Thursday, June 30, 2022

June Wrap-Up

Hello, all!

I didn't realize how much I actually read this month until I was putting this all together. It was also not my finest audiobook month as most of what I listened to I didn't like 😅




Audio:

Bombshell- Sarah MacLean; 2/5
Kaikeyi- Vaishnavi Patel; 2/5
Skin of the Sea- Natasha Bowen; 2/5
Dating Dr. Dil- Nisha Sharma; 2/5
Kenobi- John Jackson Miller; 3/5
Her Majesty's Royal Coven- Juno Dawson; 3/5
While the Duke Was Sleeping- Sophie Jordan; 3/5
My Lovely Wife- Samantha Downing; 4/5
A Psalm for the Wild-Built- Becky Chambers; 3/5
The House Across the Lake- Riley Sager; 2/5

Digital:

Always Be My Duchess- Amalie Howard; 3/5
Gild- Raven Kennedy; 3/5
A Lady for a Duke- Alexis Hall; 3/5
Miss Aldridge Regrets- Louise Hare; 3/5
Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow- Gabrielle Zevin; 3/5
Love On the Brain- Ali Hazelwood; 4/5
Belladonna- Adalyn Grace; 3.5/5

Physical:

A Daring Pursuit- Kate Bateman; 4/5
Hotel Magnifique- Emily J. Taylor; 3/5
Nettle & Bone- T. Kingfisher; 4.5/5
The Lighthouse Witches- C.J. Cooke; 3/5
Spy Family, Vol. 3; 3/5
My Killer Vacation- Tessa Bailey; 3.5/5
A Reckless Match- Kate Bateman; 4/5
We Made It All Up- Margot Harrison; 3/5
A Spindle Splintered- Alix E. Harrow; 3/5
Hide- Kiersten White; 2/5
The Book of Cold Cases- Simone St. James; 4/5
The Perks of Loving a Wallflower- Erica Ridley; 3/5

Some favorites of the month were: Nettle & Bone, My Lovely Wife, and A Daring Pursuit. Least favorites were: The House Across the Lake, Dating Dr. Dil, and Hide

How was your reading month? What was your favorite/least favorite?

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Mini Thoughts

Hello, all!

Pub Date: 6-28-22
Adult - Contemporary

For the Love of the Bard- Jessica Martin: Miranda Barnes is a literary agent by day and a bestselling YA author by night. When she hits a roadblock in her latest book, she heads home to Bard's Rest hoping the change of scenery will help the words flow. But Miranda's mother, the head of the committee for the town's upcoming centennial Shakespearean festival, has other plans. All Miranda wanted was a peaceful summer holed up in her parent's attic with her dog writing into the wee hours. Instead, she finds herself directing a play for the festival, trying to keep her family together after a health scare, and doing her best to stay away from the man who broke her heart when she was a teen. Miranda has never forgiven Adam for ruining her prom night, but she can't deny that the years have been very kind to him. When Adam gets assigned to help out with the sets for Miranda's play, it's clear the feelings they shared so long ago are still present. Miranda gave her heart to Adam once and was burned; can she trust him to keep it safe this time around?

For starters, I want to call out that this book does deal with a sick parent, and there is a scene where they're hospitalized, so if that's something you're sensitive towards, keep that in mind before picking this up. I thought this was cute. I love a small-town setting, and Bard's Rest was so whimsical, and while all the Shakespearean nods were a little over the top, it was still charming. It reminded me of Stars Hollow with its quirky residents coming together for a big town event. The sense of community was just so pure. I loved the family dynamic, and the relationship Miranda had with her parents was so sweet. I thought the relationship between Miranda and Adam was fine, but it didn't wow me. There were times I was more interested in the relationship between Miranda's dog and Adam's pig (I'm a sucker for an interspecies friendship.) The third act conflict also seemed a little silly, but I did enjoy how it was resolved. If you're in the mood for a quick, second chance romance, this would be a good one to pick up.

