Tuesday, May 1, 2018

I read a little bit of everything in April, lol. Finished up one of my favorite series. Re-read some favorites. And tried out some titles that I thought would be more to my liking but weren't. And then I discovered a series I hadn't even known I'd been missing out on. So, some ups and downs, but a pretty decent reading month over all.

I'm still way ahead of my GR reading goal and only one or two books behind my wishful thinking goal of a book a day (or 365 books this year). I have Friday off for my birthday -- which is actually today but I don't like taking a day off in the middle of the week -- so I hope to get some extra reading in then while no one's at home. ;) I just got some new titles from the library and I've only dipped a toe into the waters that are Kindle Unlimited, so I've got my pick, that's for sure.

And without further ado, here's what I've been reading lately...

(More on why I've gone to this format here in lieu of traditional reviews for each.)

Y O U N G   A D U L T

Black Bird of the Gallows - Finally! I recommended a book to the library...and they actually purchased it for lil ole me! :D But when I went to mark it as currently reading on Goodreads, I noticed that there's now a sequel listed and I'm all Noooo! I thought this was a stand-alone! The book gods are cruel like that. Except...the way this one ended, you wouldn't necessarily have to continue with the series. And I doubt I will be. The premise of this story had so much promise, but the execution just fell flat. It didn't have any depth, the romance was abrupt, and the conclusion was just so perfect, it made me want to yack. I'm just immensely disappointed. 🌟🌟

Hero at the Fall* - I'm sad that this series is over, but what a ride! As with any finale, you can't expect everyone to make it out alive, but I was even more worried for these characters because they've become some of my absolute favorites...and with a war coming, it was likely I was going to shed some tears. That said, I'm ecstatic with how this conclusion played out. Allies turned foes. Djinn turned loose. Fates sealed. And all at a break-neck pace. Then there were the little snippets of stories and the one at the end that worked as an epilogue, and oh my heart is sad but full. I can't wait to read what Alwyn Hamilton writes next. 🌟🌟🌟🌟

Bellamy and the Brute - For the first half of this book or so, I was fully prepared to give it four stars. But then the murder mystery hinted at in the prologue rears its ugly head and the story kinda derails from there. I had been leery of this one for the single reason that it's listed to be published by Clean Teen Publishing and I'm sorry, "cleaning" up books for young adult consumption doesn't sit well with me. But honestly, I don't know what's so clean about this book: there's cussing, there's sex, there's all manner of adults behaving badly. But then I read on the publisher's website that they believe in "knowledge not censorship" and okay, I'm on board with that. And it makes a lot more sense considering my experience with this book. That being said, I liked the story when it was focused more on Bellamy and Tate and was more BatB retelling than murder-mystery solving. And not because it's not romance-centric but because it's just so...implausible. I kept expecting some old guy to yell, "And I would've gotten away with it, too, if it hadn't been for those meddling kids!" 😂 🌟🌟

My Ex From Hell - So...I remember some blogger pals back in the day -- some who are no longer with us, sadly 😢 -- raving about this series. I caught the first two books on sale back then and downloaded them for my Kindle, but I remember thinking that I've read quite a few Persephone retellings and if you've read one, you've read them all. (Wrong. This book is clever and funny and snarky and just fun.) Have you ever just NOT known what to read next, like you've searched through the library and Amazon and Audible for new releases or something that just strikes your fancy and nothing does? That was me as I decided to scroll through my oft-forgotten Kindle library. And lo and behold I stumble across this gem. It's set mostly at a boarding school. The star-crossed lovers practically hate each other. And Persephone is saved from a tragic fate by being brought back as a human. Oh, and she doesn't remember anything about her life as Persephone. For the most part. 😉 Which makes for some awkward misadventures as she comes into her goddess powers. 🌟🌟🌟🌟

My Date From Hell - This sequel was even wittier and even more fun than Ex was! I'm seriously still so sore at myself for having these books on my Kindle for FIVE years and never even cracking them open to find out what I was missing. I love how Darling weaves real mythology into our world, showing how the gods and goddesses would behave today, what havoc they might wreak on our world if given half  a chance, but also including stories of old, some as hints for challenges and some as lessons. My mythology heart is eating this up! The romance and snark are catapulted to extreme levels in Date, and it made the book nearly unputdownable and oh so fun. 🌟🌟🌟🌟

My Life From Hell - Though I already had this downloaded, I think I changed my mind. It was a fun series, but I also think it could have been great if left at two books instead of the oft-forced trilogy. So, even though I really enjoyed the time I spent with the first two books, I'm DNFing the series with the last installment.

