Book Review | The Davenports by Krystal Marquis

Title: The Davenports
Author: Krystal Marquis
Genre: YA Historical Fiction / Romance
Publication Date: January 31st, 2023
Publisher: Dial Books
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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

“The Davenports are one of the few Black families of immense wealth and status in a changing United States, their fortune made through the entrepreneurship of William Davenport, a formerly enslaved man who founded the Davenport Carriage Company years ago. Now it’s 1910, and the Davenports live surrounded by servants, crystal chandeliers, and endless parties, finding their way and finding love—even where they’re not supposed to.

There is Olivia, the beautiful elder Davenport daughter, ready to do her duty by getting married . . . until she meets the charismatic civil rights leader Washington DeWight and sparks fly. The younger daughter, Helen, is more interested in fixing cars than falling in love—unless it’s with her sister’s suitor. Amy-Rose, the childhood friend turned maid to the Davenport sisters, dreams of opening her own business—and marrying the one man she could never be with, Olivia and Helen’s brother, John. But Olivia’s best friend, Ruby, also has her sights set on John Davenport, though she can’t seem to keep his interest . . . until family pressure has her scheming to win his heart, just as someone else wins hers.

Inspired by the real-life story of the Patterson family, The Davenports is the tale of four determined and passionate young Black women discovering the courage to steer their own path in life—and love.” (Goodreads)

I’m so glad I was able to get a copy from BookishFirst because this was a good YA Regency novel!

The book is told from multiple point-of-views and they come from Olivia, Helen, Amy-Rose, and Ruby. They are all connected in some way and their stories overlap quite a bit but they also have their own plotlines as well.

Helen was my favorite out of the four. She had hobbies that weren’t right for her to have and I’ve felt that way before. She also didn’t care what others thought of her and basically danced to the beat of her own drum. Olivia learned a lot from her when it came to that. Her love interest was a surprise and his intentions were even more surprising as his secrets are revealed. I do hope that she gets a happy ending though.

Olivia was very much the child who did what they were told until she meets someone who changes her perception of the world. I liked that she was open to learning and it’s definitely something that everyone should strive to be like. She didn’t let danger dictate her path, or her parents.

Amy-Rose has had a hard life due to her background and also her position in society. I really felt for her situation, especially when it came to her love interest. She struggles a lot with identity and society only makes it harder for her. I will say that she is very persistent!

Ruby is a friend of Olivia and has been around the Davenport family since they were all children. Her family’s status is changing slowly and its partly due to her father’s campaign for Mayor. She doesn’t really have anyone to talk to about it until she meets a certain fellow and he changes her idea of love and duty.

I did like one more, but honestly they were all great characters and I liked their stories for different reasons. The other characters were also good, but some didn’t have as much page time and I hope we will see more of them in the sequel.

This book is definitely more romance than informative on the issues that are talked about. I don’t think it was bad though as the issues did spark my interest and I have done my own google searches because of it. There is still room for there to be more talk though and I am looking forward to it.

Overall, this was an enjoyable read!

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Book Review | Spice Road by Maiya Ibrahim

Title: Spice Road (Spice Road Trilogy #1)
Author: Maiya Ibrahim
Genre: YA Fantasy
Publication Date: January 24th, 2023
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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

“In the hidden desert city of Qalia, secret spice magic awakens affinities in those who drink the misra tea. With an affinity for iron, seventeen-year-old Imani wields a dagger like no other warrior, garnering her the reputation as the next greatest Shield for battling the dangerous djinn, ghouls, and other monsters that lurk in the sands beyond city limits.
Her reputation has been overshadowed, however, by her brother who tarnished the family name after he was discovered stealing their nation’s coveted spice – a tell-tale sign of magical obsession. He disappeared soon after, believed to have died beyond the Forbidden Wastes, and leaving Imani reeling with both betrayal and grief.

