Scavenge the Stars (2020) / Ravage the Dark (2021)

by Tara Sim
Series Review

**This is a series review that contains spoilers for Scavenge the Stars**

ScavengeTheStars_cover

Scavenge the Stars
ASN/ISBN: 9781368051415
Publication: January 7, 2020


Amaya is nearing her final day on a debtor ship when she saves a stranger from drowning. He gives her an opportunity to take vengeance on the man who destroyed her family but things get complicated when she starts to fall for the mark’s son, Cayo.

I’ve never read The Count of Monte Cristo so I likely missed the book’s references to the novel it is based on. Aside from this, having not read the foundational material doesn’t take away from enjoying the book. It might even be better since that means I’m less likely to compare it to what I hear is a phenomenal classic. Up until about the end of Scavenge the Stars, I felt this was what revenge novels should be like. Amaya’s chapters were my favorite, a lot darker and intriguing, while I was not nearly as invested in Cayo’s plight.


Ravage the DarkRavageTheDark_cover
ASN/ISBN: 9780753555334
Publication: March 9, 2021

Betrayed by someone she thought was more friend than foe, Amaya and her friends narrowly escape with the help of a friend. Cayo and his sister also accompany Amaya and her colleagues. While it’s difficult to tell whether Cayo and Amaya will be able to overcome Amaya’s betrayal, everyone will have to work together to save the state of Moray. 

Ravage the Dark focuses more on Cayo’s development as he searches for his place outside of his father’s household. There’s less of a focus on Amaya and she does a lot of brooding in this one–so much. Ravage the Dark is repetitive in many parts, following Cayo and then trying to figure out the source of the illness.


Characters: Amaya & Cayo

Amaya is trying to fulfill the revenge plot of her benefactor while also trying to understand why her mother gave her up to a debtor ship. Her time on the ship has stolen her childhood and hardened her to life, but has amplified her desire to protect the other children she served her time with–those too young to fight against the life their parents have given them to. There are two sides to Amaya: the hardened child slave seeking revenge on those who have wronged her and the girl who believes in love, yearning to break free of the chains of vengeance placed upon her. She is strong and full of conviction, ready to uncover what happened to her family.

While Amaya as this stronger, capable individual, Cayo is written less so. Aside from his father’s wealth and reputation, Cayo comes across as weaker in character. He is trying to overcome a gambling habit and hasn’t been able to live up to his father’s expectations. Except for loving his sister, initially his only redeeming quality, I wasn’t a big fan. Of course, he is trying to be a better person. Cayo is constantly trying to prove his worth throughout both books, but it’s not until Ravage the Dark that he slowly comes into his own. Overall, Cayo isn’t a particularly likeable character. In each other, Amaya and Cayo see qualities they desire in themselves. Additionally, in each other, they seek freedom from their obligations and even hope to find redemption.

Overall Assessment

This is a well-written duology, however, both books suffer from the same fate: a great build-up with somewhat lackluster endings. Sim does a great job of creating the world along with an intricate plot. I kept turning the pages, wanting to find out what would happen next. As I got closer to the end, however, I became increasingly frustrated. This happened with both books. I was able to forgive the ending of Scavenge the Stars, just a little, because most everything before the end was great. Also, I hoped it was building to something bigger in the next book. I was more frustrated with Ravage the Dark than I was with Scavenge the Stars. There was a character who had so much potential but was underutilized. Then, what could have been an epic ending happened outside the pages of the book! I was flabbergasted by this. Sim had me fully immersed in Amaya’s plot for revenge but the endings in both books reduced my overall enjoyment of the duology. I couldn’t return from that even though there was much to like, especially in the first book.

Into the Crooked Place (2019)/City of Spells (2021)

by Alexandra Christo
Series Review

**Includes spoilers for Into the Crooked Place.**

**I was provided copies of both books through NetGalley. I voluntarily read and reviewed them. All opinions are my own.**

intothecrookedplace_cover

Into the Crooked Place
ASN/ISBN:  9781250318374
Publication: October 8, 2019


Into the Crooked Place (2019) invites readers into a gritty underworld through the eyes of four individuals: Wes the underboss of Creije with eyes and ears everywhere; Tavia the busker with a moral code; freedom fighter Saxony who is hiding among crooks; and warrior Karam who serves as Wes’s bodyguard. Christo has crafted a bleak world where the only thing you can trust is that the people around you are more than willing to betray you. The authorities, with few exceptions, are just as untrustworthy as the crooks they are meant to police. When Wes enlists Tavia, Saxony, and Karam, to help protect the city he loves, it’s unclear whether they can truly trust one another.

