Book Review

Book Review: Otherwise Engaged by Joanna Barker

Rating: ☆☆☆☆ 1/2
Audience: Regency Romance
Length: 266 pages
Author: Joanna Barker
Publisher: Covenant Communications
Release Date: October 12th, 2020
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

She’s never been afraid of breaking the rules—until she risks breaking her heart

Constantly stifled by the rules of Society, spirited Rebecca Rowley enjoys finding ways to quietly—or not so quietly—rebel. But riding bareback and avoiding nosy neighbors are nothing compared to the thrilling secret she is keeping from her family.
When Rebecca’s quick thinking saves the life of a young girl, she unwittingly attracts the attention of the child’s dashing brother, Lieutenant Nicholas Avery. As that attention turns flirtatious, Rebecca is forced to tell him the truth: she is secretly engaged—to the one man her family would never approve of. Fortunately, Lieutenant Avery is a navy man with no wish to marry, or so they both assume as they enter into a friendship. Rebecca hopes to change her family’s mind about her betrothed, but the more she comes to know the handsome lieutenant, the more she wonders if she promised her hand too hastily.

After all her carefully laid plans are shattered during a family crisis, Rebecca must force her heart to decide. Should she stay true to the promise she made or fight for the future she’s only just begun to imagine?

SMITTEN.

Wow. I was blown away by this regency! It’s the first one from the author I’ve read and I found it enjoyable on many levels.

One of those being the unique nature of both Rebecca (the narrator) and Nicholas (the love interest). I loved that Rebecca rode bare-backed and was interested in learning how to shoot guns and other things that really added to her personality. Nicholas was a Navy lieutenant who was totally cool with Rebecca’s interests and willingly helped her improve those skills. They were such a match from the moment they met.

Which leads me to my 1/2 star deduction. I struggle with this across genres. I don’t like a current love that takes up most of the book. It takes away from the romance I’m trying to be fall for. Because it always creates instances of cheating (as it did here) and no amount of wording really makes me feel completely fine about it. This one did end that plot line better than I expected so I’ll give it that at least.

Overall, a really great regency. I love this genre, especially when swoony kisses are added in. The writing was beautiful and kept me captivated. The plot moved steadily and I loved the introspection from Rebecca. Even with that one issue I had I liked the way she easily acknowledged she messed up and could apologize and work towards her character arc. Many things to love on in this one!

Overall audience notes:

  • Regency Romance
  • Language: none
  • Romance: kisses
  • Trigger/Content Warnings: gun use (not in a violent matter), recollection of a bad fall from a horse, medical trauma, depiction of difficult birth, cheating

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Book Review

ARC Book Review: Our Last Days in Barcelona by Chanel Cleeton

Rating: ★★★★★
Audience: Historical Fiction + Romance
Length: 336 pages
Author: Chanel Cleeton
Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: May 24th, 2022
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

When Isabel Perez travels to Barcelona to save her sister Beatriz, she discovers a shocking family secret in New York Times bestselling author Chanel Cleeton’s new novel.

Barcelona, 1964. Exiled from Cuba after the revolution, Isabel Perez has learned to guard her heart and protect her family at all costs. After Isabel’s sister Beatriz disappears in Barcelona, Isabel goes to Spain in search of her. Joining forces with an unlikely ally thrusts Isabel into her sister’s dangerous world of espionage, but it’s an unearthed piece of family history that transforms Isabel’s life.

Barcelona, 1936. Alicia Perez arrives in Barcelona after a difficult voyage from Cuba, her marriage in jeopardy and her young daughter Isabel in tow. Violence brews in Spain, the country on the brink of civil war, the rise of fascism threatening the world. When Cubans journey to Spain to join the International Brigades, Alicia’s past comes back to haunt her as she is unexpectedly reunited with the man who once held her heart.

Alicia and Isabel’s lives intertwine, and the past and present collide, as a mother and daughter are forced to choose between their family’s expectations and following their hearts.

