ARCs · Book Reviews

Sing Me Forgotten by Jessica S. Olson ARC Review

Isda does not exist. At least not beyond the opulent walls of the opera house.

Cast into a well at birth for being one of the magical few who can manipulate memories when people sing, she was saved by Cyril, the opera house’s owner. Since that day, he has given her sanctuary from the murderous world outside. All he asks in return is that she use her power to keep ticket sales high—and that she stay out of sight. For if anyone discovers she survived, Isda and Cyril would pay with their lives.

But Isda breaks Cyril’s cardinal rule when she meets Emeric Rodin, a charming boy who throws her quiet, solitary life out of balance. His voice is unlike any she’s ever heard, but the real shock comes when she finds in his memories hints of a way to finally break free of her gilded prison.

Haunted by this possibility, Isda spends more and more time with Emeric, searching for answers in his music and his past. But the price of freedom is steeper than Isda could ever know. For even as she struggles with her growing feelings for Emeric, she learns that in order to take charge of her own destiny, she must become the monster the world tried to drown in the first place.

Released: March 9th, 2021

*I received a copy of this book in return for an honest review! Thanks to Inkyard Press for the opportunity!*

I never knew I needed a gender-swapped retelling of The Phantom of the Opera, but I am definitely glad I got this one! I devoured this book in one day- it was so easy to fall into the interesting and gripping story of Isda, the Opera Ghost. I love The Phantom of the Opera, so this reimagining captivated me with its clever twist on the story. The world of fendoirs and gravoirs was both fascinating and heartbreaking. With powers to access people’s memories by song, the world shuns and fears them, dooming them to either a solitary existence or death. Isda was saved from her horrible fate by Cyril, and now finds her sanctuary living in the crypt of the opera house and secretly manipulating audiences with her powers. The magic of accessing someone’s memories and life experiences through song was a beautiful and creative concept and Isda was a delightfully complex, and sometimes morally gray, character. As someone who spent her entire existence in the company of one other person, experiencing life through other people’s memories, she had a unique view of the world and watching her finally get to discover it for herself was engrossing. The relationship between Isda and Emeric was full of great banter and moments that I loved, but it almost felt too comfortable too soon and I would have liked to get to see Isda figure out how to have a relationship with another human being after being isolated for so long. Despite that, they had a lovely connection and I loved the change he brought to her world. The plot was fast-paced, romantic, dramatic, and violent, and it never felt rushed. Every moment was fully fleshed out and was important to continuing the story. This book sucked me in quickly and didn’t let go until the last page.

ARCs · Book Reviews

ARC Review: Isoldesse by Kimberly Grymes

Friendships are tested, new alliances are made, and the truth of one woman’s actions from over a millennia ago are revealed.

Kenna and Meegan are college students dealing with upcoming finals, needy parents, boy drama, and what to do with their lives after they graduate in a few weeks. What they weren’t expecting was for Kenna to receive a powerful stone necklace that ultimately changes their plans for a relaxing summer.

Strange things begin to happen to Kenna, like being the only one who can see and talk to the mysterious old woman with a golden aura. Or how in her dreams, a man with vibrant orange eyes keeps appearing who may or may not be real. Though, not all of Kenna’s mysterious encounters are pleasant as she’s haunted by massive beings carrying long swords and wearing armor covered in black scales.

Besides solving the mystery of where the stone necklace came from, Kenna, Meegan, and their friends are taken to another world for a routine evolutionary assessment. The assessment gets sabotaged and causes more chaos for Kenna and her friends, especially for Meegan who is forced to open up and reveal her true identity and the magic she hides.

There’s one name that Kenna, Meegan, the Sendarians, and the monsters who’ve been hunting Meegan and her family for over a century all have in common…

*Release Date: March 2nd, 2021*

*I received a copy of this book in return for an honest review!*

This book was interesting and different. Let me just start off by saying that this cover is absolutely STUNNING and definitely drew me to reading this. The concept of this book is amazing and it has a super in-depth world that I really would like to see more of. The story is told in several POVs that show us different aspects of the plot that weave together, but it is only sometimes effective. I love the use of that narrative style here, but there were too many POVs for me and it made it a bit confusing to follow, especially because the world is so vast and layered with new information for the reader. There were several moments as it was piecing together that were very exciting and cool, but I think some editing could have been done in narrowing the storytellers down, while telling the same story, and creating a stronger narrative. I also had trouble connecting to the characters. I understood the idea of them, but never felt like they were dimensional, real people. They also seemed too young in the way they spoke and acted for me to believe these were almost college graduates. I really loved the concept and thought the plot was clever and unique-there were a few twists in there that worked incredibly well- but in general, this book just did not grab me enough.

