Thursday, January 21, 2021

From Blood and Ash Review

Hello, all!

So, you may have heard a lot of hype surrounding the From Blood and Ash series by Jennifer L. Armentrout lately. I had never read anything by her before, but decided to pick it up since it's been all over BookTube/Bookstagram, and I devoured both books in about 4 days last year and am now impatiently waiting for the third book to come out in a few months.

Pub Date: 3-30-20
New Adult - Fantasy/Romance

Ever since she was born, Poppy's life has never been her own. Chosen to become the "Maiden" for her people, Poppy has spent every moment confined, waiting for the day of her Ascension when she'll be given over to the gods. No one but a select few is allowed to speak to her or even see her unveiled. Little things that people take for granted like walking outside or being touched are forbidden to Poppy for fear of being deemed unworthy by the gods. The entire kingdom rides upon Poppy's shoulders, and she has never wanted anything less.

With the Ascension looming closer, Poppy is assigned a new guard, Hawke, to ensure her safety. No one knows much about the handsome guard, but Poppy is instantly drawn to him. Hawke isn't afraid to push Poppy's buttons, and the more time the pair spends bickering, the more Poppy questions everything she was raised to believe. When word of an uprising from a long-forgotten kingdom stirs, Poppy is thrown into a race not only for her life, but for the fate of the entire world as well. She'll also discover the dangerous threat they call the Dark One, maybe closer to her than she thinks.

This may have had its cringey bits, but honestly, I was into this from the very first page. Poppy is such a strong-willed character. I loved how despite being caged in her entire life, she never let it break her spirit, but instead used it to feed her determination into taking her life into her own hands. And Hawke! I mean, come on. He's everything I look for in a love interest. He's handsome, cocky, and completely devoted to Poppy from the get-go. Their banter was hands down my favorite part of this whole story. It was so snarky and fun. The only issue I had was that I felt the writing was a little repetitive at times, and that it was very easy to figure out who the Dark One was. Other than that, I couldn't get enough of this and immediately picked up the second after I finished. If you're looking for a new action-packed fantasy, this is it.

Rating: 4/5

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Shipped Review

Hello, all!

Are you missing the days when travel was easy and you didn't have to worry about a pandemic? If so, then Shipped by Angie Hockman is the perfect escape for you. Big thanks to Netgalley for the copy!

Pub Date: 1-19-21
Adult - Contemporary

Henley Evans works as a marketing manager for a cruise line and is shortlisted for a promotion of a lifetime. Henley would be a shoo-in if it wasn't for Graeme Crawford-Collins, the remote social media manager, and her arch-nemesis. The pair have never met in real life, and Henley would love to keep it that way, but nothing ever seems to go Henley's way. To decide who gets the promotion, their boss wants them to draft a proposal on how to boost bookings, and what better way than to send them both on a cruise to the Galapagos?

When the pair finally meet on the cruise ship, Henley is shocked to find that Graeme isn't like the one-word email reply frustrating guy she thought he was. She also learns that all their friction may have stemmed from a big misunderstanding. The more time they spend exploring the islands together, the more feelings start to stir, and Henley finds that the balance between liking and loathing is very slim. But is a fling with a co-worker worth all the hard work she's put into her career or should she finally follow her heart?

This was said to be a mix between The Unhoneymooners and The Hating Game, so I was instantly intrigued. I don't think this was as good as those two, but I did still enjoy this. Henley and Graeme are very determined characters and both want this promotion so badly, which leads to some fun bickering back and forth. That banter was the best part of this. Some moments had me smiling and chuckling to myself. Another thing this had going for it was the setting. This is a great alternative during a time where you can't really go on vacation. I do wish there was a little bit more of the actual romance because, at times, it felt more of just an office drama, and it's way more sweet than steamy. I'm not sure how memorable this will be for me, but it was cute for what it was.

Rating: 3/5

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Lore Review

Hello, all!

