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Book Review: Ink Blood Sister Scribe by Emma Törzs

Hi All!

I hope everyone’s weekend went well!

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!

Genre:  Fantasy

Publication Date: May 30, 2023

NetGalley Blurb:

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.

Final Thoughts:

Such a beautifully written story with a unique take on magic, sisterhood, and unlikely heroes.

Final Rating: 

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.

Check out Emma’s social media at the links below.

Goodreads | Website

While you’re at it, let’s be antisocial together!

Goodreads | Instagram | Gmail

Thank you to NetGalley, William Morrow, and Emma Törzs for the advanced copy of this book. The review expressed above is honest and my own.

Book Review: Picture-Perfect Boyfriend by Becky Dean

Hi All!

I hope everyone’s week is going well!

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

NetGalley Blurb:

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.

Final Thoughts:

Cute and fun YA romance with the added benefit of Hawaii!

Final Rating: 

4 stars!

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.

Goodreads | Instagram

While you’re at it, let’s be antisocial together!

Goodreads | Instagram | Gmail

Thank you to NetGalley, Random House Children’s, Delacorte Press, and Becky Dean for the advanced copy of this book. The review above is reflective of my own, honest opinions.

Charm City Rocks by Matthew Norman

Hi All!

I hope everyone’s week has been great!

A couple “fun facts” about me:

  • 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?

Genre:  Romance

Publication Date: June 6, 2023

NetGalley Blurb:

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.   

Final Thoughts:

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.

The Other Side of Infinity by Joan F. Smith

Hi All!

This past week I read The Other Side of Infinity by Joan F. Smith. When I was a kid, I was OBSESSED with the movie The Butterfly Effect, so I was super excited when I got this ARC.

Yes, I realize this is a weird film for a child to go absolutely bonkers over, and yes, I realize there are probably things I would hate about this movie if I were to rewatch it as an adult. But kids are dumb and like dumb things. I mean, for Gods’ sake, I also had a crush on Pauly Shore for some unknown reason, so let’s just move on from young Britt’s interests.

ANYWAYS! How did this one stack up? Did it go swimmingly, or did it sink? Let’s find out!

Genre:  Young Adult, Romance

Publication Date: April 25, 2023

NetGalley Blurb:

They Both Die at the End meets The Butterfly Effect in this YA novel by Joan F. Smith, where a teen uses her gift of foreknowledge to help a lifeguard save a drowning man—only to discover that her actions have suddenly put his life at risk.

It was supposed to be an ordinary day at the pool, but when lifeguard Nick hesitates during a save, seventeen-year-old December uses her gift of foreknowledge to rescue the drowning man instead. The action comes at a cost. Not only will Nick and December fall in love, but also, she envisions that his own life is now at risk. The other problem? They’re basically strangers.

December embarks on a mission to save Nick’s life, and to experience what it feels like to fall in love—something she’d formerly known she’d never do. Nick, battling the shame of screwing up the rescue when he’s heralded as a community hero, resolves to make up for his inaction by doing December a major solid and searching for her mother, who went missing nine years ago.

As they grow closer, December’s gift starts playing tricks, and Nick’s family gets closer to an ugly truth about him. They both must learn what it really means to be a hero before time runs out.

What I liked about the book:

1. I loved the concept of this and when December’s unique ability really shone. I don’t want to give away too much, but it was fun seeing how she thought things out and how much she went down the rabbit hole with the butterfly effect of actions. I especially loved when she brought up her “hypothetical” situation to her friend group and there was an actual cerebral conversation about the topic.

2. I liked Nick’s friend Maverick and Nick’s sister Sophie the most.

Maverick was a wicked smart high schooler taking college classes and setting himself up to be one of the brightest doctors/scientists of his generation, but he also was trying to kick a nicotine habit. I appreciated the depth this small detail brought to his overall character and found him intriguing because of it.

Sophie was a fun and spirited 10-year-old. She had opinions, which were often humorous, and she really strove to accomplish her goals. We got to see her succeed in running and not succeed as well in dancing, which brought depth to her character.

I’ve definitely been reading too many brother’s-best-friend romances because I would totally read a spinoff focused on Mav and Sophie ten years in the future. However, I would not read any other spinoffs from this series.

