Review: My Lady’s Choosing by Kitty Curran and Larissa Zageris

MLCHave you ever wished that you could star in your own regency-era romance? Perhaps win the heart of an aloof yet dashingly-handsome duke? Or even journey to a far-away, foreign land in search of adventure? Kitty Curran and Larissa Zageris’s My Lady’s Choosing offers you the chance to do just that! Well, within the pages of a book, that is. They’ve created a choose-your-own-adventure book inspired by classic tales of romance and the romantic tropes that we all know and (for the most part) love.

If you’d like to read a synopsis (or pre-order* this book!), click here. 🙂
*I personally recommend the paperback copy since it’s easier to flip through than an ebook.

What I Liked: I’ve always found choose-your-own-adventure books to be fun, and this one was no exception. There’s always something exciting about being faced with a choice and seeing where your decision takes you. (And it helps when there aren’t any real-world consequences. 😂) In the beginning, many of your choices have to do with which gentleman you’re interested in pursuing. The three options are reminiscent of famous romantic leading men, including Mr. Darcy from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Jamie Fraser from Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander (or really any strapping, soulful highlander), and Mr. Rochester from Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre.

I enjoyed the references to classic romance stories and common romance tropes. And I think the book’s structure entices you to keep reading. I mean, how can you stop when you have to find out how your story ends? Will you get the happy ending you’ve always wanted? Or will your efforts end in despair and ruin? It’s also entertaining to start all over again and again, just to see where the other choices would have taken you.

What I Disliked: While I do think this book will appeal to romance fans, some parts of it feel too much like a parody. Of course it’s meant to be funny, but it lacked a certain subtlety that instead left many of the jokey parts feeling like a forceful shove towards humor rather than a gentle nudge. It also began to feel repetitive after a while, and I think this might just be one of the unfortunate downsides to choose-your-own-adventure books.

While I kept reading and exploring the other stories, it was mostly out of curiosity and not exactly a strong desire to keep going out of enjoyment. There were slower parts that left me feeling more bored than intrigued, and I would have liked to see the authors inject certain stories with more creativity and unexpected twists. Because this book functions as sort of a romantic parody, nothing feels truly fresh or exciting.

I was intrigued by the concept of a choose-your-own-adventure book for adults, and I have no regrets about checking this one out. I just don’t think it ended up being for me. If, however, you’re a romance reader who’s itching to go on an adventure of your own (even one that only takes place on the page), I think this might just be your cup of tea. Perhaps with a brooding, aristocratic love interest on the side…? 😉❤️

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

About the Authors: Kitty Curran and Larissa Zageris
You can read more about Kitty Curran’s comics and books here, and you can read more about Larissa Zageris’s writing here!

**Thank you to NetGalley and Quirk Books for providing me with a free eARC in exchange for an honest review.

Review: Let’s Talk About Love by Claire Kann

LTALI haven’t always been a fan of YA contemporaries, but I’ve learned that I sometimes need a break in between epic fantasies or sci-fi sagas, so it can be nice to jump into something completely different. Claire Kann’s Let’s Talk About Love had been on my radar for a while, even before it was released, and I was won over by the gorgeous, jubilant cover. 💜 It’s a story that explores sexuality, identity, and the difficulties of relationships both platonic and romantic. And it’s like a giant, gooey cinnamon roll of sweetness and — as Alice would say — squee!

Not sure what this book is about? You can find a short synopsis here!

What I Liked: This book is so, so cute. Much like Takumi, it exceeds the Cutie CodeTM! I was totally ready for a fun, contemporary read, and this story exceeded all of my expectations. Whenever I have trouble putting my thoughts into cohesive, sensible paragraphs, I use bullet points, so:

  • Alice is the best — adorable, genuine, heartfelt, and my exact brand of nerdy. (For example: “She hadn’t cried this hard since she had watched the Fringe series finale.” I SCREAMED. 😱 Fringe is one of my all-time favorite TV shows, and if you haven’t watched it, WHAT ARE YOU EVEN DOING WITH YOUR LIFE???) She’s occasionally awkward but so completely and utterly full of love and warmth. I just want to hug her. 💜
  • Alice is a biromantic asexual, and she experiences aesthetic attraction. I’m not extremely familiar with asexuality, so I appreciated the insightful glimpses into Alice’s thoughts and feelings — her desires, her fears, her struggles. She discusses and contemplates what it means to be a young black woman who is also queer and asexual — the microaggressions, unwanted sexual advances, people’s unrealistic perceptions of her (and lack of personal boundaries)…
  • We see Alice and Takumi establish a solid friendship and communicate openly with one another about most anything, including assumptions people often make about them. Sure, it takes Alice some time to tell him that she’s asexual, but up until that point, she’s only told three people, including her counselor. (More about him below.) And they’re just so freaking cute together! The scene where they discussed pizza preferences? (And really, many, many others.) SWOON. 😊
  • Alice starts seeing a counselor recommended by her friend Moschoula, and we see her go from being hesitant to talk to him to completely opening up and taking advantage of the safe space he provides for her. As someone who very recently began seeing a therapist, I can’t tell you how great it is to see a main character go through the same thing. There’s no stigma, no shame, no fear of being judged. What Alice learns is that asking for help can be hard, but it can also be one of the best decisions you can make for yourself.

What I Disliked:

  • For some reason, it took me a few days to really get into this book. (It probably didn’t help that I stepped away from it for a few days to deal with some boring real-life stuff.) I don’t think the structure is all that different from a typical YA contemporary, but some of the transitions seemed too quick or abrupt. I also kept thinking that certain passages could have benefited from further editing; there were quite a few sentences that just… didn’t sound right? 🙁
  • I’m still not sure how I feel about the parentheticals. I know they’re meant to be asides, separate from whatever is happening in that moment, but I wish they had been used a little more sparingly. (This might be one of my teacher pet peeves. 🤓)
  • I went back and forth a lot about my thoughts on Feenie. It’s clear that she has a great deal of love for Alice — she even said she would die for her — and that Alice helps to keep her grounded. But man, she was hard to like sometimes. 😐 On the other hand, isn’t that how it is with some people? And Alice had her own flaws, too. I don’t know. I’ll have to think on it some more. I may have just felt for Alice so much that all of Feenie’s harsh remarks and criticisms triggered some defensiveness.

I’m so glad I picked up this book, and I would recommend it to most anyone. It’s a book with fantastic representation, a believable and relatable character arc, and a fluffy, cotton-candy-sweet protagonist who will win your heart almost instantly!

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

About the Author: Claire Kann

Review: Ember Burning by Jennifer Alsever

EBI couldn’t wait to get my hands on the first book in Jennifer Alsever’s Trinity Forest series — Ember Burning — because it sounded like something I would definitely enjoy. It’s a book about loss, grief, survival, and a mystery that slowly pulls you in, beckoning you further into the forest.

Here’s the Goodreads synopsis, which is a little more detailed than the one on Amazon:

Senior year was supposed to be great — that’s what Ember’s friend Maddie promised at the beginning of the year. Instead, Ember Trouvé spends the year drifting in and out of life like a ghost, haunted by her parents’ recent, tragic death.

At home, she pores over her secret obsession: pictures of missing kids — from newspaper articles, from grocery store flyers — that she’s glued inside a spiral notebook. Like her, the people are lost. Like her, she discovers, they had been looking for a way to numb their pain when they disappeared.

When Ember finds herself in Trinity Forest one day, a place locals stay away from at all costs, she befriends a group of teenagers who are camping. Hanging out with them in the forest tainted with urban legends of witchcraft and strange disappearances, she has more fun than she can remember having. But something isn’t right.

The candy-covered wickedness she finds in Trinity proves to be a great escape, until she discovers she can never go home. Will Ember confront the truth behind her parents’ death, or stay blissfully numb and lose herself in the forest forever?

