Book Review

Book Review: Last Christmas in Paris by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆
Audience: Historical fiction romance
Length: 368 pages
Author: Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Release Date: October 3rd, 2017
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

New York Times bestselling author Hazel Gaynor has joined with Heather Webb to create this unforgettably romantic novel of the Great War.

August 1914. England is at war. As Evie Elliott watches her brother, Will, and his best friend, Thomas Harding, depart for the front, she believes—as everyone does—that it will be over by Christmas, when the trio plan to celebrate the holiday among the romantic cafes of Paris.

But as history tells us, it all happened so differently…

Evie and Thomas experience a very different war. Frustrated by life as a privileged young lady, Evie longs to play a greater part in the conflict—but how?—and as Thomas struggles with the unimaginable realities of war he also faces personal battles back home where War Office regulations on press reporting cause trouble at his father’s newspaper business. Through their letters, Evie and Thomas share their greatest hopes and fears—and grow ever fonder from afar. Can love flourish amid the horror of the First World War, or will fate intervene?

Christmas 1968. With failing health, Thomas returns to Paris—a cherished packet of letters in hand—determined to lay to rest the ghosts of his past. But one final letter is waiting for him…

I WANT TO TAKE UP LETTER WRITING NOW.

Oooooooh y’all.

A historical fiction romance written in letter format about World War 1.

That should be the only sentence you need because this was emotional and fantastic. I couldn’t put it down and because of the format it’s a VERY quick read. It appeared very well researched and this had me flipping pages faster than I could manage because I needed to know what happened next.

I love the way the love story was written. It was slow and steady and they fell in love over letter writing guys!! HOW ROMANTIC IS THAT? Both of them holding each other up as dark times flowed between them as the horrors of war took over. It was mesmerizing and I went into full panic mode trying to make sure their was a happy ending.

This had great Christmas vibes as they constantly dreamed of having Christmas in Paris together someday when the war was over. Definitely one of my Christmas favorites now. I love the backdrop of World War 1 because I feel that WW2 usually gets all of the historical fiction books/movies. I try to pick up anything that has a different setting because I love seeing authors takes on characters thrown into real history. It’s magical and enchanting and hits you right in the heart.

I feel as if I can gush more, but also can’t find the words because it was just a great book. And sometimes that’s the only sentence a review needs.

Overall audience notes:

  • Historical fiction romance
  • Language: none
  • Romance: kisses
  • Violence: description of war [namely WW1]
  • Trigger warnings: PTSD (described as war nervousness/neurosis because of the time period), depression, suicidal thoughts, loss of loved ones

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Book Review

ARC Book Review: The Raven and the Dove (The Raven and the Dove #1) by Kaitlyn Davis

Rating: ☆☆☆☆ 1/2
Audience: YA Fantasy retelling + romance
Length: 506 pages
Author: Kaitlyn Davis
Publisher: Self-published
Expected Release Date: March 9th, 2020
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

Four fates collide in this avian-inspired, epic fantasy retelling of Tristan and Isolde perfect for fans of Sarah J. Maas, Sabaa Tahir, and Leigh Bardugo!

A princess longing to be free…

On the dawn of her courtship trials, Princess Lyana Aethionus knows she should be focused on winning her perfect mate, yet her thoughts wander to the open sky waiting at the edge of her floating kingdom. One final adventure calls. Upon fleeing the palace, the last thing she expects to find is a raven prince locked in a death match with a dragon.

A bastard aching to belong…

Reviled son of a dead king, Rafe would do anything for his beloved half-brother, Prince Lysander Taetanus, including posing as him in the upcoming courtship trials. When a dragon interrupts their secret exchange, he orders his studious sibling to run. After suffering a fatal blow, Rafe is saved by a beautiful dove who possesses forbidden magic, just like him.

Fate brought them together, now destiny will tear them apart…

Unknown to the world above, on the foggy sea ten thousand feet below, a young king fights a forgotten war. He believes Lyana is the queen prophesied to save the world, and with the help of his favored spy, hidden deep in the highest ranks of the dove royal house, he will stop at nothing to have her.

Three shocking betrayals. Two star-crossed lovers. One unforgettable journey. If you like fierce heroines, brooding heroes, forbidden romance, and action-packed magical adventures with twists you’ll never see coming, don’t miss The Raven and the Dove!

Thank you to the author Kaitlyn Davis for providing an e-ARC through Netgalley. All opinions are my own!

IF YOU’RE A BIRD, I’M A BIRD.

