THAO (2021)

by Thao Lam
ASN/ISBN: 9781771474320
Publication: April 21, 2021


**I was provided a copy of the book through NetGalley. I voluntarily read and reviewed it. All opinions are my own.**

This has been a year of so many great children’s books being published. THAO is one I immediately liked. On the surface, Thao is a simple story about having a name that is continually mispronounced but names hold a lot of power. Our identities are often intertwined with our names and have the ability to negatively affect us when no one seems to get it right; thus, the desire to have a name that is more familiar and easier to pronounce–I am speaking from personal experience. Individuals with unfamiliar names (and potentially even those with unconventionally spelled names) will be able to relate to Thao Lam’s story and will applaud the ending, which encourages individuals to be proud of their name and who they are.

My name was an unusual one in the area I grew up as well as spelled phonetically different from how it is pronounced, so it was hard to get my name write. I always hated the beginning of the school year and when we had substitutes. I desperately wanted to be called Victoria because I was obsessed with a TV show with a heroine named Victoria. I can empathize with Thao’s experience, but it took me a lot longer to be proud of my name. I adored the book and Lam’s illustrations and collages.

The Sharey Godmother (2021)

by Samantha Berger
Illustrated by Mike Curato
ASN/ISBN: 9781250222305
Publication: April 13, 2021

**I received a copy of the book from the publisher. I voluntarily read and reviewed it. All opinions are my own. **

Shari T. Fairy, the Sharey Godmother, is a godmother I can get completely behind! Shari loves to share, from her lunch to the cake she likes to bake and decorate. When her friends begin to question what she gets in return, she also begins to wonder what might happen if she stopped sharing. Shari realizes it’s not what she gets in return; sharing is just part of who she is. I love the message the book conveys. The illustrations are charming, with a mix of drawings and photos, add to how endearing the book is. (**GIVEAWAY**)

As my nieces like to say, “SHARiNG IS CARING.

Tacos_sharing

Sharing for the sake of sharing is what underlies The Sharey Godmother. I am always sharing food! I love food…and so does the rest of the family.  It doesn’t happen only during special occasions. The family shares food throughout the year, whenever it’s an “I made this dish that you have to try” or an “I made your favorite dish” kind of day. We usually pack it up and drop it off. (It’s just about an everyday type of thing.)

Laab_sharing

When we share tacos (my weakness are pickled purple onions added on top) or laab (the more herbs and the sourer it is, the merrier), it’s never about what we’re getting in return. We are always genuinely sharing our love for one another. Just as it is for Shari the Sharey Godmother, sharing is a part of who we are, and there is joy that comes with it.

GIVEAWAY

In sharing the “love,” you have the opportunity to win a finished print copy of The Sharey Godmother (US/Canda Only). You don’t have to sign-up or subscribe to anything unless you want more entries. You can enter the Rafflecopter below. If the widget isn’t showing up, you can also enter by clicking here. The giveaway ends 04/30/2021 at 12 AM PST.

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My One Night (2021)

by Carrie Ann Ryan
ASIN/ISBN: 9781950443116
Publication: April 13, 2021
Series: On My Own #1

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A one-night stand is supposed to end once the sun rises. Only it doesn’t always work out that way.

I never expected this.
I didn’t want to go to another fraternity party, but when my friend pulls me in, I somehow find myself hiding in a corner with…him.
Dillon Connolly.
The smirking, so-called good guy with the shadows in his eyes.
A single glance, a sweet smile, and I let myself have one night of giving in.

I never expected her.
Elise Hoover haunts my dreams more than I care to admit. I never thought I stood a chance—until she said yes. 
When a single night turns to two, I know I’m in over my head, but somehow, she makes me believe I can have anything.
Until the sun rises, and my past along with it.
I know I don’t deserve her, but now I have to fight to keep her…or save her from myself.


