Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Book Review: Cake At Midnight by Jessie L. Star

Title: Cake At Midnight
Author: Jessie L. Star
Publisher: Pocket Star
Pages: Ebook; 464
Release Date: January 15, 2017
Source: NetGalley / Publisher
Genre: Contemporary Romance

HDB Rating: 3 Keys to My Heart

Recommended to: Readers who enjoy sweet, foodie romances with just enough drama to make them compulsively readable.

Add it on: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N
In this deliciously sweet foodie romance, a twenty-something pastry chef falls out of sync with her old childhood crush and falls into the arms of the quiet but charming boy next door.

Giovanna, Zoë, and Declan have always been a trio—their fierce friendship has seen them through every heartbreak and hardship and helped pave the way to brighter futures. Gio is a passionate baker of cakes, pastries, and all things delicious, Zoë a take-no-prisoners beauty, and Declan an ambitious businessman on the way up.

Best friends forever, Gio thinks—until Gio's lifelong crush on Declan is exposed, leaving her humiliated, and Gio realises she needs to cut him loose to get over him once and for all...
It's been a while since I sat down and read a romance novel. I open with that thought because you need to understand why it took me a while to settle in to Cake At Midnight. Expecting a fun and food filled romance, I was instantly smitten with Gio and her glowing personality. However as soon as Declan entered the picture, well, let's just kindly say that I didn't get their connection. This book has a lot more drama than I expected and, while that's not necessarily a bad thing, I felt like it took me a while to really get on board with it.

Before anything else though, let me praise Jessie L. Star for creating such a wonderful character in Gio. Her passion for baking, her deep love for her friends (even when they might not quite deserve it), and her endlessly glowing personality all had me smitten. Gio is the type of main character that we'd all love to be friends with. She's the character who you cry for, cheer for, and yell at all in the same ten minute span. In other words, Gio is a human. I loved her for that.

In the same respect, despite my disdain for Declan, all the other characters feel distinctly human as well. They love, they loathe, they make mistakes, and they forgive. It's no surprise that Theo steals center stage once he's introduced. Starting as the stoic "Nod Next Door", and slowly moving towards someone that Gio genuinely feels for, he was definitely someone that I adored. It's always nice to see a relationship on the page that isn't perfect, and takes real time and work to create. While I didn't agree with all of the choices the characters made in this book, I can say that at least I understood them.

My biggest issue with this story was that it felt slightly too long. The drama that unfolded between Theo and his family, and then between Declan and Theo, started to feel a little forced. That and I'm not sure I was entirely satisfied with Gio's growth by the end of the book. She started as a character who was too willing to let her friend walk all over her, and she ended not too far from where she started. I understand happily ever after endings, I just wish Gio had gained a bit more backbone. I know, it's romance. I'm being nitpicky. Still, I admit that would have made me extremely happy.

Overall, this was a sweet and well-written read. If you're looking for a foodie romance, with realistic characters, add Cake At Midnight to your reading list.

FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. I was not monetarily compensated for my opinion. Amazon links are affiliate links and compensation will be provided if you purchase through this link.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Guest Post + Giveaway: The Revolution by Alicia Michaels

Title: The Revolution
Author: Alicia Michaels
Series: (The Bionics Novels, #3)
Published by: Crimson Tree Publishing
Publication date: January 18th 2018
Genres: Adult, Dystopian, Science Fiction
Blythe Sol has a New Year’s Resolution, but it’s not your typical self-improvement plan. She wants to end the conflict between the government and the Resistance once and for all—by sneaking into Washington D.C. and putting a bullet in President Drummond’s skull. If she can cut the head off the snake, the genocide of the Bionics might finally end. But if she fails, she will surely bring retaliation crushing down upon the entire Resistance.
Blythe and fellow soldier Dax Janner are already coping with the loss of people they loved. When their dormant feelings for each other begin to rekindle, they struggle with feeling anything positive after so much suffering. The return of Gage will only confuse matters more. As the terrorist sect known as The Rejects begins to work hand in hand with the government to push the Resistance toward all-out war, the battle will be brought to their doorstep. Will the movement stand tall and conquer—or collapse under the strain and be destroyed for good?
The Revolution is the thrilling third novel in the award-winning Bionics series by Alicia Michaels.
Add it on: Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble / iBooks / Kobo

Grab book 1 – The Bionics for FREE!
Amazon/ Barnes & Noble / iBooks / Kobo

Women in Science Fiction: From Bikini Babe to Gnarly General

Me being a writer of Science Fiction and Fantasy, it should hardly surprise you that I am a HUGE fan of the Star Wars franchise. As a young girl, they were some of the first science fiction movies I cut my teeth on, the amazing world and engaging characters becoming as much a part of my childhood as roller blades and ice cream trucks. Like most girls my age, I connected with the character of Princess Leia. The only primary female character in a sea of men, she became like a symbol to me—a princess who was beautiful, but also carried a gun and fought along side those men to save the galaxy.

