Monthly Wrap-Up: May 2021

Hello, everyone! This month has been a whirlwind. I crossed 1000 views and 500 likes here on the blog. Thank you all so much for the support! I’ve managed to post daily for the entire month, which was more difficult to keep up with than I thought it would be. I’ll probably slow down a bit for a while, but I have some great things planned for June, as well. So, we’ll see. It will probably depend on how busy work is in the near future. I made quite a bit of progress on my reading goals this month, and I actually finished my monthly TBR for the first time! Check out all the details below:

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ARC Mini Review – Weatherman

Author: Price Doom

Publication Date: March 16, 2021

Length: 64 pages

Read Date(s): May 22, 2021

⭐⭐⭐

Goodreads Synopsis

Heart and her father are on the run from God. At least, that’s what her father, Sonny, tells her. Young Heart believes Sonny’s stories of dying suns and scientists with tranquilizer guns, parachuting out of planes in pursuit of them . Sonny believes only the elements in his body can save the sun, and Heart grows up in fear of the boogeymen from Sonny’s stories—and Sonny himself. After years without proof and questions about Sonny’s mental stability, Heart makes her escape.

My Mini Review

This novella was a strange yet intriguing read. I was confused by it at first as the first few parts don’t really seem to go together in any meaningful way, but the pieces fall into place pretty well by the end. Although, I think it could have used another part for further development of some of Heart’s choices because they seemed abrupt. The ending also felt a bit rushed and was very ambiguous, which was both thought-provoking and annoying. My favorite thing about the book was the characterization of Sonny because he embodied some of the tell-tale signs of a particular mental illness quite well. Overall, this novella was a quick, intriguing read that left me contemplating what it was all about.

***Thank you to the author for providing a copy of the book. The review consists of my honest thoughts and reactions to the book.***

ARC Review – This Poison Heart

Author: Kalynn Bayron

Publication Date: June 29, 2021

Length: 384 pages

Read Date(s): May 22, 2021 – May 26, 2021

⭐⭐⭐

Goodreads Synopsis

Darkness blooms in bestselling author Kalynn Bayron’s new contemporary fantasy about a girl with a unique and deadly power.

Briseis has a gift: she can grow plants from tiny seeds to rich blooms with a single touch.

When Briseis’s aunt dies and wills her a dilapidated estate in rural New York, Bri and her parents decide to leave Brooklyn behind for the summer. Hopefully there, surrounded by plants and flowers, Bri will finally learn to control her gift. But their new home is sinister in ways they could never have imagined–it comes with a specific set of instructions, an old-school apothecary, and a walled garden filled with the deadliest botanicals in the world that can only be entered by those who share Bri’s unique family lineage.

When strangers begin to arrive on their doorstep, asking for tinctures and elixirs, Bri learns she has a surprising talent for creating them. One of the visitors is Marie, a mysterious young woman who Bri befriends, only to find that Marie is keeping dark secrets about the history of the estate and its surrounding community. There is more to Bri’s sudden inheritance than she could have imagined, and she is determined to uncover it . . . until a nefarious group comes after her in search of a rare and dangerous immortality elixir. Up against a centuries-old curse and the deadliest plant on earth, Bri must harness her gift to protect herself and her family.

From the bestselling author of Cinderella Is Dead comes another inspiring and deeply compelling story about a young woman with the power to conquer the dark forces descending around her.

My Review

The gorgeous cover of this book grabbed my attention immediately and demanded that the book be read. Upon reading the synopsis, I was even more intrigued because it sounded incredibly interesting and unlike anything I had ever read before. Unfortunately, the book wasn’t as good as I hoped, but I still enjoyed many elements of it.

The representation in this book was fantastic. I enjoyed reading both a Black and LGBT perspective on the issues touched upon in this book. I especially enjoyed seeing a family with two moms presented in such a loving and real way. The portrayal and interactions of this family was one of my favorite things about the book. Furthermore, the main character’s struggles with anxiety and accepting her powers, and herself, without fear were compelling. The author also adeptly handled current social topics, such as defunding the police, by interweaving them throughout the narrative in ways that made sense. It made me think about some of the topics in a different way than before, which I always appreciate and enjoy.