I grew up obsessed with Greek mythology. Like, obsessed. I would check out D'Aulaires Book of Greek Mythology at least once a week from my library until my Mom finally just bought me my own copy (which I still own and love.) Needless to say, Lore by Alexandra Bracken was a no brainer pick up for me. Big thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the copy!

Pub Date: 1-5-21
YA - Fantasy

Every seven years, the hunt begins. As punishment for a past rebellion, nine Greek gods are forced to participate in the Agon, where they must walk the earth as mortals for a week. If losing their powers wasn't enough, all the while, the gods are being hunted by the descendants of ancient bloodlines, who are eager to kill the gods to take over their powers. Lore Perseous used to have high hopes of becoming a hunter, but those dreams were dashed when her family was brutally murdered. Afterward, she turned her back on everything she knew, and for years has tried to silence the part of herself which longs to take revenge on the one she believes to be responsible.

As the next hunt gets ready to wreak havoc through New York City, Lore is approached by two unlikely participants: her childhood friend, Castor, who Lore believed was dead, and the goddess Athena, who shows up on her doorstep gravely injured. The goddess offers Lore a bargain she can't refuse: if Lore will bind her fate to Athena, then she will get the revenge she desires and a way to end the Agon forever. But Lore quickly discovers her choice to return to the hunt isn't that simple, and there are even bigger forces at play with deadly consequences that could bring all of humanity to its knees.

I was sold on this book right from the get-go, and boy did it deliver! It was non-stop action from the very first page and didn't let up one bit. It was relentless in the best possible way. I loved how the characters and gods were depicted, especially Lore. She was so headstrong and defiant and had such a chip on her shoulder, but was willing to sacrifice all she had to protect the ones she loves. She really felt like one of those heroes from the stories. My only slight issue with this was I did get confused at times because some characters go by a few different names, so it made it a bit hard to keep track of. Also, I sort of wish this wasn't a standalone just so I could get more from this world! Other than that, I thought this was stellar.

Rating: 4/5

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Blog Tour: Find Me in Havana Review

Hello, all!

If you've been following this blog for a while, you'll know that I have a deep connection with Cuba. I'm part Cuban on my Mom's side, and two years ago, my second cousin and I went to Cuba and actually found family that we didn't even know existed (you can read about it here). Our grandma's hadn't been to Cuba in over seventy years, and lost touch with all their family there after the Revolution, so discovering aunts and cousins was unexpected and brought so much joy to our families. Unfortunately, we haven't been able to go back and visit, but we do all stay in touch through WhatsApp which is great.

With that in mind, I was thrilled to be a part of the blog tour for Find Me in Havana by Serena Burdick. I had read another historical fiction by this author, The Girls with No Names (review here), and I really enjoy her style and how she makes whatever time period she's writing about come alive. My interest was piqued even further when I found out it was about a real person. So, big thanks to Park Row for having me!

Pub Date: 1-12-21
Adult - Historical Fiction

In Cuba, 1936, many families are struggling with the fallout of the Cuban Revolution. Estelita Rodriguez and her family are no exception. When Estelita is discovered while singing in a Havana nightclub, she believes all her luck is about to change. Suddenly, at fifteen Estelita is singing on stages such as the Copacabana, and rubbing elbows with the handsomely famous Mexican singer, Chu Chu Martinez. The pair enter into a whirlwind romance, and soon Estelita finds herself pregnant. When Chu Chu forbids her from ever singing again, Estelita flees with their daughter, Nina, to live out her dreams in Hollywood.

In Big Sur, 1966, Nina Rodriguez is reeling from the sudden and mysterious death of her mother, Estelita. She grew up in awe of her mother's talents and charisma, even if her attentions were usually focused on anything but Nina. Even as a child, Nina knew that she was never the number one priority in her mother's life, and she knew her mother experienced hardships that she could never fully understand. As Nina finds herself slipping into the same destructive patterns that plagued her mother, she looks to her mother's past to learn and make a better future for herself.

