BOOK REVIEW: One Snowy Week in Springhollow by Lucy Knott

Title: One Snowy Week in Springhollow
Author: Lucy Knott
Series: NA
Publisher: Aria
Publication date: November 5, 2020
Pages: Kindle Edition, NA
Source: NetGalley
Genres: Women’s Fiction, Chick Lit, Romance

My Goodreads Rating: 5/5

Summary: Tomboy Scarlett thought Devon would be her best friend forever. He was the only person in Springhollow who supported her ambitious artist dreams. But then one winter, Devon and his parents disappear without warning to start a new life in NYC and a devastated Scarlett is left alone to face her high-school bullies and overbearing mother.

Fast-forward ten years: Scarlett is playing it safe in her childhood village with a dull PA job and a wardrobe that passes her mother’s old-fashioned standards. Meanwhile, Devon is a Hollywood heartthrob, starring in the latest superhero blockbuster. And he’s finally coming home for Christmas…

Scarlett can’t help blaming her former best friend for the way her life has turned out, but Devon’s cheeky charm and gorgeous smile prove difficult to resist. Devon always did make her feel on top of the world, but Scarlett knows her heart isn’t racing just because she has her friend back – is it mistletoe madness, or is she seeing Devon in a completely new light?

Scarlett hasn’t taken a risk in years… but this Christmas of second chances could finally be her time to shine.

via Goodreads

Thank you to NetGalley and Aria for the digital ARC in exchange for an honest review.

I’ve read some heavy books this year, so it was time for an easy-to-read romcom oozing with Hallmark Christmas themes, a cheesy romance, and a predictable ending. While Springhollow ticked all those boxes, it was surprisingly so much more!

There are many of us out there who were best friends with the opposite sex growing up and developed feelings for them as we got older. Some of those friendships evolve and last a lifetime, while others dissolve into memories. It’s one of my favorite motifs in these types of books and Scarlett and Devon’s friends-to-lovers story delivered. But what was even better than a glimpse at their childhood antics and individual growth was the fact that their story included a fun obsession with superheroes, comics, and the fact that Devon is now a superhero movie star.

While I loved Devon, Hope, and Jess, Scarlett was by far my favorite character: a bit of the quieter type, traumatized by childhood bullying, suppressing her passion for drawing and comics out of fear, sort of meandering through life as best she can. She was relatable in that regard and I felt empowered as a reader to take a long, hard look at my own life, how I hold myself back, and the direction I’d like to be heading in.

I’ve never read anything by Lucy Knott before, but I am excited to see what other books she’s released. This story was a breath of fresh air and has me excited for Christmas.

BOOK REVIEW: Kingdom of Sea and Stone (Crown of Coral and Pearl, #2) by Mara Rutherford

Title: Kingdom of Sea and Stone
Author: Mara Rutherford
Series: Crown of Coral and Pearl, #2
Publisher: Inkyard Press
Publication date: October 6, 2020
Pages: Hardcover, 368 pages; *I read Kindle Edition
Source: NetGalley
Genres: YA/Fantasy

My Goodreads Rating: 4/5

Summary: Ever since Nor was forced to go to a nearby kingdom in her sister’s place, she’s wanted nothing more than to return to the place and people she loves. But when her wish comes true, she soon finds herself cast out from both worlds, with a war on the horizon.

As an old enemy resurfaces more powerful than ever, Nor will have to keep the kingdom from falling apart with the help of Prince Talin and Nor’s twin sister, Zadie. There are forces within the world more mysterious than any of them ever guessed—and they’ll need to stay alive long enough to conquer them…

via Goodreads

Thank you to NetGalley and Inkyard Press for the digital ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Has it been a year already since Crown of Coral and Pearl? I was so excited to see this sequel in the NetGalley library. Not only is this an exciting YA series, but it was so refreshing to revisit some of my most beloved characters in recent fiction. In rereading my review of Crown of Coral and Pearl, I dedicated an entire paragraph to my feelings about Prince Ceren. Back then, I called him “callous” and “despicable” and described my emotional reaction to him as “complex.” I hated him so much in the first book that I practically squealed with excitement when he showed up (alive, might I add; I knew it) in Kingdom of Sea and Stone. And yet this time, even though he was just as ruthless and out of line, I felt strangely sorry for him.

Aside from Ceren, I most appreciated the growth these characters have undergone since the first book. Sometimes characters become stagnant, but not these. And just as we were catching up with Nor, Zadie, Sami, and Talin, we were introduced to new, interesting, and well-developed characters along the way. And not only did we meet new faces, but we saw new places with the kingdom and its outskirts, as well.

