Thursday, January 31, 2019

Book Review: That's Not What I Heard by Stephanie Kate Strohm

Media Type: Ebook (ARC)
Title: That's Not What I Heard
Author: Stephanie Kate Strohm
Publisher: Scholastic
Pages: Hardcover; 368
Release Date: January 29, 2019
Source: FFBC Tours / Publisher
Content Screening: Nothing of note.

HDB Rating: 3 Keys to My Heart

Recommended to: Readers who enjoy high school drama at it's adorable best!

Add it on: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N
What did you hear?

Kimberly Landis-Lilley and Teddy Lin are over. Yes, the Kim and Teddy broke up.

At least that's what Phil Spooner thinks he overheard and then told Jess Howard, Kim's best friend. Something about Teddy not liking Kim's Instas? Or was it that Teddy is moving to Italy and didn't want to do long distance? Or that Kim slid into someone else's DMs?

Jess told her boyfriend, Elvis, that he needs to be on Kim's side. Especially if he wants to keep her as his girlfriend. But Elvis is also Teddy's best friend.

Now, Kim's run out of school for the day. Jess is furious. Elvis is confused. And half the lunch period won't talk to Teddy. Even the teachers have taken sides.

William Henry Harrison High will never be the same again!

Oh, this sweet, sweet book. It's been quite a while since I've read a YA book that didn't contain tragic romance, or tough lessons. Not that I don't love those books, don't get me wrong, but That's Not What I Heard was like a breath of fresh air in a genre that's starting to feel a little heavy. This book is pure fun, really. It's almost like a satire of high school, except it's even smarter than that. While I didn't absolutely love this book, I saw the brilliance in it. Plus, I definitely giggled out loud more than once. Trust me, this is something YA readers are going to love.

You know how the high school rumor mill is. One little thing overheard, and suddenly it's morphed into something that is nowhere near what was originally said. That's this book in a nutshell. Perfect couple Kim-and-Teddy have been together for what feels like forever. Now it's their Senior year, and it's time to start thinking about the future. Except... are they on the same page? A fight begins, and what follows is a breakup story for the ages. Seriously, it's on that type of scale.

I had to keep reminding myself that yes, school really was as absurd as this book felt sometimes. It did feel a little over the top at points, but what I really enjoyed was the fact that the reader actually gets to see the rumors progress as they move along the telephone line of gossip. Each chapter would pick up with the last person who had heard something, and I honestly laughed more than once at how that next person interpreted it. There are school hijinks, plans to get back together with lost loves, and more friendship than I think I've ever seen in a book like this. You can tell that Strohm has been there. You can tell that she knows just how silly things can get when the rumor mill activates. There's just a flair on top of that to make things seem funnier, and that's the pat I had the hardest time with.

Final verdict? This wasn't quite my book, but I do know that a ton of YA readers out there are going to love this. Young YA readers especially, who are just entering the wide world of high school, will probably really enjoy this story. It's silly, it's a little too quick moving at times, but it has a ton of heart behind it too. I enjoyed getting to know the residents at William Henry Harrison High! I know that others will too.

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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 30, 2019

Book Blitz + Giveaway: EVO by Diane May

Title: EVO
Author: Diane May
Publication date: July 23rd 2018
Genres: Adult, Thriller
A covert CIA operation that involves genetic engineering.
A serial killer nicknamed “The Hypnotist”.
And the most terrifying threat humanity has to face.

What if someone could take complete control over your mind?
And what if that someone was a serial killer?

