Tuesday, May 11, 2021

ARC Review: Counting Down with You


I received an ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This did not affect my opinion of the book or my review itself.

Also, an important note: Much of the conversation and concern surrounding this book in its ARC form centers around how race, religion, and culture are depicted. I do not feel I am qualified to do this very important issue justice, and recommend going on Goodreads to read the in depth and insightful reviews surrounding this topic. It appears that the author had plans to make some changes in response to those reviews, so please remember my review here is based solely off the ARC and not off the final published book.

This is a story about many, many things, but at its romantic heart, it is a story about fake dating suddenly showing the potential to become real love. Karina Ahmed agrees to tutor Ace Clyde  (long known as the high school's resident "bad boy" who doesn't care about his education) for their English class because of her deep love for literature and poetry. When Ace introduces her as his girlfriend to his family, Karina is horrified, and afraid her parents will find out. But with her parents out of the country, Karina finds herself with the chance to explore how she truly feels about her life, her future, and Ace.

I really appreciated that the main character, Karina, is a character with anxiety. The book discusses how her anxiety manifests itself mentally, emotionally, and physically, and rang very true for me as someone with anxiety. I think it's so important to have more YA main characters with realistically depicted mental health, and I thought that was well done here.

Karina's two best friends are really great characters. They are girls who all have each other's backs no matter what. There is no drama, nothing coming between them, and they provide an incredibly beautiful support system for each other. This was really refreshing and lovely to see in a YA book.

I also found the romance between Karina and Ace charming and I was definitely rooting for them. I really liked that Ace, instead of finding Karina's anxiety off putting or too much to handle, chose to do research and find new ways to help her cope when she felt overwhelmed. 

The ending, while enjoyable, felt way too pat for me, though. It just didn't seem possible, given everything the characters had gone through and were still up against, that everything would work out the way it did. I would say this book had a lot of potential, and it mostly lived up to my expectations.

Saturday, May 1, 2021

ARC Review: Ruby Falls


I received an ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This did not affect my opinion of the book or my review itself.

Paying homage to Rebecca, Ruby Falls is narrated by Eleanor Russell, a fired former soap opera actress whose father left her in an underground cave and completely disappeared when she was six, and who now has married a man she barely knows and is starring in a remake of the movie version of Rebecca

If this sounds like a lot, it is. If this sounds strange, it is. But somehow Goodrich Royce makes it work. The first few chapters did leave me confused and unsure if I wanted to continue reading. I am glad I kept going. It's an intense read, that becomes masterfully creepy at times, and is absolutely fascinating. The ending left me stunned, but fit when I looked back at everything I had previously read.

If this sounds interesting to you, I would definitely give this book a chance. Give it a couple chapters before you decide how you feel. I don't think this is a book everyone will like, but once I got into it, I couldn't put it down.

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

ARC Review: A Tale of Two Cookies


I received an ARC of this book from the publishers in exchange for an honest review. This did not affect my opinion of the book or my review itself.

In this third entry in the Cookie House cozy mystery series, Kate McGuire-pastery chef and now partner in The Cookie House-must help a friend find her missing groom, even if his family and the media are all saying there was never actually a wedding planned. At the same time, a reality show is filming in a house with a lot of pleasant and unpleasant memories. 

Honestly, what is there not to love about this series? There's colorful and caring characters, a vibrant setting, an adorable dog, delicious sounding cookies, and a mystery that always gets solved by the end of the book. The world of Coral Cay is one you will want to keep visiting-just make sure you have some cookies nearby, because you will definitely have a craving!

Thursday, April 22, 2021

ARC: Girl, 11


I received an ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This did not affect my opinion of the book or my review itself.

Elle Castillo has always focused her work on helping children, and her now-popular true crime podcast examines unsolved cases of missing children. This season her podcast is centering around The Countdown Killer, a numerically-fixated child murderer who seemed to vanish himself years ago, but just might be back in action.

This was definitely a really intense, dark read. Had it been a true crime book rather than the fictional novel it luckily is, there is no way I would have been able to finish reading. You should definitely know going in that children are harmed. I normally don't read books where children get harmed in any way, but I think the podcast concept caught my attention (and the podcast idea is used really effectively here), but this was definitely a hard read in places.