Was the book itself as strong or stronger than the first? Not quite, but it still made for a terrific sequel. The first book felt like a standalone and ended with its loose ends tied up nicely, but so did this one. Either way, it was a highly-enjoyable read.

BOOK REVIEW: Crowned a Traitor (A Hellish Fairytale, #1) by Kate Callaghan

Title: Crowned a Traitor
Author: Kate Callaghan
Series: A Hellish Fairytale, #1
Publisher: Self-Published
Publication date: July 4, 2020
Pages: Kindle Edition, 220 pages
Source: NetGalley
Genres: YA/Fantasy

My Goodreads Rating: 3/5

Summary: Heir to Hell and the Dark Forest of Malum, Klara has been called upon to take her place as High Queen of Malum. Though Klara has no intention of ruling, her guardians want her head on a spike. Klara’s only option – escape to Kalos, Fae ruled lands free from Dark Magic. To survive the perilous journey, she needs help…

A Leprechaun with a talent for smuggling.
A mischievous Demon with swaying loyalties.
The soul of a greying Warlock.
Lycaon siblings with a talent for deception.

Destiny has an awful habit of catching up with those who run.

via Goodreads

Thank you to NetGalley and Kate Callaghan for the digital ARC in exchange of an honest review.

With an intriguing, never-before-heard-of summary like that, how could I pass up the chance to read this book? Unfortunately, despite the neat plot, interesting characters, and mind-blowing worlds of Malum and Hell, I can’t bring myself to give this book more than 3 stars.

For starters, the pacing was a bit too quick for my liking, especially since so much happens within its pages that seem to be brushed over, including character relationships, action and events, and a lack of internal dialogue. Additionally, there were numerous formatting issues that made my reading experience problematic (e.g. the actual dialogue, which was mashed together making it difficult to decipher who was speaking and when; missing words, inconsistent tenses, misspellings, etc.). The truth is, I found the first half of the book to be far stronger than the second half, where it began to lose steam.

As for the things I enjoyed: the mythology, the magical elements (I’d love to explore more of everyone’s powers), and the interesting twist at the end regarding one particular Lycaon. Although I wish the author would have given us more details and interactions to help the reader better connect to the characters, I actually really liked Klara, Arthur, and Lilith. Heck, I even liked this portrayal of Lucifer.

All in all, it was a story brimming with brilliant ideas…that just needs a bit of tweaking and expanding upon.

“Dear Future Husband,” A New Piece with Harness Magazine

Greetings, Bookies!

It feels like it’s been forever since I posted to B&B on a regular basis. The pandemic has been a total bummer and I’ve been throwing myself into writing and creative activities in order to cope.

Can you believe I’ve only read one or two books in the past couple of months? My heart hasn’t been into it, but I did pick up A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles the other night. I’ve long declared this is my favorite novel, but it’s taken on a whole new meaning as I can better relate to Count Rostov’s house arrest in the Metropol Hotel. (He would have mastered the Age of COVID.) Although some stores are open at limited capacity in NC, I rarely go out. There is simply too much risk to myself and my family considering we’re in one of the “red zones.”

A Practice in Self-Care

In the months since COVID hit the United States with full force, I have undergone one heck of a personal transformation. While I’ve been open in past blog posts about my struggles with mental health and feeling stuck, I’ve been taking time to really dig deep and figure out what it is I want out of life…my life.

Part of this journey has been a much-needed practice in self-care; that includes more quiet time, finding things to laugh about (I’ve gotten sucked into Fuller House), learning to set better boundaries with people and things that no longer serve my heart, being kinder to myself, and finding comfort in vulnerability–the latter in which I’ve been sharing more of my writing with strangers.

“Dear Future Husband” in Harness Magazine

In other exciting news…I published a new piece with Harness Magazine on Wednesday. Harness is an amazing platform for female creatives by female creatives. Needless to say, I am grateful for the opportunity to share my work.

“Dear Future Husband” was a special piece, one that I sat with endlessly–writing and revising, adding things in, taking things out; and I’m really satisfied with the result. I wish I could have added a few extras now that it’s been submitted, but it really gives the reader the gist of what I’m hoping to have one day when it comes to marriage and family. (Is this my call out to the Universe? Perhaps. We shall see what happens.)

*Side note: August 9th marked the one-year anniversary of my very first published article with Introvert, Dear: “4 Ways Embracing Hygge All Year Round Has Changed My Life.” (Alright, so maybe I’ve already begun stirring pumpkin spice into my coffee and lighting cinnamon scented candles, sue me!) Feel free to check it out if you haven’t done so already.