The premise of this book was fascinating. The powers of the main character were really cool and unique, and I loved every bit of getting to explore them with her. I was captivated by the imaginative re-telling of certain Greek myths and I greatly enjoyed how the author used them to explain the history of the main character’s family. However, I felt like I walked away from the book without a clear understanding of how Briseis’s two powers were related; it seemed the author treated them as one thing when they came across to me as two separate types of magic (nurturing the plants vs. protection of the host). The mystery of the house and garden, as well as the town and its residents, were riveting and kept the tension high, especially toward the end of the book. The plot twists, however, were fairly obvious. So obvious, in fact, that it made Briseis seem somewhat unintelligent for not picking up on things quicker.

The pacing of this book was a major problem for me. A majority of the book was incredibly slow. There were several points in the first half that I considered DNFing the book because I was bored. Then things swung in the other direction, with the ending of the book being so fast that I had trouble keeping up and was confused by some of the plot elements that felt really rushed. For example, out of nowhere the house is being foreclosed even though they said several times that the house was paid for. Then somehow a bank got involved even though there was no mortgage, which didn’t make any sense. It wouldn’t have been such a big deal if so much of the plot and forward movement at the end of the book hadn’t been tied to what happened with the bank.

I enjoyed some of the characters and relationships in this book. I particularly liked Mo and her relationship with Briseis. She just really came to life for me in a way many of the other characters didn’t. Her humor, and the genuine way she interacted with Briseis, made her stand out. Briseis’s other mom, and Briseis’s new friends, came across as one-dimensional, and I did not find myself caring much about any of them. The relationships between Briseis and her new friends, including the romance elements, seemed forced and rushed, with Briseis missing some pretty obvious red flags in those relationships that any sane person would have given more attention. Despite the flaws, though, Briseis was an interesting character, and I enjoyed seeing her thoughts on many of the issues the book covered, including dealing with accepting herself and being a kid in a family struggling to make ends meet.

Overall, the book was not bad. It just was not as good as I wanted it to be. I have no doubt many people will love this book because of its refreshing perspective on timely issues, interesting re-imagining of old myths, positive LGBT representation, use of plant magic, and mysterious undertones. If these things sound like something you’d be interested in, I suggest you give it a shot. However, the book just didn’t really work for me despite all of the good elements, and I probably won’t be picking up the sequel. Therefore, I rate it 3 out of 5 stars.

Stacking the Shelves (7) – 5/29/2021

Stacking The Shelves is all about sharing the books you are adding to your shelves, may it be physical or virtual. This means you can include books you buy in physical store or online, books you borrow from friends or the library, review books, gifts and of course ebooks! The meme is hosted by Reading Reality.

Weekly Wrap-Up

This has been a pretty slow reading week for me. I’ve been a bit tired and have had trouble focusing. I got some housework finished and spent a lot of time vegetating. But I honestly don’t even know what I did with most of this week…other than buy some new books.

Amazon Purchases

Amazon sucked me in with an offer this week. I bought four new ebooks so that I could get some credit back to buy even more ebooks. I’ve had my eye on each of these books because I’ve seen great things about all of them. The credit was just the perfect excuse to pick them up. 😊

Library Acquisition

I used Hoopla this week to borrow this new (to me) audio book. I’ve wanted to read this one for a while, and I was excited to see the library had the digital audio available. I’m already approximately a quarter of the way through it, and I’ve enjoyed it so far. It has made me laugh a lot, and the interaction between the main characters is adorable.

Barnes & Noble Purchases

I went to B&N this week specifically to pick up these two books. I think I did good on this trip considering I walked out with only what I intended to buy.

Final Thoughts

Overall, I’m satisfied with what I’ve added to my shelves this week, and I’m looking forward to reading it all. I’m also excited that there are no new galleys to report. Maybe my NetGalley feedback ratio will actually rebound at some point.

Have you read any of the books I picked up? If so, what did you think? Are any of these on your TBR? Let me know in the comments below!

First Lines Fridays (7) – 5/28/2021

First Lines Fridays is a weekly feature for book lovers hosted by Wandering Words. What if instead of judging a book by its cover, its author or its prestige, we judged it by its opening lines?

  • Pick a book off your shelf (it could be your current read or on your TBR) and open to the first page
  • Copy the first few lines, but don’t give anything else about the book away just yet – you need to hook the reader first
  • Finally… reveal the book!

