Review: It Happened One Summer by Tessa Bailey

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Title: It Happened One Summer
Author: Tessa Bailey
Series: Bellinger Sisters #1
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Audience: Adult
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Charlotte North
Length: 11 hours (397 pages)
Publisher: Avon; HarperAudio
Release Date: July 13, 2021
Source: Library
Recommended for fans of: Schitt’s Creek, The Simple Wild
Content Warnings: death of loved ones

SYNOPSIS

Piper Bellinger is fashionable, influential, and her reputation as a wild child means the paparazzi are constantly on her heels. When too much champagne and an out-of-control rooftop party lands Piper in the slammer, her stepfather decides enough is enough. So he cuts her off, and sends Piper and her sister to learn some responsibility running their late father’s dive bar… in Washington.

Piper hasn’t even been in Westport for five minutes when she meets big, bearded sea captain Brendan, who thinks she won’t last a week outside of Beverly Hills. So what if Piper can’t do math, and the idea of sleeping in a shabby apartment with bunk beds gives her hives. How bad could it really be? She’s determined to show her stepfather—and the hot, grumpy local—that she’s more than a pretty face.

Except it’s a small town and everywhere she turns, she bumps into Brendan. The fun-loving socialite and the gruff fisherman are polar opposites, but there’s an undeniable attraction simmering between them. Piper doesn’t want any distractions, especially feelings for a man who sails off into the sunset for weeks at a time. Yet as she reconnects with her past and begins to feel at home in Westport, Piper starts to wonder if the cold, glamorous life she knew is what she truly wants. LA is calling her name, but Brendan—and this town full of memories—may have already caught her heart. 

Tessa Bailey is back with a Schitt’s Creek-inspired rom-com about a Hollywood “It Girl” who is cut off from her wealthy family and exiled to a small Pacific Northwest beach town… where she butts heads with a surly, sexy local who thinks she doesn’t belong. 

MY THOUGHTS

I’ve seen this book described as Schitt’s Creek meets The Simple Wild, and that is 100% accurate. Piper is a fish out of water when she is forced to leave behind her glamorous life in LA for a small fishing town in the Pacific Northwest, where she meets the hunky Brendan in this opposites attract romance.

Piper had a lovely character arc as she connected with her past and finally had a chance in her life to do some real soul searching and figure out who she wants to be and what she wants to do with her life.

However, while Piper and Brendan had great chemistry, I thought the romance got way too serious way too fast. I felt like Brendan constantly pressured Piper to take their relationship to the next level before she was ready. The romance was also incredibly steamy and might be too much for some readers.

This was my first book by Tessa Bailey, and I would read more from this author!

Review: Bridge of Souls by Victoria Schwab

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Title: Bridge of Souls
Author: Victoria Schwab
Series: Cassidy Blake #3
Genre: Paranormal Fantasy
Audience: Middle Grade
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Reba Buhr
Length: 6 hours (304 pages)
Publisher: Scholastic
Release Date: March 2, 2021
Source: Library
Recommended for fans of: Small Spaces, Nightmares!
Content Warnings: death

SYNOPSIS

Where there are ghosts, Cassidy Blake follows … unless it’s the other way around?

Cass thinks she might have this ghost-hunting thing down. After all, she and her ghost best friend, Jacob, have survived two haunted cities while travelling for her parents’ TV show.

But nothing can prepare Cass for New Orleans, which wears all of its hauntings on its sleeve. In a city of ghost tours and tombs, raucous music and all kinds of magic, Cass could get lost in all the colourful, grisly local legends. And the city’s biggest surprise is a foe Cass never expected to face: a servant of Death itself.

Cass takes on her most dangerous challenge yet…

MY THOUGHTS

This may have been my favorite of the series because I am absolutely enamored with New Orleans and its history and ghost stories. This time, a servant of Death itself stalks Cassidy since she should have died in the accident that gave her the ability to see beyond the Veil. The stakes are higher than ever, so Cassidy and her friends Jacob (a ghost) and Lara (a live girl) team up with a secret paranormal society with members on both sides of the Veil to evade the dark spirit.

I absolutely adore this spooky middle grade series. There’s just something about middle grade ghost stories that always appeals to me this time of year, so I highly recommend this series for spooky season!

