Serpent and Dove

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5

serpent and dove by shelby mahurin
Serpent and Dove

Author: Shelby Mahurin

Published: September 3, 2019

Publisher: HarperTeen

Series: Serpent and Dove, #1

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

Two years ago, Louise le Blanc fled her coven and took shelter in the city of Cesarine, forsaking all magic and living off whatever she could steal. There, witches like Lou are hunted. They are feared. And they are burned.

Sworn to the Church as a Chasseur, Reid Diggory has lived his life by one principle: thou shalt not suffer a witch to live. His path was never meant to cross with Lou’s, but a wicked stunt forces them into an impossible union—holy matrimony.

The war between witches and Church is an ancient one, and Lou’s most dangerous enemies bring a fate worse than fire. Unable to ignore her growing feelings, yet powerless to change what she is, a choice must be made.

And love makes fools of us all.

My review:

In her deeply captivating debut novel, Mahurin explores themes such as parental abandonment, survival, and religious zealotry. Having failed to read the synopsis or any information about this book before I began listening to a sample of the audio, I received two happy surprises right away. The first one was that one of my favorite narrators, Holter Graham, is the voice of Reid. The second was that this story includes the “enemies to lovers” trove, one of my favorites, and in this one the characters are actually forced to marry each other.

I started listening to a sample of the audio book and it was over way too soon. Naturally, I ended up spending one of my audible credits on the full book right away. Therein ensued a battle between having to live my life and absolutely having to listen to the book at all times. The plot was fast paced and engrossing. The magic system was fascinating, and I enjoyed the clash between the witches and the Church. The romance aspect of the story was not rushed, and the slow build-up filled me with anticipation.

Lou quickly moved up to the top of the list of my favorite heroines. I found her to be a strong and compelling main character. Reid’s efforts to keep Lou contained were very endearing. He soon figured out that there is not “handling” or “controlling” Lou, she was an unstoppable force of nature. He lovingly called her a “heathen” in his head. I did admire his stubbornness which sometimes bordered on pigheadedness, and his knack for being loyal to a fault. Coco and Ansel were my favorite side characters. Both of them fierce and loyal companions to our main characters.

Serpent and Dove is a 2019 Goodreads choice nominee. The next book in the series, Blood and Honey, is set to be published August 31, 2020. I honestly cannot wait to see how Mahurin ties the loose ends she left at the end of Serpent and Dove, and I also wish for more background and scenes including Ansel and Coco. I recommend this book to all YA/ Fantasy fans who love a good mix of magic and romance.

Ivory

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5

Ivory by Lola Dodge
Ivory by Lola Dodge

Author: Lola Dodge

Series: Manhattan Ten, #1

Published: October 22, 2019

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

If Ivory’s fellow flight attendants whisper that she has ice in her veins, they’d be right. She’s spent years ruthlessly suppressing her dangerous ice powers, pretending she didn’t grow up wild on the tundra.

Her legendary coolness has held solid—until a crazed attacker snaps her composure, unleashing her ice beast and blowing her cover. And she’s not sure if the man who defuses the situation is any less dangerous.


When Panther’s trans-Atlantic catnap is interrupted by Ivory’s ice spear through his mark’s gut, he doesn’t hesitate to claim her as one of the Manhattan Ten. It’s the only way to shield her from prosecution. It doesn’t hurt that the Nordic beauty puts his inner cat on the prowl.

Panther tempts Ivory in every smoldering way, but to let him melt her resistance is a risk she can’t afford. But when her past rises up to claim her, Pan is caught in the crossfire…and the only way to save him is to let the beast claim her, body and soul.

Disclaimer: I was given a free review copy of this book via Netgalley and INscribe Digital, the Publisher, in exchange for my honest review.

My Mini Review:

This story was fast paced and to the point like a novella should be, but without leaving any major plot holes. I enjoyed the introduction to this group of “Supers” who have familiar super powers such as mind reading, shifting, and ice, but yet their story is told in a new and futuristic setting. I loved the modern take on Super heroes, as well as the adult romantic aspect of it. I enjoyed the chemistry and slow building romance between Ivory and Jag. Even in a novella, the romantic aspect did not feel rushed which is always a plus.

