Book Reviews

Netgalley Review: The Tethered Mage by Melissa Caruso

34219880Summary: In the Raverran Empire, magic is scarce and those born with power are strictly controlled — taken as children and conscripted into the Falcon Army. 

Zaira has lived her life on the streets to avoid this fate, hiding her mage-mark and thieving to survive. But hers is a rare and dangerous magic, one that threatens the entire empire.

Lady Amalia Cornaro was never meant to be a Falconer. Heiress and scholar, she was born into a treacherous world of political machinations. But fate has bound the heir and the mage.

War looms on the horizon. A single spark could turn their city into a pyre.

My Thoughts: I really enjoyed this book.  The writing is elegant and beautiful, and it had a fascinating concept which was very strongly developed.  Those with powers, or the “mage-marked,” are taken in at a young age when their powers are discovered, and trained to be “falcons” in the country’s army.  They are linked to a “falconer” who binds their powers, trains with them, and protects them.  Our main character and narrator, Amalia, is the heir to the throne and mistakenly gets bound to a rogue falcon, Zaira and drama ensues.  Learning all about the organization of the falcons was super intriguing and was a great vehicle for these relationships.  I really liked all of the characters in this story.  They were complex, strong, and unique.  Amalia was especially interesting, and I loved the growth she had throughout the story.  Marcello Verdi, a leader for the falcon army, was super likable, but I wish there would have been a bit more chemistry between him and Amalia.  I liked their romance development, but there was some spark missing for me.  Zaira was super feisty, with some great one-liners, and I can’t wait to see what becomes of her in the rest of the series.  The plot is super political, and there was a lot going on.  At first it seemed a bit disjointed, but the more I read the more it all began to click together and make sense.  All of the separate points set up the mystery really well, and led to a huge plot twist that I did not see coming.  The last quarter of the book was nearly impossible to put down, and I immediately put the second book on my TBR.  I really was pleasantly surprised with this book, and I’d definitely recommend it to anyone who loves a story full of political intrigue and magic.

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Top Ten Tuesday

Top 10 Tuesday: Hidden Gems


It feels like it has been forever since I did a Top Ten Tuesday!  This week’s theme from That Artsy Reader Girl is Hidden Gems: books that haven’t been talked about as much or haven’t been marketed as strongly that you think deserve some recognition.  I’ve been reading a lot of hyped books recently, so this one will definitely take more thought.

The Color Alchemist Series by Nina Walker

What if color held the secrets to powerful magic? 

Forced to move into the palace, Jessa begins training as a Color Alchemist under the direction of the kingdom’s most eligible bachelor, Prince Lucas. As an alchemist, Jessa must capture and harness the color of living things. Every color has a unique purpose, except red. Red is the untapped magic no one can access—until Jessa.

Prince Lucas is running out of time. His mother is deathly ill and healing magic hasn’t worked. When Lucas suspects someone is using alchemy to control her, he sets out to discover the truth, no matter the cost.

Prism was one of the earliest ARC’s I ever received and I just fell in love with it.  I love the world, I love the characters, and I am fascinated by the system of color magic.  I definitely want more people to read them so we can discuss and because they just deserve to be read.

Dancer by Colum McCann


Taking his inspiration from biographical facts, novelist Colum McCann tells the erotically charged story of the Russian dancer Rudolf Nureyev through the cast of those who knew him: there is Anna Vasileva, Rudi’s first ballet teacher, who rescues her protégé from the stunted life of his provincial town; Yulia, whose sexual and artistic ambitions are thwarted by her Soviet-sanctioned marriage; and Victor, the Venezuelan street hustler, who reveals the lurid underside of the gay celebrity set. Spanning four decades and many worlds, from the horrors of the Second World War to the wild abandon of New York in the eighties, Dancer is peopled by a large cast of characters, obscure and famous: doormen and shoemakers, nurses and translators, Margot Fonteyn, Eric Bruhn and John Lennon. And at the heart of the spectacle stands the artist himself, willful, lustful, and driven by a never-to-be-met need for perfection.

This book is one of the most unique books I have ever read.  It is beautiful and haunting and really eye opening.