But when Imani uncovers evidence her brother may be alive and spreading their nation’s magic beyond the desert, she strikes a deal with the Council to find him and bring him back to Qalia before he can reveal the city’s location. Accompanied by Qayn, a roguish but handsome djinni, and Taha, a powerful beastseer whose magical talents are matched only by his arrogance, they set out on their mission.
Imani will soon discover there are many secrets that lie beyond the Forbidden Wastes – and in her own heart – but will she find her brother before his betrayals endanger the fate of all of Qalia?” (Goodreads)

This is the start of a new trilogy and one that I was excited to be approved for through Netgalley! I feel like I have read books similar to this, like The Stardust Thief by Chelsea Abdullah, but it still managed to be unique and surprising read!

The book is told from one point-of-view and it comes from Imani. She is a dedicated Shield that helps take care of her home city from monsters such as the djinn. They know her well as the Djinn Slayer. The one thing that made me impartial to Imani is that she can very much fall into the “I can do everything and survive”. Don’t get me wrong, I did like seeing her come out on top and even stick up for those that couldn’t on their own but I would have liked a bit more struggle on her end as it seems everything comes naturally to her. She still is a great character though since she family is a number one priority and that will give any character brownie points from me.

There is also more to Imani than her job as well. She has lived a sheltered life and through the disappearance of her brother she finally starts to understand the rest of the world that has been kept a secret from her. It isn’t easy for her to understand either as it just brings on more questions about the colonizers and the Council that protects her city. I feel like politics was just surface level and I am sure there will be a lot more in the sequel.

The other characters in this book have been very interesting so far. Qayn is the one I am most intrigued by! He is a djinn who is suave and hides many secrets. What is not to love about that? Haha. I think that Taha and his friends have also been secretive but some of theirs due come to light by the end of the book. I am very conflicted when it comes to Taha though. It’s hard to tell if he is just a good manipulator or cares deep down. I do think that some of the characters will get more page time and I am looking forward to learning more about them and their cause.

Although this book did take me a bit to get into, I did eventually find myself wanting to sit down and pick it up. I thought that it was very adventurous and even with some down times it didn’t discourage me. There are some thrilling plot twists and I can’t wait to see how the story continues in the sequel.

Overall, this was a solid debut!

Book Review | The Fraud Squad by Kyla Zhao

Title: The Fraud Squad
Author: Kyla Zhao
Genre: Adult Contemporary / Romance
Publication Date: January 17th, 2023
Publisher: Berkley Books
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐✨

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

“For as long as she can remember, Samantha Song has dreamed of writing for a high-society magazine—and she’d do anything to get there. But the constant struggle to help her mom make ends meet and her low social status cause her dream to feel like a distant fantasy.

Now Samantha finds herself working at a drab PR firm. Living vicariously through her wealthy coworker and friend, Anya Chen, is the closest she’ll get to her ideal life. Until she meets Timothy Kingston: the disillusioned son of one of Singapore’s elite families—and Samantha’s one chance at infiltrating the high-society world to which she desperately wants to belong.

To Samantha’s surprise, Timothy and Anya both agree to help her make a name for herself on Singapore’s socialite scene. But the borrowed designer clothes and plus-ones to every glamorous event can only get her so far. The rest is on Samantha, and she’s determined to impress the editor in chief of Singapore’s poshest magazine. But the deeper Samantha wades into this fraud, the more she fears being exposed—especially with a mysterious gossip columnist on the prowl for dirt—forcing her to reconcile her pretense with who she really is before she loses it all.” (Goodreads)

This was a fun read and even though I have read books with a similar plot, I thought this one really shined on its own.

The book is told from one point-of-view and it comes from Samantha Song. She has watched the high-society world from the outside for a long time, mostly through a magazine she wishes she could work for. Through her job at a PR agency, she meets Anya and through her Timothy. Both have connections to that world and they make a plan to turn her into a socialite.

Samantha is an interesting character. Sometimes I disliked her and other times I felt for her situation. I understand why and how she could act the way she did because fame and popularity can definitely cause a big head. I just felt so bad for those she mistreated, especially her friend who was also on the lower side of society. Samantha did have good qualities though. She cares for her mother and wants to see everyone be able to mingle. I also like that she is opinionated.