What I Liked:

  • As I started reading this book, I wasn’t sure what to expect. And I honestly think that may be the best way to go into it. It’s strange and captivating and intense, and even if, like me, it takes some time for you to really become invested in the story, it’s a wild ride with a cliffhanger that will leave you eager for the next book.
  • I think Alsever handled the pacing very nicely; this book never felt like it was dragging or speeding by too quickly. The pace picks up considerably towards the end, but you’ll understand why if you read it. (No spoilers here! 😀)
  • For the first time in what feels like an eternity, I can finally say that I like a romantic plot line in a story. Ember and Tre just grew on me, and I couldn’t help but feel something for them. It seemed realistic and reasonable, and it worked well within the story.
  • I loved the inclusion of synesthesia in this story. It’s a perceptual condition that’s always interested me, and I really like the way this book handled it.
  • Other things I liked: the Egyptian mythology, the thriller vibes, Trinity Forest (fascinating and unique setting — I’m also a huge fan of creepy/magical/weird forests 🌳✨), and the supporting characters (Alsever gives them distinct personalities and motivations).

What I Disliked:

  • This might have something to do with the fact that I was a boring, not-impulsive/exciting-in-the-slightest teenager (seriously, so boring), but Ember’s impulsiveness began to bother me at some point. Overall, I think she’s a great character, and seeing her have to deal with difficult emotions like guilt and grief was one of my favorite aspects of this book. But there were a few moments that made me want to sit her down and try to talk some sense into her.
  • It took me a while to get into this book — probably until the middle, to be honest. But once I got to that point, I was all in. Basically, if you’re not totally feeling it at the beginning, give it some time.
  • Some of the content might not be appropriate for younger teen readers, and that might be good to know before reading it. But it’s not mature content for the sake of mature content — it all serves a purpose within the story, and it doesn’t seem out of place.

I really enjoyed this book, and I will likely be picking up the next one in the series sometime soon! 🙂 If you’re a fan of paranormal romance, definitely check it out. I’ve heard the audiobook is pretty great, too!

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

About the Author: Jennifer Alsever
More Books by This Author:
Oshun Rising
Venus Shining

**Thank you to Jennifer Alsever and Melissa Robles for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review.

Review: The Price Guide to the Occult by Leslye Walton

TPGTTOThe Price Guide to the Occult is Leslye Walton’s second novel, and what initially caught my attention was its stunning cover. ❤️ (I’m a cover snob. I’ll admit it!) But it promises a story filled with magic and mystery, wrapped in a coming-of-age tale with a touch of darkness. ✨

Here’s the synopsis:

When Rona Blackburn landed on Anathema Island more than a century ago, her otherworldly skills might have benefited friendlier neighbors. Guilt and fear instead led the island’s original eight settlers to burn “the witch” out of her home. So, Rona cursed them. Fast-forward one hundred-some years: All Nor Blackburn wants is to live an unremarkable teenage life. She has reason to hope: First, her supernatural powers, if they can be called that, are unexceptional. Second, her love life is nonexistent, which means she might escape the other perverse side effect of the matriarch’s backfiring curse, too. But then a mysterious book comes out, promising to cast any spell for the right price. Nor senses a storm coming and is pretty sure she’ll be smack in the eye of it. In her second novel, Leslye Walton spins a dark, mesmerizing tale of a girl stumbling along the path toward self-acceptance and first love, even as the price guide’s malevolent author — Nor’s own mother — looms and threatens to strangle any hope for happiness.

TW: Self-Harm
This book discusses self-harm at length. Its presence within the story is purposeful and not used for shock value. But I strongly feel that readers should be made aware of this before reading this book, especially since the synopsis doesn’t mention it.

What I Liked:

  • Much like Shea Ernshaw’s The Wicked Deep, this is a paranormal romance that takes place in the Pacific Northwest. The atmospheric details really helped to draw me in, and I loved the ways in which Walton described the landscape.
  • The writing was gorgeous, and although I occasionally struggled with denser passages (see below), I can appreciate how intentional and well-crafted the language often felt.
  • I liked Nor a lot, and I found many of the supporting characters to be both enjoyable and memorable. (Except for Gabe. I don’t really like him, and I sort of eye-rolled my way through the whole love triangle thing. 😒)
  • In my TW note, I mentioned self-harm. This is discussed, along with Nor’s depression, and I think both topics were handled well. (I’ve read books in the past that failed to do so, or used them for shock value, which I generally find distasteful.) It was nice to see very real struggles acknowledged and included in a story that deals with magic, because sometimes that’s not the case.