My Name is Memory by Ann Brashares


Daniel has spent centuries falling in love with the same girl. Life after life, crossing continents and dynasties, he and Sophia (despite her changing name and form) have been drawn together-and he remembers it all. Daniel has “the memory”, the ability to recall past lives and recognize souls of those he’s previously known. It is a gift and a curse. For all the times that he and Sophia have been drawn together throughout history, they have also been torn painfully, fatally, apart. A love always too short.

Interwoven through Sophia and Daniel’s unfolding present day relationship are glimpses of their expansive history together. From 552 Asia Minor to 1918 England and 1972 Virginia, the two souls share a long and sometimes torturous path of seeking each other time and time again. But just when young Sophia (now “Lucy” in the present) finally begins to awaken to the secret of their shared past, to understand the true reason for the strength of their attraction, the mysterious force that has always torn them apart reappears. Ultimately, they must come to understand what stands in the way of their love if they are ever to spend a lifetime together.

Everyone knows Ann Brashares for The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, but I feel like a lot of people never found this gem.  It was one of my favorites, and I still am hoping for a sequel….

Wildflower Hill by Kimberly Freeman


Forced to take her life in a new direction when an injury ends her ballet career, Emma returns to her home in Australia and learns that she has inherited an isolated sheep station from a late grandmother who would impart key lessons about love and motherhood.

I brought this book on a vacation, and finished the entire thing on the plane because I just couldn’t stop reading.  It gave me SUCH a huge book hangover and I was obsessed with the characters.

The Mourning Hours by Paula Treick DeBoard


Kirsten Hammarstrom hasn’t been home to her tiny corner of rural Wisconsin in years-not since the mysterious disappearance of a local teenage girl rocked the town and shattered her family. Kirsten was just nine years old when Stacy Lemke went missing, and the last person to see her alive was her boyfriend, Johnny-the high school wrestling star and Kirsten’s older brother. No one knows what to believe-not even those closest to Johnny-but the event unhinges the quiet farming community and pins Kirsten’s family beneath the crushing weight of suspicion. 

Now, years later, a new tragedy forces Kirsten and her siblings to return home, where they must confront the devastating event that shifted the trajectory of their lives. Tautly written and beautifully evocative, The Mourning Hours is a gripping portrayal of a family straining against extraordinary pressure, and a powerful tale of loyalty, betrayal and forgiveness.

This book caught my eye because it takes place in Wisconsin, where I’m from, but I got really absorbed in this story.  I loved the mystery of it, and thought the concept was gripping.

The Haunting of Hattie Hastings by Audrey Davis

Some people just won’t take death lying down …!
Part one of a fun-filled but moving romantic comedy about life, death and letting go.
Hattie Hastings is happily married, even if husband Gary drives her up the wall at times. When tragedy strikes, she is left alone and heartbroken, with only an assortment of family and friends to prop her up.

Struggling to cope, she is left reeling when her deceased other half returns to haunt her, popping up at the most inappropriate times, with an unorthodox way of flagging his arrival.

Hattie struggles to convince anyone that Gary has returned. Not even her best friend, Cat – now free from the cruel and controlling Stewart – will believe her story.

Why has Gary returned? Will he allow Hattie to find happiness again, or will he stand in the way of any future romance? And what will Cat do when her slimy ex-husband tries to worm his way back into her affections?

This book just warmed my heart.  Split into three short novellas, this series is funny, sweet, and emotional.  Anyone looking for a super quick and fun read should pick this series up!

Sorority by Genevieve Sly Crane


Prep meets Girls in White Dresses in Genevieve Sly Crane’s deliciously addictive, voyeuristic exploration of female friendship and coming of age that will appeal to anyone who has ever been curious about what happens in a sorority house.

Twinsets and pearls, secrets and kinship, rituals that hold sisters together in a sacred bond of everlasting trust. Certain chaste images spring to mind when one thinks of sororities. But make no mistake: these women are not braiding each other’s hair and having pillow fights—not by a long shot.