The book was short enough to read in one sitting, and there was enough action and suspense to keep me hooked throughout. There was a serial killer involved, which offered a very interesting and unique twist on the super hero trove. I’m looking forward to reading the other books in this series, and finding out more about the other Supers and what their stories are. Mostly, I want to figure out who the killer is. I would recommend this novella to all Adult Fantasy readers who enjoy a quick, fast paced, action packed read.

Warning: This book includes explicit sexual content.

The Monsters of Music

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5

The Monsters of Music by Rebecca F. Kenney
The Monsters of Music

Author: Rebecca F. Kenney

Publishes: October 30, 2019

Publisher: Kindle Direct Publishing

ISBN: 1693557754

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

A darkly romantic gender-swapped modern retelling of The Phantom of the Opera, with a scarred Muse girl, a rock-star boy, and a singing competition. For fans of The Wicked Deep (Ernshaw), Wintersong (S. Jae-Jones), American Idol, or The Voice.

Mel must share her creative magic or be driven mad by it. But finding her first protégé isn’t as easy for her as it is for most Lianhan Sídhe (muses of Celtic myth). Though the women of her race are naturally beautiful, she carries horrifying scars across one side of her face, inflicted by her mother’s obsessive boyfriend. And Mel isn’t only interested in pouring her creative energy into a man; she wants to use her musical genius herself, too. But the laws of the Lianhan Sídhe, and her own savage appearance, stand in the way of her ever singing onstage.

To relieve the painful pressure of her magic, Mel latches onto Kiyoji, a boy with a beautiful voice, and coaches him through a televised singing competition. But neither of them are prepared for the power of their connection, or for the new kind of magic that happens when the two of them sing together.

Fans of Holly Black’s contemporary fantasy books (Tithe, Valiant) or Brigid Kemmerer’s A Curse So Dark and Lonely will enjoy this dark, offbeat retelling with a hint of cyberpunk and a dose of Celtic mythology. The novel celebrates a broad range of music from various decades.

Disclaimer: I received a free e-ARC of this book from the author in exchange for my honest opinion.

My Review:

I was a bit hesitant to read this book, because in the past I hadn’t enjoyed other books where the author attempted to mix music into the story (Example: “Wintersong” by S. Jae-Jones, which this book kept getting compared to). I should also say that I’ve never read or seen Phantom of the Opera. But I should not have worried, because the musical aspect in this book blended seamlessly into the story. Maybe it was the more modern setting, the simple precise wording, or the well-known songs that are mentioned, but I really enjoyed the blend of magic and music and I found the story very unique and alluring.

I liked reading the book through all the different points of views. It’s mainly told through Mel’s POV, but it switches to Kiyo, and many of the others as well. Each character had their own unique voice and perspective, and I could always tell when a new point of view was introduced. I liked that Mel was a flawed main character, and that we get to see her change and evolve throughout. Her dark side was a good contrast to Kiyo’s naivete and innocence. Also, the love aspect between Mel and Kiyo did not feel rushed. There was no “insta-love,” and they took their time getting to know each other. My favorite character was Prince, the cat.

I found the miscommunication between the characters in the middle of the story a bit annoying. It was at a point in the story where I felt there was already enough conflict going on, and I kept thinking “Just talk to each other!” Also, there were some unanswered questions and small plot holes when it came to the magic system. I don’t do spoilers, but there is something that happens as a result of Mel using her magic, and I was waiting for a good explanation but never got one.

The world building was well done. I could definitely picture this old school and its many rooms and passages in my mind’s eye as I was reading. The characters were well described, and I felt like I had a good grasp on what they all looked like. Overall, this was a great fast paced read, and I would recommend it to all Fantasy/ YA fans looking for a great story full of enthralling magic, music, and a new modern take on Phantom of the Opera.

Lifelike

Lifelike by Jay Kristoff
Lifelike by Jay Kristoff

Author: Jay Kristoff

Published: May 29, 2018

Publisher: Knopf Books by Young Readers

ISBN: 1524713929

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

On a floating junkyard beneath a radiation sky, a deadly secret lies buried in the scrap.