What I Disliked:

  • While I can appreciate beautiful writing, there were sections of this book that felt a little too dense, which made them hard to follow. I wouldn’t necessarily call it “purple prose,” but it was noticeable and a little frustrating at times. 🙁 This may have contributed to my next point…
  • … which is that the pacing sometimes felt painfully slow, as if we were spending more time building up to something than was necessary. I think editing or removing some of the denser passages would help to fix this.
  • I feel like I say this a lot, but I really don’t think this book needed the romance between Nor and Reed, or the beginnings of a love triangle between Nor, Reed, and Gabe. I wanted this book to be more paranormal than paranormal romance, and I sort of wanted Nor to just… be. Her attraction to Reed doesn’t diminish her character in any way, but I feel like a book like this can be just as intriguing without the promise of a love story.
  • The tone of this book is a little too dark for me. And I usually enjoy darker reads! Something just felt slightly off the whole time, and by the end of the story, I didn’t feel all that great about finishing it. The conclusion seems to set this up for a sequel, but I’m not sure if I’m hooked enough to continue reading, despite the things I did like.

Overall, I was somewhat disappointed with this book. But if you’re a fan of paranormal romance stories with a slower burn, I think it’s still worth checking out. You may enjoy it much more than I did! From what I’ve read, it seems like fans of Walton’s work highly recommend her first novel, The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender. I might pick that up soon and see if I like it more than this one.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

About the Author: Leslye Walton
More Books by This Author:
The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender

**Thank you to NetGalley and Candlewick Press for providing me with a free eARC in exchange for an honest review.

Review: Gemina by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

GeminaAfter I finished reading Illuminae, I had every intention of taking a short break before starting the next book in the trilogy, Gemina. But did I? OF COURSE NOT. 😆 If you’ve read my review of Illuminae, you’ll know that I loved it. So on the day I finished it, I broke down and started Gemina.

I usually try to keep my reviews as spoiler-free as possible, but when I’m writing about a series of books, this can be really difficult. The events of this book are directly tied to those that occur in Illuminae, so there will absolutely be spoilers for that book. And in order to fully discuss my likes and dislikes, there will be some spoilers for this book, as well. Basically, if you haven’t read either of these books and would prefer to remain un-spoiled, STOP RIGHT HERE, PLEASE AND THANK YOU. 😬

What I Liked:

  • This book was action-packed, and much like Illuminae, the plot revolved around a race against the clock, which worked as a great tension-builder.
  • Hanna is pretty much a badass space ninja, and I am here for it. 🙌🏻
  • The lamina were HORRIFYING, and I was expecting some twisted nightmares. 😱 Thankfully, there were none. But I think they were an excellent (and obviously very creepy) addition to the book. Sort of like this book’s version of the Phobos outbreak.
  • AIDAN’s surveillance footage summaries were entertaining, and it was good to see him again, along with Kady, Ezra, and the other familiar faces aboard the Hypatia!
  • The pacing is just as breakneck as the first book, and once BeiTech attempts to seize control of Jump Station Heimdall, it’s hard to step away from the story.

What I Disliked:

  • I liked Hanna, Nik, and Ella… but not as much as Kady and Ezra. It took me a while to become invested in their stories, and again, I just didn’t care about the romance. (I’m beginning to think this might just be me… 😅)
  • I’m not exactly sure how to phrase this, but I feel like the last 1/4 of the book had a whoooole lot of… death defying? 🤔 In other words, just when you think a character’s dead, no! They’re alive! Wait, no, now they’re for sure dead. NOPE! Wrong again! And so on and so on. I get that this takes the reader on an emotional roller coaster ride, but it almost felt too perfect, and I found it hard to suspend my disbelief. It was like, “Not only did the seemingly-impossible happen once, but twice! We’re just that good.” 😐 It didn’t feel realistic to me, and it almost seemed heavy-handed, as if the authors definitely wanted all three of the main characters to survive, so despite the ridiculously astronomical odds, all three of them did.
  • THAT CLIFFHANGER. HOW DARE THEY? (I know, I know… Obsidio will be out in one week. We’ll get answers soon enough. BUT STILL.)