Discover EVO, a gripping crime thriller that reviewers and readers describe as “spellbinding”, “high-energy” and “impossible to put down”.
Langley, Virginia, twenty years earlier:
John Blake, a CIA special agent, stumbles upon an illegal genetic experiment within the agency, conducted on unborn babies and officially presented as a fertility program designed to help couples get pregnant. When he realizes that his very own daughter is a product of this sinister plot and that she is in grave danger, he vows to do everything it takes to make sure Maya will be safe and the people behind the experiment will all pay. With their lives.
Verona, Italy, present time:
Livio Marchiori, a homicide detective with the highest rate of solved cases in Verona, is faced with The Hypnotist, a serial killer the likes of which he’s never seen before. He never touches his victims and he leaves no evidence behind, except for the detailed videos of his murders. And what Marchiori and his team see on those videos is more disturbing than all their other cases combined. Because this one is different. This one defies all rational thinking and borders the impossible.
Then The Hypnotist gets personal and threatens to kill Dr. Abby Jones, the chief medical examiner and the woman Marchiori is in love with. Caught in a cat-and-mouse game with the elusive killer, Marchiori knows he is quickly running out of time.
So when Captain Victor Miller from Interpol walks into town, Marchiori is more than happy to partner again with the man who two years ago helped him put an entire mafia clan behind bars. But Miller has his own agenda, and Marchiori soon discovers that there is more to these crimes than meets the eye, an entire thread of things way beyond his pay grade – illegal experiments, secret agencies, and the most terrifying threat humanity has to face.
A gripping serial killer thriller with a “hit-the-brakes-with-both-feet plot twist that may leave even the most jaded among us feeling good about humanity.”
“He stripped down, threw his clothes in the blue hamper behind the door, and got in the shower. He turned his body away from the faucet and placed his hands on the wall, letting the hot water beat down his back. Doing this usually relaxed him, but now it somehow amplified this weird restlessness, this foreboding feeling he couldn’t shake off. Annoyed at himself, he quickly washed his body, turned off the faucet and reached for the brown towel on the hook.
A heavy silence filled his apartment. A few drops of water from the shower head splashed onto the ceramic tiles below, the sound deafening to his ears. His heart started beating faster. All of a sudden he wanted to hear human voices, his neighbours yelling at each other, their baby crying, anything but this dead silence and the rhythmic tapping of the water drops.
An icy shiver rippled down his spine and his body started shaking. Unseen walls were sliding down around him, trapping him. Suffocating him.”

Marchiori took his gun, a 9mm Beretta 92FS – perfect for his hands because of its ample grip – from his shoulder holster, put it on the brown wooden desk in front of him, and then sat down. The big swivel chair squeaked under his weight. Not that he was fat. But he was tall and muscular, the body of a man who exercised regularly, just not in the perfect conditions of a gym. He strongly believed that if you wanted a hard body and a tough mind you needed to go hand-to-hand with Mother Nature. He ran and exercised in the forest and up the hills behind his house, and he did it in all weather conditions. Rain, ice, or the fires of hell, it made no difference to him. He rolled out of bed and into his training gear every morning, never past six am, no matter how late he had hit the sack the night before. The only exception to this rule was when he slept in his office. The police headquarters had an underground space where there were two gyms, showers and locker rooms, and he had no choice then but to train there. Because no exercise was just unacceptable. He had made a pact with himself. The day he was out of breath while chasing a perp would be his last day as a police officer. And he sure as hell did everything in his power to keep that day in the very distant future.

He loved his job more than anything in the world, which was why at thirty-seven he’d already been divorced for more than five years. The fighting had started shortly after they got married. You’re never at home when I go to bed, his wife used to yell at him, we don’t even have breakfast together because you always go to that lousy police bar. Sleepy hellos and good-byes didn’t qualify as communication apparently. And then came the ultimatum. Me or your job, she calmly announced one night, you have one week to decide. He could have given her the answer straight away. It wasn’t that he didn’t love her. Because he did. But his job was an integral part of his being, encoded in his DNA and impossible to live without. Of course he never actually told her this, but she was a smart woman, and by the end of that week she had packed her bags and wished him and his job a happy life together.

While sitting in his chair with one hour until midnight, Marchiori realized he had no idea what he was supposed to do the next day. His first day off in years. A whole day off.

The nice old lady in the Personnel Office had threatened to make him take two weeks off at a time if he didn’t reduce the obscene amount of paid holiday he had accumulated over the years. And Colonel Sanese, chief of The Homicide and Burglary Division of the Verona Police Department, had been on her side. Marchiori had muttered something about how bullying employees was illegal, but realised he had no choice in the matter. So unless he wanted to die of boredom two weeks at a time, he had agreed to take one or two days off every now and then.

And the first one was tomorrow.

He switched off his computer and was about to stand up, when he heard a soft knock on the door. He sighed loudly. There was only one person in the entire building who did that. His new partner. A young man who had no business being a police officer. But whether he liked it or not, the guy had been forced down his throat and he had to work with him. Because the young man’s father was a well-connected, well-known general in Rome.

The door opened slowly.


“Giusto, how many times do I have to tell you not to act like a girl on her first date when you come into my office?”

A red patch stretched up from under the lieutenant’s shirt collar and quickly reached his cheeks. He cleared his voice. “Sorry, Sir.”

“So, what is it then?”

“We’ve just received a 112 call reporting a murder.”

For a few moments Marchiori was quiet. He couldn’t believe his luck. If one could call the killing of another human being luck. But Sanese had made it loud and clear that unless someone got killed, he was to stay at home tomorrow, or do whatever the bloody hell he wanted to, but under no circumstances show his face inside the police headquarters.

And someone had been killed.

