Review: Below Zero by Ali Hazelwood

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆.5
Title: Below Zero
Author: Ali Hazelwood
Series: The STEMinist Novellas #3
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Audience: Adult
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Savannah Peachwood
Length: 4 hours (124 pages)
Publisher: Berkley; Penguin Random House Audio
Release Date: April 4, 2022
Source: Library
Content Warnings: injury, abandonment, misogyny

SYNOPSIS

It will take the frosty terrain of the Arctic to show these rival scientists that their chemistry burns hot.

Mara, Sadie, and Hannah are friends first, scientists always. Though their fields of study might take them to different corners of the world, they can all agree on this universal truth: when it comes to love and science, opposites attract and rivals make you burn…

Hannah’s got a bad feeling about this. Not only has the NASA aerospace engineer found herself injured and stranded at a remote Arctic research station—but the one person willing to undertake the hazardous rescue mission is her longtime rival.

Ian has been many things to Hannah: the villain who tried to veto her expedition and ruin her career, the man who stars in her most deliciously lurid dreams…but he’s never played the hero. So why is he risking everything to be here? And why does his presence seem just as dangerous to her heart as the coming snowstorm?

To read Mara and Sadie’s stories look for the novellas Under One Roof and Stuck with You available now from Berkley!

MY THOUGHTS

This is my least favorite of the STEMinist novellas. I love the premise of a NASA enemies to lovers romance…but this is not actually enemies to lovers. It’s instalove to miscommunication to overblown “rivalry” that only Hannah knows about to more miscommunication to near-death experience to finally romance. The miscommunication trope is not cute, especially when it affects the funding of NASA projects that cost millions of dollars! Hannah and Ian’s first encounter was very unprofessional, and I found Hannah to be annoyingly judgmental and self-righteous. I actually liked Ian, but while his grand gesture was swoon worthy, the conflict was so unnecessary.

ARC Review: Stealing Infinity by Alyson Noel

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆.5
Title: Stealing Infinity
Author: Alyson Noel
Series: Stealing Beauty #1
Genre: Contemporary Fantasy
Audience: Young Adult
Format: ARC
Length: 400 pages
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Release Date: June 28, 2022
Source: Publisher
Recommended for fans of: Crave, The Last Magician, time travel fiction
Content Warnings: attempted rape/sexual assault, bullying/hazing, violence, kidnapping, confinement

SYNOPSIS

These days, I’ve been killing it when it comes to letting people down. Now I’ve been kicked out of high school, arrested, and accepted into a remote, off-the-grid school owned and operated by an inscrutable billionaire tech guru.

Gray Wolf Academy is looking for a certain kind of student. Ones that no one will miss. Like me.

Then there’s Braxton. The beautiful, oddly anachronistic guy who showed up right when the trouble started. And he’s a total enigma—which means that I definitely can’t trust him, even if there’s something about him that makes me want to.
They all tell me I have a gift. A very rare gift. And Gray Wolf Academy wants me to learn it. To use it. Because if what they say is true, I have all the time in the world.
And that makes me the most dangerous high school student you’ll never know…

MY THOUGHTS

Stealing Infinity is a fun and quick YA contemporary fantasy read. It feels like a mash up of Crave with the mysterious, isolated boarding school and The Last Magician with the time travels heists, but it is its own unique story.

The writing is easy to read, the language feels realistic for teenagers, and the chapters are very short and suspenseful (most are about 3 pages), so it was easy to fly through reading this book. I loved the role of art, history, numerology, and tarot in the story as well; you can tell the author did her research and has a genuine appreciation for these things, but doesn’t let the details bog down the story.

The story has a lot of YA tropes that I personally don’t love. Insta-love, hints at a love triangle, jealous girls, cliques, bullying/hazing, obsession with appearances, etc. However, even though these tropes don’t work for me as the reader I am today, I overall enjoyed the story and I think teen readers will love it.

