Wednesday, January 31, 2018

January 2018 Wrap Up

Well darlings, tomorrow is officially February! 

Are you also feeling like this month has just come and gone without really sticking around? I feel like I blinked and it went from New Year's Day, to the last day of the month. On the flip side, I somehow found time to read 11 books, yes 11 whole books, this month! So excited!

Two of the eleven books that I read this month ended up being five star reads! That makes me deliriously happy, because this has been a stellar start to the year! You Were Here was a bit sad, with a lot of heart. Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance was magical perfection. Both good options for your February TBR if you haven't read them yet!

In another happy turn of events, four of the eleven books I read this month were four star reads. That over half of what I read in 2018 so far was amazing! Can you see why I'm a happy bookworm? Weave a Circle Round was a fun, fantasy romp. Modern Romance was my first attempt to read one non-fiction book a month, and I ended up loving it. Gilded Cage surprised me with how much depth it had inside of it, and Dominion was just a really fun middle grade book that captured my imagination. Again, all great reads!

Rounding out the month are five books that hit the three star mark and, since there wasn't anything that I rated lower than this, I'm pretty pleased about that. It's nice to have a month where nothing is DNF worthy, or a chore to finish. I have to say, this January has my hopes up for the rest of the year!

So that's it for me! 11 books down, all pretty amazing, and I'm thrilled.

How's your reading going so far this year?

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Book Review + Giveaway: Sugar Lump by Megan Gaudino

Media Type: Ebook
Title: Sugar Lump
Author: Megan Gaudino
Publisher: Evernight Teen
Pages: 226
Release Date: January 17, 2018
Source: Xpresso Book Tours
Genre: Young Adult Mystery

HDB Rating: 5 Keys to My Heart

Recommended to: Readers who enjoy mysteries and have a curiosity about human behavior

Add it on: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N
Seventeen-year-old travel blogger CC is stuck on a never-ending road trip with her wanderlust-addicted father. When her dad lands the job of his dreams in Sugar Lump—wedding capital of the world—CC finally finds a place to call home. Complete with two quirky best friends and a quixotic guy to crush on, Sugar Lump is more shades of perfect than she can possibly count.

But when CC accidentally overhears the mayor complaining that she has to “take out” a rogue employee for not fulfilling the terms of his contract, the idyllic town’s facade crumbles. Devastated by the possibility of having to move yet again, CC discovers everyone has been keeping a massive secret from her—including her own father.

There is so much to unravel about this story, I really enjoyed following CC around her new town getting to know the quirky characters. At the end of the day it's a very interesting commentary on the wedding industry as a whole and the promise of "happily ever after". I was anticipating a much different outcome to the mystery of this town, but was happily satisfied with the closure.

CC is a fairly typical seventeen year old girl who wants to fit in and find a place that feels like home, her dad promises that Sugar Lump is that place. With his dream job baking wedding cakes in the wedding capital he assures CC that his wanderlust days are over. There is some mystery as to why, but as they settle in to their new house and CC gets to know the town, the mystery just gets more complicated.

Every character in this story provides some clue as to what goes on "behind the scenes" in town, but every piece of information just adds more confusion to CC's life. You will enjoy going on this adventure with CC and her new friends as the pieces eventually fall into place.

The wedding industry is an interesting one and a whole town devoted to it is actually not all that surprising. Ask anyone who has planned a wedding in the last 15 years and they can tell you that the wedding industry is crazy with a capital C. Just the mention of a wedding at a venue or caterer and the price magically goes up. Providing the "perfect" wedding day is a full time business and a very prosperous one for many people.  The promise of happily ever after is what most couples are looking for and Sugar Lump provides that. But is everything the way it seems?

I highly recommend this fun and insightful mystery of the small wedding town of Sugar Lump. You won't be disappointed.

Megan Gaudino works in a high school library by day and on her own books by night. She’s made up of a mixture of black clothing, iced coffee, and a desire to go adventuring. Those things sort of come together naturally to form a writer. She lives in Pittsburgh where you can find her reading, writing, and Instagraming.
Twitter| Goodreads

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.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Book Review: Dominion (The Molly Stout Adventures #1) by Shane Arbuthnott

Media Type: Ebook (ARC)
Title: Dominion
   * Series: The Molly Stout Adventures #1
Author: Shane Arbuthnott
Publisher: Orca Book Publishers
Pages: Paperback; 312
Release Date: March 27, 2018
Source: Publisher / NetGalley
Content Screening: Nothing of note.

HDB Rating: 4 Keys to My Heart

Recommended to: Readers who love fantastical adventures with amazingly rendered characters.