Rating: 3/5

Pub Date: 1-11-22
Adult - Thriller

A Flicker in the Dark- Stacy Willingham: When Chloe Davis was young, six teenage girls went missing in her small hometown. By the end of the summer, her father was in jail for their murders. For the last twenty years, Chloe and her family have been dealing with that fallout while trying to move forward with their lives. Now, Chloe is a psychologist in a private practice in Baton Rouge and getting ready for her wedding. She spent a long time trying to be happy again, and she believes she's found it in her fiancĂ©, Daniel, though she does still occasionally feel as lost as the patients she counsels. When local girls start going missing, Chloe is instantly transported back to that horrible summer, especially when the patterns start becoming increasingly familiar. Could she be grasping at straws, or has Chloe, once again, been in the presence of a serial killer all along?

Wow, what a page-turner! The writing is a little slow, but I think it helped build tension and perfectly fit the vibe of the book. Willingham created such a vivid atmosphere that you felt as if you were in the muggy, Louisiana heat digging for clues along with Chloe. There were bits I was able to figure out regarding who the killer was, but I loved watching all the pieces come into play, and I do still think the plot twist was well executed. The plot and characters are perfect for a TV show, so I'm glad this is being adapted into one as I think it will translate well. If you like more character-focused thrillers, I recommend checking this one out.

Rating: 4/5

Pub Date: 2-1-22
Adult - Contemporary

Lease on Love- Falon Ballard: When passed over for a much-deserved promotion, Sadie Green finds herself in need of a new job, a few drinks, and a one-night stand. But in her drunken haze, Sadie accidentally swipes right on a roommate-finding app instead of one intended for hook-ups. Sadie doesn't realize her mistake until she's face-to-face with Jack Thomas, who offers her a room in his gorgeous Brooklyn townhouse for a fraction of the cost. Sadie jumps at the opportunity as it'll give her a perfect chance to pursue her hobby of floral arranging into a full-time job. The pair couldn't be more different: Sadie is bold and talkative, and Jack spends most of his days hiding in the basement playing video games, still grieving the death of his parents years prior. As the weeks pass, Jack begins to warm to Sadie's infectious personality, and the pair can't deny the growing attraction between them. But both Sadie and Jack must decide if they're willing to work through their respective issues to have the future they deserve.

When I saw this compared to Beach Read, I knew I had to pick it up since I loved that book so much. After reading this, I don't totally agree with the comparison, but I still enjoyed this one. I like the forced proximity trope, so I thought the premise was cute and fun. I had a few issues with Sadie as a character, so it took me a little bit to warm up to her. There were times I found her annoying, especially when she kept harping on how she was a terrible person despite every single one of her friends telling her differently. It got very repetitive and frustrating. Her relationship with Jack was the highlight of this. You know how they feel about each other from pretty early on, but it's so slow burn, and the tension it creates is *chefs kiss*. I wasn't a fan of the third-act conflict and felt the ending wrapped up a little too quickly, but overall, I liked this a lot.

Rating: 4/5

Thursday, June 23, 2022

June OwlCrate Review

Hello, all!

The theme for this month was "Of Romance and Rivalry." Let's get into it!


First up, we had this Dark Rise inspired magnet. I've never read that book, but I like the design of this.


Then we had this wooden comb inspired by These Violent Delights. I do like the look of this, but I think the comb is a little too big for the pouch because it's hard to get it in/out, so that's a tad annoying.


I know I've mentioned before how cute I find their Literary Luggage pins, but this one inspired by Serpent & Dove has tiny baked goods in the windows and it's adorable. I mean, tiny loaves of bread? Tiny pretzels? I love it.


My  favorite item in the box was this Crescent City inspired tote bag. I do find their tote bags to be too long (literally this one hangs around my mid-thigh), but I love the design and have actually already put this to use when I just went into NYC.


You all know how much I love the Kingdom of the Wicked series, so this wooden print is *chefs kiss*.



They included the next installment of their Classics Collection, and I'm in love with this Pride & Prejudice edition. This is one of my favorite classics, and I think this edition is so pretty. It's quite busy, but I like it. It also has one of my favorite quotes on the back. The best part? It's super floppy and I love a floppy paperback.