Eve isn’t looking for secrets—she’s too busy looking over her shoulder. The robot gladiator she’s just spent six months building has been reduced to a smoking wreck, and the only thing keeping her Grandpa from the grave was the fistful of credits she just lost to the bookies. To top it off, she’s discovered she can destroy electronics with the power of her mind, and the puritanical Brotherhood are building a coffin her size. If she’s ever had a worse day, Eve can’t remember it.

But when Eve discovers the ruins of an android boy named Ezekiel in the scrap pile she calls home, her entire world comes crashing down. With her best friend Lemon Fresh and her robotic conscience, Cricket, in tow, she and Ezekiel will trek across deserts of irradiated glass, infiltrate towering megacities and scour the graveyard of humanity’s greatest folly to save the ones Eve loves, and learn the dark secrets of her past.

Even if those secrets were better off staying buried.

My Review:

I really enjoyed the bonds between the characters in this book. The relationship and playful banter between Eve and Cricket reminded me a lot of that between Cinder and Iko in The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer. I also loved Lemon, and liked the bestie dynamic between her and Eve, always sticking by each other. I like how Kristoff always makes up his own language and slang words in his stories, and I find myself almost letting these words slip in real life, but I fear the weird concerned looks I would get from those not familiar with Kristoff’s work.

As always Mr. Kristoff made me ponder all sorts of ethical and moral dilemmas throughout this book. Should man-made AI’s be treated with the same rights as humans? What if they can feel and have all the emotions humans do? Is having machines do most of our manual labor considered slavery? I still don’t know where I stand on ALL of these, and I need a lot more time to digest all of it.

The ending of this book left me in shock, so I’m glad the next book “Deviate” has already been released. I could have used a bit more world building. I would’ve liked more detail on how this future post apocalyptic world looks on a grander scale. I highly recommend this series to all YA/ Fantasy fans and fans of Jay Kristoff. I will certainly be moving on to the next book soon and will let you guys know how it goes!

Reveal Me

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5

reveal me by tahereh mafi

Author: Tahereh Mafi

Series: Shatter Me, #5.5, Novella

Publisher: HarperCollins

Published: October 8, 2019

Brief Goodreads Synopsis:

The explosive revelations in Defy Me have left readers reeling and desperate for answers. This fourth and final novella in the series will bring readers back to the world of the Shatter Me before the final novel installment hits shelves in winter 2020.

My Mini Review:

Let me start off by saying that I love Kenji, and I will always love anything written from his point of view. He is real and down to earth, and I like reading his crazy thought processes, random thoughts, and raw emotions. No one can write emotions like Tahereh Mafi. She gives simple words different and elegant meanings, and her writing is poetic in nature.

All that aside, I just really wish this book was longer. I understand it’s a novella but I cannot stand how short this was, and how instead of satiating my “Shatter Me” thirst until the next installment, it left me feeling empty and wanting. Now, I realize I sound like an addict, but I really needed more! Needless to say, this novella got me super hyped up for the next book releasing in 2020. I absolutely cannot wait!

The Unhoneymooners

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5

the unhoneymooners by Christina lauren

Author: Christina Lauren

Publisher: Gallery Books

Published: May 14, 2019

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Olive is always unlucky: in her career, in love, in…well, everything. Her identical twin sister Ami, on the other hand, is probably the luckiest person in the world. Her meet-cute with her fiancé is something out of a romantic comedy (gag) and she’s managed to finance her entire wedding by winning a series of Internet contests (double gag). Worst of all, she’s forcing Olive to spend the day with her sworn enemy, Ethan, who just happens to be the best man.

Olive braces herself to get through 24 hours of wedding hell before she can return to her comfortable, unlucky life. But when the entire wedding party gets food poisoning from eating bad shellfish, the only people who aren’t affected are Olive and Ethan. And now there’s an all-expenses-paid honeymoon in Hawaii up for grabs.