Add it on: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N
Molly grew up hearing the tales of Haviland Stout, her ancestor who discovered the dangerous magical spirits that inhabit the far corners of the world. Now, on the edge of the New World, in the British Dominion of Terra Nova, Molly and her family collect spirits aboard their airship, the Legerdemain.

But when Molly captures a spirit that can speak and claims to have been Haviland's friend, her entire life is upended. What if everything she knows about the spirits, and her own history, is a lie? In her hunt for the truth, Molly will have to challenge the most powerful company in Terra Nova and find the courage to reshape her world.
This is such a wonderful story! I'm pleased as punch that requesting the second book in this series for review, and then finding out that I needed to read Dominion first, put this on my radar. You all know how much I love a good Middle Grade book! Dominion is wonderful. Molly Stout is wonderful. So please pardon me while I gush a bit.

In this reader's opinion, the best part about Dominion is Molly herself. Although there's a lot of other parts that are definitely worth gushing about, Molly reigns supreme as the reason this book is so easy to love. I adored Molly's passion, empathy, and the fact that she had just enough reckless bravery to really make things fun. Better still, there's so much growth that happens in this book. From learning that preconceived notions aren't always healthy, to learning that it's okay to love someone and not forgive them, there are messages in this book that I found so important for this age group. Molly's family isn't perfect, her life isn't easy, but she shows how strength and perseverance are what change things for the better.

As for the setting itself, I think the technology of Dominion is truly what sets it apart from a lot of the other MG Fantasy that I've read. Instead of being Steampunk, I'd pin this book more as "Spiritpunk". Molly's world is one that floats in the clouds and sees spirits as fuel. Which, as I mentioned above, allows for this grey area that Arbuthnott really uses as part of Molly's awakening. I could close my eyes and picture massive ships floating in the clouds. To say that it was easy to get caught up in this book is an understatement.

My only issue, and it's a small one, was that there were some loose ends upon finishing. The ending felt a bit like it was rushing to tie as many things up as possible, while setting the stage for a cliffhanger. I know that there's another book on the horizon though, and so I'm willing to be patient! I'm more than happy to follow Molly, no matter where she might go.

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 23, 2018

Book Review: The Memory Trees by Kali Wallace

Media Type: Audio Book
Title: The Memory Trees
Author: Kali Wallace
Publisher: Katherine Tegan Books
Run Time: 12 hours 51 minutes
Release Date: October 10, 2017
Source: Library
HDB Rating: 3 Keys to My Heart

Content Screening: Mild Violence; Adult Language

Recommended to: Readers who like ethereal reads that have one foot in reality and the other in magic.

Add it on: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N
The Memory Trees is a dark magical realism novel about a mysterious family legacy, a centuries-old feud, and a tragic loss that resurfaces when sixteen-year-old Sorrow returns to her mother’s family orchard for the summer.

Sorrow Lovegood’s life has been shaped by the stories of the women who came before her: brave, resilient women who settled long ago on a mercurial apple orchard in Vermont. The land has been passed down through generations, and Sorrow and her family take pride in its strange history. Their offbeat habits may be ridiculed by other townspeople—especially their neighbors, the Abrams family—but for the first eight years of her life, the orchard is Sorrow’s whole world. 

Then one winter night everything changes. Sorrow’s sister Patience is tragically killed. Their mother suffers a mental breakdown. Sorrow is sent to live with her dad in Miami, away from the only home she’s ever known.

Now sixteen, Sorrow’s memories of her life in Vermont are maddeningly hazy; even the details of her sister’s death are unclear. She returns to the orchard for the summer, determined to learn more about her troubled childhood and the family she left eight years ago. Why has her mother kept her distance over the years? What actually happened the night Patience died? Is the orchard trying to tell her something, or is she just imagining things?
Alas, The Memory Trees falls on that odd line that I've found lately between something that enchanted me, and also left me slightly cold. I'll do my best to explain, I promise. It should be noted that I love Magical Realism. There's something beautiful about books that keep one foot firmly rooted in our reality, while exploring something otherworldly at the same time. In this case, I'm just not sure that Sorrow's story really accomplished that as well as I had hoped.

At the core of this story is a deep family lineage that, as is often the case, is peppered with grief and loss. The Lovegood family has never had it easy. From the moment that the first Lovegood moved onto their ancestral land, their lives have been difficult and layered. I appreciated the fact that Wallace took the time to let the reader see the vast history that surrounded Sorrow's childhood home. It's easy to see how one event can echo through history, and even affect the present in ways that might not be completely obvious. The stories that were told rooted me in the Lovegood's lives like nothing else could.

