Blog Tour: Once Upon a Broken Heart by Stephanie Garber (Review + Author Interview!)

Endless thanks to Flatiron Books for kindly inviting me to participate in this blog tour! Caraval has been one of my favorite series for years now, and it really is a dream come true to help promote the release of Stephanie Garber’s next book, Once Upon a Broken Heart, on my blog!

Without further ado, let’s get started!

Once Upon a Broken Heart by [Stephanie Garber]

Title: Once Upon a Broken Heart

Author: Stephanie Garber

Release Date: September 28th, 2021

Synopsis: For as long as she can remember, Evangeline Fox has believed in true love and happy endings…until she learns that the love of her life will marry another. Desperate to stop the wedding and to heal her wounded heart, Evangeline strikes a deal with the charismatic, but wicked, Prince of Hearts. In exchange for his help, he asks for three kisses, to be given at the time and place of his choosing. But after Evangeline’s first promised kiss, she learns that bargaining with an immortal is a dangerous game — and that the Prince of Hearts wants far more from her than she’d pledged. He has plans for Evangeline, plans that will either end in the greatest happily ever after, or the most exquisite tragedy…

This story was even more magical and whimsical than I thought it would be! It takes place shortly after the events of Finale, the final book in the Caraval trilogy, but this time around, we’re introduced to a completely new cast of lovable characters. Well, “new” with one exception, of course: Jacks, the Prince of Hearts!

In the Caraval trilogy, Jack’s instantly stole my heart with his snarkiness, devastating beauty, and tragic backstory. If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you’ll know that I’m a total sucker for morally grey fictional characters, and Jacks is just that! I’m so glad Stephanie Garber decided to gift us readers with a Jacks spin-off story, because not only did it give us the opportunity to dive deeper into his character arc, but it also introduced us to a new protagonist that I loved getting to know: Evangeline Fox.

What I love about Evangeline is that it’s so easy to write her off as a naive, hopeless romantic, but in reality, she’s just a dreamer like the rest of us! Which makes her so relatable! As a reader and fantasy lover, I’ve always had the mindset that happy endings are possible no matter what, and to see that kind of optimism reflected in Evangeline’s character was so wonderful.

Another thing I loved about Once Upon a Broken Heart: how magical it was. Every time I flipped open this book, I felt like I was stepping into a literal fairy tale! The story is steeped with mystical fables and legends, making for a truly breathtaking reading experience. Stephanie Garber’s prose is as stunning as ever– It’s so vivid that the magic practically comes alive on the page!

Overall, Once Upon a Broken Heart is a spectacular addition to the Caraval universe. Full of magic, mystery, romance, and heartbreak, it’s a book you won’t be able to put down!

We know the Prince of Hearts, Jacks, plays a leading role in Once Upon A Broken Heart.
Can readers expect any other familiar faces from the Caraval series? ( http://www.TreatYoShelf.blog)

I usually try not to answer this question—I like it when people don’t know what to expect. So, I won’t say if there will be any other familiar faces in Once Upon A Broken Heart. But I will say that readers might meet one or two characters who were mentioned in the Caraval series but didn’t actually get any page time.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is wbe2417_004-e1587422423618.jpg

Why do you love Evangeline and the Prince of Hearts and why should readers root for them? (www.eleventhirteenpm.com)

This is such a funny question, and I feel as if I shouldn’t confess the answer to this because I actually wrote Once Upon A Broken Heart with the hope that readers would feel as if Evangeline should run far away from Jacks, but at the same time really want them to kiss each other.

I love Jacks because he’s pretty much the worst. He says terrible things and he does terrible things—which is why Evangeline should stay away from him. However, I love Evangeline because she’s such an optimist—I love that she believes in love at first sight and happily ever after, and even though she should probably run away from Jacks, I think she’s just the type of girl he needs in his life.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is wbe2417_004-e1587422423618.jpg

Your books always read like fairytales (at least for me)! What are your favorite fairytales? (www.alexalovesbooks.com)

Thank you so much! I love fairytales and I have so many favorites. My very favorite is anything that’s Beauty and the Beast inspired. I love stories that involve truly unlikeable beast-like characters changing as they fall in love, and I’m always sucker for the kidnapped/captive girl trope.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is wbe2417_004-e1587422423618.jpg

If you could be transported into the world of ONCE UPON A BROKEN HEART, what kind of character do you think you would be and would you be easily swayed to make a deal with a Fate? (ACourtofCoffeeandBooks.com)

Ooh, this is such a fun question. I want to say that I’d make a deal with a Fate because I think it would be interesting and exciting. But, I probably wouldn’t actually make a deal with a Fate because I know it never ends well. I’d most likely stay away from all things Fate and spend time seeing the wonders of the Magnificent North. I’d eat dragon roasted apples, hunt for enchanted books, look for mermaids in the ocean, and hopefully get in a little magical trouble, but not the kind that involves Fates.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is wbe2417_004-e1587422423618.jpg

Which one of your characters do you relate to the most and why? Are there pieces of
yourself in both Evangeline and Jacks? (www.mermaidreadsbookblog.wordpress.com, me!)

There are always pieces of me in my heroines. I think Evangeline has a lot of my positivity and my optimism. I’m hopefully not like Jacks, but I will admit that I do relate to his character. I tend to hold onto things from the past, especially heartbreak, which is something that I have in common with the Prince of Hearts.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is wbe2417_004-e1587422423618.jpg
Author » Stephanie Garber

Stephanie Garber is the #1  New York Times and Sunday Times bestselling author of THE CARAVAL SERIES, which has been translated in over 25 languages. Her newest book, ONCE UPON A BROKEN HEART, releases September 28, 2021.

When she’s not writing, she’s usually reading or watching television shows with vampires. Now that her dream of becoming a published author has come true, her new dream is to visit Club 33 at Disneyland.