Wait a minute, hold on, come support an indie author and get this book on your TBR! It has everything I’m looking for in a YA fantasy and the 500 pages really felt like nothing. Let’s get into this review.

It’s a Tristan and Isolde retelling, and if you’re not sure who those people are, please Google the story like I did after reading Sweet Black Waves and getting my heart ripped out. I love the way this version was written and like the twists Davis put on it. I could definitely see some of the similarities, but it swayed far enough away that this is it’s own novel, on a whole new fantasy level.

I am in love with my cinnamon rolls Rafe and Xander. These brothers are so tender, and kind. They’re loyal to one another and I appreciated the strong family bond they have. Lyana and Cassi were great friends too. I love that everyone had a support system with them. They brought the soft moments, and the hard ones together.

Ships were flying all over the place. This is a rare example of a sort of love triangle actually not bothering me. I know, I can’t believe I said it either. But really! This was so well done. You can see where [I think] the ships will eventually end, but I like how it flowed back and forth just enough to add intrigue and another layer to the story.

THE ENDING WAS WILD. Oh my goodness so much happened. It luckily didn’t end in a dramatic cliff-hanger. Enough happened though that the next book is definitely on my radar. I love how much action and characters came onto the scene. Betrayals were flying all around, people getting tossed off of worlds, INSANE. Oh, and did I mention, THIS WORLD HAS DRAGONS?

I liked the world-building as well. I still have a few questions, but I feel like those will be answered over other books so I’m not concerned. The way the world is set up with one group on land and one group in the air is CRAZY COOL. And the way the people become birds? I need someone to tell me more about that! I love the way the Houses are all split to different types of birds and their strengths. Everything was well thought out and I am so happy I picked this up!

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult fantasy
  • Language: VERY little
  • Romance: some kisses, a no detail fade-to-black scene
  • Violence: dragons, fire, swords, earthquakes, magic, physical

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Book Review

Book Review: The Bromance Book Club (Bromance Book Club #1) by Lyssa Kay Adams

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Audience: Contemporary Romance
Length: 352 pages
Author: Lyssa Kay Adams
Publisher: Berkley
Expected Release Date: November 5th, 2019
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

The first rule of book club:
You don’t talk about book club.

Nashville Legends second baseman Gavin Scott’s marriage is in major league trouble. He’s recently discovered a humiliating secret: his wife Thea has always faked the Big O. When he loses his cool at the revelation, it’s the final straw on their already strained relationship. Thea asks for a divorce, and Gavin realizes he’s let his pride and fear get the better of him. 

Welcome to the Bromance Book Club.

Distraught and desperate, Gavin finds help from an unlikely source: a secret romance book club made up of Nashville’s top alpha men. With the help of their current read, a steamy Regency titled Courting the Countess, the guys coach Gavin on saving his marriage. But it’ll take a lot more than flowery words and grand gestures for this hapless Romeo to find his inner hero and win back the trust of his wife. 

SO REFRESHING.

I mean seriously. A romantic contemporary centered around a married couple? It’s a sub genre I didn’t know I needed, but now want entirely more of.

Gavin and Thea were so mesmerizing to watch. I read this book in under 24 hours because I truly could not put it down. I love how sweet Gavin was and how he truly wanted to make his marriage work.

Both Thea and Gavin enraged me at times with how stubborn and frustrating they were acting. While you’d think this would ruin the book, it doesn’t. This really made the characters real and human. Marriage is hard. Great, but hard. There’s so many layers to a marriage and what it takes to hold on when the best option truly seems like giving up. Mistakes were made on both sides and it took Gavin really diving into his backstory to convince Thea they both had more to give to their relationship.

Thea was the initial instigator in wanting a divorce and I love that this book had her perspective too. It took a lot of looking through her history and introspection for her to let go of her past. It’s hard to not allow past relationships and family dynamics play apart in your own life.

The book club was FANTASTIC. Oh my goodness, I loved it so much. They were such a random group of guys that all had this one connection, romance books. I love how they took Gavin in to their fold and helped him work through his issues. The dialogue and scenes with them had me laughing out loud. Actually laughing so much my husband asked what was so funny. They were the lighthearted and sincere group of friends that the book thrived off of.

My only issue was that the steaminess and language was a bit past my personal preference level. Language I can mostly overlook but I found myself skip/skimming over the steamy scenes because of the level of detail. The flirting and banter though? That was great and I could not stop reading during those scenes. Thea was so flustered with Gavin that it was absolutely precious.