I do wish the book had a bit more for a first book in the series (not sure if this is an intended duology or trilogy). The writing could be a bit repetitive, and sometimes Nat got so wrapped up in the glitz and glamour of Gray Wolf Academy that she took way too long to ask obvious questions about how weird things were. The side characters could use more depth, and the way they all criticized Nat for not knowing things and not taking things seriously when she just got to the academy and knew literally nothing was odd. I also was really hoping for more information about the Timekeepers and some resolution to the events in the prologue! I will definitely be reading book 2 for answers.

Thank you to Entangled Teen for sending me a free ARC.

Review: The Cheat Sheet by Sarah Adams

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆
Title: The Cheat Sheet
Author: Sarah Adams
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Audience: Adult
Format: Audiobook
Narrators: Renee Dorian, Teddy Hamilton
Length: 9 hours (306 pages)
Publisher: Dreamscape Media
Release Date: August 17, 2021
Source: Library
Recommended for fans of: The Bromance Book Club
Content Warnings: panic attacks, car accident

SYNOPSIS

Is it ever too late to leave the friend-zone?

Hi, my name is Bree Camden, and I’m hopelessly in love with my best friend and star quarterback Nathan Donelson (so is half of America, judging by the tabloids and how much the guy dates). The first step is admitting, right? Except, I can never admit it to him because he clearly doesn’t see me that way, and the last thing I want is for things to get weird between us.

Nothing but good old-fashioned, no-touching-the-sexiest-man-alive, platonic friendship for us! Everything is exactly how I like it! Yes. Good. (I’m not crying, I’m just peeling an onion.)

Our friendship is going swimmingly until I accidentally spill my beans to a reporter over too much tequila, and now the world seems to think me and Nathan belong together. Oh, and did I mention we have to date publicly for three weeks until after the Super Bowl because we signed a contract with…oops, forgot I can’t tell anyone about that!

Bottom line is, now my best friend is smudging all the lines and acting very un-platonic, and I’m just trying to keep my body from bursting into flames every time he touches me.

How am I going to make it through three weeks of fake dating Nathan without anything changing between us? Especially when it almost-sort-a-kinda seems like he’s fighting for a completely different outcome?

Send help.
XO Bree

MY THOUGHTS

I adored this book! It’s a super cheesy, sweet, and hilarious clean romance with friends to lovers, fake dating, and sports. Bree and Nathan, who have been harboring feelings for each other since high school, had such fun banter after years of friendship. The story also included really tender moments and realistic mental health rep.

I’ve seen some complaints that this book is too immature, unrealistic, and cheesy for an adult romance. I do think those are fair criticisms, but I love cheese, a certain whiteboard scene had me crying laughing, and I don’t think a story needs to be 100% realistic to be entertaining. This might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I thoroughly enjoyed it and look forward to making my way through Sarah Adams’s backlist!

Review: Record of a Spaceborn Few by Becky Chambers

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Title: Record of a Spaceborn Few
Author: Becky Chambers
Series: Wayfarers #3
Genre: Science Fiction
Audience: Adult
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Rachel Dulude
Length: 12 hours (368 pages)
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Release Date: July 24, 2018
Source: Library
Content Warnings: death, grief, drug use, bullying

SYNOPSIS

Centuries after the last humans left Earth, the Exodus Fleet is a living relic, a place many are from but few outsiders have seen. Humanity has finally been accepted into the galactic community, but while this has opened doors for many, those who have not yet left for alien cities fear that their carefully cultivated way of life is under threat.

Tessa chose to stay home when her brother Ashby left for the stars, but has to question that decision when her position in the Fleet is threatened.

Kip, a reluctant young apprentice, itches for change but doesn’t know where to find it.

Sawyer, a lost and lonely newcomer, is just looking for a place to belong.

When a disaster rocks this already fragile community, those Exodans who still call the Fleet their home can no longer avoid the inescapable question:

What is the purpose of a ship that has reached its destination?

MY THOUGHTS

Becky Chambers continues to write futuristic science fiction in a way that feels like home. This third installment in the Wayfarers series focuses on the Exodus Fleet, descendants of the last humans to leave Earth still living in a mostly insular community centuries later. The story follows slices of life for various members of this community with different ages, jobs, hopes, and dreams to show how much humanity has changed and stayed the same.

