Tuesday, September 10, 2019

August 2019 Reads // Finally Some 5 Star Reads!

Happy Book Day, friends!! I have surpassed my reading goal for the year and am feeling good! :) 




The Flat Share by Beth O'Leary library, ebook

3.5 Stars - I recommend if you enjoy sweet contemporary romance with quirky characters.

Tiffy's boyfriend has cheated on her and now she needs to find a place to live. London is expensive, and she considers her best option a Flatshare. She would share a 1-bedroom apartment and bed with her roommate, and they would never cross paths due to different working schedules. Leon just needs to make some money from the flatshare so that he can pay his brother's lawyer, and get him out of jail. Through a series of many post-it notes, scraps of paper, and notes throughout the apartment the two get to know each other, but still haven't met in person. What will happen when they finally meet face-to-face.

I thought this was really sweet. I loved the quirky and endearing characters! Leon and Tiffy were both so unique and adorable. The notes were so sweet and all of Leon’s patients were too. I liked seeing how their relationship unfolded in notes, and then in person. It felt so gradual and natural. The book overall felt just a little bit long. I struggled with the manipulative boyfriend because of some personal stuff... so it was a little triggery for me. Overall I enjoyed it. The quirkiness reminded me a little of Josh and Hazel. I definitely recommend if you are looking for a mostly sweet quirky romance.


Forbidden by Beverly Jenkins library, physical book


3 Stars - I might recommend if you enjoy historical romance.


After Eddy's parents die she and her sister are left to fend for themselves. Eddy decided to cook and wash and save up money to move to California and open her own restaurant. When her money and train ticket are stolen her plans take a turn for the worst, and she must rely on the kindness of strangers to make her way West. When she is robbed yet again and left for dead in the desert she is rescued by Rhine Fontine, and nursed back to health. Rhine is the son of a slaver and slave woman, but appears white to the untrained eye. He has made a new life for himself in Utah as a white man, and tries to advocate for the colored community. When he meets stubborn and driven Eddy she will make him question his decision to cross the line. 



I’m a sucker for old west plots and/or this time period, so I wanted to give this book a try. I appreciated the diversity in this particular story and the history that was so thoroughly included by the author. I thought this story was quite sweet and reminded me a bit of When Calls the Heart or something in that vein, though it does get a little bit R-rated. I thought that Eddy was a fantastic character. She was very independent and hard working, I loved her journey as a cook and building her life in Utah. Rhine was an interesting character too. I thought that their chemistry was great in the beginning and from time to time, and I love that she turns him down over and over (especially when he is engaged to another!). She's really fiery and doesn't let him call the shots. Overall I felt like some of the plot threads were built up and then dropped a little bit, and I did wish that they had more of a connection. It is also always a bit jarring when there are some steamy scenes... but then the bigger ones fade to black. I don't care if a romance is "proper" or not, but it is confusing to have so much back and forth. Overall I enjoyed this, but didn't like it quite as much as I had hoped.

Bringing Down the Duke by Evie Dunmore*** ARC, ebook


4.5 Stars - I highly recommend if you enjoy historical romance with modern characters.


Annette has been given a scholarship by the Suffragists of London to study at Oxford's women's college. In order to accept the scholarship she must help the group petition wealthy men to support the married women's property act of 1870.When Annette unknowingly approaches The Duke of Montgomery, her group is shocked by her audacity, and then uses it to their advantage by having her get close to him to endear him toward their cause. Sebastian Montgomery immediately dislikes the beautiful Annette and assumes she is his brother's mistress. Conflict ensues, and they must play nice in order to appease polite society. However, Annette is not a lady, she's a girl from the country, and all bets are off.


I LOVED THIS BOOK SO MUCH. This had the fun feel of other modern historicals (think Tessa Dare, etc.) but it was not quite so funny or whimsical. I liked that while the characters were modern, the world was still very old fashioned, and therefore there was a lot of brooding and intensity. I thought that Annette and Sebastian had fantastic chemistry.It was quite swoony. I liked that they were both dealing with their own issues and their life circumstances which meant that they didn't relent from their ideals/morals/dreams as the story went on. I found all of the side characters very endearing. I am hoping that this becomes a series of books, because I would love to know more about her various suffragette friends, and Sebastian's brother. I also adored that the female friendships were so tight, not judgmental, and so focused on supporting one another. I am so tired of reading books where women don't like each other and see each other as competition. :) 


The Wallflower Wager by Tessa Dare own, physical book


4 Stars - I recommend if you enjoy historical romance with modern characters. This is the third book in the series. I highly recommend that you start with book one because they are all SO GOOD.