The main book for the month was Together We Burn by Isabel Ibañez. Eighteen-year-old Zarela Zalvidar is a talented flamenco dancer and daughter of the most famous Dragonador in Hispalia. People come from all over to watch her father fight in their famous arena. But disaster strikes during their five hundredth anniversary show, and Zarela’s father is horribly injured. To keep her family's arena safe from greedy hands, she must take her father’s place as the next Dragonador. When the infuriatingly handsome dragon hunter, Arturo DĂ­az de Montserrat, withholds his help, she refuses to take no for an answer. But with someone out there set on destroying the Zalvidar family, Zarela will have to do whatever it takes in order to prevent the Dragon Guild from taking away her birthright.

I haven't heard of this before, but I love stories with dragons, so I'm interested to see how it'll play out. Let me know what you thought of this months box!

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Blog Tour: A Thousand Miles Review

Hello, all!

Do you like a good friends-to-lovers trope? If so, then you need to check out A Thousand Miles by Bridget Morrissey. Big thanks to the publisher for the copy!

Pub Date: 6-21-22
Adult - Contemporary

Dee Matthews has made a career out of airing people's dirty laundry. She and her best friend co-host a popular podcast where they invite people they know to share their secrets. Dee is always willing to give as much as her guests, but the one thing she'll never talk about on the show is the one everyone wants to hear about: Name Redacted. Ben Porter and Dee had been best friends most of their lives. To most, they were complete opposites, but to each other they were everything. But during a trip to see Ben's grandma during their senior year spring break, everything changed.

Dee hasn't seen Ben since, until one night he shows up at her door. When they were young, they buried a time capsule in his grandma's backyard, and promised each other they would dig it up ten years later. Ben is reeling from the recent death of his grandma, who dropped a life-changing secret on him just before she passed, and he promised her that he would finally go after what he wanted in life. And what he wants is Dee. As the miles pass, Dee and Ben reconnect and discover the feelings they had for one another back in high school never left. But can they trust one another not to screw it up again?

I read Morrissey's other book and thought it was fine, so I didn't exactly go into this with high expectations, but I ended up loving it. The road trip aspect was so fun, and I don't think I've read anything that utilizes that trope, but it was so good. I enjoyed Dee and Ben, but Dee had to grow on me because there were times I found her annoying. It was almost as if she said or did things for shock value, or to get a rise out of Ben, and it was a bit juvenile at times. Despite that, I thought they had an amazing relationship. They felt like best friends with their own language who just fall back into their routines no matter how long they've been apart. The banter and chemistry between them were great. I also liked how this touched on grief and family conflicts, and thought that added a nice depth to the story. Morrissey's writing was fast-paced and so binge-able. If you're looking for an entertaining rom-com, this is the one to pick up.

Rating: 4/5

Thursday, June 16, 2022

Blog Tour: Thank You, Next Excerpt

Hello, all!

Calling all contemporary lovers: I'm here to give you another perfect beach read book for the summertime. If you love fun banter, diverse cast of characters, and a bit of hate-to-love, then you need to pick up Thank You, Next by Andie J. Christopher. 

Pub Date: 6-14-22
Adult - Contemporary

Alex Turner is never The One, but she is always the one guys date before they find the girl they'll marry. So, when she's watching reality TV and sees her ex's fiancé picking out their wedding dress, she's decides enough is enough. Alex wants to know what went wrong, so she sets out to interview all of her exes. When Will, an up-and-coming chef and Alex's childhood enemy, hears about Alex's plan, he decides to tag along. Because if Will can figure out what Alex's exes did wrong, then he'll know the right way to finally woo Alex.

You can check out an excerpt below!

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Mini Thoughts

Hello, all!

Pub Date: 6-14-22
Adult - Contemporary

How to Fake It in Hollywood- Ava Wilder: Grey Brooks is struggling to find work now that her hit teen drama show ended but has been unsuccessful. When the opportunity arises to audition for a life-changing role, Grey will do anything to help her chances of landing the gig-- even if that means agreeing to let her publicist set her up in a fake relationship. Ethan Atkins was once a Hollywood heartthrob. But after a nasty (and very public) divorce, substance abuse issues, and the tragic loss of his best friend and creative partner, Sam, Ethan has taken a step back from the limelight. Ethan has always wanted to make the last film he and Sam had been working on, but before he can, he needs to clean up his act and show the world he's stable. It doesn't take long for the gossip columns to latch on to Hollywood's newest It couple, but will Grey and Ethan be able to keep up the charade once real feelings start getting involved?

