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Shorefall (Foundryside #2) – Robert Jackson Bennett

Shorefall (Foundryside #2) – Robert Jackson BennettTitle: Shorefall (Foundryside #2) by Robert Jackson Bennett
Publishing Info: April 21, 2020 by Penguin Random House, Del Rey Books
Source: Received from the publisher for review purposes
Genres: Adult, Fantasy
Date Completed: April 15, 2020
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads

The upstart firm Foundryside is struggling to make it. Orso Igancio and his star employee, former thief Sancia Grado, are accomplishing brilliant things with scriving, the magical art of encoding sentience into everyday objects, but it's not enough. The massive merchant houses of Tevanne won't tolerate competition, and they're willing to do anything to crush Foundryside.

But even the merchant houses of Tevanne might have met their match. An immensely powerful and deadly entity has been resurrected in the shadows of Tevanne, one that's not interested in wealth or trade routes: a hierophant, one of the ancient practitioners of scriving. And he has a great fascination for Foundryside, and its employees - especially Sancia.

Now Sancia and the rest of Foundryside must race to combat this new menace, which means understanding the origins of scriving itself - before the hierophant burns Tevanne to the ground.

bookreview1

I picked up FOUNDRYSIDE on a whim in 2018 when I saw it as an ARC at ALA and it was sort of like a new discovery for me. No one I knew had read it and thieves! cons! banter! magic! It sounded like such a me book, and a me book it ended up being after I read it too. SHOREFALL was one of my most anticipated releases of 2020 because of that and whew. This was awkward and painful for me.

I listened to the audiobook for this one instead of reading since I received a copy from the publisher and that’s how I get most of my reads in these days. The narrator was fine but I didn’t love her and I would have preferred maybe two narrators to get a male voice in there too even though a lot of this book is from Sancia’s persperctive, despite being in the third person. Maybe I’m not remembering well, but I feel like we got a LOT more from other POVs in FOUNDRYSIDE and I felt like Gregor had a much stronger presence in that book… I really would have loved to see more character development in this book but it really just fell flat and I feel like we learned almost nothing new about any of the characters except for Gregor in moments of plot reveal. There just really wasn’t much of anything new, and if anything, Sancia just became mushier with a romance involved. It’s not a bad thing but she lost some zip and the character banter was one of the things that made FOUNDRYSIDE so enjoyable. There was pretty much nothing humorous in SHOREFALL and I was pretty bummed to see that missing here.

Speaking of tone, the whole feel of this book seems so different. FOUNDRYSIDE was basically all heist/theiving/scheming and SHOREFALL really didn’t feel engaging like that at all. There are some big villain presences in here and gods/godlike characters getting involved which I guess makes sense after the end of book one but it really did change the feel of just about everything. The book was working on a grander scale which seems to have worked for a lot of people but I just didn’t love it. The concept was a very Brandon Sanderson-esque type of concept for the book but I didn’t like the pacing and plotting here like I do with Sanderson’s books (sorry to make the comparison but it’s part of the reason I loved FOUNDRYSIDE so much) and it really lacked those fun twists or brilliant moments that I’ve loved so much before. There were some big twists here but the scale was just so big that I just wasn’t really into it. It was like it was pushed too quickly and maybe things like this should have been spread out into more than just three books, giving the second book time to set up another task for the team while slowly introducing these higher powers, giving more of a team bonding, time to care about the characters more and become really invested in them, and get the ball rolling on these bigger things coming into play. It seemed like it JUMPED from book one to book two and it was all a bit much for me, coming across as forced and trying too hard to be epic.

The pacing was just not for me at all. There were so many BIG BIG action sequences that I constantly felt like the book was ending with all of these climax-like moments. But then it just kept going and going and going. Everyone sort of seemed like a shell of who they once were with just the big points sticking and I missed all of those pieces that made them human, so the dialogue was boring and sort of eye-roll worthy at points. It felt basic and more like what I expect from some newer or younger authors. There were WAY too many villains speeches with the big bag guy just telling you what he was going to do and there was actually a point where the team was like “What do we do now” and Sancia says “Let’s talk to him. He seems like he likes to talk” (not a direct quote) and I laughed out loud. Yep, he sure does.

I read a couple reviews before I finished the book because there was seriously a point where I considered not finishing but I decided I could make it another five and a half hours. One review pointed out how characters constantly get cut off mid-sentence and wow, that was a mistake to read because it was all I noticed for the rest of the book and really annoying…. And then others raved about the ending of the book and even those who didn’t love it felt the ending redeemed the rest of it. I didn’t really feel that way but there is a big reveal moment that’s supposed to shock you and others that are supposed to tug on your heart-strings. I just didn’t care at that point and wanted the book to end so I was not moved at all but my feelings shut off by that point. As for the plotting…. Eh. I don’t really know if I care to read the last book, even if there are only three and I’d only have to read one more. I don’t really care for where this book took the series and I’m just so disappointed with the pacing, lack of banter, and lack of character development that I really just don’t care what happens, plot-wise or character-wise. I can’t imagine being drawn in enough to care about the last book, and that’s the saddest part of it all when I was so excited about the first book.

 

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Kept Me Hooked On: Less-mainstream fantasy reads. I don’t really know many people reading this series so it was still enjoyable to read something that was a little “unique” to me.
Left Me Wanting More: The feel of the first book. I missed nearly everything that made the first book what it was. Heists! Banter! Ugh.

Addiction Rating
Try it

If you read FOUNDRYSIDE and enjoyed it, you may still like SHOREFALL. It didn’t work for me but a bunch of other reviewers really loved it!

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BOOKS LIKE SHOREFALL

             

The Better Liar – Tanen Jones

The Better Liar – Tanen JonesTitle: The Better Liar by Tanen Jones
Publishing Info: January 14, 2020 by Penguin Random House, Ballantine Books
Source: Received from the publisher for review purposes
Genres: Adult, Mystery/Thriller
Date Completed: February 19, 2020
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads

When a woman conceals her sister’s death to claim their joint inheritance, her deception exposes a web of dangerous secrets in this addictive new thriller for fans of Megan Abbott, Gillian Flynn, and Paula Hawkins.