Lady Penelope Campion (Penny) has spent her life taking care of wounded and unwanted animals. She has a two legged dog, an abandoned otter pup, a hedge hog, a parrot that says obscene things, and a smattering of other animals. When Gabriel Duke, also known as The Duke or Ruin buys the house next to hers to refurbish and sell to the aristocrats, he'll need to get rid of her animals, and Penny's eccentricity. Penny is being forced out of London by her family unless she can put herself back into society, with a new wardrobe, and get rid of her animals. When Gabriel demands that she get rid of her animals, she promises too, ONLY if he can find them good and loving homes.


This book was so cute! I am always amazed at Tessa Dare’s ability to take timely issues (and less "issues" like you know, like pockets in dresses...today and put them into her historical plots. Her characters and their lives feel so modern despite the fact that the books are set in the past. I ADORED any time any number of the group was together. Adorable banter. It reminded me a bit of the group from the ACoTaR series. They just argue and give each other hell and it is incredibly endearing. I particularly loved the way Ash and Chase got on with Gabriel. Too funny. I thought that the romance was really nice. The banter and chemistry between them was great and I loved their contrasting personalities so much. A woman who loves everything and is sweet as can be, and a man who is grump grump grumpy and has never loved anyone or anything. I also loved how much emphasis there was on consent in this book. Yes. Yes. Amen, Tessa Dare. And that Penny made her own decisions and really knew her mind. We need more heroines like this!


The Love Solution by Ashley CroftARC, ebook


DNF - Mayyyybe 2 Stars - I wouldn't recommend this one. I rarely DNF netgalley books... but I was really bored with this one. :( 


Sarah and Molly are close after the deaths of their parents. Sarah put her plans to go to art school on hold to help Molly finish high school. Molly is now a scientist working on a top-secret project with her attractive new boss. Sarah has just found out that she's pregnant when her long-term partner leaves her. She must pick herself up and figure out how to make a life in a new place, with a baby, and no support of the baby's father. She wonders if Molly's top secret project "the love bug", a hormonal attraction drug, might be the answer to making the baby's dad come back to her.

This was just a kind of off for me. It had cute/funny moments, but felt a bit like a British Hallmark movie but steamier. Honestly, it took forever to get towards an interesting part of the plot. I DNFd at 55% because Sarah still hadn't asked Molly for the top secret drug. ... and it was just boring. I didn't want to spend another 3 hours finishing it. It's a bummer, it sounded cute and I love the cover, but the characters weren't very compelling to me and it was much too slow.

Fix Her Up by Tessa Bailey library, physical book


4.5 Stars - I recommend if you enjoy contemporary romance. This one is really steamy. Proceed with caution.


Georgie is the baby of the family, she's decided against joining the family business, and decided to be a birthday clown for children. She loves her job, but it doesn't help people take her more seriously or treat her as an adult. When her childhood crush, her brother's best friend Travis comes back to town after ending his baseball career with an injury, she's determined not to be seen as a little kid anymore. Travis is washed up, and out of motivation. Georgie is the only one who tells it like it is, and kicks him out of his sorry mood. The two form an unlikely agreement to form a fake relationship to make her seem more like an adult, and him seem more like a *responsible* adult in order to gain a commentating job. Will their fake relationship work?


When they call Tessa Bailey the queen of dirty talk they were not lying. Holy Toledo. Proceed with caution if you are not looking for something super steamy. At first I was a bit hesitant because Northeastern city small town bars, beer, and their less-than-charming-expressions is not usually my thing. HOWEVER, this one worked for me. I ended up loving both Georgie and Travis, and was attached to both of them because there was SO MUCH depth with the characters. I thought that the romance was excellent and the steam level was off the charts. Also, don't read this while wearing a sweater. I repeat... so. much. dirty. talk. I also LOVE LOVE LOVED that the women in this book were so supportive of each other. There's kind of a catty moment between two characters, and it is acknowledged and resolved. That RARELY happens. Also, there is this great group that the girls in the book form which is amazing, and I love their friendships so much. Also, I can't wait to see what happens in the next book.


