Review: A Magic Steeped in Poison by Judy I. Lin

I admitted that I picked this book based on the cover. It is so pretty. Thankfully the book was good or I would have been super disappointed. Ning is from a small town but one day gets an invitation from the Palace to compete to be the new shennong-shi, a master of the art of magic and tea. If she wins and becomes the Palace’s shennong-shi it will bring her power she can only dream of but more importantly, it will give her access to cure to save her sister. Ning immediately gets caught up in Palace politics. The Princess is currently ruling as he Emperor is sick. Her cousin, the son of the banished Prince wants something but his motives are allusive. Others in court have their own agenda. Who can Ning trust? It’s a lot of back and forth as I doubted each character’s motives, convinced that they were the bad guys, only to be surprised at the end. Ning is definitely my favorite character. She is super smart but a little naïve. She is a little over her head when it comes to the machinations of court. Despite that, she is very resourceful and talented. She is able to move through the competition by using what she knows and being able to think on her feet. She often knows the smart thing is to walk away but the does the right thing and stay and help. This often gets her in trouble but also helps her find allies. I was really drawn to this book and sad, I have to wait until October for the sequels. I guess I should be grateful, I don’t have wait a year.

Review: Verity by Colleen Hoover

I think I said this had Gone Girl vibes to it but I wasn’t sure who was the Amy Dunne of the story and honestly, I’m still not sure. Lowen Ashleigh is a broke Author who gets a a big contract to be finish writing a series by the popular Verity Crawford. To plan out the next books in the series, she has go live in Verity’s house to go through all her notes and live with her grieving husband, Jeremy. You see, in the last year, the Crawfords have lost both of their twin daughters and Verity practically comatose from a car accident. While doing her research, Lowen comes across Verity’s Autobiography she had been working on and it’s a doozy. The deaths of her daughters may not have been accidents. What should Lowen do? She could show it to Jeremy but he is already grieving, this would just hurt him more but Lowen is also falling in love with him, so it could be the key to freeing him from her. There is just so much going on her. So many twists and turns, it’s hard to really know what was going on. No one is really a reliable narrator her. The book is from Lowen’s POV and it’s clear from the start that she is not in the best head space at the moment. She just lost her mother, who she didn’t have the best relationship with, she’s broke and about to be evicted. Not to mention, she is falling in love with Jeremy so of course she is going to paint herself in the best life. As for Verity, we only have her writing to base our opinions on but is she telling the truth. I was almost expecting to find out that this was all in Lowen’s head and that she and Verity was the same person but that’s not the twist at the end. All I’m saying, you will finish the book still not sure what is the truth and what isn’t. Trust no one. If this hasn’t been optioned for a movie, it should be because in the right hands, this is the perfect psychological horror movie waiting to be made.

Quick Review: The War of Two Queens by Jennifer L. Armentrout

The latest in the From Blood and Ash series and it’s okay. It was just as fast moving as the previous books but felt a bit uneven. I’m not sure if that is because it’s the first book that the POV is split between Poppy and Casteel and as interesting as it was to get in Casteel’s head but I’m not sure it brought that much to the narrative. I see how it was necessary because for the first half of the book, Poppy and Casteel were separated and with him in the capital with the Queen, we got more insight into who she was but also more context as to her plans. However, I didn’t find Casteel as interesting as I thought I would. He is far more attractive in Poppy’s POV in my opinion.

So what worked for me is the introduction of Reaver. Technically, we first meet him in the prequel series but he was a child and I don’t think he actually said anything. I loved every scene he was in. He not only brought the well needed comic relief but also the exposition needed to not only bridge the two series together but also move this book forward. He really saved this book for me. What didn’t work was the little character development for Kieran. He goes from being the loyal best friend and bonded pair to Casteel to the loyal best friend and bonded pair to Poppy. He has such little personality or purpose outside of the those two characters. I feel like more could be done with this character.

So yeah, it was a good read but compared to the previous books it was a little bit of a let down. I can only hope that what has been set up will bring the series back to the what made it interesting and fun in the first place.

Review: Sort of Super by Eric Gapstur

This book is just so cute. Admittingly, I may be a bit biased. I know Eric. He’s a friend who both Kate and I once worked with. We always knew he was super talented and has a successful career illustrating for DC comics and other comic companies. Years ago, he introduced Wyatt and Adeline on a comic strip website and I loved them then. I was sad when he decided to end it. It’s amazing that they are getting they are getting their own book now.

Wyatt Flynn is your typical middle schooler when he was messing around in the evidence room of his father’s Sheriff’s office and he gets super powers. His poor father doesn’t know what to do. He’s a single dad with two young kids and now one of them has super powers! Super powers that he doesn’t know how to use and will only get him in trouble. The book opens on the first day of school, where Wyatt is excited to see his friends but Dad is super scared that he will do something to out himself. Wyatt is not the brightest. Unlike his sister, Adeline who is a genius. She’s so smart she skipped two grades and now she and Wyatt are in the same grade. Not that Wyatt minds. He likes hanging out with each other. When, a fire breaks out near the school, Wyatt with the help of Adeline go to put it out but how do they get back into school without getting caught? Adeline was a plan for that. She’s the literal brains of this operations. Her alter ego is The Outstanding A-Plus! So cute.

