Monthly Wrap-Up

Monthly Reading Wrap-Up: January 2020

What a month!

I may have gone a bit crazy this month and didn’t even know it until I started counting them. Granted, January lasts FOR FOREVER so you can’t really blame me. I had a great re-read, conquered a 1,200+ page beast, and threw in some cute rom-coms to boot.

This was a great start to 2020 and I am stoked for what my reading year has in store!

My reviews will be posted in the next few months! I only post Monday – Friday so my reviews get extended into other months over time.

  • [Re-read] A Court of Mist and Fury (ACOTAR #2) by Sarah J. Maas – (☆☆☆☆☆)
  • Talon the Black (the Dragonwall Saga #1) by Melissa Mitchell – (☆☆☆)
  • Regretting You by Colleen Hoover – (☆☆☆☆☆)
  • My Very Own Hitman by Izi Miller – (☆☆☆☆)
  • A Dangerous Collaboration (Veronica Speedwell #4) by Deanna Raybourn – (☆☆☆☆)
  • Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers – (☆☆☆☆)
  • Oathbringer (The Stormlight Archive #3) by Brandon Sanderson – (☆☆☆☆☆)
  • The Grace Year by Kim Liggett – (☆☆☆☆)
  • The Tea Dragon Society (Tea Dragon #1) by Katie O’Neill – (☆☆☆☆☆)
  • [ARC] Lakeshire Park by Megan Walker – (☆☆☆☆)
  • One of Us Is Next (One of Us Is Lying #2) by Karen M. McManus – (☆☆☆☆)
  • Blood Heir (Blood Heir Trilogy #1) by Amelie Wen Zhao – (☆☆☆☆)
  • Vortex Visions (Air Awakens: Vortex Chronicles #1) by Elise Kova – (☆☆☆☆)
  • [ARC] The Maiden Ship (The Maiden Ship #1) by Micheline Ryckman – (☆☆☆☆)
  • Love Is An Art by Summer Dowell – (☆☆☆)
  • 180 Seconds by Jessica Park – (☆☆☆☆ 1/2)
  • Chosen Champion (Air Awakens: Vortex Chronicles #2) by Elise Kova – (☆☆☆ 1/2)
  • Sick Kids in Love by Hannah Moskowitz – (☆☆☆☆)
  • Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys – (☆☆☆ 1/2)
  • Two Dark Reigns (Three Dark Crowns #3) by Kendare Blake – (☆☆☆)
  • The Friend Zone by Abby Jimenez – (☆☆☆)
  • Akarnae (The Medoran Chronicles #1) by Lynette Noni – (☆☆☆ 1/2)
  • 10 Blind Dates by Ashley Elston – (☆☆☆☆)
  • The Iron King (The Iron Fey #1) by Julie Kagawa – (☆☆☆ 1/2)
  • The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner – (☆☆☆☆☆)

Favorite this month: ACOMAF, Regretting you and Oathbringer

Least favorite this month: Two Dark Reigns

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Book Review

Book Review: Green Rider (Green Rider #1) by Kristen Britain

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Audience: Fantasy
Length: 471 pages
Author: Kristen Britain
Publisher: DAW Books
Release Date: November 1st, 1998
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

On her long journey home from school after a fight which will surely lead to her expulsion, Karigan G’ladheon ponders her future as she trudges through the immense forest called Green Cloak. But her thoughts are interrupted by the clattering of hooves as a galloping horse bursts from the woods, the rider slumped over his mount’s neck, impaled by two black-shafted arrows. As the young man lies dying on the road, he tells Karigan that he is a Green Rider, one of the legendary messengers of the king, and that he bears a “life and death” message for King Zachary. He begs Karigan to carry his message, warning her not to read it, and when she reluctantly agrees, he makes her swear on his sword to complete his mission “for love of country.” As he bestows upon her the golden winged-horse brooch which is the symbol of his office, he whispers on his dying breath, “Beware the shadow man…”

Karigan’s promise changes her life forever. Pursued by unknown assassins, following a path only her horse seems to know, and accompanied by the silent specter of the original messenger, she herself becomes a legendary Green Rider. Caught up in a world of deadly danger and complex magic, compelled by forces she cannot understand, Karigan is hounded by dark beings bent on seeing that the message, and its reluctant carrier, never reach their destination.