“Like most of the dead, I want to be remembered.”

Robin Voigt is dead. If Leslie had arrived at her sister’s cramped Las Vegas apartment just hours earlier, this would have been their first reunion in a decade. In the years since Robin ran away from home as a teenager, Leslie has stayed in New Mexico, taking care of their dying father even as she began building a family of her own. But when their father passed away, Leslie received a rude awakening: She and Robin would receive the inheritance he left them together—or not at all. Now her half of the money may be beyond her grasp. And unbeknownst to anyone, even her husband, Leslie needs it desperately.

When she meets a charismatic young woman who bears an uncanny resemblance to Robin—and has every reason to leave her past behind—the two make a reckless bargain: Mary will impersonate Robin for a week in exchange for Robin’s half of the cash. But neither realizes how high the stakes will become when Mary takes a dead woman’s name. Even as Mary begins to suspect Leslie is hiding something, and Leslie realizes the stranger living in her house, babysitting her newborn son, and charming her husband has secrets of her own, Robin’s wild, troubled legacy threatens to eclipse them both.

An electric, twisted portrait of sisterhood and the ties that bind, The Better Liar is a stunning debut with a heart-stopping, twist-after-twist finale that will beg the question: How far would you go to get what’s yours?

bookreview1

This was a really interesting read! THE BETTER LIAR had so many layers and I love a good unreliable narrator. The switching of POVs made the story work and captured some thriller tricks at their finest!

The characters really sucked me into this book and especially with psychological thrillers like this, I feel like that’s so important. There was something about Leslie that you knew just wasn’t quite right but it and it was a thought-provoking ride trying to figure out what secrets she was keeping and why. We get a voice from Robin, who has been missing for years and we’re quite unsure what happened to her for all those years, so that added another layer of intrigue, and then there’s the stranger Mary who agrees to impersonate Robin so Leslie can retrieve an inheritance . It really was so twisty the way all of these characters worked together (or against each other) and how this story unfolded the more you learned about each one.

There’s a big twist in here (as there usually are with psychological thrillers) that I somehow didn’t see coming and I love with a book surprises me! That’s one thing I love about listening to thrillers on audio while working — my brain doesn’t try as hard to dissect the mystery since it’s being occupied by something else, so I was definitely shocked by this book and I loved the slow but steady journey to all of the reveals.

The book was interesting, twisty, and for its craziness, really not so far-fetched. I was worried the ending was just going to fizzle out and it actually had a few more twists coming to really bring the story full-circle and it was nice that the book didn’t drag on after the big reveal. Sometimes with thrillers once that big moment is presented to the audience, I tend to feel like things wilt if carried on too long, so I liked that this book was filled with things to keep the readers interested until literally the past page and also had a sense of originality to it.

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Kept Me Hooked On: Unreliable narrators. You’ve got to love a good unreliable narrator, especially when there are three of them and you really can’t trust any one of them. This book definitely kept me guessing!
Left Me Wanting More: Pacing. I really didn’t have any complaints about this book, looking back. I liked the pacing of the book but I suppose there were just a couple points where my focus drifted. Really such a minor thing though because I really liked it from start to finish!

Addiction Rating
Read it

If you like psychological thrillers, I really recommend this one! I enjoyed every bit of it, really.

book_recommendations1

BOOKS LIKE THE BETTER LIAR

             

Ashlords (Ashlords #1) – Scott Reintgen

Ashlords (Ashlords #1) – Scott ReintgenTitle: Ashlords (Ashlords #1) by Scott Reintgen
Publishing Info: January 21, 2020 by Penguin
Source: Received from the publisher for review purposes
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Science Fiction
Date Completed: February 17, 2020
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads

Red Rising meets The Scorpio Races in this epic fantasy following three phoenix horse riders--skilled at alchemy--who must compete at The Races--the modern spectacle that has replaced warfare within their empire.

Every year since the Ashlords were gifted phoenix horses by their gods, they've raced them. First into battle, then on great hunts, and finally for the pure sport of seeing who rode the fastest. Centuries of blood and fire carved their competition into a more modern spectacle: The Races.

Over the course of a multi-day event, elite riders from clashing cultures vie to be crowned champion. But the modern version of the sport requires more than good riding. Competitors must be skilled at creating and controlling phoenix horses made of ash and alchemy, which are summoned back to life each sunrise with uniquely crafted powers to cover impossible distances and challenges before bursting into flames at sunset. But good alchemy only matters if a rider knows how to defend their phoenix horse at night. Murder is outlawed, but breaking bones and poisoning ashes? That's all legal and encouraged.

In this year's Races, eleven riders will compete, but three of them have more to lose than the rest--a champion's daughter, a scholarship entrant, and a revolutionary's son. Who will attain their own dream of glory? Or will they all flame out in defeat?

bookreview1

So far, most of my Goodreads friend reviews are mostly five-star ratings for this book and some four-star. How did we know I was going to be the black sheep here…? If you’d like to read a cynical/critical review, this is it!

First of all, the comparison to “Red Rising meets The Scorpio Races”… just no. I usually hate comparisons and this one is one terrible. They’re two of my favorite books EVER with incredible character development, world-building, and plotting, and this book did not have it for me. The only Scorpio Races connection is the fact that it’s a horse race and it’s nothing else like TSR and Red Rising’s plotting and character connections are far superior than this book. It was far more of a Hunger Games feel than RR or TSR.

