Review: Steelstriker (Skyhunter #2) by Marie Lu

Steelstriker (Skyhunter, #2)Steelstriker by Marie Lu
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Steelstriker is book two in Marie Lu’s Skyhunter duology.

I really enjoyed my time reading the first book, learning about the world and being introduced to the characters, so in comparison to that, this one felt a bit lackluster to me.

As this is the second book, there may be details within this review that seem like spoilers to some. I will not include anything that you couldn’t find in the publisher’s synopsis, but regardless, I just want to put the warning out there.

Turn back now if you want to know nothing regarding the end of the first book…

Assuming we have narrowed it down to the people who aren’t afraid to know…after the concluding scenes of book one, Mara has fallen. The last outpost to hold out from Karensa’s control is no longer.

With her friends gone and her mother captured by the Premier, Talin has no choice but to serve him and the Karensa Federation. It goes against everything she believes and holds dear, but with her mother’s life on the line, Talin is more than willing to bend.

Using the same process they used to turn Red, the Federation transforms Talin into their newest Skyhunter; the most dangerous weapons around.

From afar, Red is trying to make contact with Talin via their telepathic connection. He’s no stranger to the tortures of the Federation, so he hates to think about what she may be going through on her own in the Skyhunter labs. Thus, he constantly tries to make his presence known.

Will Red and Talin be able to reunite and combine their powers to save Talin’s mom, as well as countless others before it’s too late?

As mentioned above, I didn’t enjoy this one as much as the first book. It’s certainly not the writing. Lu’s writing is flawless always.

To me, I think a lot of the joy and excitement for me with the first book was just learning about the world and characters. Learning how the world got to the point where Mara was the last nation outside of the Federation’s control.

Also, how Talin and her mother ended up in Mara, as well as learning about the Striker Force versus the Federation’s Ghosts.

Watching Talin’s relationship with Red grow was fun as well. So in this novel, with Talin on her own for the majority of the book, I felt it was lacking those deep character interactions I had enjoyed so much in the first.

Additionally, maybe I wasn’t paying as close attention, but I didn’t feel like I learned that much more about the world in this one. It could be that I wasn’t as interested so my mind was wandering a bit.

Either way, while this is still a good book, a solid conclusion to a duology, it didn’t blow my hair back like Skyhunter did.

Have no fear though, I will continue to pick up everything Marie Lu writes.

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Review: Dustborn by Erin Bowman

DustbornDustborn by Erin Bowman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In Dustborn the world has been reduced to a desert wasteland. Danger lies around every corner and humans are forced to travel in packs just to up their chances of survival.

Delta of Dead River has lived her whole life in this world. Delta is very special, for she is the keeper of a map that could lead to the Verdant, a Garden of Eden of sorts, and a place that many people want to find.

The tricky part is the map is tattooed on Delta’s back. She’s never even seen it clearly and couldn’t read it anyways, as it’s drawn in old hand that she is unable to decipher.

When her village gets attacked by a band of raiders lead by a man known as the General, Delta believes they may be looking for her and the map.

Delta’s pack is taken by the General and his people, therefore Delta must go on a quest to get them back. Along the way she runs into old friends and makes some new ones.

Let’s cut to the chase, this wasn’t my favorite from Bowman. I can definitely admit it is a good story, it just never captured my attention like I was hoping. Not once!

The thing I appreciate the most about the story was the setting. I love a dusty, dangerous post-apocalyptic wasteland. Who doesn’t?

What I was never able to care about was the main character and her mission. I got to the very end and was like, what’s this girl’s name? Her entire story was forgettable for me.

There were aspects of the story that had some promise for me, but ultimately I just couldn’t get behind it. Also, there was the unnecessary slaughter of an animal about halfway through that completely turned me off. The narrative was never able to grab me back after that.

Overall, while I completely understand why a lot of Readers love this one, the content just wasn’t a fit for me. Bowman’s writing is strong and I have enjoyed other novels from her; specifically, the Contagion duology.

Thank you to the publisher, Clarion Books, for providing me a copy to read and review.

While this one wasn’t quite to my tastes, I look forward to picking up more from Erin Bowman in the future.

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Review: The Hawthorne Legacy (The Inheritance Games #2) by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

The Hawthorne Legacy (The Inheritance Games, #2)The Hawthorne Legacy by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars**

The Hawthorne Legacy is the second installment in the hugely popular Inheritance Games series by Jennifer Lynn Barnes.

This rags-to-riches inheritance mystery offers Readers a lot of riddles, a lot of intrigue and a lot of romantic drama. It’s like a tiny bit The Princess Diaries meets a lot of Knives Out.