Review: The Babysitter by Liza Rodman and Jennifer Jordan

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆
Title: The Babysitter: My Summers with a Serial Killer
Author: Liza Rodman, Jennifer Jordan
Genre: True Crime
Audience: Adult
Format: Audiobook
Narrators: Andi Arndt, Aida Reluzco
Length: 9 hours (352 pages)
Publisher: Atria Books; Simon & Schuster Audio
Release Date: March 2, 2021
Source: Library
Recommended for fans of: true crime books & podcasts
Content Warnings: murder, sexual assault, toxic relationships

SYNOPSIS

Growing up on Cape Cod in the 1960s, Liza Rodman was a lonely little girl. During the summers, while her mother worked days in a local motel and danced most nights in the Provincetown bars, her babysitter—the kind, handsome handyman at the motel where her mother worked—took her and her sister on adventures in his truck.

But there was one thing she didn’t know; their babysitter was a serial killer.

Some of his victims were buried—in pieces—right there, in his garden in the woods. Though Tony Costa’s gruesome case made screaming headlines in 1969 and beyond, Liza never made the connection between her friendly babysitter and the infamous killer of numerous women, including four in Massachusetts, until decades later.

Haunted by nightmares and horrified by what she learned, Liza became obsessed with the case. Now, she and cowriter Jennifer Jordan reveal the chilling and unforgettable true story of a charming but brutal psychopath through the eyes of a young girl who once called him her friend.

MY THOUGHTS

This book is part true crime, part memoir as Liza recounts her childhood and experiences with her sometimes babysitter Tony Costa, who turned out to be the serial killer known as “The Cape Cod Vampire.” Chapters alternate between traditional true crime explanations of Costa’s background and crimes and Liza’s reflections on her upbringing and toxic relationship with her mother.

While both storylines were interesting, the book felt a bit disjointed. Liza shared some memories of time she spent with Costa that are chilling in hindsight, but overall there was not as much overlap between the two narratives as I expected.

Review: Namesake by Adrienne Young

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆
Title: Namesake
Author: Adrienne Young
Series: Fable #2
Genre: Fantasy
Audience: Young Adult
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Emmy Lysy
Length: 9 hours (363 pages)
Publisher: Wednesday Books; Macmillan Audio
Release Date: March 16, 2021
Source: Library
Content Warnings: kidnapping, death of parent

SYNOPSIS

Trader. Fighter. Survivor.

With the Marigold ship free of her father, Fable and its crew were set to start over. That freedom is short-lived when she becomes a pawn in a notorious thug’s scheme. In order to get to her intended destination she must help him to secure a partnership with Holland, a powerful gem trader who is more than she seems.

As Fable descends deeper into a world of betrayal and deception she learns that her mother was keeping secrets, and those secrets are now putting the people Fable cares about in danger. If Fable is going to save them then she must risk everything, including the boy she loves and the home she has finally found.

MY THOUGHTS

I went with the audiobook for the second book in this duology, and while I once again enjoyed it, overall this series didn’t wow me like I expected it to.

It was nice to learn more about Fable’s mom and her abilities as a gem sage, but the truth about Fable’s heritage was farfetched. West behaved like a completely different person. I didn’t think that all of the plot events were necessary or fit together cohesively.

Once again, Saint stole the show. He is by far the most fascinating character in this duology, and his arc is worth reading.

This had a really sweet and heartfelt ending, but for me, this book relied on too many typical YA tropes.

Review: Fable by Adrienne Young

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆
Title: Fable
Author: Adrienne Young
Series: Fable #1
Genre: Fantasy
Audience: Young Adult
Format: Hardcover
Length: 357 pages
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Release Date: September 1, 2020
Source: Personal collection
Recommended for fans of: pirates, All the Stars and Teeth
Content Warnings: child abuse, abandonment

SYNOPSIS

For seventeen-year-old Fable, the daughter of the most powerful trader in the Narrows, the sea is the only home she has ever known. It’s been four years since the night she watched her mother drown during an unforgiving storm. The next day her father abandoned her on a legendary island filled with thieves and little food. To survive she must keep to herself, learn to trust no one, and rely on the unique skills her mother taught her. The only thing that keeps her going is the goal of getting off the island, finding her father, and demanding her rightful place beside him and his crew. To do so Fable enlists the help of a young trader named West to get her off the island and across the Narrows to her father.

But her father’s rivalries and the dangers of his trading enterprise have only multiplied since she last saw him, and Fable soon finds that West isn’t who he seems. Together, they will have to survive more than the treacherous storms that haunt the Narrows if they’re going to stay alive.

Welcome to a world made dangerous by the sea and by those who wish to profit from it. Where a young girl must find her place and her family while trying to survive in a world built for men. Fable takes you on a spectacular journey filled with romance, intrigue, and adventure.

MY THOUGHTS

I enjoyed Fable, but it did not live up to the overwhelming hype for me. I expected to swoon for this pirate fantasy, but I just liked it.

