Review: Arsenic and Adobo (Tita Rosie’s Kitchen Mysteries #1) by Mia P. Manansala

Arsenic and Adobo (Tita Rosie's Kitchen Mystery, #1)Arsenic and Adobo by Mia P. Manansala
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Arsenic and Adobo is a great start to a new Cozy Mystery series. After reading this, I can confidently say, I’m here for the long haul.

Keep ’em coming, please, Mia P. Manansala!!!

Following a bad breakup, Lila Macapagal moves back home to lick her wounds and try to put the pieces of her life back together.

Additionally, her family needs some help. Her Aunt’s restaurant is floundering. Even though the food is incredible, the business-side is tanking. Her Auntie never focuses on those details. Lila knows she can turn it around.

When Lila’s ex-boyfriend, Derek, a local food critic with a terrible reputation, shows up for dinner with their landlord, who also happens to be Derek’s step-father, Lila knows stuff is about to hit the fan.

However, she would never expect Derek to fall face first into his dessert. Dead, apparently poisoned. Now the police consider Lila to be their number one suspect.

As it seems all local law enforcement are wasting their time investigating Lila and her family, Lila knows she needs to get to the bottom of what happened to Derek herself. Her family had nothing to do with it, which means a killer is still out there.

Thus begins a super fun and witty amateur sleuthing trope. It’s no secret that I love Cozy Mysteries. I’ve read a few Culinary Cozy books in the past and this one definitely fits right in!

It’s silly, it’s over the top, fast-paced, funny and there’s a lot of delicious food on page.

I thought this was an excellent start to a new series. Manansala made me care for Lila and her loved ones. Cozy Mystery series tend to get better and better with time, as each one builds out the characters you come to adore. Trust me when I say, you can become quite attached.

I’m invested and already anticipating the next release in this series. That makes me a happy girl!

If you are Cozy fan, especially Culinary Cozies, you should absolutely give this one a shot. I’m so interested to see what crazy hijinks the Macapagal family gets up to next!!

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Review: The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris

The Other Black GirlThe Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars rounded up**

The Other Black Girl is a super smart debut and would make a great freaking movie. I really enjoyed this!

It’s hard to categorize what exactly this book is. While it felt like Horror to me, I’ll settle for describing it as Speculative Fiction with a Thriller twist.

Nella Rogers is an editorial assistant at Wagner Books and the only black employee in that position. Wagner was her goal publishing house. She worked damn hard to get where she is and continues to every day.

No matter how hard she works, however, Nella is still subject to daily microaggressions in the workspace. Regardless, she knows she needs to go along to get along, as they say.

When Harlem-born, Hazel, is introduced to her as a new colleague, Nella is shocked. Another black girl?

This could be fun. She’s never had this before. Maybe she’ll finally have someone willing to back her up when she tries to change the status quo a bit.

While Hazel seems nice at first, there’s something about her Nella just doesn’t trust.

Almost as soon as Hazel begins at Wagner, she’s suddenly the office darling, while Nella gets pushed more and more to the sidelines. Why doesn’t Hazel have to put in the same amount of time at the bottom that Nella did?

Nella is confident that she is damn good at what she does. She knows it isn’t that. So, what is it? Why is everyone so smitten with Hazel?

Then Nella begins to receive threatening and mysterious messages telling her she needs to leave Wagner entirely. Is Hazel behind this, or someone else?

Nella begins to investigate Hazel and makes some shocking discoveries that put her entire future in danger.

If that doesn’t have you intrigued, I don’t know what will!

I loved how Harris framed this story. What starts out feeling like a very tame, contemporary analysis of the U.S. publishing industry quickly evolves into something so much more than that.

As the Reader, you go through it with Nella. I felt everything she was feeling: confused, frustrated, scared, desperate and a whole host of other emotions. Is she being paranoid, is she correct? It is a ride!

It’s sinister, ominous, riddled with a sense of dread and I must say, unpredictable. I couldn’t have predicted this ending in a million years.

I would recommend this to everyone, but particularly if you enjoyed Alyssa Cole’s, When No One is Watching, you should for sure pick this up.

