Review: The Janes (Alice Vega #2) by Louisa Luna

The Janes (Alice Vega #2)The Janes by Louisa Luna
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

After the successful conclusion to the missing Brandt girls case, Alice Vega, reputable ‘people-finder’, returns home to California, leaving Max Caplan behind.

They both return to their regular lives, Alice being Alice, and Cap being lovable father to teenager, Nell.

Soon enough, a new case falls in Alice’s lap and it’s no surprise, she calls on dear old Caplan to help her out.

This time, he joins her on the West Coast to investigate the death of two Jane Does and their possible connection to a human trafficking ring.

With their street smarts and unending energy, Vega and Cap have quickly become one of my favorite investigative pairs. The underlying sexual tension is a bonus that is hard to resist.

Although a slow burn, for crime thriller classicists, this story packs a solid punch.

The steadfastness with which Vega tackles each investigation is oddly inspiring and Cap’s dedication to her is lovely to read.

This case, set in San Diego, tackles real life issue of human trafficking, as well as sexual slavery and abused minors. If these are topics that will be sensitive for you, tread cautiously.

The good news is, Vega and Cap are on the case and they never let up.

I’m not sure how much longer Luna plans to write this dynamic duo together, but I hope it is for a long, long time.

I know I will continue to pick them up. As a matter of fact, I am ready for the next one already!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Doubleday Books, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I appreciate the opportunity and really look forward to solving another case with Vega and Cap!

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Review: The Princess and the Fangirl (Once Upon a Con #2) by Ashley Poston

The Princess and the Fangirl (Once Upon a Con, #2)The Princess and the Fangirl by Ashley Poston
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Jessica Stone planned to use the Starfield reboot as a stepping stone to greatness. Unfortunately, she doesn’t feel it’s working out that way.

Afraid of being typecast, she wants to distance herself from it as much as she can, but with the sequel in the works and the fate of her character up in the air, that is becoming a challenge.

Attending the same Con that her costar, Darien, met the love of his life, Elle Wittimer, at the previous year, she begins to feel overwhelmed by the pressure of it all.

Imogen Lovelace is a fangirl attending the Con as well. A fangirl who looks surprisingly like Jessica Stone. When people end up confusing one for the other, a brilliant life swap takes place.

Imogen is hoping to save her favorite character, Princess Amara, from being wiped out of the Starfield universe forever. Certainly, Jessica, who played Amara on screen would agree?

We follow the two girls as they swap lives and learn the valuable lesson of, the grass is not always greener on the other side of that damn fence.

I was so happy to return to ExcelsiCon and the whole fan vibe surrounding it. For me, this one wasn’t quite as enjoyable as Geekerella.

I legit swooned over that for a week!

While I did still like this a lot, Ashley Poston’s writing is just so fun, I think it suffered a bit because I don’t really know the story of The Prince and the Pauper.

Obviously, this is not the book’s fault, it is mine.

One of the things I loved so much about Geekerella was all the little details connected to the original Cinderella story. To me, these were like finding little Easter eggs throughout. I loved it!

I still had a lot of fun with this book, don’t get me wrong, just not as much.

I am really looking forward to Book 3, a Beauty and the Beast retelling! Heck, I know that story like I wrote it myself.

To the stars, Ashley Poston!

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Review: Race to the Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse

Race to the SunRace to the Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

When Nizhoni Begay notices a mysterious man in a suit sitting in the bleachers at her Junior High basketball game, she can’t take her eyes off him. So much so, she misses the game winning shot.

The thing is, she knows instinctively that this man is a monster in disguise.

After the game, she learns the monster is her Dad’s new boss, Mr. Charles, and he is very interested in Nizhoni and her little brother, Mac.

Nizhoni calls out Mr. Charles to her Dad, who doesn’t believe her.

In fact, he seems disappointed in her outburst, but when Mr. Begay ends up getting kidnapped by Mr. Charles and his cronies, it is up to Nizhoni to save him!

Nizhoni has always wanted to be a hero and this is her chance.

Along with her best friend, Davery, and her little brother, Mac, they set out on a quest to rescue Mr. Begay and stop Mr. Charles from releasing a horde of ancient monsters upon the world.