Overall, even though I had a few minor issues with this book, I think it’s a strong installment in the series, and when I say that I can’t wait for Obsidio, please know it’s a serious understatement and really I’m like


Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

About the Authors: Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
Other Books in This Series:
Other Books by Amie Kaufman:
Elementals: Ice Wolves
Unearthed (co-written with Meagan Spooner)
These Broken Stars
This Shattered World
Their Fractured Light
Other Books by Jay Kristoff:

Review: To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo

TKAKI have a confession to make: I’m a little picky when it comes to retellings. They’re all the rage these days, and while some put a brand new spin on a familiar story, others… don’t. ☹️ Too often, I feel like I’m reading something I’ve read before, and I anticipate what comes next far too easily. That’s why it was so refreshing to read Alexandra Christo’s debut novel To Kill a Kingdom. Sure, it’s (sort of) a retelling. A young, beautiful girl with flaming red hair who lives in the sea and is turned into a human… Sound familiar? 😉 But in this story, that lovely girl is actually pretty wicked. And her charming prince? Not the particular brand of charming you might expect…

If you want to read more about this book before we dive in (har-har 🐟), click here for a short synopsis!

What I Liked: While this is sort of a Little Mermaid retelling, it’s much, much more than that. Lira is a siren who collects the hearts of princes (seriously, she buries them in her bedroom 😱), and Elian is a prince who also considers himself a pirate — a siren-hunting pirate. Can I just tell you how much I love Elian? LET ME COUNT THE WAYS. ❤️ If you’re a fan of Leigh Bardugo’s famed privateer prince, Nikolai Lantsov, I suspect you’ll feel similarly.

I don’t want to reveal too much about the story, because this is such a delightfully delicious read and I would hate to spoil anything. But WOWWWWW. ⭐️ Adventure, romance of the angsty variety, incredible imagery, clever references to familiar stories and myths, and such a remarkably original twist on this type of tale. The writing is superb. I’m usually awful at highlighting or jotting down quotes, but this book had so many fantastic ones, I couldn’t help myself.

What I Disliked: It took me a few chapters to really get into this book, and I’m still not sure why. I think I had to adjust to the dual narrative structure, and it was occasionally difficult to tell when the POV switched. (The chapters aren’t labeled in the ARC — like “Lira” or “Elian” — but I’ve heard that they are in the finished version of the book, so this shouldn’t be a problem from here on out.)

I’m still trying to decide how I feel about the ending. 🤔 And don’t even get me started on the fact that this is a standalone. It’s just my luck… I’ve read books lately that aren’t standalones but that I feel should be, and I’ve read standalones that I feel should be part of a longer series, or at least a duology. ALAS. But honestly, I didn’t have any major issues with this book, and it exceeded all of my expectations with flying, vicious, heart-wrenching colors.

Even if you’re not usually interested in retellings, I would really recommend giving this book a shot. It is, without a doubt, one of the most compelling, original, and well-written retellings I’ve ever read, and I will be eagerly anticipating future books from Christo.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Publication Date: March 6th

About the Author: Alexandra Christo

**Thank you to NetGalley and Macmillan for providing me with a free eARC in exchange for an honest review.

Review: Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

IlluminaeI’m always looking for book recommendations, because seriously, who isn’t? 🤷🏻‍♀️ And by far, the book that has been mentioned most often is Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff. From comments like, “It’ll blow your mind,” to, “You won’t be able to put it down,” to the very popular, “IT WILL DESTROY YOU AND YOU WILL LOVE EVERY MINUTE OF IT 😭,” I knew I had to read it. (Sure, it took me 2+ years to do so, but better late than never, right…? 😅)

And listen. All of those comments were true. This book is incredible! It’s sort of a space opera with The Walking Dead vibes and some Ex Machina-esque AI creepiness combined in one fast-paced, heart-stopping adventure/horror/war/espionage story. It’s no surprise that the movie rights sold shortly after the book’s publication (although it’s hard to tell if anything is currently in production, and I do wonder how they would adapt certain parts). In short: I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since I finished it. Here are my thoughts…

What I Liked:

  • It’s a futuristic story set in outer space. There’s a war between rival tech companies, with military personnel and refugees caught in the middle. Throw in some deep, dark secrets, a possibly-homicidal AI, a mutating pathogen that renders its victims vicious and insane, and a race against the clock, and you’ve got an edge-of-your-seat thriller that will absolutely leave you desperate for the next book. 😱
  • This book is unlike anything else I’ve read, mostly because of the way the story is told — through internal memos, emails, instant message conversations, surveillance footage summaries, and so much more. (You might be saying, “Oh, well that’s just an epistolary novel. I’ve read those before,” but it’s different in some distinct and memorable ways.) And it may look like a long read — 608 pages! — but trust me when I say that, once you start reading, you will speed through this book.
  • Kady and Ezra are such believable, relatable characters. I mean, imagine you’re a teenager who’s had everything taken from you — your life, your family, everything comforting and familiar… What they go through is just insane. And yet they both still come out swinging, whether it’s with a Cyclone fighter spacecraft or hundreds upon hundreds of lines of code.
  • <error> (Read this book. You’ll get it, I promise. 😁)

What I Disliked: While I was totally cheering for Kady and Ezra the whole time, I didn’t care all that much about their romantic relationship. I KNOW, I’M SORRY, I’M A HEARTLESS MONSTER. 🙃 But I guess I was more interested in everything else that was going on. I do understand that Ezra is all Kady has left, and vice versa. I just… wasn’t invested? DON’T @ ME.

Anyway, I loved this book, and I would honestly recommend it to sci-fi fans of all ages. If you do read it (AND YOU SHOULD), I have a couple of small suggestions:
1. Don’t read the e-book edition. Because of the unique way this book is formatted, it just doesn’t look the same on an e-reader, tablet, or phone as it does on a physical page. You miss out on a lot of cool content that way, so I would definitely suggest reading a physical copy if at all possible. (I’ve also heard good things about the audiobook, but again, this is a very visual book, so just keep that in mind before selecting your preferred format.)
2. Have the next book, Gemina, ready and waiting for when you’ve finished this one, because if you’re anything like me, you’ll be VERY ready to keep reading.
3. Avoid as many spoilers as you can. This book has some truly awesome twists and turns, and it’s much more fun going into it with no knowledge of them.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

About the Authors: Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
Other Books in This Series:
Other Books by Amie Kaufman:
Elementals: Ice Wolves
Unearthed (co-written with Meagan Spooner)
These Broken Stars
This Shattered World
Their Fractured Light
Other Books by Jay Kristoff:

March TBR

I realized last month that I’m definitely more of a mood reader, so from here on out, I’m going to be a little more flexible with my monthly TBRs. Each TBR will include 1) some books that I’m confident I’ll actually read that month, and 2) books that I want to read soon but that I may not get to that month. I’m excited to see if this works better for me! 😊 I like having some sort of structure, but this should give me plenty of options in case I’m not really feeling whatever book I’m set to read next.

In March, I’m confident that I’ll read…

*These are ARCs/review copies that I’ve received in exchange for an honest review, so they’re definitely a high priority.

I would also really like to read…

(And of course there are also the books I didn’t read in February, like Reign of the Fallen, The Hazel Wood, Tempests and Slaughter, Daughter of the Pirate King (and the sequel, Daughter of the Siren Queen, now that it’s out), and Still MeWHY ARE THERE SO MANY GREAT BOOKS TO READ?! 😵)

What are you planning to read in March? Let me know! 🍀

February Wrap-Up

I read nine books this month, but I didn’t really stick to my TBR. (Surprise, surprise! 😅) I did, however, read some great books, and I’m excited that I stepped out of my comfort zone and read books from some other genres, including romance and horror. This is something I’d love to do more of this year, so I think this was a good start!

Here are my ratings for this month’s reads:

  • The Duchess Deal by Tessa Dare   ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  • Me Before You by Jojo Moyes   ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  • After You by Jojo Moyes   ⭐️⭐️⭐️
  • Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones   ⭐️⭐️⭐️
  • Shadowsong by S. Jae-Jones   ⭐️⭐️⭐️
  • The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton   ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  • Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli   ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  • Sinner by Christopher Graves   ⭐️⭐️⭐️
  • The Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw   ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

NOTE: I did not write reviews of The Duchess Deal (but I’m planning a big post about romance books soon! ❤️), Me Before You, or After You. My reviews for the rest of my February reads are linked above!

