ARC Review | Bookish and the Beast

Title: Bookish and the Beast (Once Upon a Con #3)

Author: Ashley Poston

Publisher: Quirk Books

Release date: August 4, 2020

My rating: ★★★

Synopsis via Goodreads:

Rosie Thorne is feeling stuck—on her college application essays, in her small town, and on that mysterious General Sond cosplayer she met at ExcelsiCon. Most of all, she’s stuck in her grief over her mother’s death. Her only solace was her late mother’s library of rare Starfield novels, but even that disappeared when they sold it to pay off hospital bills.

On the other hand, Vance Reigns has been Hollywood royalty for as long as he can remember—with all the privilege and scrutiny that entails. When a tabloid scandal catches up to him, he’s forced to hide out somewhere the paparazzi would never expect to find him: Small Town USA. At least there’s a library in the house. Too bad he doesn’t read.

When Rosie and Vance’s paths collide and a rare book is accidentally destroyed, Rosie finds herself working to repay the debt. And while most Starfield superfans would jump at the chance to work in close proximity to the Vance Reigns, Rosie has discovered something about Vance: he’s a jerk, and she can’t stand him. The feeling is mutual.

But as Vance and Rosie begrudgingly get to know each other, their careful masks come off—and they may just find that there’s more risk in shutting each other out than in opening their hearts.

Review:

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for providing me with an eARC in exchange for a finished copy!

I absolutely loved Geekerella and The Princess and the Fangirl! They are two of my favorite books. Needless to say, I thought Bookish and the Beast was going to be another love of mine, but unfortunelty, it was just an okay read for me. I enjoyed it, but it didn’t quite live up to the hopes that I had for it. 

First off, Bookish and the Beast is the third book in the Once Upon a Con series! These books are companions so no, you do not have to read Geekerella or The Princess and the Fangirl to read this book. It can stand on its own just fine. However, I personally feel like you will have a better experience with this story if you read the other books first. There are several references to prior events and characters so you may get a little confused if you don’t. Also, this series is a lot of fun so I highly recommend Geekerella & Princess any way! 

As you can probably tell, this is a Beauty and the Beast retelling! Ashley Poston did a wonderful job taking the classic tale that we all know & love and she put a bookish and geeky spin to it! 

Rosie is our Belle! When Rosie chases after a dog, she ends up in an abandoned house….so she thinks. There she finds a huge library full of the Starfield books. After being caught in the house and damaging an expensive book, she must organize the library to pay off her debt. I really loved Rosie. She is a total book nerd. She loves the look of books, the smell of them and getting lost in th pages. My favorite type of character! Rosie recently lost her mother, the person who helped her to fall in love with books and Starfield. She is trying to navigate life without one of her parents while also trying not to be the “girl with a dead mom.” 

Vance is our Beast. He is Hollywood royalty and oh, he plays the villain, General Sond in the Starfield movies. After many slip ups with paparazzi, Vance’s parents send him away so he can try to see the error of his ways. Vance can be pretty annoying and almost unlikeable at times. He is has that *I can do anything I want because I’m rich* thing going on and it drove me crazy. Of course, I still wanted the best for him though. He struggles with trust. He thinks that everyone is out to get him. He also feels like he isn’t good enough. It was interesting to see his character changes & learns. By the end of the book, he isn’t the same person we see in the beginning.

What I loved most about Geekerella & The Princess and the Fangirl is that they were very fandom centric. Being the nerd that I am, I really enjoyed the convention settings, cosplays and all the other geeky things that those books had. I was hoping for something very similar with the third book, but sadly that wasn’t the case. Bookish and the Beast went in a different direction and I’m still not sure how I feel about it. We still get to see the wonderful word of Starfield, but it’s through books. Obviously being a bookworm, I loved that, but I always found myself missing the fun of the ExcelciCon! Compared to the first two books, there wasn’t enough fandom related things for me to nerd out to.

As far as the romance goes, it wasn’t my favorite. I didn’t hate it by any means, but I didn’t find myself rooting for it either. The chemistry between the two seemed to fluctuate. At times I could definitely see the sparks between the characters and then others times I was almost cringing at the awkwardness.

