Review: A Heart So Fierce & Broken by Brigid Kemmerer

SYNOPSIS (via Goodreads):

“The curse is finally broken, but Prince Rhen of Emberfall faces darker troubles still. Rumors circulate that he is not the true heir and that forbidden magic has been unleashed in Emberfall. Although Rhen has Harper by his side, his guardsman Grey is missing, leaving more questions than answers.

Rumored to be the heir, Grey has been on the run since he destroyed Lilith. He has no desire to challenge Rhen–until Karis Luran once again threatens to take Emberfall by force. Her own daughter Lia Mara sees the flaws in her mother’s violent plan, but can she convince Grey to stand against Rhen, even for the good of Emberfall?

The heart-pounding, compulsively readable saga continues as loyalties are tested and new love blooms in a kingdom on the brink of war.”

REVIEW:

A Heart So Fierce & Broken is the second book in the Cursebreakers series by Brigid Kemmerer. I absolutely loved A Curse So Dark & Lonely so I was excited to pick up this book. This is the second book in the series, so there will be a few spoilers. Proceed with caution.

This book picks up with the big reveal of Grey being the missing heir. The kingdom of Emberfall has been thrown into chaos. The curse has been broken, the “monster” is now gone, but a civil war is brewing over the missing heir. There is also discourse over the kingdom of Disi. Princess Harper promised (non-existent) troops and the people grow leery of this promise. Grey must come to terms with his new status, and make the ultimate decision about the future of Emberfall.

Okay, so I didn’t love this book which was really frustrating. First, let’s talk about the things I liked. The pacing is great in this book, even though I didn’t really love it, the plot really moved. I liked learning more about the kingdom of Emberfall and the addition of characters from the kingdom of Sylh Shallow. I also enjoyed the relationship between Lia Mara and her sister.

Now, let’s get to the parts that I didn’t enjoy. The thing I loved about A Curse So Dark & Lonely was Harper and she is nowhere to be found. The book mainly alternates between Grey and Lia Mara’s points of view, which makes sense since this is more Grey’s book. I just figured that there would be some chapters with her, involving what was happening in Emberfall. I also felt that this book shoved Rhen back to the starting point. All the character growth shown in the first book was completely lost. I guess my struggle was that it felt like this book had no point. They spent the whole book traveling, and Grey was so lost personally that it felt like the character just lost his voice. I still feel like I don’t understand why Grey wants the throne. With the epilogue reveal, it feels like we are just back to the very start of the series which I don’t love.

Overall, this book was a disappointment, so much so that I considered not finishing it. It is a testament to Kemmerer’s writing that I was compelled to finish. I’m still going to pick up the last book in the series because I need to know how Harper’s story ends.

RATING: 3/5

Review: Ariadne by Jennifer Saint

SYNOPSIS (via Goodreads):

“As Princesses of Crete and daughters of the fearsome King Minos, Ariadne and her sister Phaedra grow up hearing the hoofbeats and bellows of the Minotaur echo from the Labyrinth beneath the palace. The Minotaur – Minos’s greatest shame and Ariadne’s brother – demands blood every year.

When Theseus, Prince of Athens, arrives in Crete as a sacrifice to the beast, Ariadne falls in love with him. But helping Theseus kill the monster means betraying her family and country, and Ariadne knows only too well that in a world ruled by mercurial gods – drawing their attention can cost you everything.

In a world where women are nothing more than the pawns of powerful men, will Ariadne’s deicision to betray Crete for Theseus ensure her happy ending? Or will she find herself sacrificed for her lover’s ambition?”

REVIEW:

Another Book of the Month choice winner! I’ve had Ariadne on my radar for a little while now. When I saw it was one of May’s options, it was an easy choice.

Growing up on Crete, she listens to stories of the gods and heroes. Ariadne then watches as her mother becomes a pawn in the gods’ revenge on her father, the King. She wishes to never be apart of the heroes plans for glory and the gods schemes. Ariadne is meant for something bigger, and soon finds herself apart of those very stories.