What Genevieve Sly Crane has conjured in these pages is a blunt, in your face look behind the closed doors of a house full of contemporary women—and there are no holds barred. These women have issues: self-inflicted, family inflicted, sister-to-sister inflicted—and it is all on the page. At the center of this swirl is Margot: the sister who died in the house, and each chapter is told from the points of view of the women who orbit her death and have their own reactions to it.

With a keen sense of character and elegant, observant prose, Crane details the undercurrents of tension in a world where perfection comes at a cost and the best things in life are painful—if not impossible—to acquire: Beauty. A mother’s love. And friendship… or at least the appearance of it. Woven throughout are glimmers of the classical myths that undercut the lives of women in Greek life. After all, the Greek goddesses did cause their fair share of destruction.

This book was so different than what I expected, but I loved it.  It was insanely haunting and dark, and stuck with me a while after reading it.  See my full review here.

Practicing Normal by Cara Sue Achterberg


Meet the Turners – a socially awkward genius child, an adolescent cat burglar, a philandering husband, and a doormat wife in desperate need of a backbone. The Turners are doing their best to craft a happy life and face down a history they have no control over in a neighborhood where only the houses are similar. And when relationships sprout from seemingly nowhere and secrets begin to unravel, practicing normal becomes harder than it’s ever been.

Combining her trademark combination of wit, insight, and tremendous empathy for her characters, Cara Sue Achterberg has written a novel that is at once familiar and startlingly fresh.

This book was a beautifully written look at a dysfunctional family.  All of the characters were flawed and relatable and made you root for them.

Have you read any of these hidden gems?  Have you found any that I should add to my list? Let me know in the comments! ❤

Book Reviews

Practicing Normal by Cara Sue Achterberg Review

32565146Goodreads Summary:  Meet the Turners – a socially awkward genius child, an adolescent cat burglar, a philandering husband, and a doormat wife in desperate need of a backbone. The Turners are doing their best to craft a happy life and face down a history they have no control over in a neighborhood where only the houses are similar. And when relationships sprout from seemingly nowhere and secrets begin to unravel, practicing normal becomes harder than it’s ever been.
Combining her trademark combination of wit, insight, and tremendous empathy for her characters, Cara Sue Achterberg has written a novel that is at once familiar and startlingly fresh.

*I received a copy of this book in return for an honest review! Thank you Cara Sue Achterberg!*

My Thoughts: When I first read the synopsis for Practicing Normal, I expected an overly dramatic, Desperate Housewives-esuqe, women’s fiction novel.  I was wrong.  Instead, it was a strikingly real and honest account of a family who is just trying to keep their lives together.  The entirety of the book is more of a slice of their every day lives than an action driven narrative, but don’t let that fool you into thinking it’s boring.  These characters were so engaging, and my favorite thing about the book was how real they seemed.  There was no dramatic heightening effect.  They were just real people with real problems.  I liked the daughter, Jenna, a lot, but the mother, Kate, was definitely who I sympathized with the most.  She has the strongest arc in the story and was dealing with so much.  Since the characters were the heart of the novel, I was very happy with how well fleshed out they all were.  I understood who they were immediately, and how they got to be that way.  Achterberg provided us with the perfect amount of detail and action through side characters, that really helped to create a full picture of this family and their  dynamics.  One of my favorite details was how Jenna called her dad by his first name, Everett, instead of calling him “Dad.”  It was a very effective way of showing their relationship without having to tell us much.  All of the writing in this book felt very full and complete and made it easy to become emotionally invested in these people.  The ending doesn’t have a satisfying, dramatic resolution, but I loved that it didn’t.  Life is messy, and I thought that where we leave the characters was a perfect representation of that.

