Beneath the Ocean is a story told through various poetic styles, illustrating how a young shipmate seeks to find her identity as she struggles against the mercy of the waves and her two fellow deckhands. Through a series of transformations, she strives to locate an island rumored to have buried treasure, which would end her search and, bearing riches, allow her to return home. Instead, she discovers much more while at the bottom of the ocean.
This week I picked up the first book in the new The University of the Unseen series by B.A. Lovejoy, “Ivy and Ash”. I’ve found myself reading a lot of magic- and paranormal-related stories lately, so this one definitely piqued my interest from the series title alone. Add to that the fact that after reading the Alice: Pick a Card series by Lovejoy I’m completely in love with her writing and will henceforth pick up anything she writes, this sounded like a win-win! Thus, I obviously jumped on this review copy the moment Booksirens and B.A. Lovejoy sent me an email saying it was ready for my greedy little hands.
So how did it rate? Let’s find out with this quick review!
Genre: Fantasy, Romance, New Adult
Publication Date: May 19, 2023
Long ago, the infamous Knox Brothers created a university, one of such renown that few outside of wizarding society’s elite would ever walk through its gates—The University of the Unseen.
But that was then, and this is now, and I, Ana Nilsen, the daughter of a mere factory worker have been accepted into the sophomore class, working underneath the cantankerous Dr. Jones, aiding in his research regarding the limitations of a human soul.
Or at least, that’s what I expected to be doing, until a series of letters threatening my very existence began to appear—letters that I fear may be tied to an attack on George Sacks—a fellow student who seems to know too much for his own good, and the horrific crimes of Simon Petrov, my predecessor.
Now, if I want any hope of finding out who’s sending them, I have to turn to Rowan Avarelle—my competitor and the son of my master’s archrival, the closest that Knox University has to royalty. A man who I am, by all accounts, meant to hate, and yet cannot seem to stay away from.
But Rowan has secrets of his own, and the University of the Unseen is far from what it seems. Especially with rumors of a secret society as old as the university itself that is willing to do anything to ensure the success of its members…
What I liked about the book:
1. Lovejoy’s writing is always so pretty and neat. The description she gives to everything as well as the personality that flows through her writing is ultimately what keeps me coming back for more!
2. Lovejoy’s feminism is still on point! One of the things I loved so much about the Alice: Pick a Card series was how much Lovejoy pointed out society’s, still many, faults in the area of equality. Whether it be Wonderland, a magical university, or just the everyday world, B.A. expertly highlights the small things women still get told on “how to present themselves” and what a “lady should do”, while also having her FMCs tear down those walls with snide remarks and a large metaphorical middle finger. Because of this, her FMCs are always fiery and intelligent, which I can’t get enough of!
3. She writes mysterious boys with beautiful smirks well! I’m not usually into blonde guys, but somehow I am now, also, in love with Rowan Avarelle, despite his many mysteries and flaws. I wish I could say more, but let’s just say, the butterflies are always in full effect when reading chapters with Lovejoy’s MMCs.
What could have been better:
1. While I liked both MCs on their own, I ultimately did not feel the connection the author tried to illustrate. I felt there was not enough background into their growing friendship to illicit the feelings they did/could share for each other. Ultimately, they were lacking a connection for me, which is super unfortunate given they are obviously going to be love interests throughout this whole series.
2. For the first book in a story, it was lacking in the history and worldbuilding I would have liked to see. For the first book, this is your chance to establish all about the world, the characters, the background that we’ll need going forward, however, I felt like this was a pretty normal college story that just happened to have a bit of magic. Not exactly what I was looking for with this one, but still fine.
3. Overall, there were a lot of times where I wasn’t really sure what was happening. While I’m sure this book is setting up a lot for future books, the first book in a new series should envelope you in intrigue and give you just enough to keep you wanting to progress in the series. Honestly, if this wasn’t B.A. Lovejoy, I probably wouldn’t continue. But I have faith that she will get us there!
Not what I was looking for exactly, but I will continue with the series.
Thank you to Booksirens, and B.A. Lovejoy for the copy of this book. The review expressed above is honest and my own.
This weekend I read Ink Blood Sister Scribe by Emma Törzs. This incredibly lush story of family secrets, magic, and a group of misfit heroes has surpassed all other reads so far this year for me! Do yourselves a favor and check it out when it releases next week on May 30!
Want to know what makes this book so special? Here are my opinions!
Publication Date: May 30, 2023
In this spellbinding debut novel, two estranged half-sisters tasked with guarding their family’s library of magical books must work together to unravel a deadly secret at the heart of their collection—a tale of familial loyalty and betrayal, and the pursuit of magic and power.
For generations, the Kalotay family has guarded a collection of ancient and rare books. Books that let a person walk through walls or manipulate the elements—books of magic that half-sisters Joanna and Esther have been raised to revere and protect.