I listened to this book on audio and all of the narrators are ones I’ve listened to before and really enjoyed, so I know it wasn’t an issue of narrator. (Rebecca Soler, Lauren Fortgang, and Andrew Eiden, in case you were wondering!) When it comes to my fantasy preferences nowadays, I. Need. World-Building. The first paragraph of this book was the most interesting. There was a mention about nebulas in the sky and … hey, that was it as far as the actual WORLD part of the world-building. Is this a fantasy world? Are we in space? Is this related to our galaxy? I immediately wanted to know more about the galaxies in the sky and where this book took place and we never really get to know. Not just that, but there’s no real history about this fantasy world at all. There are plenty of mentions about “the gods” and how they’re the gods of the Ashlords but there’s not really much of anything else. We know that sacrifices happen, gods live in the underworld, and the Ashlords are connected to the gods above the others, but I don’t even know anything about the country or town or divisions of any sort.
There are a lot of things that don’t come up in the book until they’re needed so it just seems like a total afterthought. There are random leaders of each … community? Town? See, I don’t even know how this country (or whatever) is divided and why there are random leaders. Of course, the leader is oppressive and creepy and he shows up just to be awful and has no other significance whatsoever. Then there’s this police force which doesn’t show up until the end when all of a sudden they’re necessary. Even with the races and the horses/phoenixes, there were things we didn’t get to know until it was happening and everything was just told to us instead of actually learning about things in a more natural fashion.
I also don’t even know anything about the phoenixes at ALL…??? The synopsis said they were gifted to the Ashlords by the gods but we don’t really get to learn about that at all, anywhere in the book. There are tiiiiny pieces but I barely know anything about them. The characters create/influence them with alchemy but we don’t get to learn much about the alchemy other than being told what ingredients are used and we don’t really get to know why or how it works. Where did they come from? Are they otherworldly beings? How do their rebirths work and why do they HAVE to do that? What’s the magic system with what makes them different and how the riders use them? Why do riders have to happen and what do they gain from the races? Why are the races necessary? And so many more questions about gods and Ashlords and I COULD GO ON.
I really can talk a LOT more about this but let’s just say that there’s really no history or world-building, or at least not nearly enough for my taste. I could have been incredibly invested if I even know what this world was about.

Most of this book is action. There’s a lot of time spent spent talking about the races, which is fine! But everything else took a backseat, and for me, it really felt like EVERYTHING else.

I also really did not feel connected to the characters at all. There are three main characters but we barely get to know their personalities at all. Everything is basically about the race and we hardly get to see the characters interact with anyone of importance. We get some glimpses of Imelda and her friendships and her home life, but they’re just glimpses. No real time is spent there and it’s mainly just to set up other random parts of the story. The characters are very basic and don’t really tell us much about their histories either.

There’s one character POV that’s in second person instead of the other two in first person and there’s seemingly no reason why. I would hope there’s an actual reason but it wasn’t revealed in the first book and I won’t be reading on so maybe I’ll look it up later. It could have been interesting but it really didn’t seem to serve a purpose here.

I’m sure there’s more bubbling up inside my fountain of feelings here, but really, this one just did not do it for me. I don’t know how I feel SO far off from everyone so far but it was interesting going into it with an open mind AND expecting like it and seeing what my true feelings were without any hype or any other expectations.

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Kept Me Hooked On: Fantasy/sci-fi blend. This really was an interesting mix of fantasy and science-fiction. I really wanted to know more about everything!
Left Me Wanting More: World-building. The world-building in this book was just not up to par for me. I had a LOT of questions and there were so many things that weren’t touched upon that it made me really question everything. There were too many missed opportunities here.

Addiction Rating
Get a second opinion

So lots of other people really enjoyed this book, maybe people who have not read THE SCORPIO RACES nor RED RISING or who at least weren’t making those comparisons because it didn’t have that feel at all for me. You just can’t compare the character development in THE SCORPIO RACES and the insane plotting and world-building in RED RISING. Anyway… a lot of other people loved this one but it angered me, really, haha. So check out other reviews, I’d say!

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BOOKS LIKE ASHLORDS

             

Darling Rose Gold – Stephanie Wrobel

Darling Rose Gold – Stephanie WrobelTitle: Darling Rose Gold by Stephanie Wrobel
Publishing Info: March 17, 2020 by Penguin, Berkley
Source: Received from the publisher for review purposes
Genres: Adult, Mystery/Thriller
Date Completed: March 6, 2020
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads

For the first eighteen years of her life, Rose Gold Watts believed she was seriously ill. She was allergic to everything, used a wheelchair and practically lived at the hospital. Neighbors did all they could, holding fundraisers and offering shoulders to cry on, but no matter how many doctors, tests, or surgeries, no one could figure out what was wrong with Rose Gold.

Turns out her mom, Patty Watts, was just a really good liar.

After serving five years in prison, Patty gets out with nowhere to go and begs her daughter to take her in. The entire community is shocked when Rose Gold says yes.

Patty insists all she wants is to reconcile their differences. She says she's forgiven Rose Gold for turning her in and testifying against her. But Rose Gold knows her mother. Patty Watts always settles a score.

Unfortunately for Patty, Rose Gold is no longer her weak little darling...

And she's waited such a long time for her mother to come home.

bookreview1

This was just a middle-of-the-road book for me. It’s being branded as a thriller but it’s kind of not that thrilling? There are some psychological aspects to it but it was more just a story about generations of abuse passing down the abuse but in different ways. I can see how it’s more “thriller” being that it could fit under the umbrella of psychological thrillers but it’s much more slow-moving than that.

The book alternates between the POV of Rose Gold and her mother, Patty. Rose Gold’s perspective takes place almost entirely in the past throughout the past five years while Patty has been in prison for child abuse, convicted of poisoning her daughter to keep her sick until she reached the age of 18 and caught on to what her mother was doing to her. Some of the Patty side was more interesting, displaying a different sort of delusion than we normally see in psychological thrillers, showing how her need to control Rose Gold and her need to feel needed as a mother led her to keep her daughter sick, so she could constantly be dependent on her mother. I wish that the author had pushed just a little further into this since we do get Patty’s POV. We see it later on when Patty is taking care of Rose Gold’s baby but I feel like we didn’t get a real reason why she was actually resulting to poisoning. I guess it’s more of an implied thing where Patty is too delusional herself to even admitting to using something to intentionally make her daughter sick…. except she does admit it to herself later. It’s a bit fuzzy and confusing so I’m not quite sure if that was intentional or if we just didn’t quite get one piece of the puzzle to really complete that picture.