As I grew into adulthood, my love for her became tainted by her sexualization—the way pop culture often turned her into nothing more than a sex symbol … a hot woman who once wore the skimpy gold bikini which starred in the not-so-secret fantasies of dudebros and nerd-guys everywhere. There was, of course, nothing wrong with Leia rocking that gold bikini or being sexy or sexual. However, that so many people reduced her to being that, and only that, irked me.

And then, The Force Awakens was released, bringing us a new, diverse cast that included a badass woman in the lead role. It also brought us a transformed Princess Leia, who has, in the years since we saw her last, shed her tiara and donned a suit of armor. ‘Call me General’, her clothing, hair, and regal bearing tell us through the screen. With a quiet strength that demands the respect of everyone around her, she replaces the princess of the past as my hero … a woman who might no longer have the sexy body, but has gained so much more. Wisdom. Experience. Strength.

She is the symbol of a new age of Science Fiction heroine—a woman who fights for her people and for a cause, but who also loves even when she has lost. In that regard, she is so much like Blythe, the heroine of the Bionics Novels. Like Leia, Blythe lost her home, along with most of the people she cared about in one fell swoop. Like Leia, she has found love in the midst of a revolution, and even though life has made her hard, there’s still a soft spot in the center of her heart for the people she cares about. Like Leia, time brings her wisdom and insight, the hardships she has endured only serving to make her stronger than ever.

As I continue to strive to write strong female characters in a genre where they are so sorely underrepresented, I am grateful for both Princess Leia and General Organa. I am grateful for the woman she was and the woman she has become. I imagine her at the forefront of a fictional revolution, leading the latest emergence of fantasy and sci-fi heroines into the future—one where they take their places as the heroes of their own stories, where they are free to be as strong, damaged, fearless, and emotional as they want. I imagine her being proud of the ones coming behind her, for whom she paved the way.

Ever since she first read books like Chronicles of Narnia or Goosebumps, Alicia has been a lover of mind-bending fiction. Wherever imagination takes her, she is more than happy to call that place her home. With several Fantasy and Science Fiction titles under her belt, Alicia strives to write multicultural characters and stories that touch the heart. V-Card, the first book of the Sharing Spaces series, was her first Contemporary Romance.
The mother of three and wife to a soldier, she loves chocolate, coffee, and of course good books. When not writing, you can usually find her with her nose in a book, shopping for shoes and fabulous jewelry, or spending time with her loving family.


Friday, January 12, 2018

Some Morning Musings

So I'm one of those lucky people that get a 9/80 schedule. That means I have every other Friday off and, because of the holiday on Monday, I have a four day weekend this time around! As you can imagine, I had lofty plans for my long weekend. As it stands, I've been lazy as heck. Hahaha. But hey, we all deserve some downtime, right?

I've been doing a lot of thinking these last two weeks about this blog, and where I want it to go. Back when I started writing in here, my only goal was to have somewhere to share all of the bookish things that I loved. Then, as time went on, it became a place to promote authors and share giveaways. Then, it got overwhelming and I had to step away. That progression happened so slowly that I never really noticed until I started last year and just was burnt out. I was exhausted, out of content, and unwilling to let this go.

This year I've decided to take more of a lax approach to things around here. I've cut down on the amount of review books that I accept, and fill in with posts like this when there's nothing review based or promotional based to post. Which, actually, should have been the way it was all along! After all, this is my space. That means I am absolutely free to ramble at you all, bookishly or not ;).

The good news is that because I'm feeling so calm, that means I have more energy to plan events. And, since HDB is hitting our (*gasp*) 8 year anniversary this year, I'd like to do a week of posts dedicated to what we've loved and do some giveaways too. So stay tuned for that!

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to figure out how to convince someone to bring me breakfast. Happy weekend, y'all!

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Book Review: Double Take by Abby Bardi

Media Type: Ebook
Title: Double Take
Author: Abby Bardi
Publisher: Harper Collins Impulse
Pages: 186
Release Date: March 21, 2016
Source: PUYB
Genre: Mystery

HDB Rating: 3 Keys to My Heart

Recommended to: Readers who enjoy reading about the early 70's culture.