My favorite part of Bookish and the Beast was the adults that surround Rosie and Vance! They were incredible. Vance’s guardian, Elias is a total gem. He was always there to support Vance, especially when his parents weren’t. Yes, Vance has his troubles, but Elias saw the best in him. He believed in him when Vance needed it the most! Rosies dad was the coolest! I’m not even kidding, I loved him. He is a 90’s rock band loving, ear gauge wearing, queer librarian. Total perfection! His relationship with his daughter as very special. It’s just him & Rosie. They take care of each other no matter what. He is so supportive and gives amazing advice! Space dad is the best!

This may not have been my favorite book in the series, but it was still a fun & quick read. The Once Upon a Con series will forever have my fandom loving heart! 

★★★

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ARC Review | One to Watch

Title: One to Watch

Author: Kate Stayman London

Publisher: Dial Press

Release date: July 7, 2020

My rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis via Goodreads:

Bea Schumacher is a devastatingly stylish plus-size fashion blogger who has amazing friends, a devoted family, legions of Insta followers–and a massively broken heart. Like the rest of America, Bea indulges in her weekly obsession: the hit reality show Main Squeeze. The fantasy dates! The kiss-off rejections! The surprising amount of guys named Chad! But Bea is sick and tired of the lack of body diversity on the show. Since when is being a size zero a prerequisite for getting engaged on television?

Just when Bea has sworn off dating altogether, she gets an intriguing call: Main Squeeze wants her to be its next star, surrounded by men vying for her affections. Bea agrees, on one condition–under no circumstances will she actually fall in love. She’s in this to supercharge her career, subvert harmful anti-fat beauty standards, inspire women across America, and get a free hot air balloon ride. That’s it.

But when the cameras start rolling, Bea realizes things are more complicated than she anticipated. She’s in a whirlwind of sumptuous couture, Internet culture wars, sexy suitors, and an opportunity (or two, or five) to find messy, real-life love in the midst of a made-for-TV fairy tale. In this joyful, razor-sharp debut, Bea has to decide whether it might just be worth trusting these men–and herself–for a chance to live happily ever after.

Review:

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for providing my with an eARC in exchange for an honest review!

I absolutely loved this! It was everything I wanted and more. As a plus size woman, I connected with tis story on such a deep level. I often get nervous about reading books with plus size main characters. I don’t always feel like they are portrayed in the best light, but thankfully that was not an issue with One to Watch. 

Bea Schumacher is a very successful plus size blogger. She has it all…a loving family, tons of loyal followers, and amazing friends. But when her heart is broken by her best friend she has been in love with for years, her world falls apart. Fast forward to when she is asked to be the next Main Squeeze (the equivalent to The Bachelorette). Bea accepts, but she has no idea what she is signing up for. Will she find love on a reality dating show?  

Bea is such an incredible character. She goes on a powerful inner journey and it made my heart explode. She learns that she deserves love just as much as anyone else. Stayman-London did a beautiful job showing the reality of being a plus size woman in today’s society. Just like Bea, people all over the country deal with fatphobic comments. Whether it’s being told that crop tops aren’t for people with big stomachs or that plus size people will never find anyone to love them..fat shaming happens way too often.

The dating show/romance side of One to Watch was super unique. Instead of having one love interest, there were 25! Of course the list dwindled down and we were left with a few constituents that we got to know. I loved al of the dramatic twists along the way. They sure did keep the story interesting. I honestly had no idea who or even if Bea was going to end up with someone. I did have a fun time trying to guess though. There were two men in particular (no spillers!) that were the sweetest and I would love a spin off book(s) about them!

One to Watch was written in a multimedia format. Told through emails, podcasts, blog posts, texts, interviews and TV episodes, it was definitely a clever and fun way to tell Bea’s story. 

Overall, this book was fabulous. One to Watch was fun and heartwarming. I highly recommend adding this to your TBR shelves! I will definitely be on the look out for Kate Stayman-London’s work in the future!