Traitor Born - Well, that was a doozy. Even more so than the first book, and not just because this cliffhanger was even more evil than the last. It's kind of taken a turn for the crazy, what with all the political machinations and ever-changing alliances, but I'm so invested in the outcome now, especially with what transpires in this sequel, that Bartol could have robots taking over the world and I'd still be here for it. Oh, wait. :P Anyway...if you've read previous books by this author, specifically the Kricket series, you know that there's bound to be more than one love interest, but I bet you didn't expect Roselle to have three guys on the hook by the end of the second book. Yup. And while I was favoring the weapons expert for awhile, I'm more interested in the gruff new guy. Well, technically, he's not new, but he and Roselle have become much better acquainted in this installment. ;) I love that this series is so well-rounded, so much action and intrigue with some romance peppered in, and I can't wait to read Rebel Born. I only wish I already had it in my hands... 🌟🌟🌟🌟

Ace of Shades - I didn't love this one quite as much as Daughter of the Burning City, namely because it's not a stand-alone -- and I could really use more of those in my life -- and also because the author makes use of fake swear words in place of real ones and that just always annoys me to no end. The connotation is the same, so why bother? That said, I did enjoy the book: the magic, the curses, the skullduggery. With a story like this, I always hope for the unpredictable and the improbable and I believe I got that and more in Ace of Shades. I'll definitely be picking up the next book, especially with an epilogue that leaves more questions than answers in its wake. 🌟🌟🌟🌟

Ash Princess* - Meh. I was pretty bored with this one and might not have finished had I not been listening rather than reading a physical copy. It was depressing and slow and reminiscent of plenty of other YA fantasies I've read over the years. I'm not opposed to violence in stories, but there was so much torture and abuse here that it overshadowed everything else. I'm not curious enough to continue reading after this first book, even with that little twist at the end. 🌟🌟

War and Wind - Thanks to a really awesome deal ($1.99 for THREE months!), I am now a subscriber to Kindle Unlimited and as such, I have decided to catch up on some books and series that I've been wanting to read and/or finish but that weren't available on audio or through my library. I really liked the first book in this series on audio, and I really enjoyed War and Wind, but as I stated above with the From Hell series, it would have been great if the author had left it at two books. The ending of this one is rather nice and an epilogue would have sufficed to give the reader that longed for happily ever after. From reviews of the final book, I can surmise that there's a lot of push-and-pull regarding the romance and that people are still underestimating Nile. (They should really stop doing that.) The only reason I think I'd spend time with Sea and Sand is for the mention of Catsper finally meeting his match that I read in one review. My curiosity is piqued, sure. But there are so many other books that I'd like to give a chance, so for now, I'm setting aside this series, even though I found the first two books equally enthralling. 🌟🌟🌟🌟

Suitors and Sabotage* - Another utterly delightful YA historical romance from Cindy Anstey! The romantic entanglements and the mysterious accidents befalling one of the suitors created for quite a web of intrigue. Cindy writes such charming characters and stories, with witty banter and English manners. Though I do wish there was a tad more kissing. :) I can't wait to read what she writes next! Her books always leave me feeling light-hearted and giddy. 🌟🌟🌟🌟

*ARC received from publisher for review purposes. This does not affect my review in any way.

T H E   C L A S S I C S

The Convenient Marriage - This was my first Georgette Heyer -- was that only last year?!? -- and it still remains among my favorites. Though, truth be told, they're all kind of my favorites. ;) 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

Venetia - I adore the lovely Venetia, who dares to fall in love with a rake. 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

R E - R E A D S

The Dead-Tossed Waves - Do you ever hear a song and it reminds you of a book, maybe because you listened to said song ad nauseum while listening to this book in particular? That's what made me want to re-read this one. Except I'm listening. And apparently I've only ever re-read this book in this series, which is the second/middle book and also my favorite. Until this month. 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

The Dark and Hollow Places - I didn't remember TDTW ending on such an unfinished note, so when it did, I immediately had to download the audio for TDAHP. I like that all three books had different narrators. But I also didn't like it. I'd gotten so used to Gabry's whiney voice in the second book that at first I wasn't sure I could handle the tough yet self-loathing narrative of Anna. But the juxtaposition of their positions, of how they'd grown up and survived their separation, actually made me like Anna more. I'm glad I finally re-read this one. 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

Secondborn - Re-read so I could start Traitor Born, now that it's released. And good thing, too, because I forgot soooo much! :P 🌟🌟🌟🌟

Starry Eyes - Of course I had to read this again! But this time on audio. :D And I think I may have loved it even more, if that's possible. The more I hear Amy Melissa Bentley narrate, the more I love her, especially as the voice of Jenn Bennett's MCs. 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

