Monday, September 10, 2018

August 2018 Reads // Assassin Nuns, Late Bloomers, and a Thriler

Build A Bowl: 77 Satisfying Nutritious Combos: Whole Grain + Vegetable + Protein + Sauce = Meal by Nicki Sizemore*

4 Stars - I recommend this mix and match cookbook if you are looking for some new and exciting recipes, and to try out the "bowl" trend in eating.

I loved this incredibly visual cookbook! The photos, fonts, and ways that the pages and recipes are displayed are so eye catching and make you WANT to try the recipes. I love that she gives exact measurements on each ingredient for the bowl, as well as tips on big batch prepping (on stove top AND rice cooker!), combining textures/colors, etc. I have been intrigued by the idea of "bowl" dinners for quite some time and really enjoyed reading this cookbook. I can't wait to try the recipes. The options within this book vary from breakfast to dinner, sweet to salty, and everywhere in between. There are sweet breakfast bowls, Mexican flavored bowls, Asian inspired ones, anything you can think of is in this book. Though I am not one to personally enjoy cooked grains for breakfast (oatmeal, etc.) there are tons of options in here for those of you who do enjoy those. From Italian to Moroccan, this book is packed full of flavorful and exciting bowl combinations. A few recipes that I specifically cannot wait to try: Huevos Rancheros, Green Beans and Grains, Grilled Pepper & Sweet Corn Salad, Greek Goodness Salad, Marinated Bean Salad, Buddha Bowls, Easiest-Ever White Bean Soup, Roasted Cauliflower and Squash with Black Beans and Avocado + Creamy Chipotle Sauce, Asian Meatballs with Sesame Broccoli + Sweet Spicy Glaze, Chipotle Marinated Hanger Steak, Lightened Up Chili Bowls, Roasted Shrimp with Snow Peas & Sweet Corn + Mint & Cilantro Sauce, Roasted Salmon and Asparagus, and so many more. I love the the recipes are very mix and match as well and that she gives ideas for alternate sauces, multiple ways to cook the eggs, etc. as you go. I think that this is an excellent resource for someone looking to try some exciting new recipes, and try out the concept of dinner bowls. I also loved her tip on serving the items in separate piles on a plate for picky kiddos. That way they can eat separately, or make their own bowls. I highly recommend this cookbook. I'll update once I have tried a few of the recipes!

Not So Nice Guy by R.S. Grey****

3.5 Stars? - I recommend if you enjoy contemporary romance, quirky characters, and the friends to lovers trope.

Sam and Ian have been best friends for three years. Sam has love Ian for three years, and Ian has loved Sam for three years. Ian starts a rumor at the school where they work that they are dating, so other single teachers won't hit on Sam. When she squashes his rumor, single male teachers come out of the woodwork to date her. Suddenly Ian has to put his hat into the ring as well. Is he ready to be more than just friends?

I love R.S. Grey's books, they are so darn cute and funny. This was no exception. It started out incredibly hilarious and I loved their initial chemistry. Friends to lovers is one of my favorite romance tropes, so I was loving how it was progressing. I was having a rough couple of days though, so I am not sure if it skewed my opinion... but it ended up being a little bit all over the place for me. I loved the beginning, I loooved how he threw his hat in the ring, and some of the steamy/tension-y scenes at that point. However, I felt like I didn't understand Ian's character after that. He was trying to seduce her and then he just kind of asked her to date and stopped communicating. Maybe I didn't quite "get" them. I like that he gave her space to figure out what she wanted, but other times she asked for what she wanted... and got turned away. I'm not really sure. During that time a lot of zany things happened, which wasn't quite what I expected from her book. Not completely sure how I feel about it yet, it was a fun read, it had some really good steamy parts, but it also wasn't my favorite I've read from R.S. Grey.

Sadie by Courtney Summers*

4 Stars - I recommend if you enjoy contemporary thrillers and suspense.

When 13 year old Mattie is found murdered, her older sister Sadie will stop at nothing to avenge her sister's death. She must use the clues that she has to find the person responsible. In the meantime Sadie and Mattie's "grandmother figure" May Beth calls West McCray, a journalist to look into the case. As he explores, his podcast "The Girls" begins. Will they find her or will the secrets of Mattie's death die with her?