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Book Reviews

Fitness Junkie by Lucy Sykes and Jo Piazza Review

34705479Goodreads Summary: When Janey Sweet, CEO of a couture wedding dress company, is photographed in the front row of a fashion show eating a bruffin–the delicious lovechild of a brioche and a muffin–her best friend and business partner, Beau, gives her an ultimatum: Lose thirty pounds or lose your job. Sure, Janey has gained some weight since her divorce, and no, her beautifully cut trousers don’t fit like they used to, so Janey throws herself headlong into the world of the fitness revolution, signing up for a shockingly expensive workout pass, baring it all for Free the Nipple yoga, sweating through boot camp classes run by Sri Lankan militants and spinning to the screams of a Lycra-clad instructor with rage issues. At a juice shop she meets Jacob, a cute young guy who takes her dumpster-diving outside Whole Foods on their first date. At a shaman’s tea ceremony she meets Hugh, a silver fox who holds her hand through an ayahuasca hallucination And at a secret exercise studio Janey meets Sara Strong, the wildly popular workout guru whose special dance routine has starlets and wealthy women flocking to her for results that seem too good to be true. As Janey eschews delicious carbs, pays thousands of dollars to charlatans, and is harassed by her very own fitness bracelet, she can’t help but wonder: Did she really need to lose weight in the first place?

A hilarious send-up of the health and wellness industry, Fitness Junkie is a glorious romp through the absurd landscape of our weight-obsessed culture.

My Thoughts:  This book was so much fun.  The writing style was easy, engaging, hilarious, and I devoured it.  It was a perfect satire of the health and wellness industry, and the pressure that is put on people today to be fit.  Living in NYC, in a business that is heavily centered on fitness, all of the characters were like people that I come across on a daily basis.   They were exaggeratedly ridiculous, while still maintaining truth.  I really liked and connected with the main character Janey.  All of her feelings were super relatable, and I felt for her situation.  Her best friend Beau, the catalyst for Janey’s fitness journey, was just the worst (in the best way).  While being manipulative and cruel, he still managed to be entertaining, and I completely understood their relationship.  I loved Ivy, and know a lot of friends who teach fitness who go through the same thing she does.  I felt that the plot definitely took a back seat to the characters in the novel, but it was a super quick and engaging read.  Everything happens pretty quickly, but it matches the high-stakes writing style.  Janey’s arc wasn’t super big, but I appreciated the subtle changes in her thinking and self-confidence.  It made her seem more real and I felt super satisfied with how it ended.  This book definitely gave me Devil Wears Prada vibes, and I think fans of Lauren Weisberger would enjoy this one too.  I’m for sure going to pick up Sykes and Piazza’s other book, The Knock-Off, soon and I am excited to see what else they come up with!

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Book Reviews

Everless by Sara Holland Review

32320661Goodreads Summary: In the kingdom of Sempera, time is currency—extracted from blood, bound to iron, and consumed to add time to one’s own lifespan. The rich aristocracy, like the Gerlings, tax the poor to the hilt, extending their own lives by centuries.

No one resents the Gerlings more than Jules Ember. A decade ago, she and her father were servants at Everless, the Gerlings’ palatial estate, until a fateful accident forced them to flee in the dead of night. When Jules discovers that her father is dying, she knows that she must return to Everless to earn more time for him before she loses him forever.

But going back to Everless brings more danger—and temptation—than Jules could have ever imagined. Soon she’s caught in a tangle of violent secrets and finds her heart torn between two people she thought she’d never see again. Her decisions have the power to change her fate—and the fate of time itself.

My Thoughts: I liked Everless.  Was it amazing? No, but it was an enjoyable YA Fantasy novel.  I’ve been excited to read this book ever since I first heard its premise.  The idea is so interesting, but unfortunately the execution just seemed a little under developed.  The origin story of The Sorceress and The Alchemist, which is supposed to explain how the blood-irons came to be, was confusing and didn’t feel fully completed or fleshed out with enough detail.  The first mention of it was confusing and hard to follow, and I just kind of accepted that it had happened somehow and moved on.  They keep coming back to the legend, so I was able to figure out a little more every time, but I still didn’t feel like I had a full grasp on it.  Background info aside, I did still enjoy the concept and the world of the story.  I felt very indifferent about most of the characters.  Jules was a very typical YA heroine, and her “love interest”, Roan, was super boring.  I did like Liam and Caro and thought they were interesting and a little more complex.  The plot of this book started off a bit slower, but MAN did it pick up towards the end.  The last few chapters were awesome and had a bunch of twists that I actually didn’t see coming, which surprised me because the rest of the book had been pretty predictable.  Overall, Everless was a quick and fun read, and after that ending I’m excited to see where the story goes from here!