Adrienne Young created a vivid, brutal world where everyday is a fight for survival, but the world building and “magic system” were fairly simple for a fantasy book. I liked the characters and the Marigold crew’s found family, but I would’ve appreciated a little more depth to the character development. The most interesting relationship in the book was by far Fable’s complicated relationship with her father Saint. I honestly didn’t think the inevitable romance was necessary in this story.

My book club read this book based on my suggestion, and while I liked it and thought it was well written, I don’t think the story particularly stands out amidst the sea of YA fantasy books.

Review: The Ex Hex by Erin Sterling

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆.5
Title: The Ex Hex
Author: Erin Sterling (Rachel Hawkins)
Genre: Contemporary Romance/ Paranormal
Audience: Adult
Format: Paperback
Length: 308 pages
Publisher: Avon
Release Date: October 5, 2021
Source: Publisher/BiblioLifestyle
Recommended for fans of: small town romances & cozy witches, Practical Magic (the movie)

SYNOPSIS

New York Times bestselling author Rachel Hawkins, writing as Erin Sterling, casts a spell with a spine-tingling romance full of wishes, witches, and hexes gone wrong.

Nine years ago, Vivienne Jones nursed her broken heart like any young witch would: vodka, weepy music, bubble baths…and a curse on the horrible boyfriend. Sure, Vivi knows she shouldn’t use her magic this way, but with only an “orchard hayride” scented candle on hand, she isn’t worried it will cause him anything more than a bad hair day or two.

That is until Rhys Penhallow, descendent of the town’s ancestors, breaker of hearts, and annoyingly just as gorgeous as he always was, returns to Graves Glen, Georgia. What should be a quick trip to recharge the town’s ley lines and make an appearance at the annual fall festival turns disastrously wrong. With one calamity after another striking Rhys, Vivi realizes her silly little Ex Hex may not have been so harmless after all.

Suddenly, Graves Glen is under attack from murderous wind-up toys, a pissed off ghost, and a talking cat with some interesting things to say. Vivi and Rhys have to ignore their off the charts chemistry to work together to save the town and find a way to break the break-up curse before it’s too late.

MY THOUGHTS

I swooned for this second chance, small town, witchy rom com (doesn’t that sound like the coziest combination of tropes?). This book offers the perfect blend of magic and romance for October.

Vivi and Rhys had top notch banter, and their romance had the perfect amount of steam without being over the top. I also loved Vivi’s cousin Gwyn and Aunt Elaine! The magic system was simple and straightforward. The setting was so cozy. The plot was a bit superficial, but it was perfectly enjoyable.

I need this book to be a Hallmark-style Halloween movie. Netflix, are you listening?

Thank you to the publisher for the gifted copy.

Review: Dune by Frank Herbert

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆
Title: Dune
Author: Frank Herbert
Series: Dune #1
Genre: Science Fiction
Audience: Adult
Format: Hardcover/ebook
Length: 658 pages
Publisher: ACE
Release Date: June 1, 1965
Source: Hardcover from personal collection, ebook from library
Recommended for fans of: Star Wars, classics

SYNOPSIS

Set on the desert planet Arrakis, Dune is the story of the boy Paul Atreides, heir to a noble family tasked with ruling an inhospitable world where the only thing of value is the “spice” melange, a drug capable of extending life and enhancing consciousness. Coveted across the known universe, melange is a prize worth killing for…

When House Atreides is betrayed, the destruction of Paul’s family will set the boy on a journey toward a destiny greater than he could ever have imagined. And as he evolves into the mysterious man known as Muad’Dib, he will bring to fruition humankind’s most ancient and unattainable dream.

MY THOUGHTS

DUUUUUUUUUUNNNNNEEEEE! Dune is a challenging book and I wasn’t always confident that I understood everything, but it’s brilliant and I’m kind of obsessed with it now. The world is so well-conceived with complex religion, politics, culture, and ecology. Even during the slower sections I was intrigued, and I became so invested in the characters. Great take on a Messiah myth. I will definitely continue the series once I give my brain a bit more time to process this.

Review: The Broken Ones by Danielle L. Jensen

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆.5
Title: The Broken Ones
Author: Danielle L. Jensen
Series: The Malediction Trilogy #0.6
Genre: Fantasy
Audience: Young Adult
Format: Audiobook
Narrators: Eric Michael Summerer, Erin Moon
Length: 9 hours (267 pages)
Publisher: Angry Robot
Release Date: June 6, 2017
Source: Audible subscription
Recommended for fans of: The Malediction Trilogy
Content Warnings: miscarriage, fatal disease

SYNOPSIS

Lovers of Romeo and Juliet’s tale of star-crossed romance will be swept away by this breathtaking retelling full of fantasy and magic.

