Review: Wild at Heart by K.A. Tucker

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆
Title: Wild at Heart
Author: K.A. Tucker
Series: The Simple Wild #2
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Audience: Adult
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Rebekkah Ross
Length: 13 hours (472 pages)
Publisher: self-published
Release Date: February 18, 2020
Source: Personal collection
Recommended for fans of: Alaska
Book 1 Review: The Simple Wild

SYNOPSIS

From the internationally best-selling author of The Simple Wild comes the continuation of a woman’s journey to Alaska and a life she never imagined for herself.

Calla Fletcher returns to Toronto a different person, struggling to find direction and still very much in love with the rugged bush pilot she left behind. When Jonah arrives on her doorstep with a proposition she can’t dismiss, she takes the leap and rushes back to Alaska to begin their exciting future together.

But Calla soon learns that even the best intentions can lead to broken promises, and that compromise comes with a hefty price—a log cabin in interior rural Alaska that feels as isolating as the western tundra.

With Jonah gone more than he’s home, one neighbor who insists on transforming her into a true Alaskan, and another who seems more likely to shoot her than come to her aid, Calla grapples with forging her own path. In a world with roaming wildlife that has her constantly watching over her shoulder and harsh conditions that stretch far beyond the cold, dark, winter months, just stepping outside her front door can be daunting.

This is not the future Calla had in mind, leaving her to fear that perhaps she is doomed to follow in her mother’s fleeing footsteps after all.

MY THOUGHTS

Unpopular opinion here! I was disappointed in this sequel. It’s missing the elements that made me fall in love with the first book: the enemies-to-lovers romantic tension, Calla’s fish-out-of-water humor, and the emotional father-daughter relationship. To me, this felt like a watered-down rehash of The Simple Wild.

Calla still struggles to fit in, but now she’s more like a fish in a puddle. The new characters were enjoyable, but I missed the characters I loved from the first book. Jonah was not in the book nearly enough, and when he was, he was pressuring Calla to “compromise” (aka sacrifice what she wanted for what he wants). And I thought the steamy scenes were meh.

There just wasn’t enough happening in this book. For the entire first half, the biggest conflict was about buying furniture to decorate their new home. The ending was very emotional, but I thought it was lackluster in comparison to the ending of The Simple Wild.

Review: Act Your Age, Eve Brown by Talia Hibbert

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆
Title: Act Your Age, Eve Brown
Author: Talia Hibbert
Series: The Brown Sisters #3
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Audience: Adult
Format: ALC
Narrator: Ione Butler
Length: 11 hours (400 pages)
Publisher: Avon; HarperAudio
Release Date: March 9, 2021
Source: Libro.fm
Content Warnings: mentions of child neglect and ableism

SYNOPSIS

In Act Your Age, Eve Brown the flightiest Brown sister crashes into the life of an uptight B&B owner and has him falling hard—literally.

Eve Brown is a certified hot mess. No matter how hard she strives to do right, her life always goes horribly wrong—so she’s given up trying. But when her personal brand of chaos ruins an expensive wedding (someone had to liberate those poor doves), her parents draw the line. It’s time for Eve to grow up and prove herself—even though she’s not entirely sure how…

Jacob Wayne is in control. Always. The bed and breakfast owner’s on a mission to dominate the hospitality industry—and he expects nothing less than perfection. So when a purple-haired tornado of a woman turns up out of the blue to interview for his open chef position, he tells her the brutal truth: not a chance in hell. Then she hits him with her car—supposedly by accident. Yeah, right.

Now his arm is broken, his B&B is understaffed, and the dangerously unpredictable Eve is fluttering around, trying to help. Before long, she’s infiltrated his work, his kitchen—and his spare bedroom. Jacob hates everything about it. Or rather, he should. Sunny, chaotic Eve is his natural-born nemesis, but the longer these two enemies spend in close quarters, the more their animosity turns into something else. Like Eve, the heat between them is impossible to ignore—and it’s melting Jacob’s frosty exterior.