While this is a wonderfully written book, it was my least favorite in the series so far. I understand Chambers’s intentions with the storytelling approach, but it didn’t work as well for me because I didn’t form as strong of emotional connections to the characters. What I loved most about the previous two books are the found families comprised of diverse sentient begins. In Record, we see very few non-human characters, and the POV characters’ storylines are mostly separate throughout the book, with few intersections until the end. I really missed a found family here. I think Becky Chambers succeeded in telling the story she wanted to tell…it just wasn’t the story I wanted to hear based on my expectations of this series.

Still, I absolutely love how much this series makes me reflect on what it means to be human and what responsibilities we have to ourselves and humankind as a whole. The best science fiction helps you understand the here and now through a futuristic lens. I could read so many more books in this universe and never grow tired of exploring every facet of life; I can’t believe there’s only one more book in this series!

Review: The Path of Daggers by Robert Jordan

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Title: The Path of Daggers
Author: Robert Jordan
Series: The Wheel of Time #8
Genre: Fantasy
Audience: Adult
Format: Audiobook
Length: 23 hours (685 pages)
Publisher: Tor
Release Date: October 20, 1998
Source: Library
Content Warnings: torture, kidnapping, war, death, sexual content, suicide

SYNOPSIS

The Seanchan invasion force is in possession of Ebou Dar. Nynaeve, Elayne, and Aviendha head for Caemlyn and Elayne’s rightful throne, but on the way they discover an enemy much worse than the Seanchan.

In Illian, Rand vows to throw the Seanchan back as he did once before. But signs of madness are appearing among the Asha’man.

In Ghealdan, Perrin faces the intrigues of Whitecloaks, Seanchan invaders, the scattered Shaido Aiel, and the Prophet himself. Perrin’s beloved wife, Faile, may pay with her life, and Perrin himself may have to destroy his soul to save her.

Meanwhile the rebel Aes Sedai under their young Amyrlin, Egwene al’Vere, face an army that intends to keep them away from the White Tower. But Egwene is determined to unseat the usurper Elaida and reunite the Aes Sedai. She does not yet understand the price that others—and she herself—will pay.

MY THOUGHTS

I liked this more than book 7… but it’s not very memorable. Probably the least memorable book in the series so far. This book still suffers from the pacing issues in book 7, but not to the same extent, and there were some important and exciting developments toward the end. FINALLY, ELAYNE! I truly think books 7 & 8 could have been trimmed and condensed into one great book, but nobody asked me. Mat is not in this book.

Review: The Host by Stephenie Meyer

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Title: The Host
Author: Stephenie Meyer
Genre: Science Fiction / Romance
Audience: Adult
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Kate Reading
Length: 23 hours (624 pages)
Publisher: Books on Tape; Little, Brown and Company
Release Date: May 6, 2008
Source: Library
Content Warnings: violence, bullying, body horror, gun violence, death, grief, xenophobia

SYNOPSIS

Melanie Stryder refuses to fade away. The earth has been invaded by a species that take over the minds of human hosts while leaving their bodies intact. Wanderer, the invading “soul” who has been given Melanie’s body, didn’t expect to find its former tenant refusing to relinquish possession of her mind.

As Melanie fills Wanderer’s thoughts with visions of Jared, a human who still lives in hiding, Wanderer begins to yearn for a man she’s never met. Reluctant allies, Wanderer and Melanie set off to search for the man they both love.

MY THOUGHTS

I read this book once when it was published in 2008 and figured it was time for a reread since it tends to be rated higher than the books in the Twilight saga (which I reread in 2020) and a new favorite author recently cited The Host as a major source of inspiration. I didn’t remember much from my first read (and I seriously misremembered the ending), so it was almost like reading it for the first time.

This book has such a unique concept, depicting an alien invasion of Earth by a nonviolent, symbiotic species. The backstory and world building are so imaginative. Even though this species has colonized many other species on many other planets, they encounter a unique obstacle in human hosts with consciousnesses who refuse to let go.