I knew nothing of Estelita Rodriguez or her life before going into this book, but I still enjoyed it all the same. Both Estelita and Nina lead such hard lives and it was heartbreaking to see everything they had to endure. There were some aspects of their lives that seemed so glamorous, but it was as if the more fame Estelita achieved, the more she and her family suffered. This is told in a series of letters both by Nina and Estelita and while I did find it slightly hard to fully connect to, it did make the story feel more personal. However, the family dynamics are what shines in this. For much of the story, mother and daughter felt very at odds with one another, and you learn through the letters that that wasn't necessarily the case. This is an engaging historical fiction about real characters, their hardships, and the kind of understanding and connection that can only come from a relationship between a mother and a daughter.

Rating: 3.5/5

More info about the book can be found below!

Thursday, January 7, 2021

(A Late) End of the Year Book Haul

Hello, all!

I meant to get this out before the end of 2020, but it slipped through the cracks. That's okay though, cause who doesn't love a book haul! These were all gifts from my lovely family for Christmas, and most of them were ones I had read throughout the year and loved but just didn't own a physical copy of. I also have been trying to recollect all the Goosebumps books again because I had pretty much the entire collection growing up, but like a fool donated them years ago, so I got two bundles which I was so excited for.

Like last year, I am going to try and limit my book buying and utilize my library as much as possible, so we'll see how long that lasts before there's yet another book haul. Wish me luck!

1. 2- bundle packs of Goosebumps which each included 10 books
2. The Astonishing Life of August March- Aaron Jackson 
3. The Midnight Library- Matt Haig
4. A Star is Bored- Byron Lane
5. How the King of Elfhame Learned to Hate Stories- Holly Black
6. I Would Leave Me If I Could- Halsey
7. Batman: Three Jokers
8. A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire- Jennifer L. Armentrout
9. ACOTAR- Sarah J. Maas (I finally caved on these new additions just so they would match A Court of Silver Flames when it comes out even though I still don't love them. đŸ€·)
10. ACOMAF- Sarah J. Maas
11. ACOWAR- Sarah J. Maas

Let me know what the last book you bought/received was!

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Blog Tour: Marion Lane and the Midnight Murder Review

Hello, all!

You all know I love a murder mystery, so I'm excited to be a part of the blog tour for Marion Lane and the Midnight Murder by T.A. Willberg. Big thanks to Park Row for having me!

Pub Date: 12-29-20
Adult - Mystery

Deep below the streets of London lies a secret detective agency called Miss Brickett's Investigations & Inquiries. The mysterious detectives of Miss Brickett's use their cunning, wiles, and secret gadgets to solve crimes that have stumped the likes of Scotland Yard. One night, a filing assistant receives a letter of warning and goes to investigate but finds only an empty room...or so she thought. When her body is found, it becomes clear that the culprit had to be someone else who works at Miss Brickett's, meaning everyone within its walls is a suspect.

Against her better wishes, first-year Inquirer-in-training, Marion Lane, finds herself being dragged into the murder investigation. When her friend and mentor is framed for the assistant's murder, Marion vows to clear his name. Her investigation takes her all over the winding tunnels of Miss Brickett's, into hidden rooms harboring secrets that have been buried since WWII. Without knowing who can be trusted, will Marion be able to ferret out the true murderer before it's too late?

The premise of this sounded very twisty and suspenseful, but it sadly fell flat for me. I like my mysteries to be quite fast-paced, and this was just too slow for my tastes. There was a ton of exposition which made it feel too long-winded, and I found myself skim reading for most just trying to get to some action. The actual mystery was fine, it wasn't the best I've ever read and it does get a little confusing at times due to so many moving parts. The characters were also just fine, but a bit underdeveloped and one-note. That was my biggest issue with this: it was just meh. It had such potential to be a cool atmospheric murder mystery, but it just stayed at one level and never peaked. All in all, this was just a bummer.

Rating: 2/5

More info about the book can be found below!

Thursday, December 31, 2020

2020 Reading Wrap-Up

Hello, all!

We did it, friends. 2020 is finally coming to an end after lasting two million years. This was definitely a trying year for everyone, but the one bright spot was that it was my most productive reading year ever. I managed to read 280 books this year, which is just crazy to me and a number I don’t know if I’ll ever hit again. (Well, who knows, if this quarantine stays in place, maybe!)