What could have been better:

1. I didn’t really like any of the characters. I didn’t really hate them either, they were all just a bit boring. Let’s put it this way, none of the characters compelled me to care about them or their lives.

I also felt the circle of friends that December developed was really surface level for how much the author tried to play up her feeling included in their group. The trio of girls were mentioned first by Nick seeing them at the pool, and then they just suddenly became friends with December. I liked how this subverted expectations because they were the popular girls and December was “odd”, but otherwise, there was nothing super intriguing or deeply developed about them or the group dynamic.

2. The pacing of this was too slow for my taste. I felt like Nick not acting on his lifeguard duty and his feelings about that took up too much of the word count. These feelings also led to him wanting to make it up to December and find her mom, which was not really something I was interested in; if December herself didn’t care, why should I?

I also felt like Nick had this secret through the whole book that we weren’t supposed to find out and it got annoying. For how vanilla this guy was, it didn’t seem juicy enough to keep me hooked, but it kept getting brought up over and over again.

3. The romance was a miss for me. I loved December’s descriptions of the butterflies and just letting herself fully fall into her emotions. THAT was brilliant! Otherwise, even with the foresight that they would get together, the start of their romance seemed to come out of nowhere; no real build up, no real flutters from Nick’s point of view, and then suddenly the boy couldn’t get enough of her. Is that really how high school boys think? Perhaps I’m wrong and giving too much credit to the younger opposite sex, but somehow, I don’t think so.

4. There were things drilled into (like December’s mom) that were wrapped up either unsatisfactorily or not at all. If I have to read about it, at least give it an ending!

5. I 100% did not like the ending. Because I didn’t feel a connection to the characters, the ending was more random than emotional for me. It could have been a real heavy hitter if some of the points I highlighted above were executed a bit more well.

Final Thoughts:

Overall, the idea was good and the writing was technically well done, I just felt the execution was lacking in some of the major areas I look at. Not for me.

Final Rating: 2 stars

Thank you to NetGalley, Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group, Feiwel & Friends, and Joan F. Smith for the advanced copy of this book. The opinions expressed above are honest and my own.

In Nightfall by Suzanne Young

Hi All!

I hope everyone’s week is going well!

If you’re anything like me, you’re still super fascinated every time you have to write “XX/XX/2023” on something, and simultaneously freaked out that a whole month has already gone by! However, the good news is there are still 11 months left in the year to read as many books as we want!

Speaking of which, this weekend I read In Nightfall by Suzanne Young and had some pretty strong feelings about it. Let’s dive into it!

Genre:  Young Adult, Fantasy, Paranormal, Horror

Publication Date: March 28, 2023

NetGalley Blurb:

In the quaint town of Nightfall, Oregon, it isn’t the dark you should be afraid of—it’s the girls. The Lost Boys meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer in this propulsive novel from the New York Times bestselling author of The Treatment.

Theo and her brother, Marco, threw the biggest party of the year. And got caught. Their punishment? Leave Arizona to spend the summer with their grandmother in the rainy beachside town of Nightfall, Oregon—population 846 souls.

The small town is cute, when it’s not raining, but their grandmother is superstitious and strangely antisocial. Upon their arrival she lays out the one house rule: always be home before dark. But Theo and Marco are determined to make the most of their summer, and on their first day they meet the enigmatic Minnow and her friends. Beautiful and charismatic, the girls have a magnetic pull that Theo and her brother can’t resist.

But Minnow and her friends are far from what they appear.

And that one rule? Theo quickly realizes she should have listened to her grandmother. Because after dark, something emerges in Nightfall. And it doesn’t plan to let her leave.

What I liked about the book:

1. I liked the sarcasm and the relationship between Theo and her brother Marco. It was genuine and believable.

2. I absolutely adored Nonna, especially after she told Theo her history in the town! She was a total badass.

What could have been better:

1. I was definitely lured by the cover and blurb on this one. Given The Lost Boys and Buffy the Vampire Slayer (the Kristy Swanson and Luke Perry version) were two of my favorite movies when I was younger, I figured this would be a slam dunk.