Today’s First Lines:

“”Nicky, yes,” Seth Gray groaned, and Nick had never been prouder of himself in his entire life. Granted, he’d also never been more turned-on, and he couldn’t quite focus because all the blood had left his brain and traveled south, but still. Hearing his name come from Seth’s mouth in that way was apparently enough to fry all the remaining circuits in Nicholas Bell’s brain.”

Do you know which book this is from? Scroll down to find out!

Title: Flash Fire

Author: TJ Klune

Publication Date: July 13, 2021

Goodreads Synopsis

Flash Fire is the explosive sequel to The Extraordinaries by USA Today bestselling author TJ Klune!

Nick landed himself the superhero boyfriend of his dreams, but with new heroes arriving in Nova City it’s up to Nick and his friends to determine who is virtuous and who is villainous. Which is a lot to handle for a guy who just wants to finish his self-insert bakery AU fanfic.

Thoughts & Comments

I was so excited to get an eARC of this from NetGalley. I was approved while in the middle of reading The Extraordinaries, and I almost jumped for joy. I can’t wait to start this one, and if the first sentences are anything to go by, it seems this book will be getting steamier in the romance department while still being snarky and hilarious. Check out my review for the first book in this series, The Extraordinaries, here!

Does this book sound like something you would like? Why or why not? Let me know in the comments!

Book Review – Ruin & Rising

Author: Leigh Bardugo

Publication Date: June 17, 2014

Length: 422 pages

Read Date(s): May 19, 2021 – May 21, 2021

⭐⭐⭐⭐

Goodreads Synopsis

The capital has fallen.

The Darkling rules Ravka from his shadow throne.

Now the nation’s fate rests with a broken Sun Summoner, a disgraced tracker, and the shattered remnants of a once-great magical army.

Deep in an ancient network of tunnels and caverns, a weakened Alina must submit to the dubious protection of the Apparat and the zealots who worship her as a Saint. Yet her plans lie elsewhere, with the hunt for the elusive firebird and the hope that an outlaw prince still survives.

Alina will have to forge new alliances and put aside old rivalries as she and Mal race to find the last of Morozova’s amplifiers. But as she begins to unravel the Darkling’s secrets, she reveals a past that will forever alter her understanding of the bond they share and the power she wields. The firebird is the one thing that stands between Ravka and destruction—and claiming it could cost Alina the very future she’s fighting for.

My Review

***This review contains major spoilers. Do not read further if you haven’t read the book! You’ve been warned. ;)***

First of all, I just want to say how much I’ve enjoyed reading this trilogy. The books were not perfect and things didn’t always go the way I wanted them to, but the story and world were fascinating and enjoyable. I didn’t realize how much I came to care about the characters until I finished the books and there was no more story to read. The author did a great job creating lovable (and hate-able) characters, which kept me invested throughout each of the books. I was worried I would not enjoy the books since I had seen some really harsh reviews, but I’m happy I made the decision to read them. And I’m really looking forward to the author’s other outings in the Grishaverse.

I loved the first half of this book. There were so many great moments. I was intrigued by Alina toying with the Darkling by using the power he used to tormented her in the previous book. The return of Nikolai had me smiling from ear to ear. Mal was less Mal-like and actually had some really likeable moments. The new locales were interesting, and the conflict with the Apparat was an insightful analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of faith and organized religion. There was a lot to like even if the pacing was a bit slow at times.

Although I liked his character much more in this book, Mal’s abrupt change in personality seemed odd to me. I understand they were underground for at least a few months, but that still seemed a bit quick to have such a drastic personality shift. I wish there had been a little more development of the change in him from jealous and petty boyfriend to dutiful, faithful protector.

There were some powerful scenes in this book that made me feel so many things. A lot of what happened with Nikolai and Baghra broke my heart. Genya dealing with her scars and standing up to the king were beautiful to read. The sacrifice Alina made at the end to defeat the Darkling was gut-wrenching. The role of loneliness, fear, and traumatic persecution in the Darkling’s story, and the inevitable ending of his arc, were poignantly tragic. The author really did a fantastic job of creating a very human villain, and, like Baghra, I so badly wanted to see him be redeemed despite the terrible things he did. I was also struck by how this book, and his story, ended with mercy, although a different kind than the ending with the stag from the first book. His anguish jumped off the page during those last scenes, and his death, in my opinion, was an act of mercy that halted his torment and endless isolation.