ARC Review | Burn Our Bodies Down

Title: Burn Our Bodies Down

Author: Rory Power

Publisher: Delecorte Press

Release date: July 7, 2020

My rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis via Goodreads:

Ever since Margot was born, it’s been just her and her mother. No answers to Margot’s questions about what came before. No history to hold on to. No relative to speak of. Just the two of them, stuck in their run-down apartment, struggling to get along.

But that’s not enough for Margot. She wants family. She wants a past. And she just found the key she needs to get it: A photograph, pointing her to a town called Phalene. Pointing her home. Only, when Margot gets there, it’s not what she bargained for.

Margot’s mother left for a reason. But was it to hide her past? Or was it to protect Margot from what’s still there?

The only thing Margot knows for sure is there’s poison in their family tree, and their roots are dug so deeply into Phalene that now that she’s there, she might never escape. 

Review:

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for providing me with an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

Burn Our Bodies Down follows a teen named Margot. For her entire life it’s only been her and her mother…no one else. Anytime Margot has questions about her relatives, she never gets any answers. All she wants is to know her family and their history. So when she finds a photograph from her mother’s past she decides to take advantage of it. She ends up going to the town where her mom was raised, but she has no idea what secrets she is about to uncover.

This may be weird to say, but I love Rory Power’s brain! She comes up with the most bizarre ideas and somehow just makes then work. I honestly have no idea how she does it, but I can say with certainty that I will read anything and everything she writes. 

Burn Our Bodies Down was so dark and very twisted. It definitely has an eerie vibe to it. The story went in a direction I was not expecting whatsoever. I tried to guess what was going to happen but oh my, I failed miserably. The author throws in these little clues along the way and you think you may know what they mean, but nope you would be wrong! 

With fascinating twists and turns, I devoured this book. It had me on the edge of my seat. I felt like I was right there with Margot as she discovered the shocking secrets of her family. I honestly couldn’t get enough of this story.

I loved our main character Margot. She hasn’t had the easiest life. Her and her mother Jo do not have the healthiest relationship. Jo is actually pretty toxic and she literally had no business raising a kid. Through the book, it’s easy to tell just how much Margot’s upbringing negatively impacted her. I was rooting for her so much though. I wanted her to find the answers that she needed. Margot goes through A LOT in this story and I love how determined and strong she is.

Overall, I loved everything about Burn Our Bodies Down. It was strange but in the best way possible. I highly encourage you to add this to your TBR shelves. You won’t regret it!

ARC Review | Something to Talk About

Title: Something to Talk About

Author: Meryl Wilsner

Publisher: Berkley Books

Publication date: May 26, 2020

My rating: ★★★★

Synopsis via Goodreads:

A showrunner and her assistant give the world something to talk about when they accidentally fuel a ridiculous rumor in this debut romance.

Hollywood powerhouse Jo is photographed making her assistant Emma laugh on the red carpet, and just like that, the tabloids declare them a couple. The so-called scandal couldn’t come at a worse time–threatening Emma’s promotion and Jo’s new movie.

As the gossip spreads, it starts to affect all areas of their lives. Paparazzi are following them outside the office, coworkers are treating them differently, and a “source” is feeding information to the media. But their only comment is “no comment”.

With the launch of Jo’s film project fast approaching, the two women begin to spend even more time together, getting along famously. Emma seems to have a sixth sense for knowing what Jo needs. And Jo, known for being aloof and outwardly cold, opens up to Emma in a way neither of them expects. They begin to realize the rumor might not be so off base after all…but is acting on the spark between them worth fanning the gossip flames?

Review:

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for providing me with an eARC in exchange for an honest review!

Something to Talk About was such an enjoyable story and a fantastic debut! This F/F romance was sweet, lighthearted and an all around fun time.

Jo Jones is a writer and showrunner for a hit show. Emma Kaplan is her assistant.  When Jo invites Emma to an award show, things do not go as planned. Rumors start flying that the two are a couple. While trying to navigate through the paparazzi and headlines, Jo and Emma start to wonder if maybe the rumors aren’t wrong…

I really loved both of the main characters. We spend a good portion of this book just getting to know them as individuals. Jo is very focused and serious. She is super passionate about her career and her family. She has such a big heart and will do everything in her power to help someone out. Emma is thoughtful and hardworking. She loves her job and she goes above and beyond to make sure things are perfect. I could definitely read another 300 pages about their separate lives!