ARC Review: Defy the Night by Brigid Kemmerer

Amazon.com: Defy the Night (9781547604661): Kemmerer, Brigid: Books

The kingdom of Kandala is on the brink of disaster. Rifts between sectors have only worsened since a sickness began ravaging the land, and within the Royal Palace, the king holds a tenuous peace with a ruthless hand.

King Harristan was thrust into power after his parents’ shocking assassination, leaving the younger Prince Corrick to take on the brutal role of the King’s Justice. The brothers have learned to react mercilessly to any sign of rebellion–it’s the only way to maintain order when the sickness can strike anywhere, and the only known cure, an elixir made from delicate Moonflower petals, is severely limited.

Out in the Wilds, apothecary apprentice Tessa Cade is tired of seeing her neighbors die, their suffering ignored by the unyielding royals. Every night, she and her best friend Wes risk their lives to steal Moonflower petals and distribute the elixir to those who need it most–but it’s still not enough.

As rumors spread that the cure no longer works and sparks of rebellion begin to flare, a particularly cruel act from the King’s Justice makes Tessa desperate enough to try the impossible: sneaking into the palace. But what she finds upon her arrival makes her wonder if it’s even possible to fix Kandala without destroying it first.

Set in a richly imaginative world with striking similarities to our own, Brigid Kemmerer’s captivating new series is about those with power and those without . . . and what happens when someone is brave enough to imagine a new future.

Defy the Night was a wild ride from start to finish, and I absolutely loved every second of it! I didn’t expect to enjoy it even more than Brigid Kemmerer’s beloved Cursebreakers series, but somehow, I did! It seems to me that Kemmerer’s writing gets better and better with every book she publishes.

This story has so many strengths… For starters, the world-building. The dark, dangerous atmosphere of the book pulled me in right away. Immediately, I was thrust into Kandala, a kingdom suffering at the hands of a disastrous plague, with citizens divided by desperation and distrust. Tension practically leaked from the pages of the book, and I was constantly on the edge of my seat. I loved how Brigid Kemmerer truly dug deep into the politics of Kandala, giving us a fleshed out political landscape that added so much complexity to the story. As I learned more about the political warfare within Kandala, I got to see every single side of the conflict, making it impossible to decide who to root for. I just love it when an author crafts a world with so many different dimensions and dynamics that we readers can’t help but feel torn!

Another thing I loved about Defy the Night was the incredible cast of characters! The story focuses on our two protagonists, Tessa and Corrick, who happen to be our alternating narrators as well. Coming into this book, I was worried that I would enjoy reading from one character’s perspective more than the other’s, because that problem is all too common when it comes to stories told in dual POV. But thankfully, Tessa and Corrick’s perspectives were equally captivating! Tessa’s compassion, bravery, and selflessness resulted in me instantly falling in love with her character, and Corrick… Don’t even get me started on Corrick! Long story short: He’s now one of my favorite male characters. As the King’s Justice, Corrick is expected to be cruel, cold, and brutal, but his desire to be a truly good leader leaves him torn between duty to his brother, the King, and compassion for his people, who are desperately seeking protection against the vicious plague. Corrick’s conflicting loyalties make him a truly layer character, and I still can’t get over how well developed he is. His thoughts and emotions were expressed so vividly, and he felt so realistic to me that by the end of the book, I completely forgot he was fictional!

I enjoyed reading about many of the supporting characters in this novel as well. King Harristan, for example, was one that immediately stood out to me. Initially, it’s easy to write Harristan off as a selfish, privileged tyrant, but as you learn more about him and why he makes seemingly cruel decisions, you realize that it’s not that simple. All of the characters in this book have motives behind their actions, and getting to see those motives unveiled was definitely the highlight of the book for me.

Overall, I had such a great time reading Defy the Night. It’s one of those rare, magical books that completely removes you from reality and makes you forget you’re just reading words on paper. The world and characters are so very vibrant, and I can’t wait to see more of them in book two!

Speaking of which, I’ll be going into hibernation until the sequel comes out… How am I expected to wait OVER A YEAR to find out what happens next??? WAKE ME UP IN 2022, Y’ALL!!!

Judson Health Center Receives 5-Star Rating in All 5 Categories! | Judson

Review: The Crown of Gilded Bones by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Disclaimer: This review contains my own opinions regarding this book. If you loved this book and disagree with me, that’s perfectly okay! Reading is subjective, and we’re all entitled to our own opinions!

The Crown of Gilded Bones (Blood And Ash Series Book 3) eBook: Armentrout,  Jennifer L.: Amazon.in: Kindle Store

She’s been the victim and the survivor…

Poppy never dreamed she would find the love she’s found with Prince Casteel. She wants to revel in her happiness but first they must free his brother and find hers. It’s a dangerous mission and one with far-reaching consequences neither dreamed of. Because Poppy is the Chosen, the Blessed. The true ruler of Atlantia. She carries the blood of the King of Gods within her. By right the crown and the kingdom are hers.

The enemy and the warrior…

Poppy has only ever wanted to control her own life, not the lives of others, but now she must choose to either forsake her birthright or seize the gilded crown and become the Queen of Flesh and Fire. But as the kingdoms’ dark sins and blood-drenched secrets finally unravel, a long-forgotten power rises to pose a genuine threat. And they will stop at nothing to ensure that the crown never sits upon Poppy’s head.

A lover and heartmate…

But the greatest threat to them and to Atlantia is what awaits in the far west, where the Queen of Blood and Ash has her own plans, ones she has waited hundreds of years to carry out. Poppy and Casteel must consider the impossible—travel to the Lands of the Gods and wake the King himself. And as shocking secrets and the harshest betrayals come to light, and enemies emerge to threaten everything Poppy and Casteel have fought for, they will discover just how far they are willing to go for their people—and each other.

And now she will become Queen…

Let me preface this review by saying that I really, really wanted to love The Crown of Gilded Bones. After all, it’s the worst feeling in the world when you dislike a book that everyone else seems to adore.