Wanderer is one such “soul,” driven on a mission to find her host Melanie’s brother and former partner, who are part of a human resistance. At times, it is difficult to distinguish where Wanderer ends and Melanie begins, and vice versa, leading to a complicated tangle of emotions and (of course) a love triangle. The story explores concepts of self, soul, love, and family in thoughtful ways. It is slow at times, but balanced with action and romance.

However, I DO NOT RECOMMEND the audiobook. I like Kate Reading as a narrator for high fantasy, but alien romance not so much. Her narration made it difficult for me to connect emotionally with the characters and lessened my enjoyment of the book. If the book were not so long, I would have switched to the physical book, but I just didn’t have time.

Review: The Traitor’s Kiss by Erin Beaty

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Title: The Traitor’s Kiss
Author: Erin Beaty
Series: The Traitor’s Circle #1
Genre: Fantasy
Audience: Young Adult
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Kathleen McInerney
Length: 11 hours (352 pages)
Publisher: Imprint
Release Date: May 9, 2017
Source: Library
Recommended for fans of: The Remnant Chronicles, The Winner’s Trilogy
Content Warnings: child death, sexual assault

SYNOPSIS

An obstinate girl who will not be married. A soldier desperate to prove himself. A kingdom on the brink of war.

With a sharp tongue and an unruly temper, Sage Fowler is not what they’d call a lady―which is perfectly fine with her. Deemed unfit for marriage, Sage is apprenticed to a matchmaker and tasked with wrangling other young ladies to be married off for political alliances. She spies on the girls―and on the soldiers escorting them.

As the girls’ military escort senses a political uprising, Sage is recruited by a handsome soldier to infiltrate the enemy ranks. The more she discovers as a spy, the less certain she becomes about whom to trust―and Sage becomes caught in a dangerous balancing act that will determine the fate of her kingdom.

MY THOUGHTS

This is a book where I purchased a physical copy not long after its release, then it sat on my shelf for wayyyyyy too long. I finally picked up the audiobook this year! That being said, the narrator was just okay, so I recommend reading a print copy of this book if you are able.

The Traitor’s Kiss takes place in a fantasy world with no magic, so this might make a good entry into the genre for non-fantasy readers. The story is full of political intrigue, royal drama, dangerous secrets, espionage, and matchmaking. I was always on the edge of my seat and could never predict what was coming next. Erin Beaty pulled off some great twists and kept the plot moving quickly with short chapters and lots of action.

The romance developed beautifully with angsty tension and fragile trust. Be warned, Erin Beaty is an author who will mess with your head and your heart. But in the best way.

This gives off very similar vibes to The Remnant Chronicles, so if you loved that series you would enjoy this too!

Review: Part of Your World by Abby Jimenez

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆
Title: Part of Your World
Author: Abby Jimenez
Series: The Friend Zone #4
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Audience: Adult
Format: Audiobook
Narrators: Julia Whelan, Zachary Webber
Length: 10 hours (400 pages)
Publisher: Forever
Release Date: April 19, 2022
Source: Library
Recommended for fans of: Emily Henry, Sajni Patel
Content Warnings: emotional abuse, domestic abuse, physical abuse, gaslighting, medical content, pregnancy, toxic friendship

SYNOPSIS

After a wild bet, gourmet grilled-cheese sandwich, and cuddle with a baby goat, Alexis Montgomery has had her world turned upside down. The cause: Daniel Grant, a ridiculously hot carpenter who’s ten years younger than her and as casual as they come—the complete opposite of sophisticated city-girl Alexis. And yet their chemistry is undeniable.

While her ultra-wealthy parents want her to carry on the family legacy of world-renowned surgeons, Alexis doesn’t need glory or fame. She’s fine with being a “mere” ER doctor. And every minute she spends with Daniel and the tight-knit town where he lives, she’s discovering just what’s really important. Yet letting their relationship become anything more than a short-term fling would mean turning her back on her family and giving up the opportunity to help thousands of people.