All magic comes with a price, though, and for years the sisters have been separated. Esther has fled to a remote base in Antarctica to escape the fate that killed her own mother, and Joanna’s isolated herself in their family home in Vermont, devoting her life to the study of these cherished volumes. But after their father dies suddenly while reading a book Joanna has never seen before, the sisters must reunite to preserve their family legacy. In the process, they’ll uncover a world of magic far bigger and more dangerous than they ever imagined, and all the secrets their parents kept hidden; secrets that span centuries, continents, and even other libraries . . .
In the great tradition of Ninth House, The Magicians, and Practical Magic, this is a suspenseful and richly atmospheric novel that draws readers into a vast world filled with mystery and magic, romance, and intrigue—and marks the debut of an extraordinary new voice in speculative fiction.
What I liked about the book:
1. Let’s first discuss the writing, which was perfect! Not only was the world building of the magic system super freaking interesting (which we’ll get to in a bit), but the grammar, spelling, and overall flow of this book was unequivocally flawless. This is not something that I mark an author down for unless it is excessive and leads to a large flow problem for the story, but this is DEFINITELY something I give points for when done well!
This story was written in third person POV, for three main characters: Joanna, Esther, and Nicholas. While I am not usually a fan of third person POV as I feel it is not as personal and intimate as stories told in first person, Emma convinced me that it can be done right with this book! I had no feelings of missing a character’s feelings or wanting to know more of what they were thinking, because Emma was able to expertly weave a third person POV story that felt like first person POV. Maybe I don’t hate third person POV after all!
The flow of the story was fantastic. Information was provided and clarified at the right pace to be mysterious but not daunting. I’m still not able to figure out how Emma did it, but essentially, I knew I was missing details while reading, but I also didn’t obsess over it because I had a bone-deep trust that Emma would get us there. Where and how this trust was developed I do not know, but somewhere within this story it happened and Emma did not disappoint.
2. Getting back to the system of magic, I was completely in awe of the idea and really dug it. I loved that there was definitely a yin-yang concept to it in that the people who wrote spells couldn’t wield them and the people who could practice magic couldn’t write spells; you had to have both for the whole system to work or it would cease to exist.
The methodology behind it all was wildly fascinating to me. The way that spells were written was unique and creative, but I was especially charmed with a book only having so many uses before it faded. This just made so much sense given how the books were written! I can’t say more about that, but trust me, it’s fantastic!
Finally, the background written around scribes and magic as well as all the artefacts found in the library totally fed into my lust for history! I loved the more immediate history we got detailing the FMC’s families before they were born, but also the history we got from generations before that. It made me think, “Did this type of thing actually exist?!?!” This was just like when I watched Jurassic Park for the first time and thought “THIS COULD TOTALLY HAPPEN!”.
3. I liked all three main characters and felt they definitely had their own voices as I read. They were all underdogs in their own ways and I love that! Usually we get one, but we got three here!
Joanna (little sister and magic wielder) was the quintessential goodie good who did everything she was told to without many questions, stayed dutiful and loyal to her family, and ultimately was a prisoner in her own life of solitude. I loved watching her step out of her comfort zone, forge relationships with new people, and ultimately learn to do something she thought she never could.
Esther (big sister and non-magic wielder) was the dictionary definition of the wild child, runaway. Never staying in the same place for too long and never establishing roots until one day everything changed, forcing her to go back to basics, find her way home, and simultaneously find her place in the magical world.
Nicholas (the lone, living scribe) was the sheltered but well-off “chosen one”. Left as the only scribe in the world, Nicholas was treated as no more than a machine for his…abilities, but otherwise was given anything and everything he could possibly want, including one super cute sidekick Pomeranian! Watching him develop relationships with several people and overcome his personal hurdles like a BOSS was so satisfying.
And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Collins, Nicholas’s hilarious bodyguard, who was really like the fourth MC. Collins’s love for the female Pomeranian, Sir Kiwi(!), his hilarious bickering back-and-forth with Nicholas, and his intelligence despite being sidelined as the brawn in their equation, made him easily my favorite character in the entire story.
4. Finally, this book did a great job tying everything together. From small things in the beginning of the book that later became significant, to the tattooed quote that followed Esther throughout the entire story, there were so many “AHA!” moments in this one that I loved.
What could have been better:
1. I wish we had gotten a bit more romance! I’m a romance junkie, and the description saying “this is a suspenseful and richly atmospheric novel that draws readers into a vast world filled with mystery and magic, romance, and intrigue” tells me there is going to be some grand romance. However, I felt the book was missing this piece with both FMCs. Don’t get me wrong, there was romance for sure, both of which I was all for, but there just wasn’t enough there for me.
Such a beautifully written story with a unique take on magic, sisterhood, and unlikely heroes.
4.5 eye-opening stars!