What I didn’t figure was the book would feel like someone took The Lost Boys and made it into a Mad Lib for the author to fill out. It was especially hard to ignore in the first couple of chapters that this was a gender swapped, shot for shot remake of the film at times. Instead of the references being a “cool! I get that one!” they were very…cringy. Maybe if I hadn’t just watched the movie 2 weeks ago, I wouldn’t have caught as many of the comparisons and my thoughts on this would be a bit different?

However, I also didn’t feel there was much Buffy the Vampire Slayer­-ness to it other than fighting a bunch of vampires in a prom dress. Perhaps I’m missing something because I’m over 20 years late watching the television show, but I honestly don’t think so.

2. I liked the podcast and mystery ideas within the story, but I didn’t feel they were utilized to their potential. I didn’t really understand what the point was of her even listening to the first episode of the podcast focusing on the town if she had already met the podcasters and formed a relationship with them. I also didn’t understand why they mentioned episode two would drop and then that never went anywhere.

I felt like this was a check-the-box exercise in throwing a podcast into a story, which I’ve seen a lot more of recently. Other than perhaps trying to create a vibe reminiscent of Serial for murder mystery books or trying to show characters as relatable by listening to podcasts, I’m not sure what the theory is behind including this trait now and rarely do I see it executed well.

3. Unfortunately, the book didn’t really get exciting for me until the big reveal we all knew was coming at around the 70% mark. The romance was bleh, the characters besides Nonna were bleh, and the plot was predictable. Overall, just not for me.

4. I hate being THIS PERSON, but this definitely could have used another round of editing. A couple slips are absolutely no problem for me, but constant sentences where you can tell a word was supposed to be deleted stagnate the flow and bring me out of the story altogether.

Final Thoughts:

Overall, just not for me.

Final Rating: 2 stars

Thank you to Random House Children’s, Delacorte Press, and Suzanne Young for this free advanced review copy of this book. The thoughts and opinions expressed above are honest and my own.

The Great Big Demon Hunting Agency by Peter Oxley

Hi All!

Happy New Year’s Eve!

As a reviewer of Booksirens, I’m sent a lot of cool data that a nerd like me gets super hyped about. Things like pie charts of the primary and secondary genres I’ve read (swoon!), bar graphs of the age groups and time periods the books I’ve read fall in (oh my lords!), tree charts of the topics, themes, and characters (all those nodes!), and so much more! The data nerd I am can’t help but get SUPER excited each time my information is updated so I can see all my new data!

Using this data to my advantage, I noticed part way through the year that I tend to read significantly less works by male authors than female authors. For the last year, my ratio has been 18% male / 82% female; the last six months has been 33% male / 67% female. Now, this is probably due to the fact that I read a lot of romance books, which are highly skewed with female writers. Regardless, part of my goal going into 2023 is to read more books by male authors. And what better time to start this goal than New Year’s Eve?

Yesterday, I requested an ARC of The Great Big Demon Hunting Agency by Peter Oxley. How did my first step towards my goal go down? Let’s find out!

Genre:  Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Steampunk

Publication Date: March 2, 2023

NetGalley Blurb:

London, 1868. The streets are haunted by thieves, murderers… and demons from beyond the Aether.

Spencer and Bart are the city’s most incompetent crooks, and they are in deep trouble. Hunted by both police and their fellow criminals, they are forced to consider the unthinkable —going straight.

Forming The Great Big Demon Hunting Agency, they thought their troubles were behind them, but they soon find themselves caught up in a web far more dangerous than they could ever imagine, pitched against demons, criminals and evil magicians.

Why are there so many demons roaming the London streets, and can Spencer and Bart stop them before it’s too late?

Who are the mysterious Tappers, and what are they doing with the women they abduct from the streets?

Can Spencer and Bart change the habits of a lifetime and not only stay on the right side of the law, but also save the day?

The Great Big Demon Hunting Agency is the new novel from Peter Oxley, the author of the Infernal Aether series. If you like dark gothic adventures with a light-hearted twist, then you’ll love The Great Big Demon Hunting Agency.

What I liked about the book:

1. This was such a quick read! It was humorous and adventurous enough that I wanted to see what happened next and didn’t want to put it down.