This story follows Avery Grambs, who after the death of her mother, really struggled to get by. She moved in with her half-sister and was working hard just to complete high school. She dreams of a better life.

In an unbelievable turn of luck, Avery received word that eccentric billionaire, Tobias Hawthorne, has just passed, leaving Avery the vast majority of his fortune. The strangest part is, Avery has no idea who Tobias Hawthorne is. She’s never even met him.

The kink is that Tobias had a pretty big family that he has snubbed with his surprise bequeathment to Avery.

Now poor Avery has to live in Hawthorne Manor with the very same grandsons who were all but cut out of the elder Hawthorne’s will. That isn’t awkward at all.

While the first book, The Inheritance Game, gets you up to speed on all that, this second book builds on the mystery of Avery’s windfall, as well as a building of the relationships within her new world.

And keep in mind, this is an entirely new world for Avery. She is now in the realm of the uber-rich; the jet-setting elites who she has never interacted with before. With this comes a new set of challenges, including PR-issues, something Avery never would have thought of before.

If only that were her biggest issue though. Someone out there isn’t happy with Avery’s new found fortune and is willing to try anything to get her out of the picture. Permanently.

There’s also a bit of a love triangle happening. The Hawthorne family is full of handsome and charming young men, such a plus for our Avery.

Two of the boys in particular, Grayson and Jameson, are attracting a lot of her attention and thanks to the power of DNA-testing, it’s not creepy at all.

I had a lot of fun with this continuation. The Hawthorne Legacy may not be perfect, but it’s pretty freaking fun.

I need answers; so excited for the next book. Where’s this going from here!?

I am so intrigued with what the truth is behind this family. I love the continuation of the use of riddles and games, as well as Avery getting the chance to team up with the brothers to solve different aspects of the mystery.

I know a lot of Readers aren’t fans of love triangles, but I think this one is great. It’s not overplayed. It feels natural. There’s no catty fighting, or behind the scenes backstabbing. Avery is genuinely feeling a connection to both boys. Girl, I get it.

I’m so excited for August so I can get my hands on the third book. I need answers!!!

If you haven’t picked up this series yet, and love a fast-paced, fun-filled YA Mystery, you should absolutely start this series now. It’s completely addicting!

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Review: Payback’s a Witch (The Witches of Thistle Grove #1) by Lana Harper

Payback's a Witch (The Witches of Thistle Grove #1)Payback’s a Witch by Lana Harper
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

After she graduated from high school, Emmy Harlow, left her small town of Thistle Grove and moved to Chicago. Since that time, she really hasn’t been back.

She’s forged her own life in the city completely separate from her magical family in Thistle Grove. Perhaps, now is a good time to mention that Emmy is a witch.

During her time in Chicago, she’s felt her powers waning. Apparently, it’s important for her to remain somewhat tied to her magical roots.

With the approach of a traditional spell-casting tournament occurring in Thistle Grove, Emmy finally decides to return for an extended visit. Her parents will be so happy.

Emmy’s family normally acts as the arbiters for the competition and because of where she falls within the family line, it is her turn. She could have passed the duties on to her overzealous cousin, but Emmy feels like it is finally time for her to be involved.

Upon returning to town, it doesn’t take long for Emmy to be right back into the small town circle: gossip, run-ins with ex-boyfriends, flirting with old classmates, amongst other things.

We learn more about the reasons behind Emmy leaving town, more about her and her relationships with her family.

I love the trope of a character returning to their hometown after an extended absence. As someone who moved away from my own hometown as soon as I graduated high school, I can totally relate to those feelings.

When you go back, it’s so mixed. You’re from there, of there, but also, feel like you are out of place. Life moves on without you while you are away and it’s like learning about a whole new place once you finally do go back.

I really enjoyed that aspect of this book. Emmy being reintroduced to her roots and really reconnecting with the people she had left behind.

The tournament was interesting as well, although I could have used more of it. It’s basically like the Triwizard Tournament, but for the founding magical families of this town. I wish there would have been more of that aspect.

Unfortunately, I didn’t connect with the romance. I wanted to be interested, but I just didn’t care either way. It was fine, but I wasn’t sold on how quickly Emmy and Talia fell for one another. Also, I’m not really sure Gareth’s vices were worth the efforts the ladies went to in order to get back at him. Not to be mean but, get over it.

With all of this being said, this was a super cute story overall. I loved the town of Thistle Grove. It felt to me like an Adult version of The Babysitters Coven and I’m not mad about it. I will absolutely be continuing on with this series.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Berkley Books, for providing me with a copy to read and review.

I am looking forward to returning to this town and this great cast of characters when the second book releases in May!