On My Own Series
(click for Goodreads Links)

Prequel: Out now
#2: June 8
#3: Sept 7
#4: Dec 7

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Carrie Ann RyanCarrie Ann Ryan is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of contemporary, paranormal, and young adult romance. Her works include the Montgomery Ink, Redwood Pack, Fractured Connections, and Elements of Five series, which have sold over 3.0 million books worldwide. She started writing while in graduate school for her advanced degree in chemistry and hasn’t stopped since. Carrie Ann has written over seventy-five novels and novellas with more in the works. When she’s not losing herself in her emotional and action-packed worlds, she’s reading as much as she can while wrangling her clowder of cats who have more followers than she does.

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REVIEW

**I was provided a copy of the book by Give Me Books as part of the promotional campaign. I voluntarily read and reviewed it. All opinions are my own.**

Like the first book I read by Ryan, I was excited to read it because the book description was interesting. There are positive aspects to the novel, but I couldn’t enjoy it as much as I wanted. Unfortunately, I don’t think I click very well with Ryan’s writing style, which is more a preference on my part.

The aspect I enjoyed the most was the strength of familial bonds, at least for Dillon’s family. The love the brothers had for one another was apparent and they took care of each other–Dillon never had to go it alone even if he felt like he needed to. It was nice to see he had a strong support system. Elise’s parents, on the other hand, were overbearing. I didn’t care for them very much about them when I was introduced to them. Families can be complicated, and we see just how much as the story moves forward.

I wasn’t really invested in Dillon and Elise’s relationship. The foundation for their relationship is a trope I enjoy but it never quite formed into a solid relationship for me. While it may have started as a one night stand, it eventually led to something more, but I didn’t feel a connection between them. I was told there was a connection and Elise and Dillon both voiced it but I never felt like they actually loved each other. Conversations between Elise and Dillon and even those with their friends often felt formal, sometimes even a bit stilted, and I think this added to me not being able to connect with their relationship as much as I would have liked.

While I may not have connected with the leads, those looking for new adult reads about young love and the angst that comes with it may enjoy the novel.

**Thank you to the author for providing print copy**

Yang Warriors (2021)

by Kao Kalia Yang
Illustrated by Billy Thao
ASN/ISBN: 9781517907983
Publication: April 13, 2021


**I was provided a copy of the book through NetGalley. I voluntarily read and reviewed it. All opinions are my own.**

Led by Master Me, ten cousins train daily in the Ban Vinai refugee camp. They have to in order to protect their families, which includes a plan to search for fresh vegetables after a week without any. They embark on this dangerous mission, leaving behind the five-year-old author to await her sister Dawb and the rest of the warriors’ return.

While I was born in the U.S., my family arrived as refugees.  I grew up hearing stories about life in Laos and the refugee camps, a life so vastly different from my own. The perspective of the author at five years old offers a different view of the refugee experience and affords an opportunity for children today to try to understand and possibly to even relate to the children in the book. Yang crafts an engaging story from memories of her time in Ban Vinai, drawing from the heroism of her older sister Dawb and her cousins. It’s a story of brave children in an adverse environment doing their best to survive.

The illustrations were exceptional, helping connect me to my family and the past of my people. I may not have experienced life in Ban Vinai, but the illustrations helped to tie my childhood to the Yang Warriors–what child hasn’t “trained” to prepare for their battles ahead? It may have been under different circumstances with different training for different missions, but the intent being similar, protecting those we care about.

It’s a heroic story that needs to be shared. It’s the perfect story to create opportunities to help my nieces and nephews begin to understand their roots.

We Are the Fire (2021)

by Sam Taylor
ASN/ISBN: 9781250241429
Publication: February 16, 2021


**I was provided a copy of the book by the publisher through NetGalley. I voluntarily read and reviewed it. All opinions are my own.**

Children are regularly kidnapped and forced to become soldiers in an emperor’s effort to maintain his borders against a neighboring country and to ensure obedience from his subjects. Furthermore, the child soldiers are forced to wield fire through a brutal, potentially crippling, process, that not all recruits survive. Pran barely survived, but only through Oksana’s help. While most soldiers have learned to only look out for themselves, Pran and Oksana are able to rely on each other, but differing desires place a strain on their relationship. Pran wants to rebel against their commanders while Oksana dreams of returning home. 

