Sunday, April 16, 2023

Thank You for Listening by Julia Whelan

Synopsis (via Goodreads): For Sewanee Chester, being an audiobook narrator is a long way from her old dreams, but the days of being a star on film sets are long behind her. She’s found success and satisfaction from the inside of a sound booth and it allows her to care for her beloved, ailing grandmother. When she arrives in Las Vegas last-minute for a book convention, Sewanee unexpectedly spends a whirlwind night with a charming stranger.

On her return home, Sewanee discovers one of the world’s most beloved romance novelists wanted her to perform her last book—with Brock McNight, the industry’s hottest, most secretive voice. Sewanee doesn’t buy what romance novels are selling—not after her own dreams were tragically cut short—and she stopped narrating them years ago. But her admiration of the late author, and the opportunity to get her grandmother more help, makes her decision for her.

As Sewanee begins work on the book, resurrecting her old romance pseudonym, she and Brock forge a real connection, hidden behind the comfort of anonymity. Soon, she is dreaming again, but secrets are revealed, and the realities of life come crashing down around her once more.

If she can learn to risk everything for desires she has long buried, she will discover a world of intimacy and acceptance she never believed would be hers.

From the author of My Oxford Year, Julia Whelan’s uplifting novel tells the story of a former actress turned successful audiobook narrator—who has lost sight of her dreams after a tragic accident—and her journey of self-discovery, love, and acceptance when she agrees to narrate one last romance novel.

I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. My thoughts and opinions are my own. Any quotes used in this review are from an unpublished copy and may not reflect the finished product.

I was really enjoying Thank You for Listening for the first seven hours of the audiobook. There were even several laugh-out-loud moments that made me think I'd finally stumbled across a book worth my time (currently in a slump after a string of mediocre stories). Unfortunately, after investing nearly eight hours, the main character decides to be awful and stupid. Everything was falling into place perfectly, and then Sewanee decides to be someone not worth reading about. 

I like that this book has a main character with a disability. 

I like that this book addresses dealing with an elderly loved one that struggles with memory loss.

I like that this book has a male love interest that's sweet, charming, and understanding to a fault. 

I like that this book has a best friend that feels like family.


I did not like that Sewanee used her disability as an excuse. 

I did not like that Sewanee thought she - and only she - knew what was best for her ailing grandmother. She didn't even want to consider what her grandmother wanted for herself. 

I did not like how Sewanee treated the male love interest once everything was out in the open. She walked away, what, ten times? Nick still stuck around and tried to give her time to process her feelings. She ends up running away anyways and ignoring all of his attempts at conversation. Everything, and I mean everything, in their romance-novel-worthy relationship was falling into place and she squandered it. She looked a gift horse in the mouth and then shoved that horse over a cliff. 

I did not like how Sewanee chose to treat her best friend (the one that's more like a sister). Her friend had been there through it all and was always in Sewanee's corner. Sewanee was cruel and undeserving of such a friendship. 

All of my dislikes happened after listening to 68% of this book. I normally don't DNF this far into something, but her entire personality was a turn off at that point. She made bad decision after bad decision and I couldn't find a single redeeming quality that made me want to keep going. 

However, I do have a positive to end this review with. Julia Whelan narrates her own book and it's amazing. She is a phenomenal narrator that I really enjoyed listening to and will definitely look for in the future. (★★⋆☆☆ )

Friday, April 14, 2023

Lavender House (Andy Mills, #1) by Lev A.C. Rosen

Synopsis (via Goodreads): A "Best Of" Book From: Amazon * Buzzfeed * Rainbow Reading * Library Journal * CrimeReads * BookPage * Book Riot * Autostraddle

A delicious story from a new voice in suspense, Lev AC Rosen's Lavender House is Knives Out with a queer historical twist.

Lavender House, 1952: the family seat of recently deceased matriarch Irene Lamontaine, head of the famous Lamontaine soap empire. Irene’s recipes for her signature scents are a well guarded secret—but it's not the only one behind these gates. This estate offers a unique freedom, where none of the residents or staff hide who they are. But to keep their secret, they've needed to keep others out. And now they're worried they're keeping a murderer in.