The beginning and middle of the book were sort of just blah for me. Most of the book details Rose Gold’s life with her mother, what she went through, and how people treat Patty once she’s released from prison. It just felt like a lot of setting the scene before we got to the breaking points of these characters and I guess the truly horrific stuff started happening (on-page anyway, since we already know what happened to Rose Gold as a child) but to me, it didn’t really read as a thriller all the way through and it just sort of felt like regular fiction, telling a disturbing story but not really bringing the fast-paced thrills that I enjoy and prefer when I’m reading books of this genre. I guess my criticism of the book is more to do with how it’s marketed/presented/reviewed since it wasn’t really what I was expecting.

There were also a few things in the book that didn’t really get explored enough for me so it felt like they were there for shock value or as an “excuse” for behavior. Patty was physically abused (beaten) by her father when she was young and her brother committed suicide in their childhood home so Rose Gold buys Patty’s childhood home, knowing that when Patty gets out of jail, she’ll have to stay with her in the childhood home which held so many bad memories. Like… okay? Yes, that’s a big step to go out of your way to mentally abuse your mother who abused you but the whole point was that it made Patty uncomfortable and she pushed past it. It just seemed like a very big gesture not to be used in some other way in the book. It did add to the list of long thought-out plans to harm her mother but it just seemed kind of weird.

The ending was interesting but we spent so long watching it coming that it didn’t really pack a punch for me and I just felt like I read a book about some kind of unlikable characters. The abuse that they experienced led them to perpetuate the abuse cycle on and on and at a certain point, I was just uncomfortable with and annoyed at both of them.

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Kept Me Hooked On: A different kind of thriller? It didn’t really feel like the thrillers I’m used to but I guess it’s just a bit of a different pace! It was interesting to read something outside of my usual pattern.
Left Me Wanting More: Development on some of the things mentioned along the way. There were a few things that were dropped and they just kind of felt like they were there for shock value since they didn’t really get brought up again or developed more in the moment. I wanted a few of the things that happened to mean just a bit more.

Addiction Rating
Get a second opinion

This wasn’t my normal kind of thriller so I just really was expecting something different and yes, something more. Other reviewers seemed to really like it so it seems like it might depend on what your preferences are!

book_recommendations1

BOOKS LIKE DARLING ROSE GOLD

             

The Kingdom of Back – Marie Lu

The Kingdom of Back – Marie LuTitle: The Kingdom of Back by Marie Lu
Publishing Info: March 3, 2020 by Penguin
Source: Received from the publisher for review purposes
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Historical Fiction
Date Completed: February 18, 2020
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Related Posts: Legend (Legend #1), Warcross (Warcross #1), Batman: Nightwalker (DC Icons #2)

Two siblings. Two brilliant talents. But only one Mozart.

Born with a gift for music, Nannerl Mozart has just one wish—to be remembered forever. But even as she delights audiences with her masterful playing, she has little hope she'll ever become the acclaimed composer she longs to be. She is a young woman in 18th century Europe, and that means composing is forbidden to her. She will perform only until she reaches a marriageable age—her tyrannical father has made that much clear.

And as Nannerl's hope grows dimmer with each passing year, the talents of her beloved younger brother, Wolfgang, only seem to shine brighter. His brilliance begins to eclipse her own, until one day a mysterious stranger from a magical land appears with an irresistible offer. He has the power to make her wish come true—but his help may cost her everything.

In her first work of historical fiction, #1 New York Times bestselling author Marie Lu spins a lush, lyrically-told story of music, magic, and the unbreakable bond between a brother and sister.

bookreview1

I was really excited to try THE KINGDOM OF BACK, something totally different from Marie Lu’s previous books! I’ve read the Legend trilogy and the Warcross duet, so I was interested to see what THE KINGDOM OF BACK would have in store, knowing how a good portal-world book can capture my curiosity. This one ended up being just a bit too different in too many ways for me and it just ended up not being a “me” book.

This was definitely a case of “It’s not you, it’s me.” The writing in this book was just lovely and and it was a lot more prosaic and lyrical (which is fitting since the book is about music — ha!) but I usually don’t get along with these types of writing styles with very few exceptions. If that’s a writing style that you enjoy, I think this could be an instant hit for you, but I just know it’s something that I don’t particularly care for and I feel like things end up being too drawn out.

I also just had a complicated relationship with the book overall. I really, really did not like the fantasy aspect of the book. There is a portal world/alternate universe type-thing happening here but it really wasn’t what I was expecting. It largely revolved around faeries which I have zero interest in and some of the faerie magic was just a bit too fanciful for me. My magical preferences are more about systems and structures than whimsy so I just really didn’t care for it at all and I hated the parts that glanced back over at the faerie world. It wasn’t that it was bad, but again, tooootally not my thing.

The children are young for most of the book and it takes a very long time for them to even been teenagers, so I would barely even call this YA. It’s more so a book that maybe doesn’t need an age categorization since it’s not a specifically teen coming-of-age story but really just a story about these two children and their lives. I also didn’t understand for the beginning of the book why it was important for this story to be about the Mozart children and it was kind of annoying that it could have been anyone. This does make a little more sense and ties into the story more as the book goes on, so I eventually did end up liking how it tied in (even if I didn’t like the fantasy world still). By the time the book was ending, I actually found that I would have liked the Mozart story by itself all together and a fun YA historical fiction book about the Mozart children that didn’t have fantastical elements would have been cool too.

I think fans of The Hazel Wood and Uprooted will enjoy this. 