About the Author:
EMMA TÖRZS is a writer, teacher, and occasional translator based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Her fiction has been honored with an NEA fellowship in prose, a World Fantasy Award for Short Fiction, and an O. Henry Prize. Her stories have been published in journals such as Ploughshares, Uncanny Magazine, Lightspeed, Strange Horizons, and American Short Fiction. She received her MFA from the University of Montana, Missoula, and is an enthusiastic member of the Clarion West class of 2017.
As a mother to an almost two-year-old, Mother’s Day was a little wild for me. The usual and crazy amount of spunk that I love was in full force this weekend, and I did get a pretty sick gnome out of it! Do I collect gnomes or did I own a single gnome related thing before Sunday? No, but I love it all the same!
Speaking of pretty sick things, recently I read Slaying the Frost King by Elle Beaumont and Candace Robinson! This book has a bit of interesting cross-series-functionality (is that a term?) to it. This book is a standalone installment of the “heart-pounding fantasy romance series, Mortal Enemies to Monster Lovers”, and is also set in the same world as the Demons of Frosteria series you may have previously seen my review for:
I am not familiar with the Mortal Enemies to Monster Lovers other stories (though you bet your bottom I’ll be checking them out now!), but I am a sucker for those Men Demons of Frosteria, so I knew I had to hop on this ARC when I saw it.
Let’s get to the details!
Genre: Romance, Fantasy
Publication Date: June 8, 2023
He’s the Frost King. She’s his sacrifice. A cold world creates cold hearts.
Morozko is king of the frost realm, and every year he requires a sacrifice. But when his royal pride is wounded, Morozko demands a maiden instead.
Eirah, a recluse toymaker, is chosen from hundreds to give up her life and save her village. However, she must first be dragged to Morozko’s ice palace as his prisoner.
With Eirah ensnared in his clutches, the king promises one thing: no matter how high the flames of desire burn between them, her blood will spill on the edge of his blade.
Unless she spills his first.
Slaying the Frost King is a standalone installment of the heart-pounding fantasy romance series, Mortal Enemies to Monster Lovers. If you like strong heroines and morally gray heroes, as well as spicy slow burn, forced proximity, and enemies to lovers vibes, you’ll devour this sexy, addictive series. Perfect for fans of A Court of Thorns and Roses, A Deal with the Elf King, Grace Draven, and Jennifer L. Armentrout.
What I liked about the book:
1. I love seeing a big, tough playboy fall to his knees for the badass FMC who doesn’t want anything to do with him! It definitely makes the nerdy girl in me who finds guilty pleasure in the jocks/bros squeal with delight!
2. My god, Morozko’s and Eirah’s chemistry was INSANE!!!! I swear, every time he called her little bird, my heart fluttered like it had wings!
The setup as a prisoner/master and the way his feelings for her changed completely reminded me of Pestilence by Laura Thalassa, which I absolutely loved! Apparently, this is just another kink I didn’t know I had until now…
3. I liked both MCs in this book!
Eirah was tough and smart, didn’t bow down to him like everyone else, and was legitimately due what she was ultimately gifted in my opinion. She is by far my favorite FMC in the Demons of Frosteria world thus far!!!
Morozko was another misunderstood, alpha bad boy with a tragic past who was healed by true loves powers. And as much as he could be a “prick” at times, he was definitely intelligent and really just trying to do his best to save everyone. What’s not to love about that!?!?
I also liked the main side characters (Eirah’s father, her BFF Saren, Morozko’s closest confidants). There were no characters I didn’t like, which is rare for me. A+ on the characters!
4. I loved the history behind how the krampi came to be!!! I’m a sucker for historical/mythological tales, and the history that was developed around this very much fed that hunger! It really tied all the tales in the series so far together!
5. With the forced proximity, prisoner/master relationship, and the huge castle, I couldn’t help but get Beauty and the Beast vibes, which is NEVER a bad thing for me!
6. The fighting scenes were so descriptive and wonderfully written, I felt like I was in battle with them.
I also felt like the scenes centering on their sexual relationship were perfect given the setting. I’m not expecting pages and pages of graphic scenes when they’re literally in battle just waiting for something else to happen. What we did get were a couple of nice little scenes that had just enough dirty talk and spice to get you through 😉
7. I. FREAKING. LOVE. THE. COVER!!!! Oh my goodness, from the details in her outfit I totally didn’t notice at first, to the look in his eyes and the colors behind them, this cover is magnificent and perfectly encapsulates this book!
Perfect installment to the Demons of Frosteria series that I can’t wait to read more of!
Final Rating: 5 stars!
Thank you to Booksirens, the publishers, and Elle Beaumont and Candace Robinson for the copy of this book. The opinions expressed above are my own.
As the palest beach-lover you will probably ever know (seriously, I don’t tan, I just burn and then freckle…damn these Irish genes!), I am a big fan of Hawaii. Yes, I’ve only gone once, and yes, I only visited two islands, but I fell in love with the lush nature and hiking in Kauai to the point where I’ve basically been planning my long-awaited retirement since then.