My biggest takeaway from this was that I kind of love the celebrity romance trope. I haven't read much of them, but what I have I've enjoyed. I liked the characters and thought they had great chemistry. I liked getting a little peek behind the scenes of Hollywood, and how the characters handled what was thrown at them. At times, this felt less about the romance and more about someone knowing they've reached rock bottom and deciding to get help. I liked watching Ethan realize it was finally time to face his grief and addictions, and Grey supporting him was sweet. That said, I think there was a smidge too much drama in here that led to way too many conflicts. One would happen, and you'd think that was it, but then you'd get hit with another, and then another. It made the story feel a lot longer than it is. Aside from that, I enjoyed it.

Rating: 3/5

Pub Date: 4-5-22
Adult - Fiction

Portrait of a Thief- Grace D. Li: Will Chen has spent his life curating a specific image for himself: the perfect student, the perfect son. But in the blink of an eye, all that changes. When the museum he works at gets robbed, Will is pulled into an impossible job. He's recruited by a mysterious Chinese benefactor to steal back five sculptures from various museums around the world that were stolen from Beijing centuries ago. Will knows this is an impossible--not to mention illegal--task, but with the promise of fifty million dollars, he can't say no. So Will assembles a crew consisting of four of his closest friends, who each bring a specific skill set to the table. They all have something to gain if they succeed but even more to lose if they fail. Each member has complicated feelings towards their heritage and identity, but the thing they have in common? None are willing to pass up the opportunity to steal back their history.

I always forget how much I love a heist trope until I'm reading one. I liked how we got perspectives from each character. They're each so different, yet tied together by their identities. They all had their reasons for joining the crew leading to conflict at times. I liked getting a glimpse at what made them tick, but I found it hard to connect to any of them. Plot-wise, I appreciated how it wasn't perfect. There were so many things that went wrong during their heists which made it feel more believable to me since they were college kids who had no idea what they were doing. I did wish that the heists were more prominent because, at times, they almost felt secondary to the character's development. While I did enjoy this, I was hoping for just a little bit more.

Rating: 3/5

Pub Date: 7-26-16
Adult - Sci-Fi

Dark Matter- Blake Crouch: The last thing Jason Dessen remembers was walking home from a night out, getting abducted by a man in a mask, and an abandoned building. When Jason wakes up, he finds himself strapped to a gurney, surrounded by strangers who seem to know him. Everyone is welcoming him back, but back where? This isn't the world Jason knows. His wife isn't his wife. His son doesn't exist. Instead of a teacher, he's a renowned scientist. Everything Jason knows has turned on its head, but Jason refuses to give in to despair. Jason doesn't know how he got here or how to get back, but he does know one thing: he will risk tearing the multiverse apart to find his way home.

So this is 340 pages long, and it's safe to say I had an anxiety attack for 330 of them. I don't usually read a lot of sci-fi because I'm always worried I won't be smart enough to understand what's going on, but Crouch did a great job making the science/mechanics of everything seem accessible. He crafted a story that was so suspenseful and engaging. I was hooked right from the start. I loved following Jason as he tried to figure out what was going on, and how to make it back to his world. I was on the edge of my seat with every open door seeing if it was the correct one. My heart was racing with every "ampoules remaining." What I loved most about this was that it was unexpected. I can always figure out some plot points, but here, I was in the dark. I had no idea where Crouch was going, and I was excited to watch it unfold. My only slight critique was that I found the amount of Jason's we meet a little overkill, but other than that, I thought this was fantastic.

Rating: 4/5

Thursday, June 9, 2022

Currently...

Hello, all!

Wow, this is so overdue! I haven't done one of these for so long that I'm sure there are so many things that I've forgotten. 