Bringing Daniel into her world is impossible, and yet she can’t just give up the joy she’s found with him either. With so many differences between them, how can Alexis possibly choose between her world and his?

The New York Times bestselling author of Life’s Too Short delivers a refreshingly modern fairy tale perfect for fans of Casey McQuiston and Emily Henry.

MY THOUGHTS

Once again, it is difficult for me to express how much I loved this book, and it will absolutely be one of my favorites for the year. Abby Jimenez always writes evocative books with such heart, hilarity, and carefully handled heavy topics, but this is her best yet.

Part of Your World is an opposites attract, forbidden, small town/big city romance. Forbidden love is my favorite romance trope, but it can be challenging to pull off in a contemporary setting…IT WORKS HERE! Alexis Montgomery is a hardworking, legacy doctor reeling from a recent breakup and struggling to live up to her parents’ expectations. Daniel is a cinnamon roll of a small town carpenter, innkeeper, mayor, and dog owner. They are such a good match and so supportive of each other’s dreams. Their relationship was never meant to last…but their connection is undeniable. I love a book where the couple thinks they can’t be together but also can’t stop thinking about each other.

The emotional parts of this book were so well written. Alexis’s ex, her parents, her friends, and Daniel’s mom all ENRAGED me in turn. Alexis experienced emotional abuse in her previous relationship, but since she was never physically abused, many people in her life belittle her experience and even encouraged her to reunite with her abuser… this was difficult to read, but close friends and therapy validated her and helped her stand up for herself. Since Alexis is a doctor, this book also includes some semi-detailed medical content, including a traumatic birth scene.

I also want to rave about the audiobook production! Julia Whelan and Zachary Webber did such an amazing job bringing the story life by infusing their performances with so much emotion. I’m sure I still would’ve cried and laughed and smiled and raged had I read the physical book, but the audio made me fall in love with this story even more.

Review: First Love, Take Two by Sajni Patel

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆
Title: First Love, Take Two
Author: Sajni Patel
Series: The Trouble With Hating You #2
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Audience: Adult
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Soneela Nankani
Length: 11 hours (336 pages)
Publisher: Hachette Audio; Forever
Release Date: September 21, 2021
Source: Library
Recommended for fans of: Abby Jimenez books
Content Warnings: racism, medical trauma, miscarriage, mental illness, toxic friendship, sexual assault

SYNOPSIS

On the verge of realizing her dream of being a doctor, Preeti Patel should be ecstatic. But between the stress of her residency, trying to find a job, and managing her traditional, no-boundaries family, Preeti’s anxiety is through the roof. Relationships and love aren’t even an option. Fortunately, Preeti’s finally found a new place to stay . . . only to discover that her new roommate is her ex.

Preeti never quite got over Daniel Thompson. Super-hot, plenty of swagger, amazing cook—the guy is practically perfect. And if it weren’t for their families, there might have been a happily ever after. But it’s hard to keep her sanity and libido in check when the man of her dreams is sleeping mere feet away. Can Preeti and Daniel find a way to stand up and fight for each other one last time . . . before they lose their second chance?

MY THOUGHTS

This second chance, forbidden romance with the forced proximity and one bed tropes is the kind of contemporary romance I just love that is sweet, hilarious, and EMOTIONAL. Sajni Patel writes in a way that makes me FEEL for her characters, from sorrow to outrage to joy.

Preeti and Daniel’s relationship was full of witty banter and delicious pining. The romantic scenes are clean/closed door, although there is a decent amount of innuendo throughout the book for humor. I didn’t completely buy the reason for their original breakup or the circumstances that brought them back together, and some scenes seemed overdramatic, but it made for an entertaining and emotional book.

This is not just a heartwarming rom-com; the story addresses many heavy topics including racism, mental health struggles, and toxic relationships. Preeti comes from a traditional South Asian family Daniel is Black, and members of both families do not approve of a match outside their respective cultures. There is also a scene where one of Preeti’s patients has a traumatic miscarriage.

This book made me feel all the feels. I also loved the Texas setting, Preeti’s supportive group of girlfriends, and the descriptions of food! You know it’s a good book when it inspires you to get Torchy’s Tacos for dinner. I hope Sajni Patel continues to write for an adult audience.