I don't read a lot of thrillers, because I find I often guess what will happen and I get bored. That was not the case with this book, and I was pleasantly surprised. I really enjoyed the format of this novel, the alternation between podcast style chapter and narrative chapter from Sadie's POV was really interesting, and kept me interested in the plot. I also feel like Summers did a great job of making the chapters end in suspenseful ways that had me continuing to flip pages. I thought that the story was gritty and felt real without being too sunny or too depressing. The podcast portion of the book reminded me very much of Serial, so if you enjoyed that you will likely enjoy this book quite a bit. I highly recommend this fast-paced thriller if you enjoy those sorts of books.

Sneak peak of Seafire by Natalie C. Parker - I enjoyed this sneak peek of Natalie C. Parker's new female pirate book! It was quite short, and I didn't completely understand the technology in the world, but I am excited to read the full novel. This author is actually from my city, I was bummed that I was not able to go to hear her speak at a local bookstore! : /

I also read two short prequels to Consumed by J.R. Ward. I enjoyed both of them. I found them pretty compelling and quite steamy. Thank you to Kristen for telling me that they exist before I read Consumed! :)

Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers

4 Stars - I recommend if you enjoy novels of political intrigue, court life, and a bit of magic.

Ismae was to be expelled from her mother's womb, but survived. She bears a deep red scar, and is said to be the god of death, Mortain's own child. When she is married to an abusive farmer, she is rescued by the herb witch and priest in her city and sent to a convent of Mortain's handmaidens. There she will learn the arts of death, and how to kill those Mortain wills it upon. However, when her assassinations get in the way of Lord Gavriel Duval's plans to cull information from his Duchess's court, Ismae must pose as his mistress and go to court herself. Will they be able to stop traitors to the crown before it is too late?

I really really enjoyed this book. The premise is so neat: nun assassins. I wasn't sure what sort of vibe this book would take: nun boarding school, super fantasy-based, mostly political intrigue, etc. It ended up being mostly political intrigue, which I loved. It would have been cool to have a few more chapters when they were young at the convent, but I loved the part at court, and as Ismae learns about her abilities on her way to court. I loved Gavriel and Beast as well. I think I read all but a few chapters of this in one day. I definitely recommend if it sounds like your kind of thing.

Dark Triumph by Robin LaFevers

4 Stars - I recommend if you enjoy novels of political intrigue, court life, and a bit of magic. You need to read the first book first. :)

This book picks up where the last one left of, but is from the POV of a different character. This one follows Sybella, another of Mortain's handmaidens of death. She has been assigned to return to her father's very dangerous court acting as a spy, and wait for the opportunity to kill him. Mortain does not mark her father and she grows impatient, questioning his very existence. When Sybella is assigned by the convent to free a prisoner and return him to the duchess, she agrees to do so and then plans to kill her father whether or not he has been marked by Mortain. When she is pulled into the escape with the prisoner she will find all of her plans have changed.

Overall I enjoyed this book more than the first. I appreciated that while it switched main characters and POV, it picked up immediately where the first book left off. I liked Sybella as a main character and was morbidly intrigued by her HORRIBLE family life. It made so much from the first book clearer. I loved, loved, loved Beast in the first book, so I liked that he was a big part of at least half of this book. I thought that this book had a bit more character development and I definitely prefer Sybella and Beast to Ismae and Duval. Lastly, this one was a bit more action packed which I preferred over tons of political intrigue. :) Excited to see where the last book in the trilogy goes.

Phoenix Unbound by Grace Draven*

4.25 Stars - I recommend if you enjoy fantasy with sweeping adventurous plots with a bit of romance.

Gilene has the ability to summon fire. When the empire culls girls and women as slaves for the Rites of Spring, they will be given to the gladiators for a bit of fun, and later burned as a sacrifice to the gods. Gilene attends each year out of duty and to save another from her fate. This year, she is recognized (despite her disguise) by the gladius prime, Azarion.When Azarion explains his goal to escape the arena, she must help him or risk her secret being exposed to the empire. Upon escape, however, Gilene is taken Azarion's prisoner and whisked across the world to his plainland home. He needs her help, and her gift of fire.

I loved the way this novel was set up, the world building was pretty cool. I specifically loved the Savatar section of the book. The culture was so interesting and unlike what I have read before in fantasy novels. It reminded me a wee bit of the Dothraki in GoT, but way less brutal, and way more culturally fleshed out (at least from the show). I became so attached to that whole world and all of those characters. I loved that while this book has romance, it's not really the center of the plot. The world building and character development are much more central. However, I did love the romance, and holy cow, Azarion is such a gentleman, lol! I thought the ending of the book was just a bit rushed, BUT I really like what the author did with it! I cried a little bit, and found the ending SO satisfying. I will 100% read the next books in this series!