Listening to:

You Signed Up for This- Maisie Peters: I became obsessed with this album towards the end of last year/beginning of this year, and I haven't stopped playing it since. Some of my favorite tracks are: "John Hughes Movie," "Elvis Song," and "Love Him I Don't."

"Work Song"- Hozier: I had only ever heard "Take Me to Church," but then I heard this one and immediately listened to it about 5 times in a row. The vibes are so atmospheric and perfect, and now all I picture in my head is his songs playing when I read fantasy books.

"Numb Little Bug"- Em Beihold: Oof, I've never related to the lyrics of a song more. I love how catchy and bouncy it is, yet perfectly sums up the burnout so many people go through.

Watching:


Obi-Wan Kenobi:
I've been impatiently waiting the release of this for what feels like forever, and I can already tell it's going to be my favorite Star Wars live action show. I'm super invested already and it's only just started. I can't wait to see how the rest of the season it going to play out.

Heartstopper: I adore these graphic novels, and the show is just as heartwarming. It's so pure and wholesome, and I'm glad a show like these exists for young kids/teens.

Stranger Things: I can't believe this series is almost over! This final season was split into two parts, and I told myself that I would pace myself and not binge it all.... but that's exactly what I did. I'll admit, while I liked this first part, I did think they threw a lot of stuff at us but I guess that was to be expected. I'm so intrigued (and a little nervous) to see how the last two episodes are going to play out.

Misc.:


Dilly Bites:
Two things about me: 1. I'm a snacker (as you'll see by the rest of this list.) I would always rather eat little things throughout the day than eat a meal. 2. I'm the pickle friend. Whenever my friends and I go out to eat, they automatically give me their pickles, and that is true friendship. So let me tell you, my pickle-loving heart couldn't believe I hadn't heard of these before! 

Dove Milk Chocolate with Waffle Cone: Despite my love of Reese's cups, I'm actually not a huge chocolate fan. Then my mom found these and I tried it, then proceeded to eat almost an entire bag myself. 

Homemade smoothies: I don't know about you, but all I want are smoothies when it starts getting warmer out. My go-to is just a classic strawberry banana, but I've been using these smoothie packets that have that as well as pineapple and coconut, and it's delicious. 

Let me know what you've been loving lately!

Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Something Wilder Review

Hello, all!

Fun fact about me: I love the movie Romancing the Stone. It's a cheesy adventure-romance movie from the '80s starring Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner, but it's one VHS that I overplayed as a kid. It's just so fun. So when I heard that Christina Lauren's latest book, Something Wilder, was compared to it, I immediately needed to pick it up.

Pub Date: 5-17-22
Adult - Contemporary

Lily Wilder grew up in the shadow of a famous treasure-hunting father. While his ambitions made him notorious, it also meant Lily was left to grow up on her own. Lily always swore she would never follow in her father's footsteps, but with her bank account dwindling, she's left with no other options but to use his journals to take tourists out on "treasure hunts" throughout the canyons of Utah. It may not be the future she envisioned for herself, but Lily will do whatever it takes to get the necessary money to buy back her beloved childhood ranch-- even if that means escorting the man who broke her heart ten years ago and his friends through the winding trails.

Leo Grady has only one regret in his life: Lily Wilder. The two enjoyed a few blissful months together while he was working on their family ranch, but after a family emergency, Leo headed back to New York without looking back. Leo wants nothing more than to reconnect with his first love, but Lily can't stand another heartbreak. But when the trip takes a disastrous turn, the group begins to wonder if the legends might be true. With everything falling down around them, Lily and Leo will have to put their history behind them and work together to find the treasure before it's too late.

I love CLo, but sadly, this didn't do it for me. It had a fun premise, and I liked how it felt way different from any of their other books, but I couldn't get behind it. Many of the incidents Lily and Leo found themselves in just felt too improbable to me. I also had a hard time believing that they each still held a candle for the other when they were only together for a few short months ten years prior. That said, I did like them together, but I thought the chemistry could've been better. The writing was still top-notch, with their signature banter and steaminess, and the way they described all the scenery was stunning, but it just wasn't my favorite by them. 