The From Blood and Ash series has gotten so much praise within the past year, and very little criticism. I thought the first book was pretty great, and, for the most part, deserving of the hype. Then I read the second book, which was not nearly as good, but still enjoyable enough to keep me reading. Then came the third book, The Crown of Gilded Bones, which is probably the most disappointing sequel I’ve read in a long time. When I finished it last night, it literally felt like a victory, since the book was so exhausting to get through. I really struggled with it, for a number of reasons.

First of all, the pacing of the story was a total nightmare. The first 100 pages were very eventful, and I thought we were off to a good start, but then BAM! Everything went downhill. The next 400+ pages were completely and utterly pointless when it came to advancing the plot and developing the characters. In fact, I would even say that BACKWARDS character development took place, since most of the characters had me wanting to tear my hair out by the end of the book (Please note that Kieran, the only character in this book with more than half a brain cell, is exempt from that statement).

For starters, Poppy, our protagonist, suddenly became as interesting as stale bread. In the last two books, I admired her wit, daring, and boldness, but in The Crown of Gilded Bones, she just read off as a typical Mary Sue. She had virtually no flaws, and everything about her was painfully perfect. As a result, I couldn’t connect with her AT ALL, which made her inner monologue extremely difficult to read.

Casteel, too, became very bland in this novel. I’ve never been a big fan of him (mainly because he reminds me of a horny teenage boy), but at least in the previous two books, he actually had a personality. In book three, said personality was completely erased! Casteel’s only purpose was to be a hype man for Poppy by constantly praising her and reminding us readers how amazing and special she is. He had no character arc of his own, and, like Poppy, was boring to read about.

And naturally, when you combine two flat characters, you end up with a flat romance as well. In From Blood and Ash and A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire Poppy and Casteel had phenomenal chemistry, but in The Crown of Gilded Bones, I felt nothing from them. Maybe it’s because now that they’re together, there’s no romantic tension or slow-burn keeping me invested in the romance. But nevertheless, I’m disappointed.

Another thing that made this book so hard to get through was the endless info-dumping. Over the course of 600+ pages, Poppy asked a LOT of questions, and I get that questions are kind of her thing, but Jennifer L. Armentrout took it wayyyy too far in this book. Every time Poppy asked a question, 15+ pages of info-dumping would follow. I understand that Armentrout is trying to expand her world-building, but we’re three books into this series! By now, shouldn’t most of the world-building be out of the way? Plus, a lot of the new plot elements she introduced in this book completely contradicted the world-building she constructed in books one and two. It was all so confusing and impossible to keep up with.

So, with this series’ plot, characters, romance, AND world-building completely down the drain, it was a challenge for me to find any redeeming qualities in The Crown of Gilded Bones. There was really only one thing that convinced me to rate it two stars instead of one: the ending.

As much as I disliked the majority of this book, I can’t deny that the ending was epic. Probably because Queen Ileana, the villain of the story, swooped in within the last hundred pages and enchanted me with her fascinatingly wicked character arc. I’m a sucker for an interesting villain, and Ileana might just be one of my new favorites. She reminded me a lot of various other fictional villains, such as Queen Levana (The Lunar Chronicles) and Amarantha (A Court of Thorns and Roses), but there was still something so refreshing and new about her character. I owe her a big thank you for making this snooze-fest of a book a whole lot more entertaining. I really, REALLY hope we get to see more of Queen Ileana in book four of this series, especially if Poppy and Casteel continue to be such bland main characters.

However, I will confess, within those last few chapters, Poppy somehow managed to grow a spine after acting embarrassingly naive and whiny for a majority of the book. Just when I was about to give up on her character, she reclaimed the boldness and badassery she possessed in the first two books. I have a theory for why this is, but I wouldn’t be able to explain it without going into spoiler territory. But let me just say that I truly hope this confident, fiery version of Poppy is here to stay, because I can’t take another whole book of her acting like a twit. Sorry-not-sorry!

As much as I loved the ending, it didn’t make up for the 400+ pages of boredom I had to force myself through to finish this book. I think Jennifer L. Armentrout has gotten into the habit of making her books unnecessarily long, for reasons I clearly don’t understand. Does she just do it for bragging rights? I hope not. 😂

Overall, I’m so crushed that The Crown of Gilded Bones wasn’t for me. It had a strong beginning and a strong ending, but the majority of it was painfully boring, which was such a big disappointment.

Am I still going to read the next book in the series? Yes. Will I regret it? If it ends up being as boring as The Crown of Gilded Bones was, then probably. But I’ve already dedicated so much time to this series, so I feel like I owe it at least one more chance. Here’s to hoping future novels set in the From Blood and Ash world are more enjoyable than this book!

Premium Photo | Two out of five stars rating

ARC Review: Wing Builder by Mel Braxton

Amazon.com: Wing Builder eBook: Braxton, Mel: Kindle Store

He has his wings, she needs to build hers.

Wren knew she was weird, but she also believed she was human. When she learns she’s an heir to a House Banae… she also discovers someone wants her dead.

Ezal is cursed with the Blight, his gray wings making him ineligible to be Wren’s suitor. When he is assigned as Wren’s Protector, he welcomes the responsibility, eager to guard her at any cost.

To become Lady Banae, Wren must marry—and quickly! While white-winged bachelors line up to be Wren’s suitors, it’s Ezal who has captured her heart.

Together, Wren and Ezal navigate mysterious attacks and political maneuvers. As danger and death whirl around them, they must forge their own way forward or accept eternal separation.

Wing Builder is a new-adult romance set in a breathtaking sci-fantasy landscape. Expect aerial world-building and a swoon-worthy romance torn by political agendas and unexpected assassins. Wing Builder is a sweeter romance with steamier moments and includes a “happily ever after.” This stand-alone story features a competition between suitors, beautiful dresses, and a woman stepping into her strength. There is also a cat.

Wing Builder was such a fun read!

It’s a lush blend of science fiction and fantasy, and it also contains elements of romance, mystery, and even dystopia! There’s something in it for everyone, so no matter what genre you usually gravitate towards, I think you’ll definitely enjoy this book.