If you love slow burn romances, then this book is perfect for you. As the reader, it was crazy obvious that the two had feelings for each other, but for Jo & Emma it took a while to realize and come to terms with that. I do think that it was a little bit too slow burn for my tastes, but it was absolutely worth it in the end. The chemistry between Jo & Emma was literal fire and the respect they had for each other made me so happy. They were perfect for each other, you can’t even deny it. I do wish we could have had a little more time with them once their relationship was established though. With Jo being Emma’s boss, there is a power imbalance, but the author does a fantastic job addressing it! 

I loved the Hollywood setting! I am a nerd for all things TV and with this story we really got to see behind the scenes of how shows are made. Something to Talk About takes on a huge issue that the entertainment industry (and the world in general) faces…sexual harassment. When I read the scene I was not expecting it at al, but I appreciate that the author chose to write about it. Sexual harassment, especially in the workplace, is something that happens way too often and there always needs to be a conversation to spread awareness .The way the situation was handled was fantastic. It made a huge impact on Jo and I love that she decides to take action and create a safe space to help those who need it. 

Overall, Something to Talk About was a dream read! I was completely lost in the pages and with everything going on in the world, that is exactly what I needed! I highly recommend picking this title up as soon as it releases on May 26. Trust me, you won’t regret it!

Review | More Than We Can Tell

Title: More Than We Can Tell (Letters to the Lost #2)

Author: Brigid Kemmerer

Publisher: Bloomsbury

My rating: ★★★★

Synopsis via Goodreads:

Rev Fletcher is battling the demons of his past. But with loving adoptive parents by his side, he’s managed to keep them at bay…until he gets a letter from his abusive father and the trauma of his childhood comes hurtling back.

Emma Blue spends her time perfecting the computer game she built from scratch, rather than facing her parents’ crumbling marriage. She can solve any problem with the right code, but when an online troll’s harassment escalates, she’s truly afraid.

When Rev and Emma meet, they both long to lift the burden of their secrets and bond instantly over their shared turmoil. But when their situations turn dangerous, their trust in each other will be tested in ways they never expected. This must-read story will once again have readers falling for Brigid Kemmerer’s emotional storytelling.

Review:

I’m not surprised that I loved this book as much as I did. I have learned that I throughly enjoy Brigid Kemmerer’s writing. It’s so easy to get into and very hard to put down. I know I can always count on her to bring me a story that leave me wanting more!

More Than We Can Tell is a companion novel to Letters to the Lost, which I absolutely loved!  Personally, I don’t feel like you have to read the first book in order to understand this one. It can definitely stand on its own. I will say that you may get more out of Rev’s chapters if you already knew him from Letters. There are also some major spoilers about side characters so just be aware of that if you plan to read this book before Letters to the Lost.

I was so happy that Rev got his own book! He was such a great character in Letters to the Lost and I was excited to learn more about him! He has gone through so much in his life and honestly he deserves the entire world. Rev’s backstory is one that will break your heart and make you furious. As a child, he was abused by his biological father. The man who was supposed to love and take care of him used religion as an excuse to hurt Rev. After years with zero communication, Rev gets a letter in mail from his bio father. In a split second, he whole demeanor changes. It’s like he’s right back where he was as a 7 year old kid…absolutely terrified. His story really shows the long lasting effects of child abuse. It hurt me so much to see Rev struggling. He is the biggest sweetheart and I just wanted him to be happy and safe.

We get introduced to a new character named Emma. She  is really into coding and gaming. She even made her own video game that other people play!  How cool is that?? I did enjoy her chapters, but it was hard to like Emma at times. She’s not a great friend, she pretty immature and she so rude to her mom. She’s is a teenager though, so I mean weren’t we all that way at one point?