Rating: 3/5

Thursday, June 2, 2022

Mini Thoughts

Hello, all!

Big thanks to the publishers for these copies!

Pub Date: 6-7-22
Adult - Mystery/Thriller

The Woman in the Library- Sulari Gentill: Winifred "Freddie" Kincaid is an aspiring author who comes to the States on a scholarship to work on her next novel. She spends her days writing at the Boston Public Library, hoping to get inspiration from the people around her. On one such day, she's sharing a table with three others when a scream pierces through the silence. While security tries to figure out what happened, Freddie and her tablemates strike up a conversation that leads to an unlikely friendship. When the news breaks that a body was found in the library, Freddie and her new friends set out to discover the truth about what occurred. But things aren't all that they seem, and Freddie quickly learns that the killer has been in front of her the entire time.

I didn't realize going in that this was not only a story within a story, but a mystery within a mystery as well. Had I known that, I probably wouldn't have picked this up because it got more and more convoluted as the story progressed. I didn't love the writing style or the characters. I didn't find myself taken with either storyline/mystery, so I didn't care much about how either played out. I think if the author just focused on one plotline, the story would've been more intriguing and interesting. Instead, it felt clunky and disjointed. Unfortunately, it was just one big miss for me.

Rating: 2/5

Pub Date: 6-7-22
Adult - Historical Fantasy

Ordinary Monsters- J.M. Miro: Charlie and Marlowe are two young boys who have nothing in common. They both come from different worlds, but one thing links them together: they each were born with special powers. Charlie can heal from any wound within minutes, and Marlowe has a strange bluish glow and can melt or mend flesh. When both boys are discovered by detectives, they believe they're being taken to a special school in Scotland to learn how to harness their abilities. But when they're attacked by a dangerous man with powers of his own, both boys quickly realize something more sinister is at play. Charlie and Marlowe have no choice but to team up with the other gifted children--dubbed the Talents--to uncover the secrets of the Institute and harness their powers before the world as they know it ceases to exist.

This checked so many boxes for me. Lush, atmospheric writing? Check. Interesting world-building? Check. An ensemble cast of characters with X-Men-like powers? Double-check. The premise of this book is fantastic. I loved the idea of this ragtag group of kids having to team up to save the world. Each kid had a unique power that was so interesting. I loved the bond forged between Charlie and Marlowe. It was so brotherly and just tugged at your heartstrings. But my favorite of the bunch was Ribs. I love a sassy character, and she was a firecracker and had me chuckling the whole time with her antics. I thought the mystery was solid, and I liked how the plot developed, but my main issue was the pacing. It took me a good 20-30% to get into the story, and I found some parts were jam-packed with action while others dragged a little. Despite that, I'll still be continuing with the series because I need to know what happens next after that ending. If you like stories with dark, eerie vibes and don't mind a denser read, I recommend checking this one out.

Rating: 3.5/5

Pub Date: 6-7-22
Adult - Historical Mystery

A Botanist's Guide to Parties and Poisons- Kate Khavari: Saffron Everleigh would rather spend her time as a newly minted research assistant studying plants at the University College of London than at a stuffy dinner party. Saffron is expecting to spend the night listening to conversations about the university's upcoming expedition to the Amazon, so when one of the professors' wives drops to the floor, poisoned by an unknown toxin, Saffron is just as flabbergasted as everyone else. When the crime is pinned on her mentor, Saffron decides to launch her investigation to clear his name. Saffron enlists the help of a fellow researcher, Alexander Ashton, but will the pair be able to track down the real murderer before it's too late?

I was initially drawn in by the cover, but once I read the synopsis, I knew it'd be right up my alley. I can't say no to a historical mystery with a plucky heroine. I liked Saffron right off the bat. I thought she was smart, capable, and held her own against all the men who would belittle a woman in her field. She and Alexander had a nice dynamic together, and I enjoyed how they bounced off one another. They had great banter that I loved. I thought the plot was good, but it felt too simple; as did the writing. It was easy to read, and I flew through it in almost one sitting, but it felt clunky. However, I still liked this and would recommend it if you're looking for a cozier mystery.

Rating: 3/5