Working off the Navajo legend of the Hero Twins, this adventurous Middle Grade novel tackles facing our fears and the importance of family.

While it started out a little slow for me, once the kids finally got into the quest, meeting the Spider Woman and finding the Rainbow Road, I really started to enjoy it.

I didn’t find this quite as humorous as earlier releases by this imprint, but that is really personal taste more than an issue with the book itself.

Overall, this is a great story for Middle Grade readers. I loved learning more about the legends of the Navajo culture and if more books release in this series, I would absolutely read them.

Nizhoni and Davery’s friendship was so pure and I loved little Mac as well!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Disney Book Group, as well as Rick Riordan Presents, for providing me with an early copy of this to read and review.

I have enjoyed so many of the books in this imprint and this one is no exception!

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Review: The Whisper Man by Alex North

The Whisper ManThe Whisper Man by Alex North
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars rounded up**

This is exactly how I like my police procedural/investigative thrillers. Well done, Alex North!

After the sudden death of his wife, Tom Kennedy thinks a fresh start is just what he and Jake, his young son, need.

They move into a house in the small town of Featherbank. A town with a sordid past.

20-years ago a serial killer abducted and killed 5 residents. He was captured, tried for his crimes and imprisoned.

The killer’s name was Frank Carter, but he was known to the world as The Whisper Man, as he lured children out of their homes by whispering at their windows.

The Whisper Man has become a bit of a legend in the small town and even decades later seems fresh in the minds of many.

When a boy in Jake’s class gets abducted, the similarities to the Whisper Man crimes, cause many to wonder if he had an accomplice all those years ago, or if there is a clever copy cat in town.

This story follows the perspectives of Tom and Jake, two detectives working the case, and even into the mind of the killer.

I loved the atmosphere of this one. It felt gritty and heavy. Any scene with Jake in it, your classic creepy kid, left me entirely unsettled.

The action was high-intensity and I felt the investigatory portions were well done.

I will admit, I was a little nervous going into this one because I had heard mixed reviews. I was pleasantly surprised and will definitely read more books by this author.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Celadon Books, for providing me with a copy to read and review. My apologies for taking so long. It was definitely worth the wait!

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Review: Rules for Vanishing by Kate Alice Marshall

Rules for VanishingRules for Vanishing by Kate Alice Marshall
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A haunted wood, a mysterious road that appears and disappears, the legend of a missing girl; these were the things that first attracted me to this story.

I got so much more than that, parts I am still trying to wrap my brain around.

Told through interviews, written statements and found footage, this story tells the tale of Sara, whose sister, Becca, went missing a year prior.

The mixed media pieces together her quest to find her sister and the people who go along with her.

This book reminded me a lot of Neverworld Wake by Marisha Pessl, mixed with the Jim Henson’s The Labyrinth.

I did listen to the audiobook for this and unfortunately, I think that had an effect on my overall enjoyment.

Honestly, the audio was a little hard to track all of the characters and keep them all straight.

That paired with the dreamlike quality of all that occurs on the road, I felt confused for the majority of the middle portion of the book.

I think if I had read the physical copy it would have been easier to follow along with the character dialogue of the found footage and interviews.

Overall, I think this is a solid YA Horror novel with a very dark and spooky premise. It definitely solidified my belief that you must always beware of hitchhikers on the road.

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Review: All Systems Red (The Murderbot Diaries #1) by Martha Wells

All Systems Red (The Murderbot Diaries, #1)All Systems Red by Martha Wells
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A hearty thumbs up to my new relationship with Martha Wells!

This novella was such a delightful surprise. Bringing all the humor I love in my scifi, I definitely plan to continue on with the rest of The Murderbot Diaries.

In All Systems Red we meet our protagonist, who calls itself Murderbot, a sentient Security unit, as it accompanies a group of scientists on an exploratory mission of a uninhabited planet.

When they discover another group of explorers are on the planet but are unable to reach them on comm channels, they go to investigate.

Spurred on by corruption, hijinks and battles ensue, with Murderbot and the crew trying to flee unharmed.

I loved that this was told from the perspective of Murderbot. It was great to follow its thought processes at it navigated its complicated relationships with the humans.