Recently I read Picture-Perfect Boyfriend by the fabulous Becky Dean, and I was transported back to Hawaii! This was such a cute, fun little read with just enough snark and heart to make the YA-lover in me blissfully happy.
Let’s see what it was all about!
Genre: Young Adult Romance
Publication Date: May 23, 2023
Two strangers, one tropical island, and lots of lies in this funny beach romance from the author of Love & Other Great Expectations!
Aspiring nature photographer Kenzie Reed just can’t get her straitlaced family of optometrists to take her art seriously. She’s resigned to putting aside her dreams and accepting the depressing life that awaits her at the family business. She even makes up a fake, boring boyfriend—Jacob—to get her parents off her back.
But when the Reeds arrive in Hawaii for spring break, Kenzie is shocked that “Jacob” shows up at the airport—and joins their vacation. Kenzie can’t reveal him as a fraud without confessing her lie, so she’s stuck playing along while trying to find out who he really is.
No way is she going to actually fall for him—because even though he’s funny, nice, smart, and cute, he’s also a liar. Isn’t he?
Filled with warm summer breezes and salty sea air, Becky Dean’s Picture-Perfect Boyfriend will sweep you off your feet into a tropical paradise, sun on your shoulders—where love is just around a palm tree.
What I liked about the book:
1. Becky Dean writes FMCs that I genuinely love and care about. From Britt to Kenzie, I feel as though these characters are like my little sisters. I go along with their shenanigans, but at the end of the day I just want to hug them and tell them everything will work out and they should just be their lovely selves.
Speaking of which, I loved how much Jake/Jacob/Liar McLiarFace encouraged Kenzie to be herself and seek her own passions outside of what her family thought. He was the encouraging MMC we all need in a YA book boyfriend.
2. I loved our MC’s snarky/flirty back and forth throughout the entire book. It was so fun to see their conversations play out, especially as they were walking that line of needing to know enough about each other, but trying to keep their secrets to themselves.
3. I loved the mystery component of the book and how we didn’t know how the heck this Jacob guy was for a good portion of it. I found this a fun addition to the story. Who doesn’t love a good mystery!?!
4. The Hawaii descriptions were so good, I felt like I was visiting the islands again and going on the excursions with the family! I really loved this setting and the details that Becky put into describing it.
What could have been better:
1. I did not like any of the side characters besides Kenzie’s grandma. She was super fun and definitely acted as the comedic relief at a lot of tense moments.
Neil was fine I guess, but he was a super vanilla dude. I guess his best quality was that he wasn’t problematic? Is that a ringing endorsement for a character these days? Probably not, but at least he wasn’t a terrible person like most of Kenzie’s family.
2. Ok, this got really repetitive at times. I felt like Jacob and Kenzie had a lot of the same conversations, and Kenzie had a lot of the same thoughts throughout the book. There were quite a few times where I would read a chapter or two, and then come back later to read they were on a different excursion having a very similar conversation. I often thought to myself, “Am I rereading things? Did my Kindle bookmarking not work?” But, alas, no, there were just a lot of conversations that were very similar.
Cute and fun YA romance with the added benefit of Hawaii!
About the Author:
Becky Dean is a fan of adventures both real and fictional. When she’s not writing or traveling, she can be found drinking tea, watching science fiction shows, or quoting The Lord of the Rings. Though she lives in Texas with her husband, she remains a Southern California girl at heart.
Check out Becky’s social media at the links below.
Recently I read the second installment in the Love Beyond Words series, Outspoken, by Raina Ash, and I’m excited to share my thoughts with you all!
Last year I received the first book in this wonderful series, Nonverbal, as an ARC courtesy of BookSirens and Raina Ash and I was BLOWN AWAY! I immediately started following Raina on every platform I had so I could stay up to date with her new releases, including her awesome newsletter. So, when BookSirens alerted me that Raina Ash had posted Outspoken for review, I literally ran to my computer so I could jump on that ARC.
First things first, check out my review of Nonverbal here: Clickety-click
Now, let’s get to my book 2 review!
Publication Date: March 22, 2023
He’s been infatuated with his best friend’s sister since the day they met…
Too bad she was too wasted at that party to remember him.
Six years later, Amber is fresh out of rehab and trying to make her life work sober. She’s barely coping, her college professor hates her, and she’s certainly not prepared for the attraction simmering between her and her brother’s best friend.
Miguel is exactly the kind of guy she’d normally avoid: loyal, family-oriented, intense. He’s known to move too fast and fall too hard in every single relationship. He’d give her the world, but she knows it’s better to push him away.
They’re opposites and completely wrong for each other. Doesn’t he see that? Giving in to their feelings would complicate both of their lives.
Miguel has a sick mother and a delinquent nephew to care for, and there’s one thing he wants that Amber can never offer. Some sacrifices are simply too great, and she refuses to be the one to take away his dreams.