It was difficult to find a sense of balance when I first started reading the book. It felt as though I was thrust into the middle of something I didn’t fully grasp, so I had difficulty settling into the story. Presented with many names, including those of people and places, and titles (e.g. Tuliikobrets, Nightmare, Hellions, etc.) in a short amount of time made it difficult to keep track of everything that was going on. It was also difficult to get a sense of place. It wasn’t until later that I pieced things together, but I was a bit frustrated when I finally arrived at this point. Adding the somewhat slow pace to my list of frustrations further inhibited me from being fully immersed in the book. Eventually, the book picked up right before the halfway point, both in pace and story. In particular, the multiple moral dilemmas presented added to the complexity of Pran’s and Oksana’s decisions and helped me to appreciate the book more. The action in the last half also helped a lot as well.

I didn’t particularly like Pran very much. He had an inferiority complex and also kept insisting on protecting Oksana when she was just as capable as he was. Although I gravitated toward Oksana, I didn’t fully like her either. I did like that Pran and Oksana were in an established relationship, so they weren’t in the honeymoon period. I got to see their relationship play out under stressful conditions and this created an interesting dynamic. I liked Sepp/Kati, but she doesn’t appear until a fifth of the way through the book. While a secondary character, she was the only one who seemed to have any kind of sense and was not overly swayed by her emotions. 

Ultimately, We Are the Fire was a bit of a toss-up for me. I struggled to finish the book. I was frustrated in the beginning, and it was difficult to connect with the characters. On the other hand, the last part of the book was more action-packed, and I liked the themes presented.

Quarterly Progress 2021: Q1

Wrap Ups are some of my favorite blog posts to read when I go blog hopping. Try as I may, I can never never get my own monthly wrap ups completed so I decided quarterly reports might be the most practical way to go.

  • READING GOAL: 125 Books
    This doesn’t really include all the rereads. My end of the year goal was to complete 125 books. If I keep up the momentum, it looks like I’ll be on the way to completing my goal ahead of schedule. I’m excited! I’ve already read 60 books from January through March.
  • BLOGGING GOAL: 51 Posts
    Woohoo! I not only met but surpassed this goal. I really didn’t think I’d be posting very much at all but I guess having a plan and being organized helps. Since the beginning of the year, I written more than 60 posts.
  • BLOGGING GOAL: 1 YEAR MILESTONE
    If I continue to blog consistently, I will hit my 1 year milestone in June. I’m excited. When I started, I wasn’t even sure how this would all go. Now, it’s been nearly a year. Where has the time gone?! Is it too early for me to start planning a post for it? Heh…

FINAL ASSESSMENT: ON TRACK

  • participating in readathons when school is in session is hard. I had a difficult time trying to read all the prompts for Tropeical Readathon, and I also didn’t keep track as well as I would have liked. I’m pretty sure I didn’t track the books that were not challenges very well.
  • I am more likely to finish a book when I feel obligated or there seems a publication date is in sight. My turnover for books on my TBR was surprisingly not too bad, completing 10 of the original books on the Tropeical Readathon TBR and only exchanging out 4 book. I also read other things.

I liked it immensely when I first read this in January. Since then, I’ve already reread it at least once and skimmed my favorite parts multiple times. It still makes me fluttery inside. It’s safe to say this is probably my favorite book of this quarter. It keeps getting better the more I read it, becoming a comfort read. (My Review)


I ENJOYeD FROM A FAVORITE AUTHOR

The writing is a different from what I’m used to from Loring but I still found it be wonderfully written. According to reviews on Goodreads I’m definitely in the minority on this (65% rate it 4 stars or lower; average rating is 4.98). It’s not overly funny like most of Loring’s novels, and it’s more complicated than most of her other books. The leads are with other people while they’re also in a strictly platonic marriage of convenience. While each was looking for something more, they both also understood their intentions when they got married so there were no unexpected expectations. The characters felt raw and more prone to making mistakes. I stayed in a book coma long after I finished it.