FOUND A NEW FANTASY SERIES TO READ.

Thanks to a library book sale I picked up the first three books in this series on a total whim of, I’ve heard of this before. And that’s it. All I knew was that it was a fantasy book with pretty good reviews.

I surprised myself by really enjoying it by the end. The first half was a bit slow. I know this is a long series so I understand needing to build-up and create a world. It just took longer than expected. Karigan was spending most of her time on the run and I was missing the bigger plot.

Once Karigan made it to her destination things escalated quickly. I love the devious nature of it all and that I didn’t even catch who the bad guy actually was! The magic system and politics of this world created some intense dynamics. The clashing of the brothers for wanting to be King, a fae trying to create a ghost army and Karigan just wanting to go home.

I love Karigan. I think she has some growing up to do (which is fine) but she was a spunky character I adored. I found her brave and bold and loyal to her family and who she was. I imagine a lot of great character growth for her in the coming books.

The only thing I felt it was missing was a bit of romance. There’s a tiny bit of maybe if I squint my eyes at the page something happening between her and a character, BUT I DON’T KNOW. I’m always looking for even a little romance so this should be no surprise that I wanted a bit more.

Overall audience notes:

  • Fantasy
  • Language: none
  • Romance: none
  • Violence: sword fights, poison, animal/creature attacks, murder
  • Trigger warnings: attempted sexual assault, page 265: mention of an off screen rape (that a side character committed)

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Book Review

Book Review: The Valiant (The Valiant #1) by Lesley Livingston

Rating: ☆☆☆☆  
Audience: Young adult historical fiction / fantasy
Length: 372 pages
Author: Lesley Livingston
Publisher: Razorbill
Release Date: February 14th, 2017
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

Princess. Captive. Gladiator.

Fallon is the daughter of a proud Celtic king, the sister of the legendary warrior Sorcha, and the sworn enemy of Julius Caesar.

When Fallon was a child, Caesar’s armies invaded her homeland, and her beloved sister was killed in battle.

Now, on the eve of her seventeenth birthday, Fallon is eager to follow in her sister’s footsteps and earn her place in the fearsome Cantii war band. She never gets the chance.

Fallon is captured and sold to an elite training school for female gladiators—owned by none other than Julius Caesar. In a cruel twist of fate, the man who destroyed Fallon’s family might be her only hope of survival.

Now Fallon must overcome vicious rivalries and deadly fights—in and out of the arena. And perhaps the most dangerous threat of all: her forbidden yet irresistible feelings for Cai, a young Roman soldier.

HERE FOR FEMALE GLADIATORS.

I read this based off of a recommendation an old friend gave me. She reads a lot of the books I recommend and I wanted to do the same for her (since we have very similar tastes). Y’all, this was a great book! I’m so happy I picked this up and definitely want to read the next one.

The setting was off the charts. I am fascinated by the Roman Empire and its history. I haven’t come across many (if all, because I can only thing of Blood and Sand right now), that use Rome has a historical fiction setting. LOVE IT LOVE IT. I found the interweaving of real life people like Julius Caesar and Cleopatra to be thrilling. I personally didn’t know that there were even female gladiators to begin with! I enjoyed reading the little note at the end about some of the history Livingston found to add some background to these fierce ladies.

Romance was fine. That was probably the only downside to The Valiant. I thought it was starting off slow (which I’m totally cool with) because Cai wasn’t in the story that much. Then I realized…he’s really not in the story that much. Until the later second half of this book do we see him more consistently. Any interactions between Cai and Fallon are full speed ahead while I’m trying to catch up with if I even ship them or not. It left a bit to be desired, but I’m hopeful in the next book I’ll get a larger flourish of them together.

There was a twist or two I did see coming that didn’t ruin the plot for me. I actually liked where it went and how all of the information played into Fallon’s life. Fallon was an amazing heroine. Brave, a bit stubborn, loyal and real. I cheered for her in her battles and on and off the fields of battle.