The relationship between Rev and Emma was sweet, but not my favorite thing about the book. I loved that they were able to open up to each other without feeling any judgement. Both characters had a lot in their minds and they needed someone to talk to. Other than that, I didn’t feel like they had any chemistry at all. I’m kind of bummed about it honestly.

More Than We Can Tell discusses the negative sides of the online community.  Emma is constantly harassed by a random person oh her video game. It starts at them saying she can’t play because she is a girl and it leads to so much worse. Emma goes about the situation in the best way possible, but even then the person finds a way back. Emma also learns the hard way that sometimes people on the internet aren’t always who they say they are or who they seem to be. The internet can be a wonderful place but there are definitely some scary things about it. Brigid Kemmerer did a fantastic job making Emma’s story so realistic.

My absolute favorite part of this book was getting to see more of Rev and Declan’s friendship! We met Declan in Letters to the Lost and ugh I adore him. It was good to catch up with him and see how things are going. He actually takes a really huge step in this book and it was so heartwarming to see Rev right there by his side. Their friendship is one of my all time favorites. They are always there to support each other no matter what.

So basically, More Than We Can Tell was wonderful and I highly suggest you read it. Go ahead and read Letters to the Lost while you’re at it! 🙂

ARC Review | It Sounded Better in My Head

Title: It Sounded Better in My Head

Author: Nina Kenwood

Publisher: Flatiron Books (US) / Text Publishing (Australia)

Release date: April 7, 2020

My rating: ★★★★.5

Synopsis via Goodreads:

From debut author Nina Kenwood comes a tender, funny, and compulsively readable novel about first love and its confusions, and all of the awkwardness of teen romance.

When her parents announce their impending divorce, Natalie can’t understand why no one is fighting, or at least mildly upset. Then Zach and Lucy, her two best friends, hook up, leaving her feeling slightly miffed and decidedly awkward. She’d always imagined she would end up with Zach one day―in the version of her life that played out like a TV show, with just the right amount of banter, pining, and meaningful looks. Now everything has changed, and nothing is quite making sense. Until an unexpected romance comes along and shakes things up even further.

It Sounded Better in My Head is a compulsively readable love letter to teenage romance in all of its awkward glory, perfect for fans To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and Emergency Contact.

Review:

I had an absolute blast reading It Sounded Better in My Head! This was one of those books that I couldn’t put down. When I had to take breaks all I thought about was these characters. I could honestly read 500 more pages about their lives!

In this book we follow Natalie, who’s parents just told her they are separating. To make matters worse, her two best friends hooked up. Everything is changing and nothing makes sense anymore. Then an unexpected romance comes along and shakes things up even more…

Our main character Natalie had a very rough time during puberty. It was not kind to her at all. She developed severe acne. I really appreciate that the author chose to discuss this topic. I was very lucky not to experience much acne growing up so this story showed me exactly how much of a toll it can put on someone. It affects not only your appearance, but your mental health. Natalie talks about having to take medication to calm the acne. She also shares all the side effects she had because of the medication. It is a lot and I couldn’t imagine being in her position. 

Her self confidence is also affected by her troubles with acne. She doesn’t like wearing certain clothing because it shows her scars. She has to make sure her makeup is applied well so it covers everything. She will cancel plans if she has a pimple. So much of her time is consumed by worrying and second guessing everything. It broke my heart. Throughout the book though, she really grows and starts to love who she is. 

Natalie‘s parents were the best! I loved how supportive and involved they were. They wanted her to experience all the good and bad that life has to offer. At the very beginning of the book, they tell Natalie that they are separating. She takes it pretty well at first, but of course deep down she is truly upset. There is a point when her mom decides to start dating again and Natalie is very angry about it. I understand why she felt the way she did, but there was no reason to make her mom feel like a terrible person. She was just trying to be happy. I don’t feel like their argument was ever really resolved so that is my only issue I had with the book.

The friendship between Natalie, Lucy and Zach was interesting to read about. I mean, I have been in Natalie’s place. It sucks to have a friend group of three and then the other two friends start dating. There’s nothing fun about being the third wheel. With all the changes going on, things get pretty rocky. Every friendship has its ups and downs, but at the end of the day, the three friends were always there for one another. I loved how protective Zach was and how encouraging Lucy was. Such a great group!

