Review: Grace and Glory by Jennifer L. Armentrout

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆
Title: Grace and Glory
Author: Jennifer L. Armentrout
Series: The Harbinger #3
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Audience: Young Adult
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Lauren Fortgang
Length: 14 hours (512 pages)
Publisher: Harlequin Audio; Inkyard Press
Release Date: June 1, 2021
Source: Library

SYNOPSIS

When Angels Fall

Trinity Marrow has lost the battle and her beloved Protector. Even with both demons and Wardens on her side, Trin may not win the war against the Harbinger.

Bringing Lucifer back to the world to fight the Harbinger is probably a really, really bad idea, but they’re out of options—and the world’s ultimate fallen angel is the only being powerful enough to impact the outcome.

As Trin and Zayne form a new and more dangerous bond and Lucifer unleashes Hell on earth, the apocalypse looms and the world teeters on the end of forever. Win or lose, one thing is certain—nothing will ever be the same.

MY THOUGHTS

This book starts off with a bang, immediately throwing shocking twists that resolve questions from the previous book, but ultimately, this book was too long, and the story dragged through the middle.

I was not a fan of the pregnancy scare storyline. It was an interesting issue to explore, but was way too drawn out and overdramatic. They didn’t even know if pregnancy was possible, but they were freaking out about a potential child when the world was literally ending. PRIORITIES, PEOPLE!

I do enjoy the romance in this series. The ending was exciting, a little weird, but satisfying (a trend I’m noticing in JLA series). I don’t think this was the strongest book in the series, but it was a good conclusion!

Review: Meet Me in Paradise by Libby Hubscher

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆
Title: Meet Me in Paradise
Author: Libby Hubscher
Genre: Romance
Audience: Adult
Format: Paperback
Length: 328 pages
Publisher: Berkley Books
Release Date: March 23, 2021
Source: Once Upon a Book Club VIP influencer program
Content Warnings: terminal illness, death of a loved one, grief

SYNOPSIS

Marin Cole has never:
Seen the ocean
Climbed a mountain
Taken a risk on love
….But if her sister’s plan works, she just might do all three.

Ever since her journalist mother died on assignment, Marin has played it safe, refusing to set foot outside the state of Tennessee. Her wild-child younger sister, Sadie, has trotted the globe as a photographer, living off of art and adrenaline.

When Sadie returns from a tough assignment abroad and looks a little worse for wear, Marin reluctantly agrees to a sisters’ spa weekend on the tropical island of Saba. But her lifelong fear of travel is affirmed when Sadie misses the flight, Marin’s luggage gets mixed up with another passenger’s, and an episode of turbulence sends her hurtling into the lap of Lucas Tsai, the handsome stranger who stole her sister’s seat.

For the first time in a long time, Marin has to step outside of her comfort zone as she explores the island with Lucas and learns what she’s been missing out on. With each breathtaking new experience, Marin gets closer to her real self, the man she’s falling for, and the heart-wrenching truth about why she’s there in the first place.

MY THOUGHTS

On the surface this seems like a fun vacation romcom, but it will gut you in the feels with surprisingly heavy topics. I may have cried a few times before the end, but I also laughed a lot. I don’t think this book did the best job of balancing the funny and serious moments.

Marin was a relatable MC who likes to play it safe. I loved her journey of self-discovery and how she learned to stop holding herself back for the sake of others and finally pursue her dreams. However, Sadie was actually the worst. She was so incredibly selfish, and it took away from that sister relationship.

I also wanted a bit more from the romance between Marin and Lucas. It started off strong, but overall it was meh. The pacing of their relationship was inconsistent, and there were some unnecessary obstacles in their way! The ending felt a bit rushed, but it was overall satisfying.

Thank you to Once Upon a Book Club for sending me this book in a gifted subscription box.

Review: Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆
Title: Firekeeper’s Daughter
Author: Angeline Boulley
Genre: Mystery
Audience: Young Adult
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Isabella Star LaBlanc
Length: 14 hours (496 pages)
Publisher: Henry, Holt & Co (BYR); Macmillan Audio
Release Date: March 16, 2021
Source: Libro.fm ALC
Recommended for fans of: hockey, YA mystery/thriller
Content Warnings:

SYNOPSIS

As a biracial, unenrolled tribal member and the product of a scandal, eighteen-year-old Daunis Fontaine has never quite fit in, both in her hometown and on the nearby Ojibwe reservation. Daunis dreams of studying medicine, but when her family is struck by tragedy, she puts her future on hold to care for her fragile mother.

