I’d like to give a bit of explanation for my ratings in the reviews I write. I probably should have done this when I started rating reviews…but it seemed self-explanatory. Except my ratings are more nuanced than five stars=a spectacular book. I read a lot. Like, a lot. But just because I loved a book, doesn’t mean you will. And just because something bothered me in a book, doesn’t mean it will bother a single other person on the planet. A review is an opinion, and we all know what they say about opinions.

It’s highly unlikely you’ll ever see a one- or two-star rating on a review here. Because if I think the writing is that bad, or I dislike the content that much, I won’t finish reading the book. (It took me years—most of my life—to embrace the freedom of not finishing a book that was a bad choice for me.) Writing is hard work, and I refuse to give a bad review to a book just because I don’t like it a bit. That’s disrespectful to the author and the work that went into creating the book. And, just because I don’t care for the book, doesn’t mean you won’t, either.

So, as a general guideline:
-5 stars means I loved the book. It might have a few issues, but I loved it anyway.
-4 stars means I liked the book, possibly loved parts of it. A solid read.
-3 stars means I thought it was good enough to finish—but there was something I
didn’t really care for (could have been a writing issued, could have been a character
I found annoying). The writing might have been superb—which I’ll mention—but if
the MC is whiny and annoying, that detracts enough that it knocked the rating
down.
-anything with a decimal number means it leaned towards the next number up (So,
the character was annoying, but not that annoying.).

Again, my reviews are my opinions. We don’t all have the same tastes or pet peeves or preferences. That’s what makes us individuals. If you think my 3-star rating is wrong on a book, please tell me why. Maybe your insight into the character I disliked will change my mind. Anything is possible.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review and Blog Tour: A Sweet Mess, by Jayci Lee

a sweet mess
Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title:   A Sweet Mess
Author Jayci Lee
Genre:   Romantic comedy
Rating:   4 out of 5

Aubrey Choi loves living in her small town nestled in the foothills of California, running her highly successful bakery away from the watch of her strict Korean parents. When a cake mix-up and a harsh review threaten all of her hard work and her livelihood, she never thought the jaded food critic would turn out to be her one-night stand. And she sure as hell never thought she’d see the gorgeous Korean hunk again. But when Landon Kim waltzes into her bakery trying to clean up the mess he had a huge hand in making, Aubrey is torn between throwing and hearing him out.

When she hears his plan to help save her business, Aubrey knows that spending three weeks in California wine country working with Landon is a sure recipe for disaster. Her head is telling her to take the chance to save her bakery while her heart—and her hormones—are at war on whether to give him a second chance. And it just so happens that Landon’s meddling friends want them to spend those three weeks as close as possible…by sharing a villa.

 When things start heating up, both in and out of the kitchen, Aubrey will have to make a choice—to stick it out or risk her heart.

This book made me laugh. Because of course Aubrey’s one-night stand would also be the critic who almost destroyed her livelihood. It also made me hungry. I’m craving at least a cupcake right now just thinking about it.

The characters really made this novel a joy—all the characters. I related to Aubrey’s mishaps and I loved her relationship with her best friend. Her struggles with her attraction to Landon were totally relatable, and it was fun to see how both of them grew and changed throughout the novel.

Jayci Lee lives in California. A Sweet Mess is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: What You Wish For, by Katherine Center

what you wish for
Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title:   What You Wish For
Author:   Katherine Center
Genre:   Fiction
Rating:   5 out of 5

Samantha Casey is a school librarian who loves her job, the kids, and her school family with passion and joy for living.

But she wasn’t always that way.

Duncan Carpenter is the new school principal who lives by rules and regulations, guided by the knowledge that bad things can happen.

But he wasn’t always that way.

And Sam knows it. Because she knew him before—at another school, in a different life. Back then, she loved him—but she was invisible. To him. To everyone. Even to herself. She escaped to a new school, a new job, a new chance at living. But when Duncan, of all people, gets hired as the new principal there, it feels like the best thing that could possibly happen to the school—and the worst thing that could possibly happen to Sam. Until the opposite turns out to be true. The lovable Duncan she’d known is now a suit-and-tie wearing, rule-enforcing tough guy so hell-bent on protecting the school that he’s willing to destroy it.

As the school community spirals into chaos, and danger from all corners looms large, Sam and Duncan must find their way to who they really are, what it means to be brave, and how to take a chance on love—which is the riskiest move of all. 

This book made me think being a teacher might be fun…which is really saying something, considering that’s possibly the least likely of things for me to want to do. And I have an English degree. I just know that’s not the job for me. It takes a special kind of person to be a good teacher. I am not that person.

I loved this book. It made me laugh, it made me smile, it just made me feel good. Sam was great. I loved how much she had changed as a person and come totally out of her shell. She seemed like such a fun person to be around. And Duncan used to be fun…he’s just forgotten that in the wake of everything he’s been through. I can’t speak highly enough of this book—absolutely recommend it!

Katherine Center is from Texas. What You Wish For is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review.)

Sundays are for Writing #79

It was another solid writing week:  two fiction sessions, six book reviews (I wanted to get another one written, but it took me quite a bit longer than I expected to read the book), two lessons with Maggie Stiefvater, and a bit of brainstorming on the re-write of Chasing Shadows.