It had that same dark tone, laced with biting, relevant social commentary throughout. A stellar debut. Zakiya Dalila Harris is definitely an author to watch!!!

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Review: Shielded (Shielded #1) by KayLynn Flanders

Shielded (Shielded, #1)Shielded by KayLynn Flanders
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

With the kingdom of Halendi at war, and rumors of a deadlier threat looming at the border, the King promises his daughter’s hand to the Prince of the neighboring kingdom of Turia.

In exchange for her hand, Halendi will get the troops they desperately need to stage a better defense. Princess Jennesara is disheartened to learn of her father’s deal.

Jenna has a warrior’s heart and she knows she could be an advantage if her father would just give her the chance to fight for the kingdom she loves.

Unfortunately, the King, and her older brother, Ren, will not be deterred in their goals. Therefore, Jenna will head to Turia just after her 17th-birthday to meet her betrothed, Prince Enzo.

As the journey gets underway, all are aware that a dangerous road lies ahead.

They have to pass through the Wild in order to reach their destination. Let’s just say the area is aptly named.

After the traveling party is ambushed, Jenna is forced to leave all she knows behind her and set out on her own.

Hiding her identity, she ultimately ends up in Turia, a guest in the royal castle. What she learns there could be the key to saving not just her kingdom, but their entire world.

Settling in with Shielded, I was expecting a fairly typical YA Fantasy story. However, I’m happy to report, this exceeded my expectations.

I really enjoyed the world-development and magic system in this. While Jenna seemed like a fairly typical, ‘not like other Princesses’-Princess, I was able to overlook that because the underlining plot was so darn interesting.

The villains in this story, a trio of powerful ancient mages, were incredibly creepy and well done. Their abilities alone upped the stakes, as opposed to just one kingdom battling another.

I also liked how much of a role the royal library at Turia played in the story. Once her enemy is known, Jenna does a lot of research on the history of the mages to try to figure out how to defeat them. I loved that element! Give me all them books!!

Overall, I think this is a strong start to a new series. I am super happy with where this left off and the possibilities for the sequel!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Delacorte Press, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. This is such a great debut and I look forward to reading more from KayLynn Flanders in the future!

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Review: The Safe Place by Anna Downes

The Safe PlaceThe Safe Place by Anna Downes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A strong debut Thriller, engrossing and intense!

Emily is down on her luck, wishing for rescue, as a white knight comes charging through to save her.

By white knight, I mean a very wealthy man, Scott Denny, Emily’s former boss, who offers her an unusual opportunity she cannot turn down.

Before she knows it, Em is being whisked off to the coast of France to live in a Guest Cottage at the Denny’s secluded waterfront estate, Querencia.

Scott’s mysterious wife, Nina, lives there with their young daughter, Aurelia. While the job description is foggy, Emily assumes she is part-housekeeper, part-nanny.

And while she does perform a large amount of upkeep and renovation projects, as the days pass, it begins to seem she is more of a companion for Nina than anything else.

They sit by the pool, drink wine, play with Aurelia. It’s a dream job. Until it’s not.

This book really intrigued me. For the first 60%, I could not figure out where it was going. Obviously, something was amiss, it’s a Thriller, but what was it?

Was Scott up to something? Was Nina? Aurelia seemed a little strange, was she possessed? What about Emily? An unreliable narrator if ever there was one, right?

Then at 60%, there was one sentence, one sentence that made every single puzzle piece fall into place for me. It was so glaringly obvious to me after that what was actually going on.

While I don’t believe that is where I was suppose to figure it all out, as looking back, it was a fairly mundane sentence, I did and it sort of sucked a little of the joy out of it for me.

But, just a little. Overall, I did have a ton of fun reading this. It was quite intense towards the end.

Even though the characters might not have made the choices I would have made, I was satisfied with the conclusion. It felt complete.

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

I definitely think it will end up being one of the hottest Thrillers of the summer. Available now!!!

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Review: Serpent & Dove by Shelby Mahurin

Serpent & Dove (Serpent & Dove, #1)Serpent & Dove by Shelby Mahurin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars**

Louise Le Blanc is a young witch who knows a few things about the world. Witches are good and the Chasseurs are bad. Good versus evil. There’s no in between.