It follows our main character Wren, who has been swept away to Letharia, a beautiful dimension made up of floating islands and winged, angel-like beings, after she discovers that she is the heir to one of the realm’s governing houses. Ezal, our other main character, is Wren’s protector, responsible for helping her navigate Letharian politics, all while they dodge shocking assassination attempts aimed towards Wren. As Wren and Ezal search for answers, they begin to develop feelings for one another… Feelings that neither of them can ignore, even though they are strictly forbidden.

Reading through Wren and Ezal’s perspectives was so enjoyable, since they’re both such likable characters. Wren, for starters, was an amazing heroine, particularly because she didn’t need to act feisty and sassy to be a badass. She was more of a gentle, kind character, but none of that stopped her from being strong and independent, even in a world where she was put at a disadvantage for not having wings. Moreover, I deeply admired Wren’s intelligence, as well as her thirst for knowledge. It was so refreshing to read about a scholarly female main character!

Ezal was a wonderfully written character, too. He’s very strong an noble on the surface, but as I discovered throughout the book, he actually has so many more complex layers. For example, he constantly struggles with feeling unlovable and unworthy, which was both heartbreaking and realistic to read about. That’s the thing I love about Ezal– He’s so real. In fact, he’s probably one of the most realistic, relatable male characters I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading about!

I really loved Ezal and Wren’s romance, because I found it so beautiful how they constantly lifted each other up and helped each other find their inner strength. Especially near the end of the novel, as things were being wrapped up, I loved how Ezal and Wren continued to support each other, even when their circumstances worked to keep them apart.

In addition to the characters and romance, I also really loved the world-building in this book! The whole idea of magical cordwork was super brilliant, fascinating, and unlike anything I’ve ever read before. The dimensional science was also another well explained aspect of the setting, and I appreciate that the author took the time to research it instead of simply crediting all of the fantastical aspects of the world to magic.

Overall, Wing Builder was a fantastic stand-alone novel that I highly recommend to anyone looking for a quick yet captivating read. With stunning world-building and intricate characters, it’s definitely a book you do not want to miss out on!

Premium Photo | Four out of five stars rating

Review: Sing Me Forgotten by Jessica S. Olson

Sing Me Forgotten by Jessica S. Olson

Isda does not exist. At least not beyond the opulent walls of the opera house.

Cast into a well at birth for being one of the magical few who can manipulate memories when people sing, she was saved by Cyril, the opera house’s owner. Since that day, he has given her sanctuary from the murderous world outside. All he asks in return is that she use her power to keep ticket sales high—and that she stay out of sight. For if anyone discovers she survived, Isda and Cyril would pay with their lives.

But Isda breaks Cyril’s cardinal rule when she meets Emeric Rodin, a charming boy who throws her quiet, solitary life out of balance. His voice is unlike any she’s ever heard, but the real shock comes when she finds in his memories hints of a way to finally break free of her gilded prison.

Haunted by this possibility, Isda spends more and more time with Emeric, searching for answers in his music and his past. But the price of freedom is steeper than Isda could ever know. For even as she struggles with her growing feelings for Emeric, she learns that in order to take charge of her own destiny, she must become the monster the world tried to drown in the first place.

Sing Me Forgotten is one of the best books I’ve read in ages.

Having not heard much buzz about it prior to reading it, I was completely taken by surprise when I picked it up and found myself struggling to put it down and not binge it all in one sitting!

The first thing you need to know about this book is that it’s a gender-swapped retelling of “The Phantom of the Opera”. I absolutely loved the nods to the musical Jessica S. Olson scattered throughout the book: the chandelier falling and the “angel of music” scene, to name a few! Our main character, Isda, is the female version of the Phantom, and much like him, she’s a complicated character who isn’t necessarily “good”, but one you root for nonetheless.

Can't-Wait Wednesday: Phantom Heart by Kelly Creagh - Bookfever

I absolutely LOVED Isda, for so many reasons. First of all, she’s super morally grey… in the best way possible. Throughout the book, she tricks, manipulates, and hurts other characters, and while her actions were clearly wrong, I couldn’t help but understand and empathize with her anyways. The world has treated Isda with nothing but hatred, cruelty, and disgust, so how could I blame her for expressing her anger in immoral ways? I can definitely see people having negative reactions towards Isda’s character, but in my opinion, the most interesting characters are always the flawed ones. The ones that aren’t good, and not bad either, but somewhere in between. And that’s exactly the type of character Isda is!

And Isda’s not the only fascinating character in this story. Emeric, her friend-turned-love-interest, was a joy to read about as well. On the surface, he’s charming, playful, and witty, but as we dive deeper into his past, we discover just how complex and layered he really is. Cyril, Isda’s guardian and primary father figure, was extremely interesting to read about too. He was so unpredictable, and it was always a challenge to tell where his true motives lied.

Aside from the phenomenally crafted characters in this book, I was also a huge fan of the magic system. An economy that revolves around the extraction and exchange of memories is such a refreshing concept, and Olson did an absolutely incredible job of executing it. She didn’t bore us with long, tedious info-dumps, and instead delivered the information gradually, oftentimes in the form of captivating flashbacks. Only truly talented authors can develop a complicated magic system while still maintaining a fast-paced and exciting story-line, and I’m so happy to report that Olson is one of those few! Which is definitely worthy of LOTS of applause, considering that this is her debut novel!

The thing that makes Sing Me Forgotten such a special, memorable book is the addictive quality it possesses. So much happened over the course of 300 pages, and I was on the edge of my seat the entire time. There was literally never a dull moment! I was spellbound from start to finish, and I say that with absolutely no exaggeration.