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Book Reviews · The Classics Club

Emma by Jane Austen Review

6492390Goodreads Summary: Charming, willful Emma Woodehouse amuses herself by planning other people’s lives. When her interfering backfires, she learns a bitter lesson: well-intentioned busybodies are as resented as those motivated by ill will, and everyone should learn to respect the individuality of others.

My Thoughts: I have a new favorite classic.  I fell in love with Emma. It is for sure my favorite Austen to date, and I had no idea that I would love it as much as I did.  I have always been curious about this book because I love the movie Clueless so much, and the movie is based on the book.  I was not disappointed.  The plot was fun and engaging, the characters were all colorful, dimensional and different, and it had the perfect amount of shade that I live for from Jane Austen.  Emma Woodhouse quickly worked her way into my heart and became one of my favorite heroines of all time.  She is so stubborn, self-confident, pushy and meddling and I just loved her.  Her relationships with everyone were so well developed and it was fun to see how they played out.  There was a twist with every event that kept me on my toes and waiting to see how Emma would react.  I was a reluctant Austen fan, but I think I am finally getting used to her style and I get the hype.  I can’t wait to read the rest of her works because I am 100% a fan now.  I almost want to go back and re-read Pride and Prejudice and give it another shot.  Until now, my favorite classic, by far, has been Jane Eyre.  I can’t believe I am saying this, but I think Emma has surpassed Jane Eyre in my heart.

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Book Reviews

Daisy Jones by Mack Mama ARC Review

37915702Goodreads Summary: DAISY MAKES THE WORLD GO ROUND.

Gorgeous temptress, Daisy Jones has the power to send men to prison for sexual relations with a minor. She is the epitome of a gold digger and raised to go after rich men by a bitter mother. Mama Jones mad at her fate in life taught Daisy the art of manipulation and how to scheme on her prey. She didn’t warn Daisy about letting her heart get in the way of business, forcing her to fall for a southern rapper and the CEO of a multi-million dollar empire. The story begins in Atlanta, Georgia, traveling to New York City, and enters the notorious crew, the OBG s a gumbo of women hustlers, killers, and drug dealers, who have earned a reputation in the streets for being beyond terrorist. And they’re connected to Daisy Jones, all of them wanting to get their “Daisy” on.

*I received an ARC in return for an honest review!*

Release Date: May 1st 2018

My Thoughts: I was definitely out of my comfort zone with this book.  Daisy Jones by Mack Mama immediately slams you into the lives of its characters.  We follow 16 year old Daisy as she goes through a tough life of hustling and gold digging.  Right away with the language, I knew who these characters were.  They were all larger than life personalities, and I knew I was in for a wild ride.  Boy, was this book extreme in every possible way!  The stakes were always high, and every situation escalated insanely fast (unbelievably so).  Nearly every scene was overly explicit, and some were hard to read.  There was so much crazy drama that it was like not being able to look away from a car wreck.  I could not believe the situations described in this book, and some of them actually had my jaw on the floor with their extremeness.  In between each scene, there were a bunch of jerky transitions that took me out of it, and the writing style seemed a little elementary to me.  It felt like every moment was put in for shock factor, and there was very little build up to support these actions.  There were a large amount of colorful characters, but none of them were likable and I couldn’t bring myself to root for any of them.  With so much focus on the events of each scene, I felt that there was little time for much character development or depth.  While the overly dramatic events kept me reading, my lack of emotional connection to the characters ruined it for me.  If you want a fast, explicit, and extremely wild ride, this book is for you, but it just wasn’t my cup of tea.

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Book Reviews · Reading Challenges

Murder On the Orient Express by Agatha Christie Review

34066636Goodreads Summary: What more can a mystery addict desire than a much-loathed murder victim found aboard the luxurious Orient Express with multiple stab wounds, thirteen likely suspects, an incomparably brilliant detective in Hercule Poirot, and the most ingenious crime ever conceived?