I am so ready to continue on with Murderbot’s story in the next book, where I believe we learn more about its backstory.

Super compelling, highly readable and a must for any scifi fan!

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Review: As Old As Time (Twisted Tales #3) by Liz Braswell

As Old As Time (Twisted Tales, #3)As Old As Time by Liz Braswell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

An imaginative twist on the ‘tale as old as time’ that we all know and love!

As Old As Time, the third installment in Disney’s Twisted Tales series puts forth the question, what if Belle’s mom was the one to curse the Beast?

Following the parameters of a fairly strict retelling, this story has bonus content!

Music to any fan’s ears. We get a back and forth timeline here, one following Belle in the present part of the story we are familiar with, and the other telling of Belle’s parents before she was born.

The Belle we know is without a mother, living with her father, an inventor, on the outskirts of town.

But of course Belle once had a mother. This reimagining tells who she was, the Enchantress that cursed the Beast.

We learn about the kingdom at a time when magic was still present, as well as about the Beast’s parents and their unkind rule over their kingdom.

There is a plague and a fairly harsh ‘witch hunt’, for lack of a better term, that all ultimately leads to the Beast’s curse.

As I mentioned earlier, this felt like bonus content to the Disney animated version from 1991 because a good portion of this stuck so true to that original.

The rest was icing on the cake, filling in the back story of the time before the movie kicks off. I really appreciated that.

Some retellings you want to be wildly creative and unique (e.g. Hunted by Meagan Spooner or Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust), but for this series, the point is to have the original story with one twist that affects the outcome.

I thought that was well done here by Braswell.

I’m a sucker for this series and will continue to pick them up. This is definitely one of my favorites!

If you love the original animated Beauty and the Beast as much as I do, you should definitely give this one a try!

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Blog Tour: Tweet Cute by Emma Lord

Tweet CuteTweet Cute by Emma Lord
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

My heart just exploded over the cheesiest (grilled-cheesiest, that is) romance I have ever read!!!

Love, love, love this with my whole body and soul!

When fast food behemoth, Big League Burger, announces a new line of grilled cheese sandwiches, no one is more surprised than twins, Jack and Ethan Campbell.

Their surprise comes from the fact that one of the specialty sandwiches has the exact same ingredients, and name, as a grill cheese they know very well.

It was created by their Grandma and has been on their family’s New York City deli menu for decades.

Shocked and chagrined by the announcement, Jack turns to Twitter to call BLB out. That one tweet sparks an epic Twitter battle that takes not just NYC, but the world by storm!

Little does he know, at the other end of the Big League Burger Twitter account, is an overachieving classmate of his, Pepper.

Pepper is not native to NYC, having moved there at the start of high school, leaving her hometown of Nashville behind.

Feeling lost and alone in the big city, Pepper throws herself into her studies with an intensity unmatched by most of her peers at the super competitive private school in which she is enrolled.

Unfortunately, neither teen is prepared for the physical and emotional toll the social media battle will have on them.

Over time, neither Jake, nor Pepper feels good about the whole thing and both wish they weren’t involved. They’re losing sleep and other more wholesome activities begin to take a backseat to the nonstop drama fest.

At school, Pepper and Jake begin to see more and more of each other and a precious friendship develops.

Little do they know, they have also been corresponding for months on an anonymous direct messaging app created by Jake and used by everyone in their school.

Assigned the pseudonyms, Wolf and Bluebird, their flirty banter is a ray of light in both their lives. But when Jack inadvertently figures out who Bluebird is, how will he navigate transitioning their relationship from the screen to real life.

Full of heart, humor and delicious food, Tweet Cute is sure to delight readers of all ages. I absolutely ate up this story from beginning to end.

There is so much more to this than I have words to describe here. Great friendships, fantastic character growth, witty banter, this book truly brought it all!

Pepper and Jack were both so well developed. The challenges they faced as they completed high school, trying to figure out what they wanted to do with their lives, were really well handled.

Family is a big influence on this story as well and I thought those elements were so relatable and well written.

I am really impressed with this as a debut novel. The pacing and plot twists were expertly crafted to keep the reader engaged throughout.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Wednesday Books, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review, as well as including me in the blog tour.