But when her own mother tries to kill her, she is forced to flee her coven and the world suddenly seems a very different place.

Reid Diggory has lived a very different life, abiding by the creed ‘Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.’ Working for the church as a Chasseur, literally a witch hunter, he has been raised to see the same black and white world that Lou has.

When Reid and Lou are hastily forced into a marriage, he isn’t aware that she is a witch but she’s definitely not his type.

What could possibly go wrong?
Short answer: pretty much everything.

Guys, I was so pumped to read this book based on early reviews but admittedly, in the beginning, I wasn’t sold. The pacing was super off for me and it took me until the halfway point to really become engaged with the story.

This book is over 500-pages so that means I spent 250-pages trudging along just hoping it would get better.

Luckily, for me, in the end, it did come around and I turned out enjoying the last half quite a bit. The final group of characters who joined together to battle the baddies was fun and I look forward to reading more of them together in the second book.

That’s right, I will definitely be continuing on with this series!! In short, I wish I could give this a higher rating but personally, I felt the beginning portion could have done with some more editing.

Again, however, the second half was strong and I am intrigued enough to return to this world and see what happens with Lou and Reid!

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Review: The Light at the Bottom of the World (Light the Abyss #1) by London Shah

The Light at the Bottom of the World (Light the Abyss, #1)The Light at the Bottom of the World by London Shah
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars rounded up**

Debut novels have really been impressing me lately and this one is no exception. Man, what a captivating story. I don’t think I have ever read anything quite like this.

Set at the end of the 21st-century, the world is now underwater. Our protagonist, 16-year old Leyla McQueen is living on her own in London.

Her Father has been arrested and spirited away by government officials, although no one will tell her exactly where.

Leyla knows he is innocent of the crimes for which he is accused and now her whole life is focused on trying to find him and get him back.

When the opportunity arises for her to compete in a government-sanctioned auto race, with the prize being anything the winner desires, she puts her whole heart into winning.

The marathon doesn’t turn out to be what she expected, however, and Leyla finds herself fleeing the perceived safety of London and heading out to lesser chartered waters for the first time in her life.

Now in her own submarine with her sweet pup, Jojo, virtual domestic help, Oscar, and a new body guard, Ari, she sets out to finally solve the mystery of what happened to her Father.

This book is so intriguing, you guys. Once I got into it, I could not put it down and pretty much read it in two days. There is a an enemies-to-lovers plot element which I enjoyed. It was very mild though so if romance isn’t your thing, I would just say that it never overpowered the rest of the storyline.

For me the elements I was picking up the most were the great bits of politically-charged social commentary. That may not be the greatest way to describe it. The story itself isn’t of a political nature but the topics explored definitely were and are poignant for a lot happening in the world right now.

Topics I noticed would include the idea that it is okay to question authority, to question the official story. It explored the idea of governments molding citizens viewpoints on ‘others’ and how individuals can be punished if they speak up or against such sanctioned ideas. There were elements of ‘terrorism’, domestic and otherwise, explored, as well as an us-versus-them mentality.

While all these topics were threaded throughout the narrative, to me, they never felt forced or like the author was championing an agenda. It was all very natural and organic to the plot progression. I was impressed with how the author was able to do that.

It’s also important to note this is Own Voices representation for a Muslim main character. Both of Leyla’s parents were of Afghan descent. So if you are looking for more stories with Muslim main characters, I think this would be a great one for you to check out!

I thought the scifi elements in here were excellent. Very forward thinking and unique as far as the whole world being underwater. I think the concepts are very approachable for all readers, so even if you don’t read a lot of scifi, maybe you are afraid you won’t necessarily understand it all, I don’t think that would be the case here.

Finally, there are very cool ‘monsters’ in this story! They were honestly one of my favorite parts. They are called anthropoids and are basically genetically-modified humans that can breathe underwater. So, think the evil mermaids from Harry Potter — very well done.

Thank you so, so much to the publisher, Disney Book Group, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. I was so impressed and cannot wait for the next book to be released!

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