Putting their mutual hatred aside for the sake of a free vacation, Olive and Ethan head for paradise, determined to avoid each other at all costs. But when Olive runs into her future boss, the little white lie she tells him is suddenly at risk to become a whole lot bigger. She and Ethan now have to pretend to be loving newlyweds, and her luck seems worse than ever. But the weird thing is that she doesn’t mind playing pretend. In fact, she feels kind of… lucky.

My Review:

This book was just as hilarious as everyone made it out to be. I’m glad I listened to the hype and finally read it. There were many funny moments as well as real cringy ones. When a book gets a physical reaction from me, like a cringe, then I think it has done its job. Also, I really enjoyed all the Harry Potter references.

I loved Olive’s crazy Hispanic family, but I’m still undecided on whether I want a family like hers. On the one hand, I loved how supportive they were, but on the other I would hate it if my family showed up at my house unannounced at all hours of the day. I did enjoy reading all their texts and back and forth banter. I liked how this book integrated texting into the narrative, since it has become such an integral part of how we interact with each other.

Olive was a strong female character, and I liked seeing her work through different ethical and moral dilemmas and witness the repercussions of her decisions. I also enjoyed Ethan’s personality and how he was able to deal with Olive’s inability to lie, or her propensity to talk to much when she was put on the spot. Their romance was slow building and realistic, even though in theory the author could’ve gotten away with some “insta-love” since they actually had known each other for a very long time.

The only negative for me was the ending was a bit dragged out, and I felt that many parts of it were unnecessary. But overall, I would recommend this book to all Romance readers. The sex scenes were not too explicit, and it was a very funny light-hearted read.

The Whisper Man

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5

the whisper man by alex north

Author: Alex North

Publisher: Celadon Books

Published: August 20, 2019

Synopsis from Goodreads:

In this dark, suspenseful thriller, Alex North weaves a multi-generational tale of a father and son caught in the crosshairs of an investigation to catch a serial killer preying on a small town.

After the sudden death of his wife, Tom Kennedy believes a fresh start will help him and his young son Jake heal. A new beginning, a new house, a new town. Featherbank.

But the town has a dark past. Twenty years ago, a serial killer abducted and murdered five residents. Until Frank Carter was finally caught, he was nicknamed “The Whisper Man,” for he would lure his victims out by whispering at their windows at night.

Just as Tom and Jake settle into their new home, a young boy vanishes. His disappearance bears an unnerving resemblance to Frank Carter’s crimes, reigniting old rumors that he preyed with an accomplice. Now, detectives Amanda Beck and Pete Willis must find the boy before it is too late, even if that means Pete has to revisit his great foe in prison: The Whisper Man.

And then Jake begins acting strangely. He hears a whispering at his window…

Sometimes writing can help heal you.”

The Whisper Man

My Review:

This was the perfect spooky October read. The creepy factor wasn’t helped by the fact that I listened to the audio book on my way home from work every night at three in the morning. My road home is sparsely lit and full of ominous trees casting shadows on the road. By the time I finally parked on my driveway and pressed pause there were usually goosebumps up my arms, and I was reluctant to walk into my dark home. I admit the raspy voice the narrator makes for the “whispers” he hears really freaked me out.

I really enjoyed the suspense in this book. I listened to it on my way to work as well, and it was hard to stop listening once I arrived. I wouldn’t call it an action-packed book, but it definitely had its thrilling moments, and it had other moments when I found myself wanting to scream at the characters. It was like I was watching a scary movie, I kept saying things like “Don’t do that!” like the characters could somehow hear me.

I liked the different points of views in the story. It worked really well to be able to see the investigation and action develop from the minds of all the characters involved. I especially enjoyed getting into the mind of the killer, it’s always interesting to see what motivates people to commit these kinds of heinous acts.

My favorite character was Jake, the little kid. I felt like his thought process and narrative was so genuine and realistic for a child his age. I also liked how smart and bright he was, he reminded me of my own kid. I recommend this book to all Suspense/ Thriller fans. It was the perfect read to get into the October mood.