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Review: What Big Teeth by Rose Szabo

What Big TeethWhat Big Teeth by Rose Szabo
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**2.5-stars rounded up**

Here’s the thing, normally when I finish a book, I like to let it stew for a while before I write my review.

Generally, I will rate a book, write a couple of quick thoughts and return at a later time to compose a full review; giving myself permission to alter that initial rating.

It doesn’t happen often, but sometimes I will raise or lower the rating depending on how the story has impacted me more long-term.

Unfortunately, What Big Teeth is the type of story that I feel like if I wait any length of time at all, I will remember nothing about this.

Here I am minutes post-turning that final page and I already feel the details of this book flying out of my brain like dust in the wind.

This story follows Eleanor Zarrin, who was sent away from her family home many years ago. She was shipped off to a private school and never even returned to visit.

Now as a teenager, after being the perpetrator of a violent act at her school, Eleanor is forced to flee and return to the unopen arms of her estranged family. The Zarrin Estate is set on the coast of Maine in a little town called Winterport.

Over the course of the story, Eleanor becomes reintroduced to the monstrous relatives she had left behind. She begins to come into her own in this strange place; learning more about herself and her family history than she ever knew before.

And that’s really all I’ve got by way of a summary for this book. I didn’t recognize much of a compelling plot for me to sink my teeth into other than learning about the family.

It was just sort of an odd family drama following a Lovecraftian-Addams family. While I understand that the author probably had more in mind when writing this, whatever it was went 100% over my head.

The reason I am rounding this up to three stars, silver linings, is because of the quality of Szabo’s writing. It really was beautiful. It felt so fluid and I really enjoyed the tone. The point though, yeah, that was completely lost on me.

For this one, these are my full and final thoughts. I am obsessed with this cover. I will keep this on my shelves and I will definitely pick-up Szabo’s future works!

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Review: As Good As Dead (A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder #3) by Holly Jackson

As Good As Dead (A Good Girl's Guide to Murder, #3)As Good As Dead by Holly Jackson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars rounded up**

As Good As Dead is the third, and they claim, the final book in Holly Jackson’s popular A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder series.

Personally, I feel like Jackson may not be done with Pip. There’s so much more story that could be told. I’m hoping she pulls a Maureen Johnson, a la The Box in the Woods.

By this point in the series, y’all know, Pip has been through it. This isn’t a cozy YA Mystery series. Pip has faced very real dangers and she hasn’t come out unscathed.

Particularly after solving her last case, she’s left with PTSD surrounding those events. Her emotional state of mind is fairly dark. She’s struggling for real.

Adding to her stress, because like all she’s been through isn’t enough, someone is harassing her.

While Pip is used to trolls, any person with a public presence on the net is, she begins to take special notice when one particular troll asks her the same question over and over: who will look for you when you’re the one who disappears?

The harassment quickly escalates and Pip begins noticing things popping up around her house that indicate this person may be close by, watching her. Before long, there’s no question, she has a stalker.

As Pip starts to look into who this person might be, she discovers connections that may link her stalker to a local serial killer case purportedly solved six years ago. Is the wrong man in jail? Is the killer still on the loose? Will Pip be his next victim?

When the police refuse to act on her behalf, Pip does the thing she is best at, she investigates herself. Is she finally in over her head?

It’s no secret that I absolutely love this series. Pip is one of my favorite characters in the literary world, but this novel finds her in a totally different headspace.

Gone is our sparkling baby girl with all the optimism of a newborn pup. The world has beaten it out of her. She’s seen the dark side of humanity in a way many people never do.

I actually really appreciated that aspect of Pip’s mental health being showcased. So many times in books, the protagonists go through incredibly horrific things and just seem to get over it. They bounce back in a way us regular peeps could never even dream of.

The fact that Pip really struggles with recovering from her experiences made her feel that much more real to me. You can really empathize with her character.

The tone of this entire story is much darker than the previous two and I feel like some people may not like it as much because of that. For me, it felt like the natural progression of Pip’s story.

As always, Pip is completely focused on the task at hand, even to the detriment of some of her relationships. I was concerned for a while about her relationship with Ravi; he’s just such a gem.

This one didn’t turn out quite like I was expecting it to. There’s one point where you think the story could be over, but then a huge twists sends it spinning off in a whole new direction.

After this, I wouldn’t say I was crazy about a lot of Pip’s choices, but who am I to judge.

As mentioned above, I would be super stoked if this weren’t really the end. If it is though, I respect Jackson’s decision and think she did an incredible job with this series.