There is an author’s note at the end of the book where Marie Lu explains the origins of the book. She had discovered that Mozart had a sister that was barely ever heard of so she investigated her story, and The Kingdom of Back was a real (well, “real”) place that the Mozart children invented and they used it to pass the time in their carriage rides (which does happen in the book, as well as further development of the world). If I had known that beforehand, it would have been much more interesting knowing that The Kingdom of Back actually had historical origins and that was why/how the book came about. I still wouldn’t have cared about the fairy world but it would have made me a little more interested to understand actual historical significance of the fantasy world and that’s why it was included. That author’s note to allow me the hindsight to make this connection is the only reason I felt in the middle about this book instead of disappointed.

It’s actually weird looking back because I really enjoyed the end of the book and it left on a good note. The book wasn’t bad at all but between the writing and the faerie world, it really just wasn’t my style and if I had known that, I might have not read the book or at least waited to hear from someone else if I might like it. I’m actually still kind of glad I read it because I did enjoy the historical aspect of the book but I wish I could have enjoyed it more!

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Kept Me Hooked On: Historical Fiction. I really don’t usually enjoy historical fiction, but I really enjoyed knowing that this stemmed from something real in history. That’s really what held my interest!
Left Me Wanting More: Reality. I just really didn’t care for the fantasy aspect in this book, weirdly enough. It was too whimsical for me and I just don’t love fairy type fantasy.

Addiction Rating
Check the reviews

I think you’ll either love it or end up feeling like I do. If this is your style, you’ll probably love it! If you think we share some opinions, I would say check out some more reviews.

book_recommendations1

BOOKS LIKE THE KINGDOM OF BACK

             

All the Stars and Teeth (All the Stars and Teeth #1) – Adalyn Grace

All the Stars and Teeth (All the Stars and Teeth #1) – Adalyn GraceTitle: All the Stars and Teeth (All the Stars and Teeth #1) by Adalyn Grace
Publishing Info: February 4, 2020 by Macmillan, Imprint
Source: Received from the publisher for review purposes
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Date Completed: February 8, 2020
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads

Set in a kingdom where danger lurks beneath the sea, mermaids seek vengeance with song, and magic is a choice, Adalyn Grace’s All the Stars and Teeth is a thrilling fantasy for fans of Stephanie Garber’s Caraval and Sarah J. Maas’s Throne of Glass series.

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.

bookreview1

I went into ALL THE STARS AND TEETH with an open mind because I haven’t been getting along with a lot of new YA fantasy lately. Catch me at the beginning of this book and I was raving about how happy I was that I was excited, interested, and swooning over bantery pirates! The more I read, the less interested I became and by the end, I felt like I just wanted to know what happened and how the book would end.

I didn’t totally love Amora throughout the whole book, but it was easier to understand her in the beginning of the book because she didn’t know what was going on and it was interesting to follow her while she was figuring everything out. There was a lot for her to discover throughout the whole book but for some reason it was easier for me to connect with her in the beginning. I loved Bastian, our sassy pirate, and I really liked the attitude and tone he brought to this story! Obviously being a main character, he has a big role in the overall plot as well, but he certainly did keep things interesting. He and Amora had some great chemistry and of course, I loved the cleverness. I also really liked Ferrick who added something really nice to the group dynamic. I don’t want to go too far into it because there’s a lot that happens in the beginning and I don’t want to spoil anything, but I liked that he became a part of the book and that he was the kind of “nice guy”. It was easy to be sympathetic to him and I felt like he brought a nice balance to the group.

I think Adalyn Grace packed a lot of punches in the beginning of the book that I wasn’t expecting, including Bastian, who he was, and why he was there, so it was really exciting! She didn’t save every twist until the very end and I was really happy to see some things to help kick off the book. The pacing was pretty consistent throughout the book but there was a point in the middle where I had to put the book down (just because of reading time) and I wasn’t able to come back for a week and then…. I just a hit a stall in interest. Things didn’t quite pick up again like I had hoped and there were moments when I found Amora more irritating while she was discovering some of the politics of her world. It just started to hit a point where everything felt a little more tropey and I was sad that it lost that magical spark for me.

The magic system and world building were pretty cool but I also felt like they could have been developed a liiiiittle bit more for me to really latch onto them. It still felt like a lot about the magic was thrown in at the beginning, which I guess you kind of need in order to understand some parts of the world, but I almost wanted to discover it a little more slowly because some parts of the magic and world-building felt like a bit of an info dump. There’s a bit of a journey in the middle and there are some pieces of some of the magics that are explored but there’s not really a reason why or how or how much. Magic doesn’t always need a why because sometimes that’s just a part of what the world is, but I felt like I needed just a bit more than “everyone has magic and here’s what they can do”. I felt like if we went one layer deeper, I would have really appreciated the world more.

I’m a little bummed because I really did love the beginning so much and I was talking it up, but I just really lost interest towards the end and just wanted to be done reading it. It wasn’t bad at all but I felt like it started off as something special and different and then it just fell into the pattern of the average YA fantasy novel. I’m sure others will really enjoy it but it just fell a little flat to me towards the end.

 

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Kept Me Hooked On: Pirates. So I don’t always care about pirate books but I WANT to care. The pirate part was kind of major, kind of minor, but it worked SO WELL.
Left Me Wanting More: World/magic depth. There are secrets about the magic, we know, but I just wanted a little bit more world-building and magic depth. I would have rather spent a few more pages working on those elements to really secure a world instead of some of the fluffy descriptions of towns or appearances.

Addiction Rating
Try it

I bet a lot of people will really love this one. I enjoyed it so much in the beginning but I’m left a little sad that it kind of turned for me towards the end. I just felt like the beginning was so different and towards the middle, it fell into typical YA plotting.