2. The characters were overall enjoyable.

Spencer and Bart: I loved how morally grey Spencer and Bart were; they were crooks after all, but had never done anything SUPER bad and were the ultimate good guys with consciences in the end. I also liked how even though they tried to pigeonhole themselves into their roles (Spencer is usually the brains and Bart is usually the muscle), they showed a lot of other, I would say equally important, traits. Like Bart with his heart of gold and Spencer with allowing his emotions to win over his brain at several points.

Tessie was fine. I liked the idea brought forth that she was an outcast as a kid and she was the creative type rather than the social etiquette type. I also enjoyed the moments when she let herself speak her mind, especially to her husband. I feel like we’ve only scratched the surface of Tessie’s character, and I have a feeling she will just continue to bloom beautifully into a rich character as the series goes on.

Thaddeus. Thaddeus. Thaddeus. The bad boy with magic powers who “doesn’t work for anyone”. Oh, I already know I’m going to fall hard for you. Probably the most morally grey of them all, Thaddeus was only in bits and pieces of this, but I have a feeling he will be involved with a lot of the shenanigans going forward. Not necessarily as a main character, but as the character that always shows up to help out at the last minute.     

3. This book does a great job of setting us up for future events. We definitely weren’t left on a cliffhanger, but not everything was fully resolved, if that makes sense. This one also set a lot of foundation for future books to be able to just dive in, so I anticipate I will enjoy those even more going forward.

4. I love that cover! It’s fun and vibrant, yet dark and enticing. It reminds me of Daughter of the Pirate King meets The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

What could have been better:

1. Based on the reviews both on Goodreads and NetGalley, I anticipated this book to be more humorous than it was. I was expecting a lot of bumbling, slapstick antics reminiscent of The Three Stooges, which it wasn’t. It was still humorous, don’t get me wrong; it was just more “hmmmms” of appreciation than outright laughter from me.

2. Similar to item 1, the action/adventure was not as actiony or adventury as I thought it would be. I was looking for Goonies meets Ghostbusters, and this fell a bit flat. There were several scenes where they were fighting demons, but none of them really stand out to me looking back. Fun enough to read in the moment, but nothing super memorable.  

3. There were two pairs of names that I constantly got mixed up when they were near each other:

– the only women really in this book were named Bessie and Tessie. Did we really need them to rhyme? This was a bit confusing to me at first and had me thinking the author had a typo for part of it. Until our second encounter with Bessie where her appearance was described a bit more, I assumed they were the same person.

– Also, Seth and Spencer. While they may not have rhymed, the first real introduction to Spencer and Bart having Seth thrown in the mix definitely messed with me the entire scene and from there on out whenever Spencer and Seth were together. I constantly found myself saying, “Now, which one is this?

Final Thoughts:

This was a fun little read that was great to end 2022 on. I’m looking forward to the next one!

Final Rating: 3.5 stars

Thank you to the publisher Burning Chair, Peter Oxley, and NetGalley for the free copy of this book. The opinions expressed above are voluntary and my own.

Want to check out what else Peter has worked on? Hop on over to his social media accounts using the below:

Goodreads | Facebook | Website

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Nocturne by Alyssa Wees

Hi All!

Hope your week is going well!

This week I opened up Nocturne by Alyssa Wees, a gift granted to me by the publishers Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine and Del Rey via NetGalley. I know absolutely nothing about ballerina-ing (that’s a word right?), but I loved the summary of this book so I decided to wish for it.

My wish was granted and I received a free copy of the book. The review below is reflective of my honest and voluntary opinions.

Genre:  Fantasy

Publication Date: February 21, 2023

NetGalley Blurb:

In this haunting, evocative fantasy set in 1930s Chicago, a talented ballerina finds herself torn between her dreams and her desires when she’s pursued by a secretive patron who may be more than he seems.

“An enchanting and lyrical fever dream bursting with dazzling prose and dark romance, Nocturne enthralled me.”—Erin A. Craig, New York Times bestselling author of House of Salt and Sorrows

Growing up in Chicago’s Little Sicily in the years following the Great War, Grace Dragotta has always wanted to be a ballerina, ever since she first peered through the windows of the Near North Ballet company. So when Grace is orphaned, she chooses the ballet as her home, imagining herself forever ensconced in a transcendent world of light and beauty so different from her poor, immigrant upbringing.