Ariadne by Jennifer Saint is a greek mythology retelling of her life, in the vain of Circe and A Thousand Ships. I originally thought this was just going to be the myth of the Minotaur from her eyes since I don’t know much about Ariadne beyond that, but this book explores her whole life. Ariadne is a compelling heroine, who you are rooting for during her highs and lows. The pacing of this book can be a little slow at times, but I don’t think this hinders the story.

I enjoyed getting to know more about Ariadne, her story, and her ties to Dionysus. I also loved the focus and commentary on women’s roles in the god’s lives. That they are often the one’s to suffer and be used as pawns in the god’s plans. I enjoyed Jennifer Saint’s writing style. Many of the characters recount tales of themselves and other important Greek figures which feels like a great choice since the significance of oral history in greek mythology.

I definitely recommend if you are a lover of Greek mythology, or loved Circe, Song of Achilles or A Thousand Ships.

RATING: 4/5

Book Hopefuls for June

I am a mood reader. Making a solid TBR is incredibly hard for me. It depends what mood the last book left me in that really decides what I read next. So here’s some books I would love to try and read this month.

The Charm Offensive by Alison Cochrun

This is an ARC that I received recently, and I actually have already started it. It is so good so far, and exactly what I need after a lot of heavy fantasy books. It also is a great book to start off Pride month.

A Vow So Bold & Deadly by Brigid Kemmerer

Hoping to close out this series! I was pretty disappointed by A Heart So Fierce & Broken, but I want to see how Harper’s story ends. This happened to be at my library when I was picking up some holds, so I just had to grab it.

Lore by Alexandra Bracken

This one has been sitting on my TBR for awhile but my library finally had it. I will always check out a book that incorporates mythology in the modern world. I’ve been seeing some mixed reviews for this book, so hopefully I enjoy it.

Hello Girls by Brittany Cavallaro and Emily Henry

I saw this when I was scrolling through Instagram, and I had to check it out. I love Emily Henry, and really enjoyed Muse by Brittany Cavallaro when I read it earlier this year. With a Thelma & Louise type plot, this seemed like a no brainer. It also feels like it would be a great summer read.

The Duke Undone by Joanna Lowell

I’m a sucker for historical romance, so when I saw this sitting in the brand new section of my library I had to grab it. The summary sucked me, and it sounds like it is going to be a quick fun read.

Like always, there will probably be more books added to this as the month goes on. Who knows what I will pick up next? What are you excited to read this month?

May Reading Wrap-Up

After a bit of a reading slump in April, I read some really wonderful books in May and can’t wait to see what books I pick up in June. Here’s a look at what I read this month. Let me know in the comments if you have read any of these, or what you read in May that you absolutely loved.

Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor

rating – 5/5
I started May out strong with this book choice. I completely loved this book and it was definitely one of the best books I’ve read this month. The world building is amazing, and I love how the mysteries play out. This book felt so different than anything else I had read recently, and I immediately bought the next book in the series.

People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry

rating – 5/5
Another strong contender for my favorite book I read this month. I was eagerly anticipating this release since I finished Beach Read last summer, and this book did not disappoint. Emily Henry’s characters are always amazing, and once I picked this book up I really couldn’t put it down. Another perfect romance by Emily Henry!

Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers

rating – 4/5

Another series that I didn’t know existed, and very happy I stumbled upon it while wandering the bookstore. Honestly, this premise sucked me in and knew I needed to check it out. Nuns training assassins, I’m sold! The pacing of this book is perfect. You have short exciting chapters that make you just want to keep going. So I definitely had some late nights with this one.

Make Sweet by Kristen Callihan

rating – 3.5/5
This was fun, simple romance that I picked up on Kindle Unlimited. I loved the premise and was sucked in immediately. This is a quick, easy read that is perfect for the beach. The romance is steamy and I just really enjoyed every minute of it. It is fairly predictable plot, but that doesn’t hurt the story at all.

Where Dreams Descend by Janella Angeles

rating – 4/5
After sitting on my TBR for months I finally picked up this book! This book was a bit too mysterious at times, but overall still really fun to read. It gives both Night Circus and Phantom of the Opera vibes, so if you are into either of those I would definitely recommend. Where Dreams Descend ending on a massive cliffhanger, so I’m now eagerly awaiting the next book.