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BOOKS LIKE ALL THE STARS AND TEETH

             

Twisted Twenty-Six (Stephanie Plum #26) – Janet Evanovich

Twisted Twenty-Six (Stephanie Plum #26) – Janet EvanovichTitle: Twisted Twenty-Six (Stephanie Plum #26) by Janet Evanovich
Publishing Info: November 12, 2019 by Penguin
Source: Received from the publisher for review purposes
Genres: Adult, Mystery/Thriller, Cozy Mystery
Date Completed: November 18, 2019
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Related Posts: Lean Mean Thirteen (Stephanie Plum #13), Plum Lucky (Stephanie Plum #13.5), Fearless Fourteen (Stephanie Plum #14), , Finger Lickin' Fifteen (Stephanie Plum #15), Mini-Reviews: The Audition, Plum Spooky | DNF Report: Tether, Plum Spooky (Stephanie Plum #14.5), Mini-Reviews: Sizzling Sixteen (Stephanie Plum #16) & Smokin' Seventeen (Stephanie Plum #17), Sizzling Sixteen (Stephanie Plum #16), Smokin' Seventeen (Stephanie Plum #17), Explosive Eighteen (Stephanie Plum #18), Sizzling Sixteen (Stephanie Plum #16), Mini-Reviews: Notorious Nineteen (Stephanie Plum #19), Takedown Twenty (Stephanie Plum #20), Top Secret Twenty-One (Stephanie Plum #21), Notorious Nineteen (Stephanie Plum #19), Takedown Twenty (Stephanie Plum #20), Top-Secret Twenty-One (Stephanie Plum #21), , Tricky Twenty-Two (Stephanie Plum #22), Curious Minds (Knight & Moon #1), Turbo Twenty-Three (Stephanie Plum #23), Sizzling Sixteen (Stephanie Plum #16), Dangerous Minds (Knight & Moon #2), Wicked Appetite (Lizzy & Diesel #1), Hardcore Twenty-Four (Stephanie Plum #24), The Heist (Fox & O'Hare #1), Look Alive Twenty-Five (Stephanie Plum #25)

Stephanie Plum's career has taken more wrong turns than a student driver on the Jersey Turnpike, and her love life is a hopeless tangle. In order to save someone dear to her, she'll have to straighten things out in Twisted Twenty-Six the latest, novel from #1 New York Times bestselling author Janet Evanovich.

Grandma Mazur is a widow...again. This time her marriage lasted a whole 45 minutes. The unlucky groom was one Jimmy Rosolli, local gangster, lothario (senior division) and heart attack waiting to happen...well, the waiting's over.

It's a sad day, but if she can't have Jimmy at least Grandma can have all the attention she wants as the dutiful widow. But some kinds of attention are not welcomed, particularly when Jimmy's former "business partners" are convinced that his widow is keeping the keys to their financial success for herself.

As someone who has spent an entire career finding bad guys, a set of missing keys should be no challenge for Stephanie Plum. Problem is, the facts are as twisted as a boardwalk pretzel with mustard.

bookreview1

Wow, it’s kind of crazy that I’ve read twenty-six Stephanie Plum books! There have been the good, the bad, and the ugly, but I’m really happy that we’re finally circling back around to “the good” again. For a long while there, the books were just getting too silly and over-the-top and they became really not enjoyable. TWISTED TWENTY-SIX went back to some Stephanie Plum roots, focusing more on the family with grandma hijinks and good old-fashioned Jersey mobster threats. (What weird thing to say but if you know the series, it all makes sense.)

One thing I really enjoyed about TWISTED TWENTY-SIX is that we got back to a little character development, which was great! For comedic/cozy mysteries, that’s not always a focus, especially is comedy is more of the goal, but after spending 26 books with Stephanie, it was really nice to see her trying to decide what she wants to do with her life. We’ve watched as she met Ranger, starting seeing Joe, and started working for Vinnie with the bail bonds office, all of which were pretty much supposed to be temporary. I liked that Stephanie questioned what she really wanted to do as a career because it’s been mentioned throughout the series that she doesn’t want to do bail bonds enforcement forever but she never really seriously put that question out there.

I also liked the question of what she wanted out of a romantic aspect in her life as well. We finally address the Morelli/Ranger situation a little bit more, acknowledging that Stephanie doesn’t want to get married (which is cool) but that she does kind of want to settle down and be monogamous and have a nice, happy life. I thought it was great to see a little bit more of Stephanie’s inner monologue when it comes to being an adult and making the big decisions because that really helps push the character side of the books forward, which was been stagnant and kind of boring for so long.

Plot-wise, I think I could have used a little bit more suspense or mystery. These audiobooks go quickly so the story kind of sweeps by but I wanted to be just a bit more engaged and maybe have had the mystery go a little deeper. There were a couple nice reveals at the end which I enjoyed.

These books are easy and fun and I’m so happy they’re starting to get back to their roots. I know I’d keep reading them but this one made me more excited to keep on trucking with the series as it continues!

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Kept Me Hooked On: Character development. This book really got me back into the characters! I’m so glad that we got to see a bit more personality from Stephanie again in this book and it makes me want to keep up my interest in these characters’ journeys.
Left Me Wanting More: Mystery. I could have done with just a tad more mystery to really keep me interested and engaged in this one.

Addiction Rating
Try it

If you haven’t read the series and are looking for something fun and easy, they’re really light and fun! The middle of the series gets kind of wacky so bonus if you enjoy that kind of stuff and if you’re not into silly, then avoid it all together.

book_recommendations1

BOOKS LIKE TWISTED TWENTY-SIX

             

The Bromance Book Club (Bromance Book Club #1) – Lyssa Kay Adams

The Bromance Book Club (Bromance Book Club #1) – Lyssa Kay AdamsTitle: The Bromance Book Club (Bromance Book Club #1) by Lyssa Kay Adams
Publishing Info: November 5, 2019 by Penguin, Berkley
Source: Received from the publisher for review purposes
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Date Completed: November 22, 2019
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads

The first rule of book club:
You don't talk about book club.

Nashville Legends second baseman Gavin Scott's marriage is in major league trouble. He’s recently discovered a humiliating secret: his wife Thea has always faked the Big O. When he loses his cool at the revelation, it’s the final straw on their already strained relationship. Thea asks for a divorce, and Gavin realizes he’s let his pride and fear get the better of him.