The only bright spot is meeting Jamie, the charming new recruit on her brother Levi’s hockey team. Yet even as Daunis falls for Jamie, certain details don’t add up and she senses the dashing hockey star is hiding something. Everything comes to light when Daunis witnesses a shocking murder, thrusting her into the heart of a criminal investigation.

Reluctantly, Daunis agrees to go undercover, but secretly pursues her own investigation, tracking down the criminals with her knowledge of chemistry and traditional medicine. But the deceptions—and deaths—keep piling up and soon the threat strikes too close to home.

Now, Daunis must learn what it means to be a strong Anishinaabe kwe (Ojibwe woman) and how far she’ll go to protect her community, even if it tears apart the only world she’s ever known.

MY THOUGHTS

This is a beautifully written story about the bonds that tie communities together and the secrets that can tear them apart.

The Ojibwe culture came to life in this story, exploring complex family and tribal dynamics as well as the dichotomy between personal identity and community belonging.

The mystery was fantastic, and the drug problems facing the community felt real and urgent. I also really enjoyed the role that hockey played in this story.

This is the type of YA story that is just as impactful for adult readers. The story was both heartracing and heartbreaking, and it’s the kind of book that sticks with readers long after finishing the last page.

Thank you to Libro.fm and the publisher for the ALC.

ARC Review: If the Shoe Fits by Julie Murphy

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆
Title: If the Shoe Fits
Author: Julie Murphy
Series: Meant to Be #1
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Audience: Adult
Format: eARC
Length: 304 pages
Publisher: Hyperion Avenue
Release Date: August 3, 2021
Source: Netgalley
Recommended for fans of: Disney princesses
Content Warnings: death of parents

SYNOPSIS

After having just graduated with a degree in shoe design, and trying to get her feet on the ground, Cindy is working for her stepmother, who happens to be the executive producer of America’s favorite reality show, Before Midnight. When a spot on the show needs filling ASAP, Cindy volunteers, hoping it might help jump-start her fashion career, or at least give her something to do while her peers land jobs in the world of high fashion.

Turns out being the only plus size woman on a reality dating competition makes a splash, and soon Cindy becomes a body positivity icon for women everywhere. What she doesn’t expect? That she may just find inspiration-and love-in the process. Ultimately, Cindy learns that if the shoe doesn’t fit, maybe it’s time to design your own.

MY THOUGHTS

If the Shoe Fits reimagines Cinderella as a contemporary romcom about Cindy, a plus-size shoe designer fresh out of design school competing reality dating show called Before Midnight. It is such a sweet story!

This is a very quick read that I finished in half a day. The sincere characters, vibrant descriptions of fashion, and easy-to-read writing kept me turning pages, and I applaud the representation for plus-size and queer characters.

One of my favorite twists on the original fairy tale in this retelling is that Cindy has a positive relationship with her step-family. It’s not all sunshines and rainbows, but they support each other and share the grief of losing Cindy’s father. Also, the fact that the talking mice from the film appear as Cindy’s triplet half-siblings!

I do wish there were more depth to the conflict and romance. It’s hard to avoid superficiality with a Bachelor-inspired story, and some of the plot lines were a bit simplistic.

I haven’t actually read any of Julie Murphy’s young adult novels yet, but I enjoyed her adult debut with this clean, Disney romance.

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for the eARC.

Review: Sleeping Dogs Lie by Samantha Downing

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆
Title: Sleeping Dogs Lie
Author: Samantha Downing
Genre: Thriller/Mystery
Audience: Adult
Format: Audiobook
Narrators: Melanie Nicholls-King, Lindsey Dorcus
Length: 2 hours
Publisher: Audible Original
Release Date: April 1, 2021
Source: Audible

SYNOPSIS

From the internationally best-selling author of My Lovely Wife and He Started It comes a twisted, entertaining novella about a dog walker swept into a criminal investigation when her client winds up dead.