The ending of this novel hit me especially hard. Looking back on it now, I can see that it was inevitable, but it was still heart-wrenching all the same. It was somewhat open-ended, but surprisingly enough, I didn’t have a problem with that, despite being someone who usually hates vague endings. To me, the ending just worked for the story that was being told. It was satisfying (albeit tragic), and it left me with so many emotions: wonder, grief, sadness, hope…

Overall, Sing Me Forgotten is a magical, compelling, unforgettable book (which is a bit ironic, if you take its title into consideration!). It simply took my breath away, and I would trade every ounce of memory elixir in my body if I could erase the story from my mind and start it all over again for the first time (that joke probably sounded weird if you haven’t read the book… Yet another reason to go pick it up!). From here on out, I will be recommending this book to literally everyone I know, so don’t be surprised if I never shut up about it. It’s such a spectacular debut novel, and it truly deserves all the stars in the world!

I can’t wait to see what Jessica S. Olson writes next; Whatever it is, I’m sure it will be marvelous!

Judson Health Center Receives 5-Star Rating in all 5 Categories! | Judson  Senior Living

ARC Review: The Soulmate Equation by Christina Lauren

Many thanks to the publisher for sending me a review copy of this title.

The Soulmate Equation by [Christina Lauren]

Single mom Jess Davis is a data and statistics wizard, but no amount of number crunching can convince her to step back into the dating world. Raised by her grandparents—who now help raise her seven-year-old daughter, Juno—Jess has been left behind too often to feel comfortable letting anyone in. After all, her father’s never been around, her hard-partying mother disappeared when she was six, and her ex decided he wasn’t “father material” before Juno was even born. Jess holds her loved ones close, but working constantly to stay afloat is hard…and lonely.

But then Jess hears about GeneticAlly, a buzzy new DNA-based matchmaking company that’s predicted to change dating forever. Finding a soulmate through DNA? The reliability of numbers:This Jess understands.

At least she thought she did, until her test shows an unheard-of 98% compatibility with another subject in the database: GeneticAlly’s founder, Dr. River Peña. This is one number she can’t wrap her head around, because she already knows Dr. Peña. The stuck-up, stubborn man is without a doubt not her soulmate. But GeneticAlly has a proposition: Get to know him and we’ll pay you. Jess—who is barely making ends meet—is in no position to turn it down, despite her skepticism about the project and her dislike for River. As the pair are dragged from one event to the next as the “Diamond” pairing that could make GeneticAlly a mint in stock prices, Jess begins to realize that there might be more to the scientist—and the science behind a soulmate—than she thought.

Funny, warm, and full of heart, The Soulmate Equation proves that the delicate balance between fate and choice can never be calculated.

Christina Lauren’s books truly never disappoint! I read The Soulmate Equation over the course of three days, and let me tell you, flopping down onto my bed and getting lost in it was the highlight of every one of them!

After reading and loving many of Christina Lauren’s previous novels, such as The Unhoneymooners and In a Holidaze, I picked up The Soulmate Equation with high expectations…All of which were completely blown out of the water by the time I finished it!

The Soulmate Equation was an absolutely marvelous rom-com novel that had me enchanted from the very first page. I instantly fell in love with Jess, our main character, who was hard-working, strong-willed, and fiercely protective of her love ones, including her daughter, Juno, who she had while she was a college student. As a young, single mom, Jess has worked tremendously hard to give her daughter the best childhood possible, and that’s something I really admired about her. Jess was someone who had been abandoned by far too many people throughout her life, so I deeply understood her protectiveness of Juno, especially when it came to introducing her to Jess’s supposed soulmate: River… Who I officially have a massive crush on.

Christina Lauren is an expert at crafting lovable book boyfriends, and River is no exception. He was somewhat emotionally closed off at the beginning of the novel, but as he and Jess grew closer, we got to see so many complicated facets of him. The tender way he treated Juno and Jess’s grand-parents was especially sweet to me, and I loved how he was always so understanding of Jess’s feelings, fears, and frustrations.

Speaking of which, Jess and River’s romance was simply fantastic. It’s essentially a combination of the enemies-to-lovers trope AND the fake dating trope AND the soulmates trope… What more could I possibly ask for??? It was so swoon-worthy, but at the same time, Christina Lauren did an excellent job at making it feel realistic. Jess and River’s relationship was never perfect, and a lot of things weren’t easy for them. But, more importantly, they dealt with their issues in healthy ways, which is such a significant thing for us to see in romance novels! Jess and River struggled a lot with the idea of being genetically-paired soulmates, but despite that, they learned how to communicate with one another and recognize their feelings.

Which brings me to my next point!

The whole idea of a dating app that uses DNA to match you with your soulmate was such a genius move on Christina Lauren’s part. It left Jess and River with so many complex questions and emotions that I loved seeing them explore throughout the novel. I also really appreciated how much research Christina Lauren did in regards to genetics, biology, and all that good stuff. It really helped me get a true understanding of Jess and River’s genetic compatibility, which made the idea of DNA-based soulmates all the more thrilling.

My only complaint about this book is that the epilogue felt a little rushed. I don’t want to go into spoilery territory, but let’s just say that things felt incomplete, at least to me. I feel like a few more chapters would have helped wrap-up the story in a far more satisfying way!

But regardless of that, I still really enjoyed this novel. Christina Lauren is, without a doubt, my favorite romance author, and I can’t wait to see what they write next. With every new book they release, I fall deeper in love with their characters and relationships! If you haven’t read a Christina Lauren book yet, I highly recommend doing so right away. No matter which one you pick up, you’re bound to finish it with a grin on your face!

Do you give half stars? Here's why I don't. | Mom's Radius

ARC Review: A Trial of Sorcerers by Elise Kova

Thank you so much to the author, Elise Kova, for sending me an ARC of this title!

A Trial of Sorcerers by [Elise Kova]

Ice is in her blood.

Eighteen-year-old Waterrunner Eira Landan lives her life in the shadows — the shadow of her older brother, of her magic’s whispers, and of the person she accidentally killed. She’s the most unwanted apprentice in the Tower of Sorcerers until the day she decides to step out and compete for a spot in the Tournament of Five Kingdoms.

Pitted against the best sorcerers in the Empire, Eira fights to be one of four champions. Excelling in the trials has its rewards. She’s invited to the royal court with the “Prince of the Tower,” discovers her rare talent for forbidden magic, and at midnight, Eira secretly meets with a handsome elfin ambassador.