All that being said, the second half of the book did not go the way I expected or wanted. I wanted to see an epic showdown between light and dark, and the ending didn’t really give me that. It felt a bit anticlimactic. Alina completely losing her powers was another aspect I disliked. It seemed almost like all the character development I loved in the last book was thrown out the window so she could have a country life with Mal. Although, I did like the message of the power being dispersed among the people; I just wish she would have been able to keep some of it. Despite not getting what I wanted, the ending made sense. It wrapped up many of the story lines well and set Nikolai up to have some (hopefully) good stories of his own in future books. The plot twists tied together clues from the previous books, and I enjoyed the deepening of the history and lore of the world they provided.

Overall, I liked the book and the trilogy as a whole. That author was great at creating characters that evoke emotion and built an interesting world for them to live in. While I hoped for a different ending, what we got made sense and tied up loose ends well even if it wasn’t completely satisfying. Therefore, I rate the book 4 out of 5 stars.

My 6 Most Anticipated June 2021 Releases

Hello, everyone! Today I am going to be counting down my six most anticipated releases of June 2021. I plan to add each of these to my bookshelves next month (unless I’ve been lucky enough to get an advanced copy).

#6This Poison Heart by Kalynn Bayron

Release Date: June 29, 2021

Goodreads Rating: 4.30 out of 5 Stars

What Caught My Eye: The beautiful cover grabbed my attention on NetGalley, and the description for the book piqued my interest. This is the book I’m currently reading since I was lucky enough to get an eARC through NetGalley. The premise is interesting, and I love the mystery surrounding the MC’s power so far.

#5Seven Deaths of an Empire by G. R. Matthews

Release Date: June 22, 2021

Goodreads Rating: 3.97 out of 5 stars

What Caught My Eye: I saw other people talking about this one on Twitter. It seems to have lots of politics, scheming, magic, and action, which makes me excited about it as those are all things I love reading.

#4The Wolf and the Woodsman by Ava Reid

Release Date: June 8, 2021

Goodreads Rating: 4.07 out of 5 stars

What Caught My Eye: Once again, a gorgeous cover pulled me in to read more about it. After I read the synopsis, I knew there was no way this was not going on my TBR. I love historical fiction, fantasy, and mythology, and this book looks like an interesting blend of all three.

#3Daughter of Sparta by Claire M. Andrews

Release Date: June 8, 2021

Goodreads Rating: 4.42 out of 5 stars

What Caught My Eye: The word Sparta. Seriously, though. I love history, especially the Greco-Roman time period. And it is a retelling of a myth. I’m sold.

#2The Darkness Outside Us by Eliot Schrefer

Release Date: June 1, 2021

Goodreads Rating: 4.49 out of 5 stars

What Caught My Eye: I wanted the ARC of this from NetGalley so bad. Unfortunately, I was declined (most likely due to my abysmal feedback ratio). I was sold after the first words of the synopsis: “Two boys, alone in space.” So, I’m definitely going to be picking this one up next week.

#1Star Wars: The High Republic: The Rising Storm by Cavan Scott

Release Date: June 29, 2021

Goodreads Rating: 3.53 out of 5 stars

What Caught My Eye: Um. The words Star Wars. 🙂 I read pretty much everything Star Wars, and I’ve enjoyed all the stories from the High Republic era so far. I’ve been waiting not so patiently for this one ever since Light of the Jedi first came out.

So, there you have it! My six most anticipated books of June 2021. Are any of these on your TBR? Let me know in the comments!

ARC Audiobook Review – Not My Ruckus

Author: Chad Musick

Narrator: Ivy Tara Blair

Release Date: February 16, 2021

Listen Date(s): May 2, 2021 – May 18, 2021

🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

Goodreads Synopsis

Folks know 14-year-old Clare isn’t normal, even for a tomboy. She runs too much, talks too little, carries a gun too often, and holds a grudge forever. Only her papa’s job at the bank keeps gossip quiet. It’s unwise to risk the cold anger of the man who knows everyone’s secrets.