I would definitely reread all of these book again someday. I think it would be really fun to binge them back-to-back. If you haven’t read this series yet, you better get cracking. You don’t want to miss out!!

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Review: The Excalibur Curse (Camelot Rising #3) by Kiersten White

The Excalibur Curse (Camelot Rising, #3)The Excalibur Curse by Kiersten White
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

The Excalibur Curse is the third and final book in Kiersten White’s Camelot Rising series.

In this slow-burn, character-driven YA Fantasy series, White puts her own unique spin on the legend of Camelot, incorporating classic characters many of us know and love.

The second book in the series, The Camelot Betrayal, ended on an incredible cliffhanger, with the fate of our heroine, Guinevere, hanging in the wind.

I literally gasped at the final plot twist in that book and knew that I had to continue with this story as soon as possible.

As this installment begins, Guinevere finds herself separated from her closest companions. In order to free herself from her sticky situation, and continue on her mission, she is forced to make some new allies. One in particular, I really enjoyed being added to the cast.

I’m looking at you, Fina.

If you have read the earlier books, you know Guinevere has a lot of unanswered questions about her past. Okay, unanswered questions is putting it mildly. She has no freaking clue where she came from or who she really is.

This causes her continued angst. She cannot continue to live feeling like she stole the real Guinevere’s life. She feels a fraud. She needs to find out her truth.

This story follows Guinevere over the ups and downs of her final quest for answers. What she finds…yeah, she’s not ready for it. It shakes her to her core and causes her to feel like she is unworthy of the life she leads.

Her friends and companions, those who love her, work hard to convince her that she is incredible just as she is. She has changed their lives. It doesn’t matter one lick where she came from. She is real and she matters.

While, admittedly, this started out slow for me, the pace definitely increased exponentially in the second half.

Also, I did finally get the answers I was hoping for and even though they weren’t what I expected, I walk away satisfied.

There were so many great relationships built throughout this series. I think that aspect is my greatest take-away from this whole story.

Each relationship was unique and it had its own special qualities. I would say my favorite to watch evolve over the course of the three books was Guinevere and Lancelot. Wow, the two of them and their bond, it absolutely fills my heart to even think about. That’s unconditional love.

Overall, I had a really good time with this series. It’s a bit romantic and dreamy, but it’s also full of twists, intrigue and fantastic characters.

As mentioned above, I’m really happy with this conclusion and can walk away comfortable that my favorites will live happily ever after…

Thank you to the publisher, Delacorte Press, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I definitely look forward to reading more from Kiersten White soon!!

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Review: Murder on the Menu (Nosey Parker Mystery #1) by Fiona Leitch

Murder on the Menu (Nosey Parker Mysteries, #1)Murder on the Menu by Fiona Leitch
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read the 4th-book in the Nosey Parker Mystery series, A Cornish Christmas Murder, back in November of 2021.

I was looking for something cozy, comfortable and holiday-themed. As luck would have it, ACCM checked all of those boxes and many more.

I knew as soon as I finished it that I wanted to go back and read the previous three books.

The main reason, I loved the characters. They’re basically my new squad.

In this first book of the series, we follow our main, Jodie ‘Nosey’ Parker, after she has recently left her position at the Metropolitan Police in London, returning to the small Cornish village in which she grew up.

Jodie needs to make a new life for herself and her tween daughter, Daisey. Brainstorming ideas as to what she would like to do in lieu of policing, the only thing she can think of that she really loves is cooking. With that in mind, she decides to start her own catering company.

Soon after returning, Jodie runs into one of her closest friends from childhood, Tony Penhaligon. As they are catching up, Tony’s issue with the caterer for his upcoming wedding comes to light.

And by issue, I mean he no longer has one. Jodie, although hesitant with the date so close, agrees to take on the job. It sounds like just the kind of posh event she needs to get her new business off the ground.

On the night before the blessed event, Jodie and her sous-chefs, also known as her mother and child, are setting up in the kitchen of the hotel where the event will take place, when a disruption is heard coming from the lobby.

Jodie finds the bride-to-be, Cheryl, in an all out tussle with Tony’s ex-wife, Mel. Being the only person brave enough to jump in and separate the two, Jodie eventually breaks it up.

Speaking with Mel after the fight, all Jodie can determine is that Mel seems to think that Cheryl is after Tony for his money. Whether or not that is true, the show must go on.

The rest of the Friday night cocktail party seems to go okay, but upon returning to the venue the following morning, Jodie finds all heck hath broken loose.

A body has been found on the grounds of the hotel, foul play a definite, and the future-Mrs. Penhaligon is missing. When local authorities seem to have eyes only for Tony, Jodie decides to launch an investigation of her own.