The other characters were decent but I feel like they didn’t get the same attention and felt a bit one-dimensional at times. This is also why the romance was on the meh side.

Where this book shines is the plot! I couldn’t put it down when it came to her becoming a socialite. It was cool to see her shine in a place outside of her own. She did it with such grace. I wish I had her confidence.

Overall, this was a good read. I am looking forward to what she writes next.

Book Review | Mysteries of Thorn Manor (Sorcery of Thorns #1.5) by Margaret Rogerson

Title: Mysteries of Thorn Manor (Sorcery of Thorns #1.5)
Author: Margaret Rogerson
Genre: YA Fantasy / Novella
Publication Date: January 17th, 2023
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐✨

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

“Elisabeth Scrivener is finally settling into her new life with sorcerer Nathaniel Thorn. Now that their demon companion Silas has returned, so has scrutiny from nosy reporters hungry for gossip about the city’s most powerful sorcerer and the librarian who stole his heart. But something strange is afoot at Thorn Manor: the estate’s wards, which are meant to keep their home safe, are acting up and forcibly trapping the Manor’s occupants inside. Surely it must be a coincidence that this happened just as Nathaniel and Elisabeth started getting closer to one another…
With no access to the outside world, Elisabeth, Nathaniel, and Silas – along with their new maid Mercy – will have to work together to discover the source of the magic behind the malfunctioning wards before they’re due to host the city’s Midwinter Ball. Not an easy task when the house is filled with unexpected secrets, and all Elisabeth can think about is kissing Nathaniel in peace. But when it becomes clear that the house, influenced by the magic of Nathaniel’s ancestors, requires a price for its obedience, Elisabeth and Nathaniel will have to lean on their connection like never before to set things right.” (Goodreads)

This was a cute and lighthearted novella to continue on the story of Elisabeth, Nathaniel, and Silas.

The book follows the point-of-view of Elisabeth in third person narrative. Her mind definitely has a lot of thoughts when it comes to Nathaniel and Silas. She is trying to figure out what her life will be like now that everything has settled down. I can understand her feelings towards love and long term relationships. She always tries to understand Silas a lot more, even if he doesn’t see himself as she does.

There are cute moments between Elisabeth and Nathaniel. I liked the adventure they are set on to make things right at the manor. It all culminates to a surprise at the end which is what I was hoping would happen. I do think that it could have been drawn out a bit more and probably not done at that moment when someone is asking Nathaniel about something but maybe that is just me.

Overall, this was good and it did give me some answers that I had about their futures. I just wish it would have been just a bit longer.

Book Review | The Reunion by Kayla Olson

Title: The Reunion
Author: Kayla Olson
Genre: Adult Contemporary / Romance
Publication Date: January 17th, 2023
Publisher: Atria Books
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

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

“Liv Latimer grew up on TV. As the star of the popular teen drama Girl on the Verge, Liv spent her adolescence on the screen trying to be as picture perfect as her character in real life. But after the death of her father and the betrayal of her on-screen love interest and off-screen best friend Ransom Joel, Liv wanted nothing more than to retreat, living a mostly normal life aside from a few indie film roles. But now, twenty years after the show’s premiere, the cast is invited back for a reunion special, financed by a major streaming service.
Liv is happy to be back on set, especially once she discovers Ransom has only improved with age. And their chemistry is certainly still intact. They quickly fall into their old rhythms, rediscovering what had drawn them together decades before. But with new rivalries among the cast emerging and the specter of a reboot shadowing their shoot, Liv questions whether returning to the past is what she needs to finally get her own happy ending.” (Goodreads)

This is one of those reads where it would be considered a popcorn book. It wasn’t amazing but it had it’s moments and made for a good read where you don’t have to think much about it.