Cursed to the confines of their underground city, an ancient rivalry between the most powerful troll families has reached a fevered pitch. At the heart of it is Pénélope d’Angoulême, a talented artist and the eldest daughter of a power-hungry duke. When Pénélope accidentally destroys her sister’s chance to become queen, her father gives her an ultimatum: find proof that Marc Biron, the right hand to their family’s greatest enemy, is guilty of treason. Or die trying.

The trouble is, she’s in love with him.

Together, Marc and Pénélope must navigate the complex politics and dangerous magic of their world. Powers on all sides are intent on using them as pawns, forcing them to risk everything for a chance at happiness.

Except being together will be the greatest risk of all…

THE BROKEN ONES takes place in the magical world of the USA Today bestselling and Goodreads Choice finalist STOLEN SONGBIRD. A star-crossed romance, THE BROKEN ONES is certain to break the hearts of fans of Holly Black. Readers new to this world may begin here!

MY THOUGHTS

The Broken Ones is a prequel to The Malediction Trilogy about Marc and Penelope’s star-crossed/forbidden romance. According to the author, it can be read as a standalone; however, she recommends reading it after book two as it spoils some things in the main series. On the other hand, the series definitely spoils the events of this book. I read it after book 3.

This book gives us an insider’s perspective of the aristocracy and politics of Trollus. It was interesting to see Tristan as a side character with the spotlight on his cousin Marc. I enjoyed diving deep into this backstory and learning more about the characters’ pasts, but knowing how it would end the whole time took the suspense out of the story, a common problem with this type of spin off book.

Review: Warrior Witch by Danielle L. Jensen

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆.5
Title: Warrior Witch
Author: Danielle L. Jensen
Series: The Malediction Trilogy #3
Genre: Fantasy
Audience: Young Adult
Format: Audiobook
Narrators: Eric Michael Summerer, Erin Moon
Length: 13 hours (395 pages)
Publisher: Angry Robot
Release Date: May 3, 2016
Source: Audible subscription

SYNOPSIS

Cécile and Tristan have accomplished the impossible, but their greatest challenge remains: defeating the evil they have unleashed upon the world.

As they scramble for a way to protect the people of the Isle and liberate the trolls from their tyrant king, Cécile and Tristan must battle those who’d see them dead. To win, they will risk everything. And everyone.

But it might not be enough. Both Cécile and Tristan have debts, and they will be forced to pay them at a cost far greater than they had ever imagined.

MY THOUGHTS

A LOT goes down in this conclusion to the Malediction trilogy. In a war between troll, humans, half-bloods, witches, fae, and a dragon(???), no character is safe. NO ONE.

The story was exciting and fast-paced with high-stakes action sequences and political maneuvering, but when I think back on the story, there are a few plot points that don’t fully add up for me.

The ending was absolutely heartbreaking, and I did not expect this series’ conclusion to make me so emotional! I definitely recommend this series for fans of Danielle L. Jensen who want to see where her writing started.

Review: Hidden Huntress by Danielle L. Jensen

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆.5
Title: Hidden Huntress
Author: Danielle L. Jensen
Series: The Malediction Trilogy #2
Genre: Fantasy
Audience: Young Adult
Format: Audiobook
Narrators: Eric Michael Summerer, Erin Moon
Length: 16 hours (500 pages)
Publisher: Angry Robot
Release Date: June 2, 2015
Source: Audible subscription

SYNOPSIS

Beneath the mountain, the king’s reign of tyranny is absolute; the one troll with the capacity to challenge him is imprisoned for treason. Cécile has escaped the darkness of Trollus, but she learns all too quickly that she is not beyond the reach of the king’s power. Or his manipulation.

Recovered from her injuries, she now lives with her mother in Trianon and graces the opera stage every night. But by day she searches for the witch who has eluded the trolls for five hundred years. Whether she succeeds or fails, the costs to those she cares about will be high.

To find Anushka, she must delve into magic that is both dark and deadly. But the witch is a clever creature. And Cécile might not just be the hunter. She might also be the hunted.

MY THOUGHTS

I enjoyed this book, but not as much as the first one in the series for a couple of reasons: 1) Cecile and Tristan were separated for a big chunk of the book and I missed their romance, and 2) I figured out the main mystery WAYYYYYYYYY before the characters did.

While most of book 1 took place in Trollus, book 2 explores the human city of Trianon, so we get to see more of the world. Cecile must navigate a complicated relationship with her mother while secretly developing her powers of witchcraft. Meanwhile, Tristan deals with politics in Trollus, which are as fraught as ever.

Even though I figured out a major twist, there were still some surprises for me at the end that made me very excited to pick up the next book.