Welcome to the Bromance Book Club.

Distraught and desperate, Gavin finds help from an unlikely source: a secret romance book club made up of Nashville's top alpha men. With the help of their current read, a steamy Regency titled Courting the Countess, the guys coach Gavin on saving his marriage. But it'll take a lot more than flowery words and grand gestures for this hapless Romeo to find his inner hero and win back the trust of his wife.

bookreview1

I thought this was going to be a super cute and funny read and heard so many people raving about it but I had some significant problems with this book.

I had a little trouble with the overall tone of the book, going from rom-com to a more serious feel. I get that rom-coms can’t be all funny, all the time, but there were points of hilarity with the men reading and getting council from romance novels, including their banter about all of that stuff, to super serious things like divorce. Just the tone of the conversations and relationships seemed to ebb a little too far one way and then the other for me, mostly because I was hoping for more rom-com since that’s what I tend to gravitate to when I’m reading adult contemporary. That’s a total personal opinion and not really where my issues lie.

I had a huuuuge problem with Gavin and Thea’s relationship and to be honest, I really didn’t like Thea. Their marriage begins to visibly fall apart when Gavin finds out that he hasn’t been satisfying Thea in bed, basically since the start of their marriage, and I’m sorry, they’ve been married for three years and she’s been FAKING IT for THREE YEARS? Oh hell no. Sorry, girl. That’s totally your problem and your fault. Speak up! That’s what a relationship is. You tell your partner what you want or what to do and then surprise surprise, things can actually get fixed. That problem was as simple as communicating with Gavin and she didn’t do that for three years. The book kind of made it seem like a lot of these issues were Gavin’s fault and I totally agree, he had work to do to open up lines of communication too, but for that to be the straw that broke the camel’s back and the main point of the book, I just hated it. Does this happen in real life? I’m sure it does. But it reeeeally bothered me that this was something that she could have spoken up about years ago and it wouldn’t have been an issue, so I don’t know how that fact is put on Gavin.

I also really didn’t like Liv and how protective she was of Thea. I can’t remember if she knew the whole story (I don’t think she did) but Thea is an adult and Liv should be there to support her, not to constantly throw insults and jabs at Gavin, whether he deserved them or not. It’s hard enough to go through relationship problems or a divorce, but Thea needs to figure things out on her own. Sisters should be able to talk it out and Liv can offer advice or her opinions but she was just so mean. It was super immature and I think she needed more insight or perspective on the situation. I really would have liked to see Thea tell her to cool it on the bashing but she only cared about it when it was in front of the kids.

I also really hated how much Thea changed to become a baseball wife. There was a mention of her wearing old band t-shirts and Chucks and then she changed to become all pastel and soft for the baseball wife image. Ummm dude, isn’t this 2019? I don’t think you have to conform to a stereotype to be a baseball wife. I think people prefer to see people being themselves versus a stereotype nowadays and *gasp* band t-shirts and shoes that are so common that many 30-year-olds still wear!?! How WILD. I’m sure tooooons of sig others of athletes rock the alt-life or just dress however they feel. Just because you’re not pink and pastel doesn’t mean you can’t be put-together for public appearances, and that’s what drove me nuts.

Okay, now the nice stuff. I thought the concept of the Bromance Book Club was super cute and funny. They made some nice jokes about guys reading romance and I loved how some of the guys actually ended up liking the books and appreciating the stories. I also really liked how Gavin’s stutter was brought into the story. It showed a lot of different aspects of what he deals with, from bullying when he was younger to bullying still when he’s an adult, how people treat him or think he was thinking slowly just because he couldn’t get the words out, how much people understood it and appreciated him for who he was. It was just really great to see that incorporated into the story and how much it shaped Gavin’s character and even his relationship with Thea.

Despite all of my gripes about why they were separating, I also liked the “getting back together” story. Sometimes relationships aren’t meant to be and divorce may be the best thing. I liked that this showed that there are also times when you can communicate and work on a relationship to see if you do love each other and want to save it. I liked seeing the reality of going to the uncomfortable places to see if a relationship is something worth repairing and a couple who really does love each other but didn’t know how to grow together as the relationship grew.

I didn’t realize this was a series, so finding out now, will I continue? Probably. I’m interested to see what the author does with the next book (I’m assuming maybe Mack? Another character’s relationship?) and I’d like to see if I get along with a different relationship a little better.

addiction_factor1

Kept Me Hooked On: Romances with established couples. Usually I go for the falling-in-love books. Give me a good rom-com, meet cute, all that good stuff! I don’t love reading about relationships falling apart but it was a nice structure for this second-chance romance!
Left Me Wanting More: Communication. The lack of communication drove me nuts. This couple would have been a lot better off if either of them shared even a little bit.

Addiction Rating
Try it

Lots of my friends straight-up five-star loved this book. It didn’t quite work for me in some aspects but I also did enjoy it and I look forward to reading the next one!

book_recommendations1

BOOKS LIKE THE BROMANCE BOOK CLUB

             

The Babysitters Coven (The Babysitters Coven #1) – Kate Williams

The Babysitters Coven (The Babysitters Coven #1) – Kate WilliamsTitle: The Babysitters Coven (The Babysitters Coven #1) by Kate Williams
Publishing Info: September 17, 2019 by Random House Publishing Group
Source: Received from the publisher for review purposes
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Paranormal
Date Completed: Septemner 9, 2019
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads

Seventeen-year-old Esme Pearl has a babysitters club. She knows it's kinda lame, but what else is she supposed to do? Get a job? Gross. Besides, Esme likes babysitting, and she's good at it.

And lately Esme needs all the cash she can get, because it seems like destruction follows her wherever she goes. Let's just say she owes some people a new tree.

Enter Cassandra Heaven. She's Instagram-model hot, dresses like she found her clothes in a dumpster, and has a rebellious streak as gnarly as the cafeteria food. So why is Cassandra willing to do anything, even take on a potty-training two-year-old, to join Esme's babysitters club?