The book is told from one point-of-view and it comes from Liv Latimer. She was a child actress who retreated from the spotlight after the death of her father. I couldn’t imagine losing someone so close and then having paparazzi in your face about your feelings. I understood a lot of her choices. She was doing what was best for her mental health and that is something a lot of people have a hard time with.

A lot of the other characters felt very surface level, even Liz at times. I didn’t feel a grand connection to them outside of what I mentioned about the main character. Because of this, the romance felt lacking. There wasn’t a big connection between them besides what was in the past that never happened and they remained with those feelings their whole lives. It felt like everything we got from them was mostly past experiences and not enough “in the moment”. I just wish it hasn’t been so insta-love when it came to their second chance. They did at least have some cute moments together.

The format of the book includes articles and social media comments to pull everything together when it comes to celebrities and being in the spotlight. I thought they were a nice touch and always like seeing other formats of writing included.

Overall, this was a cute read but it also felt lacking in some areas.

Book Review | Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries by Heather Fawcett

Title: Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries
Author: Heather Fawcett
Genre: Adult Fantasy / Fae
Publication Date: Janaury 10th, 2023
Publisher: Del Rey Books
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

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

“Cambridge professor Emily Wilde is good at many things: She is the foremost expert on the study of faeries. She is a genius scholar and a meticulous researcher who is writing the world’s first encyclopaedia of faerie lore. But Emily Wilde is not good at people. She could never make small talk at a party–or even get invited to one. And she prefers the company of her books, her dog, Shadow, and the Fair Folk to other people.
So when she arrives in the hardscrabble village of Hrafnsvik, Emily has no intention of befriending the gruff townsfolk. Nor does she care to spend time with another new arrival: her dashing and insufferably handsome academic rival Wendell Bambleby, who manages to charm the townsfolk, get in the middle of Emily’s research, and utterly confound and frustrate her.
But as Emily gets closer and closer to uncovering the secrets of the Hidden Ones–the most elusive of all faeries–lurking in the shadowy forest outside the town, she also finds herself on the trail of another mystery: Who is Wendell Bambleby, and what does he really want? To find the answer, she’ll have to unlock the greatest mystery of all–her own heart.” (Goodreads)

This book wasn’t a bad book but there were just a couple of things that kept me from latching onto it. I do think that this book will invest other readers and I wish it had worked better for me.

The book is told from one point-of-view and it comes from Emily Wilde. She is studying faeries and has found herself in a small village to continue out her work. I liked this idea a lot. Usually we see a lot of scholarly people but they aren’t out in the field and it usually doesn’t have to deal with the fae folk. It makes for an interesting premise. Emily is a very secluded woman who knows what she wants. I liked that about her because she was usually ostracized for having poor social skills, ha. I feel like we could have gotten along because of that.

The other characters were fine but I feel like some were just one dimensional and when I thought they would have more to do with the plot they didn’t.

My biggest issue with the book was the writing style. It’s a great idea to write it like scholarly journal entries but it made it very dull and I found myself not wanting to pick the book up. This may not be an issue for some.

Another issue I had was that many of the exciting parts don’t happen until after the halfway point. If I am already dulled by the writing and the pace is slow it’s just a disasterly combo for my reading mood.

I do think that some of the things she learned about the fae folk were cool but some just felt very short with no continuation. I just wish there had been more.

Overall, this was a decent book. I didn’t dislike it but I didn’t love it either. I’m sure that it will find its readers though because it is very unique.

First Lines Friday | 1-6-23

Hello Lovely Readers!

First Lines Fridays is a weekly feature for book lovers hosted by Wandering Words. What if instead of judging a book by its cover, its author or its prestige, we judged it by its opening lines?

  • Pick a book off your shelf (it could be your current read or on your TBR) and open to the first page
  • Copy the first few lines, but don’t give anything else about the book away just yet – you need to hook the reader first
  • Finally… reveal the book!

“Alaska in January is a fairy tale, with frost-rimed branches glittering in the pale moonlight, like lace woven by a snow maiden.”

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The book is….