Book Reviews

Love & Olives by Jenna Evans Welch Review

Santorini felt like an island holding its breath. As if it were keeping in a secret…

Liv Varanakis doesn’t like to think about her father much, which makes sense—he fled to Greece when she was only eight, leaving her with just a few painful memories of their shared love for the lost city of Atlantis. So when teenage Liv suddenly receives a postcard from her father, who explains that National Geographic is supporting a documentary about his theories on Atlantis—and asks if she will fly out to Greece and help—Liv is less than thrilled.

When she arrives in gorgeous Santorini, things are just as awkward as she’d imagined. There are so many questions, so many emotions that flood to the surface after seeing her father for the first time in years. Liv doesn’t want to get sucked back into her father’s world. She also definitely doesn’t want Theo, her father’s charismatic so-called protégé, to witness her struggle.

Even so, she can’t help but be charmed by everything Santorini has to offer—the beautiful sunsets, the turquoise water, the sun-drenched villages, and the delicious cuisine. But not everything on the Greek island is as perfect as it seems. Because as Liv slowly begins to discover, her father may not have invited her to Greece for Atlantis, but for something much more important.

I really enjoyed the first book in this series (although all can be read as standalones) Love & Gelato, but the second book, Love & Luck, didn’t quite match my excitement. I am so happy to say that this newest installment is my favorite of them all. First of all, the chapter structure was so clever and really helped guide the story. Like all of Welch’s books, this one did not disappoint in the wanderlust department, and the gorgeous descriptions of Santorini helped me escape the freezing cold I’m currently living in and travel vicariously with Liv. I loved Liv and instantly felt connected to her. You could see the effect her father’s leaving had on her growth and her pain and struggle with it are painted vividly for us. Watching her protective shell crack and her truest self emerge as the story and her newfound relationship with her father developed was extremely endearing. In fact, all of the relationships in this book were very well crafted and real. I loved Liv’s relationship with her family at home, especially her bond with her mom, and her budding friendship with Theo in Santorini was adorable and gave me a nice slow burning and believable romance. The whole story of Atlantis is absolutely fascinating, and I loved getting to learn about it. I thought the tie in of her and her father’s relationship with the mysterious city was heart-wrenchingly beautiful and brilliant. I ugly cried for probably the last 100 pages of the book and was left feeling both emotionally drained and happily fulfilled.

ARCs · Book Reviews

Love Spells and Other Disasters by Angie Barrett ARC Review

I didn’t know when I wrote the first love spell that it would actually make things happen. Like, actually make people fall in love with each other…

How could I have known something like that? I mean, magic isn’t real, right?

But here’s the thing—the spell does work and so does the next one and the next one…and suddenly I’m getting a whole lot of attention from everyone at my high school. Me, Blend-into-the-Walls, Please-Let-Me-Introvert-in-Peace Rowan Marshall. And not only that, but I’ve also caught the attention of Luca Russo, a godlike, football-playing hottie who claims he likes me just the way I am. Ummm…

But as I’m about to learn, playing around with things you don’t understand means when things go wrong—like really, very awfully wrong—you don’t know how to fix them.

Release Date: February 1st, 2021

*I received a copy of this book in return for an honest review! Thanks to Entangled: Teen for the opportunity!*