He pushed his chair back and stood up. “Let’s go then,” he said, as he grabbed his crumpled suit jacket off the back of his chair and slipped it on.

The nice old lady in the Personnel Office would not have her wish come true today. And through no fault of his own.

He put his gun back in the shoulder holster and marched out of his office, quickly followed by Giusto.

Twenty minutes later, Marchiori parked the unmarked black Alfa Romeo between two Carabinieri cruisers next to the kerb on Via Delle Argonne, right outside a posh and elegant building painted in warm shades of cafĂ©-au-lait. An apartment here must cost more than he could ever afford on a public servant’s salary.

A Croce Rossa ambulance was parked not far from where they were, its blue lights piercing the moonless night. Two carabinieri and one paramedic stood at the back of the red and white van.

He and Giusto got out of the car and were about to head towards the ambulance, when one of the carabinieri saw them and sauntered in their direction.

“Captain, lieutenant,” the man greeted them.

“What do we have here, sergeant?” Marchiori asked him.

“Victim’s name is Niccolò Pasetto, and from what the paramedics have been saying, he was one of the finest virologists at Borgo Trento Hospital.”

“Who called it in?”

“Anonymous, but the call was made from the victim’s mobile phone.”

Which meant it may have very well been the killer himself.

“ID every single person entering or leaving the building, ask them to give you their contact details and start knocking on doors and see if anyone’s seen or heard anything suspicious this evening.”

“Some of the folks living here won’t like it. From what I’ve seen it’s full of doctors, lawyers and such. I think I might’ve recognised a judge’s name on the intercom outside.”

“I don’t care if the Pope himself lives here. This is a police investigation and until further indication we’re treating this as reported. Murder.”

“Yes, sir.”

Marchiori turned on his heels and marched towards the building. A police officer posted in the lobby let him in.

“First floor, door on the left,” the man informed him.

“Thanks,” he said and climbed the steps two at a time, Giusto in tow.

A young policeman he’d never seen before stood guard outside the door and asked them to ID themselves.

“I’m Captain Livio Marchiori, the detective in charge of this case and this is my partner Lieutenant Giusto,” Marchiori answered and flashed his badge.

“Yes, sir, you can go in. The crime scene guys have just arrived as well.”

“Really?” Marchiori arched his eyebrows. “How the hell did they get here so quickly?”

The policeman shrugged and opened the apartment door for them.

“What the fuck!?” Marchiori cursed when a wave of stinking hot air hit him.

“It’s the heating, sir,” Lieutenant Bernini, one of the CSU techs, said and handed both him and Giusto a pair of blue shoe covers and gloves.

“No kidding! And here I was, thinking it was the AC... Well, turn the damn thing off then!”

He took off his jacket, loosened his tie knot and undid the first two buttons on his shirt. He was already drenched in sweat and hadn’t even seen the crime scene yet.

“The body’s in what appears to be the victim’s office, the second door on your right,” Bernini added, his face strained, his jaw set tight.

“That bad, huh?” Marchiori muttered and headed in that direction.

The rancid smell of decaying flesh was getting stronger now. He fished out a handkerchief from the pocket of his trousers and covered his nose, then focused on the room in front of him. A floor-to-ceiling bookcase covered the wall to the left, and right across from it a big cherry wood desk took up almost half the space, standing on a thick green rug covering a portion of the polished wooden floor. A pile of folders, haphazardly stacked, a room thermometer on one corner of the desk and a telephone were the only items on it.

Then his gaze settled on the body in the centre of the room. The victim was dressed in a pair of boxers and looked like he had been dipped in boiling water before sitting in the big black leather armchair where he was now.

But it was the man’s face that made Marchiori’s mouth go dry. His eyes were wide open and sunk deep into his skull, and looked so terrifyingly empty as if the man’s very soul had wrenched itself free from that tortured body without leaving any trace of its presence there. A mask of unseen horrors, his face was red like blood, his mouth twisted in a silent scream.

Marchiori took a few steps closer to the body.

Who did this to you?

“The medical examiner is here,” he heard Bernini’s voice in the hallway.

“Send him in.”

“Her. Send her in,” a feminine voice chimed from behind him.

Marchiori turned around. A woman somewhere in her mid-thirties stood in the doorway and looked at him, her eyes a deep blue, her lips wearing a polite smile.

“You’re not Gianluca Farinati,” he blurted, and as soon as the words were out he wanted to kick himself.

It was plainly obvious she was a woman and not a sixty-year old balding man.

“Dr. Abbigail Jones,” she said and extended her hand, “but you can call me Abby, captain.”

He almost felt more shocked by her presence here than by the victim in the armchair. Without a word, he shook her hand, feeling her firm hold and smooth skin.