The book switches between the four main characters, interspersed with chapters told from the point of view of a few minor characters. Through their chapters, we learn about their motivations, their regrets, and their plans. We also get to see the lies they tell each other. With the book switching between the four, I didn’t feel connected to any of them, although I did gravitate toward Tavia as my favorite character. While I enjoyed the first book in the duology, it’s very much an introduction from the characters to the world, so it’s not as exciting as it could be. It’s easy to see the book is building to something possibly bigger that can’t be contained in a single volume. The ending makes up for a somewhat slow start.

cityofspells_cover-1

City of Spells
ASN/ISBN: 9781250318404
Publication: March 9, 2021

City of Spells (2021) is the exciting conclusion to the duology. The loss of Wes is more detrimental than expected. Tavia was said to have been the glue, but Wes was the mastermind. While Wes is left to fend for himself, Tavia, Karam, and Saxony are forced to look for allies to help bring down the Kingpin.

Because the first book already introduced the world and our characters, City of Spells doesn’t require as much time setting up what will happen here. They have to find allies and take down the Kingpin. Although Tavia and Karam maintain their status as main characters, I couldn’t help but feel they were, in many ways, relegated to the background in favor of Wes and Saxony. Karam doesn’t get to do as much except try to maintain peace between Saxony and Tavia. I wish there had been more chapters for Tavia but she doesn’t have as much to do here either so those things feed into each other. Of course, that could just be me being partial to her and wanting more pages allotted to her.

Despite a fairly straight-forward plot, there are enough twists and revelations in the book to ensure readers forge ahead; I couldn’t put it down once I got through the beginning. I can’t help but praise Christo for the ending of City of Spells: it was so good, maybe even better than the one for Into the Crooked Place.

Overall, the duology is a good read with edge of your seat action as each book heads toward their individual conclusions. There is enough world building to make Creije come alive. With a focus on the underbelly of the city, it’s difficult to fully realize the entire Creije society, its governing system, and the rest of the realms. There were times when a sense of place was missing for me. Even though both books have points where the story slows down or drags just a bit, Christo makes up for it with explosive endings–she excels at them. I was impressed with the endings for both books. Also, I don’t really talk about it for fear it might be spoilery but there is also romance and yes, I liked it. It’s only a small part of both books and doesn’t distract from main story.

The Girl Band Series (2017-2018)

by Pippa Grant
**Reviews are at the End. Click here to Jump to Reviews**

PRESENTING THE NEW COVERS FOR

THE GIRL BAND SERIES

BY PIPPA GRANT


I am an avid reader of Pippa Grant novels because they are hilarious. I think she might be my most read author. It’s a series cover re-reveal, and I was very happy to jump on board to help with the promotions through Give Me Books to celebrate. I was provided with copies of the latter three books, which did not affect my review. I’ve combined my reviews of the books, much like my romance interludes. I’ve placed them all at the end just to make it easier. I’ll also provide a side-by-side comparison of the covers as well.


Mister McHottie Ebook Cover

The best enemies make the best lovers…

There are things I hate:
Bratwurst in any form, my neighbors boinking like farm animals at 3AM, and Chase Jett.

Mostly I hate Chase Jett. It’s been ten years since he took my virginity—I’d make a bratwurst joke, but the unfortunate truth is that it would have to be a brat-best joke, and yes, it kills me to admit that—and now he’s not only a billionaire, he’s also my new boss.

Turns out our hate is mutual. And this kind of hate is horrifically twisted, filthy, and banging hot.

I just might have to hate him forever.

Mister McHottie is the hilariously sexy romantic comedy that your mother warned you about, complete with an organic happy-ever-after (or seven), a Bratwurst Wagon, ill-advised office pranks, and no cheating or cliffhangers. (Photo: Wander Aguiar)

Free in Kindle Unlimited
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Stud in the Stacks Ebook CoverHe’s a librarian by day and the ideal fake boyfriend by night.