Love Spells and Other Disasters was a sweet and charming YA rom-com with a hint of magic. When Rowan gets paired with her nemesis, Abby, in a school business project, she gets pressured into selling love spells to her peers, knowing that they are just for entertainment… until they’re not. The spells she writes start working, forcing Rowan to face the consequences and her own abilities. I enjoyed the plot of this a lot. Magic chaos is always a favorite story element of mine, and I thoroughly enjoyed watching it happen in an everyday context. Rowan’s life has always revolved around the paranormal with her mother’s career, and I thought the understanding of the unexplained was a good tie in with the reality of the magical elements and Rowan’s blossoming abilities. While I enjoyed the story, everything from the plot to the characters felt a little too surface level to me. I was intrigued by the ideas, but would have liked to get in deeper on every level- It felt like a bit of telling vs. showing. I connected with Rowan and loved her relationship with her mom, but her relationship with her love interest, Luca, was insta-lovey. He was almost too perfect and their romance escalated way too fast for me, even though it was sweet. I did appreciate the maturity and non-toxicness of their relationship though. I had trouble really connecting to any of the other characters, especially Rowan’s best friend, Ethan. He was not a very good friend to her, even when he wasn’t under a spell, and I wish I could have witnessed the strength of their connection instead of just being told that they were best friends. The events of the plot were great, but I wanted more depth to help suck me in and be able experience the story. That being said, this was a quick and fun read that I enjoyed and I finished it with a smile on my face.

ARCs · Book Reviews

A Curse of Ash and Embers by Jo Spurrier Review

A dead witch. A bitter curse. A battle of magic.

Some people knit socks by the fire at night. Gyssha Blackbone made monsters.

But the old witch is dead now, and somehow it’s Elodie’s job to clean up the mess.

When she was hired at Black Oak Cottage, Elodie had no idea she’d find herself working for a witch; and her acid-tongued new mistress, Aleida, was not expecting a housemaid to turn up on her doorstep.

Gyssha’s final curse left Aleida practically dead on her feet, and now, with huge monsters roaming the woods, a demonic tree lurking in the orchard and an angry warlock demanding repayment of a debt, Aleida needs Elodie’s help, whether she likes it or not.

And no matter what the old witch throws at her, to Elodie it’s still better than going back home.

*I received a copy of this book in return for an honest review!*

A Curse of Ash and Embers was an absorbing YA fantasy novel and I fell in love with the world of the Blackbone witches. The story was beautifully told through the eyes of Elodie, who is hired as a servant at Black Oak Cottage, under her mysterious mistress, Aleida. Elodie was an easy character to connect to. She had a quiet strength and a loyal and empathetic heart. Her journey throughout the novel was great, and I can’t wait to see how she grows in the next book. Aleida Blackbone was a fierce witch and I loved her. She has a cold demeanor, but you can see underneath that she has warmth and a huge sense of compassion inside her. She struggles a lot with her past actions and I thought that the layers of her character were fantastic. I loved the progression of her relationship with Elodie and the strength they drew from each other. The world-building was really cool and I only wish we could have gotten more into how their magic works (which I’m thinking we might get in the next book..). There were a few twists that I saw coming, and a few that I didn’t, which was fun and exciting. I really enjoyed this quick, witchy read, and I will definitely be continuing on in the series.

Book Reviews

A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik Review

Lesson One of the Scholomance: Learning has never been this deadly.

A Deadly Education is set at Scholomance, a school for the magically gifted where failure means certain death (for real) — until one girl, El, begins to unlock its many secrets.

There are no teachers, no holidays, and no friendships, save strategic ones. Survival is more important than any letter grade, for the school won’t allow its students to leave until they graduate… or die! The rules are deceptively simple: Don’t walk the halls alone. And beware of the monsters who lurk everywhere.

El is uniquely prepared for the school’s dangers. She may be without allies, but she possesses a dark power strong enough to level mountains and wipe out millions. It would be easy enough for El to defeat the monsters that prowl the school. The problem? Her powerful dark magic might also kill all the other students.