Aw, crap.

This was one complication he didn’t need in his life.

“I’m the new chief medical examiner in Verona,” she added, “just transferred from Milan. Dr. Farinati grew tired of always being among the dead and decided to take early retirement and live a little.”

“Can’t say I blame him,” Marchiori said, thinking of the body behind him.

He had a flash about a memo he’d received about a month ago regarding Farinati’s retirement and the arrival of a new medical examiner.

He should pay closer attention to his memos.

“You’re not Italian, Dr. Jones,” Marchiori tried to fill the silence.

He hated small talk. And whenever he had to work with a woman he felt compelled to engage in some sort of conversation. If she’d been a man, after they had finished with the introductions they would have focused on the body.

“And... is that a problem, detective?”

“No, of course not, Dr. Jones, just curiosity.”

“First of all, it’s Abby. Dr. Jones is my father. And second, yes, my name’s not Italian. I’m Italian-American, mother from Sicily, father from Atlanta, USA.”

“Interesting... Well, welcome on board, Dr. Jones,” he said with an emphasis on the words Dr. Jones.

Why would anyone request a transfer from Milan to Verona? It was usually the other way around.

A slight frown had appeared on the woman’s face and her lips weren’t smiling anymore. He chose to ignore that.

“All yours,” he added and stepped aside so she could get a full view of the decaying corpse.

For about a minute she just looked at the dead body without saying a word. She didn’t appear scared or sick or anything. Her face was a mask of detached professionalism, and her hands didn’t hesitate or tremble when she took a camera from her bag and started clicking away.

“Could you tell me the estimated time of death, Dr. Jones?”

The camera stopped clicking and she turned to him. “Either you have problems with your short-term memory detective, or you’re trying to annoy me. But let me make one thing clear: I’m not going anywhere. So the way I see it we only have two options here. We could play nice, or…”

“Or…what, doctor?”

“You know,” she said and shrugged her shoulders, “medical examiners are so busy sometimes, that the results you need could get delayed, or even lost on their way to you. Shit happens, right?”

She then took a few steps closer to the body as if nothing had happened and she hadn’t just threatened him. He couldn’t even see a bead of sweat on her face or neck for fuck’s sake and it was boiling hot in the room. Not to mention the stink. But she seemed oblivious to all of that.

He looked at her closely. She wore elegant clothes and by the look of them he bet they were from the same rack as Gucci or Dolce & Gabbana. Black slim trousers and pumps, and a double breasted trench coat of the same colour, with a belt that flattered her figure, and a pale pink scarf and lip-gloss to add some light to her look. Professional. That would be the correct word to describe her appearance. But there was more to her than met the eye. The way she had threatened him, without any qualms or hesitation, and the way she was now examining the body… well, he got the message loud and clear: Don’t mess with me. Or something to that effect.

He cleared his throat. “So... er, Abby, what can you tell me about the time and cause of death?”

She smiled. “Not so sure about why and when, but I do know who he was having a date with last night.”

“You do?”

“A goddam oven, that’s who.”

He couldn’t help it. The corners of his mouth curled upward. If his colleagues had seen this, they would have teased him about it for a month. The grizzly bear smiled, hell must have frozen over. He could practically hear all the jokes.

Abby started clicking her camera again, taking pictures from all possible angles.

“I don’t know how you did things in Milan, but here we have full time employees who do this.”

“Don’t worry, I’m not trying to steal their job. Got enough on my plate as it is,” she said, without even pausing to look at him, “and I’m not trying to say they aren’t fine professionals either. But I like taking my own photos. It helps me to remember details more easily and concentrate better.”

Well, at least it showed she was thorough, if nothing else, Marchiori thought.

“Hm... It’s strange,” she muttered to herself.

“What is?”

“He seemed to have died of heat stroke.” She put the camera back inside her handbag.

“Well, if you don’t open a window soon, I might die of a heat stroke, too.”

Abby rolled her eyes. “Don’t worry, that’s not gonna happen. Not in this temperature anyway.”

“What do you know?” he muttered. “I bet you sip your afternoon tea with the devil himself. And he’s the one doing the sweating.”

She whipped her head in his direction. “Pardon?”

“Just asking how could the vic have died of a heat stroke if—”

“Sir,” Giusto’s voice interrupted him, “you might wanna come and see this.” He then seemed to realize Marchiori wasn’t alone in the room. “You too, Dr. Jones.”

“What is it?”

“We found a pen drive inserted in the victim’s laptop and there’s a video on it,” the lieutenant said without giving further details. He looked at the body and didn’t even flinch or try to avert his eyes.