The answer lies in a mysterious note Cassandra's mother left her: "Find the babysitters. Love, Mom."

Turns out, Esme and Cassandra have more in common than they think, and they're about to discover what being a babysitter really means: a heroic lineage of superpowers, magic rituals, and saving the innocent from seriously terrifying evil. And all before the parents get home.

bookreview1

When I first saw the title of THE BABYSITTERS COVEN, I knew I had to read it. It sounded quirky, witchy, and like it would be so full of that dark comedy that I love. It ended up being significantly different than what I expected, which isn’t always a bad thing but this one really didn’t work too well for me.

THE BABYSITTERS COVEN mostly just wasn’t what I was expecting in a few ways. The first was that it was less witchy and more generally paranormal/urban fantasy, reaching into the depths of demons and monsters. That’s not necessarily a bad thing but it’s not something I really enjoy as much as I do general witchy themes and exploring more magic and magic systems instead of getting into supernatural creatures. The spells that we do get to see the girls cast were a little silly. The spells are “adapted” for modern purposes so there are some silly items that can be incorporated in place of some more arcane ones. Again, not a bad thing but I like the humor in these types of books to be more snarky or focused on the “oh this insane thing that’s happening is totally normal” feeling.

The other issue I had with the book is that it just read really young. Yes, it is a young adult book and yes, it is written so that it’s enjoyable for teens… But I’ve also read hundreds of YA books in my lifetime that I’ve been able to enjoy without feeling like it’s young or immature. I just didn’t enjoy the tone and the immaturity of some of the themes like the friendships, the romance, and just some of the ways the book was written in general. The overall voice and tone was just not for me.

I didn’t know that this was the first in a series when I started it but I was able to notice that it was on Goodreads. I think it would have been much better as a stand alone and I can’t imagine I’ll pick up the next book in the series, unfortunately.

addiction_factor1

Kept Me Hooked On: Dark comedies. This book definitely had its funny moments! There was some nice comedy amongst some of the other darker moments.
Left Me Wanting More: Maturity. I just felt like this was a little too young for me. Maybe I’m not the age group its meant for but I’ve also ready plenty of YA that was quite enjoyable. It just didn’t click with me.

Addiction Rating
Try it

Some people loved it while others really didn’t click with it. It was cute in some ways and not so pleasing in others.

book_recommendations1

BOOKS LIKE THE BABYSITTERS COVEN

             

No Judgments (Little Bridge Island #1) – Meg Cabot

No Judgments (Little Bridge Island #1) – Meg CabotTitle: No Judgments (Little Bridge Island #1) by Meg Cabot
Publishing Info: September 24, 2019 by HarperCollins
Source: Received from the publisher for review purposes
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Date Completed: September 17, 2019
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Related Posts: Size 12 and Ready to Rock (Heather Wells #4), The Bride Wore Size 12 (Heather Wells #5), The Princess Diaries (The Princess Diaries #1)

The storm of the century is about to hit Little Bridge Island, Florida—and it’s sending waves crashing through Sabrina “Bree” Beckham’s love life…

When a massive hurricane severs all power and cell service to Little Bridge Island—as well as its connection to the mainland—twenty-five-year-old Bree Beckham isn’t worried . . . at first. She’s already escaped one storm—her emotionally abusive ex—so a hurricane seems like it will be a piece of cake.

But animal-loving Bree does become alarmed when she realizes how many islanders have been cut off from their beloved pets. Now it’s up to her to save as many of Little Bridge’s cats and dogs as she can . . . but to do so, she’s going to need help—help she has no choice but to accept from her boss’s sexy nephew, Drew Hartwell, the Mermaid Café’s most notorious heartbreaker.

But when Bree starts falling for Drew, just as Little Bridge’s power is restored and her penitent ex shows up, she has to ask herself if her island fling was only a result of the stormy weather, or if it could last during clear skies too.

bookreview1

Meg Cabot was one of the authors that got me back into reading all those years ago and so her books always hold a special place in my heart! It’s been a long time since I’ve read a new one and I was so excited to read NO JUDGMENTS!

It was so much fun to be back in the world of Meg Cabot’s writing again! She always has such a fun feel with the perfect mix of sass and goofy and NO JUDGMENTS was no exception! It was such an easy read with some great things to ground it as well and I especially enjoyed the setting of the little island in the Florida Keys too. I haven’t been to the Keys but I could just so clearly picture it and I loved the little island feel, including all of its residents!

I did enjoy the romance aspect of it and I thought Sabrina and Drew had some great chemistry! I think there could have been a little bit more somewhere because while I fully enjoyed it, I didn’t quite love it. I think Bree was just a little too stubborn at times, which can bother me, and there were moments where I felt the hate-to-love was a little too drawn out and I was ready to get to the romance part.

I have to admit, I was expecting just a bit more from this book. Maybe I built it up too much in my head because I love Meg Cabot so much and her contemporary novels always sit well with me but I felt like it took a long time to get to a few different plot points. I think it was about halfway through when we finally go to why it’s called “NO JUDGMENTS” and I wished it had been introduced sooner. Ultimately what didn’t do it for me were the characters. I kind of felt like the island had more personality than the characters did and I wanted so much more backstory from them. They had good histories and I would have loved to see more of that in their every day encounters. Drew did have some good family moments but those were kind of more about than family than they were about him and I found some of the island residents more interesting than our main characters at times.

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Kept Me Hooked On: A nostalgic author for me. I love being able to keep reading an author who got me back into reading, and that will always be special for me!
Left Me Wanting More: Character development. I just needed more from the main characters. They were just a little flat and having some more well-rounded characters could have made the book that much better for me

Addiction Rating
Try it

Even though it wasn’t my favorite book of Meg Cabot’s, I still found to it to be a fun, easy romantic read. If you like her adult contemporary books, I’d still recommend it and say it’s worth the read!

book_recommendations1

BOOKS LIKE THE TENTH GIRL