A woman fleeing her disastrous marriage discovers that she is part of a legendary love story that spans lives, years, and continents in this modern-day reimagining of Romeo and Juliet.

When Helene was young, she dreamed of the perfect man and filled her notebooks with stories about him and about love in its purest form. But after a messy divorce, she has let go of such naive fantasies. She has moved to a small town in Alaska, where she is ready to write her novel and build a new life without romance. Fate has other plans, though.

Helene soon meets Sebastien Montague, a handsome fisherman who is her invented hero made flesh, down to the most idiosyncratic details. But how can a man she created possibly exist in the real world?

While Helene tries to discover the truth behind his existence, Sebastien is determined to keep that truth from her, for he is a man scarred by serial tragedy, hiding a secret that has broken his heart time and again. Yet the shadows of the past emerge, endangering Helene and Sebastien’s future before it even begins–and it becomes clear that it won’t be easy to forge a new ending to the greatest love story of all time. (Goodreads)

HAVE YOU READ THIS BOOK? DO YOU WANT TO READ IT?

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Book Review | Waking Fire by Jean Louise

Title: Waking Fire
Author: Jean Louise
Genre: YA Fantasy
Publication Date: January 10th, 2023
Publisher: Inkyard Press
Rating: ⭐⭐

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

“Naira Khoum has only known life in Lagusa, a quiet village at the desert’s end. But to the rest of the world, Lagusa is a myth, its location shrouded in secrecy. While war rages to the north led by power-hungry Sothpike and his army of undead monsters called Dambi, Naira’s people live in peace.
Until the impossible happens—Lagusa is attacked by a Mistress sent to do Sothpike’s bidding with a hoard of Dambi under her control. The Mistress is looking for something, and she’s willing to let her Dambi destroy Lagusa to get it.
Desperate to protect her home, Naira convinces her twin brother Nez and handsome refugee Kal to join the newly formed resistance with her. Together, they’ll have to figure out what the Mistress wants—before there’s nothing left of Lagusa to save.” (Goodreads)

As an anticipated read, I wanted to love this one. The cover is gorgeous! Orange is definitely a striking color. This could have easily been thrown into the DNF pile but I decided to slug on through in hopes that it would get better. I think my biggest complaint has to deal with the writing style of this author. It reads very low on the YA spectrum and if it wasn’t for the use of the b word I would have thought it could be on the higher side of MG. This could totally be a personal opinion though. Maybe others hadn’t felt the same.

I was very intrigued by the prologue and thought that it was going to go a lot different when it came to the book based on that little part. After getting a couple chapters in I totally lost focus and didn’t really have that feeling to continually pick it up. It is very much an average YA book with the usual tropes, one being insta-love. It’s a trope I just don’t get along with. It didn’t feel like there was any real buildup to this romance.

For me, the plot and characters weren’t much better. I had wished there had been more development for the characters and a better understanding of the world as well. I feel like a lot could have been explored more and it would have made for an even better read.

I feel like there will be those who like this one though, especially if they want something light when it comes to the YA Fantasy genre. So, if you are one of those people then give it a chance!

Book Review | The Wrong Kind of Weird by James Ramos

Title: The Wrong Kind of Weird
Author: James Ramos
Genre: YA Contemporary / Romance
Publication Date: January 3rd, 2023
Publisher: Inkyard Press
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐✨

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

Cameron Carson, member of the Geeks and Nerds United (GANU) club, has been secretly hooking up with student council president, cheerleader, theater enthusiast, and all-around queen bee Karla Ortega since the summer. The one problem—what was meant to be a summer fling between coffee shop coworkers has now evolved into a clandestine senior-year entanglement, where Karla isn’t intending on blending their friend groups anytime soon, or at all.
Enter Mackenzie Briggs, who isn’t afraid to be herself or wear her heart on her sleeve. When Cameron finds himself unexpectedly bonding with Mackenzie and repeatedly snubbed in public by Karla, he starts to wonder who he can truly consider a friend and who might have the potential to become more…” (Goodreads)

This was a cute YA Romance!