The Sky in the Deep by Adrienne Young own, physical book


4 Stars - I recommend if you enjoy YA fantasy. This doesn't have magic in it, for those that might need to know that. ;) 


The Aska and the Riki serve different gods and have therefore been at war since ancient times. Many young people become warriors. Eelyn lost her brother and fighting partner several years ago, but when she sees him on the battlefield, and he saves her life, she knows it is not a figment of her imagination. She tracks him down and realizes that he is fighting for the Riki against her and the other Aska. As she confronts him she is taken prisoner by the Riki people, and made to live as their slave. As she gets to know them and her brother's life better, she comes to find that they aren't so different from the Aska after all, and they might have a common threat.


I enjoyed being swept up into this world. I thought that it was a little bit Viking-esque, and very beautifully simple. I enjoyed the lore involved in their gods and peoples, and their societies too. I found myself just enjoying the passages where they were doing very normal tasks. While the book was intriguing and enjoyable, I felt that the action occurred and was resolved fairly quickly, and I was left kind of wishing that I  had known a bit more about where certain plot threads went. I have the next book in this series/world, though I don't know if it will touch on those things. Overall this was really enjoyable, but I could have done with more action and depth.


Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston library, physical book


3-3.5 Stars - I recommend if you enjoy cute romances and a lot of politics.


Alex Claremont-Diaz is the son of the first female president of the United States. He's the golden boy of the white house and future political hopeful. He cannot stand Prince Henry of Wales, the very uptight prince, who he has been compared to basically his entire life. When a possible political scandal occurs, making the two look like they are fighting, they must form a fake long-term close friendship in order to save face. Along the way Alex realizes that maybe he doesn't hate Henry, maybe he actually quite likes him... and maybe he's not straight after all. Can the two work out a relationship despite their high profile political lives?


Sigh. I so wanted to LOVE this. I did enjoy it for so many reasons, but for others I just found it a bit boring. So... let's get into it. I adored Alex and Henry and their relationship. Going from enemies, to frenemies, to lovers was very cute. I loved their banter, sarcasm, and chemistry. I would say the steam level is fairly mid-range. Fairly explicit, but not overly descriptive, and definitely with shorter steamy scenes. I enjoyed Alex's relationship with his sister, his parents, and Nora, and all of the delightful extra side characters too. While I certainly agree with and feel inspired by the politics expressed in this book, and do not mind political opinions or jabs being put into fiction... (if ONLY the 2016 election had gone in such a way...) I don't particularly enjoy political *plots* in books. I just found it a bit dry. I didn't care too much about the intrigue related to campaigning and scandals and all that. I would say, that stuff is most of the book, and it just isn't my cup of tea. I will also say, probably because of the political plot... the book felt extra long. I didn't find myself wanting to keep reading it constantly, because I just wasn't very invested in the campaigning and election stuff. Hope that makes sense? I loved so many things about this book, but overall it just wasn't my kind of thing.


Pumpkinheads by Rainbow Rowell, Illustrated by Faith Erin Hicks  own, physical book

4 Stars - I recommend if you enjoy Rainbow Rowell, fall, and cute graphic novels.

Deja and Josiah work at the same pumpkin patch every fall. They've been friends for years, but only in the fall when they work together. This graphic novel follows their last night together before they graduate and head off to colleges next year. 

Ah friends, I love Rainbow Rowell. I haven't even read that many of her novels yet... but I just love her style. So I knew I would want to pick this one up, and that I would love it because it would be cute, and fun, and fall-ish. It delivered. 1) now I want to go to a pumpkin patch, real bad... 2) this is suuuper adorable. I loved the illustrations. I loved Deja and Josiah. I loved the shenanigans, and all the falls snacks. The attention to detail in the art is great, and I loved the funny little repeating quirks, like the goat that escapes. I wanted just a little bit more character development. I think maybe it felt just a *little* bit lacking because of the format, and because it is so short. But that's ok, its just that it's so good and I wanted MORE. ha If they decide to make more graphic novels, I will gobble them up. Fall pun not intended, but do with it what you will.