Ariadne by Jennifer Saint

rating – 4/5
Greek Mythology is one of my favorite things, so I am always interested in a mythology retelling. I didn’t know much about Ariadne besides the myth of the Minotaur, so this book was super interesting. This book is in the same vain as Circe and A Thousand Ships, so if you loved those I definitely recommend Ariadne.

A Heart So Fierce & Broken by Brigid Kemmerer

rating – 3/5
This was probably my least favorite book that I read this month. This is the second book in the Cursebreakers trilogy, and I was so excited to pick it up at my library. I absolutely loved Harper in A Curse So Dark and Lonely, only to discover that she was nowhere to be found in this sequel. This book felt like it was unnecessary, and didn’t do anything to advance the story.

Review: The Intimacy Experiment by Rosie Danan

SYNOPSIS (via Goodreads):

“Naomi Grant has built her life around going against the grain. After the sex-positive start-up she cofounded becomes an international sensation, she wants to extend her educational platform to live lecturing. Unfortunately, despite her long list of qualifications, higher ed won’t hire her.

Ethan Cohen has recently received two honors: LA Mag named him one of the city’s hottest bachelors and he became rabbi of his own synagogue. Taking a gamble in an effort to attract more millennials to the faith, the executive board hired Ethan because of his nontraditional background. Unfortunately, his shul is low on both funds and congregants. The board gives him three months to turn things around or else they’ll close the doors of his synagogue for good.

Naomi and Ethan join forces to host a buzzy seminar series on Modern Intimacy, the perfect solution to their problems–until they discover a new one–their growing attraction to each other. They’ve built the syllabus for love’s latest experiment, but neither of them expected they’d be the ones putting it to the test.”

REVIEW:

I’ve been anticipating The Intimacy Experiment since I finished The Roommate. The Roommate was one of my favorite books of 2020 and I will recommend it to anyone, so I was really excited to read this follow up. The Intimacy Experiment by Rosie Danan is a companion novel to The Roommate. You don’t need to read it to understand The Intimacy Experiment but you definitely should.

Naomi Grant is our heroine. Introduced to us in The Roommate as Josh’s ex-girlfriend and fellow porn performer, she gets her star turn in this novel. Naomi has a Master’s in Psychology and has been looking to use it in teaching a course on human sexuality and relationships, on top of continuing to run Shameless with Clara. She has hit a roadblock due to her former profession. That’s where Ethan steps in, they meet at an education conference. Ethan is a very attractive, single, and unconventional Rabbi, who is looking to have her teach a course on modern intimacy for his synagogue in hopes of attracting a younger Jewish crowd.

Ethan and Naomi have insane chemistry from the very start of this book. Naomi has some reservations in acting on her attraction because of her past, she doesn’t want that to affect Ethan’s reputation. Ethan is somehow both adorable and hot. He understands Naomi in a way that she really has only experienced once before. Naomi is a fantastic heroine. She has her demons, but she is smart and confident. Her journey through this book is really beautiful. She opens herself back up to things that she blocked off due to her trauma. Some of this is through her relationship with Ethan, and some is through her reconnecting to her Jewish faith. This also allows her to form deeper connections with her friends as well.

I loved that Naomi isn’t tamed by her relationship with Ethan. So while she opens herself up to more intimacy in her relationships, she is still the same Naomi fundamentally. Ethan is a quintessential good guy. He is head over heels for Naomi pretty much immediately and always backs her up. I loved his thoughts on faith and the way they are framed throughout the novel. Their banter is incredible and such a strong part of this book (and of Danan’s writing in general). They felt like a fully fleshed out couple and I loved every minute spent with them. The steamy scenes are A+.

I highly recommend The Intimacy Experiment by Rosie Danan. If you love contemporary romance, then you have to check it out. Rosie Danan writes fully fleshed out characters who are sex-positive. I loved The Roommate and I loved The Intimacy Experiment.