When We Look Back on 2020

I’m going to do my best to update B&B more often. Summers typically turn me into a creative dud for some reason. Although I don’t see the coronavirus situation improving much in the months ahead, I am trying to stay positive. One thing I’ve been working on is listing things I wish to remember when this is all over…good and bad. So, here we go:

The transformative journey I embarked on. • Having my life completely changed by Glennon Doyle’s book, Untamed. •  Brother and his girlfriend visiting for a few days (and ultimately staying for ten weeks.) • Finding an online writing community to share my work with. • All the online classes I took (while also receiving my Life Coaching certification). • Spending (sometimes too much) time with my family. • Rock painting. • My brother making margaritas and mojitos every night. • The toilet paper shortage. • Trump telling Americans to drink bleach and inject ourselves with ultraviolet light to kill virus. • George Floyd protests. • Kamala Harris. • Trying new recipes with Mom. • Late-night check-ins with friends on Zoom. • Smell of hand sanitizer. • Realizing how much there actually is to be grateful for. • Connecting with long-lost relatives in Washington State and Austria. • Deciding where I want to move next year (we’ll save that post for another day). • Learning what an N95 mask looks like. • Also, having to wear masks and gloves everywhere I go. • Bidets are the weirdest. • Only changing my hoodies and leggings if I must go to the grocery store. • I can live with strictly online shopping. • America’s divisiveness runs a lot deeper than I originally thought (I’m looking at you anti-maskers). • Going through multiple bottles of wine a week. • Tuning into Governor Cooper and Dr. Mandy Cohen a few times a week for the latest NC trends and metrics. • The USPS crisis three months before the election. • Quarantine is hard…even for introverts. • Deciding to legally change my surname (and starting the process soon). • Learning how to dye hair. • Cuomo-sexual. • Don Lemon flipping out every. damn. night. • Suddenly realizing I am hot for Dr. Gupta! • Inside jokes. • Snuggles with the greatest “emotional support dog” in the world.

What will you remember after the apocalypse?

BOOK REVIEW: Firefrost (Flameskin Chronicles #0) by Camille Longley

Title: Firefrost
Author: Camille Longley
Series: Flameskin Chronicles #0
Publisher: BooksGoSocial
Publication date: September 21, 2020
Pages: Kindle Edition, 372 pages
Source: NetGalley
Genres: Teen/YA Fantasy

My Goodreads Rating: 3/5

Summary:

She’s a huntress:
Sol d’Hillerod is sent on a desperate mission through a treacherous winter pass. She carries with her the only hope of her village’s survival, and she will do whatever she must to keep her world from burning.

He’s a monster:
Lieutenant Kelan Birke has spent his whole life fighting for his freedom and his soul. As his control slips, and the war rages on, he knows it won’t be long before he loses himself entirely to the fire that flows through his veins.

Sol and Kelan are enemies in an age-old war, forced to depend on each other to survive a perilous journey through the mountains. As fire melts the ice in Sol’s heart, she questions everything she’s been taught to believe, and Kelan becomes more desperate to fight the flames that consume him. Together they discover that their struggle will have repercussions for both sides of this burning war.

via Goodreads

Thank you NetGalley and BooksGoSocial for the digital ARC in exchange for an honest review!

I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t love it either. I’m sort of a sucker for the enemies-to-lovers trope, and although Sol and Kelan were an interesting dynamic (truly forbidden lovers and natural-born foes), the romance evolved too quickly for my taste, felt a bit forced in places, and ultimately caused the story to drag. Don’t get me wrong, the author does a wonderful job presenting these characters and their abilities to the reader; however, some of the other elements felt neglected in the process…elements I felt really could have improved the story and its pacing.

For starters, I didn’t know enough about the world they came from. (Since my understanding is that this is the prequel to the Flameskin Chronicles, perhaps this will be further explored later on.) Also, and maybe it’s just me, but I wish I could have followed the “pyra,” “emberstone,” and “mage” concepts more easily. I seemed to get lost throughout these particular scenes which made my reading experience a bit frustrating.

What I enjoyed most about this story was the two separate points of view. It was interesting to hear the perspectives of both Kelan and Sol; to really dig deep into their trains of thought and internal struggles. Sol’s prejudice against Flameskins was fascinating, particularly when her romantic feelings began getting in the way of everything she had been raised to believe. And Kelan is wrapped up in so much turmoil as he was fighting off his pyra—he was really my favorite character.

A lot was going on in this story. Sometimes I was really into it, and other times I never thought it’d end. While I don’t think I’ll continue the series, I wish for its success going forward. I see it having a lot of potential.