Irene’s widow hires Evander Mills to uncover the truth behind her mysterious death. Andy, recently fired from the San Francisco police after being caught in a raid on a gay bar, is happy to accept—his calendar is wide open. And his secret is the kind of secret the Lamontaines understand.

Andy had never imagined a world like Lavender House. He's seduced by the safety and freedom found behind its gates, where a queer family lives honestly and openly. But that honesty doesn't extend to everything, and he quickly finds himself a pawn in a family game of old money, subterfuge, and jealousy—and Irene’s death is only the beginning.

When your existence is a crime, everything you do is criminal, and the gates of Lavender House can’t lock out the real world forever. Running a soap empire can be a dirty business.

I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. My thoughts and opinions are my own. Any quotes used in this review are from an unpublished copy and may not reflect the finished product.

I really wanted to like this one more than I did. I think Rosen has a good concept, but the storyline was too predictable and not very engaging. I knew whodunit as soon as all of the characters were introduced. 

Evander Mills - Andy - wasn't a remarkable main character. He's questioning whether life is worth living when he's approached to investigate a murder. I did like seeing him go from contemplating suicide to realizing there might be something worth living for, although I do think the author should have made his mental state more of a focal point. 

Whenever a problem arose in the book, it was either solved quickly or ignored completely. Solutions just presented themselves and kept the story from feeling mysterious. I wanted more backstory, more character development, more stick-it-to-the-man moments. Lavender House felt like the bones of a book and it kept me from fully enjoying the story. (★★πŸŸ‰☆☆)

Tuesday, April 11, 2023

Kingdom of Blood & Salt by Alexis Calder [Blog Tour: Review + Giveaway]

Halito! Welcome to the next stop on the Kingdom of Blood & Salt blog tour hosted by Rockstar Book Tours. Thank you for stopping by! If you would like to win a copy of this book, be sure to enter the giveaway at the bottom of this post. πŸ‘‡ For the full tour schedule, please visit the Rockstar Book Tours website.

About The Book:

Title: KINGDOM OF BLOOD & SALT (Blood & Salt #1)
Author: Alexis Calder
Pub. Date: March 30, 2023
Publisher: Illaria Publishing
Formats: Paperback, eBook
Pages: 328

An epic enemies-to-lovers fantasy romance perfect for fans of Jennifer L. Armentrout, Raven Kennedy, and Sarah J Maas.

After spending years training to defend my people from our enemies, I never expected that my enemy would be the one keeping me alive.

Athos is the last human city. A treaty with the Fae keeps the fae, the vampires, and the wolf shifters at bay, while we fight against the dragons at our border. Being a human in this world is dangerous and we all make sacrifices to survive.

When the delegation sent by the Fae King arrives to claim the human tributes required by our treaty, I never expected to forge a connection with their leader.

Ryvin is as dangerous as he is handsome. I know he’s my enemy, and I know I’m supposed to hate him, but with each passing day, he’s more difficult to resist.

But things are changing in Athos. Humans no longer want to bend to the Fae King.

Alliances blur and centuries of lies begin to unravel.

And I’m faced with a choice.

No matter how much I hate him, Ryvin might be the key to preventing war.

But it may mean sacrificing everything….

Kingdom of Blood and Salt is the first book in a fantasy romance trilogy with fae, vampires, and shifters. This enemies to lovers series contains violence, mature language, and spice. This is a NA/adult fantasy romance and steam level will increase as the series progresses. Mind the cliff.

When a book compares itself to Sarah J. Maas, I don't expect it be a knockoff version of a beloved series. Unfortunately, there were too many similarities for me to overlook. The main character's name is Ryvin and he controls - wait for it - shadows and darkness. He's intent on "saving" the princess at every turn, despite her being unwilling to see what's right in front of her face. Ryvin repeatedly told her he wasn't the enemy, yet she refused to believe him until it was too late. The one thing she stayed mad about wasn't even within his control. 

This book also markets itself as an enemies-to-lovers, but it was more of a one-sided hateship. Ryvin never appeared to have any negative feelings towards Ara. She only hates him because of where he comes from and because of things she clearly doesn't understand. Her unwavering faith in her family and friends ended up hurting her more than anyone from Ryvin's delegation did. 