I’m curious how everything will further unfold in the next book. Caesar and Cleopatra are definitely playing a part in it and I think that is so cool. I didn’t even know that they actually had a relationship until this book (and a bunch of Googling afterwards).

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult historical fiction / fantasy
  • Language: none
  • Romance: a few kisses
  • Violence: gladiator battles, sword fighting, arrows; fairly bloody and gory
  • Trigger warnings: witnessing the loss of a loved one, slavery (Fallon is taken by a Roman slave trader and sold to a house for female gladiators)

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Book Review

Book Review: One Dark Throne (Three Dark Crowns #2) by Kendare Blake

Rating: ☆☆☆1/2
Audience: Young adult fantasy
Length: 464 pages
Author: Kendare Blake
Publisher: Harper Teen
Release Date: September 19th, 2017
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

The battle for the Crown has begun, but which of the three sisters will prevail?

With the unforgettable events of the Quickening behind them and the Ascension Year underway, all bets are off. Katharine, once the weak and feeble sister, is stronger than ever before. Arsinoe, after discovering the truth about her powers, must figure out how to make her secret talent work in her favor without anyone finding out. And Mirabella, once thought to be the strongest sister of all and the certain Queen Crowned, faces attacks like never before—ones that put those around her in danger she can’t seem to prevent.

In this enthralling sequel to Kendare Blake’s New York Times bestselling Three Dark Crowns, Fennbirn’s deadliest queens must face the one thing standing in their way of the crown: each other.

THIS WAS BETTER.

After the mostly disaster of Three Dark Crowns, I somehow convinced myself I wanted to see if book two actually got better (like a lot of my friends had mentioned). They were right, this was at least, better.

I thought the drama and stakes gained a couple of levels that kept me interested throughout the book. The writing is quick and fast paced with a continual flow of things happening.

Having a wicked character really helped too. Katharine hit a monstrous streak that I was here for. Sometimes it’s nice actually seeing some darkness from a book with dark in the title. I found it pretty creepy what had ended up happening to her to cause such a darkness and am curious how that will continual to fuel her decisions.

Arsinoe and Mirabella are fine. I like them and like that all of the queens have stand-out personalities. It would be a bummer if they all sounded and acted the same. There story line was infinitely different and now I have been dragged into wanting to see how book three and four play out. I kind of wish that one of the queens actually did die (maybe that’s coming?) because I feel like the character deaths that did happen weren’t earth-shattering. Honestly, I wasn’t even upset with the deaths.

The romances played a big part of the plot line still. While I felt I got more out of them because this was book two, it was still missing a lot of background information. I know very little about the suitors and I have been having a hard time connecting with any of these characters.

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult fantasy
  • Language: none
  • Romance: some kisses, a few fade to black with no detail
  • Violence: physical, animal attacks, poison, someone is choked to death

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Book Review

Book Review: Always Never Yours by Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka

Rating: ☆☆☆☆  
Audience: Young adult contemporary romance
Length: 336 pages
Author: Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka
Publisher: Penguin Books
Release Date: May 22nd, 2018
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

Shouldn’t a girl get to star in her own love story?

Seventeen-year-old Megan Harper is about due for her next sweeping romance. It’s inevitable—each of her relationships starts with the perfect guy and ends with him falling in love . . . with someone else. But instead of feeling sorry for herself, Megan focuses on pursuing her next fling, directing theater, and fulfilling her dream college’s acting requirement in the smallest role possible.

So when she’s cast as Juliet (yes, that Juliet) in her high school’s production, it’s a complete nightmare. Megan’s not an actress, and she’s used to being upstaged—both in and out of the theater. In fact, with her mom off in Texas and her dad remarried and on to baby #2 with his new wife, Megan worries that, just like her exes, her family is moving on without her.

Then she meets Owen Okita, an aspiring playwright inspired by Rosaline from Shakespeare’s R+J. A character who, like Megan, knows a thing or two about short-lived relationships. Megan agrees to help Owen with his play in exchange for help catching the eye of a sexy stagehand/potential new boyfriend. Yet Megan finds herself growing closer to Owen, and wonders if he could be the Romeo she never expected.