How to Love a Duke in Ten Days by Kerrigan Byrne* ARC, ebook


3.5- 4 Stars - I recommend if you enjoy historical romance with modern characters.

TW - Rape.


Alexandra Lane is a brilliant blue stocking who along with her friends Cecilia and Francesca, had decided never to marry. Her past holds trauma and a secret that haunts her days. She's not told them that she's now being blackmailed to cover up her secret, and her family is running out of money. When she meets Piers Atherton, The Duke of Redmayne, also known as "The Terror of Torcliff" she finds she's not entirely afraid of him. He baffles her, and she proposes marriage. He gets his heir, she gets his money and protection from her blackmailer. As they travel to a dig site in France, it's clear that she's in more danger than she expected, and she might have to tell Piers about her past.

This was my first novel by Kerrigan Byrne and I overall enjoyed it but had mixed feelings about part of the main conflict. I was VERY VERY on board with this book at the beginning. It took me a little while to get into the first chapter, set in the past containing the backstory of Alexandra and her friends as they formed The Red Rogue Society, and as she is raped and murders her rapist. It is essential to the plot of the story and the series as it bonds the women together and creates conflict in the present point of the story as well. Once I got into it I really loved Alexandra, Cecilia, and Francesca. I also enjoyed Piers and his general snark. I always appreciate a sort of snarly, wounded hero. I thought that his relationship with Alexandra was great... until the little spoilery conflict at about 40%. Then I was all snark and eye rolls. HIGHLIGHT FOR SPOILER The fact that he made such a big deal about her "not being a virgin" and acting like a petulant child really pissed me off. Especially because I don't think he cared whether or not she was actually a virgin, and so it felt like his character had a very weird shift, becoming incredibly moody about that fact and whether or not she was pregnant with another man's child. It didn't feel natural to me for his character. Also, it gave ME whiplash, so imagine how traumatic it must have been for the character Alexandra...Also, in modern day "intact" is not much of a thing as we know that something so simple as riding a bike can detach a hymen. I digress. Anyhow, once they were done being petulant, I thought that his behavior was rather endearingly protective and sweet once he knows what she has been through. Of course I don't usually like conflict due to miscommunication or lack of it altogether... but in this case it does make a bit of sense because of her trauma. But once all of that was resolved I enjoyed the story so much more. It was endearing, incredibly steamy, and the mystery was even good for me... and I'm generally bored with mysteries. I also loved the travel and adventure elements in this story. So, I think I will read more of her books and probably enjoy them quite a lot. I realize that the miscommunication was needed to keep the conflict a secret for longer, but it just didn't work for me.

The Little Women Cookbook: Tempting Recipes from The March Sisters and Their Friends and Family by Wini Moranville* ARC, ebook


5 Stars - I recommend if you enjoy Little Women and cooking. This would make an excellent gift.


A cookbook with recipes and tibits from the time period of Little Women. Moranville has spent time researching the foods mentioned in the book, and cookbooks written during the time period to share similar recipes to the ones Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy would have made and enjoyed. Some are updated versions for modern cooks, while others are fairly true to their 1800s recipes.


The cover drew me to this cookbook. The illustrations are absolutely darling, and made me want to dive back into the world of the March women. I love that the author of this book did a lot of research related to not only which dishes were mentioned in the book Little Women, but also into recipes from cookbooks written in that time period. While some of the recipes are updated for modern cooks and palates, some are also fairly true to their 1800s versions. I loved learning more about the world during the time of the book through tidbits of history and every day life that were shared in these pages. The excerpts from Little Women containing the particular dishes were also so sweet and brought a lot of nostalgia to the cookbook. I think that flipping through this lovely book will definitely inspire readers to have a boating party picnic or apple orchard picnic of their own. From recipes for apple turnovers, to chicken salads, roasted meats, and vegetable pot pies this book has many tempting recipes. I will definitely be picking up a copy of this for my own shelves after it publishes on 10/1.


Frogkisser! by Garth Nix library, physical book

4.5 Stars - I highly recommend if you enjoy middle grade fantasy. This book is accessible to a wide audience!

When princess Anya is tasked with turning a frog back into a prince, she must set off on a quest to gather the ingredients to make more transmorgification lip balm, and to overthrow her evil step father Duke Rikard. Along the way Anya travels with a royal dog, a human-turned-newt, an otter-turned-weasel, and other colorful characters to save the fate of their world as they know it.