Every now and again the young man managed to surprise Marchiori.

“What’s the video about?”

“You need to come and see for yourself, sir.”

Diane May is a crime thriller writer and she lives in Verona, Italy, with her husband. When she's not in her office writing, she can usually be found curled up on the sofa with a good book in her lap and a cup of green tea next to her.
The only daughter of an army colonel, she grew up on military bases where she learnt about weapons, discipline and the sacrifices of military life. She also worked for many years as a translator and interpreter for the Court of Law on mostly criminal cases.
EVO is her debut novel and she is currently working on her second crime thriller, Till Death Do Us Part, scheduled to be released in 2019.


Monday, January 28, 2019

Book Review: Renegade Heart (Renegades #1) by Lissa Lynn Thomas

Media Type: Ebook (ARC)
Title: Renegade Heart
   *Series: Renegades Book 1
Author: Lissa Lynn Thomas
Publisher: Self-Published
Pages: Ebook; 147
Release Date: February 5, 2018
Source: Author
Genre: Contemporary Romance

HDB Rating: 4 Keys to My Heart

Recommended to: Readers who enjoy more realistic romance, with tough characters and sweet romance.

Add it on: Goodreads | Amazon
Raif Montgomery, lead singer of Renegades, the area’s most popular band, isn’t like other guys. When he gets left at the altar by a woman most men would kill to have, he finds himself more relieved than heartbroken. Things take another twisted little turn when he gets drunk the night of his non-wedding and makes a pass at his best friend, Chloe. She doesn’t shut him down. 

Overall, he has plenty to occupy his troubled mind. 

His mom is concerned he’s heading for a self-destruct of epic proportions. But all he can think about is tasting Chloe’s lips again, and getting her to agree to give them a shot as a couple. When a Nashville music producer starts hanging around Renegades’ shows, it seems that things are falling into place for the band.

But does he want success for the band if it means leaving Chloe behind? Can he walk away from the woman he loves? Or will he sacrifice the Renegades’ dreams to keep his heart intact?

I'm on a mission to read more romance this year! I've been specifically diving into Contemporary Romance because, as you probably know, I'm a really character driven reader. I need my characters to be real people, with real issues, and real relationships. Well, let me tell you, Lissa Lynn Thomas delivers that in spades. Renegade Heart is a book that will send you on an emotional roller coaster of the best kind. I can't deny, I definitely teared up and sighed contentedly more than a few times. I had a ton of fun reading this book.

Let's give Chloe some love first, because it's normally difficult for me to fall in love with the female characters in romance novels. In this case, Chloe and I instantly hit it off. She's a down to Earth, sweet woman, who wants nothing more than to take care of her friends. I loved that she wasn't perfect. Her whole persona is built around the fact that she's always had to protect herself from the mom drama that follows her around. While Chloe is excellent at taking care of everyone else, she's not great at taking care of herself.

Which is where Raif and the boys come in. Oh, these Renegade boys. I loved them so, so much. Thomas gives them each their own personality, some swoony and some adorably obnoxious. They were the perfect group of friends, and I couldn't get enough. We should focus on Raif though, because that man made my pulse race for a variety of reasons. As the long time apple of Chloe's eye, and her best friend to boot, I already knew sparks would eventually fly between these two. However watching him repeatedly do adorable things, then screw up, then make it better, then screw up, had my heart racing. As I mentioned, none of the characters in this book are perfect, and Raif is definitely not. But I loved him for it, and that's important.

In fact, watching Chloe and Raif navigate their respective hang ups, and figure out how to actually be together, is really what made me love this book so much. Their relationship was never easy. It was passionate, sure. Adorable, yes. Never easy though. They fought tooth and nail for their happily ever after, and that is something that I love to see in romance novels. I want to see a realistic attempt at a relationship succeed, so I can cheer to the ends of the Earth.

So why the four star rating? It was really the ending that settled that. After a sweet, slow, sometimes sad, build up I felt the ending just slammed home too quickly. Too many very convenient things happened to allow for a happily ever after, and that irked me a bit. Still, this is romance! Sometimes that's acceptable. So I'm happy to award this book a shiny four star rating. I think, even if you're not usually a romance reader, you'll love Chloe and Raif's story!

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.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Book Review: Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

Media Type: Ebook
Title: Throne of Glass
  * Series: Throne of Glass #1
Author: Sarah J Maas
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Pages: Paperback; 443
Release Date: August 7, 2012
Source: Purchased
Content Warning: Violence

HDB Rating: 4 Keys to My Heart

Recommended to: Readers who enjoy dark themes and teenage angst.

