only to be abandoned by her fellow warriors. Held captive in a prison forged of magic and tortured by the zealous sorcerer Kartok, Ghoa learns his true ambitions lie far beyond the warring countries—he wants vengeance on the gods themselves.

The war between Ashkar and Zemya began centuries ago as a feud amongst the gods. Now it’s up to the two most hated people on the continent—the monstrous outcast, Enebish, and the notorious war criminal, Ghoa—to heal that spiritual divide before Kartok brings the skies crashing down on all of them.” (Goodreads)

After reading the first book last year, I knew I needed to get my hands on the second book! I loved the characters, especially Enebish and Serik.

Enebish is struggling a lot more in this one than the last book. A lot of damage was done to her trust from those who were close to her and in any situation like that, it’s easy to distance yourself from others. You don’t want to be hurt again and that is understandable. Been there, done that! It is easy to feel for her and connect with her again just like in book one. Enebish’s flaws are definitely on full display and cause rifts among those she is trying to help as well as with Serik.

Even though there is a lot of inner strife that she is dealing with, she still remains a strong character that will do anything to make things right again. Although, she can be quite stubborn about it.

As in the previous book, there is a bit of love interest between her and Serik. I thought the relationship would have more buildup but it remains a smaller plot point much like in the first book. There are a few scenes between them but most of their interaction is Serik being the voice of reason.

A few minor characters from book one are back but there are also many new faces. It was enjoyable to get to know the new cast and see how they would fit into the plot.

There is a bit of a difference between this book and the first and that is the dual point-of-view this time around. Ghoa was introduced in book one and had a lot to do with Enebish. I wasn’t sure at first how I would like this point-of-view since she wasn’t very nice before. Just like Enebish, she is fighting her own battles. She does get a redemption arc which I am not always a fan of, but it was done well and I didn’t dislike it. I am still not a huge fan of her but it was good to see her side of things and it does show that people can change.

Although the beginning of the book was a bit on the slower side, there are still many plot twists and action in the rest of the book to keep you going back for more. The plot wasn’t like anything I expected. There is a lot more about the magic system and religion as well as tying in important topics from our own world such as freedom and justice for everyone.

Overall, this was a really good conclusion for the duology. I will be sad to see these characters go but will be looking forward to any books this author writes in the future.

Arc Review: Dial A for Aunites by Jesse Q. Sutanto

Title: Dial A for Aunties
Author: Jesse Q. Sutanto
Genre: Adult Contemporary / Romance / Mystery
Publication Date: April 27th, 2021
Publisher: Berkley

Thank you to the publisher and netgalley for an earc to read in exchange for a review!




“A hilariously quirky novel that is equal parts murder mystery, rom-com, and a celebration of mothers and daughters as well as a deep dive into Chinese-Indonesian culture, by debut author Jesse Q. Sutanto.

1 (accidental) murder
2 thousand wedding guests
3 (maybe) cursed generations
4 meddling Asian aunties to the rescue!

When Meddelin Chan ends up accidentally killing her blind date, her meddlesome mother calls for her even more meddlesome aunties to help get rid of the body. Unfortunately, a dead body proves to be a lot more challenging to dispose of than one might anticipate, especially when it is accidentally shipped in a cake cooler to the over-the-top billionaire wedding Meddy, her Ma, and aunties are working, at an island resort on the California coastline. It’s the biggest job yet for their family wedding business—“Don’t leave your big day to chance, leave it to the Chans!”—and nothing, not even an unsavory corpse, will get in the way of her auntie’s perfect buttercream cake flowers.

But things go from inconvenient to downright torturous when Meddy’s great college love—and biggest heartbreak—makes a surprise appearance amid the wedding chaos. Is it possible to escape murder charges, charm her ex back into her life, and pull off a stunning wedding all in one weekend?” (Goodreads)

This book was definitely the most unique rom-com I have ever read by far.

Meddelin Chan has grown up knowing about a curse that ultimately leaves the women in her family menless. She stays close to home unlike her cousins and remains close to her family, which includes her aunts and her mother, and helps with their wedding business as a photographer.

The family in this book is one that I really liked. They were always there for her even if that means concealing a dead body, ha. Just like any other family, they also meddle especially her mom who tries to find her a husband. All of this played into the plot well and made for some funny moments. I also liked the author’s note about how the character’s resemble her family in ways.

I did mention funny moments and although I laughed a bit, there were also times that should have been funny but they just weren’t for me and I am sure this is just because of my own preference on what I find funny. My sense of humor is kind of bland and I do think other readers will like the quirkiness of the story more than me. But it’s not like I didn’t like it overall. I’m complicated. 🤷‍♀️😂

The romance is one that involves a second chance at love with the one who got away. There is a bit of development for it as there are past-tense chapters to explain what happened between them and why it didn’t work the first time. There isn’t too much development in the present-tense but I think this is due to the other plot points which I didn’t mind.

Overall, I liked this one and am looking forward to more books by this author.

Goodreads Monday: Within These Wicked Walls by Lauren Blackwood (3/29/21)

Hello Readers!