Air and Ash - Re-read so that I can finish the series now that I signed up for Kindle Unlimited and they're available for free on that platform. :) 🌟🌟🌟🌟


Undead (aka Queen Betsy) (books 7-11) - I only read this far in the series because my friend lent them to me probably a year ago and I just really wanted to give them back. They're not terrible books, but there's nothing substantial about them. Everything happens to Betsy and company on the surface level, and the result is that I never felt invested in the outcome. Until the Vampire Queen and the Anti-Christ go to the future via Hell. But then I sorta lost interest again because it was taking too long to get from Point A to Point B and I just wanted to be done. I know I'm not done with the series, but I've read enough. 🌟🌟🌟

Hello Stranger - This was fun and I loved Garrett and Ransom, but OMG I've been waiting for West's story since the first book in this series. I want it. I WANT IT NOW! Okay, now that I've got that off my chest...I liked these characters from encounters in previous books, but I wasn't entirely sure if I'd like them together. But once I saw the gentle teasing, the comfortable way they interacted, the romantic that came out in Ransom...I was hooked. The story did sort of jump the shark with that treasonous plot, but it also felt weirdly familiar, though I can't place where I've read something like it before. Thank goodness there was quite a bit of West in this book to overcome its shortcomings. ;)  🌟🌟🌟

The Fix Up - A little bit fun, a little bit sexy, and a little bit...DUMB. Also, I must have this book confused with another. I thought there was royalty in this one, as in, he's a prince and needs to find a a wife. Not he just inherited a large chunk of change and needs to find a wife in order to get it. My fault: I thought I grabbed this from the royalty category of the Audible Romance Package but it turns out I was still in the workplace romance category. Or the marriage of convenience section. Who knows. :P This was my first Kendall Ryan novel and I'm not sure how interested I am in picking up any others. I may have only kept listening to this one because of the British accent. ;) 🌟🌟

Faithful Place - So, I've come to a few realizations regarding Tana French's books: a) the detective in question will have had a pretty bad childhood or at least something traumatic will have happened to them during that time, b) the detective will likely do everything in their power to royally eff up the investigation before all is said and done, and c) the author likes to leave her readers hanging. As in, what did happen to those kids, or why did he choose to take the blame, and did she testify? And even though she does this, and even though I'm compelled to care so damn much about her characters and their sad lots in life, I can't stop reading this series. I liked what I saw of Frank in the second installment -- Cassie's book...gawd, I miss her already -- but I really enjoyed his character in Faithful Place. I loved how he took charge of a situation, even when it wasn't his to take charge of. I loved his insane family, most especially his relationship with his daughter Holly. But most of all, I loved the flashbacks of him and Rosie. French's books are just so character-driven and I can't seem to get enough. I've already got the next book on hold at the library. 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

Cake - Since subscribing to the Audible Romance Package, this book has been featured on many, many recommended reading lists on the site, so I finally caved and downloaded it while in between listens. It started off with an adorable meet-cute between the nerdy college student and a hot as sin rocker at a wedding and just got cuter as time went on. But it soon seemed like cuteness overload, and I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop. And kept waiting. This story was almost too easy, ridiculously so, even with the past trying to worm it's way into their lives. There was just not enough tension to hold my interest. Not any real tension anyway, not till the very end and then it was frustrating because then the story was pretty much done. And so was I. 🌟🌟

Silent in the Grave & Silent in the Santuary - I've only read the first two books in the Veronica Speedwell series, but I already know I love this series more, despite their similarities. The mysteries in each book, the writing, the full scope of the story were all reminiscent of Sherry Thomas' Lady Sherlock series, an absolute favorite of mine, which made me love these books even more. I'm already almost done with Silent on the Moor, which is the third book in the Lady Julia Grey series, and I can't wait to pick up the next one! 🌟🌟🌟🌟

Have you read any of these? What did you think? Find any new titles to check out? ;0)

Until next time! Happy reading!

Friday, April 20, 2018

SYNC is a free summer audiobook program specifically geared toward young adults. And starting next Thursday, SYNC will give you free access to two complete audiobook downloads a week - a current young adult title along with a thematically paired classic or required summer reading title. The offerings change each week and are only available for download until the next offering is announced a week later. I've included a list below of all of the scheduled downloads for this summer. SYNC will have all the details on how to download, so be sure to check back over there next week!

Here are some of the titles I'm most looking forward to:

And I've already listened to these and highly recommend:

SYNC also has samples of the audiobooks on offer, if you care to check those out prior to downloading the whole audiobook.