MY THOUGHTS

This is easily my favorite of The Brown Sisters books (which are all wonderful). I absolutely adored the enemies to friends to lovers romance. Plus, it was freaking hilarious.

This book has incredible autism and neurodiverse representation. Jacob was diagnosed with autism as a child, and spending time with Jacob leads Eve to recognize her own autistic tendencies. This led to Eve and Jacob developing such a great understanding of each other’s needs and reactions.

And oh boy, this book is spicy! The steamy scenes left me blushing, but there were only a couple scenes like that.

I especially loved Eve as a main character. I love how sure she is of herself and her personality. Her openness is inspiring, and I loved watching her mature throughout the book as she finally let go of her fear of failure and chose a path for herself.

Thank you Libro.fm, HarperAudio, and Avon for the ALC in exchange for an honest review.

Review: Kingdom of the Wicked by Kerri Maniscalco

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Title: Kingdom of the Wicked
Author: Kerri Maniscalco
Series: Kingdom of the Wicked #1
Genre: Paranormal Fantasy
Audience: Young Adult
Format: Hardcover
Length: 372 pages
Publisher: JIMMY Patterson
Release Date: October 27, 2020
Source: Personal Collection
Recommended for fans of:
Content Warnings: murder, death of a sibling

SYNOPSIS

Two sisters.

One brutal murder.

A quest for vengeance that will unleash Hell itself…

And an intoxicating romance.

Emilia and her twin sister Vittoria are streghe—witches who live secretly among humans, avoiding notice and persecution. One night, Vittoria misses dinner service at the family’s renowned Sicilian restaurant. Emilia soon finds the body of her beloved twin… desecrated beyond belief. Devastated, Emilia sets out to find her sister’s killer and to seek vengeance at any cost—even if it means using dark magic that’s been long forbidden.

Then Emilia meets Wrath, one of the Wicked Princes of Hell that she has been warned against in tales since she was a child. Wrath claims to be on Emilia’s side, tasked by his master with solving the series of women’s murders on the island. But when it comes to the Wicked, nothing is as it seems…

MY THOUGHTS

I really enjoyed this YA paranormal fantasy. I loved the rich & dark atmosphere, the witchy magic, the murder mystery, and allllll the descriptions of food. Kerri Maniscalco shines as a fantasy writer, and I predict that this series will be even better than Stalking Jack the Ripper.

I loved the angst and banter between Emilia and Wrath, but I really wanted more from their enemies to lovers budding romance. I needed more Wrath content in general!

I occasionally felt like things were too easy for Emilia, but honestly, girl went through A LOT in this book so she deserved some lucky breaks. There were some really great twists I did not see coming at all, and that cliffhanger ending… is it October yet? Because I think book 2 will be even better.

Kingdom of the Wicked was my February pick for my book club on Instagram, and I had so much discussing this book (and others) with my group! I’m so glad I decided to start hosting buddy reads in 2021!

Review: The Witch Doesn’t Burn in This One by Amanda Lovelace

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆
Title: The Witch Doesn’t Burn in This One
Author: Amanda Lovelace
Series: Women Are Some Kind of Magic #2
Genre: Poetry
Audience: Adult
Format: Paperback
Length: 191 pages
Publisher: Andrews McMeel
Release Date: March 6, 2018
Source: Personal collection
Recommended for fans of: women
Content Warnings: child abuse, intimate partner abuse, sexual assault, eating disorders, trauma, death, murder… a list of triggers is included at the beginning of the book

SYNOPSIS

The witch: supernaturally powerful, inscrutably independent, and now—indestructible. These moving, relatable poems encourage resilience and embolden women to take control of their own stories. Enemies try to judge, oppress, and marginalize her, but the witch doesn’t burn in this one.

MY THOUGHTS

These poems spoke to me a lot more than her first book. The writing was more consistent, the word choice was more effective, and the transitions between poems were smoother. Amanda Lovelace grew a lot as a writer since The Princess Saves Herself in This One.