RATING: 5/5

Review: Where Dreams Descend by Janella Angeles

SYNOPSIS (via Goodreads):

“In a city covered in ice and ruin, a group of magicians face off in a daring game of magical feats to find the next headliner of the Conquering Circus, only to find themselves under the threat of an unseen danger striking behind the scenes.

As each act becomes more and more risky and the number of missing magicians piles up, three are forced to reckon with their secrets before the darkness comes for them next.

The Star: Kallia, a powerful showgirl out to prove she’s the best no matter the cost

The Master: Jack, the enigmatic keeper of the club, and more than one lie told

The Magician: Demarco, the brooding judge with a dark past he can no longer hide”

REVIEW:

This book has been sitting on my TBR for awhile but I finally picked it up. Where Dreams Descend is different from anything I’ve read recently. This book gives Phantom of the Opera and Night Circus vibes.

Where Dreams Descend is told from three points of view, Kallia, Jack, and Demarco. Kallia is a showgirl and powerful magician. She has been performing at the Hellfire House, a mysterious venue run by Jack. Kallia doesn’t really know much of her past and a lot of her present life has been a lie. Jack is Kallia’s teacher, magician, and captor. He often tells her it is for her own good that he keeps her trapped at the Hellfire House, but never gives any answers. Demarco is a former magician with a tragic past. He is seeking answers to his own personal tragedy when his and Kallia’s lives begin to intertwine.

I love the concept behind this book and the idea that magicians have real magic. Kallia is a compelling heroine, who is easy to root for as the world tries to break her down. I think the relationships in this book are very interesting. With Demarco, Kallia has found someone who really understands her. Her relationship with Jack is very twisted, he is both her captor and her teacher. She does have this strange pull to him, that can’t be ignored.

I really liked this book and it is incredibly compelling and interesting. I also think this book is too mysterious. We aren’t really given any info about this world, kept in the dark like Kallia. My problem with Where Dreams Descend is that I still don’t really understand how the world works, how the magic works, or what is really going on. The fact that this book is still incredibly compelling and I couldn’t put it down is a testament to the writing. By the end of this book, the mystery has only deepened and ends with a completely crazy cliffhanger.

I’m excited to see what the next book reveals, and hopefully, a lot of my questions are answered because I have a lot of them.

RATING: 4/5

Review: To Sir, With Love by Lauren Layne

SYNOPSIS (via Goodreads):

“Perpetually cheerful and eager to please, Gracie Cooper strives to make the best out of every situation. So when her father dies just months after a lung cancer diagnosis, she sets aside her dreams of pursuing her passion for art to take over his Midtown Manhattan champagne shop. She soon finds out that the store’s profit margins are being squeezed perilously tight, and complicating matters further, a giant corporation headed by the impossibly handsome, but irritatingly arrogant Sebastian Andrews is proposing a buyout. But Gracie can’t bear the thought of throwing away her father’s dream like she did her own.

Overwhelmed and not wanting to admit to her friends or family that she’s having second thoughts about the shop, Gracie seeks advice and solace from someone she’s never met—the faceless “Sir”, with whom she connected on a blind dating app where matches get to know each other through messages and common interests before exchanging real names or photos.

But although Gracie finds herself slowly falling for Sir online, she has no idea she’s already met him in real life…and they can’t stand each other.”

REVIEW:

This is my first Lauren Layne novel, and now I need to read more! When I saw the summary of this book it checked off a lot of boxes; set in New York City, and hints of You’ve Got Mail. This book couldn’t really go wrong in my eyes.

Gracie, our protagonist, is a hopeless romantic. She feels stuck in a rut. She put aside her artistic dreams several years ago to take over the family business which was her father’s dying wish. She has gotten a bit too comfortable and is scared of taking chances. The highlight of her day is often her messages from her mystery man, Sir. They met on a dating site, where it is encouraged to fall for the personality first, so no pictures. She has been talking to Sir for months, but one complication is that Sir isn’t available. Sebastian then enters the picture. Her rival soon turned love interest. His company is her shop’s landlord, and he is trying to buy her out. Her family shop isn’t exactly profitable, but neither her nor her siblings want to give the shop up. Sebastian doesn’t fit what Gracie has always thought her dream man would look like. but after a meet-cute moment in the street and an undeniable connection she finds herself meeting up with him again and again.