The downside to this way of writing though, is that it's rough to really settle into. Although I felt for Sorrow, and understood her anger at what she had lost, I couldn't quite step into her shoes and really become her. There were portions of this story that, while I could see that I should be feeling grief or hatred or anger, all I felt was a missing connection. It's a little tough to explain, but I felt like I was being told this story by someone far removed rather than someone who had actually experienced this. Additionally, I felt like the Magical Realism wasn't really coming through as strongly as it could have. There were small elements of mystery and magic, but they didn't feel as fleshed out as I would have liked. I wish I could have felt more of the magic that Sorrow was meant to feel. Try as I might though, it never stuck.

As you can see, I'm of two minds about this book. The Memory Trees has great bones. The family history here is vast, and gives this book something that I'd been missing. It gives it roots. On the flip side, I never felt fully connected with our protagonist and that made things tough. What I can say is that the audio book version of this is definitely perfection. The narrator that was chosen has a voice that pins down that ethereal quality, and really brings the ghostly Lovegood family to life. So, my final suggestion is just to read this! If you're in love with rich familial ties, wide open country land, and stories that pull you into the life of someone unlike you, this is a book for you.

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, and I will receive compensation if you choose to purchase through it.

Monday, January 22, 2018

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (1/22/18)

I'm typing this up on a Sunday night, cuddled under a blanket, and trying to pretend that the week ahead is not actually coming at me like a freight train. I really love just having time to rest, blog and read. Why can't weekends be longer? Ack. Okay, anyway, I'll stop complaining. Let's talk books instead! Here's where I stand, with only a week left in this month!

Picking off books that have been on my TBR WAY too long has been my goal so far this month. I managed to get through My Best Friend's Exorcism as a buddy read. I mowed through Weave A Circle Round as an an excellent audiobook, and tackled Modern Romance in the same way! I'm feeling pretty good about my reading so far this year!

I'm actually reading 3 books at the same time, but my main focus is on The Memory Trees by Kali Wallace right now. I'm about an hour from the end, and it's so good! Excellent audio narration as well.

Next up is another library borrow, and a massively backlogged book. Walking on Trampolines by Frances Whiting will be on the blog as a review very soon!

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

Friday, January 19, 2018

Small Business Spotlight: Bookish Pins!

Hey guys and dolls, you've made it Friday! Congratulations!

I thought I'd give you a reward, by doing a special Small Business Spotlight that's going to make you want to pull out your wallet and shop. Were you paid today? Excellent... EXCELLENT. Let me tempt you with some awesome bookish pins!

Now, before I start, you should know that I am an avid collector of pins. Which means, of course, that a lot of these are either already in my collection or on my wishlist. I can vouch for these amazing stores, and hope you find something that you love!

Let's get to it.

**note that all photos are property of the store owners**


Henrietta the Hedgehog Pin from The Clever Clove

Okay, fair warning, EVERYTHING in The Clever Clove is absolutely adorable. 100%, scrumptiously, squee-inducingly, adorable. So if you aren't prepared to just throw your money at your computer screen, don't click the link. Oh, who am I kidding? You can't resist. Henrietta is too cute! Just do it. Click the link, buy this pin, then by 20 more because they are all too perfect. Did you know that Henrietta even knitted her own scarf? *melts* The cuteness factor is over the moon.

Bookshop Pin from Fable & Black

When it comes to pins, I'll gladly wait patiently for something to ship from overseas. Especially when they're pins from Fable & Black. This woman is amazing! She radiates talent and, lucky for us, puts her heart and soul into making adorable bookish items. Who doesn't want a tiny bookshop to carry around on their purse or tote bag? Oh, and you can rest assured that the rest of the pins, totes, and everything else in this shop are equally wonderful. It's okay, click. I won't tell.

I'll Show You Mine, If You Show Me Yours Bookcase Pin by Punky Pins

If you didn't chuckle at this, I'll be surprised. The first time I saw this pin, I sent it to at least 10 other people via Instagram DM with a message that said something along the lines of "YOU NEED THIS." to hammer the point home. What I love about Punky Pins is that whether you're a proud feminist, an avocado lover, a cat obsessed person, or a bibliophile, they have something for everyone! Yup, it's dangerous. I'm not even sorry.


Okay, okay I'll stop. For now. Plan on a a bookish pin post PART 2 very soon! In the meantime, please go and check out these amazing shops! Get yourself some new bookish swag, and support a small business. It's a win/win really.

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.

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.



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