Years later, with the Great Depression in full swing, Grace has become the company’s new prima ballerina—though achieving her long-held dream is not the triumph she once envisioned. Time and familiarity have tarnished that shining vision, and her new position means the loss of her best friend in the world. Then she attracts the attention of the enigmatic Master La Rosa as her personal patron and realizes the world is not as small or constricted as she had come to fear.

Who is her mysterious patron, and what does he want from her? As Grace begins to unlock the Master’s secrets, she discovers that there is beauty in darkness as well as light, finds that true friendship cannot be broken by time or distance, and realizes there may be another way entirely to achieve the transcendence she has always sought.

What I liked about the book:

1. That cover is gorgeous. Something about it is breathtakingly haunting and so avant-garde that I knew I was hooked after seeing it.

2. Overall, I liked the idea behind this story. I don’t want to spoil too much, but this definitely had a mythological feel to it, which I was absolutely crazy for! I love stories within stories and the worldbuilding that goes into fantasy-laden stories is usually so interesting to me. This was no exception.

3. Overall, I did enjoy the lyrical writing style the author employed. There were A LOT of descriptors used on the simplest of things. If done right, I absolutely love this approach. To me, it’s why I love Orwell and Bradbury: taking a simple thought or topic and strangling words out of it until you feel every word connecting you to the story; as though every word breathes fresh energy into you. However, if done wrong, it just feels exhausting.

I see a lot of reviews for this book with this as a critique. To me, I did not mind, and even enjoyed, the writing style. What I did not enjoy was waiting so long to understand where those beautiful words were taking me (see item 1 in the “What could have been better” section).  

What could have been better:

1. What at times was reminiscent of Beauty and the Beast, The Phantom of the Opera, and Hades and Persephone, somehow managed to feel uneventful. I was waiting and waiting and waiting for something to happen, for some big reveal to come, for the other ballet slipper to drop, and it didn’t really do it for me when it did. Instead of being a large *BANG!* of excitement, the “reveal” was a slow *fizzzzzzzle*. It was pretty easy to figure out early on what it was going to be, but then it wasn’t really satisfactorily done in my opinion.

On top of this, I felt like the main story didn’t really take off until about 55-60% of the way through the book. I swore when we were this deep into the story and she had just started meeting the other MCs, that this was going to be a duology. So, of course, I stopped reading and scoured Goodreads and the author’s website to see when the next book was going to come out. End result: this isn’t a duology, it just wasn’t set up well. With all the fluff in the front of the book and the meat of the book not really happening until the last half, it was hard to become attached to any of the characters or the plot.  

2. My biggest gripe was the character development. Bottom-line, there wasn’t any for 2 of the 3 main characters. For a book praised as a “dark romance” and a “lush gothic romance that will dance you dizzy”, I found exactly zero romance in this thing, which makes sense when you realize the author only expands on one character for the entire book.

Furthermore, I did not feel a connection to the main character, Grace. She wasn’t annoyingly perfect or relatedly flawed; she wasn’t over the top silly or fiery fierce. She just was, which I found a bit boring for a main character that acted as really the sole character for such a large amount of the book.

3. As much as I loved the mythological feel, I didn’t feel like we got enough backstory into it. I would much rather have focused on the deal between the brothers and who they were as characters, than read over and over again how this chick wanted to jump out of a window.

Final Rating: 2.5 stars

Nobody Puts Romcoms In The Corner by Kathryn Freeman

Hi All,

My name is Britt and I’m a romcom addict. A few of my favorites include Always Be My Maybe, 27 Dresses, 10 Things I Hate About You, and When Harry Met Sally. Nothing gets my heart fluttering better than a quick-witted conversation full of sexual innuendos, the smart one making the grumpy one fall to his/her knees, and a wonderful HEA.

That’s why I jumped at the chance to read Nobody Puts Romcoms In The Corner. As a lover of love, this premise sounded so good to me. I’ve read a couple books lately that I was looking for this vibe with that ultimately just fell flat, but I had high hopes this would be the one to satisfy me.

So did I get the HEA I was looking for? Let’s find out!

Genre:  Romantic Comedy

Publication Date: February 27, 2023

NetGalley Blurb:

The perfect pick me up romcom for fans of Beth O’Leary, Sophie Kinsella and Sophie Ranald!