Book Tour and Review: Between Ink and Shadows

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆.5
Title: Between Ink and Shadows
Author: Melissa Wright
Series: Between Ink and Shadows #1
Genre: Epic Fantasy/Romance
Audience: New Adult
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Mary Jane Wells
Length: 6 hours 22 minutes (242 pages)
Publisher: Melissa Wright | 2022
Audio Release Date: April 25, 2022
Original Release Date: December 1, 2020
Source: Audiobookworm Promotions
Recommended for fans of: Sorcery of Thorns, The Shadows Between Us
Content Warnings: emotional abuse, death, body horror child abuse, confinement, infertility, pregnancy, fire/fire injury
Purchase: Audible | iTunes | Google | Scribd | Chirp | Nook | Kobo

SYNOPSIS

She’ll win back her freedom, even if she has to steal it.

Nimona Weston has a debt to pay. Her father’s dealings with the dark society known as the Trust cost Nim her freedom. There’s one way out of the contract on her life and that’s to bide her time and pay the tithes. But when the Trust assigns Nim to a task in the king’s own castle, her freedom is not the only thing she’ll risk.

Warrick Spenser has a secret. As king’s seneschal, he should be the last soul in Inara to risk association with dark magic, but long-hidden ties to the Trust are harder to shed than simply cutting the threads. When the Trust sends a thief to his rooms, Warrick thinks he’s finally found a way to be rid of them for good. But Nimona Weston is hiding secrets of her own.

Magical contracts, blood-debt accountants, and a deadly game. An epic fantasy with Regency flair, an improper and slightly stabby heroine with a penchant for trouble, clean slow-burn romance, and a dark and twisty plot that pits magic against kings, love against power, and a gothic underworld against a kingdom desperate to survive. Perfect for fans of Sorcery of Thorns and The Shadows Between Us.

REVIEW

Between Ink and Shadows is a moody, epic fantasy book full of thieving, spying, dangerous magical contracts, and dark secrets.

Nimona is a classic YA/NA “stabby” heroine, trapped in a magical contract, who has such compassion and would do anything to protect her loved ones. Warrick is the mysterious and morally gray king’s seneschal with hidden ties to the dark magic he is meant to eradicate. When Nimona and Warrick become reluctant partners, they develop a slow burning forbidden romance full of angst and pining.

Even the secondary characters are vivid and complex. Calum is such a chilling and creepy villain, relishing the power he holds over Nimona through her contract and hungering for more. I have such a soft spot for Wesley, and I enjoyed Nimona’s other friends and allies as well.

The book is short and fast paced; however, it moved too quickly for me to keep up with. The audiobook narration was well done, but sometimes I had to go back and relisten to sections to pick up on the important details. I think this story could’ve used a bit more length to flesh out the world’s magic system and give readers more time to process events.

This is the first book in a series, and I’m curious to know what happens next!

I received this audiobook as part of my participation in a blog tour with Audiobookworm Promotions. The tour is being sponsored by Melissa Wright. The gifting of this audiobook did not affect my opinion of it.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Melissa is the author of more than a dozen YA and fantasy novels including The Frey Saga and BETWEEN INK AND SHADOWS. When not writing she can generally be found talking about a book, painting something from a book, or tucked between headphones listening to a book. It’s kind of a theme. She loves reasonable heroines in unreasonable situations, noble–if brooding–heroes, slow burn and sweet kisses, a lot of havoc, and a little magic. Stay updated on works in progress at Instagram or contact her through the web at http://www.melissa-wright.com

Website

ABOUT THE NARRATOR

Mary Jane Wells is a British actress, writer, voice-over artist, and Earphones Award and Audie Award–winning narrator. A graduate of the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, she held a recurring role on the BBC’s Half Moon Investigates and narrated the BBC Three television show My Children, which won a Scottish BAFTA.

Website

AUDIO EXCERPT

Sign up as a tour host here.
Create your website with WordPress.com
Get started