In their fresh and funny debut, Emily Wibberly and Austin Siegemund-Broka break down the high school drama to find there’s always room for familial love, romantic love, and—most importantly—self-love.

WHEREFORE ART THOU OWEN?

I read this book after reading If I’m Being Honest (which is their second book). I can definitely say the sophomore book is a lot better. I still enjoyed this a lot, but not as much.

I had a hard time connecting with Megan. I appreciated her strong will and tenacity in regards to some thigns. At some points she was a biiiiit much for me. I felt she was too casual in her friendships and relationships (until the very end of the book). Which I realize is a part of her character arc, it still made things frustrating for me.

Owen though, I LOVE HIM. He’s precious. I don’t appreciate him cheating on Cosima though and I’m glad that ended swiftly after. I have no idea why she was even in the story. BECAUSE SHE WASN’T IN THE STORY. That may not make a lot of sense, if you read this book, you’ll understand. Besides that Owen was sweet, attentive, and a truly kind person that I was smitten with.

There’s quite a bit of drama in this (and I know it takes after Romeo and Juliet, so logically, this makes sense). I don’t mind drama, but so many people cheating on each other and a lot of casual discussion about sex is personally not my cup of tea. Especially for high school kids.

I liked the plot and that Megan got a chance to really dive into who she wants to be as she graduates high school. The play was a fun mix-in and kept the scenes rolling right along. This is a very quick read and it helped me through a reading slump.

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult contemporary romance
  • Language: some strong
  • Romance: kisses, make-outs, a lot of casual discussion of high schoolers sex lives, a little detailed love scene
  • Trigger warnings: cheating boyfriends/girlfriends, divorce

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Book Review

Book Review: New Orleans Rush by Kelly Siskind

Rating: ☆☆☆☆ 1/2
Audience: Contemporary romance
Length: 310 pages
Author: Kelly Siskind
Publisher: Everafter Romance
Release Date: April 23rd, 2019
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

Falling for your surly boss is a rotten idea.
Letting him saw you in half is even worse…

Beatrice Baker may be a struggling artist, but she believes all hardships have silver linings…until she follows her boyfriend to New Orleans and finds him with another woman. Instead of turning those lemons into lemonade, she drinks lemon drop martinis and keys the wrong man’s car.

Now she works for Huxley Marlow of the Marvelous Marlow Boys, getting shoved in boxes as an on-stage magician’s assistant. A cool job for some, but Bea’s been coerced into the role to cover her debt. She also maybe fantasizes about her boss’s adept hands and what else they can do.

She absolutely will not fall for him, or kiss him senseless. Until she does. The scarred, enigmatic Huxley has unwittingly become her muse, unlocking her artistic dry spell, but his vague nightly activities are highly suspect. The last time Beatrice trusted a man, her bank account got drained and she almost got arrested. Surely this can’t end that badly…right?

WHERE CAN I GET A MAGICIAN LIKE HUXLEY?

This quick romantic comedy is a hidden gem in the genre. I absolutely adored this and it took me a day to finish because of it!

Beatrice is effervescent and optimistic about most things in her life. Being betrayed by the men she’s known (including her Father) she ends up in New Orleans, single, without a job or a home. But then she meets…HUXLEY. Oh their chemistry is dynamite y’all. Sparks flying every which way it could light up a night sky.

I couldn’t get enough of their banter and flirtatious moments. It was purely them meeting and getting to know each other that formed their friendship turned romance. I usually prefer a stand-out trope (like enemies to lovers) but this worked in such a magical way I was smitten with them. I love that Huxley took care of Bea and helped her get on her own two feet. Not only that, but Bea helped Huxley see the glass half full rather than empty. These two peas in a pod really completed each other. THEY’RE JUST SO PRECIOUS OKAY? Trust me on this.

Huxley and his brothers, Axel and Fox are also what brother goals are made of. These three had an incredible dynamic too. I love the different personalities and banter that made up their daily conversations. They all kind of grew up (even though everyone is in their late 20s and 30s) as they started to take care of each other. Huxley as big brother never got a chance to take a breath and his brothers (plus Beatrice) helped him step back and enjoy the finer moments of life.