Sally is a classic romantic and Harry is a classic cynic, but when a drunken bet leads the new flatmates to (badly) recreate ‘the lift’ from Dirty Dancing, and the video goes viral (#EpicRomcomReenactmentFailure), they both realise there’s potential financial benefit in blundering their way through the romcom lexicon for their suddenly vast social media following.

Now, as Harry and Sally bring major romcom moments to new life – including recreating that classic diner scene – their faking it turns to making…out and suddenly they’re living a real life romcom of their own! But like all the greatest love stories, the road to happily ever after is paved with unexpected challenges for this hero and heroine…

What I liked about the book:

1. I kind of know what I’m talking about when it comes to Romcoms, so believe me when I say, Kathryn Freeman NAILED IT! This had the perfect mixture of friction, comedy, and swoon. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book that more perfectly invoked those same feelings I get when I watch a good romcom. I was so giddy reading this the entire time, that I could not put it down!

2.  I loved that we got to see such rich characters in our MCs.

While Sally may have been the lover of all things love, she was also fierce and strong. What the book pointed out so well is just because someone loves love, doesn’t mean they’re blind to reality. We love the HEA, but we realize life is not a fairy tale by any means, we just want the zaps and tingles, or “fuzzies” and “bells”. IS THAT SO MUCH TO ASK?!?! I loved the realistic take on this as a cynic with a love of romcoms.

Likewise, Harry was a true enigma himself and I loved it. With his outer shell of cynicism and sarcasm, it’s easy to bypass his soft-heart and protective nature of those he truly loves. For a guy so convinced love doesn’t exist, he sure did fall pretty hard for our leading lady pretty fast ❤️

Above all else, they had truly sizzling chemistry! I totally bought it that these two were meant to be from the very beginning and the happy butterflies in my tummy and I loved watching it play out!

3. Of course I loved the mix in with social media and the reenactment fails. Reading these scenes having the actual ones in my mind had me laughing so hard! It took the best moments of romcoms and poked fun at them, but still pushed our MCs into real love which was my ultimate hope and dream for this beautifully opposite couple.

4. Spin off potential! It’s there, you all, and I can’t wait to see if Kathryn expands on this group! I can just see something between Amy and Jack. MARK MY WORDS!

5. I did not realize when I requested this book that it was SUPER British. That’s kinda on me, knowing the publisher is HarperCollins UK 🤦🏼‍♀️. There were definite times I had to reread things to understand what the author was trying to tell me, but once I got into it, it was just such a quaint little addition to the story I really enjoyed. I loved all the phrases and imagining their English accents. Ultimately, it gave this story an extra little pop.

6. Finally, we got a couple doses of body positivity for Sally, who was not plus size but also not stick-thin. I loved that this was incorporated given the social media involved, but also Harry’s take on it was so heartwarming.

What could have been better:

1. It would have been nice to have more background into both of the hard parts of their lives. I felt like except for the mediation points for Harry, we didn’t learn too much about his backstory from more than him just telling us. Same with Sally, there was a lot of history there with her and her sister that wasn’t explored as much as I had hoped. I think this story really could have benefitted from at least one flashback for each MC giving us a little more detail and connecting us more to their plights.

Final Rating: 4.5 stars!

Thank you to HarperCollins UK, One More Chapter, and Kathryn Freeman for the free copy of this ARC. The opinions expressed above are honest and voluntary.

Want to check out what else Kathryn has worked on? Hop on over to her social media accounts using the below:

Goodreads | Instagram | Website

While you’re at it, let’s be antisocial together!

Goodreads | Instagram | Gmail

French Kissing in New York by Anne-Sophie Jouhanneau

Hi All!

 I hope your week is going well! If you’re anything like me, you’re already fully immersing yourself in wonderful stories to make your head and shoulders feel just a little more light this holiday season.

One book that’s been on my TBR forever is my ARC of French Kissing in New York. With an expected publication date of January 3, 2023 and a title like that, I was thinking this would be a perfect New Years Eve read…and then I got impatient and had to read it!

This ARC definitely got me with it’s cover. All those bright colors and the promise of romance was right up my alley! So how did this seemingly adorable book stack up? Let’s find out!