Add it on: Goodreads | Amazon
Set in Chicago, 1975, Double Take is the story of artsy Rachel Cochrane, who returns from college with no job and confronts the recent death of Bando, one of her best friends.
When she runs into Joey, a mutual friend, their conversations take them back into their
shared past and to the revelation that Bando may have been murdered. To find out who
murdered him, Rachel is forced to revisit her stormy 1960s adolescence, a journey that

brings her into contact with her old friends, her old self, and danger.
Bell-bottoms, booze and mystery are all a big part of this story. Bardi does a wonderful job painting the picture of Casa Sanchez and the way things used to be. Rachel aka Cookie remembers all the subtleties of her experiences and does a great job bringing you with her down memory lane.

I never quite connected with Rachel as a character, perhaps because things like bulimia were thrown around without context or point. Regardless, looking for truths from your past is always an interesting storytelling element. I enjoyed getting to know Cookie and the life she lived prior to present day and though her motivations for change at the end of the book are still a bit fuzzy for me, I'm going to say that I think she found what she was looking for.

If you enjoy reading about a small group of misfits from the late '60's/early '70's then you should definitely give this book a chance. It was an interesting ride.

Abby Bardi is the author of three novels: Double Take, The Secret Letters, and The Book
of Fred. Her short fiction has appeared in anthologies and journals, and she has written
academic articles on Roma (Gypsies). She grew up on the South Side of Chicago and
now lives in Ellicott City, MD, the oldest railroad town in America.

FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. I was not monetarily compensated for my opinion.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Book Review: You Were Here by Cori McCarthy

Media Type: Ebook
Title: You Were Here
Author: Cori McCarthy
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Pages: Kindle; 400
Release Date: March 1, 2016
Source: NetGalley
Content Screening: Mild Violence; Adult Language

HDB Rating: 5 Keys to My Heart

Recommended to: Readers who appreciate deep dives into characters dealing with grief, depression and anxiety.

Add it on: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N
Cori McCarthy delivers an emotionally taut page-turner from multiple points of view – combined with stunning illustrations.

Jaycee is about to accomplish what her older brother Jake couldn't: live past graduation.

Jaycee is dealing with her brother's death the only way she can – by re-creating Jake's daredevil stunts. The ones that got him killed. She's not crazy, okay? She just doesn't have a whole lot of respect for staying alive.

Jaycee doesn't expect to have help on her insane quest to remember Jake. But she's joined by a group of unlikely friends – all with their own reasons for completing the dares and their own brand of dysfunction: the uptight, ex-best friend, the heartbroken poet, the slacker with Peter Pan syndrome, and... Mik. He doesn't talk, but somehow still challenges Jayce to do the unthinkable-reveal the parts of herself that she buried with her brother.

Cori McCarthy's gripping narrative defies expectation, moving seamlessly from prose to graphic novel panels and word art poetry, perfect for fans of E. Lockhart, Jennier Niven, and Jandy Nelson. From the petrifying ruins of an insane asylum to the skeletal remains of the world's largest amusement park, You Were Here takes you on an unforgettable journey of friendship, heartbreak and inevitable change.
Two things, before I dive into the meat of this review. One, this is the first YA Contemporary book that I've read in about a year so I'm coming into this with fresh eyes. It's entirely possible that has also biased me to love this book, so let's get that out of the way before anything else. Two, although I was given a copy of this to review back in 2016, it has taken me this long to get to it. I actually borrowed it from the library to read, and I'm not sorry in the least. Now that you know where I'm coming from with this review, let's get started.

I love Jaycee, but I also hate Jaycee. I'll start right there, because that's the kind of book that You Were Here really is. I love Jaycee because she's a broken protagonist who is falling into a pit of grief and can't figure out how to claw her way out. She's raw, brutally honest, and walled off into her own safe place. I love her because she's real. On the flip side, that's also why I hate Jaycee. She reminds me of how easy it is to fall into that pit, how easy it is to push everyone away and become a flicker of your former self, and how hard it really is to let that all go an come back to the light. It was Jaycee, and her profound loss, that really made this book hit home for me. Cori McCarthy perfectly crafted a human being with real flaws, and I soaked that in and reveled in it.

In fact, every character in this book has their own set of flaws and short comings. That's what made me feel so strongly for them. McCarthy even manages to craft a character with social anxiety, who is selectively mute, and still bring him to life on the pages. His chapters, told in graphic novel format, were actually some of my favorites. I loved being pulled in to his mind, and seeing things from his point of view. It's not easy to have a book narrated by multiple characters that isn't confusing at times. McCarthy hits that out of the park though. Every character is so rich, and well formed, that it's not hard at all to skip from the mind of Zach, to Jaycee and back again. It's normal, and wonderful.