Sadly, I could relate to every poem in this collection about womanhood and commentary on the patriarchy and rape culture.

I loved the red text and the symbolism of fire throughout the book. These poems reminded me that I am strong and confident on my own and that women need to support other women.

Review: Claire by Liz Sower

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆
Title: Claire
Author: Liz Sower
Series: Ghosts in the Burbs Book #1
Genre: Horror
Audience: Adult
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Liz Sower
Length: 4 hours (187 pages)
Publisher: Self
Release Date: September 18, 2018
Source: Audible Library
Recommended for fans of: Ghosts in the Burbs podcast
Content Warnings: death, suicide

SYNOPSIS

I interview my neighbors in our shockingly haunted town Wellesley, Massachusetts and I transcribe their stories for my blog Ghosts in the Burbs. Three women told me a horrific tale from their past and in doing so involved me in their horror. You may have heard part of this story before but I didn’t tell you everything….. This is the complete story of Claire.

MY THOUGHTS

I love the Ghosts in the Burbs podcast, and the stories about Claire and her three friends from high school I personally think are among the most terrifying episodes, so I was excited to hear the “complete story.” However, this book basically just mashed together all the relevant podcast episodes with very little new information. And since I chose to listen to this audiobook, I had literally heard it all before.

I really liked the chapters written from Claire’s POV, and I wanted more of the story to be told like that. I much prefer Liz Sower’s approach with Lilith, where she mostly removed herself from the narrative and elaborated on the experiences of the family, telling it from their points of view.

I’m still glad that I bought this book to support Liz and the show! This tale is very chilling, and it would definitely be five stars if I were hearing it for the first time or in a different way.

Review: A Court of Silver Flames by Sarah J. Maas

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆
Title: A Court of Silver Flames
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Series: A Court of Thorns and Roses 4
Genre: Fantasy Romance
Audience: Adult
Format: ebook
Length: 751 pages
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing
Release Date: February 16, 2021
Source: Personal collection
Content Warnings: rape, suicidal ideation, PTSD, trauma, depression

SYNOPSIS

Nesta Archeron has always been prickly-proud, swift to anger, and slow to forgive. And ever since being forced into the Cauldron and becoming High Fae against her will, she’s struggled to find a place for herself within the strange, deadly world she inhabits. Worse, she can’t seem to move past the horrors of the war with Hybern and all she lost in it.

The one person who ignites her temper more than any other is Cassian, the battle-scarred warrior whose position in Rhysand and Feyre’s Night Court keeps him constantly in Nesta’s orbit. But her temper isn’t the only thing Cassian ignites. The fire between them is undeniable, and only burns hotter as they are forced into close quarters with each other.

Meanwhile, the treacherous human queens who returned to the Continent during the last war have forged a dangerous new alliance, threatening the fragile peace that has settled over the realms. And the key to halting them might very well rely on Cassian and Nesta facing their haunting pasts.

Against the sweeping backdrop of a world seared by war and plagued with uncertainty, Nesta and Cassian battle monsters from within and without as they search for acceptance-and healing-in each other’s arms.

MY THOUGHTS

Nesta is hard to love… but Sarah J. Maas made me love her in this book. I am currently a sucker for stories about healing as I just when through a healing journey of my own. I felt parallels between Nesta’s healing and my own, which gave me insights into her actions, her thoughts, her trauma, and why she is the way she is.

I absolutely loved Nesta’s relationship with Cassian and how it developed. Cassian is my new fae bae after this book. Be aware that the sex scenes are very explicit, and some of the details were a bit much.

Everyone praises Sarah J. Maas for writing so many swoonworthy males, but I thought the best part of this book was the female friendships Nesta developed with Gwyn and Emerie. They were exactly who Nesta needed to find her self-worth when she was not willing to accept help from her family. I also loved that Nesta’s female friends, and not just her love interest, helped her find healing.