If only they didn’t have such a problem staying away from each other…
Outspoken is the second book in the Love Beyond Words series. This found family romance features a protective cinnamon roll hero who falls first and a resilient takes-no-BS heroine who is his complete opposite.
Expect plenty of soulmate kisses, lovable family members, romance under the stars, and an emotionally complex story that will linger in your heart for days.
Content Warning: Strong language, drug use / addiction, and discussions about suicidal ideation.
What I liked about the book:
1. I appreciated the helpful callbacks to Nonverbal in this sequel. They reminded me of some of the things I had forgotten about in the year between reading the books and helped to get me back into the mindset of these peoples’ lives.
Further, these callbacks served to introduce the reader to Paige and Brody from book 1 in the event they hadn’t read it, and they were done very well. No unnecessary information, just enough to get the idea of what has happened and everyone’s personality. This was perfect for allowing Outspoken to be a standalone.
2. I loved how flawed both of our MCs were! Miguel was super clingy and told everyone Amber’s baggage, while Amber was flighty and battling various addictions.
These two definitely had some moments that I wasn’t sure if they were going to come back from, but isn’t it the imperfections that make us love them more??
3. I loved the new characters we met! All of Miguel’s family were awesome, but especially his mother and Angel.
His mother was the perfect amount of sassy and wise. She definitely had the lines that had me cracking up the hardest!
Angel you could just tell was a beautiful but tortured soul. His love and respect towards Miguel’s mother showed how compassionate he could be and how much he hurt for adults who didn’t think badly of him. I also loved his relationship with Amber and how they were able to connect. I didn’t love his treatment of Miguel, but hey, the kid was that: a kid.
If we get another book in this series, I hands down want it to be Angel a couple years in the future!!! I think he would make for such an interesting MMC and I would like to meet the person that can go toe to toe with him!
4. I absolutely loved the big bro/little sis dynamic that Miguel and Paige developed. They are both so genuine and I loved that the author made them friends instead of making them standoffish towards one-another like I’ve seen similar set ups in other books play out for characters.
5. While I frequently got frustrated with decisions Amber made, I 100% felt seen. Amber’s anxiety and coping mechanisms were perfection. Her spiraling thoughts, her wanting to just shut her brain off for a couple minutes with the use of recreational drugs, and then the ultimate understanding that she would feel worse after doing that and the “darkness” would never truly go away because of drug use, resonated on a whole different level with me.
During my first couple years in Big 4 public accounting, I worked my ass off. I worked my ass off to prove to my superiors that I was smart enough to be there even though I came from a state school as opposed to all of them coming from the same private school. I worked my ass off to prove to my peers that even though I was the only woman I not only deserved to be there, but was even better than all my male peers. I worked my ass off to prove that dedication and long hours made me worth investing in. Unfortunately, all of this is bullshit and shouldn’t have ever had to be proven nor did it make a dent in the age-old women-in-the-workplace ideals some hold tight to, but it also led to a very serious problem with alcohol.
How to describe me during this period: 24. Top performer. Closet alcoholic.
I remember many nights of having a meltdown, screaming and crying, while still checking excel formulas for an audit that would end up getting extended anyways. I remember vividly lining up a row of shots (whiskey, of course), and placing them on the side of my computer as “motivation” to get through the night. Motivation that after just a couple more checks of the excel, I could drink my stress away for a couple hours, let that darkness and anxiety subside, before having to repeat the same process again the next day. And this was my life for about 3 years.
Using a lot of the same mechanisms that Amber used (coloring, writing, breathing exercises, etc.), I was able to overcome my hurdle just as Amber did hers. In a lot of ways, this book was a very personal experience for me and allowed me to see the growth not just in Amber, but in myself and to recognize all the hard work that goes into getting yourself out of the deepest depths of your own darkness. Like Amber said, it will never simply “go away”, but we learn to cope and live with it, to where its not quite as dark as it once was.
I love having gone on this journey with Amber and I love how well and accurate Raina Ash handled this sensitive topic. Beautifully done.
What could have been better:
1. I thought the whole professor/camgirl thing was a little out of left field and every time it got brought up it just delayed the pace in my opinion. For me, if the professor had been less reluctant to change his ways and Amber actually won in some sort of case against him, that would have been more victorious and a more gratifying win for me than it currently exists.
I now am in need of an Angel-centric story!
Thank you to BookSirens and Raina Ash for the free copy of this book. The opinions expressed above are voluntary and my own.
Want to check out what else our girl Raina is working on? Hop on over to her social media accounts using the below:
This past week I read the second installment in the Belle Morte series Revelations by Bella Higgin.
After getting an ARC of book 1 last year, I was super excited to return to the world that has lived rent free in my head for the last 400+ days. I normally have a very bad habit of forgetting information and losing interest in series if I don’t read them one book after another. HOWEVER, Belle Morte has proven to be an exception to this rule. I cannot tell you how many times in the last year I have stalked Bella Higgin’s Instagram and Goodreads profiles trying to get more information on book 2.