What really impressed me, more than anything, was how easy to read this book was. It deals with some tough subjects, unabashedly so, but it does it in a way that makes you love the characters and want to be wrapped up in their lives. I found a part of myself in every one of them, and it made this a really personal and amazing read for me. Highly recommended! Just be prepared to get a bit teary eyed.

Monday, January 8, 2018

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (1/8/18)

The first one of these in January, and I'm so pleased with how strong I've started out this year! Let me tell you, I was in a hardcore slump the majority of last year. I'd sway in and out, but my reading was nowhere near where it normally is. This year I'm feeling good. I'm taking it slow, and reading what I want, and it's going well. Here's my first status update of the year!

Can you believe I've already powered through 3 books this year? I'm even proud of myself. I picked up The Frog Princess as a light, fun read to start the year. Then I had a blog tour review of The Wicked City, which I enjoyed but didn't love. Finally, I just finished a read through of my first Contemporary in a whole year. I loved You Were Here. It made me cry. It felt good.

I meant to read this around Halloween, but that didn't end up happening. So, instead, I'm reading it now! Well, actually I'm listening to it. I don't love the narrator, but the story is good enough that I can ignore that.

I received this book for review and I kind of dabbled into it, but had to give it up for a bit because I wasn't feeling romance. However after I finish The Store, and a hefty helping of horror, I think I'll be reading this next.

That's it for me! What are you reading?

Friday, January 5, 2018

Book Hoarding, and How I'm Letting That Go

Luna feels about toys, how I feel about books. I emptied her toy bin today to clean it out, and the pile that amassed in front of me cracked me up to no end. This girl is basically a dragon in disguise, and her hoard is all about chew toys and stuffed toys.

The funny part though, is that I'm exactly the same way about books! It's been that way as long as I can remember. I'll buy/borrow/receive a book, put it on the shelf, and forget to read it. Then a year later I'll see it, tell myself "You need to read that soon!" and there it sits again. My goal last year was to look at those books, find someone who might appreciate them, and pass them on. After all, if I haven't read them in that long am I actually going to?

I have to say, the first few times I gave a book like that away I was so torn. I kept lamenting the fact that I might want to read that at some point and it would be GONE. It wouldn't be right at my fingertips! But since I've done this more and more, I'm slowly feeling more free than anything else. Now my shelves have space for the hardbacks of books I've LOVED and want to own. There's space to organize, and I can proudly tell anyone who comes by that I've either read, or am reading soon, the books on my shelves. It's weird, and I don't understand it, but I kind of like it.

I don't think I'll ever fully get over being a book hoarder. You'd never see my shelves empty, in favor of only using the library or Kindle books, but I can say that at least I'm trimming it down! It feels good.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Book Blitz: Pretty Dead Girls by Monica Murphy

Welcome to the Release Week Blitz for
Pretty Dead Girls by Monica Murphy
presented by Entangled Teen!

This book sounds absolutely thrilling, and I've been excited about it since this tour put it on my radar. Do you love stories featuring dark secrets, and intrigue? This is the story for you!
Grab your copy today!

Congratulations Monica!

Beautiful. Perfect. Dead. In the peaceful seaside town of Cape Bonita, wicked secrets and lies are hidden just beneath the surface. But all it takes is one tragedy for them to be exposed. The most popular girls in school are turning up dead, and Penelope Malone is terrified she's next. All the victims so far have been linked to Penelope—and to a boy from her physics class. The one she's never really noticed before, with the rumored dark past and a brooding stare that cuts right through her. There's something he isn't telling her. But there's something she's not telling him, either. Everyone has secrets, and theirs might get them killed.

Pretty Dead Girls by Monica Murphy Publication Date: January 2, 2018 Publisher: Entangled Teen

Monica Murphy is the New York Times, USA Today and #1 international bestselling author of the One Week Girlfriend series, the Billionaire Bachelors and The Rules series. Her books have been translated in almost a dozen languages and has sold over one million copies worldwide. She is a traditionally published author with Bantam/Random House and Harper Collins/Avon, as well as an independently published author. She writes new adult, young adult and contemporary romance. She is also USA Today bestselling romance author Karen Erickson. She is a wife and a mother of three who lives with her family in central California on fourteen acres in the middle of nowhere, along with their one dog and too many cats. A self-confessed workaholic, when she’s not writing, she’s reading or hanging out with her husband and kids. She’s a firm believer in happy endings, though she will admit to putting her characters through many angst-filled moments before they finally get that hard won HEA.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Book Review: The Wicked City by Beatriz Williams

Media Type: Print Book
Title: The Wicked City
Author: Beatriz Williams
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Pages: Paperback; 384
Release Date: December 26, 2017
Source: HarperCollins / TLC Book Tours
HDB Rating: 3 Keys to My Heart

Genre: Historical Fiction

Recommended to: Readers who are fans of Beatriz Williams and enjoy reading dual-narrated and dual-time period stories.