This book was so different than what I expected. So much so, that it took me a little while to embrace the story and fully get into it, and I wasn’t sure how I felt about it. Scholomance, the magic school in this world, is a very dangerous place, full of monsters and cutthroat students. It is such a unique universe with an absolutely fascinating system of magic. I loved the idea of Scholomance, but there was a point where I was annoyed that it was SO dangerous, as I thought it took away from any type of plot development. The more I got into the story though, and figured out how everything worked, that feeling went away. Our narrator, El, is a snarky, glass-half empty, loner who is full of devastating power, not that anybody else is aware of it. The more we got to know El, the more I fell in love with her. She was full of contradictions, and despite her dark magic affinity and people repellent energy, she had a huge and good heart. You could really see how her life experience made her the way she was, and it was heartbreakingly sweet watching her grapple with her identity according to society vs. her true self. Orion Lake, the school’s hero and golden boy, was such an endearing character, and his relationship with El was incredibly charming. There was an innocence to their relationship that was beautiful when juxtaposed against the dark, tough, and gritty world they’re living in. While there is a lot of action in this story with all of the monsters, it really is very character focused and even the smaller supporting characters were vivid and complex. The climactic finale was spectacular and the cliffhanger at the end was just cruel. So after an unsure start, this book really grabbed a hold of me and the more I sit with my feelings about it, the more I am eagerly awaiting book two.

ARCs · Book Reviews

ARC Review: Influence by Sara Shepard and Lilia Buckingham

After a video she makes goes viral, everyone knows Delilah Rollins. And now that she’s in LA, Delilah’s standing on the edge of something incredible. Everything is going to change. She has no idea how much.

Jasmine Walters-Diaz grew up in the spotlight. A child star turned media darling, the posts of her in her classic Lulu C. rainbow skirt practically break the Internet. But if the world knew who Jasmine really was, her perfect life? Canceled.

Fiona Jacobs is so funny–the kind of girl for whom a crowd parts–no wonder she’s always smiling! But on the inside? The girl’s a hot mess. And when someone comes out of the shadows with a secret from her past, it’s one that won’t just embarrass Fiona: it will ruin her.

Who wouldn’t want to be Scarlet Leigh? Just look at her Instagram. Scarlet isn’t just styled to perfection: she is perfection. Scarlet has a gorgeous, famous boyfriend named Jack and there’s a whole fanbase about their ship. To everyone watching online, their lives seem perfect . . . but are they really? The sun is hot in California . . . and someone’s going to get burned.

Release Date: January 5th, 2021

*I received a copy of this book in return for an honest review! Thanks to Delacorte Press for the opportunity!*

I used to be obsessed with the Pretty Little Liars series, so I have been looking forward to Sara Shepard’s new book with Lilia Buckingham for a while. Influence is a fast-paced, drama-filled, mystery set in the crazy world of influencers in California. The storylines were plotted well and it seemed to follow the Pretty Little Liars formula closely, including an almost “A” like character in Scarlet Leigh. It was an effective choice for this plot and these characters, if not entirely fresh. There were a lot of twists and red herrings that made it exciting and fun to read, and I never knew what was coming next. I really liked the characters, Jasmine and the mysterious Scarlet especially, and what I appreciated was that even though they were dealing with some pretty adult subject matter, they still seemed like teenagers. It has a little bit of everything with a great mix of drama, romance, family, sexuality, and coming of age, all while navigating the chaotic life of social media and fame. The world of influencers is a fascinating and wild subject in itself and though I know it is very real, it almost feels hard to believe. This book is a solid standalone, but there is definitely enough of an open door to write another one, and I know I would like to see more of these characters.

Book Reviews

Blood & Honey (Serpent & Dove #2) by Shelby Mahurin Review

After narrowly escaping death at the hands of the Dames Blanches, Lou, Reid, Coco, and Ansel are on the run from coven, kingdom, and church—fugitives with nowhere to hide.

To elude the scores of witches and throngs of chasseurs at their heels, Lou and Reid need allies. Strong ones. But protection comes at a price, and the group is forced to embark on separate quests to build their forces. As Lou and Reid try to close the widening rift between them, the dastardly Morgane baits them in a lethal game of cat and mouse that threatens to destroy something worth more than any coven.

I was pretty excited to finally read the sequel to Serpent & Dove, and I might have liked this one even better than the first. The chemistry between Reid and Lou that I loved from book one was still burning strong and hot, and we got to see them work through their personal traumas and miscommunications to create an even deeper level of connection. The supporting characters were used in a very purposeful manner and were all multifaceted, complicated characters which added such depth to their relationships- Ansel and CoCo were my favorite. This world and system of magic is so well crafted and cool. Seeing into the Dames Rouges camp and learning more about them was really interesting and I hope we’ll get to explore that even more in the next book. The plot had a lot of fast paced action and took many turns, covering a large variety of different, exciting events, while the ending left me gutted and shocked. When I realized that there was going to be another book though, I was super happy and cannot wait to see where this story will take us.