The Late Bloomers' Club by Louise Miller***

4 Stars - I recommend if you are looking for a fairly fluffy read, but with quite a bit of depth. Especially if you love the small-town setting and quirky characters. Think, Stars Hollow!

When Peggy the cake lady passes away suddenly, the town of Nora is left with a big hole in it. Nora, the owner of the Miss Guthrie Diner is surprised to learn that Peggy left her house and all of her land to Nora and her sister Kit. When Kit comes to town, she and Nora must decide what to do with their inheritance. Should they sell it to a big box store, to farmers, to summer people, or keep it themselves? As the sisters try to make decisions and re-visit their past, the town must band together as the diner is struck by hard times.

I immediately was drawn to the writing style of this book, and the town of Guthrie. It sounded so cute and charming, and I felt like I could imagine it fully. I also immediately struggled because the chapters were SO LONG. However, at about 40% I think I became more invested in the characters and the plot and breezed through the rest of the book. I loved the details of the town: the places, the people, the town meetings, the online message board, the sculptures, etc. I absolutely ADORED the ending of this book. The way things came full circle made me teary in a happy way! I recommend if you're looking for a feel-good fluffy book with more substance than others. ;)

Anything You Can Do by R.S. Grey

4 Stars - I recommend if you enjoy contemporary romantic comedies.

Daisy and Lucas have been rivals their entire lives. Born on the same day, always in the same class, they were fierce competition for one another until the parted ways for college. Over 10 years later they both go back to their hometown to work for an about-to-retire doctor. To their surprise, they aren't working toward the goal of having their own practices, but sharing one. Can they set aside their differences? If not, who will end up winning the 28 year long battle?

Another great book by R.S. Grey. This one wasn't quite as funny as some of the others, but it was just as cute and sexy. I loved the mix of the hate-to-love trope and "the one that got away" the doctor's office setting was also really fun and a nice change! I liked that I thought I could understand both Daisy and Lucas's motivations especially after Ian in Not So Nice Guy... I just did not get him at all. haha I think this one was a bit steamier than some of her other books, which I didn't mind. I could have gone for alternating perspectives though. I love that. Another solid read from R.S. Grey. :) Thank you Heather, for recommending this one!

Mortal Heart by Robin LaFevers

3.5 Stars - I recommend if you have read the other books in the series.

Annith has been at the convent for the longest, but still not sent out on a mission. When the abbess tells her she will become the new Seeress and stay at the convent forever, Annith runs away to seek Mortain's guidance and her own path in life. Along the way Annith is taken hostage by Mortian's own army of hellions. How will she escape and confront the abbess about her fate?

This book started out a bit slower than the others, but I ended up enjoying it enough. I thought that the part with the hellions was pretty fascinating, and I liked learning more of the lore of the gods of the world. I felt like Annith's plot was pretty drawn out and a little unfocused though. Honestly, the romance of the story I wanted to love... but about midway through the book it really wasn't my favorite. I didn't get Balthazaar's character... there wasn't a ton of consistency with him. This book did, however, go where I wondered if the entire series would go. Which was kind of fun. Overall it was a little bit long for all of the things that were going on. I am intrigued by her next book (publishing in 2019) which will follow a similar plot but years later.

America's Sweethearts by Jessica Lemmon*

4 Stars - I recommend if you enjoy contemporary romance, especially "the one that got away" trope.

This book follows Jax and Allie, high school sweethearts that break up when Allie moves to L.A. to pursue a career in acting. 10 years later Allie is back in Ohio, hiding out from the press after an A-list scandal. Jax is still there, and he's made a life for himself. When Allie's publicist suggests they pretend to date, they're quickly questioning why they broke up in the first place... and what the future holds.

I loved Rumor Has It also by this author, and I couldn't wait to get my hands on this one! It was equally as cute, sweet, and steamy. I am not one to love A-list plots... so that part didn't particularly appeal to me, but I ended up liking it quite a bit more than I thought I would! I loved Allie and Jax, they were such a cute couple and I identified with their long history together, as I married my high school sweetheart. ;) I like Jax's relationship with his sister and family as well. It was also fun to see Caterina and Fox a little bit from Rumor Has It. I would definitely recommend if you are looking for a fun contemporary romance novel! :) Publishes October 2nd!

There you have it, quite a few books! I need to make a fall reading list!

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!



* 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! 

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