But, Eira soon learns, no reward is without risk. As she comes into the spotlight, so too do the skeletons of a past she hadn’t even realized was haunting her.

Eira went into the trials ready for a fight. Ready to win. She wasn’t ready for what it would cost her. No one expected the candidates might not make it out with their lives.

A Trial of Sorcerers is the first book in a brand new, young adult, epic fantasy series intended for readers who love stories involving: sorcerer competitions, slow-burn romance, adventures to distant lands, and elemental magic.

A Trial of Sorcerers was my first Elise Kova book, and I really, really enjoyed it!

Eira, our main character, is a Waterrunner, someone who can control (you guessed it!) water, oftentimes in the form of ice. To my delight, Eira reminded me a lot of Elsa from Frozen (did you know that “Eira” means “snow” in Welsh?), and I was SO there for it! In the book, Eira struggles a lot when it comes to controlling her ice powers, largely because she has many emotional triggers linked to a traumatic event from her past that has left her with endless pain and guilt. Which leads me to my next point: Eira is such a layered, well written character who is very easy to root for and connect with. She’s someone who has been belittled and overlooked her entire life because of a mistake she made when she was young, so naturally, I had a lot of empathy for her and wanted to see her prove herself to the world. Overall, I just really loved Eira as a character! She’s stubborn, determined, and thirsty for knowledge, and I enjoyed getting to experience the story from her perspective.

Eira’s relationships with her friends and family were incredibly developed as well! For starters, her relationship with her older brother, Marcus, was so beautiful and heartwrenching… I couldn’t get enough of it. I also loved Eira’s budding romance with Cullen, a snarky, arrogant Windwalker (someone who can control wind). I love a good enemies-to-lovers arc (it’s easily my favorite trope ever), and this one was simply PERFECT! The banter between Eira and Cullen was EVERYTHING, and I loved the serious, emotional moments between them as well. This book ALSO contains the “Characters are about to get caught snooping around somewhere they shouldn’t be, so they start making out passionately as a cover-up” trope. So, if you’re into that (and honestly, why wouldn’t you be???), A Trial of Sorcerers is the book for you!

Now, enough about characters. Let’s talk about this book’s plot, which was fueled by constant mystery, political intrigue, and action! The story centers around a magical competition between sorcerers (hence the title, A Trial of Sorcerers), so, as one would expect, it was full of EPIC magical battles, trials, and obstacles courses! I could see all of the action sequences so vividly in my mind that it felt like I was watching a movie! I’m a firm believer that the best books are the ones that make you forget you’re reading, and that’s what this one did to me!

All in all, A Trial of Sorcerers was a phenomenal book that I had so much fun reading. I can hardly wait for book two, A Hunt of Shadows, to come out, but in the meantime, I’ll be exploring all of the other books set in the Air Awakens universe!

If you like fantasy books packed full of magic, secrets, competitions, and romance, A Trial of Sorcerers is definitely the book for you!

Do you give half stars? Here's why I don't. | Mom's Radius

ARC Review: Sweet & Bitter Magic by Adrienne Tooley

Thank you so much to the author, Adrienne Tooley, for sending me a gorgeous review copy of this title!

Sweet & Bitter Magic | IndieBound.org

In this charming debut fantasy perfect for fans of Sorcery of Thorns and Girls of Paper and Fire, a witch cursed to never love meets a girl hiding her own dangerous magic, and the two strike a dangerous bargain to save their queendom.

Tamsin is the most powerful witch of her generation. But after committing the worst magical sin, she’s exiled by the ruling Coven and cursed with the inability to love. The only way she can get those feelings back—even for just a little while—is to steal love from others.

Wren is a source—a rare kind of person who is made of magic, despite being unable to use it herself. Sources are required to train with the Coven as soon as they discover their abilities, but Wren—the only caretaker to her ailing father—has spent her life hiding her secret.

When a magical plague ravages the queendom, Wren’s father falls victim. To save him, Wren proposes a bargain: if Tamsin will help her catch the dark witch responsible for creating the plague, then Wren will give Tamsin her love for her father.

Of course, love bargains are a tricky thing, and these two have a long, perilous journey ahead of them—that is, if they don’t kill each other first…

This book was everything I could’ve hoped for and MORE!

It was my most anticipated book release of the year, and when an ARC of it showed up on my doorstep, I nearly cried. And I nearly cried AGAIN once I finished it because it was absolutely phenomenal!

If you’re looking for a fresh, delightful fantasy standalone full of cursed witches, mysterious magic, and a wonderful sapphic romance, allow me to introduce you to Sweet & Bitter Magic! This enchanting tale of witchcraft, love, and magic really has it all: intricate world-building, sensational writing, a fascinating magic system, and two very complex main characters who I had so much fun getting to know!

The first of those two characters is Tamsin, an exiled witch who, after practicing dark magic and thus breaking one of the most critical laws of witchcraft, has been cursed to never feel love again. You might think that a character who has no capacity for love would be quite a boring one, but believe me, Tamsin is the opposite of boring. She’s such a unique character who I found myself connecting with instantly, because even though she’s unable to feel love, her desire to feel love makes her so fascinating. Not only that, but her grief, guilt, and regret over things that happened in her past captivated me… I just LOVE a character with a complicated backstory! Another thing: Tamsin’s relationship with Marlena, her sister, really added to her depth. It’s such an absorbing dynamic, and you can feel how much thought Adrienne Tooley put into it. In Tamsin and Marlena’s relationship, every emotion is present: love, loss, anger, jealousy, sacrifice… My heart broke for both Tamsin and Marlena, for I was able to connect and empathize with both of their struggles and hardships.