DESERVES MORE ATTENTiON

I’d highly recommend Mercurial; it book deserves so much more buzz than it has received. The magic system is unique. Two of the three characters are kickass females. It explores faith, redemption, and love. It’s fast-paced and kept me guessing how it would end. (My Review)

EXCEEDED MY EXPECTATiONS

Ninth House just blew me away. I went in not expecting to like it very much because the beginning dragged a bit but then different pieces started falling into place. I’m still trying to write my review for this. It deserves a review. I understand why so many individuals praise Bardugo. I have all of the books Grishaverse books on my TBR and cannot wait to get started on them.

  • I will try to catch up on my backlog of ARCs. I was doing really well and reading them ahead of their publication dates but I had to switch my attention to work because of an impending meeting, which also led to a bit of blogging slump. That week ended up toppling what little progress I was making at bringing up my ratio NetGalley. I am trying to stay hopeful here but darn it if more great books aren’t already coming out!
  • I will finally read Cinderella is Dead (2020). Completing this book has remained elusive for some reason. Okay…let’s be honest. I’m a total mood reader so I keep jumping on new books instead. I need to jump on this book though.

I Pucking Love You (2021)

by Pippa Grant
ASIN/ISBN: B091P5TKQG
Publication: April 8, 2021
Series: Copper Valley Thrusters #5

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** CLICK HERE FOR A GIVEAWAY (1 Winner, Open Internationally)**


DESCRIPTION

You know those stories where an adorably misunderstood clumsy girl needs a fake date to a wedding so she asks her brother’s best friend and they accidentally fall in love?

I wish that was the kind of life I lead, but it’s not.

I don’t need a date to a wedding. I need a date to a funeral.
Clumsy sometimes fits, but then, that’s true for all of us, right? But adorable? No. Misunderstood? Nope again. I’m just your average girl, standing in front of a funeral invitation, asking it to be a winning lottery ticket instead.

And I don’t have a brother, or a best friend with a brother available, which means I’m stuck with Tyler Jaeger.

Sure, he’s a professional hockey player who also knows advanced calculus, but let’s say we’re not compatible and leave it at that. I should know. I am a matchmaker.

Not a very good one, but that’s beside the point.

I know a mismatch when I see one.

Still, Tyler’s what I’ve got, and I am not going to this funeral solo, so he’s what I’ll take.

After all—what could go wrong at a funeral?

I Pucking Love You is a hilariously wrong romantic comedy about the world’s worst matchmaker, a hockey player with a problem he doesn’t want to talk about, and an awkward date-of-convenience that everyone would prefer to forget. It comes complete with a cat working his way through his nine lives, all the sexy times, fish and chips, and a swoony happily-ever-after. 


Copper Valley Thrusters Series
Free in Kindle Unlimited

**Jump to Mini-Reviews**
(click for Goodreads link)

#1
#2
#3
#4

EXCERPT

Tyler

We all have to be at practice tomorrow morning—check that, this morning, as it’s shortly after midnight—but I don’t want to go home.

I don’t want to drink. I don’t want to talk. I don’t want to screw.

I want—

Dammit.

I want a bucket of greasy fried fish and chips, because it’s what my big brother used to take me to get every time he came home on leave from the Marines and got annoyed at being hen-pecked by the four sisters between us.

My car’s cold, thanks to the early November weather, and no, I’m not telling you what kind of car I drive, because yes, it very much feels like compensation tonight.

It gets me where I want to go.

That’s all that matters.

That, and getting my ass to Cod Pieces before they close for the night.