This book also explores new lore and history of Prythian and the world beyond, opening up lots of possibilities for storylines in future ACOTAR books.

Be aware that this book has a lot of triggers for those who have experienced trauma and mental health struggles. I personally loved this book and Nesta’s journey, but many reviewers I respect felt triggered by problematic aspects of the story. Please do your research before you decide if this book is right for you.

Review: You Had Me at Hola by Alexis Daria

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Title: You Had Me At Hola
Author: Alexis Daria
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Audience: Adult
Format: Audiobook
Narrators: Seraphine Valentine
Length: 10 hours
Publisher: Avon; HarperAudio
Release Date: August 4, 2020
Source: Library
Recommended for fans of: Jane the Virgin, Twice in a Blue Moon
Content Warnings: stalking

SYNOPSIS

Leading Ladies do not end up on tabloid covers.

After a messy public breakup, soap opera darling Jasmine Lin Rodriguez finds her face splashed across the tabloids. When she returns to her hometown of New York City to film the starring role in a bilingual romantic comedy for the number one streaming service in the country, Jasmine figures her new “Leading Lady Plan” should be easy enough to follow—until a casting shake-up pairs her with telenovela hunk Ashton Suárez. 

Leading Ladies don’t need a man to be happy

After his last telenovela character was killed off, Ashton is worried his career is dead as well. Joining this new cast as a last-minute addition will give him the chance to show off his acting chops to American audiences and ping the radar of Hollywood casting agents. To make it work, he’ll need to generate smoking-hot on-screen chemistry with Jasmine. Easier said than done, especially when a disastrous first impression smothers the embers of whatever sexual heat they might have had. 

Leading Ladies do not rebound with their new costars.

With their careers on the line, Jasmine and Ashton agree to rehearse in private. But rehearsal leads to kissing, and kissing leads to a behind-the-scenes romance worthy of a soap opera. While their on-screen performance improves, the media spotlight on Jasmine soon threatens to destroy her new image and expose Ashton’s most closely guarded secret.

MY THOUGHTS

This was a sweet and spicy romance! I love that the plot centers around Latinx representation in show business. I especially loved the focus on family and Jasmine’s friendship with her female cousins. This book did not feature my favorite romance tropes, and I thought the familial relationships were more interesting than Jasmine and Ashton’s romantic relationship.

I really enjoyed the “inside look” at a celebrity romance. Jasmine and Ashton had different approaches to their careers and finding a work/life balance. Their different levels of comfort with being in the public eye, despite the different places they are in their careers, led to a lot of the tension and drama in the relationship.

I wish that Carmen in Charge were a real TV show coming soon to Netflix!

Review: The A.I. Who Loved Me by Alyssa Cole

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆
Title: The A.I. Who Loved Me
Author: Alyssa Cole
Genre: Sci-Fi Romance
Audience: Adult
Format: Audiobook
Narrators:
Length: 5 hours (126 pages)
Publisher: Audible Audio
Release Date: December 3, 2019
Source: My Audible Library

SYNOPSIS

A captivating romantic comedy with a thrilling sci-fi twist by award-winning author Alyssa Cole!

Trinity Jordan leads a quiet, normal life: working from home for the Hive, a multifunctional government research center, and recovering from the incident that sent her into a tailspin. But the life she’s trying to rebuild is plagued by mishaps when Li Wei, her neighbor’s super sexy and super strange nephew, moves in and turns things upside down. Li Wei’s behavior is downright odd—and the attraction building between them is even more so. When an emergency pulls his aunt away from the apartment complex, Trinity decides to keep an eye on him…and slowly discovers that nothing is what it seems. For one thing, Li Wei isn’t just the hot guy next door—he’s the hot A.I. next door. In fact, he’s so advanced that he blurs the line between man and machine. It’s up to Trinity to help him achieve his objective of learning to be human, but danger is mounting as they figure out whether he’s capable of the most illogical human behavior of all…falling in love.