Now, let’s talk about Wren, our second main character. I loved her just as much as Tamsin, and want to know what makes that so amazing? The two girls’ personalities never ever blur together. They’re just so different! Wren is curious, adventurous, and bold, and she longs for so much more than the hollow, dull life she’s been given. Like Tamsin, Wren has her own personal struggles and desires that weigh heavily on her throughout the novel. She desperately wants to save her ailing father who has become a victim of a horrible plague, but the sacrifices she’ll have to make to do so terrify her. Wren’s relationship with her father is so interesting, because while she loves him endlessly, she also knows that her dedication to him is holding her back from living the life she yearns for. Wren’s conflicting emotions make her such a wonderful, complicated character who is easy to root for. I really loved getting to read through her and Tamsin’s perspectives, especially since their romance is SPECTACULAR!

It was so sweet, wholesome, and swoonworthy… no words could ever do it justice, in my opinion! I also really appreciate that it didn’t overpower the other elements of the book, such as the character development and magic system. This story is perfectly balanced, and that’s why I loved it so much!

In sum, Sweet & Bitter Magic is a FANTASTIC novel that I’m so glad I got to read! Part of me is sad that it’s over, but that’s why we have re-reads, right? 😂 All in all, every single second of this gorgeous, breathtaking tale was utter perfection, and I can’t recommend it enough.

HVAC Inspections, Maintenance, Service and Installation. We specialize in  residential HVAC Service. Mountain Air and Heat | Mountain Air and Heat, LLC

About the Author:

photo by  Sylvie Rosokoff . can be used with credit.

Adrienne Tooley was born and raised in the desert suburbs of Southern California. She grew up in the theater, earning her B.A. in Musical Theatre from Point Park University. She and her wife currently live in New York City where she works in hospitality tech. In addition to writing novels she is also a singer/songwriter and has released several EPs which are available on Spotify & other streaming sites. Her debut novel, SWEET & BITTER MAGIC, will publish from S&S/McElderry in Spring 2021. Her second novel, SOFI AND THE BONE SONG, will release from S&S/McElderry in 2022. She can be found on Instagram and Twitter at @adriennetooley.

Buy the Book:

SWEET & BITTER MAGIC: AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE | INDIEBOUND

ARC Review: All the Tides of Fate by Adalyn Grace

Thank you so much to the publisher for kindly sending me a digital galley of this title!

The thrilling sequel to instant New York Times bestseller All the Stars and Teeth, called “captivating” by Tomi Adeyemi, “Vicious and alluring” by Hafsah Faizal, and “phenomenal” by Adrienne Young. Now author Adalyn Grace is back with more high seas adventure in All the Tides of Fate, this electrifying fantasy, perfect for fans of Stephanie Garber’s Caraval and Sarah J. Maas’s Throne of Glass series.

Through blood and sacrifice, Amora Montara has conquered a rebellion and taken her rightful place as queen of Visidia. Now, with the islands in turmoil and the people questioning her authority, Amora cannot allow anyone to see her weaknesses.

No one can know about the curse in her bloodline. No one can know that she’s lost her magic. No one can know the truth about the boy who holds the missing half of her soul.

To save herself and Visidia, Amora embarks on a desperate quest for a mythical artifact that could fix everything―but it comes at a terrible cost. As she tries to balance her loyalty to her people, her crew, and the desires of her heart, Amora will soon discover that the power to rule might destroy her.

*SPOILERS FOR ALL THE STARS AND TEETH AHEAD*

I honestly have no idea how to start this review. All the Tides of Fate was such a phenomenal book, and I am still REELING from that ending! Adalyn Grace, WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO ME?!? #WorstBookHangoverEver

In all seriousness, though, this book truly was spectacular, and there are no words in the English language that can properly express how much I loved it. It’s one of those books that falls under the “Had Me Bawling Into My Pillow At 3 AM” Category. There, THAT should give you an idea of how much I loved it. 😂

I was rather apprehensive when going into All the Tides of Fate, as its predecessor, All the Stars and Teeth (AKA, one of my favorite reads of 2020), left me with SKY HIGH expectations. I was worried that, like so many other sequels out there, All the Tides of Fate would be a victim of the dreaded Book 2 Curse. But guess what? It totally wasn’t!

All the Tides of Fate was just as good as All the Stars and Teeth. In fact, there are some aspects of the book that made me like it even MORE than All the Stars and Teeth. For example, the development of the various characters in the story.

Let’s start with our protagonist, Amora. The poor girl had to go through A LOT in this book. After witnessing the brutal death of her father in All the Stars and Teeth, Amora’s heart is heavy with grief, guilt, and regret. She finds herself getting easily panicked and overwhelmed, and for a majority of the novel, she is very emotionally closed off. I really appreciate that Adalyn Grace did NOT gloss over Amora’s trauma and grief like many other YA authors do when a character faces a major loss. Instead, she made Amora’s pain a big part of the story and portrayed the reality of grief with such rawness and honesty that I can’t help but applaud. In most of the YA novels I’ve read, when someone the protagonist loves is killed off, they spend a very brief amount of time mourning them, and then they continue on with their adventures as if nothing has changed. This is NOT realistic. That’s why I love that Adalyn Grace didn’t shy away from making Amora’s grief a primary focus of the book. Grief is NOT short-term, and it’s important to portray it realistically in literature. Because of her PTSD and grief, Amora went through a tremendous amount of growth in this novel, and I’m so proud of her. She’s a character I’ve loved getting to know these past two books, and her depth and complexity make her a very memorable one as well.

And of course, I can’t forget about the wonderful supporting characters in this story! Ferrick, Vataea, and Bastian occupy an extremely special place in my heart. They’re all very different, and that’s why I love them so much. In the past, I’ve seen authors dedicate all of their energy to developing their protagonists, resulting in very bland casts of supporting characters. Adalyn Grace is different. Her secondary characters are JUST as phenomenally developed as her protagonist, even though we’re not reading from their perspectives. Ferrick, Vataea, and Bastian each have so many layers to them, and it’s been a pleasure getting to peel them all back as I’ve gotten to know them better and better. But I must admit… I have a feeling that some of these characters’ adventures aren’t quite over yet (*cough cough* VATAEA), so I’m hoping, praying, and BEGGING for more stories set in Visidia in the future! (Adalyn Grace, if you’re seeing this… Can we PLEASE get a Vataea novel? PRETTY PLEASE?)