Did I read everything on my February TBR?
No. I’ve suspected for a while that I’m more of a read-whatever-I’m-in-the-mood-for person than a stick-to-my-planned-reading-list person. But I think this month definitely confirmed it. I didn’t end up reading Reign of the Fallen, The Hazel Wood, Tempests and Slaughter, Daughter of the Pirate King, or Still Me. So… I only read 2/7 books from my TBR. 😬

Did I read anything not on my February TBR?
The majority of the books I read this month weren’t on my TBR — The Duchess Deal, Me Before You, After You, Shadowsong, Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, Sinner, and The Wicked Deep.

What was my favorite read of the month?
It’s a tie between The Belles and Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda. They’re very different books, but both were absolutely captivating and delightful in every way. 😊 They were also my only five-star reads of the month.

What was my least favorite read of the month?
This is difficult, because there were a few disappointments. After You and Wintersong were both re-reads that I was hoping to like better the second time around. (Spoiler: I didn’t. 🙁) And Shadowsong just didn’t live up to the hype — for me, at least.

Keeping in mind that I’m more of a mood reader, my TBRs from here on out will include 1) some books that I’m confident I’ll actually read that month, and 2) books that I want to read soon but that I may not get to that month. This way, I’ll be setting more realistic expectations for myself and giving myself space to choose something I’m in the mood to read.

Are you more of a mood reader, or do you stick to your monthly TBR once you’ve made it? Comment below! I’d love to hear your thoughts. ❤️

Review: The Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw

TWDI’ve always been fascinated by stories about witches, so I was excited to read Shea Ernshaw’s The Wicked Deep. Described as “Hocus Pocus meets Practical Magic,” it’s a book that combines local folklore and tradition with a magical haunting that returns to the small town of Sparrow every year. There’s mystery, romance, and a literal witch hunt, and you can’t help but wonder how it will all end once the Swan sisters arrive, ready for their revenge… 🌙

Not sure what this book is about? Click here for a short synopsis! 😁

What I Liked: This is a very atmospheric read, and I think it’s totally fair to say that the town of Sparrow is, in its own way, an important character in the story. It has a sinister history that Ernshaw details throughout the book, and it serves as an eerie backdrop for the present-day “Swan season,” as the locals call it. One small thing I had trouble with was remembering where exactly it was located — it’s in Oregon, but sometimes I thought it was in Washington. But I don’t think this matters much, because Sparrow seems like the type of town that could exist anywhere on the coast, a small, isolated place filled with legend and lore.

I really liked the way Ernshaw handled the Swan sisters, both in the present-day and in the occasional flashbacks to 1822 Sparrow. She effectively blends myth and reality, creating a vengeful force that brings the town to its knees every single year, as penance for a 200-year-old mistake. Little details helped to increase the tension, like the Swan party on the beach, Penny’s fear of going too far into the water, the siren-like singing, and the townspeople’s knowledge of what comes next. They know the pain of the Swan season more acutely than the tourists that swarm into Sparrow every summer. And if anything, their acceptance and resignation makes the story even creepier. 😱

This was definitely a page-turner, and I was eager to know what would happen with Penny, Bo, and Penny’s classmates. In a way, it’s a mystery, as well as a modern myth that draws upon stories of mermaids and sirens. I wouldn’t call it a horror story, but perhaps a paranormal romance that takes a turn you might not see coming. (Which I won’t talk about, because SPOILERS! 🤐)

What I Disliked: I was a little frustrated by the “insta-love” between Penny and Bo. It had me like, “YOU’VE KNOWN EACH OTHER LESS THAN A MONTH!” and it’s honestly just a clichéd plot device. 🙄 I did like the big twist in this book, but I found the ending to be… meh. And sort of drawn out. I feel like Ernshaw was trying to provide the reader with as much closure as possible, but there’s something to be said for leaving a few things to a reader’s imagination. And while I feel like we get to know some of the characters, many — including Bo — seemed a little one-dimensional to me, and I would’ve liked to learn more about them, or at least see different facets of them.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book, and I would recommend it to anyone who likes paranormal mystery or romance stories, as well as big, unexpected twists!

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Publication Date: March 6th

About the Author: Shea Ernshaw

**Thank you to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster for providing me with a free eARC in exchange for an honest review.