For all intents and purposes, this series has sank it’s fangs into me in the most delicious little love bite ever and I’m not letting it let go!
First things first, check out my review of book 1 here: Belle Morte
Now let’s get to my book 2 review!
Genre: Romance, New Adult, Paranormal
Publication Date: May 9, 2023
Quote that sums up the book: “The walls of Belle Morte were supposed to keep intruders out. I never imagined they’d keep traitors in.”
Truth comes at a cost.
Ever since Renie Mayfield survived the merciless attack on Belle Morte that killed donors and vampires alike, she is forever changed. Now a vampire, the agonizing transformation of her body and mind is rivaled only by uncovering the horrific truth about her sister, June, who has escaped the mansion in her rabid form, adding even more chaos to Renie’s reality.
As the vampire responsible for Renie’s change, and now her distress, Edmond Dantes remains in his own desperate place. He’s confined in the secret cells of Belle Morte, awaiting the arrival of the council and the subsequent punishment for his actions. Edmond questions if what he did was right and deeply regrets what has become of his home.
Desperate to free Edmond, find June, and bring justice to whoever is behind the recent violence, Renie is out for blood in more ways than one. The smell of corruption is embedded in the walls of Belle More, but behind the walls are even more secrets that may lead to the truth and to justice.
What I liked about the book:
1. Vampire murder mystery full of political intrigue, secret passageways(!), the banding together of unlikely friends, and la petite mort we so desperately craved!
2. I loved and appreciated that the author gave us callbacks of events in book 1. I for sure didn’t remember some of the details, and Bella had our backs with reminding us of important details.
3. I loved watching the mutual respect grow between Ysanne and Renie. Getting to see from Renie’s point of view, we got insight into her internal thoughts on things, and saw her grow to truly understand Ysanne. This line for me, really sold that:
Similarly, seeing Ysanne open up to Renie (in her own ways), was tragically beautiful. She was so broken in this book (for several, really good reasons) that she really opened up to those in her circle and we got to see that hidden side to her I KNEW existed.
Given they are both strong, smart women, I loved watching them work together instead of against one another!
4. I loved that Roux and Jason still played such a large part in these series, and are now the only humans around going forward, besides maybe Nikki, who I LOVED!
5. The characters remained strong!
Edmond I felt was a stronger character in this one. Perhaps it was too long ago that I read book 1, but I felt he was more in touch with his soldier past in this book and I loved seeing this side of him. In fact, his battles side by side with Ludovic were some of my favorite scenes in the whole book!
Ysanne I for sure have a crush on. She is a Boss Babe and I would die for her!
Jason was hilarious and served as the comic relief in this actiony installment.
Roux was solving riddles like a world-class sleuth.
Ludovic was even more badass than book 1 (didn’t know that was possible!) and I definitely didn’t miss those lingering glances at Roux. I swear to the Gods, if they don’t end up together I’m going to have a FIT!!!
Nikki was a new character who was fantastic! She was smart as a whip and fearless even in the face of potential death. I really hope she continues to be in this series and we see more of her!
6. I started a list of quotes and scenes I loved and quickly realized they are all Edmond! ALL OF THEM! Check these out and see why Edmond has me googling sweet men with French accents.
“I swore to myself that I’d never love again,” he said, and Renie stiffened. “I told myself that it wasn’t worth the pain,” he continued. “But…” Leaning forward, he rested his forehead against hers. […] “It was worth it. It’s always worth it. I didn’t want to fall in love with you, but you stole my heart and I don’t want it back.”
Loving someone was giving them your heart – when someone hurt Renie, they hurt Edmond too. He feared for her more than he feared for himself, and that fear was an icy wave that crashed into him, making him feel like all his vampire strength had been stripped away.
What use was superior strength when he couldn’t use it to protect the woman he loved?
Edmond: “How are you feeling?”
Renie: “Calmer. I’m still processing everything that’s happened, and I’m still not okay, but I’m not going to fall apart.”
Edmond: “If you do fall, I’ll always catch you.”
Renie: “I know.”
“I have lived a very long time, and I’ve loved a number of women, but you, ma chérie – you undo me.”
7. That cover is Gorg-town! Super pretty!
What could have been better:
1. Similar to my thoughts on book 1, it was dual POV, but Renie’s sections were in first person, while Edmond’s were in third person, and I disliked it strongly! I really wanted this story in first person dual POV, or if once Renie became a vampire her POV to shift to third person like Edmond’s. If this was a style choice by the writer to have all vampires be third person POV, I could have actually gotten behind this in a really big way, but that didn’t happen so I’m left with eye twitches of frustration.
2. Renie was kind of annoying in this book. I did like how every time she started getting annoying, though, she did call herself out. I appreciated her ability to self-regulate her attitude and trains of thought, but it was still a little annoying to go through the process with her.