Shelby works as a dog walker in Northern California, and she’s just finished up her biweekly trip to the park with a husky named Pluto. When she brings him back to his house, she finds his owner—Todd Burke, a well-known local businessman and founder of an organic supplements company—dead on the bathroom floor. As a detective interviews Shelby, a medical examiner inspects the body, and more cops search Todd’s home, it becomes clear that the victim’s life was less picture-perfect than his clean-cut persona might lead you to believe.

MY THOUGHTS

I really enjoyed the first two chapters of this three chapter novella. Samantha Downing delivers a signature thrilling murder mystery with an impressive attention to detail and and clever and compelling twist.

However, the killer’s motivations were so far-fetched, and her rationale took away from her cleverness in the third chapter.

Dog lovers will enjoy this story!

Review: Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆
Title: Malibu Rising
Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid
Genre: Historical / Family Drama
Audience: Adult
Format: Audiobook
Narrators: Julia Whelan
Length: 11 hours (384 pages)
Publisher: Ballantine Books; Penguin Random House Audio
Release Date: June 1, 2021
Source: Libro.fm ALC
Recommended for fans of: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo
Content Warnings: infidelity, alcoholism, absent parent, death of a parent

SYNOPSIS

Four famous siblings throw an epic party to celebrate the end of the summer. But over the course of twenty-four hours, their lives will change forever.

Malibu: August, 1983. It’s the day of Nina Riva’s annual end-of-summer party, and anticipation is at a fever pitch. Everyone wants to be around the famous Rivas: Nina, the talented surfer and supermodel; brothers Jay and Hud, one a championship surfer, the other a renowned photographer; and their adored baby sister, Kit. Together, the siblings are a source of fascination in Malibu and the world over—especially as the offspring of the legendary singer, Mick Riva.

The only person not looking forward to the party of the year is Nina herself, who never wanted to be the center of attention, and who has also just been very publicly abandoned by her pro tennis player husband. Oh, and maybe Hud—because it is long past time to confess something to the brother from whom he’s been inseparable since birth.

Jay, on the other hand, is counting the minutes until nightfall, when the girl he can’t stop thinking about promised she’ll be there.

And Kit has a couple secrets of her own—including a guest she invited without consulting anyone.

By midnight the party will be completely out of control. By morning, the Riva mansion will have gone up in flames. But before that first spark in the early hours before dawn, the alcohol will flow, the music will play, and the loves and secrets that shaped this family’s generations will all come bubbling to the surface.

Malibu Rising is a story about one unforgettable night in the life of a family: the night they each have to choose what they will keep from the people who made them… and what they will leave behind.

MY THOUGHTS

This is my favorite Taylor Jenkins Reid book yet, after reading Evelyn Hugo and Daisy Jones. The way she writes characters is so nuanced and compelling, they truly feel like real people.

I’m not normally a fan of family dramas, but I couldn’t stop listening to this audiobook. The story is told in dual timeline, alternating between the night of the Riva party in 1983 alternating with flashbacks to the parents meeting all the way up to the “present.” The tension is expertly built chapter to chapter as the story builds towards an explosive and emotional crescendo.

Julia Whelan’s narration was fantastic and brought me to tears at multiple points in the story. All of the Riva kids made great strides toward self-discovery during the night of the party, but I especially love Nina’s growth. Highly highly recommend. This is a top book of the year for me.

Thank you to Libro.fm and the publisher for the ALC.

Review: All the Tides of Fate by Adalyn Grace

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆.5
Title: All the Tides of Fate
Author: Adalyn Grace
Series: All the Stars and Teeth #2
Genre: Fantasy
Audience: Young Adult
Format: Hardcover
Length: 368 pages
Publisher: Imprint
Release Date: February 2, 2021
Source: Personal collection
Recommended for fans of: Caraval, Shadow & Bone, Legends of Korra
Content Warnings: grief, PTSD

SYNOPSIS

Through blood and sacrifice, Amora Montara has conquered a rebellion and taken her rightful place as queen of Visidia. Now, with the islands in turmoil and the people questioning her authority, Amora cannot allow anyone to see her weaknesses.

No one can know about the curse in her bloodline. No one can know that she’s lost her magic. No one can know the truth about the boy who holds the missing half of her soul.