Moving on, I also really loved how the character relationships in this duology were developed. We got to see a lot more of Amora and Bastian in All the Tides of Fate, and I like how Adalyn Grace really took their relationship to a deeper and more emotional level. They’re definitely one of my new favorite fictional couples, as I’ve become so attached to both of them!

Now, before I wrap this review up, can I please take a moment to express how glad I am that this series was written as a duology and not stretched out into a trilogy? Even though it absolutely tore my heart apart, the ending of All the Tides of Fate was absolutely PERFECT, and the story as a whole came to a very neat conclusion. So many series these days are unnecessarily long, which is why I’m happy that the author and publisher recognized that only two books were needed to tell this fantastic story. #DuologiesForTheWin

Overall, All the Tides of Fate was a magnificent (and heartbreaking) ending to a series that I love so much. The characters in this story are some of my favorites of all time, and I already miss them endlessly!

If you like swashbuckling, high-seas adventures full of magic, beauty, and self discovery, you MUST read this series! It’s beyond amazing!

FIVE-STARS • Stay Green Turf

Review: The Hating Game by Sally Thorne (The Most Problematic Book I’ve Ever Read)

Nemesis (n.)

1) An opponent or rival whom a person cannot best or overcome.

2) A person’s undoing

3) Joshua Templeman

Lucy Hutton and Joshua Templeman hate each other. Not dislike. Not begrudgingly tolerate. Hate. And they have no problem displaying their feelings through a series of ritualistic passive aggressive maneuvers as they sit across from each other, executive assistants to co-CEOs of a publishing company. Lucy can’t understand Joshua’s joyless, uptight, meticulous approach to his job. Joshua is clearly baffled by Lucy’s overly bright clothes, quirkiness, and Pollyanna attitude.

Now up for the same promotion, their battle of wills has come to a head and Lucy refuses to back down when their latest game could cost her her dream job…But the tension between Lucy and Joshua has also reached its boiling point, and Lucy is discovering that maybe she doesn’t hate Joshua. And maybe, he doesn’t hate her either. Or maybe this is just another game.

No hyped up book has never disappointed me as much as The Hating Game did. After reading nothing but positive reviews for it, I went into it expecting to love it, but instead, I ended up hating it.

The Hating Game had the potential to be a cute, wholesome, swoon-worthy rom-com, but unfortunately it was quite the opposite: It was bland, cringey, and EXTREMELY problematic.

Where do I even start?

First of all, both of our main characters, Lucy and Josh, absolutely suck. Lucy, our narrator, is one of the most annoying, obnoxious, and overall TERRIBLE protagonists I’ve ever had the misfortune of reading about. She’s childish and immature, and everything she did gave me major second hand embarrassment. Most of Lucy’s characterization was just descriptions of how short and tiny and cute she was… I swear, I’m not exaggerating. Sally Thorne had to remind us EVERY SINGLE PAGE that Lucy was oh so small. *sigh* Plus, Josh’s weird obsession with Lucy’s size reinforces the internalized misogyny that gives so many women the idea that they need to be “small” to feel beautiful and desirable in a relationship. Ugh.

Speaking of Josh… I hated him almost as much as I hated Lucy. He had WAY too much influence over Lucy’s confidence and self-esteem. Just take a look at this quote said by Lucy when she has a full-on mental breakdown in the bathroom due to Josh’s douchiness. (To Josh):

“‘You’ve broken me down so completely, I can’t even handle it when a guy tells me I’m beautiful… That’s why I’m crying. Because Danny told me I’m a beautiful girl, and I nearly fell off the barstool. You’ve ruined me.'”

See what I mean by problematic??? It doesn’t matter who you are: If you’re in a relationship where someone is making you feel this way, LEAVE THEM. I have no idea why this disgustingly abusive behavior is being romanticized.

But guess what? Josh isn’t the only one making this “romance” so problematic. Lucy’s actions are equally, if not MORE, horrible. You see… Lucy is a outright PERVERT. Throughout the book, she constantly sexually harasses Josh, but of course it isn’t viewed as harassment because she’s a woman and he’s a man. But harassment is exactly what is it. Want some examples?

  • As they make out, Josh repeatedly tells Lucy to slow down, but she ignores him.
  • Lucy orders Josh to “take off his shirt” continuously.
  • Lucy constantly pressures Josh to have sex with her.
  • Lucy creepily ogles Josh’s body and makes him feel like an object.

Is that not enough to prove to you that Lucy’s treatment of Josh is deeply wrong? Allow me to present to you yet another quote, said by Lucy, that demonstrates just how blatantly sexist she is:

“Isn’t being wanted for his body a man’s dream?”

Um… HELLO. I’m seeing a lot of double standards here. How is this NOT problematic?! Imagine if a man said that about a woman: Isn’t being wanted for her body a woman’s dream? People would freak out if a man said that, right? So why is it okay for a woman to say it? Guess what? It’s not.

Even if you ignore all of its problematic aspects, the romance still sucks. Lucy and Josh’s relationship always felt so cringey and bland. As I read the book, I couldn’t have cared less if the two of them ended up together or not.

The book became somewhat interesting at about page 300 (aka… over 75% through) when Josh’s family came into the picture. Everything still kind of sucked, but at least I didn’t feel like throwing the book across the room anymore.

But that in no way makes up for all of cringing, sighing, and face palming I did while reading this awful book. I’m truly baffled by all of the hype it gets. I can’t even name one good thing about it! And that’s such a shame, because I was so certain that it was going to be a five star read for me! Well, we can’t love ’em all!

If you haven’t read The Hating Game yet, but you’re looking for a delightful rom-com that will make you laugh, cry, and swoon, I highly recommend The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren as an alternative!

Trust me, it’s a billion times better than THIS dreadful novel.

111 Snack at Le Touquet, Ostend | The Bruges Vegan