So what I would say is, if you're interested, give this book a read. The podcast transcripts are powerful and interesting, and there is a really amazing twist that had me gasping out loud (though I did call a different big plot point within the first chapters). Just know you will be on a dark ride.

Sunday, April 18, 2021

ARC Review: Mirrorland


I received an ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This did not affect my opinion of the book or my review itself.

Cat hasn't spoken to her twin sister, El, in a long time, so when El goes missing, Cat feels like she's stepping back into a life she tried so hard to forget about. Cat especially feels herself drawn back to Mirrorland, the space in their childhood home they turned into a gothic conglomeration of fearful fits of imagination. El seems to be leading Cat on a dark treasure hunt, one that threatens to bring back memories Cat's not sure she wants returned, but she's already in too deep to walk away.

This is a strange book, but that's not a bad thing. At first, I thought this was going to be a DNF (do not finish) for me. The first chapter was already so confusing, and I had a really hard time getting into the story. In looking at other reviews, it seems I was in no way alone in this. This is a book that seems to really divide readers, a one star or a five star read.

I am definitely glad I kept reading. By the time I hit 20%, I was completely hooked. There were so many twists I never saw coming, and I was really invested in the story. This is a dark read for sure, so be prepared for that, but it is a fascinatingly creative and creepy read as well. 

Friday, April 16, 2021

ARC Review: The Sky Blues



I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This did not affect my opinion of the book or my review itself.

For openly gay Sky, life isn't easy in his small town. The car accident that killed his father left him with physical and emotional scars, his mother kicked him out of the house after he came out, and his classmate Cliff is constantly bullying him. Wanting to reclaim his senior year, Sky is determined to produce an epic promposal for his longtime crush, Ali.

When pictures of his promposal plan are leaked to the whole school (and then spread to the whole town), Sky just wants to hide away again. But the actions of his classmates and town just may surprise him in the best possible way.

I loved this book so much. Every character is complex, nuanaced, and feels so real. Sky himself admits he isn't perfect, but that he's learning and trying. Sky's found family are so wonderful, I was rooting for them and Sky so much. Every storyline works, and many of them come together in unexpected ways. The hurt that Sky endures from his mother and brother, from Cliff, from his past, is real and palable. But so is the love that surrounds him.

This is a beautiful book, filled with so much light, the overcoming of obstacles and the power of coming together, loving yourself and loving others, embracing differences, finding your family, and achieving your dreams. I recommend this book so highly. It gave me hope and brought me joy.

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

ARC Review: Deadly Editions


I received an ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This did not affect my opinion of the book or my review itself.

In a bookstore in Edinburgh, Delaney Nichols, bookseller, is presented with a unique opportunity-an invitation to join a literary treasure hunt. The person making the offer may be a bit mysterious and even suspicious, but it's hard to resist the promise of not only a first edition of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, but the guarantee of being gifted the organizer's entire library of highly valuable books. But when events from the past seem to be repeating themselves, Delaney has more than one mystery to solve.

I absolutely love Edinburgh, I've visited there twice now, so the location had me hooked from the start. Shelton made me want to travel back to Edinburgh right away and hit up all the bookshops and pubs. Delaney is a likable character, a smart and geninually kind book lover who makes a great team with her husband, pub owner Tom. The characters that surround them are unique and interesting, and all add to the story.

The mystery was a really fun one, especially as it was woven around the characters and ideas of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, a book I love. I definitely did not see the ending coming, but it made sense looking back, which is always a plus for me.

The only thing I wasn't crazy about is that Delaney's intuition comes to her in the form of book characters and authors talking to her inside her head at important moments. I liked the integration of story and author quotes, but it just felt strange and out of place. Granted, I have not read the other books in this series, so it may be this would make more sense to me if I started from the beginning.

This was a fun, charming book with a fantastic setting, fun characters, and an enjoyable mystery. If the rest of the series is just like this entry, it's a world I would like to revisit.