3. There simply was not enough build up into the Roux and Ludovic relationship I MUST HAVE in the next book! I will legit cry if this doesn’t happen ☹
4 Ludovic-can-bite-me-any-day stars
Thank you to Rachel Wu at Wattpad WEBTOON Book Group and Bella Higgin for the advanced copy of this book! The thoughts and opinions expressed above are voluntary and my own.
Want to check out what else Bella is working on? Hop on over to her social media accounts using the below.
AAAAAAHHHHH!!!! I’m so excited for this next book in the Never After series inspired by The Hunchback of Notre Dame! 🥳
Please join me in lusting after this gorgeous cover reveal for Crossed by author Emily McIntire
Emily McIntire has revealed the gorgeous cover for Crossed, inspired by The Hunchback of Notre Dame!
Releasing: August 1, 2023
Cover Design: TRC Designs
He is righteousness. She is sin.
Father Cade Frédéric is a holy man. Brought up in the streets of Paris, he has dedicated his life to the church. But there’s a monster that lingers just beneath the surface. A sickness. One that bleeds darkness and feeds on the damned. When he’s tasked to become the priest in Festivalé, Vermont, a town both beautiful in architecture and riddled with despair, his sickness sings, demanding he rid the place of evil.
Amaya Paquette is Festivalé’s beautiful mystery. She spends her days caring for her younger brother and her nights transforming into Esmeralda, dancing for greedy eyes and shameless lips. Although she longs for love, she shies away from companionship, afraid of being abandoned again.
When Father Cade lays eyes on Amaya, he finds himself ensnared, convinced she’s using witchcraft to lure him to her. He can’t eat. Can’t breathe. Can’t think unless it’s of her.
And temptation is a devastating mistress.
She’s his weakness, so he decides he’ll be her demise…even if it means killing the only woman he might ever love.
Emily McIntire is an Amazon top 15 and Publisher’s Weekly best-selling author known for her Never After Series, where she gives our favorite villains their happily ever afters. With books that range from small town to dark romance, she doesn’t like to box herself into one type of story, but at the core of all her novels is soul deep love. When she’s not writing you can find her enjoying her family or lost between the pages of a good book.
This week I read Love, Theoretically by Ali Hazelwood so I’m floating on big bubbly clouds of happiness while contemplating how much cheese I can purchase without the cashier eyeing me funny.
If you’ve seen reviews for Ali’s books, you’ve probably seen something along the likes of “one-hit wonder” mentioned. However, what some call a one-hit wonder, I call my happy place. After a long week or a big book slump, I can always count on an Ali Hazelwood book to bring me back to loving love 😊
Was this one any exception? Let’s find out!
Publication Date: June 13, 2023
Rival physicists collide in a vortex of academic feuds and fake dating shenanigans in this delightfully STEMinist romcom from the New York Times bestselling author of The Love Hypothesis and Love on the Brain.
The many lives of theoretical physicist Elsie Hannaway have finally caught up with her. By day, she’s an adjunct professor, toiling away at grading labs and teaching thermodynamics in the hopes of landing tenure. By other day, Elsie makes up for her non-existent paycheck by offering her services as a fake girlfriend, tapping into her expertly honed people-pleasing skills to embody whichever version of herself the client needs.
Honestly, it’s a pretty sweet gig—until her carefully constructed Elsie-verse comes crashing down. Because Jack Smith, the annoyingly attractive and arrogant older brother of her favorite client, turns out to be the cold-hearted experimental physicist who ruined her mentor’s career and undermined the reputation of theorists everywhere. And he’s the same Jack Smith who rules over the physics department at MIT, standing right between Elsie and her dream job.
Elsie is prepared for an all-out war of scholarly sabotage but…those long, penetrating looks? Not having to be anything other than her true self when she’s with him? Will falling into an experimentalist’s orbit finally tempt her to put her most guarded theories on love into practice?
What I liked about the book:
1. Like Ali’s many, many MMCs and FMCs, she is something of a scientist herself: she has a formula and she sticks to it. It had witty humor, sarcasm up the wazoo, and all the feel-good feelings one can possibly muster about gigantic men in Henley’s and tiny women who are wicked smart.
2. This couple was probably my favorite. And really, it’s because Jack was my favorite. He called Elsie out on all her issues and then was the most supportively sweet sweetie (with an edge, of course!) that only fictional men can be. From checking in with her periodically to replacing her beverage in a group of others without so much as another thought, he was the best incarnation of an Ali Hazelwood MMC I’ve read to date.
3. I absolutely LOVED the Adam and Olive content (TheLove Hypothesis), as well as Sunny! And I’m pretty sure I saw a reference to Bee from Love on the Brain! I love when authors have throwbacks to other books/characters as it definitely gives the “it’s a small world after all” vibes.
4. Lastly, the supportive side characters (aka bffs, sassy assistants, Asexual fake boyfriends, etc.) in Ali Hazelwood books are always topnotch. They are the right amount of humor, undying loyalty, and spunk to keep the readers on their toes and add a touch of reality to the situation when Ali’s FMCs start to go off the rails.