Could I stay at the bunny bar and get fried fish and chips?

Yes.

Will I?

No fucking way.

I’m still stewing in my own misery when the bright neon sign with the armored cod and the storefront that looks like a medieval castle comes into view at the edge of a strip mall four miles the wrong direction from my downtown condo. I roll the window down, letting in a blast of chilly air and the scent of fries.

Just in time.

I holler my order over the sound of my engine, then pull around to the window to get my fish.

Debate calling my brother in Miami.

It’s one AM. He and his wife recently celebrated their kid’s first birthday, and I think they’re working on baby number two.

If I call him in the middle of the night to bitch about how I can’t get it up, he’ll probably hang up on me, then tell our sisters.

And Mom.

She’s a professional comedienne with her own popular Netflix special. There’s no damn way I’m bothering West in the middle of the night for this.

I’ll talk to the fried fish and call it even.

Has as much personality as West had before he married Daisy.

The window swings open. “That’ll be fourteen seventy-three, please.”

My car lurches forward before I remember to put it in park, and I gape up at the woman staring down at me. “Muffy?”

My brain is playing tricks on me.

It has to be.

Because there’s no way the curvy, clumsy, smart-mouthed goddess who’s haunting my dick is standing there wearing a Cod Pieces polo and hat.

But she is.

And I swear to god, her long brown braids are recoiling in horror as her whole face twists, her lip curling, her left eye squeezing shut, before she snaps herself together. “For the hundredth time today, I have no idea who this Muffy person is. My name is Octavia Louisa Beaverhousen.”

Fuck me.

There are two of them? She looks exactly like Muffy. I’m not seeing things, and I’m not projecting just because I want my dick to work again and the bunnies made me think about screwing Muffy in the walk-in fridge at the bunny bar.

“Fourteen seventy-three, please.” She turns away as she holds out a hand, twitching her fingers like she’s waiting for cash or a card.

And that’s when I see the tattoo.

Rufus.
Her cat’s name. It’s on her wrist.

Octavia Louisa Beaverhousen, my ass. This is Muffy.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Pippa Grant is a USA Today Bestselling author who writes romantic comedies that will make tears run down your leg. When she’s not reading, writing or sleeping, she’s being crowned employee of the month as a stay-at-home mom and housewife trying to prepare her adorable demon spawn to be productive members of society, all the while fantasizing about long walks on the beach with hot chocolate chip cookies.

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REVIEW: I PUCKING LOVE YOU


**I was provided a copy of the book by Give Me Books as part of the promotional campaign. I voluntarily read and reviewed it. All opinions are my own.**

Muffy is a matchmaker, but not a very successful one. Normally she wouldn’t set foot back in Richmond, but her best friend and business investor Veda needs her to attend a funeral. Rather than go alone, she’s desperate to bring a date along and the only choice she has is Tyler Jaeger. Tyler plays for the Copper Valley Thrusters and usually a hit with the ladies. However, he’s dealing with some interesting problems of his own so he volunteers to go as Muffy’s date, not realizing it’s a funeral. Of course, hilarity ensues.

Pippa Grant remains one of my favorite authors with her over-the-top humor. I know when I pick up one of her novels, there will be absurdity along with lots of laughs. As soon as she comes out with a new book, my spirit fingers come out and I’m reaching for it. As the newest addition to The Copper Valley Thrusters series, I Pucking Love You retains Grant’s signature humor.

I was conflicted about how much I really liked the book, much of it due to Muffy’s reasons for not wanting to return to Richmond. Muffy reminded me of Henri from Grant’s Real Fake Love but Muffy is a bit more awkward and a bit less successful. Like Henri, those who know her also are fiercely supportive of her and Muffy is also fiercely protective of them. Although Muffy presents this sort of “devil may care attitude,” she’s more vulnerable than people think, and Tyler is the perfect match for her. Having grown up with so many sisters, he’s very aware of Muffy’s needs, which includes large doses of confidence boosting and loving her for the person she is. I loved how protective over her he eventually becomes.