Murder on the Menu was just as delightful, cozy and murdery as A Cornish Christmas Murder. I am beyond happy that I made the time to start at the beginning of this series.

I loved learning more of Jodie’s back story, watching as she transitions from her life in London, meets DCI Withers, and adopts her adorable dog, Germaine.

As with any Cozy, there’s a certain formula at play here that is just so comforting and nostalgic. I feel like you always know what you are going to get with a Cozy Mystery, but the humor and heart of these stories rarely ever disappoint.

Leitch has created such a great cast of characters here. I love that while Jodie is an independent sleuth, she still has the background of a police officer.

Additionally, having her mother and daughter along for the ride makes it all that much more fun. I mean as fun as investigating random murders can be!

Thank you so much to the publisher, One More Chapter, for providing me a copy of this to read and review.

I am in love with this series and have already bought the next book, A Brush With Death. I can’t wait to start!

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Review: Goblin by Josh Malerman

GoblinGoblin by Josh Malerman
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Goblin, originally published in 2017, was rereleased by Del Rey in 2021 with this stunning new cover. As soon as I set eyes upon it, I knew I had to have it.

It’s giving me the colors, ambiance and haunted house vibes that I crave. It has to be incredible, right?

Unfortunately, for me, I never should have judged this book by the cover.

Goblin consists of six novellas, well summarized by the publisher in the book synopsis. It also begins with an interesting Intro and then pulls it all the way through with the Epilogue.

I love the idea behind this. Six separate stories, all set in one creepy town and even though they are separate, there are places, people and themes that keep coming up throughout. These were the aspects that I enjoyed the most.

I think Malerman did a great job of creating this place and the corresponding lore to go with it.

For me, what lost me was the writing of the individual stories. I was just bored. There’s really no sugar-coating that. It felt overwritten for what I got out of each one. I just wanted it to end.

While I can appreciate why a lot of Readers enjoyed this one, it never hit for me. The first story was my least favorite and it ended up setting the tone for the rest of my read. I was completely turned off to it after that.

My favorite of the collection was The Hedges, which is the final story before the Epilogue and what I believe the cover is influenced by. Standing on its own, I would give that story 4-stars. It was engaging.

As always, I would encourage you to give this one a go for yourself if you think it sounds interesting. Please do not let my opinion sway you either way.

There’s a Reader for every book and a book for every Reader. Unfortunately, this one just wasn’t for me.

Thank you to the publisher, Del Rey, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I appreciate having the opportunity to share my opinion.

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Review: Daughter of the Deep by Rick Riordan

Daughter of the DeepDaughter of the Deep by Rick Riordan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Would you be shocked if I told you this was the first book I have ever read by the fabulous Rick Riordan?

Well, it’s true. I can’t believe it either, but it’s true.

Luckily for me, I picked the perfect book to start with. I mean, honestly, this book has it all. I loved it.

Ana Dakkar is a freshman at Harding-Pencroft Academy, a school for all things of the sea. Ana’s older brother, Dev, is also a student at the school.

Due to an accident taking her parent’s lives two years ago, Dev is all the family Ana has left. He means everything to her. They are very close.

The pinnacle of Ana’s freshman year is a weekend trial at sea; think of it as a very serious field trip.

Ana has no idea what lies in store for the weekend. She can only hope that she’ll be successful, but all of that goes out the window when the Freshman class witnesses a violent and tragic event. They’re lucky to be alive.

They learn a rival school, Land Institute, may be responsible, but why? What could possibly be behind such vicious animosity?

Ana and the rest of her classmates are now on their own. They need to figure this all out and somehow out smart and out last their enemies. Along the way, they learn a lot of school history and Ana learns some quite interesting things about her own heritage as well.

Daughter of the Deep is such an exciting, fast-paced and heart-warming story. I loved the connections to 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, as well as the setting and overall vibe.

Riordan grabbed my attention from the very beginning and that never changed. I was completely engrossed in all that was evolving on the page.

I adored this cast of characters, how they grew to rely on one another and really became an excellent example of a found family. You want to be with them; one of the team.

Additionally, although the circumstances for our characters are quite serious, there was a great vein of humor running throughout this story. I found that aspect extremely engaging; it kept me focused.

I’m not sure what the plan is for this. If this will become a new series or not. I certainly hope it will be. I cannot imagine this being the last I read of these characters. They’re all so fantastic and there is so much more room for them to grow. I want more!!!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Disney Audio, for providing me with a copy of the audiobook to listen to. The narrator was terrific and I feel like audio is great format to take in this story.

Keeping my fingers crossed that this will not be the last we see of Ana and friends!!!

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