Genre: Romance, Teens & YA

Publication Date: January 3, 2023

NetGalley Blurb:
“It took all of two paragraphs for me to fall head-over-heels in love with this story. Naive, plucky Margot was perfection, New York City brimmed loud and clear from the pages, and I absolutely adored the love story. I’ll be thinking about this one for a while.”—Jenna Evans Welch, New York Times bestselling author of Love & Gelato

A charming, high-energy romance in the city that never sleeps about a girl who can’t wait to be a part of Manhattan’s restaurant scene—and find the boy she fell for last summer. Perfect for fans of Emily in Paris!

Welcome to New York. . . . He’s been waiting for you.

Margot hasn’t been able to stop thinking about Zach, the dreamy American boy she met one magical night in Paris. In an instant, they fell head over heels in love and spent the perfect evening ensemble—sealed with a kiss and a promise: if the universe wants them to be together, fate will find a way.

Flash forward one year later: Margot has finished high school and is newly arrived in New York, ready to roll up her chef’s-coat sleeves in Manhattan’s bustling restaurant scene, celebrate her father’s upcoming wedding . . . and reconnect with Zach.

But a lot can happen in a year, and promises made in the shadows of the Eiffel Tower look different in the neon glow of the Big Apple. Margot spends the summer desperate to find Zach and enlists the help of Ben, the sweet line cook at her restaurant. Margot is convinced she found her soul mate that night in Paris . . . but what if the universe has a different plan?

Anything’s possible in New York City. Especially l’amour, American-style.

What I liked about the book:

1. This story was basically a love letter to food and New York and I loved it!

I’m not a huge fan of New York, but something about the descriptions of all the little local locations and hipster cookie bars made me want to go again and see if my first time was just a fluke. Maybe I’m hipster enough now to enjoy it???

The food in this story was AMAZING! The sounds, the descriptions, the smells (ok, not really, but you know what I mean) all made me hungry, and even more impressive, made me want to cook, which is usually an absolute no-go for me.

2. Another thing I really liked about this book was that the main character, Margot, was really on a journey of self-discovery. I love books about characters who end up finding themselves, especially if it’s wildly different than they originally thought. It was fun to stick around for Margot’s journey to New York and her crazy antics to try to find “the love of her life”.

Every time I picked up this book to continue reading, I couldn’t think of anything but Taylor Swift’s “Welcome to New York”, which definitely got played on repeat several times while I read this coming-of-age story. Here you go, don’t say I never did anything for you 😘

3. Oh, how I loved Ben. He was sweet and stood up for her, he helped her on her hunt, and he legitimately tried to date her in the sincerest way possible. He was definite cinnamon-role hubby material and for sure a Short King!

I loved watching how Margot’s opinion of Ben changed as well. He went from the short guy that was not terrible looking to her best friend that was, like, a total babe.

What could have been better:

1. I felt like there was so much emphasis on the food and locations that it detracted from the characters themselves. I would go so far as to say Margot was not the main character; the main character was New York. As a person that needs a lot of character connection in a book, I found this area lacking.

2. Similarly, because there was so much emphasis on the food and locations, I felt we were really just location hopping, which took away from real plot development at times. I definitely didn’t mind reading about all the locations and food choices the characters made, but there were a couple times I was left hungry and feeling like I didn’t really read anything that advanced the story.

3. I really, really hated how much of the plot was around her happiness being dependent on her finding Zach. Not only because it was Zach, but because it was any other person other than herself. I get that this is a total YA thing to think, and is probably normal (?…But what do I know, I ditched high school in favor of independent study because I couldn’t understand my peers…). HOWEVER, even if this is “normal” I definitely don’t think it should be emphasized like this in books, or it at least should have been wrapped up with a better message than not being addressed at all. It’s definitely not a healthy message for teens to obsess over someone and completely shirk other parts of their life/responsibilities in order to get them. Like, GIRL, YOU HAVE A JOB AND A DAMN FINE MAN RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU. WHAT ARE YOU DOING RISKING THAT FOR SOME DUDE YOU KISSED ONCE???  

Final Thoughts:

This was a cute little love story to food, first loves, and the city that never sleeps. Definitely worth a read if you are a YA romance fan ❤️  

Final Rating: 3.5 stars!