While it was a fun book, it was also tinged with melancholy that isn’t as apparent in the other books I’ve read by Grant. I enjoyed Muffy and Tyler’s chemistry, but I couldn’t quite overcome the bit of sadness even as the book headed towards our main couple’s HEA. I Pucking Love You is entertaining and will provide lots of laughs even though it has some sad undertones.

MINI-REVIEWS: COPPER VALLEY THRUSTERS SERIES

**With the exception of Royally Pucked, I was provided a copy of the the series as part of the promotion campaign for I Pucking Love You. I voluntarily read and reviewed each book. All opinions are my own. **

The Pilot & The Puck Up (#1)

It’s hard not to have a soft spot for The Berger Twins if you’re a fan of Grant’s books. They randomly show up in places and it can often be hilarious. Zeus, one-half of the Berger Twins, finally finds love. Despite being a tough guy, the woman he falls for, Joey/”Fireball”, is a lot tougher. I loved her right away and could tell at least one of the twins had met his match. Bailey, the caddie at the golf tournament who idolizes Joey, definitely stole my heart! Can she have her own book one day in Pippaverse? Can she be part of an all-girl hockey team? That would be awesome!

Royally Pucked (#2)

I was a bit hesitant about the book because I’m not fond of two of the prevailing tropes, royal-plebian romance and unexpected/secret pregnancy. Gracie, Joey’s sister, and Manning, Willow’s stepbrother, continue their dalliance from The Pilot & The Puck Up which leads to an unexpected pregnancy. I appreciated that the pregnancy happens early in the story, and there isn’t any kind of hiding or miscommunication between Gracie and Manning. Grant handles the pregnancy well here with both parties in-the-know and not keeping it a surprise until somewhere in the middle–thank goodness! Although I understood Manning’s predicament, I can’t say I was a fan of him to begin with so this made me like him even less. I eventually warmed to him, but he ranks low on my list of male leads from the Pippaverse.

Beauty and the Beefcake (#3)


Ares finally gets a love interest! AND he says more than a grunt or two because he gets chapters and chapters of them!! Okay…I’m kidding. He says words too. As much as I like Zeus, I’ll be honest and say that I have a soft spot for Ares. Felicity is a ventriloquist and talks a lot. She has conversations with herself in her different voices often so it’s great that she’s paired with a minimal talking, mostly grunting Ares. The book solidifies why I like Ares. He only makes the effort when he wants to and the effort he gives here is swoony when he starts catching feelings for Felicity. More than that, he understands and sees into Felicity like knowing what she’s channeling into the multiple voices for her puppets. It’s a forbidden romance–Nick his Felicity’s brother and Nick is Ares’s teammate–and I love how the sparks start slow because both are aware of the position they’re in since they both care about Nick.

Charming as Puck (#4)

Kami is one of Felicity’s besties and her crush on Nick is well known by all. Nick knows it to and has been known to use it to his advantage…as per Felicity in book #3. What no one at least guessed was they had an arrangement, a mutually beneficial one that Kami has decided is no longer enough for her. I love when someone realizes they deserve better than what they’ve been getting!! She asks her cousin Muffy of Muff Matches (yes, this is the introduction of Muffy of I Pucking Love You) to find her someone so she can move on from the guy who obviously doesn’t realize he is actually in love with her. If Royally Pucked contained my least liked tropes, Charming as Puck has one of my favorites (okay, this is a long one), the “I have a crush on you so I agree to an arrangement and now realize I deserve better so I break it off and try to date other people but you finally come to your senses and realize need/want me back and that you love me” trope (whew!). The nuance to this trope that I dislike is when one side heads into it with the hope that the arrangement will eventually lead to them being end game despite the understanding that a relationship is what neither wants. That’s what happens here, and so I can’t really be all that mad at Nick. BUT I still like Kami more, so I liked the groveling that happens and a jealous Nick is satisfying too.