To save herself and Visidia, Amora embarks on a desperate quest for a mythical artifact that could fix everything―but it comes at a terrible cost. As she tries to balance her loyalty to her people, her crew, and the desires of her heart, Amora will soon discover that the power to rule might destroy her. 

MY THOUGHTS

Amara is now queen after the traumatic conclusion to book 1. She is a different person than she was in book 1, now plagued by PTSD visions of her father who she wants to bring back from the dead, keeping secrets from her friends, and pushing Bastian away.

I did not love the “husband tour” excuse to chase leads for Blarte’s artifact. Even though she was traveling to different islands, it felt too similar to the plot structure of book 1. I also wish that Blarte’s significance to the story were explained sooner.

The ending was bananas. So good, and worth the mess leading up to it. I was shocked (and slightly confused) by the sacrifice at the end, but I was so proud of Amara’s actions in the final chapter. I didn’t like her at the beginning of the first book, but by the end I was rooting for her!

Review: All the Stars and Teeth by Adalyn Grace

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆.5
Title: All the Stars and Teeth
Author: Adalyn Grace
Series: All the Stars and Teeth #1
Genre: Fantasy
Audience: Young Adult
Format: Hardcover
Length: 373 pages
Publisher: Imprint
Release Date: February 4, 2020
Source: Personal collection
Recommended for fans of: Caraval, Shadow & Bone, Legend of Korra, island fantasies

SYNOPSIS

Set in a kingdom where danger lurks beneath the sea, mermaids seek vengeance with song, and magic is a choice.

She will reign.

As princess of the island kingdom Visidia, Amora Montara has spent her entire life training to be High Animancer — the master of souls. The rest of the realm can choose their magic, but for Amora, it’s never been a choice. To secure her place as heir to the throne, she must prove her mastery of the monarchy’s dangerous soul magic.

When her demonstration goes awry, Amora is forced to flee. She strikes a deal with Bastian, a mysterious pirate: he’ll help her prove she’s fit to rule, if she’ll help him reclaim his stolen magic.

But sailing the kingdom holds more wonder — and more peril — than Amora anticipated. A destructive new magic is on the rise, and if Amora is to conquer it, she’ll need to face legendary monsters, cross paths with vengeful mermaids, and deal with a stow-away she never expected… or risk the fate of Visidia and lose the crown forever.

I am the right choice. The only choice. And I will protect my kingdom.

MY THOUGHTS

First, let’s take a moment to appreciate this book cover. It is absolutely gorgeous and one of my favorites.

I enjoyed this book, but I don’t think it stands out in the realm of YA fantasies. I found the magic system difficult to grasp initially, and while it was all explained in the end, it still confused me.

Amara was a very frustrating MC. She was way too cocky, overconfident, and naive at the beginning. It was super obvious that something would go catastrophically wrong in her life so she’d be forced to learn some humility! She did mature a lot throughout the course of the book and displayed admirable compassion for her kingdom and her friends, but she was unlikable at first.

I loved Bastian! He and Amara had great banter and chemistry. I didn’t hold his ulterior motives against him. The side characters were fantastic and I wanted to know more about Ferrick and Vataea.

This book had good action and adventure as Amara finally got to visit the different islands in her kingdom. The conflict and stakes were good, but the ending was a bit overdramatic.

I also want to note that the author previously worked on the show Legends of Korra. I can see how that show influenced her writing in this story.

ARC Review: The Dire Days of Willowweep Manor

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆
Title: The Dire Days of Willowweep Manor
Writer: Shaenon K. Garrity
Illustrator: Christopher Baldwin
Genre: Humor / Gothic / Sci-Fi
Audience: Young Adult
Format: Graphic Novel (eARC)
Length: 224 pages
Publisher: McElderry Books
Release Date: July 20, 2021
Source: Netgalley
Recommended for fans of: classic Gothic romance novels, satire

SYNOPSIS

Nimona meets Paper Girls with a literary twist in this wickedly funny graphic novel about a teenager who is swept up in a strange new universe and must save it from an all-consuming evil in order to return home.

One dark and stormy night, Haley sees a stranger drowning in the river. Since her greatest passion is Gothic romance novels, she knows her moment has come. But when Haley leaps into the water to rescue the stranger, she awakens in Willowweep. It certainly looks like the setting of one of her favorite books: A stately manor. A sinister housekeeper. Three brooding brothers. There’s even a ghost.