Overall audience notes:

  • Contemporary romance
  • Language: a lot throughout
  • Romance: sexual banter, flirting, kisses, make-outs, detailed sex scenes
  • Violence: physical

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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 Hollow Boy (Lockwood & Co. #3) by Jonathan Stroud

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Audience: Young adult fantasy + horror + mystery
Length: 385 pages
Author: Jonathan Stroud
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Release Date: September 15th, 2015
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

As a massive outbreak of supernatural Visitors baffles Scotland Yard and causes protests throughout London, Lockwood & Co. continue to demonstrate their effectiveness in exterminating spirits. Anthony Lockwood is dashing, George insightful, and Lucy dynamic, while the skull in the jar utters sardonic advice from the sidelines. There is a new spirit of openness in the team now that Lockwood has shared some of his childhood secrets, and Lucy is feeling more and more as if her true home is at Portland Row. It comes as a great shock, then, when Lockwood and George introduce her to an annoyingly perky and hyper-efficient new assistant, Holly Munro.

Meanwhile, there are reports of many new hauntings, including a house where bloody footprints are appearing, and a department store full of strange sounds and shadowy figures. But ghosts seem to be the least of Lockwood & Co.’s concerns when assassins attack during a carnival in the center of the city. Can the team get past their personal issues to save the day on all fronts, or will bad feelings attract yet more trouble?

Danger abounds, tensions escalate, and new loyalties form in this third delightfully terrifying adventure in the critically acclaimed Lockwood & Co. series.

NICE & CREEPY.

Okay, I did love this book, but I did not love the audio book. The voices were really annoying and immature. I liked Lucy’s luckily (the main voice heard since she’s the MC POV) so I went ahead and listened to it, but it was a touch and go at times.

Any who. I LOVE how creepy these books are! It’s my perfect level of spooky and horror. The ghosts make me want to hide and wandering around in the dark always brings out an edge. These are a great YA level of making you worry, but not being too much (for someone like me who doesn’t do horror in general).

My poor Lucy had to go through some new emotions this book, namely, jealousy. I didn’t love it on her, but if this is leading where I surely hope than I can play ball. Lockwood and Co. tried to add someone new to their group and it went over differently for each character. I am still loving this group and their dynamics. They make me smile, chuckle, and hope they get the accolades they deserve.

The world-building is fun and well thought out. I rarely find myself with a question I can’t answer. I like this urban mystery/fantasy take on London. It makes following the locations easier while learning about all the different ghost types.

I know this isn’t a long review, the books aren’t long themselves. Just know, this is a great series and I can’t wait to pick up the next one.

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult mystery + horror
  • Language: none
  • Romance: none
  • Violence: ghost attacks (yes they can attack in this series), sword fights, physical, hauntings

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Book Review

Book Review: The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware

Rating: ☆☆☆ 1/2
Audience: Mystery + Thriller
Length: 384 pages
Author: Ruth Ware
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Expected Release Date: August 6th, 2019
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

When she stumbles across the ad, she’s looking for something else completely. But it seems like too good an opportunity to miss—a live-in nannying post, with a staggeringly generous salary. And when Rowan Caine arrives at Heatherbrae House, she is smitten—by the luxurious “smart” home fitted out with all modern conveniences, by the beautiful Scottish Highlands, and by this picture-perfect family.

What she doesn’t know is that she’s stepping into a nightmare—one that will end with a child dead and herself in prison awaiting trial for murder.

Writing to her lawyer from prison, she struggles to explain the unravelling events that led to her incarceration. It wasn’t just the constant surveillance from the cameras installed around the house, or the malfunctioning technology that woke the household with booming music, or turned the lights off at the worst possible time. It wasn’t just the girls, who turned out to be a far cry from the immaculately behaved model children she met at her interview. It wasn’t even the way she was left alone for weeks at a time, with no adults around apart from the enigmatic handyman, Jack Grant.

It was everything.

She knows she’s made mistakes. She admits that she lied to obtain the post, and that her behavior toward the children wasn’t always ideal. She’s not innocent, by any means. But, she maintains, she’s not guilty—at least not of murder. Which means someone else is. 

HAD SOME GOOD MOMENTS.

This starts out super chill. We have a nanny who’s going to work at a very creepy smart-house. It can automatically be assumed something will go down because when does a smart-house in a thriller novel ever work correctly? I was intrigued and ready to get things rolling. What slowed me down (time and time again) was the excessive paragraphs dedicated to describing every nook and cranny of the house. I’m not someone who needs to know minute details so for me, I breezed past those to get to the more interesting bits.