Okay now for the best part of the book…the romance! I don’t want to spoil who Natalie meets, but ugh they were so cute. The love interest is swoon worthy for sure. The chemistry between the two is 10/10. Natalie is very new to everything that comes with dating so I loved all the awkward things that happened. It was so realistic. The couple’s relationship isn’t perfect by any means. It gets messy, but you can bet that I was rooting for them the whole time!

Overall, It Sounded Better in My Head was everything that I wanted it to be plus more. If you are looking for a fun and quick contemporary that has depth and a sweet romance…look no further!

ARC Review | The Lucky Ones

Title: The Lucky Ones

Author: Liz Lawson

Publisher: Delacorte Press

Release date: April 7, 2020

My rating: ★★★★.5

Synopsis via Goodreads:

May is a survivor. But she doesn’t feel like one. She feels angry. And lost. And alone. Eleven months after the school shooting that killed her twin brother, May still doesn’t know why she was the only one to walk out of the band room that day. No one gets what she went through–no one saw and heard what she did. No one can possibly understand how it feels to be her. 

Zach lost his old life when his mother decided to defend the shooter. His girlfriend dumped him, his friends bailed, and now he spends his time hanging out with his little sister…and the one faithful friend who stuck around. His best friend is needy and demanding, but he won’t let Zach disappear into himself. Which is how Zach ends up at band practice that night. The same night May goes with her best friend to audition for a new band. 

Which is how May meets Zach. And how Zach meets May. And how both might figure out that surviving could be an option after all. 

Review:

Before I get into my review, I wanted to share why exactly I was so interested in this book. On January 23, 2018 there was a shooting at my local high school, the one I graduated from just a few years prior. Seventeen people were injured and two were killed. When you hear about these awful events on the news, you never think that it could happen so close to home, or at least that’s what I thought. I can’t even begin to imagine what it was like to be in the school on that day. I wanted to read The Lucky Ones in hopes that I could share this story with those that need it the most. The people in my community who are still struggling with what they went through. The people who need a little hope.

In The Lucky Ones we follow the lives of two teens after a horrific school shooting. May survived, but her twin brother didn’t. Zach’s mother is the lawyer for the shooter.

What an intense, heartbreaking and important story. It will rip your heart out and shake you to your core. There were definitely a few times when I had to put the book down because I needed a breather. I appreciate that the author decided to focus not on the shooting itself, but everything that happens after. The part that no one ever sees. The lives that were changed forever.

The Lucky Ones really explores grief and loss. Liz Lawson did a wonderful job showing that everyone grieves differently, there is no right way. The pain that May has is unbearable. Her world was completely flipped upside down. Everything that she once knew is gone. She has no much built up inside and it shows itself as destructive anger. Zach has felt loss of a different kind. He has been alienated by his friends and classmates because his mom chose to represent the shooter. He feels so isolated. These two characters have very different stories but once they meet, they are able to open up to one another. They can be vulnerable in a way that they haven’t been able to do. It was beautiful to see them, especially May, grow throughout the book.

Overall, The Lucky Ones was incredible. It comes with a lot of sad, but it also is very hopeful. Healing takes time and patience, but it will happen. When this book is released on April 7th, I highly encourage you to pick it up. It is a story that we all need to read.

ARC Review | Bent Heavens

Title: Bent Heavens

Author: Daniel Kraus

Publisher: Henry Holt & Co

Release date: February 25, 2020

My rating: ★★

Synopsis via Goodreads:

Liv Fleming’s father went missing more than two years ago, not long after he claimed to have been abducted by aliens. Liv has long accepted that he’s dead, though that doesn’t mean she has given up their traditions. Every Sunday, she and her lifelong friend Doug Monk trudge through the woods to check the traps Lee left behind, traps he set to catch the aliens he so desperately believed were after him.