Add it on: Goodreads | Amazon |
In the dark, filthy salt mines of Endovier, an eighteen-year-old girl is serving a life sentence. She is a trained assassin, the best of her kind, but she made a fatal mistake. She got caught.

Young Captain Westfall offers her a deal: her freedom in return for one huge sacrifice. Celaena must represent the prince in a to-the-death tournament—fighting the most gifted thieves and assassins in the land. Live or die, Celaena will be free. Win or lose, she is about to discover her true destiny. But will her assassin’s heart be melted?
First of all, I have no idea how I missed all the hype surrounding this series for so long. I feel like I've been in a book bubble since before I had kids. One of my friends recommended this series recently and I'm so glad that they did. I am surely going to grab the next book now.

Celaena is an interesting character so far. We have some insight into her tragic backstory but on the day to day she's a pretty typical whiny teenager. I made the mistake of perusing some reviews before I read the book and I found that a lot of people couldn't relate to Caleana's angsty childishness. While her antics were a bit adolescent I attributed her lack of social graces to her upbringing. The world's best assassin must have had a vibrant focus on one thing: killing. She never had an opportunity to interact with people her own age on a purely social level. So despite her somewhat adolescent nature, I found her character intriguing and I look forward to finding out more about her past in the rest of the series.

Maas is a storyteller. The way her story flows immerses you in the kingdom: you can see the glass and stone, and hear the footsteps along the corridor. I was immediately taken with the descriptions of the castle and of course the library. "Libraries were full of ideas—perhaps the most dangerous and powerful of all weapons". I did not have any trouble finishing this 400+ page book in a few short days because I could not put it down. I want(ed) to know what happens next.

Nehemia is a well written character as well. Her mystery still amuses me and her quick wit matches well with Celaena. I feel like their friendship will be an important aspect in the future, and even if it isn't, it definitely plays its part in this story because we learn a little bit more about how the rest of the world feels about the current people in power and the cruelty those in power are willing to go to to keep that power.

As for the love triangle between the Prince, Celaena, and Captain Westfall, well that is quite the conundrum. I don't know which team I'm on just yet, but I am very curious to get to know more about both of them. The Prince is arrogant and enamored with the girl outside his standing, Chaol is supposed to be training/protecting her. They both are obviously "off limits" which makes the banter and flirting even more delicious.

Basically, I really enjoyed this book and I am starting the next one very soon. It does have it's faults and there are moments of eye rolls, but overall I think the plot, characters, and world building are great. If you enjoy young adult romance and all the drama that entails, I think you will enjoy this fantasy world.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Hopelessly Devoted To Books

Ah, friends. The season of love slowly approaches. That V-Day that people either love, or loathe, is on its way, and with that comes a milestone for this little blog. Believe it or not, Hopelessly Devoted Bibliophile is celebrating it's 9th birthday this year.


I'm such a proud momma.

It's been a weird ride to get to this point. The blog has gone through ups and downs, right along with my own roller coaster ride of a life. I was blessed to bring Tina on as a co-blogger a few years ago and, between the two of us, we've valiantly tried to bring you as much new content as often as we can. I know I've said it before, but this blog is a labor of so much love. Blogging can be exhausting, especially if you're constantly fighting to be relevant in the wide world of the internet where literally EVERYTHING is being talked about at any point in time.

So, I've been proud of our little blog. We type away over here, grateful for those of you who stick around and read our ramblings. We write reviews, so pleased when someone finds a new book to add to their TBR because of our thoughts. We're here, and we're not going anywhere.

Bring on another 9 years!

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Meant to Read In 2018 But Didn't Get To

Good morning ladies and gents! As you can see, I'm getting in the groove of posting more often, and allowing myself more fun posts on here. Not that writing reviews isn't fun, but trust me sometimes it's nice to stop thinking of everything so critically and just post. So let's do this Top Ten Tuesday thing!
Books I Meant To Read In 2018 But Didn’t Get To

Ah, this list is so long. Here's the top ten, as far as I can remember them right now!

1. Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson
I received a finished copy of this book early in 2018, and was SO excited to read it! Then I bit off way more than I could chew with blog tours, and with life, and it sat and sat. I've pulled it off the shelf this year and put it straight into my TBR jar pile. It's time to finally read this beauty!

2. How To Find Love in a Bookshop by Veronica Henry
I was asking around my bookish groups for some fun romance that would sweep me off of my feet, and this book kept coming up! It released in July last year, and I still haven't read it yet. I even have it on my list of books to buy! So hopefully it'll happen soon!