Thank you to the publisher for an eARC.

LOVED THIS.

I have been a fan of Cleeton’s since her first historical fiction book came out, and once again I completely enamored with a sweeping story of loss, love, and choosing your path. I truly loved getting Isabel’s story. She was an incredible main character. I like that she stuck to her personal truths, but allowed her self room for growth within them. Making the harder decision to find HER happiness and being the woman that she’s had to stifle for so long.

Interspersed were other POV chapters (one mentioned in the synopsis and one not!). It was really great not to have these chapters overwhelm Isabel’s own story. They drifted in at the right moments to add more background and understanding for present characters and found ways to pull at my heartstrings.

The love stories interwoven were romantic and sweet. I love the way Cleeton builds these in such a short time where I continually find myself reading with intense focus because I MUST HAVE A HAPPY ENDING. And while there’s a rise and fall to that ending, it’s good. It’s lovely. And it’s what sealed the deal on another incredible read.

Overall audience notes:

  • Historical fiction + romance
  • Language: a little
  • Romance: closed door
  • Violence: mild blood/gore
  • Trigger/Content Warnings: war theme, air raids, teen pregnancy, infidelity, divorce, gun violence

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Book Review

ARC Book Review: The Godborn and the King (The Raven and the Dove #4) by Kaitlyn Davis

Rating: ★★★★☆ (4.5)
Audience: NA Fantasy Romance
Length: 486 pages
Author: Kaitlyn Davis
Publisher: Self-published
Release Date: May 23rd, 2022
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

Return to the world of The Raven and the Dove, where winged people rule the skies, a lost kingdom lives at sea, and two star-crossed lovers hold the fate of each in their palms. Perfect for fans of Sarah J. Maas, Sabaa Tahir, and Leigh Bardugo!

A love written in the stars…

Thrown into a world of claws and flame, Lyana and Rafe must work together to survive. Dragons abound. Danger lurks. And the hybrids are out for blood. But perhaps more terrifying are the questions in their hearts. Are they ready to lead? Were they ever truly in love? Or with the prophecy realized, will everything they thought they had fall apart?

A clash five hundred years in the making…

With the isles now returned to the sea, two worlds have become one. The avians will do anything to protect their homes. The mages will do anything to take them. And without a king or queen of prophecy to guide them, peace is no longer an option. Xander must decide where his loyalties lie—with the ravens he’s sworn to serve or the woman he can’t help but love.

Find the chosen one or face the end of everything…

Deep in the skryr’s dreams, Cassi bears witness to the prophetess’s final vision. A rift mage lives and Cassi is the only one with the power to find her. She’ll sacrifice anything to save the world, including her future with Xander, but even the queen of secrets never anticipated the mysteries waiting for her in the mist. 

Thank you to the author for an eARC.

WHAT A CONCLUSION.

I’ve been enjoying this series since the start and I am so excited to be able to say I loved the conclusion. It had a lot of things I look for in a finale and gave me all the feels.

I adored these romances. Rafe & Lyana getting some alone time and finding an even deeper bond between them. Xander & Cassi both looking past their faults and seeing how strong they can be on their own and together. YES TO ALL THE ABOVE. I thought Brighty’s romance was sweet too, but it wasn’t well developed. It was like one chapter she saw the other woman and was interested, and the next, confession of love. I just wanted more build-up there, but I’m glad she found someone too.

The plot stayed moving. I know I’m not loving a book if I find myself skimming to dialogue, this was not the case for me here. I wanted to take in every word and enjoy the story’s pace and the unfolding drama. Plenty of action, moments to cheer, moments that had me gasping all barreling towards an ending that’s easy to be satisfied with. I would have loved a bit more from Rafe and Lyana in regards to the plot. They were stuck somewhere else for so long that I feel they missed out on a lot. I know part of the ending with them will be polarizing but I LOVED it. I thought it made a lot of sense and got me alllllll in the feels.