But Liv is done with childhood fantasies. Done pretending she believes her father’s absurd theories. Done going through the motions for Doug’s sake. However, on the very day she chooses to destroy the traps, she discovers in one of them a creature so inhuman it can only be one thing. In that moment, she’s faced with a painful realization: her dad was telling the truth. And no one believed him.

Now, she and Doug have a choice to make. They can turn the alien over to the authorities…or they can take matters into their own hands.

Review:

Thank you to the publisher for sending me a finished copy.

Unfortunately Bent Heavens just wasn’t for me. I went into this thinking it was going to be a really cool alien science fiction, but what I got was something completely different. I’m really bummed out honestly.

I am going to start with the one thing that I did really like about the book. There were quite a few twists and turns at the end that I was not at all expecting. They definitely kept me on he edge of my seat. The stakes were so high so I couldn’t stop reading. I had to know how things were going to end up.

Okay now for the things that didn’t work for me. This book is Young Adult, but I think it reads more as an Adult. While the characters in this story are teenagers, I feel like the content is better suited for a more mature audience.

I didn’t really care for any of the characters. Liv was so unlikeable.. She had such a bad attitude and with that came random bursts of anger. She was also very disrespectful especially to her teachers, who literally did nothing to deserve it. In the begging, I liked Doug. He was misunderstood and I felt really bad for him because Liv was such a terrible friend. As the story unfolded, his character went in a direction that I didn’t like whatsoever. Bruno was another character that I could have really liked, but sadly he was so underdeveloped. There were other side characters that we could have done without. We learned nothing about them except for their name and relationship to Liv.

Liv’s home life hasn’t been the same since her father’s disappearance. Her mom works two jobs to pay the bills and when she comes home she drinks pretty heavily. There is a point in the book where Liv pushes her mom to drink even after seeing that she was trying to make the better choice of drinking water. Not only that, but Liv mixes some pills into the drink. There’s a reason why Liv thought she had to get her mom drunk, but I didn’t care. That whole scene was not okay and definitely not needed. It left a really bad taste in my mouth. 

Bent Heavens has a massive amount of torture scenes. I mean, it’s a lot and it’s brutal. I’m not usually one to get triggered by anything, but I honestly couldn’t read certain parts. It was just way too much. I ended up scimming through those sections. I also couldn’t get over the fact that teenagers were performing some of the torture. Like they literally had a book of the ways to torture someone and just went down the list. I was so uncomfortable reading this. 

I really am sad that Bent Heavens didn’t work out for me. It had so much potential in the beginning, but wow did things go south very quickly.

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ARC Review | Harley in the Sky

Title: Harley in the Sky

Author: Akemi Dawn Bowman

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Release date: March 10, 2020

My rating: ★★★★

Synopsis via Goodreads:

Harley Milano has dreamed of being a trapeze artist for as long as she can remember. With parents who run a famous circus in Las Vegas, she spends almost every night in the big top watching their lead aerialist perform, wishing with all her soul that she could be up there herself one day.

After a huge fight with her parents, who continue to insist she go to school instead, Harley leaves home, betrays her family and joins the rival traveling circus Maison du Mystère. There, she is thrust into a world that is both brutal and beautiful, where she learns the value of hard work, passion and collaboration. But at the same time, Harley must come to terms with the truth of her family and her past—and reckon with the sacrifices she made and the people she hurt in order to follow her dreams. 

Review:

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for providing me with a eARC in exchange for an honest review.

After finishing Harley in the Sky, all I want is circus related contemporaries! This was my first time reading anything by Akemi Dawn Bowman, but I can say with certainty that it will not be my last. Her writing was so beautiful and she knows how to pull at your heart strings. 

Our maim character Harley wants nothing more than to train to become a trapeze artist. While she is passionate about her dream, her parents don’t think it’s a great idea. They only want what is best for her but Harley feels like they aren’t listening or supporting her. Because of this, she really will do anything and everything to be in the circus. Harley is not perfect by any means, but I still loved her. She makes multiple mistakes and she hurts the people she loves. She has good intentions, she just goes about things the wrong way. I really couldn’t help but root for her though.