Kids will love this book. It’s fun, funny, colorful and fast paced. Both Wyatt and Adeline are relatable even with their powers. Wyatt may not be the smartest but he’s kind and is earnest. Adeline is smart and brave and confident and knows her worth. The artwork is the perfect blend of the Sunday morning comic strip and modern graphic novel. Full of color and details that brings you into the story and giving readers all they need to know to learn each characters feelings and thoughts. I really liked the styling of the panels. I can’t recommend it enough to anyone who has kids. Boys and Girls will love it and so will their parents. Go buy it!

Quick Review: A Shadow in the Ember by Jennifer Armentrout

So I’m not going to lie. I didn’t enjoy this much as the other books set in the world. I guess it’s good to give more context to world that Poppy and Casteel live in and the history behind so many of the conflicts and relationships. Other than that I don’t think it’s necessary. For most of the book, I felt like I was just rereading From Blood and Ash, the first book in the original series. Sera is so much like Poppy and Nyktos or Ash is so much like Casteel. They relationship is so similar. Sera, like Poppy was the Maiden and was raised to fight. They both meet their love interest while they are assuming different personas only to reveal who they really are later. Even their back and forth banter is the same. Heck, at one point, both Sera and Poppy stab Casteel and Nyktos in the heart. Thankfully, the last 100 pages finally became interesting as we learn more about the other Primals and Gods and the circumstances in which Sera and Nyktos became paired up. It just just didn’t need to be a 600+ book to get what we needed to extend the world. Then again, maybe there are things that happen in this book that will become more important in the following books both series to justify the page count. I can only hope so.

Quick Review: House of Sky and Breath by Sarah J. Maas

Oh boy this was a lot. Like all of Sarah J. Maas books, there are a lot characters, a lot of POV’s and a lot of twists and turns. At the end of the last book. Bryce and Hunt have saved the city, killing 2 Archangels and started a relationship. Now, they just want to things go back to normal but of course they can’t. Bryce went through the drop and started to embrace her fae powers and all the complications with that. Hunt is no longer a slave but he still works for the Asteri. Both of their relationships with the Asteri is tenuous. They promised that they wouldn’t tell anyone what happened and in exchange they won’t be punished for what they did but it wouldn’t take much for the Asteri to go back on their word. Lay low. It should be easy. That is until a discovery a rebel that has a rare power that everyone wants because of what it can be weaponize. She also have information that could take down the Asteri. She risked her life to save her brother who is now missing and everyone is searching for him. You find the brother, you find her, if she is still alive that is. Of course, Bryce, Hunt and crew get messed up with this. Do they help the rebel cause and risk the freedom that they have earned?

This book was pretty fast paced and the characters are interesting and fun. I like the fantasy elements mixed in with the more contemporary urban setting. Bryce and Hunt are dealing with so many of the same every day complications that you are me deal with but with a super natural elements. I really feel for both of them. Bryce wants to move on but she just can’t. Everything always comes back to her friend, Dannika. She may have died at the beginning of the book but she is still involved in everything that is going on and it makes Bryce wonder if she really ever knew her best friend at all. Hunt has finally found some sort of peace with Bryce and is terrified of losing it and her. They honestly don’t want to be involved and just live their lives but they also can’t just turn a blind eye to the suffering around them. Especially since they both have power and influence to do something about it. As I said at the beginning, there are so many characters and twists and turns it is sometimes hard to keep track of who is who and what is going on. Especially since there are new characters added and characters that were just barely mentioned in the last book that all of sudden become front of center. This is what you signed up for when you read a Sarah J Maas book. Her books are full of characters and mysteries. Some work and some don’t but they are always entertaining.

Review: The first 3 books of the From Blood and Ash series by Jennifer Aremtrout

I believe I said when I started reading this book that this was right in my wheelhouse. I do love this type of fantasy. Very Game of Thrones and Lord of the Rings. With multiple characters and rival arcs and magical powers. I rushed through the first three books only to have to wait another month for the fourth to come out. Poppy is the Maiden. She’s not allowed to talk or talk to anyone. She must always wear a veil when she is in public. Her every move is watched but what is the Maiden? It’s kind of a religious role. She is told how important she is and how she must keep up appearances and not to upset the Gods but no one tells her what really her role is after she ascends or what happen to the only other Maiden. Poppy wants to live and is unsure if she really wants to be the Maiden. Enters Hawke. The handsome and dashing Palace guard. When tragedy strikes and he is assigned to be one of her personal guards, Poppy world starts to change. For the first time, someone starts to ask her questions she’s been asking herself. She starts to believe that there is more to her life then what she has been forced to believe but Hawke is not who he says to be. Of course they fall in love but things are not as smooth. They are from different worlds and want different things. They start to work together because they both can give the what each other wants. I do admit, I like Hawke but there are a few red flags that start to show. He can be very possessive and controlling. He saves her from her prisoner only to try to force her into marriage. However, as the books move on he starts to give up a little control. Poppy because more powerful and into her own and he realizes, she’s going to do what she wants, he either can support her or fight her all the time. He chooses to mostly support her. Their relationship may not have started out in the best way but it has become one of the healthier relationship with the both learning to listen to each other to give each other want they want without pushing each other. I do admit, I thought this was a YA book since the last book I read by Jennifer Armentrout was but it does have some of the most explicit sex scenes I have ever read. The details in them at times was kind of blushing, which can be a little embarrassing when reading on the subway to work. So yeah, I like this series. I look forward to see where it goes from here now that the stakes have been raised and war is about to begin.