The book is told from one point-of-view and it comes from Cameron Carson. He finds himself in the middle of two girls that are very different from one another. I wouldn’t say that it is your typical love triangle, but it does cause a lot of problems for Cameron.

Through the hookup with Karla and getting to know Mackenzie better, he learns what he wants from a relationship and also how to be himself. Karla comes from a different group of friends and Cameron hasn’t always got along with them because they seem him as that weird, nerdy kid. I could definitely relate to him on that front because I was that kid in high school. Mackenzie brings out the best in him and he can be more of himself. He doesn’t have to change who he is and that is the kind of message I enjoy reading about!

There were only a couple things I wasn’t a fan of, but this is just personal taste. There was more sex talk than I like in YA as well as jokes that just don’t fit my humor. These two details won’t be an issue for others so definitely take it with a grain of salt!

Overall, this was a nice YA romance. Cameron learns a lot about himself and I think many teens will be able to relate to him. It’s also a very quick read too!

Book Review | Song of Silver, Flame Like Night by Amélie Wen Zhao

Title: Song of Silver, Flame Like Night
Author: Amélie Wen Zhao
Genre: YA Fantasy
Publication Date: January 3rd, 2022
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

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

“In a fallen kingdom, one girl carries the key to discovering the secrets of her nation’s past—and unleashing the demons that sleep at its heart. An epic fantasy series inspired by the mythology and folklore of ancient China.
Once, Lan had a different name. Now she goes by the one the Elantian colonizers gave her when they invaded her kingdom, killed her mother, and outlawed her people’s magic. She spends her nights as a songgirl in Haak’gong, a city transformed by the conquerors, and her days scavenging for what she can find of the past. Anything to understand the strange mark burned into her arm by her mother in her last act before she died.
The mark is mysterious—an untranslatable Hin character—and no one but Lan can see it. Until the night a boy appears at her teahouse and saves her life.

Zen is a practitioner—one of the fabled magicians of the Last Kingdom. Their magic was rumored to have been drawn from the demons they communed with. Magic believed to be long lost. Now it must be hidden from the Elantians at all costs.
When Zen comes across Lan, he recognizes what she is: a practitioner with a powerful ability hidden in the mark on her arm. He’s never seen anything like it—but he knows that if there are answers, they lie deep in the pine forests and misty mountains of the Last Kingdom, with an order of practitioning masters planning to overthrow the Elantian regime.
Both Lan and Zen have secrets buried deep within—secrets they must hide from others, and secrets that they themselves have yet to discover. Fate has connected them, but their destiny remains unwritten. Both hold the power to liberate their land. And both hold the power to destroy the world.
Now the battle for the Last Kingdom begins.” (Goodreads)

I’ve been curious about this one ever since I first laid eyes on the cover. I love the dragon on it! I also have read her first series, liked it for the most part, and I think that’s another reason I wanted to read this one. It is a good start to a new series about Chinese Folklore, but I wasn’t able to fall in love with it.

The book is told from multiple point-of-views, Lan and Zen. They come into contact with one another and realize that in some way, shape, or form they are connected with certain goals that align. I did like learning about both of them and their pasts. Lan is coming with a lot of baggage that deals with her mother and it’s hard for her to deal with because of what she had seen. It comes into play a lot and I don’t blame her for her actions because of it. Zen is a bit of a harder shell to crack and I think that describes his personality well. He has a soft side but doesn’t show it very much. I would say that these two characters stood out the most and the minor ones were fine but I don’t feel like I ever got to know some of them well.

There is a lot of info dump in this book, especially in the beginning, and it did take me out of the story. It felt like paragraphs on top of paragraphs. There is a lot about politics and the magic system. This could have easily been why it felt like it was slower paced. The book does pick up further in.

I will say that this author’s writer has definitely improved from her first series.

Overall, this one was kind of a mixed bag for me. There are some great elements to it but not enough for me to continue on. I do think that others will enjoy it and I’d definitely recommend for those who enjoy the YA Fantasy genre.