Thank you to NetGalley, Random House Children’s / Delacorte Press, and Anne-Sophie Jouhanneau for the free copy of this book. The review above is reflective of my honest opinion.

Unseelie by Ivelisse Housman

Genre: Fantasy, Teens & YA

Publication Date: January 3, 2023

NetGalley Blurb:
The start of a swoony, high-energy duology that Emily Lloyd-Jones, author of The Bone Houses, calls “reminiscent of classic fairytales yet brimming with a charm all its own.”

“A world of glimmering fae that sparkles with mystery, adventure, and enchantment.” —Andrew Joseph White, New York Times bestselling author of Hell Followed with Us

Iselia “Seelie” Graygrove looks just like her twin, Isolde…but as an autistic changeling left in the human world by the fae as an infant, she has always known she is different. Seelie’s unpredictable magic makes it hard for her to fit in—and draws her and Isolde into the hunt for a fabled treasure. In a heist gone wrong, the sisters make some unexpected allies and find themselves unraveling a mystery that has its roots in the history of humans and fae alike.

Both sisters soon discover that the secrets of the faeries may be more valuable than any pile of gold and jewels. But can Seelie harness her magic in time to protect her sister and herself?

“Housman’s stunning debut is the sort of love letter only an autistic author could write. Fae canon has been waiting for this one.” —H.E. Edgmon, author of The Witch King

What I liked about the book:

1. I was definitely drawn in by the cover! The colors, the sisterly bond, the badass stances. It all screamed “PICK ME UP AND DEVOUR ME!”

2. I’m a sucker for a good ragtag group trying to solve problems and overthrow the government/monarchy, which this book definitely had in spades. I also liked that the characters were strategic and good at their own things, but they ALSO got their asses handed to them plenty of times. They weren’t all invincible and time and time again it showed with the circumstances they ended up in.

3. I liked the characters for the most part, though I felt they were rather surface-level except Seelie.

Seelie is the underdog main character for sure. She has been misunderstood and a misfit her whole life because of being a changeling and because of being on the spectrum. I loved how the author was able to show little signs of Seelie being autistic without ever addressing it directly; being an autistic writer, she definitely knew what she was doing when she showed us rather than told us. It was creatively and wonderfully done. My problems with Seelie came down to she was boring and a bit selfish at times. This for the main character along with some pacing issues we’ll talk about in a bit, left a lot to be desired for me.

Isolde reminds me so much of my best friend, Michelle. She is fierce, she is patient, and she is a little ruffian! I wish we got more insight into her character, as I felt she was always being overshadowed by Seelie.  

Olani was just flat-out a badass. I loved seeing her militant fighting style, but then also seeing her tenderly heal others. It was such a good juxtaposition for her character and I wanted more! I also have this really BIG need for her and Isolde to end up together!!! PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE!!! Again, I felt we only scratched the surface of her character unfortunately.

Finally, I liked that Raze, who I can only assume is going to be Seelie’s love interest in book 2, was not the “typical” hulking hero. Yes, the boy was strong, but he was also a little round and had stark red hair…so basically I pictured a less insufferable Ron Weasley the whole time. This, along with his humor and grin, had me loving him for Seelie instantly!

What could have been better:

1. As mentioned previously, I felt none of the characters were dove into satisfactorily, except Seelie who was almost unbearable for me at times.

2. “The start of a swoony, high-energy duology”…I call bullshit on this one. There was no swoon because there was no confirmed love interests. This was also definitely not high-energy. The pacing at times left me fighting the urge to skim or left me rereading several paragraphs I zoned out during. Never a good sign, but especially bad when you advertise as “high-energy”.

3. Sisters in a strange, magical world where everything and everyone isn’t as it/they seem? I feel like I’ve read this book before…there was nothing really original about the plot and there are so many other books in this arena that are breathtakingly done that it’s unfair to compare…but someone has to!

Final Thoughts:

Heavy YA, heavy fantasy. Read if you enjoyed The Cruel Prince by Holly Black.

Final Rating: 3 stars!

Thank you to NetGalley, Inkyard Press, and Ivelisse Housman for the free copy of this e-ARC. I am voluntarily leaving an honest review.