When I first started reading this I was not in the right mood to get fully into it. This book has a lovely slow pace, and is best enjoyed when you have time to be leisurely. When I picked it up again I really enjoyed it. Anya is a strong character who is both child-like and wise all at once, which is very endearing. I like that she has very realistic reactions to things, and is often so inexperienced, yet she succeeds in her tasks. All of the characters were interesting, the quest was complicated and simple all at once. I loved that the tasks often seemed impossible, but Anya came up with very simple solutions that made sense. I don't particularly like talking animals in my fantasy novels, but in this case I eventually got on board with the various talking animal characters. I liked how clever the world that Nix created was. How he took common elements from so many parts of fantasy, old fairy tales, etc. and turned them on their heads. Everything was so clever from the names of the otters, to the Heralds, to the flying carpets, and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. I love how all of these elements came together to create a compelling D&D-like quest with endearing characters. Though this is listed as YA it reminds me more of middle-grade as it is very wholesome and sweet. I think it would be lovely as a read-aloud family book for (I'd guess) children ages 7-12. If you enjoy magical stories, this one is very well done.

The Harp of Kings by Juliet Marillier* ARC, ebook

5 Stars - I highly recommend if you enjoy high fantasy, multi-POV, political intrigue, and covert missions. 

Swan Island Warrior initiates Liobhan. Brocc, and Dau are at the top of their group. When they are sent off early for an undercover mission, they must a help a kingdom retrieve a sacred harp for the coronation of their new king. They must take on new identities and act accordingly to gain information about the missing harp from druids, washerwomen, royal children, and mysterious folk who live in the forest. Along the way they will realize that much more hangs in the balance than just an awkward coronation, the fate of the free world may be at stake.

When you start this book, there is a very detailed cast of all characters, including the pronunciation. This is difficult when you're reading an ebook and generally a bit intimidating... however it is useful. At first I was a bit taken aback by the simple writing style from the 3 POVs. It was very diary-like, and the most succinct character's chapters were written in that way. However, as the book went on it did start to feel more detailed and descriptive, as I would expect for a high fantasy novel. Maybe it all meshed together and I got used to it over time. I was immediately invested in each of the three main characters and their combined mission. I thought they were quite different from one another, but had such strengths. Can we take a second to appreciate that Juliet Marillier wrote a book about BARDS? I have never seen another book about bards. I find that so interesting for so many reasons. Music woven into a plot is always cool, but particularly in a fantasy novel that contains lore and myth and storytelling. I also think that bard magic is not something I ever think about. Fascinating. I was very happy to be reading something SO different. Despite the uniqueness of this book, I did enjoy some of the more classic fantasy elements related to things like fair folk and more common myths and stories. Overall I just felt for all of the characters and loved them so much. I love how all of the pieces in their mission wove together, and how it all became clear during the finale. I highly recommend this if you enjoy fantasy. I will be reading my way through Marillier's other works soon!


Monthly totals:

Read - 12
Owned - 2
Ebook - 6
Physical book - 6
ARC - 5
Library/Borrowed - 5
Bought - 24 (9 physical books, 15 ebooks) - 4 books were freeee! :)
To Let Go - 12

Yearly Totals:

Read - 64
Owned - 17
Ebook - 39
Physical book - 26
ARC - 28
Library/Borrowed - 15
Bought - 113 (93 physical books, 26 ebooks) - 14 books were freeee! :)
To Let Go - 49


Linking up with Jana and Steph for Show Us Your Books today. :) 


What have you been reading? What do you hope to read this month?! 


Let's be friends on Goodreads!


XO,


Alexandra

* Asterisks denote titles that I was given advance access to by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. These reviews are my own opinion, and based on the edition of the book I was given at the time. Thank you Netgalley

**Double asterisks denote books won via a goodreads giveaway! 

***Triple asterisks denote titles that I was given advance access to by Penguin First to Read in exchange for an honest review. These reviews are my own opinion, and based on the edition of the book I was given at the time. Thank you Penguin First to Read!

****Quadruple asterisks denote titles that I was given advance access to by the author of the book in exchange for an honest review. These reviews are my own opinion and based on the edition of the book I was given at the time!