This book comes with an amazing and diverse group of characters. I loved all the circus crew that Harley mets along the way. In particular, Dexi and Vivien were there for her when she really needed it the most. Also, Vas was sweet and helpful in his own quiet way. 

The circus setting was perfect. I loved getting to see behind the scenes and learning how much hard work goes into each performance and event. It brought back memories of going to the circus as a kid. It was always so magical. The author really made everything come to life!

Of course there was a romance and it was really cute. Being that it wasn’t the main focus, I felt like it took a while for the chemistry to appear, but when it did, it was THERE! I love that their relationship kind of mirrored Harley’s parents in a way. I can’t really explain what I mean by that because of spoilers, but if you read this book then you’ll know. It was a sweet thing to add.

Harley in the Sky touches upon mental health and the stigma surrounding it. Harley struggles with what seems like depression (it wasn’t labeled or diagnosed as far as I can remember). Her family believes that it is something that will just pass and it can be ignored. Harley though, wants them to understand that it’s a part of who she is. It is her normal. I want to mention that there is a brief discussion about suicide. It is only a small part, but if it’s something that triggers you, read with caution!

Overall, this book was a delight to read. The setting was stunning, the characters were complex and the writing flows so well. I can’t recommend Harley in the Sky enough. You will get lost in the beauty and magic of the circus!

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ARC Review | Havenfall

Title: Havenfall

Author: Sara Holland

Publisher: Bloomsbury YA

Release date: March 3, 2020

My rating: ★★★★

Synopsis via Goodreads:

A safe haven between four realms. The girl sworn to protect it–at any cost.

Hidden deep in the mountains of Colorado lies the Inn at Havenfall, a sanctuary that connects ancient worlds–each with their own magic–together. For generations, the inn has protected all who seek refuge within its walls, and any who disrupt the peace can never return.

For Maddie Morrow, summers at the inn are more than a chance to experience this magic first-hand. Havenfall is an escape from reality, where her mother sits on death row accused of murdering Maddie’s brother. It’s where Maddie fell in love with handsome Fiorden soldier Brekken. And it’s where one day she hopes to inherit the role of Innkeeper from her beloved uncle.

But this summer, the impossible happens–a dead body is found, shattering everything the inn stands for. With Brekken missing, her uncle gravely injured, and a dangerous creature on the loose, Maddie suddenly finds herself responsible for the safety of everyone in Havenfall. She’ll do anything to uncover the truth, even if it means working together with an alluring new staffer Taya, who seems to know more than she’s letting on. As dark secrets are revealed about the inn itself, one thing becomes clear to Maddie–no one can be trusted, and no one is safe . . . 

Review:

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for providing me with an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

I had such a great time reading this book. It was just so enjoyable. I was deeply invested in the plot, characters and worlds that I never wanted it to end.

The idea of Havenfall is so interesting to me. A neutral meeting place for different realms. How cool is that!? We only got a small glimpse into Fiordenkill, Byrn and Solaria though. I’m really hoping that we get to learn a whole lot more about each realm in the next book. Fingers crossed that the characters can somehow visit each place. That would be amazing!

I really liked the main character Maddie. She has a heartbreaking past that is still very fresh in her mind. She deals with some grief, anger and survivors guilt. Havenfall is the one place that she feels like she belongs. It’s a place where she can get away from everything in her normal life. It’s so obvious how much she loves the inn. She goes above and beyond in order to protect it and all it’s people.

As far as romance goes, there is very little in this book. I mean it is there, but Maddie has so many things going on so thinking about a relationship isn’t her first priority. I can definitely see a love triangle in the works though. I am not the biggest fan of those, but in this case I don’t think I would mind it. I really like both of the love interests as of right now.

Like I said above, I had a blast reading this. It was definitely a page turner. I had to know what was going to happen. Havenfall had a few different mysteries going on. I did figure out a couple pretty early on, but the other reveals blew my mind. So yes, this was full of twists & turns and I enjoyed every second of it.

 I love the way the story ended. It left me wanting more and now I am so eager for the sequel! There are a ton of questions that I desperately need answers to. I don’t know how I am going to survive the wait!

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