My Thoughts: I have been looking forward to reading this book ever since I saw the preview for the recent film adaptation.  I knew I had to read it before I saw the movie, and I finally did.  I have to say that I was slightly underwhelmed.  With this being one of the most famous mysteries of all time, I was expecting my mind to be blown.  The ending was great, and I honestly had no idea who the culprit was going to be until it was revealed, but the rest of the lead up was a little boring.  There didn’t seem to be an actual plot, just very by the book mystery solving.  It kept me far removed from the story, and while I was intrigued by figuring it out, I was pretty unconnected.  I’m fairly new to detective stories, if you don’t count Nancy Drew, but I feel like I was expecting a more immersive experience.  I also would have liked to have been able to figure it out a little more, but there was so much information that Poirot just knew, that came out of nowhere, that it was pretty much impossible to infer anything yourself.  I watched the film after reading it, and I enjoyed it (how could you not, that cast is incredible), but I was still underwhelmed.  I’m thinking that maybe this style of story telling just isn’t for me.

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Book Reviews · Reading Challenges

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell Review

23734628Goodreads Summary: Simon Snow is the worst Chosen One who’s ever been chosen.

That’s what his roommate, Baz, says. And Baz might be evil and a vampire and a complete git, but he’s probably right.

Half the time, Simon can’t even make his wand work, and the other half, he starts something on fire. His mentor’s avoiding him, his girlfriend broke up with him, and there’s a magic-eating monster running around, wearing Simon’s face. Baz would be having a field day with all this, if he were here — it’s their last year at the Watford School of Magicks, and Simon’s infuriating nemesis didn’t even bother to show up.

Carry On – The Rise and Fall of Simon Snow is a ghost story, a love story and a mystery. It has just as much kissing and talking as you’d expect from a Rainbow Rowell story – but far, far more monsters.

My Thoughts: This book was everything I wanted and more.  I had heard great things about it, but it surpassed my expectations.  I started reading it late at night before bed which was a huge mistake, because I could not stop reading.  I loved how it poked fun at Harry Potter, and almost seemed like fan-fiction, but in the best way.  The world of magic was so creative, clever, and hilarious, and everything was incredibly developed and fresh.  It made so much sense to me and was really realistic.  (Words have power. DUH!)  It was interesting to join them in their final year at school, instead of in the beginning like most other stories.  Learning about everything that had happened up to that point was fun and surprising, and added so much character development.  I fell in love with the characters, Baz especially, and each of their voices in narration were specific, witty, and just plain enjoyable.  The different points of view worked really well in moving the story along.  The plot was addicting, and I sped through to find out what was going to happen to my favorite characters.  I could gush about this book forever.  The minute it was over I wanted to re-read it.  It was funny, sweet, exciting and magical in every possible way.

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Book Hangover

Monthly Wrap-Ups

February 2018 Wrap-Up

MonthlyWrap - Up

February was a crazy month for me! I started rehearsals for Guys and Dolls at the Fulton Theatre in Pennsylvania! Due to the fact that I’ve been super busy learning a new show and bonding with my amazing new cast mates, my reading and blogging has slowed down a bit.  I still managed to read a few books, and only missed one Saturday post!

Books Read:


Favorite Book of the Month:


Currently Reading:


Challenge Updates:

Goodreads Challenge: 11 of 50

A to Z Challenge: 5 of 26 (O, N)

Classics Club: 2 of 50 (Once again failed to read anything for this one…)

Broadway Book Chat: Synthia Link from Frozen on Broadway


February Reviews

 • The Oathing Stone by J.Z.N. McCauley • The Lonely Hearts Hotel by Heather O’Neill • Nature of the Witch by Helen T. Noorwood Blog Tour •

February Posts

Top 10 Tuesday: Books That Have Been on my TBR the Longest and I Still Haven’t ReadDreams Do Come True-Meeting My Favorite Author • Top 10 Tuesday: Literary Couples I Love to Love • Superlatives Book Tag • Top 10 Tuesday: Books I’m No Longer Interested in Reading • Top 10 Tuesday: Books I Could Re-read Forever •