What could have been better:
1. This is basically The Love Hypothesis book 3. While the formula works, I would like to see something new from Ali. I know you have it in you, love, let’s see it!
2. Of all of Ali’s books, the romance was my favorite, but the sexy-times were my least favorite. Can’t decide how that split makes me feel yet… (Side note: No one will ever replace Levi’s mouth!)
It’s Ali Hazelwood. Of course, it’s adorable.
Special thank you to Edelweiss, Berkley Publishing Group, Penguin Random House, and Ali Hazelwood for the free ARC. My opinions expressed above are honest and voluntary.
When I was in high school, I played guitar and sang in an all-girl band called Forbidden Fruit,
I was a college radio DJ, and
I’m definitely one of those people who argue that some albums need to be listened to on vinyl to get the full experience.
With all of that said, this past week I read Charm City Rocks by Matthew Norman. As a lover of music (obviously) and romance, this seemed like it would be perfect for me!
How did this one play out for me? Did it hit the right note or was it a bit off-key? Let’s find out?
Publication Date: June 6, 2023
When a single dad meets the former rock star crush of his youth, everything they thought they knew about happiness and love is thrown into chaos in this hopeful, heartwarming romantic comedy.
Billy Perkins is happy. No, for real. It’s kind of his thing, actually. And why wouldn’t he be? He loves his job as an independent music teacher and his apartment in Baltimore above a record shop called Charm City Rocks. Most of all, he loves his brainy teenage son, Caleb. Although not the world’s most traditional parent, Billy has plenty to teach his son about art and manhood before Caleb goes off to college.
Margot Hammer, on the other hand, is far from happy. The former drummer of the once-famous rock band Burnt Flowers, she’s now a rock and roll recluse living alone in New York City. When a new music documentary suddenly puts Margot back in the spotlight, she begins to realize how much she misses her old band and the music that gave her life meaning.
Billy has always had a crush on Margot. But she’s a legitimate rock star—or at least, she was—so he never thought he’d meet her. Until Caleb, worried that his easygoing dad might actually be lonely, cooks up a scheme to get Margot to perform at Charm City Rocks.
It’s the longest of long shots, but Margot’s label has made it clear that any publicity is an opportunity she can’t afford to miss. When their paths collide, Billy realizes that he maybe wasn’t as happy as he thought—and Margot learns that sometimes the sweetest music is a duet.
What I liked about the book:
1. I loved that this was a later in life romance (Is that what we call it when they’re in their forties???…That decade is creeping up real fast for me so let’s hope not!). I especially loved the scene where they were laying in bed pointing out their own flaws to one another, not in a “make me feel better about my flaws” way, but in the way you could tell these people were totally content with one another and comfortable with their flaws being on display in front of the other. And the fact that this turned into them making love was *chef’s kiss*.
2. I loved the characters and that we got to see the story from so many different perspectives. From the perspectives of both MCs, their two kids, their ex-lovers, and even a really cool co-dad, we got to see all sides of the story, which was nice. It made it so you didn’t hate the exes of the MCs (well, except maybe Lawson) and really showed that people recall and experience the same situation very differently.
For me, this also served as a real wake up call. If Buzzfeed created one of those quizzes where you find out which character in the book you are, I would undoubtedly wish to be a Poppy and end up being a Robyn. Robyn was fine, but I definitely saw a lot of Ghost of Christmas Future in her and I didn’t love it…
3. This very much seemed to serve as a love letter to Baltimore and I loved it! With the neighborhoods portrayed, the overall ambiance of music everywhere, and the food(!), I was intrigued if this is truly what Baltimore is like. I have never been to Baltimore, but with this story I have a new destination in mind!
What could have been better:
1. Overall, I was not a big fan of the writing style. It was a very direct, sometimes too sharp style. I tend to prefer more descriptive and flowy wording for romance books.
Also, this was written from the third POV so some of the more emotional or charged moments Could have been better suited to a first person POV. For a romance book, I feel third POV is a tricky feat because it takes a lot more work to invoke the butterflies in readers, or at least it does for me. Because of that, the giddiness I typically look for when reading a romance book was mostly missing.
2. There was a lot of downtime in the book. There were definitely major plot points, but overall, there were a lot of gaps where nothing really happened. I think this is typically where the romance is supposed to make you feel giddy but see item 1 above.
3. I’m not a fan of fade to black scenes in romance books. We were told so much about how often the couple had sex, but there was nothing on page besides kissing. With Billy being a total cinnamon-roll, Margot being insecure and emotionally stunted, and them specifically pointing out their own flaws, I was looking for them to worship one another at least once.
Cute later in life romance, perfect for anyone who likes romance novels with little to no spice.
Final Rating: 3 stars
Thank you to NetGalley, Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, and Matthew Norman for the advanced copy of this book. The review above is reflective of my honest opinions.