As always, I used GoodReads to track my reading (feel free to add me on there!), so here’s a little look back at my stats. I always find it interesting to see what my average rating for the year is. I felt I read a lot of 4/5 star books this year, so I thought it would be slightly higher, but it ended up being about the same as it was last year.

Speaking of high ratings, let’s get into some of my favorites from this year.  Let me know if you’ve read any of these, or if any are on your list to read:

-Kings of the Wyld- Nicholas Eames: This was a hilarious fantasy romp following a group of mercenaries who used to be the most fearsome band but who are now way past their prime, but something happens forcing them to dust off their weapons and head out for one more quest.
-My Favorite Half-Night Stand- Christina Lauren: You all know my love of Christina Lauren books. They’re always just so fun and this one about a woman falling for one of her best guy friends through a dating app was no exception.
-The Happy Ever After Playlist- Abby Jimenez: After the death of her fiancĂ©, Sloane can’t get her life back on track, but then a dog literally falls into her lap and his handsome owner might be just the thing she needs to feel alive again. This is a companion novel to The Friend Zone, but I actually read this before that one and it was still easy enough to follow.
-Beach Read- Emily Henry: Neighbors January and Gus are both writers but couldn’t be more opposite. She writes romance, and he’s more hard-hitting fiction. They decide to try out each other’s genres to cure their respective writers’ block, and adorableness ensues.
-The Song of Achilles- Madeline Miller: This is a breathtaking telling of Achilles and the Trojan War and it completely broke me.
-The Tourist Attraction- Sarah Morgenthaler: A cute quirky girl falling for a grumpy diner owner in a small Alaskan town? Sign me up.
-The Diviners- Libba Bray: This is the first book in a historical fiction/mystery/supernatural series that I put off for way too long and am now kicking myself for. The 1920s New York setting really adds to the grimy feel of the story and the writing is top-notch.
-The House in the Cerulean Sea- TJ Klune: I don’t think I’ve ever read such a heartwarming or charming book. Everything about this was magical and I loved every second of it.
-Thunderhead- Neal Shusterman: This is the second book in the Arc of a Scythe series which I binged this year and it blew my mind.
-A Song of Wraiths and Ruin- Roseanne A. Brown: Two characters who are unknowingly trying to kill one another? A competition element? And ancient magic? Yes, please.
-The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue- V.E. Schwab: I will probably never stop gushing over this gorgeous book.
-Crescent City: House of Earth and Blood- Sarah J. Maas: Obviously, this one was going to be on here. I’m forever trash for whatever SJM brings out.

I also thought it might be fun to include some reading goals for 2021:

-Read 150 books: I always tend to set my reading goal very low and then surpass it in a few months, so I figured I’d be a bit more realistic this time.
-Read more Non-Fiction: I don’t usually gravitate towards non-fiction, but I read a few memoirs this year which I enjoyed, so I want to continue that in the coming year.
-Read more books on my shelves: I want to cut down on the unread books I have on my shelves, so I want to read at least one a month.
-Cut down on my Netgalley requests: It’s so easy to request every e-ARC that slightly interests me, but then all of a sudden I have 20 books to review and then I get stressed, so I only want to request books I really want to read.

I also want to shake up my reading tracking for 2021. Aside from GoodReads, I also use a bullet journal where I break down by month what audio books, e-books, and physical books I read. I want to be able to take that info and include it into my yearly wrap-ups as well, but unfortunately, my brain is hardwired to turn to mush when it comes to numbers, so I went on the hunt for something else to use that would track that for me and I found it! I stumbled across this reading log by Book Riot which is essentially a Google sheets doc where you input all the information for whatever you’re reading (title, format, length, author info, etc), and then it will convert all that into percentages and pie charts. I’m really excited to try this out and get an even better breakdown of my reading habits.

Let me know how your reading year went, what some of your favorites were, and if you use anything to track your reading as well! Have a Happy New Year!