Clare feels prepared for everything from fire, to flood, to demon attack. When her neighbor Esther kisses her, though, Clare has no ready script. Maybe she could write one, given time she doesn’t have. At the moment of that first kiss, Esther’s mom is bleeding out from a gunshot wound.

Clare can read the signs everyone else is determined to ignore. A murder was only the beginning. Esther needs protection, whether she wants it or not, and Clare won’t abandon her friend just because things are hard.

Maybe one day she’ll be forgiven for doing what’s needed.

My Review

I both loved and hated this book. The writing was exquisite, and the author did a phenomenal job of bringing the characters to life with his words. The plot, however, was absolutely heartbreaking. This book followed the teenage Clare as she befriended her neighbor, which lead to the uncovering of many awful family secrets. It provided an honest and heartfelt look at a teenager’s explorations of her identity and sexuality. Ultimately, it was a story that illustrated the destructive influence of abuse and trauma and the healing power of love.

There are so many trigger warnings for this book, I doubt I will be able to remember them all. There was a ton of abuse of all sorts, including sexual, emotional, physical, and spiritual/religious abuse of a minor. It also featured medical neglect, withholding of food from a minor, domestic abuse, teenage pregnancy, abortion, miscarriage, prostitution, police violence, and incest. Furthermore, the book detailed murders, attempted murders, arson, and child death. Needless to say, the story was not for the faint of heart, and I cringed in horror and cried intensely multiple times throughout the book. There were many times I was incredibly uncomfortable while listening, but the writing and story were so engaging I just had to know what was really going on. The author did a fantastic job of slowly revealing the truth of the story by framing it through the gradual loss of the main character’s innocence.

The main characters in this story were beautifully realized. Clare was an autistic 14-year-old who was still largely ignorant about the world and strong in her convictions, especially her belief in protecting her friends. The story was from her POV, and the audience got to follow her thoughts and reactions about all of the horrible things happening around her. Her new best friend, Esther, was also a very well-developed character, and the relationship between the two girls was one of the highlights of this book. The villains in this book were truly awful people, and I’m still flabbergasted at the thought of what they did in this story. To me, that is the main indicator of a great book, having characters and a story that I still think about long after finishing it.

I’d be remiss to not mention the incredible quality of the audiobook and its narrator. The narrator did a fantastic job of capturing the essence of Clare and brought her to life in an incredible way. The pauses and nuances in pronunciation did a great job of adding to the emotion created by the writing.

This was a story that I won’t soon forget no matter how much I may want to. It moved me deeply and made me feel so many things. I highly recommend it, but it is not a light read. Therefore, I rate it 5 out of 5 stars.

Blog Tour: ARC Review – Reality Testing

Hello, everyone! Today is my stop on the blog tour for Reality Testing by Grant Price, an interesting cyberpunk science fiction novel that asks a lot of important philosophical questions. Thank you to Blackthorn Book Tours for allowing me to participate in this tour!

Author: Grant Price

Publication Date: January 6, 2021

Length: 289 pages

Purchase linkhttps://www.amazon.com/Reality-Testing-Sundown-Book-1-ebook/dp/B08SNP5F34

Read Date(s): May 17, 2021 – May 19, 2021

⭐⭐⭐⭐

Synopsis

Welcome to Berlin. Population: desperate. In the throes of the climate crisis the green tech pioneers are king, and if you aren’t willing to be their serf then you’re surplus to requirements.

Carbon credit for sleeping on the job. That’s the offer a dreamtech puts to Mara Kinzig, and she jumps on it. After all, the city ain’t getting any cheaper.

Then somebody changes the deal while she’s dreaming in the tank.

Now Mara has a body on her hands, an extra voice in her head, and the law on her tail. Only the Vanguard, a Foreign Legion of outcasts seeking an alternative path in the dust between the city states, might be able to help her figure out what went wrong. First, though, she’ll have to escape the seething streets of Berlin alive.

My Review

This was a really good book. The pacing was great. There was always something happening or a new bit of interesting information being dropped to keep the reader engaged. The world was captivating and believable as a potential future for the human race on Earth, which was terrifying because it seemed to be the last horrific gasp of humanity before extinction. The author did an excellent job of unveiling details about the world and characters as the story progressed rather than dumping a lot of information at once. However, this approach did make the reading experience somewhat jarring at first with all of the unexplained concepts and terminology. I still really liked it, though, because it became like a puzzle throughout the book to figure out what all the jargon meant. I was especially proud of myself once I learned how to interpret the number system used in the book since I had no idea what it meant at first.