Sebastian and Gracie’s chemistry is there from the start and the dialogue is superb. Their relationship develops gradually, never feeling rushed. Our main characters are rounded out with well thought out supporting characters that help build the world. Gracie’s relationship with her siblings is a definite highlight of this book. There is a lot of joy and hopefulness is this book, which I adored. While the book can be a bit formulaic plot wise, everything else is so well developed that it doesn’t hurt this novel.

To Sir, With Love feels just like a fairytale that our heroine loves. To Sir With Love will be released June 29th, 2021 by Gallery Books. Thank you to NetGalley and Gallery Books for the ARC. All thoughts are my own!

RATING: 5/5

Review: Daughter Of Smoke & Bone By Laini Taylor

SYNOPSIS (via Goodreads):

“Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.

In a dark and dusty shop, a devil’s supply of human teeth grows dangerously low.

And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherwordly war.

Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real, she’s prone to disappearing on mysterious “errands”, she speaks many languages – not all of them human – and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she’s about to find out.

When beautiful, haunted Akiva fixes fiery eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?”

REVIEW:

So even though this series turned 10 years old recently, I had just discovered it. I was strolling through my bookstore when I happened to stumble upon it. Needless to say I completely loved this book, and I am so excited to see where this series goes.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone is a bit hard to explain because the mystery of the world and what is going on is slowly revealed and explained to the reader throughout the book. Our heroine is Karou, she doesn’t really know where she came from; she goes on mysterious errands, deals in actual wishes, and interacts with “monsters” daily. Her life is turned upside down when she meets Akiva. Drawn to each other almost immediately, secrets are revealed that change everything about the world that Karou thought she knew.

I don’t want to reveal too much because one of the things I loved about this book was letting all the mysteries play out. I loved that as a reader you are just as much in the dark as Karou, you discover everything as she does. I loved the whole world that was built in this book, and the magic involved. You have our recognizable world, and then the incredible second world of the Seraphim and the Chimera. Taylor does an excellent job showing and building both of these worlds. They feel wholly original, and like nothing I’ve read in awhile. This book was also surprisingly romantic which I wasn’t expecting, but enjoyed that added layer to the story and relationships.

I honestly cannot recommend Daughter of Smoke and Bone enough. I loved every minute of reading it, and was completely sucked in. If you are looking for a new fantasy series definitely check this one out. I can’t wait to see where this series goes.

RATING: 5/5

Review: People We Meet On Vacation by Emily Henry

SYNOPSIS (via Goodreads):

“Poppy and Alex. Alex and Poppy. They have nothing in common. She’s a wild child; he wears khakis. She has insatiable wanderlust; he prefers to stay home with a book. And somehow, ever since a fateful car share home from college many years ago, they are the very best of friends. For most of the year they live far apart—she’s in New York City, and he’s in their small hometown—but every summer, for a decade, they have taken one glorious week of vacation together.

Until two years ago, when they ruined everything. They haven’t spoken since.

Poppy has everything she should want, but she’s stuck in a rut. When someone asks when she was last truly happy, she knows, without a doubt, it was on that ill-fated, final trip with Alex. And so, she decides to convince her best friend to take one more vacation together—lay everything on the table, make it all right. Miraculously, he agrees.

Now she has a week to fix everything. If only she can get around the one big truth that has always stood quietly in the middle of their seemingly perfect relationship. What could possibly go wrong?”

REVIEW:

People We Meet on Vacation was my April Book of the Month pick and it was a no brainer choice. I read Beach Read by Emily Henry last summer, completely loved it and it ended up being one of my favorite reads of the year. So People We Meet on Vacation has been an eagerly anticipated release.