Ash Princess

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5

Author: Laura Sebastian

Published: April 24, 2018

Series: Ash Princess Trilogy, #1

Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers

ISBN: 1524767069

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Theodosia was six when her country was invaded and her mother, the Fire Queen, was murdered before her eyes. On that day, the Kaiser took Theodosia’s family, her land, and her name. Theo was crowned Ash Princess–a title of shame to bear in her new life as a prisoner.

For ten years Theo has been a captive in her own palace. She’s endured the relentless abuse and ridicule of the Kaiser and his court. She is powerless, surviving in her new world only by burying the girl she was deep inside.

Then, one night, the Kaiser forces her to do the unthinkable. With blood on her hands and all hope of reclaiming her throne lost, she realizes that surviving is no longer enough. But she does have a weapon: her mind is sharper than any sword. And power isn’t always won on the battlefield.

For ten years, the Ash Princess has seen her land pillaged and her people enslaved. That all ends here.

Captive animals grow to love their captors all the time, even when they beat them. It’s not surprising that you love one of yours.”

Ash Princess

My review:

Sebastian’s writing is succinct and poetic in nature. I enjoyed how fast paced the story was, and how it dropped you in the middle of the action, not stopping until the bitter cliffhanger ending. Theo was such a strong main character. The whole time she had me questioning whether I would’ve made the same decisions she did if I was in her place, and whether I could ever be strong enough to withstand the things she did. There were a lot of ethical and moral dilemmas presented in this book, and as similar as I found this story to Throne of Glass, I felt like it went a lot deeper into issues of morality and duty than the first Throne of Glass book ever did.

As traitorous as it makes me, I can imagine it. A life where a crown—gold or ash—doesn’t weigh heavy on my head. A life where I’m not responsible for thousands of people who are hungry and weak and beaten every day. A life where I can just be a girl, kissing a boy because she wants to”

Ash Princess

At some point I feared this was going to turn into a Religion heavy story. It’s okay when stories include Gods and Goddesses and different made up religions and religious entities, but I don’t enjoy it when religion takes the main stage. I found it a bit boring and frustrating that many of these characters, including Theo, had powers but they did not use them for fear of not being allowed into the “After” and rejoin their friends and families. In my opinion, Fantasy books which include magic should have people that can USE their powers. I’m hoping this changes in the future books. There was also some “insta-love” which is always annoying.

Why would the gods allow us to suffer like we have for the last decade? Why wouldn’t they have struck the Kalovaxians down as soon as they set foot on Astrean soil? Why didn’t they protect us?”

Ash Princess

Now, I know it seems like I have a lot more dislikes than I do likes, so how can I give this book four stars? The negative aspects were mildly inconvenient, but they did not make the whole story for me. Also, this has been one of the only Fantasy books that has made me tear up since the ending of Empire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas. I really liked Theo, and I connected with her and her struggle. I’ve now moved on to the second book in this series, Lady Smoke, and I’m enjoying that as well. I have been trying to catch up with this series for a while, and I’m glad I’m finally reading it. I recommend this series to all Fantasy fans.

Red, White and Royal Blue

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5

Author: Casey McQuiston 

Published: May 14, 2019

Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin

ISBN: 1250316774/9781250316776

Synopsis from Goodreads:

What happens when America’s First Son falls in love with the Prince of Wales?

When his mother became President, Alex Claremont-Diaz was promptly cast as the American equivalent of a young royal. Handsome, charismatic, genius—his image is pure millennial-marketing gold for the White House. There’s only one problem: Alex has a beef with the actual prince, Henry, across the pond. And when the tabloids get hold of a photo involving an Alex-Henry altercation, U.S./British relations take a turn for the worse.

Heads of family, state, and other handlers devise a plan for damage control: staging a truce between the two rivals. What at first begins as a fake, Instragramablefriendship grows deeper, and more dangerous, than either Alex or Henry could have imagined. Soon Alex finds himself hurtling into a secret romance with a surprisingly unstuffy Henry that could derail the campaign and upend two nations and begs the question: Can love save the world after all? Where do we find the courage, and the power, to be the people we are meant to be? And how can we learn to let our true colors shine through?

Casey McQuiston’s Red, White & Royal Blue proves: true love isn’t always diplomatic.