The only reason I took off a half a star was a personal preference. I didn’t love that there was a whole chapter and a half dedicated to the sex scene. It was a bit much and a bit too detailed for me. It’s easily skipped over though so if this also isn’t your scene I promise the rest of the book is gold.

I liked the plot of this as well. It was different than other rom-coms I’ve read before. I felt there was a bit more at stake and it upped the drama overall. It never over took the romance, but wove seamlessly with it.

Overall audience notes:

  • Contemporary romance
  • Language: some strong language
  • Romance: kissing, make outs, flirting, innuendo, Chapter 23 & beginning of Chapter 24: detailed love scene; Chapter 30: fade to black with a little detail
  • Violence: physical, being held at gun point
  • Trigger warnings: gambling addiction, gambling in general

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Book Review

Book Review: Say You Still Love Me by K.A. Tucker

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Audience: Contemporary romance
Length: 373 pages
Author: K.A. Tucker
Publisher: Atria Books
Release Date: August 6th, 2019
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

Life is a mixed bag for Piper Calloway.

On the one hand, she’s a twenty-nine-year-old VP at her dad’s multibillion-dollar real estate development firm, and living the high single life with her two best friends in a swanky downtown penthouse. On the other hand, she’s considered a pair of sexy legs in a male-dominated world and constantly has to prove her worth. Plus, she’s stuck seeing her narcissistic ex-fiancé—a fellow VP—on the other side of her glass office wall every day.

Things get exponentially more complicated for Piper when she runs into Kyle Miller—the handsome new security guard at Calloway Group Industries, and coincidentally the first love of her life.

The guy she hasn’t seen or heard from since they were summer camp counsellors together. The guy from the wrong side of the tracks. The guy who apparently doesn’t even remember her name.

Piper may be a high-powered businesswoman now, but she soon realizes that her schoolgirl crush is not only alive but stronger than ever, and crippling her concentration. What’s more, despite Kyle’s distant attitude, she’s convinced their reunion isn’t at all coincidental, and that his feelings for her still run deep. And she’s determined to make him admit to them, no matter the consequences. 

THIS ONE TIME AT SUMMER CAMP.

As a parent I read this thinking my child is never going to a sleepaway camp HA. But that was just my musings. This was a pretty good read. Not The Simple Wild caliber, but this is my third Tucker book and I’m definitely hooked on her romances.

I always have a rough time with flashback books. There’s something jarring to me about flipping timelines back and forth a lot. This book used the device fairly well. I didn’t love how many chapters flipped back, yet it was less than it could have been. Kyle and Piper’s insta-summer-romance was actually kinda cute. The only thing? Kyle was a very much stereotypical *bad boy* and I could not even with that. Fauhawk, lip ring, tattoos, his character was trying way too hard at that time. It was fun seeing all the camp had to offer and the growing background story between the two.

Present day was my favorite part. Adult Kyle allllll daaaaaay looooooong. I’m still very much smitten over here. The way he walked back into Piper’s life, forever in love with her? YES PLEASE. I also thought the dynamics behind why he left were much more solid than I’ve seen in other second-chance romances. My general issue is that it’s an obvious communication error. And that drives me up a wall. Kyle’s choices at the time made so much sense and a frightened 17-year old did what he had to for his family and friends. I can roll with it.

I love the swoon worthy romance of it all as Piper and Kyle reconnected. Crossing barriers and letting all the secrets out, oh it was a lot. I love how Tucker conveys emotion into her books and gives us a deeper story. The way the side characters were brought in melted my heart and I was feeling all the emotions right along with them.

I enjoyed Piper as an MC. I thought it was amazing she was an executive at a company (even though she definitely had some daddy issues). Her Dad, Kieran, played a pivotal role that I didn’t even see coming. I liked the conflict resolution between them and how a truthful conversation really turns the tides.

Overall audience notes:

  • Contemporary romance (second chance trope)
  • Language: some throughout
  • Romance: kisses, make-outs, a handful of romance scenes from second base to all the way; moderately detailed (but easily skipped over)
  • Trigger warnings: cheating spouses, underage drinking (and a physical accident with lifelong medical issues as a result), underage smoking, parents incarcerated, bribing a minor

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