We meet Poppy as she is struggling with her job. She is feeling lost and unhappy, even though she has achieved her dream career. We begin to flashback to different vacations Poppy has taken with her best friend Alex. Poppy realizes that the times she has truly been happy is when she is spending time with Alex. Meeting in college, they are polar opposites but something about them together just works. Until something happened on one of their trips that caused them to have a falling out, which you spend most of the book waiting to find out. The book continues to jump back and forth between the present trip that Alex and Poppy are on to rekindle their friendship, and past ones they have taken throughout the years.

Poppy and Alex have amazing chemistry and the banter between the two is incredible. They are also such fully real and fleshed out characters. They are incredibly genuine which makes this book such an easy read, and you are rooting for them to get together the entire time. Poppy felt incredibly relatable as a fellow semi-lost millennial. This book is laugh out loud funny and completely heartbreaking at times. Seriously, I was crying at Poppy’s speech in the third act.

The only critique of this book I have was that it was a little slow going, but once it got going I couldn’t put it down. I definitely recommend if you are a lover of romcoms or Harry Met Sally (or any Meg Ryan movie in general) or friends to lovers romances. This book checks off all the boxes and I can’t wait to see what Emily Henry does next.

RATING: 5/5

REVIEW: Go the Distance by Jen Calonita

SYNOPSIS (via Goodreads):

“What if Meg had to become a god?

After Hercules proves he’s a true hero and regains his godship, all seems right in the world. That is, until Zeus tells Meg that she can’t be with Hercules because she’s, well, mortal. Luckily, Hera has a solution, offering Meg a chance to prove herself worthy of a spot on Mt. Olympus–as a god. All Meg has to do is complete a mysterious quest.

The mission? Oh, just to rescue her ex’s current wife from the Underworld. The ex-boyfriend she saved by selling her soul to Hades. The ex-boyfriend who immediately moved on to someone else while she was stuck in the Underworld. Can Meg put her past behind her and use her quick-wit to defeat monsters and gods alike, including the nefarious Hades? Will she finally figure out her place and contribution to the world? Or will her fear of commitment have her running away from an eternity of godhood with Herc?”

REVIEW:

Go the Distance is a part of the ongoing Twisted Tales series published by Disney-Hyperion. Hercules is my favorite Disney movie and Meg is my favorite character. I loved that she was complicated heroine and my love for her has grown as I’ve gotten older. So naturally the minute I heard about this book, I pre-ordered it.

Go the Distance picks up right where the movie left off, except Zeus doesn’t take no for an answer when Hercules turns down his godhood to remain with Meg. Meg is heartbroken, because Hercules is the first real good thing in her life. Hera approaches Meg with the opportunity to spend eternity with Hercules, giving her a trial to become a god herself. This won’t be a simple task, Meg will have to come to terms with her trauma while also trying to bring back a soul.

Go the Distance flushes out Meg’s backstory. We learn that she didn’t have an easy childhood. Meg’s father abandoned her and her mother, then Meg loses her mother when she is a teenager. We obviously know that things didn’t go well in her love life either, with her selling her soul to Hades to save her boyfriend’s life only to be abandoned by him. Throughout the story, each task helps Meg work through her past trauma and realize that she can rely on other people. The whole cast of characters is back for the story, which is nice. I do wish there was a bit more time with just Meg and Hercules, but ultimately this is Meg’s journey. They also throw the Hades and Persephone myth in there for some fun.

Spoilers for the book in the next paragraph.

I did grow frustrated with a couple scenes in this book, they felt very out of character for Meg. One was her insistence on grabbing a forbidden apple to take as a bargaining chip for Hades. It causes everyone to nearly die. It just felt so incredibly random and out of character. Meg is smart but also always expects the worst of any outcome, so she should have expected them to be booby trapped. This leads to a fight with Hercules for swooping in to save them. Obviously, Meg always feels like she can take care of herself, but she completely loses it at Hercules and it feels very out of character.

Overall, if you love Hercules you should check out Go the Distance. It is a fun, quick read that adds some backstory to a wonderful Disney heroine.

RATING: 3/5

Have you read any of the Disney Twisted Tales? Should I check out some more in this series? Let me know in the comments!