Review: The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman

I finished a book and now I’m going to tell you about it! I picked this up at a White Elephant book exchange at a book club, so I knew it was going to be good. Those folks wouldn’t steer me wrong.

This is the tale of Nina Hill, a bookseller at a cute little store in a cute little neighborhood in LA. Nina is living the single life, waking to work, running book clubs, reading tons, making vision boards and obsessively planning, and absolutely crushing it at competitive trivia. She never knew her father, she has no siblings, and her mother is a professional photographer who is always jetting off somewhere. Nina has a bit of the ol’ anxiety, but she’s got it mostly managed. She likes her quiet little life, so of course it’s going to be turned on its head. First, her trivia team can’t help but get her thinking about a rival trivia team captain. Is there a spark there? Absolutely, the rival trivia team thinks so, too. Next, that father she never knew? Well, he reappears in her life in a pretty startling way, bringing with him a raft of kids and grandkids. Can Nina roll with the punches and handle all this change? Or are things going to go catastrophically wrong and implode? It’s a romance novel so maybe a bit of both?

I found the characters to be very likable. Nina was a great protagonist. I found a lot to connect with as I read the book (as anyone who follows me on twitter knows). The narrative was light and quiet. This was a great way to get back into reading for fun. I have my next book narrowed down to four choices, so hopefully my indecision won’t get the best of me and I’ll be up and running on Book 2 of 2022 soon!

Review: Chosen Ones by Veronica Roth

***Contains Some Spoilers***

There are many “chosen one” stories out there. Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, Frodo from Lord of the Rings, etc. All of these stories end with the hero vanquishing the villain and living happily ever after. But do they really? We really never see what happens to them as they grow old. Well, we get a glimpse of Harry’s ever after if you have seen the Cursed Child and well, it’s not pretty for him. Anyways, Chosen Ones grapples with what happens to child heroes after they have saved the world and grow up. Sloane, Matt, Albie, Esther and Ines were all kids when they were charged with fighting the Dark One and after years of fighting they do. The story picks up at the 10 year anniversary of their victory and all 5 of them are have moved on one way or another. Well, all except for Sloane. She still has nightmares and panic attacks. She was heavily scared from what she did to take down the Dark One that she can’t really move on and when one of the five dies suddenly, it brings everything into a whirlwind. Maybe, the Dark One isn’t gone after all? They get kidnapped into a parallel universe, who’s Dark One is still out there and they must take him down all over again. However, Sloane is older now and more weary. As a kid, she may not have questioned what she was asked to do but now she does. She is no longer going to do anything until she is given a reason why and has no problem with asking questions or just finding out for herself. I really enjoyed reading this book. It was the best book from Veronica Roth since Divergent. I really felt for Sloane and her struggles. As a young girl, she was given over to the government to fight a force she knew nothing about and really didn’t have much chose. It broke her and scarred her ways that she is still is dealing with and forced to act like everything is fine. Like she didn’t spend her childhood in perpetually peril. So when she takes things into her own hands, I could only cheer her on. So, yes this was a good book and I think you all will enjoy it too.

Review: The Naturals Series by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

I’m behind in reviews so I decided to do a review of the Naturals Series as a whole instead of each book individually. So here we go.

The Naturals is centered around Cassie. She’s a profiler. She can tell you about anyone just by observing them. She was taught this by her mother who would travel the country as a psychic. Reading people was how she made a living. One day she is recruited in a secret group by the FBI of other “naturals” teenagers to help them with solve cold cases. Each naturals has their own skills. Michael can read people’s emotion. Lia can tell who is lying and telling the truth. Sloane sees the world in numbers and Dean is also a profiler. They all learn their skills thanks to traumatic pasts that forced them to cultivate their skills and oh boy, they are tragic. Cassie’s own backstory is that her mom was brutally murdered but her body was never found. This backstory plays a huge part in the series. Actually all of their back stories play a huge part of the plot. The other big part of the story is how each of them cope with their trauma. As they go through the cases, they are forced to deal with their pasts and it’s a rough road for all of them.

I do want to say, it’s not all sadness. This was a very fun series to read. The mysteries have so many twists and turns that it kept me guessing of how it would turn out. The team is all so likable and wanted them all to be happy and safe. Sloane is my favorite character. She is so endearing. She is the comic relief but often time she doesn’t understand why she is funny. She is also, out of all of them, the most heartbreaking. I really feel for her. I wanted more of her.

So for mystery readers this is a must read. It’ll keep you on your toes.