Of the series, Kami might be my favorite female lead and Ares is the male lead I have the soft spot for. Charming as Puck and Beauty and the Beefcake are the top two contenders for the books I like best in the series. Overall, this is another fun series from Grant. If you’re fan and have read the other books, it’s a lot of fun to see cameos especially because in Pippaverse the degrees of separation are likely less than 6. Now, I need to conquer the rest of Grant’s series.

Pippaverse Throwdown: Girl Band vs Copper Valley Thrusters

Both are great, but if I had to choose between the two, I’m going to have to say I prefer The Girl Band series (you can find the reviews here) over the Copper Valley Thrusters series. I liked the stories that accompanied each of the Girl Band members and, except for maybe the first book, the books all had fairly good plots. Similar to The Pilot and The Puck Up, Mister McHottie doesn’t have a lot of plot, but they’re both fun introductions into each series. Although I generally liked all the female leads in both series, I connected with all members of the band much more, and I generally liked the men each ended up with as well. While I adore the Berger Twins and the Thrusters, my heart lies with an all girl band that covers boy bands–they just have the right stuff.


The Wide Starlight (2021)

by Nicole Lesperance
ASN/ISBN: 9780593116227
Publication: February 16, 2021

Ten years ago, Eli lost her mother. One day, the Northern Lights appeared and took her mother with them when they vanished. A 6-year-old Eli was found alone on the ice and later determined to be in perfect health. People say her mother abandoned her, but Eli knows the truth even if no one believes her. In present day Cape Cod, where she and her father moved to restart their lives, she receives a mysterious letter urging her to call for her mother before it’s too late. She’s understandably confused until she learns the Northern Lights will soon be visible in Cape Cod.

Even though time has passed, Eli has never forgotten her mother. Her endless yearning for her mother and the warmth of her mother’s love is heartrending as Eli races against time to find her. The chapters alternate between the present day and past memories that read more like fairy tales. Lesperance’s writing is enchanting, capturing the beauty of the landscape and the mystery surrounding Eli’s mother. The story is magical, at times wondrous and other times sinister.

Lesperance weaves a tale of grief and heartache that will have you calling your mom to tell her how much she means to you. I bawled as I headed towards the ending, clinging to the hope that everything would be okay, because Eli deserved a happy ending. A long time ago my mom told me that no matter what age you are, you will always long for your mom. No where does this ring more true than in The Wide Starlight. I won’t be forgetting the book any time soon; it’s already continued to linger long after the last page.

We Free the Stars (2021)

by Hafsah Faizal
ASIN/ISBN: 9780374311575
Publication: January 19, 2021
Series: Sands of Arawiya #2

**Contains spoilers for We Hunt the Flame.**

I ended my review of We Hunt the Flame “crossing my fingers and hoping” We Free the Stars would “be similar to the last half of We Hunt the Flame.” Did it come to pass? Was it similar? Or…was it better??

It took me two months to finally open and read the second book of the Sands of Arawiya because I couldn’t contain how excited I was to find out the fate of the zumra and all of Arawiya. I kept wanting to jump to the end and that would have ruined the whole experience of the book–all nearly 600 pages of it. Once I got started on it, I practiced safe book binging by reading the first half in one sitting and taking a 4am nap before reading the rest in a second sitting. Heh…

The weight of all that has been lost and left behind haunts the beginning of the novel, but now back in the “real world,” the bonds forged through the shared experiences in Sharr continue to anchor each member of the zumra. This is especially the case for Zafira who carries an additional burden no one else understands. While the bonds appear nearly unbreakable, it’s more complicated than it appears. No longer isolated from the rest of the world, multiple forces at home threaten their success and their connections with each other.