It has been so much fun and I wish Emma Lord the best with this release.

If this book is any indication, she is poised to have one heck of a career. I cannot wait to see what sort of story she comes up with next!

Tweet Cute releases on Tuesday, January 21st and will be available at your favorite book sellers and via online retailers. Be sure to pick up your copy. You don’t want to miss out on this adorable story!

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Review: The Last Year of the War by Susan Meissner

The Last Year of the WarThe Last Year of the War by Susan Meissner
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars rounded up**

If you are looking to have your soul crushed in a beautiful way anytime soon, pick this book up!

In 1943, when Elise Sontag is just 14-years old, her Father is arrested under suspicion of being a Nazi sympathizer.

A neighborhood boy, in their small Iowa town, claimed that Mr. Sontag told him he was ‘making a bomb’. A completely baseless accusation.

Sadly, that was all it took for the FBI to show up on the Sontag doorstep. The lives of the family would never be the same.

Ultimately, they, along with numerous other Japanese, German and Italian families were sent to an internment camp in rural-Texas, only taking with them what they could easily carry.

Their lives before nothing but a distant memory.

As a teen, Elise didn’t fully understand what was happening to them. She tries to take it one day at a time and just make the best of it. That’s a hard task for anyone, let alone a kid.

Early on, she meets a fellow internee, Mariko Inoue, a Japanese-American girl from L.A., and the two become fast friends, bonding over their shared experience.

This story follows them through their time at the camp and beyond into adulthood. Told by an elderly Elise, I found this story heartbreaking.

Although this is purely a work of fiction, this situation did in fact happen to many, many families. That is a humbling thing to think about.

The strength of spirit it would take to overcome what the families in this story went through. I can’t even imagine. I really enjoy when historical fiction is able to bring the past to life in such a palpable and touching way.

It was overwhelming for me at times. Particularly the moments told by present day Elise, as she struggles with her pending memory loss and slide into the grips of Alzheimer’s. That hit very close to home for me and was hard to read.

I thought, as always, Meissner tackled each of the topics explored in here with care and grace. She has a beautiful storytelling ability and I was definitely swept away in Elise’s tale.

There were a few minor details that I wasn’t crazy about, some descriptions that I thought were a little odd, but overall, this was a wonderful book and I know a lot of people will enjoy it!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Berkley Publishing Group, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. I apologize for taking so long to get to it and am kicking myself for not picking it up earlier!

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Review: Coral by Sara Ella

CoralCoral by Sara Ella
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars**

Coral, through the platform of a Little Mermaid reimagining, follows three perspectives through their struggles with mental illness.

Coral: A little mermaid who lost her oldest sister to Red Tide, a condition that mirrors depression.

Estranged and misunderstood by the rest of her family, Coral sets out to find the Prince she blames for her older sister’s demise.

Merrick: A young man whose controlling father is definitely the villain of his story.

After his little sister attempts suicide, and their mother runs off, unable to cope, he blames his father for the entire situation.

When his father announces that he is planning to send his sister, Amaya, to a residential treatment program, Merrick disagrees. He thinks she should be with family and essentially kidnaps her to avoid her going into treatment.

Brooke: The most mysterious of the perspectives, Brooke is struggling with depression and anxiety and currently residing in a treatment center. She is the most challenging to decipher.

As a reader, you can tell all three perspectives are related somehow, as the storylines begin to run parallel but you don’t know exactly how.

Once all is revealed, it makes sense and is a very heavy story to take in.

While I understand how important the topics tackled in this book are, I personally had a hard time connecting with the story.

The writing is strong and I know for the right person, read at the right time, this book could mean so, so much.

For me, the perspectives began to run into one another and I just never felt fully engrossed in the story. With this being said, I am still glad that I read this.

I think it is a completely unique way of exploring very serious mental health issues.

I urge you to read the author, Sara Ella‘s, review for this book as she includes a full list of trigger warnings. I definitely think that is important for this one.

Tread cautiously if you are at all worried that something may be harmful to your mental state.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Thomas Nelson, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. I do consider this a heartbreakingly beautiful tale and appreciate the opportunity to provide my opinion.

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