Happy Writing!

Book Review: Entangled Secrets, by Pat Esden

entangled secrets

Title:   Entangled Secrets
Author Pat Esden
Genre:   Fantasy
Rating:   3 out of 5

The Northern Circle coven’s future is in question once again. But this time, hearts and souls are on the line, making the stakes higher, the magic more crucial, and the battle more fateful than ever before . . .

Pregnant and alone at twenty-one, Chandler Parrish sought refuge within the Northern Circle coven’s secluded complex. Never revealing the identity of her child’s father, Chandler has raised her now eight-year-old son, Peregrine, in peace, and used her talent as an artist and welder to become a renowned metal sculptor. But her world is shaken to the core when Peregrine shows signs of natural faerie sight—a rare and dangerous gift to see through faerie glamour and disguises that could only have come from his father’s genes. Worse yet, the boy has seen a monstrous faerie creature trailing Lionel Parker, a magic-obsessed journalist determined to expose the witching world.

But the very man who threatens the witches’ anonymity may also be key to healing Chandler’s long broken heart. As dangerous desires and shocking secrets entangle, new faerie threats and demonic foes close in on the coven and High Council. Loyalties will be tested. Fierce magics will be called upon. And Chandler will have to face her past to save all she holds dear: her coven, her child—and perhaps even her own soul.

This is the first book of the Northern Circle Coven series I’ve read…and probably the last. I loved the parts talking about the metal sculpting, because I find that fascinating, but the rest of this was just “meh” for me. I’m not a fan of insta-love, and that’s exactly what this felt like to me. This is probably a case of the book just not being a good fit for me, not an actual problem with the book, but I didn’t really care for this. I’ve gotten away from reading paranormal romances like this, so I probably should have skipped this for that reason alone.

Pat Esden lives in Northern Vermont. Entangled Secrets is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Kensington Books in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Girl, Serpent, Thorn, by Melissa Bashardoust

girl, serpent, thorn
Image belongs to Flatiron Books.

Title:   Girl, Serpent, Thorn
Author Melissa Bashardoust
Genre:   Fantasy, YA
Rating:   4 out of 5

There was and there was not, as all stories begin, a princess cursed to be poisonous to the touch. But for Soraya, who has lived her life hidden away, apart from her family, safe only in her gardens, it’s not just a story.

As the day of her twin brother’s wedding approaches, Soraya must decide if she’s willing to step outside of the shadows for the first time. Below in the dungeon is a demon who holds knowledge that she craves, the answer to her freedom. And above is a young man who isn’t afraid of her, whose eyes linger not with fear, but with an understanding of who she is beneath the poison.

Soraya thought she knew her place in the world, but when her choices lead to consequences she never imagined, she begins to question who she is and who she is becoming…human or demon. Princess or monster.

I liked the premise of this:  a princess who has never had human contact because her skin is poisonous makes a terrible mistake, endangering her family and her kingdom and putting them at the mercy of evil…but a sort of charming evil.

It was cool to see a fantasy culture like this—I thought it was very well-done—and I enjoyed the layers of details, like the stories from the past and the legends from Soraya family. Deception and secrets are threads running throughout the entire novel, and sometimes the reader is deceived just as much as Soraya is.

Melissa Bashardoust lives in California. Girl, Serpent, Thorn is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Flatiron Books in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: One to Watch, by Kate Stayman-London

 

one to watch
Image belongs to Random House/Dial Press.

Title:   One to Watch
Author:   Kate Stayman-London
Genre:   Fiction, romance
Rating:   4 out of 5

Bea Schumacher is a devastatingly stylish plus-size fashion blogger who has amazing friends, a devoted family, legions of Insta followers—and a massively broken heart. Like the rest of America, Bea indulges in her weekly obsession: the hit reality show Main Squeeze. The fantasy dates! The kiss-off rejections! The surprising amount of guys named Chad! But Bea is sick and tired of the lack of body diversity on the show. Since when is being a size zero a prerequisite for getting engaged on television?

Just when Bea has sworn off dating altogether, she gets an intriguing call: Main Squeeze wants her to be its next star, surrounded by men vying for her affections. Bea agrees, on one condition—under no circumstances will she actually fall in love. She’s in this to supercharge her career, subvert harmful beauty standards, inspire women across America, and get a free hot air balloon ride. That’s it.

But when the cameras start rolling, Bea realizes things are more complicated than she anticipated. She’s in a whirlwind of sumptuous couture, Internet culture wars, sexy suitors, and an opportunity (or two, or five) to find messy, real-life love in the midst of a made-for-TV fairy tale. In this joyful, wickedly observant debut, Bea has to decide whether it might just be worth trusting these men—and herself—for a chance to live happily ever after.

I don’t like reality TV—the very idea is mind-numbing to me—but I actually enjoyed this read quite a bit. The body positivity was fantastic to see, of course and I’m sure the reaction to a plus-size women being on a Bachelor-esque show was pretty true-to-life, sadly.