When it comes to women, I know what they want. And all day long, I give it to them. Dark, broody, and sexy? You got it. Need to laugh? I’m your guy. Desperate for something to put you in the mood? You’ve come to the right place, kitten.

Every morning when my library opens, there’s a line around the block, the ladies flocking to me in need of their next book boyfriend. I’m that dude. The one who knows his way around the romance section.

And after years of study, my skills don’t stop at the day job. Need a fake boyfriend, fiancé, or friend-with-benefits? I know that plot. I also know to keep my heart off the table, because love is only real between the pages of a book.

So when Parker Elliott needs a temporary fake boyfriend for a reunion, of course I step in. She rocks a mean guitar, she has no idea how sexy she is, and we have something of a history.

Easy, right?

Yep. Piece of cake.

Except this time, I’m actually in danger of falling in love.

Stud in the Stacks is 55,000 sexy, hilarious, sometimes embarrassing words, complete with tacos, romance novel love, unicorn parties, and no cheating or cliffhangers. (Photo: Rafa Catala)

Free in Kindle Unlimited
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Rockaway Bride Ebook CoverA Rock Star Kidnaps a Runaway Bride…Kidnapping the bride seemed like a good idea at the time.

Her fiancé stole my fortune, so I stole his woman.

Tit for tat. Or tat for tit. However you want to look at it.

The one thing I didn’t expect?

Willow Honeycutt, preschool teacher, boy band super fan, is completely crazy.

And somehow she’s turned the tables on me.

Now, she’s holding me hostage, and she won’t let me go until we hit every item on her sparkly new, completely insane bucket list.

And that last item?

That last item might cost me more than any fortune.

It very well might cost me my heart.

Rockaway Bride is a romping fun romance between a down-on-his-luck rock star and a boy band-loving preschool teacher, complete with a road trip, handcuffs, and fun with nuns. This romantic comedy stands alone with no cheating or cliffhangers and ends with a rockin’ awesome happily ever after. (Photo: Furious Fotog)

Free in Kindle Unlimited
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For anyone who’s ever been on the receiving end of an unsolicited d*ck pic… The Hero and the Hactivist Ebook Cover

He has the muscles of Adonis, an ego bigger than the sun, and a very clear desire to get back in my pants. Which would be fantastic if he weren’t a SEAL and I wasn’t a criminal.

Although, I prefer the term avenger. 

I’m a hacktivist, cleaning up the cesspool of cyberspace one scam artist and troll at a time, and I sometimes bend a few rules to get justice done.

He’s a military man with abs of glory, sworn to uphold the letter of the law no matter its shortcomings. And if he’d known who—or what—I was, I doubt he would’ve banged me at my best friend’s wedding reception.

Or come back for more.

Which is why he’s now the only thing standing between me and one very pissed off internet troll who’s figured out where I live.

I’m pretty sure he’ll get me out of this alive—and quite satisfied, thank you very much—but I’m also pretty sure this mission will end with me in handcuffs.

And not the good kind of handcuffs.

The Hero and the Hacktivist is a romping fun SEAL / Best Friend’s Brother / Robin Hood in Cyberspace romance between a meathead and an heiress, complete with epic klutziness, terrible leg warmers, and an even worse phone virus gone wrong. This romantic comedy stands alone with no cheating or cliffhangers and ends with a fabulously fun happily ever after. (Photo: Wander Aguiar)

Free in Kindle Unlimited
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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

The Girl Band Series is a quartet by Pippa Grant starring each member of an all girl pop music cover band: Ambrosia (Bro/Sia), Parker, Willow, and Eloise. Each book contains Grant’s signature humor, and each book gets a little bit zanier than the last. If you’re going to read anything by Pippa Grant, you have to prepare for the absurd and suspend your belief at some things. Ha…Of course, I say it in a positive way because I enjoy her novels so much. I previously did a mini-review of Rockaway Bride, which I’ve included here and some additional words. My choice of leading men here? Definitely Knox and then the other three are a bit of toss up with Dax just slightly ahead. Overall, the series is a lot of fun, an overall 3.5 stars, but there were two that I liked more than the others.