I like the way everything was set up. The age of the girls, the parents, the other staff members. I felt they all kind of played their parts well and had rolls that you loved or hated. I liked Rowan and thought she was an odd character. It seemed like she was trying her best to help out and take care of the kids. The style set-up with Rowan writing to a lawyer was interesting. I thought it might get in the way, but she only really addressed him a handful of times so it’s not as bothersome as it could have been.

Something I didn’t love was the awful husband, when his full story came to light I was already angry at him and this just fueled that rage. I kinda wish he had gotten his karma in this book because he deserved it. Another piece was the “romance” thrown into this. WHY. Why does every thriller with a female lead NEED a randevu with the handsome new guy/stranger. It added nothing to the story.

The ending plot twists…I did NOT see coming. And was totally floored when they happened. I absolutely loved them and thought it was a great way to turn everything on its head before the story ended. I wish we did get more of an end because I closed the book feeling unsatisfied that I didn’t get the last little pieces I was hoping *sigh*.

Overall audience notes:

  • Thriller/Mystery
  • Language: some strong language throughout
  • Romance: one love scene, took one paragraph and pretty vague
  • Violence: murder
  • Trigger warnings: death of a child, unwanted sexual advancements, cheating spouse

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Book Review

Book Review: The Art of Falling in Love by Haleigh Wenger

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Audience: YA Contemporary Romance
Length: 262 pages
Author: Haleigh Wenger
Publisher: Literary Crush Publishing
Expected Release Date: August 13th, 2019
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

Seventeen-year-old Claire Haynes always spends summer vacation at her family’s beach house in Florida, sketching and dreaming of art school with her biggest fan–her Opa. But when Opa dies right before summer break, all Claire has left besides her memories is a sand-sculpting contest application with her name on it and the lingering question of why Opa filled it out in the first place. Claire has never even made a decent sandcastle, but she reluctantly turns in the entry forms, hoping the contest will help her navigate the grieving process by honoring one of Opa’s last wishes.

When she meets Foster, a teenage boy with a talent for turning recyclables into abstract sculptures, the two join forces to win the contest and salvage the Summer of Art. They spend the humid summer days shoveling sand, devouring ice cream, and exploring Florida’s art scene. Just like Opa, Foster understands Claire and her overwhelming need to create, but he has a secret that threatens to ruin everything: he’s homeless and hiding from an abusive brother who would have him believe family trumps all.

When Claire’s parents find out about Foster’s homelessness, they offer him a home along with their hearts. But even picture-perfect families like Claire’s can harbor an ugly side, especially in the aftermath of Opa’s death. When someone close to Claire spills Foster’s secret, they’re both forced to choose between love and familial obligation. If Claire can’t break through long-held beliefs and prove family is more than shared DNA, she could permanently lose Foster and a chance at the sand contest to honor Opa.

A CUTE BEACH READ WITH DEEPER CONTEXT.

I saw a friend talking about this book and when she mentioned it was free on Kindle that day, I thought, WHY NOT? Why not indeed. This was a hidden gem from a debut author (and it’s only $2.99 on Kindle now so hey! That’s cheap too).

I loved the way the relationship between Claire and Foster developed. They had a nice meet cute and then things slowly built with actual conversation and interactions with each other. Even as a summer romance nothing ever felt insta-love and I was totally wrapped up in how things were going with them. The only thing that bothered me at times was watching Claire keep trying and seeking out Foster and when he should have done the same…he didn’t. Foster eventually did take matters into his own hands, but it took him a very long time to actually do something for their relationship.

Claire had a summer of growth and learning about herself. After the loss of her grandfather she coped with it while also having to look forward to decisions about art school and what type of medium she was interested in. I felt she really came into herself and her increased confidence and decision making by the end made her a heroine to remember.

The only character that truly upset me was Claire’s sister, Livvy. I still don’t think she actually redeemed herself from the crappy choices she made out of spite. Livvy acted very immature and completely irrational more than half the time. It felt like she was only there to add some more drama, but I could have done without her.

I loved the beach setting and it made me wish I could have read this during the summer because it is the epitome of a beach read. Lots of sun, sand, love and road trips. What more could you ask for?

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult contemporary + romance
  • Language: none
  • Romance: a few kisses
  • Violence: physical
  • Trigger warnings: child abuse, homelessness

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