I was right there with Bea’s best friend, hating on Bea’s crush and hoping Bea did not keep pining after him the entire time. I was so firmly in Bea’s head that I was just as baffled/hurt/shocked at the guys’ behavior as she was. I did love how the story ended, and thought it was very appropriate.

Kate Stayman-London lives in Los Angeles. One to Watch is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Random House/Dial Press in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Lost City, by Amanda Hocking

the lost city
Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press/Wednesday Books.

Title:   The Lost City
Author:   Amanda Hocking
Genre:   YA, fantasy
Rating:   3.5 out of 5

Ulla Tulin was left abandoned in an isolated Kanin city as a baby, taken in by strangers and raised hidden away like many of the trolls of mixed blood. Even knowing this truth, she’s never stopped wondering about her family.

When Ulla is offered an internship working alongside the handsome Pan Soriano at the Mimirin, a prestigious institution, she jumps at the chance to use this opportunity to hopefully find her parents. All she wants is to focus on her job and the search for her parents, but all of her attempts to find them are blocked when she learns her mother may be connected to the Omte royal family.

With little progress made, Ulla and Pan soon find themselves wrapped up in helping Eliana, an amnestic girl with abilities unlike any they have ever seen before—a girl who seems to be running from something. To figure out who she is they must leave the city, and possibly, along the way, they may learn more about Ulla’s parents.

I haven’t read the Trylle series. If I remember correctly, I tried to read the first one and just couldn’t get through it. I made it through this one. I know the characters are trolls, but with a few exceptions, they just seemed like human teenagers.

Honestly, I found bits of this boring…and a few parts interesting. I wasn’t totally sold on the characters, but perhaps with a bit more exposure they’ll grow on me.

Amanda Hocking lives in Minnesota. The Lost City is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of St. Martin’s Press/Wednesday Books in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review and Blog Tour: In the Neighborhood of True, by Susan Kaplan Carlton

in the neighborhood of true
Image belongs to Algonquin Young Readers.

Title:   In the Neighborhood of True
Author:   Susan Kaplan Carlton
Genre:   YA
Rating:   4.0 out of 5

After her father’s death, Ruth Robb and her family transplant themselves in the summer of 1958 from New York City to Atlanta—the land of debutantes, sweet tea, and the Ku Klux Klan. In her new hometown, Ruth quickly figures out she can be Jewish or she can be popular, but she can’t be both. Eager to fit in with the blond girls in the “pastel posse,” Ruth decides to hide her religion. Before she knows it, she is falling for the handsome and charming Davis and sipping Cokes with him and his friends at the all-white, all-Christian Club.

Does it matter that Ruth’s mother makes her attend services at the local synagogue every week? Not as long as nobody outside her family knows the truth. At temple Ruth meets Max, who is serious and intense about the fight for social justice, and now she is caught between two worlds, two religions, and two boys. But when a violent hate crime brings the different parts of Ruth’s life into sharp conflict, she will have to choose between all she’s come to love about her new life and standing up for what she believes

Susan Kaplan Carlton lives in New Hampshire. In the Neighborhood of True is newly out in paperback.

I’ve always enjoyed reading about debutante life, because it seems like such a foreign concept to me, even though I was born and raised in the South. The debs Ruth ends up hanging out with were such quintessential southern girls—bless their hearts—sweet as sugar on the surface, but judgmental, mean, and ugly on the inside.

Ruth has had her entire world upended, so her struggles to figure out who she is are relatable, as are her fears. In the land of sweet tea and a façade of manners—Atlanta in the 50s—there isn’t much room for someone who is different, but Ruth’s journey taught her strength and pride in being herself—not who everyone wanted her to be.

(Galley courtesy of Algonquin Young Readers in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review and Blog Tour: The Black Swan of Paris, by Karen Robards

the black swan of paris
Image belongs to Harlequin/MIRA.

Title:   The Black Swan of Paris
Author:   Karen Robards
Genre:   Fiction
Rating:   4.5 out of 5

Paris, 1944

Celebrated singer Genevieve Dumont is both a star and a smokescreen. An unwilling darling of the Nazis, the chanteuse’s position of privilege allows her to go undetected as an ally to the resistance.

When her estranged mother, Lillian de Rocheford, is captured by Nazis, Genevieve knows it won’t be long before the Gestapo succeeds in torturing information out of Lillian that will derail the upcoming allied invasion. The resistance movement is tasked with silencing her by any means necessary—including assassination. But Genevieve refuses to let her mother become yet one more victim of the war. Reuniting with her long-lost sister, she must find a way to navigate the perilous cross-currents of Occupied France undetected—and in time to save Lillian’s life.

I recently read a novel about Coco Chanel’s time during the Nazi occupation—and Chanel is mentioned in passing at once point during this novel—but I found this story far more engrossing than that one. I liked Genevieve from the beginning, and she only grew more intriguing as more of her story was revealed.

I enjoyed the parts of the story about her singing and performances, her costumes, and her glitzy life, but the mysteries and intrigues she gets into were even more fascinating. I highly recommend reading this!

Karen Robards is a bestselling author. The Black Swan of Paris is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Harlequin/MIRA in exchange for an honest review.)