3. Elevation by Stephen King
I am a Stephen King groupie, I fully admit it. I read everything that he puts out. The problem lately has been that I'm so busy with other books that these get purchased and then just sit. I didn't read Elevation yet and, now that I see how polarized reviews are, I am intrigued!

4. Sawkill Girls by Claire Legrand
 I'm an auto-reader when it comes to certain authors, and Claire Legrand is on that list. I
may not always 100% love everything that she writes, but I'll always try her books because when the speak to me, they are always my favorites. This book was skipped over, but I've borrowed it from the library and it's on my list!

5. Slipper by Hester Velmans
I was actually given this book as an ARC and, due to a million problems last year, I never got the chance to read it. I hope to remedy that this year and see what the buzz is all about!

6. The Cursed Sea by Lauren DeStefano
This sequel was SO HIGH on my reading list. The Glass Spare actually impressed me more than I expected it to, and I couldn't wait to find out what happened next. Then, it slipped. Gah. I need to read this, stat!

7. The Strange Fascinations of Noah Hypnotik by David Arnold
This book was everywhere last year. It graced my Instagram feed constantly. Author friends loved it. Reader friends loved it. And yet still I skipped it. I feel like I've made a mistake. Plus look at that cover!

8. When the Light Left Us by Leah Thompson
This YA LGBQT novel was pretty high up on my list of wants last year. It still is, to be honest. This Contemporary/Sci Fi book sounds like something that will make my reader heart happy.

9. The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan
I was in love with the premise of this book. I even chose it as a BOTM pick so that I would have a physical copy sitting and taunting me to read it. I still didn't read it. *sigh*

10. A World Below by Wesley King
Last on here is another Middle Grade book that really struck my fancy. Kids lost in caverns, trying their best to survive. Who wouldn't want to read that? I'm actually glad I did this list so I could remember I wanted to read this. LOL. Onto the list it goes!


Monday, January 21, 2019

Small Business Spotlight - Bookish Jewelry

It's time for another small business spotlight post, and this time around we're celebrating all things shiny and wearable. Jewelry to be exact!

Heck, it's just stuff that I would totally want to buy and now I'm sharing it with you. Let's get started!

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

Realistic Miniature Book Earrings by Silver Fox Craft

I had to start with these because the INSTANT I saw them, I wanted them in my life. Not only do these perfect little earrings have the beautiful covers of our favorite books, but they even have tiny words printed inside! *SQUEAL* How adorable can you get? You can also ask for two different books, to show off your favorite reads. Yup, I need these. When my no-spend January is over, expect to see these in my ears.

The Book Was Better Bracelet by Nelson's Bazaar

Sick and tired of constantly having to stick up for your favorite stories when they inevitably become tv shows and movies? This bracelet is for you! Simply flash it at the person, turn on your heel, and saunter away. We know the book was better. Always.

Papercut Book Dome by MyPapercutForest

How cute is this? No, really. It's like a tiny bookish terrarium that you can wear around your neck. Okay, that's exactly what it is. AND IT IS ADORABLE. Papercrafts make me smile, because the work that is needed is so minute, but this marries two things I love perfectly. Love this. Love everything about it.

Sterling Silver Book Ring by rampandtaper

Finally, to round out all the bookish accessories you've just purchased while reading this post, here's a lovely sterling silver ring with an open book on top. I have major need for this. It's so elegant, and yet so deliciously nerdy. Who could ask for more?
There you have it ladies and gents! A list of the perfect items to help this season be extra spooky! Find anything else out there in Etsy land that you love? Shout it out in the comments!

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Gardening Is Good For The Soul

I know I went a bit MIA this week. I promised myself that I'd be kind to my reader brain and, since all I wanted to do was do a re-read of The Bear and the Nightingale, I haven't had much inspiration to fuel any posts. Work was a bit hectic this week, and so today I woke up and promised myself that I'd go outside. The weather was beautiful, everything was green because of all the rain the past few days, and so I dragged myself outdoors and started to plant.

This is my second year of gardening, and so luckily I already had peat pods ready to go for my seedlings! I also learned my lesson last year that it's never easy to determine how many seeds will actually germinate. I only planted one pepper plant seed, and it flourished. I planted 9 tomato seeds and only 4 lived. Hahaha. So this year I over planted everything! Worst case scenario, I'll have little plants to share with my friends.

Some of my plants from last year, like these calendula flowers, made it through the whole "winter" here! So I cut off dead pieces, mulched them, and gave them a bit of overall love. I love to see so much color in an otherwise gray set of weeks.

My cherry tomato plants from last year not only survived the whole entire year, but promptly flowered after the rain ended. So it looks like these little guys are pretty darn hardy, and I'll end up with many more delicious orbs of tomato this year. I am a happy gardener!