Except Willowweep is not what it seems. Its romantic exterior hides the workings of a pocket universe—the only protection our world has against a great force of penultimate evil, and its defenses are crumbling. Could cruel fate make Haley the heroine that Willowweep needs?

MY THOUGHTS

This YA graphic novel was very humorous and enjoyable. Haley, a high school student obsessed with classic Gothic romance novels, finds herself transported to a world that resembles her favorite books after saving a stranger from drowning in a river. I do think that readers need to be familiar with novels like Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre in order to fully appreciate the satire and jokes in the story.

I wish the plot was a bit more tight and focused. In addition to playing with Gothic tropes, the story also includes a sci-fi element with pocket universes and threats from another dimension. These different elements did not always come together cohesively. While many of the jokes had me laughing out loud, sometimes these humorous or melodramatic moments interrupted the pacing of the story.

I enjoyed this story and it kept me laughing from beginning to end, but I was left with a lot of questions about the internal logic of this story.

Thank you Netgalley and the publisher for the eARC.

Review: Spider-Verse by Dan Slott et al

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Title: Spider-Verse
Author: Dan Slott + many creators (see synopsis for full list)
Series: Spider-Man
Genre: Superhero
Audience: Adult
Format: Comics
Length: 648 pages
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Release Date: April 21, 2015
Source: comixology

SYNOPSIS

When the evil Inheritors begin exterminating spider-characters throughout the Multiverse, every single Spider-Man ever is needed to save the day! An interdimensional Spider-Army gathers to fight Morlun and his deadly family, but none of them is safe as the Prophecy comes to fruition! What will this brutal war for survival mean for Peter Parker and the rest of the spiders? Starring the Superior Spider-Man, the Ultimate Universe’s Miles Morales and Jessica Drew, Spider-Man 2099, Spider-Woman, Silk, Kaine, Scarlet Spider, MC2’s Spider-Girl, Spider-Man Noir, Spider-Man 1602, Spider-Ham, Spider-Monkey, Lady Spider, Spider-Punk, Spider-UK, a spider-powered Gwen Stacy…and hundreds more, from the beloved to the obscure!

Collecting: AMAZING SPIDER-MAN (2014) #7-15, SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN #32-33, SPIDER-VERSE #1-2, SPIDER-VERSE TEAM-UP #1-3, SCARLET SPIDERS #1-3, SPIDER-WOMAN (2014) #1-4, SPIDER-MAN 2099 (2014) #6-8 and material from FREE COMIC BOOK DAY 2014 (GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY) #1

Written by DAN SLOTT, CHRISTOS GAGE, MICHAEL COSTA, DENNIS HOPELESS & PETER DAVID with SKOTTIE YOUNG, ROBBIE THOMPSON, KATIE COOK, KATHRYN IMMONEN, JED MCKAY, ROGER STERN, GERRY CONWAY, TOM DEFALCO & MORE

Penciled by GIUSEPPE CAMUNCOLI, OLIVIER COIPEL, DAVE WILLIAMS, PACO DIAZ, GREG LAND & WILL SLINEY with HUMBERTO RAMOS, ADAM KUBERT, MIGUEL SEPULVEDA, JAKE PARKER, DENNIS MEDRI, KATIE COOK, MARK BROOKS, DAVID LAFUENTE, SHELDON VELLA, BOB MCLEOD, PAUL SMITH, RON FRENZ & MORE

Cover by OLIVIER COIPEL

MY THOUGHTS

I read this hoping to find some scenes for my comic book class to compare and contrast with the Into the Spider-Verse movie. Turns out, they are very different! I now want to read more Miles Morales comics so I can find some better source material for comparison to use in class.

This is VERY comic book-y. I don’t know how else to describe the plot of vampire-like Inheritors manipulating the Web of Life and Destiny so they can devour all the spider totems in the Multiverse, leading to an inter-dimensional team-up of Spider-People. It was really fun to see the different iterations of Spider-Man interacting, but I understand why this plotline only exists in the comics.

My biggest complaint was about the format of the compilation. I would’ve preferred to read all of the issues chronologically rather than by series. Unfortunately comixology did not include a navigable table of contents, so there was so easy way for me to read these comics in the order I wanted to.