Maybe there’s more than one dream for you, or more than one way to get there.

June

My Review:

This book was absolutely hilarious. The puns, the analogies and the wit had me laughing out loud the whole time. I kept see this book everywhere on social media alongside raving reviews. I’m happy I finally decided to read it. I also liked the historical background of the story, as well as all the letters from previous gay men and women in history that were provided. I enjoyed the idea that this type of political change could ever be possible in the United States as well as England. Mostly, I would love to live to see the day when there is a sitting female President of the United States.

I kind of fell in love with Prince Henry. I believe this was inevitable because his character is so likeable, and Alex’s descriptions of Henry were so full of affection…eventually. At first, they’re mortal enemies, and this enemies to lovers trope is also one of my favorites. I liked Alex as well, although his personality was a bit too much at times, which I think he was also aware of which helped a bit. I could also have done with a bit less angst, pining, and introspective musings from both of them. I did love all of Alex’s Harry Potter references, he took “The Prisoner of Azkaban” with him on one of the flights and I was in love with him too then 🙂

Not only did I love Henry and Alex’s relationship, I also really enjoyed how they interacted with June, Nora, Pez, and Bea. My favorite minor character was June, I liked how down to earth and supportive she was. Another minor negative for me was I thought the ending was a bit dragged out and I could’ve done without a lot of that. This book had me wishing we actually lived in a world where political changes like this could be possible, it had me thinking maybe they are within our reach. Love is love. 

A bit of a warning, the sex scenes were not SUPER explicit but there were some details mentioned as well as a lot of language used. It’s not as much detail as I’ve encountered in other books, but it’s there, so be warned. I apologize for how many times I wrote the word “love” in this review I just really really enjoyed this book. If you’re looking for a feel-good Contemporary Romance, I highly recommend this one.

The Institute

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5

My bookstagram

Author: Stephen King

Publication date: September 10, 2019

Publisher: Scribner

ISBN: 1982110562

Synopsis from Goodreads:

In the middle of the night, in a house on a quiet street in suburban Minneapolis, intruders silently murder Luke Ellis’s parents and load him into a black SUV. The operation takes less than two minutes. Luke will wake up at The Institute, in a room that looks just like his own, except there’s no window. And outside his door are other doors, behind which are other kids with special talents—telekinesis and telepathy—who got to this place the same way Luke did: Kalisha, Nick, George, Iris, and ten-year-old Avery Dixon. They are all in Front Half. Others, Luke learns, graduated to Back Half, “like the roach motel,” Kalisha says. “You check in, but you don’t check out.”

In this most sinister of institutions, the director, Mrs. Sigsby, and her staff are ruthlessly dedicated to extracting from these children the force of their extranormal gifts. There are no scruples here. If you go along, you get tokens for the vending machines. If you don’t, punishment is brutal. As each new victim disappears to Back Half, Luke becomes more and more desperate to get out and get help. But no one has ever escaped from the Institute.

As psychically terrifying as Firestarter, and with the spectacular kid power of It, The Institute is Stephen King’s gut-wrenchingly dramatic story of good vs. evil in a world where the good guys don’t always win.

My Review:

No one writes like Stephen King. The characters in this book all had great character arches, even the minor ones. King can weave a whole backstory, and establish a unique personality for each one of his characters with only a few carefully worded sentences. Each character had a purpose and they were all somehow interconnected.

Luke was a great kid, he reminded me a lot of my own kid, so bright and kind and full of life. My favorite side characters were Kalisha and Nicky, but I did love all the kids. I felt for them. Now that I’m a mother of two I find that this happens to me more and more with stories involving children and I have been avoiding them, but I will endure anything for a good Stephen King story.

This story had me in the literal edge of my seat. It got my foot tapping, my breath catching, and my heart racing, like only a good thriller can. My only negative was that I felt like all this action and suspense was building up to something monumental, but the actual ending felt a bit anticlimactic. But to me it’s about the journey, not the ending, and the journey was amazing. I recommend this book to all Stephen King fans, old and new, and anyone that wants to read a good thriller/suspense.