#1: Mister McHottie

As hot as Mister McHottie is, this was probably the book I liked the least in comparison to the other books in the series. Overall, it’s still a book with parts I know I will probably reread again. Chase was a closely family friend, best friend to Sia’s twin brothers, but an incident before college involving a Bratwurst Wagon led to a bad breakup. It was funny and I laughed through most of the book but Chase and Ambrosia (Bro/Sia) had a really intense kind of love–the hate you so much I want to smash your head in then make love to you after–and I wasn’t really into it. They do have great chemistry and can be pretty hilarious when paired with her twins. The book moved so quickly, I was more than half way finished before I realized how far I was into the book.

“If you sleep with any of my friends, so help me, I will rub ghost chilis all over your mouth guard, smear Icy Hot in your cup, and I’ll call ESPN and tell them you still wet the bed.”

#2: Stud in the Stacks

Knox is the swoon-worthy kind of lead. He’s a former exotic dancer and the book opens to his hot moves. It was pretty funny. He’s a librarian and supports causes trying to eliminate literacy. He loves romance novels and he’s a blogger, Mr. Romance. Did I mention that he was a librarian? This book was great! How could I not fall for the hot librarian who advocates for romance novels and matches people with romance novels? He’s nearly perfect! I liked the plot of this one a lot and the surprises had me laughing. Parker’s vulnerability and insecurities were things I identified with so I was rooting for her to kick butt at her high school reunion, with or without Knox. I loved how Knox loved her for just being her and helped to boost her self-esteem.

“I do believe I finally understand the term hot mess. And that’s me. A total hot mess.”

#3: Rockaway Bride

Being one of the first Pippa Grant novels I read, Rockaway Bride remains close to my heart. It helped to solidify Pippa Grant as one of my favorite steamy rom com authors (the other being Kayley Loring). Being taken hostage by Dax, which quickly unravels and spirals out of hand for Dax, might have been the best thing to happen to Willow. It ends up being a trip to unleash her true self, the one who likes the bad boy and taking risks, the one she’s kept locked away so her mother would never have to worry about her. Her bucket list is insightful about who she really is and it’s also inspiring. I also cannot forget the nuns on a bus Dax and Willow encounter–who would have thought?! Ha… Of the four novels, this was probably the most consistent book for me. If it hadn’t dragged a bit at the end, I think this would have been a near 5 star for me.

“I want to be brave. And bold. I want to have stories to tell my grandchildren someday. Okay, maybe not this story, but a girl has to start somewhere.”

#4: The Hero and the Hacktivist

I liked Eloise immediately when I first read Rockaway Bride. I was excited to learn more about her after reading the the first three books. She projects this overly sexual persona but is also very secretive. She’s always propositioning the Berger Twins (Sia’s brothers), Parker’s brothers, and even Willow’s stepbrothers, but only Rhett (Parker’s Navy SEAL brother who keeps appearing out of nowhere in the second book…heh) has taken her up on her offer. The funny but albeit heartbreaking thing about this is that she’s completely surprised that he does and keeps wondering why. In this book we find out why Eloise seems to keep people at a distance, and yes, she’s the hacktivist in the title. The beginning of the book is pretty hilarious but as it began to wind down, it got more serious (e.g. bad guys looking for her, Rhett beating people up, knives in warmers). It was still funny in places, but didn’t keep the same tone it had in the beginning. I still enjoyed it, of course.

“…the closer you let people, the more they let you down and the greater possibility you’ll let them down too.”

So…how about those covers?

I appreciate the consistency the new covers bring, from the playful candy colored backgrounds to the fonts utilized in the titles. Now, it looks and feels like the books are part of a single series as opposed to being standalone novels. Random observations…For The Hero and the Hacktivist, there’s emphasis on his biceps and the addition of dog tags–here, now you’re a SEAL! And the rockstar? Let’s give you a guitar! Ha…Both covers are similar in that aspect. I think I’ll miss the old Mister McHottie cover and the Rockaway Bride cover. The first one because it’s a bit of a tease and the latter because of the mood and filter used. Otherwise, I do like the new covers.