The main characters were fascinating and well-developed. Mara was a mystery with a riveting backstory, and the chapters from her POV were my favorite. The struggle she faced in figuring out her identity after the events she faced was incredibly compelling and kept me hooked until the very end. I also enjoyed the other characters, especially Daniel. It was interesting to see him go from someone always running from the things he did in the past to an individual who overcame his self-blame, took responsibility, and fought back. The freakish way technology was integrated into most of the characters’ lives, and bodies, made each character unique, and seeing the different ways they each related to the tech, especially Mantis and the other underground individuals, was intriguing.

The world and characters were fantastic, but my favorite thing about this book was its ability to make me think about some pretty powerful issues that are facing mankind. It is one of the things I love about this entire genre, and this book pulls it off well. The story posed so many thought-provoking questions wrapped in the guise of the engrossing narrative. What are the potential impacts of a widespread environmental crisis? What is the endpoint of a society/economy that treats people as commodities with value based only what they can produce? How will the continued enmeshment of technology in every aspect of life impact humanity? And most fascinating, what is consciousness, and how does it relate to what it means to be human? This book attempts to tackle them all while also exploring the line between what we can do and what we should do in relation to scientific advancement.

Overall, this book was a thought-provoking, fun ride into a fascinating, yet horrifying, vision of humanity’s future. The characters, technology, and imaginative, well-paced world-building were excellent vehicles for considering important questions about the direction of society. I recommend it to anyone who enjoys science fiction about dystopian futures.

About the Author

Grant Price (b. 1987) is a British-German author currently living in Berlin, Germany. His first novel, Static Age, appeared in 2016. His second novel, By the Feet of Men, was published by Cosmic Egg Books in 2019. His third novel, Reality Testing, was released by Down By Law Books in 2021. His work has appeared in The Daily Telegraph and a number of magazines and journals, and he has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. He has taught writing at the University of Gießen in Germany.

Stacking the Shelves #6

Stacking The Shelves is all about sharing the books you are adding to your shelves, may it be physical or virtual. This means you can include books you buy in physical store or online, books you borrow from friends or the library, review books, gifts and of course ebooks! The meme is hosted by Reading Reality.

Weekly Wrap-Up

This has been kind of a weird week. I went a little crazy with the book buying even though I didn’t mean to. I’ve just been feeling a little off, and getting the new books made me feel better. I’ve worked a lot this week. It seems to come in waves, and there was quite a bit to do. Next week should hopefully be slower, and I’m thankful for it. The weather this week has been whack with a ton of rain and gloomy, humid days, which meant less time outside in the sunshine. However, I did get a lot of reading in this week. I finished an audiobook and read three novels. Overall, I’ve enjoyed what I read this week, and I’m looking forward to sharing my reviews of them with you all.

Amazon Purchases

I snagged a couple free ebooks on Amazon, Breakaway and Of Blood and Fire. I also ordered the hardback versions of Carry On and Wayward Son by Rainbow Rowell. I read these two Simon Snow books after checking them out from the library. I liked them so much I wanted my own copies, and I plan to re-read them before the third book comes out in a couple of months.

e-ARC Acquisition

I only downloaded one new eARC from NetGalley this week. So, my ratio should hold steady because I finished one NetGalley eARC this week, as well.

Library Acquisition

I made another trip to the library this week because I just could not wait to finish off this trilogy. I picked it up a couple days after finishing the last one, and I finished reading it yesterday. I’ll be sharing my thoughts on it within the next couple of weeks.

Barnes & Noble Purchases

I didn’t even try to stay away from B&N this week. I went looking for The Shadow of the Gods by John Gwynne and ended up buying all of the remaining Grishaverse books too. Oops. The cashier asked if I wanted to buy one of their reusable totes, and I got one of those too. I figured I would need it given how often I’m carting books out of there…

Final Thoughts

Overall, I’m satisfied with what I’ve added to my shelves this week, and I’m looking forward to reading it all. Have you read any of the books I picked up? If so, what did you think? Are any of these on your TBR? Let me know in the comments below!