Reading is one way I unplug, and so is television at times, but I think my favorite way to really let it all go is to be out in the garden. It's green, it smells like wet earth, and all around me I can hear the birds and the rustling of trees. It's like a little oasis in the middle of the madness.

Gardening is good for the soul.

Back to your regularly scheduled bookish programming starting on Monday :). For now, go find something you love to do, and just unplug!

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Book Review: A Slice of Magic by A.G. Mayes

Media Type: Ebook (ARC)
Title: A Slice of Magic
Author: A.G. Mayes
Publisher: HarperImpulse
Pages: Print; 234
Release Date: January 25, 2019
Source: NetGalley / Publisher
Genre: Cozy Mystery / Magical Realism

HDB Rating: 3 Keys to My Heart

Recommended to: Readers who enjoy quick, sweet reads with quirky characters.

Add it on: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N
Susanna Daniels has spent over twenty years wondering why her beloved Aunt Erma disappeared from her life. When Aunt Erma leaves a voicemail asking for help at her pie shop, Susanna thinks she’s finally going to get the answers she’s been waiting for.

But when Susanna arrives in the small town of Hocus Hills, Aunt Erma is gone, leaving only a short note and her mischievous dog, Mitzy. Running a pie shop is harder than Susanna could have ever imagined. To top it off she has an inspector and an overzealous gym owner breathing down her neck. Then a cookie shop opens up down the street bringing competition she can’t afford.

As if that isn’t enough, strange things start happening around town.

Sometimes it's nice to take time away from all the heavy stuff, and just read something nice and light. I like to call it "brain candy", because it gives my mind a little treat to devour while I wind down from dealing with serious book emotions. That's how I stumbled upon A Slice Of Magic! I wanted to get lost in something sweet (no pun intended) and fun. The prospect of a magical pie shop sounded like just what I needed, and I was right.

Now, this isn't the most complex plot I've ever read, true. However that's not what I went into this book for in the first place. Mayes easily nails the feel of a small town in this book. A place where everyone knows everything about everyone else, and it's pretty easy to get a reputation. A place where being a new arrival means being the center of attention, whether you want to be or not. I loved the town of Hocus Hills. I settled in easily, fell in love with the residents (especially Henry *swoon*), and was enamored with the vibes that this book gave off. Susanna may have had a rough start, but you couldn't pick a sweeter place to get your footing.

What hampered this story, I think, was how quickly it needed to move in order for everything to wrap up. While it made for an easy read, it also never allowed any time for any real plot points to be hashed out. Susanna starts to pick up on the fact that Hocus Hills might be much more than it seems and then, suddenly, everything is all wrapped up and the book is over. I wanted more time to learn about the magic around the town. I wanted more magical pies, and more sweet romance. I just wanted more. This book felt like the frame of a story, rather than the complete story. A lot of what I wanted to know the entire time I was reading was revealed at the end, in an info dump. I was a little sad about that.

Still, as I said above, I started this book to get lost in something fun. A Slice of Magic definitely provided me that. If only it had been a little more fleshed out, and I'd had more time with my newly found town of lovely people, I would have loved this book endlessly. As it stands, I'll happily reward this a three star rating. It was sweet, a little silly, and an easy read. Now I want pie, and I can't wait to see what happens in this town next. 

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 14, 2019

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (1/14/19)

Oh, wow. How the heck have 13 days of the year already flown by? It feels like the first two weeks of January barely count at all, because everyone is trying to get back from vacation, get back to real life, and settle back into the work they left behind. It's been a weird transition for me, because I feel like a new person this year. I've been calmly keeping up with my goals, and reading like a mad woman. I think books are my definite solace this year, and it helps that I'm taking breaks when I need it. I binge watched a ton of The Magicians this weekend, and I'm not even sorry.

Here's how my reading is going right now.

So, I've been on a kick of where I just want cozy reads in between heavier, more dense, reads. Which is why I requested A Slice of Magic by A.G. Mayes. I wanted to read something cute, light, and fun. This fit all of that! It was really sweet, and I'll be reviewing it this week. I also recently finished Nine While Nine by Stasia Morineaux. It was a paranormal romance to the max! Very steamy too.

Since I just finished up A Slice of Magic, my main read at the moment is The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle. I'm loving this on audio so far! This is a murder mystery like I've never experienced before. It's really well written, and super intriguing. I should be done with this relatively soon, and I can't wait to share a review!

Next up I'll be reading Skyward by Brandon Sanderson. I tried to half start this earlier, but I soon realized that I'd need to put all my attention towards this book to follow along, so it's up next. I can't wait! It's already so good!

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.


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