Great read, I seriously can’t wait to see what Davis writes next. I’m glad I hopped onto this fantasy romance because it’s a gem. If you haven’t added to your TBR already, now it’s complete so you SHOULD DO IT.

Overall audience notes:

  • NA Fantasy Romance
  • Language: very little
  • Romance: vague and brief open door
  • Violence: mild to mid-high
  • Trigger/Content Warnings: loss of a parent, loss of loved ones, kidnapping, torture, near death experiences

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Book Review

Book Review: The Poppy War (The Poppy War #1) by R.F. Kuang

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆
Audience: Fantasy
Length: 527 pages
Author: R.F. Kuang
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Release Date: April 23rd, 2019
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

A brilliantly imaginative talent makes her exciting debut with this epic historical military fantasy, inspired by the bloody history of China’s twentieth century and filled with treachery and magic, in the tradition of Ken Liu’s Grace of Kings and N.K. Jemisin’s Inheritance Trilogy.

When Rin aced the Keju—the Empire-wide test to find the most talented youth to learn at the Academies—it was a shock to everyone: to the test officials, who couldn’t believe a war orphan from Rooster Province could pass without cheating; to Rin’s guardians, who believed they’d finally be able to marry her off and further their criminal enterprise; and to Rin herself, who realized she was finally free of the servitude and despair that had made up her daily existence. That she got into Sinegard—the most elite military school in Nikan—was even more surprising.

But surprises aren’t always good.

Because being a dark-skinned peasant girl from the south is not an easy thing at Sinegard. Targeted from the outset by rival classmates for her color, poverty, and gender, Rin discovers she possesses a lethal, unearthly power—an aptitude for the nearly-mythical art of shamanism. Exploring the depths of her gift with the help of a seemingly insane teacher and psychoactive substances, Rin learns that gods long thought dead are very much alive—and that mastering control over those powers could mean more than just surviving school.

For while the Nikara Empire is at peace, the Federation of Mugen still lurks across a narrow sea. The militarily advanced Federation occupied Nikan for decades after the First Poppy War, and only barely lost the continent in the Second. And while most of the people are complacent to go about their lives, a few are aware that a Third Poppy War is just a spark away . . .

Rin’s shamanic powers may be the only way to save her people. But as she finds out more about the god that has chosen her, the vengeful Phoenix, she fears that winning the war may cost her humanity . . . and that it may already be too late. 

ABSOLUTELY AMAZING.

I LOVED this book. I have seen the error of my ways holding off for so long on reading it. I couldn’t put it down. I needed to know what happened next. The pacing and writing was beautiful and kept things moving and engaging. I am officially here for this series.

I’m not generally a fan of books that involve a school/academy/etc. This played it perfectly. There wasn’t a copious amount of time spent going to class and other mundane tasks that ultimately wouldn’t affect the plot. Each scene and conversation led into Rin’s life and her story as well as connecting to the over arching plot of the coming war. I loved the side characters and the rolls they played in developing Rin’s character as she grew over the years. The time covered in more/less five years never felt too long or short.

The action was intense and at times hard to read. It doesn’t shy away from the trauma of war (and that’s putting it lightly). This is a dark read and brimming with context on many levels. Definitely read the authors notes at the end about incorporating modern Chinese history into this series.

Fantasy wise, the world building and magic system were stellar. No big info dumps that leave you more confused rather than clear-headed. Slowly built within the story itself it was easy to follow. I love the ideas being used in how it works and based on the ending, can’t wait to see how it further expands. I’m fascinated by many things and will be getting my hands on book two soon!!

Overall audience notes:

  • Fantasy
  • Language: some strong
  • Trigger/Content Warnings: war themes, drug use, substance addictions, self-harm, racism, misogyny, genocide, bullying, abandonment, abuse, animal death and cruelty, torture, killing, rape, mutilation, graphic depictions of child death, medical experimentation, colonization

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