ARCs · Book Reviews

Our Bloody Pearl by D.N. Bryn Review

The ocean is uncontrollable and dangerous. But to the sirens who swim the warm island waters, it’s a home more than worth protecting from the humans and their steam-propelled ships. Between their hypnotic voices and the strength of their powerful tails, sirens have little to fear.

That is, until the ruthless pirate captain, Kian, creates a device to cancel out their songs.

Perle was the first siren captured, and while all since have either been sold or killed, Kian still keeps them prisoner. Though their song is muted and their tail paralyzed, Perle’s hope for escape rekindles as another pirating vessel seizes Kian’s ship. This new captain seems different, with his brilliant smile and his promises that Kian will never again be Perle’s master. But he’s still a human, and a captor in his own way. The compassion he and his rag-tag human family show can’t be sincere… or can it?

Soon it becomes clear that Kian will hunt Perle relentlessly, taking down any siren in her path. As the tides turn, Perle must decide whether to run from Kian forever, or ride the forming wave into battle, hoping their newfound human companions will fight with them.

*I received a copy of this book in return for an honest review! Thanks to D.N. Bryn for the opportunity*

This book was unlike anything I have read before. The story was told from the POV of Perle, a ferocious ocean siren, who has been captured by a cruel pirate captain and held in captivity. Their voice and view of the human world was extremely clever, vivid, spirited, and clear. I was immediately able to connect and empathize with them on many levels, and found their storytelling to be super creative and effective. In addition to our narrator, the rest of the cast of characters were diverse too, which made for great dynamics and relationships. Dejean was such an endearing character and the arc of his and Perle’s relationship was heartwarming and very well done. Captain Kian was a complicated and scary villain, and the fear she instilled in Perle was palpable. There was so much representation of all types in this book, which was beautiful and incredibly inclusive. Coming in at just under 230 pages, the plot of Our Bloody Pearl is fast paced, but it never felt rushed or underdeveloped, and was a very action-packed, quick read. The steam-punk world building was really cool and I would love to see more stories within it. This book was highly enjoyable, and I would definitely recommend it to anyone looking for an inclusive, unique, seafaring fantasy.

ARCs · Book Reviews

Chasing Lucky by Jenn Bennett Review

Budding photographer Josie Saint-Martin has spent half her life with her single mother, moving from city to city. When they return to her historical New England hometown years later to run the family bookstore, Josie knows it’s not forever. Her dreams are on the opposite coast, and she has a plan to get there.

What she doesn’t plan for is a run-in with the town bad boy, Lucky Karras. Outsider, rebel…and her former childhood best friend. Lucky makes it clear he wants nothing to do with the newly returned Josie. But everything changes after a disastrous pool party, and a poorly executed act of revenge lands Josie in some big-time trouble—with Lucky unexpectedly taking the blame.

Determined to understand why Lucky was so quick to cover for her, Josie discovers that both of them have changed, and that the good boy she once knew now has a dark sense of humor and a smile that makes her heart race. And maybe, just maybe, he’s not quite the brooding bad boy everyone thinks he is…

Released November 10th, 2020

*I received a copy of this book in return for an honest review. Thank you to Simon Pulse for the opportunity!*

Chasing Lucky was an incredibly cute rom-com. I’m a relatively new fan of Jenn Bennett, but I love her writing style. All of the characters were unique, quirky, and humanly flawed which made it so easy to connect with them. Josie’s voice as the narrator was very distinct, funny, and relatable and brought her character, and the others, brilliantly to life. While the plot was pretty light and fun, the relationships took the forefront of the story. Josie and Lucky had a ton of chemistry, and their banter was butterfly inducing. I loved the sweetness in their relationship as well as the fire. In addition to the romance, the family dynamics and relationships were just as, if not more, important to the story and Josie’s journey. All of this takes place in an idyllic, small-town, coastal setting to which I was transported with how vividly it was painted. This book definitely gave me beach-read vibes with the setting and its light-hearted nature, yet it still had a great amount of depth, which can often be lacking in YA rom-coms. To anyone looking for their next sweet, romantic read, Chasing Lucky is the full package.