For the two who are on the cusp of sharing something more than camaraderie, endangering their lives for the future of their country was easier than risking their hearts. I was frustrated throughout the first half of the book because of them. It’s a slow burn, but not necessarily the good kind of burn–okay, it was good and then it went on little too long so I couldn’t contain my frustration anymore. I was also conflicted. As much as I enjoy romance, there was a lot of time spent on the will they or won’t they when I was ready to spring into a little more action and prepare for battle. I was ready to go to war for Altair.

I missed Altair…a lot. I missed him and his inappropriateness, his playfulness…just about everything. Altair seemed more like comic relief throughout We Hunt the Flame, but at the end of the first book and throughout the second, it’s clear how integral he is. He is the heart of the zumra, connecting everyone to each other. His capacity for love, whether it be for the people or for his prince, moved me. His absence was terribly present. He needs to give me a hug now.

While I had mixed feelings about different aspects of the book, I enjoyed it a lot. There isn’t much recapping so I had to quickly flip through the end of We Hunt the Flame to recall some of the specifics of the ending. Similar to it’s predecessor, it does drag a bit in the beginning but builds to an exciting climax–the book will have your emotions spiraling up and down. While the romance plays a larger role than expected, there is more than enough to satisfy the reader looking for action and adventure. I won’t lie though, I don’t think it compares to the ending we were given in We Hunt the Flame, which was magnificent. However, when it ended, I clutched it to my chest, sighing with relief and contentment. The anxiety of waiting to read it was over, and it was good, nearly as good as I hoped. I wanted to cradle it and roll around from all the happy feelings it brought me. (I’m smiling just thinking about it right now…squee)

Overall, We Free the Stars is an excellent follow-up to We Hunt the Flame. It is a tome of a book so be ready to stay up all night reading it–or possibly taking a nap in between–because it’ll be difficult to stop turning the pages. Sands of Arawiya is easily one of the best duologies I’ve read.

Just Like in the Movies (2021)

by Heidi Rice
ASN/ISBN: 9780008372576
Publication: March 12, 2021


**I was provided a copy of the book through NetGalley. I voluntarily read and reviewed it. All opinions are my own.**

Ruby becomes part-owner of The Royale movie theatre when her boss and best friend Matty suddenly dies. While she’s intent on making sure The Royale continues running, her new co-owner Luke, Matty’s nephew, would rather rid his hands of the crumbling theatre. Ruby will need Luke’s help to save the theatre, but he’s not exactly the easiest person to get along with.

Just Like in the Movies was a treat to read. We can only hope to have friends and a supportive community such as Matty’s, especially someone like Ruby. Ruby’s earnestness to save the Royale Theatre and to celebrate her best friend Matty’s life was endearing. 

Sharing a similar love of rom-coms, I liked Ruby almost immediately, nearly just as fast as I found Luke unlikeable. Ruby is kind and likeable but has never ventured too far from home until Matty’s death thrusts her into a new role. She’ll fight for what she believes in, but she doesn’t feel the same about herself; she doesn’t exactly believe in herself.

It’s easy to dislike Luke, especially with his attitude and suspiciousness over Matty’s intentions in leaving him part ownership of the theatre. Of course, I’d be suspicious as well should something like that happen to me (as if it would ever be likely, except, you know, like in the movies and books…lol), but his quick assessment of Ruby irritated me. His automatic assumption, as expected, is that Ruby was Matty’s mistress. He’s a grumpy character with what seems like a heart of gold, and eventually, it becomes a bit difficult to dislike him, even though I tried. I really did.

The story is fairly straight-forward with Ruby trying to keep The Royale open and Luke finding himself more or less roped into helping out. There are several funny scenes throughout the book, and I liked the chemistry between Ruby and Luke as they learn more about one another.

Ultimately the ending was a satisfying one, but I couldn’t help but wish that Ruby’s lesson in all this had been a more prominent theme throughout the book. It seemed to have just dawned on her at what felt like the last minute. I would recommend this book to those who like movies in their romance novels with characters who grow from hate to love. Those who enjoyed Waiting for Tom Hanks may enjoy this novel as well.