Add it on: HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
In the first book of a breathtaking new trilogy by bestselling author Beatriz Williams, two generations of women are brought together inside a Greenwich Village apartment —a flapper hiding an extraordinary past, and a modern-day Manattanite forced to start her life anew.

When she discovers her banker husband has been harboring a secret life, Ella Gilbert escapes her SoHo loft for a studio in Greenwich Village. Her charismatic musician neighbor, Hector, warns her to stay out of the basement after midnight, when a symphony of mysterious noise strikes up—laughter, clinking glasses, jazz piano, the occasional bloodcurdling scream—even though the space has been empty for decades. Back in the Roaring Twenties, the basement was home to one ofthe city’s most notorious speakeasies.

In 1924, Geneva “Gin” Kelly, a quick-witted flapper from the hills of western Maryland, is a regular at this Village hideaway. Caught up in a raid, Gin lands in the office of Prohibition enforcement agent Oliver Anson, who persuades her to help him catch her stepfather, Duke Kelly, one of the biggest bootleggers in Appalachia.

But Gin is nobody’s fool. She strikes a risky bargain with the taciturn, straight-arrow Revenue agent, and their alliance rattles Manhattan society to its foundations, exposing secrets that shock even this free-spirited redhead.

As Ella unravels the strange history of her new building—and the family thread that connects her to Geneva Kelly—she senses the Jazz Age spirit of her exuberant predecessor invading her own shy nature, in ways that will transform her existence in the wicked city.
In all fairness I should probably start this review with the fact I've never read any of Beatriz Williams' previous books, so I don't have any standing knowledge of her writing or characters. So it actually surprised me when I picked up this book and started enjoying it as a standalone, only to slowly fall further and further out of sorts with what was actually going on. I feel like I should warn any potential readers that although this is technically a standalone first book, there are references to Williams' other books here too. I had a friend who has read more of her works than I have explain them to me, and then everything made more sense after that. So, if you're lost, you might want to do a little digging. Just a PSA.

Now, on to The Wicked City. This is a dual narration book, alternating between the POVs of Ella Hawthorne in 1998 and Gin (Geneva) Kelly in 1924. I have to say, I was a little disappointed that Ella didn't get more of the limelight here. I actually enjoyed her story immensely, and felt like she got cut out more than she should have. Struggling to make her way in a world where she was once so happy, and now all alone, I so felt for her. While Gin's story was wonderful, and intriguing, the focus on her didn't create strong ties between these two women's stories. It felt more like Ella was just a filler story to connect Gin's story to present day events. There's a "ghost story" of sorts that works hard to make this connection, but I'm still not convinced. Add in the fact that the ending is wide open to make way for another book, and there are tons of loose threads floating out there, and you'll see why I was on the fence about that.

I can definitely say that Gin's story is well done though. Down to the vernacular, you can feel the vibe and grit of the 1920's. From speakeasies, to bootleggers, to prohibition era agents, it all draws you in to Gin's day to day life in Manhattan. I loved how easily Williams showed Gin's deep love for this Manhattan, despite its less than desirable aspects, and how realistic her life felt on the page. Despite not always feeling like her story tied into Ella's, I can't say that I didn't enjoy seeing life through Gin's eyes. Her story was wild and unpredictable, much like her character, and I appreciated that. In fact, had this been a story that only focused on her, I probably would have happily rated it much higher. It was the stretches of tying this back to other stories, and to other characters, that kept giving me issues.

Truth be told, I'll probably seek out more of Beatriz Williams' books, if for no other reason than I really enjoyed her writing style. I would also like to fill in some of the questions I have for myself, and give some of her other characters a chance. I still feel like it should be noted somewhere though that this book is a little difficult to read as a newbie to Williams' work. If you're willing to enjoy the story without fully understanding every little reference and nuance, you'll be fine. If you're nitpicky, like I am, you might have an issue. I'd say this is worth a read, as long as you know what you're in for! 1920's Manhattan is a fascinating place to take a literary trip to!

FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. I was not monetarily compensated for my opinion. Amazon link is an affiliate link. I will receive compensation if you purchase through that link.


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