MY THOUGHTS

This romance novella is set in a technologically advanced near future and features a sci-fi spin on the boy-next-door romance trope. I thought this would be a light and quirky love story, but the society was actually surprisingly dark and twisty below the surface, and the story built up to an unexpected, action-packed ending. This was an entertaining, quick listen with a star-studded cast, but it was a bit confusing. I appreciate the way Alyssa Cole bends genres, but this didn’t quite work for me like I thought it would.

Review: Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Title: Gods of Jade and Shadow
Author: Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Genre: Historical Fantasy
Audience: Adult
Format: Paperback
Length: 338 pages
Publisher: Del Rey
Release Date: July 23, 2019
Source: Personal collection
Recommended for fans of: fairy tales & mythology
Content Warnings: suicide, animal sacrifice

SYNOPSIS

The Mayan god of death sends a young woman on a harrowing, life-changing journey in this one-of-a-kind fairy tale inspired by Mexican folklore.

The Jazz Age is in full swing, but Casiopea Tun is too busy cleaning the floors of her wealthy grandfather’s house to listen to any fast tunes. Nevertheless, she dreams of a life far from her dusty small town in southern Mexico. A life she can call her own.

Yet this new life seems as distant as the stars, until the day she finds a curious wooden box in her grandfather’s room. She opens it—and accidentally frees the spirit of the Mayan god of death, who requests her help in recovering his throne from his treacherous brother. Failure will mean Casiopea’s demise, but success could make her dreams come true.

In the company of the strangely alluring god and armed with her wits, Casiopea begins an adventure that will take her on a cross-country odyssey from the jungles of Yucatán to the bright lights of Mexico City—and deep into the darkness of the Mayan underworld.

MY THOUGHTS

I am so glad this was my IRL book club’s most recent pick! Mexican Gothic was one of my favorite books of 2020, so I’ve been dying to read more of Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s books. Turns out I am a huge fan of her beautiful, lyrical, and atmospheric writing, and she is quickly becoming a favorite author.

Gods of Jade and Shadow blends Cinderella’s fairy tale with Mayan mythology in 1920s Mexico. Casiopeia is basically a maid in her wealthy grandfather’s home. She is a bit naive, but she dreams of more. When she accidentally gets involved with the god of death, she gets her chance for adventure. This book features lush & descriptive settings, a sweet slow burn romance, and plenty of magic.

However, I need to reread this book. I started reading it the day I had my surgery, when I was still in a painkiller-induced haze, and I don’t remember the details of the plot very well. I remember that I loved the experience of reading this, but I am not confident in my star rating for now.

Review: The Princess Saves Herself in This One by Amanda Lovelace

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Title: The Princess Saves Herself in This One
Author: Amanda Lovelace
Series: Women are Some Kind of Magic #1
Genre: Poetry
Audience: Adult
Format: Paperback
Length: 156 pages
Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing
Release Date: April 23, 2016
Source: Personal collection
Recommended for fans of: fairy tales, feminist poetry
Content Warnings: abuse, sexual assault, self-harm, suicide (the book includes a more comprehensive list of trigger warnings)

SYNOPSIS

“Ah, life- the thing that happens to us while we’re off somewhere else blowing on dandelions & wishing ourselves into the pages of our favorite fairy tales.”

A poetry collection divided into four different parts: the princess, the damsel, the queen, & you. the princess, the damsel, & the queen piece together the life of the author in three stages, while you serves as a note to the reader & all of humankind. Explores life & all of its love, loss, grief, healing, empowerment, & inspirations.

MY THOUGHTS

This is a case where I wanted to read this book for so long and I heard so many great things about it that I set my expectations a bit too high for this to blow me away, but I still loved it.

I was blown away by the raw honesty of her words and how much emotion she packed such short poems. However, I prefer my confessional poetry a bit more lyrical than this. Lots of poems wowed me, but I found the execution a bit uneven, particularly when it came to the transitions from poem to poem when the subject changed.

Overall, I enjoyed this emotional feminist poetry, and I look forward to reading the rest of this series.