I'm just thrilled to pieces every year that this program continues. It's actually the reason I'm such an audiophile today! I am seriously so excited for some of these titles and also to experience some favorites again. Every year I am just so impressed with the offerings from SYNC!

In years past, I've done a weekly post showcasing which titles will be featured so you know when to go grab them. I don't know if I'll get around to doing that this year, but I'll try my best to tweet updates about which titles are available each week.

Which titles are you most excited about?

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Title: Starry Eyes
Author: Jenn Bennett
Series: stand-alone
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publication Date: April 3, 2018
Source: ARC received from publisher
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Audible

Add to Goodreads
Ever since last year’s homecoming dance, best friends-turned-best enemies Zorie and Lennon have made an art of avoiding each other. It doesn’t hurt that their families are the modern day, Californian version of the Montagues and Capulets.

But when a group camping trip goes south, Zorie and Lennon find themselves stranded in the wilderness. Alone. Together.

What could go wrong?

With no one but each other for company, Zorie and Lennon have no choice but to hash out their issues via witty jabs and insults as they try to make their way to safety. But fighting each other while also fighting off the forces of nature makes getting out of the woods in one piece less and less likely.

And as the two travel deeper into Northern California’s rugged backcountry, secrets and hidden feelings surface. But can Zorie and Lennon’s rekindled connection survive out in the real world? Or was it just a result of the fresh forest air and the magic of the twinkling stars?

Let's get this out of the way before I delve into all the reasons you're going to want this book. Sure, this book appears to be named after me, but that's not why I loved it so. (It doesn't hurt, though!) And, yeah, Jenn Bennett is my new favorite young adult contemporary novelist, though I love all of her books, including the adult-themed Roaring Twenties series. (I haven't read the Arcadia Bell series yet because my library doesn't have it on audio and I do all my backlist reading via audio. Someone get on that, please.) Of course, Jenn also gets some of the best YA contemporary covers, too. Like, this book is set at the end of summer, but that cover just screams lovely fall camping weather to me. Which was kinda perfect at the time I was reading this.

But those aren't the reasons I enjoyed the hell outta this book. Allow me to enumerate why this is now my favorite Jenn Bennett book of all time:

1. The Maps - Have you ever read a story and continually had to flip back to a description to understand where places were in relation to one another? Not so with Starry Eyes because Jenn -- yes the author -- has created maps for each section of the book. (It's one of the character's hobbies, so it's totally relevant and completely adorable.)

2. The Awkward - So, in this story, the awful has already happened -- we don't have to read about the communication breakdown that led to friends who were becoming more suddenly becoming bitter enemies. BUT, we do get to see all the awkward as they find their way back to becoming friends on one ill-fated camping trip. And it is so incredibly awkward at times that I wanted to reach into the book and give everyone involved a big ole hug.

3. The Genuine - Zorie and Lennon talk. Like, a lot. And it's real and it's weird and totally inevitable but also totally adorable. And then that fight out in the woods? That is amazingly accurate, the way it went down and the aftermath. Jenn doesn't write down to her readers; she writes on their level. So much so that while I'm reading, I feel a resurgence of all those emotions and I have to tell myself to calm down. But she captures it beautifully.

4. The Sex Positivity - Gawd, I think Jenn Bennett probably writes the best, most sex-positive stories in YA. Her characters always talk about it before jumping into bed...or wherever they happen to be. ;) They're always careful. And there's no fade-to-black to escape the awkwardness. It's the same here. But these characters have known each other for ages and I think it felt even more meaningful because of that. Basically, I just adore the overall message Bennett is dropping.

5. The Family - The familial situation in this book is beyond different. It's diverse but it's also full of drama. And yet, the parents remain involved in their kids' lives. Regardless of what happened between Zorie and Lennon, they're all still friends on a deeper level. (Well, most of them.) And the love is obvious. Even when the biological link isn't.

I read this back in November and I've been waiting for it to release so I could immediately download a copy of the audiobook and re-read that way. I just loved this story so much! It was lovely and profound but also left me feeling content and cozy in the knowledge that I made it past young adulthood and all this awkwardness. :P I can't wait to read it again!


GIF it to me straight:

About the Author:

Jenn Bennett is an award-winning author of several young adult books, including ALEX, APPROXIMATELY and STARRY EYES. She also writes romance and fantasy for adults. Her books have earned multiple starred reviews, won the Romance Writers of America’s prestigious RITA® Award, and been included on Publishers Weekly Best Books annual list. She lives near Atlanta with one husband and two dogs.

Find Jenn:

Website | Twitter | Goodreads | FacebookInstagram | Tumblr

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