Another similarity to A Court of Thorns and Roses were the sisters Ara would do ANYTHING to protect. She would sacrifice her life, choose to live with "monsters," and debase herself if it meant they didn't have to suffer even for a moment. Sound familiar? I wish the relationship between her and her older sister had been expanded on, but none of the secondary characters really developed over the course of this book. I think a few of them had the potential to be more. I even think Ryvin having his own POV would have helped. 

Kingdom of Blood & Salt is a quick read with a lot of action. Ara's life is constantly in danger, Ryvin is always there to save the day, and we see our main character struggle with a singular issue for 300+ pages. I'm not even going to touch on how awful the queen was to her stepdaughter, or how that all seemed to just disappear during the last 5 pages of the book. Their "solution" made me roll my eyes. 

Honestly, I think this book would have been better if Ara had teamed up with Ryvin when she realized things weren't as they seemed in her city. I wish she'd used her brain and acknowledged that what was being asked of her was wrong and tried to do something about it. I also think her sisters being more involved would have made this a better story, too. 

The sex scenes were decent, but nothing to really swoon over. Ara yells at him and claims she doesn't want him (every single time), and then they end up "fitting together perfectly" and having a magical time. There were also some grammatical errors and inconsistencies, but hopefully my copy wasn't a finalized version. 

I didn't hate Kingdom of Blood & Salt, but I do think it could have been better. I kept reading in the hopes it would, so there was something there even if it didn't really work for me in the end. It's also a really big turn off when a book is too similar to what it's comparing itself to. (This one also used the term asteri and had a character named Magda.) (★★★⋆☆)

About Alexis:

Alexis Calder writes sassy heroines and sexy heroes with a sprinkle of sarcasm. She lives in the Rockies and drinks far too much coffee and just the right amount of wine. 

Giveaway Details:

1 Winner will receive a $10 Amazon GC, International.
Ends April 18th, midnight EST.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, April 10, 2023

Bonded by Thorns (Beasts of the Briar, #1) by Elizabeth Helen

Synopsis (via Goodreads): Four beastly princes. One awkward bookworm. An enchanted world of fae, magic, and danger.

I’ve always loved fairytales. I never imagined I'd actually be in one.

When my father wanders into the enchanted realm of the fae, I know I have to go after him. And when he gets imprisoned, I'll do anything to save him... Even trade my freedom for his. I had no idea I'd end up imprisoned by four sexy fae who turn into beasts at night.

I have to win my freedom, and that means making a bargain with them. They must find their mates in order to break the curse. If I can help them do that, they'll set me free. Sounds simple, right?

It's not. Because against my better judgment, I'm starting to fall for these beastly princes. One is smart and sweet, the other mysterious and deadly, another flirty and confident, and the last prince... He's handsome, strong, has a wicked temper, and is dead-set against breaking the curse. Why does he want to keep me here forever?

But it's not just my freedom on the line. If I don't break the princes' curse soon, all the magic in the Enchanted Vale will be stolen by the evil—and stupidly hot—Prince of Thorns. And I'm not letting my princes stay cursed.

Not after I've fallen in love with them.

Bonded by Thorns is undeserving of its 4 star rating. I am genuinely surprised by the number of raving reviews. Why are people swooning over a story this uninteresting and problematic? Rose - Rosie - Rosalina was as dimwitted as she was dull. 

Lots of spoilers going forward! Read at your own risk. 

When Rosalina is first mentioned in the book, she's quiet and easily cowed by her previous abusive boyfriend. She tolerates his presence because it gives her some comfort to be near the man that carved his name into her arm (a fact that is never addressed later on in the book, but definitely should have been). She was willing to entertain the idea of marriage to someone that discarded her - repeatedly - as he went around and did whatever he wanted. How could she have been so naΓ―ve and cared so little about herself? Where was her sense of self-preservation? If the authors really wanted to make it believable, they should have written it better. 