Goodreads Monday is hosted by Lauren’s Page Turners. To participate, choose a random book from your TBR and show it off.

Title: Within These Wicked Walls
Author: Lauren Blackwood
Genre: YA Fantasy / Retelling / Paranormal
Publication Date: November 9th, 2021
Publisher: Wednesday Books

What the heart desires, the house destroys…

Kiersten White meets Tomi Adeyemi in this Ethiopian-inspired debut fantasy retelling of Jane Eyre.

Andromeda is a debtera—an exorcist hired to cleanse households of the Evil Eye. When a handsome young heir named Magnus Rochester reaches out to hire her, Andromeda quickly realizes this is a job like no other, with horrifying manifestations at every turn, and that Magnus is hiding far more than she has been trained for. Death is the most likely outcome if she stays, but leaving Magnus to live out his curse alone isn’t an option. Evil may roam the castle’s halls, but so does a burning desire.” (Goodreads)

I got an email from Netgalley yesterday about books that were a “read now” for 48 hours. This was one that I had been eyeing so I was happy to get it!

Does this one sound like something you would read?

Find me on Instagram / Goodreads

-Joanna TheGeekishBrunette (1)

Goodreads Monday: You’ve Reached Sam by Dustin Thao (3/22/21)

Hello Readers!

Goodreads Monday is hosted by Lauren’s Page Turners. To participate, choose a random book from your TBR and show it off.

Title: You’ve Reached Sam
Author: Dustin Thao
Genre: YA Contemporary / Magical Realism
Publication Date: November 2nd, 2021
Publisher: Wednesday Books

If I Stay meets Your Name in this heartfelt novel about love, loss, and what it means to say goodbye.

Seventeen-year-old Julie has her future all planned out—move out of her small town with her boyfriend Sam, attend college in the city, spend a summer in Japan. But then Sam dies. And everything changes.

Heartbroken, Julie skips his funeral, throws out his things, and tries everything to forget him and the tragic way he died. But a message Sam left behind in her yearbook forces back memories. Desperate to hear his voice one more time, Julie calls Sam’s cellphone just to listen to his voicemail.

And Sam picks up the phone.

In a miraculous turn of events, Julie’s been given a second chance at goodbye. The connection is temporary. But hearing Sam’s voice makes her fall for him all over again, and with each call it becomes harder to let him go. However, keeping her otherworldly calls with Sam a secret isn’t easy, especially when Julie witnesses the suffering Sam’s family is going through. Unable to stand by the sidelines and watch their shared loved ones in pain, Julie is torn between spilling the truth about her calls with Sam and risking their connection and losing him forever.” (Goodreads)

I found this one on Netgalley and couldn’t resist requesting! I absolutely love the cover and really need more contemporary books in my life.

Does this one sound like something you would read?

Find me on Instagram / Goodreads

-Joanna TheGeekishBrunette (1)

Arc Review: Fadeaway by E.B. Vickers

Title: Fadeaway
Author: E.B. Vickers
Genre: YA Contemporary / Mystery / Suspense
Publication Date: March 23rd, 2021
Publisher: Knopf

Thank you to the publisher and netgalley for an earc to read in exchange for a review!




When a high school basketball star goes missing, a town’s secrets are exposed in this edge-of-your seat, addictive read.

At 8:53 pm, thousands of people watched as Jake Foster secured the state title for his basketball team with his signature fadeaway. But by the next morning, he’s disappeared without a trace. Nobody has any idea where he is: not his best friend who knows him better than anyone else, not his ex-girlfriend who may still have feelings for him, not even his little brother who never expected Jake to abandon him. Rumors abound regarding Jake’s whereabouts. Was he abducted? Did he run away to try to take his game to the next level? Or is it something else, something darker—something they should have seen coming?

Told from the points of view of those closest to Jake, this gripping, suspenseful novel reminds us that the people we think we know best are sometimes hiding the most painful secrets.” (Goodreads)

This book was such a pleasant surprise!

Before going into this one, I didn’t know much about it besides what was described in the blurb. It didn’t take long for me to get sucked into it and not want to put it down. If it wasn’t for sleep and starting it late, I would have finished it in one day.

One thing I enjoy, especially when it comes to mystery/suspense books, is when they use different formats. This one has police interrogations of those close to the missing person, Jake, as well as journal entries from him and his brother. I also liked the use of multiple point-of-views and past/present timelines. It helps to build the relationships of these people with Jake as well as paint the bigger picture of who he is as a person. If that isn’t enough, there is also a point-of-view from Jake from after he goes missing! That one brought on a lot of plot twists and had me so intrigued!

Even though the above may seem like a lot for one novel, this author does a great job of it not bogging down the plot. It’s written well and it’s easy to understand the emotions of all of those involved.

This may have a lot of mystery/suspense to it but I wasn’t expecting it to talk about a tough subject like addiction. It talks about how addiction can impact the person, the family, and those around them in their community. The author spins it into a great story with a lot of meaning and I thought it was well done. It’s definitely a topic that needs to be talked more about.

Overall, this was really enjoyable! My review isn’t too long since with these kinds of books its better to go in surprised.