“His name is Lucas. We’ve been on and off since I was fifteen, but I think it’s serious now. Super serious.” I take a deep breath. “Or at least it could have been, if I hadn’t been imprisoned by the fae.”
Going back to her personality, it's like she's a completely different person once she reaches fae lands. She's brave, courageous, stands up for herself and others - something she's never done before - and it was just too fucking unbelievable. Don't even get me started on the ridiculousness of the princes and their curse. The Prince of Thorns? Laughable. No one even blinked at him calling her "princess." Why wasn't that ever addressed? Also, why does he even care? Poorly explained, poorly executed, poorly written. 

If I'm being completely honest, I went into this one for the romance and reverse harem theme, but even that was a disappointment. If you're going to have a terrible, nearly nonexistent plot, then at least entertain your readers with steamy sex scenes and erotic content. Bonded by Thorns failed on all accounts. There were some okay moments between Dayton and Farron, but even those were short and excluded the main character. 

The dialogue was awful and cringey. 

  1. In a burst of I-just-about-died rage, I glower up at him. “How the fuck am I supposed to answer you when you’re choking me out, you overgrown tin can?”
  2. Heh heh.
  3. He wrapped his hand around my throat and choked me out.
  4. But I am no Peeping Tom, so I force my eyes up. Only, ogling his eight-pack abs and perfect pecs doesn’t seem less creepy at the moment.
  5. least death by a monstrous wolf is a bit more awesome than falling off the bookstore stool.
  6. That traitor trash panda.
  7. “He was really mean!”
I'm not even going to attempt to touch on all of the inconsistencies and grammatical errors. πŸ˜‘ The princes also kept referring to their human forms and calling themselves men. They're not supposed to be human... At least Sarah J. Maas did that right. Males, males, males. 

I went into this book expecting to be enamored with four fae princes all vying for one woman's attention, and them enjoying her separately and together. However, Rosalina was horrible. Her "bewilderment" and "acceptance" not believable for a second. It was also too similar to A Court of Thorns and Roses for my liking, but whatever.  

A man behind a mask, her being placed in the Spring Court section of the castle, cursed to turn into animals and needing to find love to break the spell... sound familiar? 

This book was a complete waste of my time and money. I hope this review saves a few others from making the same mistake. (★★☆☆☆)

Tuesday, April 4, 2023

Timeless (Starcrossed, #5) by Josephine Angelini

Synopsis (via Goodreads): The highly anticipated continuation of the Starcrossed saga, the #1 international bestselling series.

A fate avoided

After successfully using a clever bit of trickery to avoid all-out war with the gods and defeat Zeus, Helen sets out to enjoy her final year of high school with Lucas and her friends.

A debt owed

But happily ever after eludes her. Zeus has found a way to strike back at Helen from inside the prison she devised for him. Growing weaker with every one of Zeus’ attacks, Helen scrambles to complete the three tasks she owes to the Titans, hurling through time on Cronus’ bidding.

A promise broken

But Helen’s odyssey proves to be more challenging than she could have imagined, because Lucas has mysteriously started pulling away from her, burdened by a secret that threatens to tear them apart.

I received an ARC from Sungrazer Publishing (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. My thoughts and opinions are my own. Any quotes I use are from an unpublished copy and may not reflect the finished product.

I have waited a decade for this book's release! I was so excited when I heard about Scions because it takes place in this wonderful world that Josie has created, but I needed Timeless like I need a summer vacation. I never thought there would be a continuation of Lucas and Helen's story, and Josie really went above and beyond with this one (my favorite so far). I could have lived without the cliffhanger (WHY), but everything else was perfection.

I absolutely love the complex relationship between Helen and her mother, Daphne. Scions showed us a much younger version of the Daphne we know from Starcrossed, and it's really been amazing to see how new experiences and information have shaped Helen's perception of her mother.  

Don't even get me started on Hector and Orion. PHEW. Helen can have Lucas, but I call dibs on these two. The tension between their little trio, the unwanted attraction that I was totally here for (still here for), and the sex appeal of these guys...

I have never envied Helen more than I did while reading Timeless. There's also a lot of humor and good-natured teasing where these three are concerned; it was seriously a JOY to read. I caught myself smiling and grinning like crazy throughout this entire book. 

If you enjoy Greek mythology, tragic and not-so-tragic love stories, wonderfully written characters, and an author that genuinely loves her characters, then this is definitely a series you want to check out.