Review: The Ivory Key (The Ivory Key #1) by Akshaya Raman

The Ivory Key (The Ivory Key Duology, #1)The Ivory Key by Akshaya Raman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Ruler. The Rebel. The Prisoner. The Unhappy Brother?

The Ivory Key is a lush and exciting debut YA Fantasy novel that took my breath away. I absolutely loved this story and highly urge every YA Fantasy Reader to give it a shot.

The story is set in the kingdom of Ashoka where magic is a key resource. It’s used for many things, but one of its most important functions is protecting the kingdom from outside forces. It literally courses through the walls at their borders; shielding them.

As magic begins to run low, Vira, the young maharani of Ashoka, is barely holding it together trying to keep the kingdom from war. It seems their neighbors can sense weakness and are just biding their time before they make their move.

Vira needs to find a new source of magic. Their known mines are dry, although she isn’t telling anyone that officially.

She believes the answer may be to find the Ivory Key, a mysterious object of legend, that is said to hold the secret to a new source of magic.

Vira can’t do it alone, however, so she pairs up with her three estranged siblings, Ronak, Kaleb and Riya, for the search.

That’s right. We have a quest. There’s a map, hidden artifacts, dangerous enemies and cut-throat sibling rivalries. It has everything.

It was hard not to think a bit of Indiana Jones while reading this. That’s how fun it is. I loved the relationships among the characters. I felt like even though the story had a ton of action, I really got to know the characters as well. It had a nice balance.

From the very start I was hooked into this story. I loved how Raman introduced the Reader to all of the characters and built the world. The kingdom and its magic system are well laid out, but the narrative never felt info-dumpy.

The stakes for this story are high, with each character having their own interests and motivations. I never once lost interest in where this was going or what was going to happen.

I cannot wait for the continuation of this story. I am sort of sad that I’ll have to wait so long, but the good news is, I’ll have time to read this one again before the second book releases.

Oh yeah, it’s that good. Don’t let this one pass you by, y’all. Get your copy today!!!

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Review: The Appeal by Janice Hallett

The AppealThe Appeal by Janice Hallett
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars**

After a member of a small local theater trope, The Fairway Players, is murdered, another member ends up imprisoned for the crime.

There’s reason to believe that the incarcerated person is actually innocent, however, but if they are, who is the murderer?

As the Reader, you are supplied with all of the documents a criminal researcher may use when studying this case. You have access to emails, text messages, etc., from all the major players.

They’re presented chronologically, so what you get is actually a fairly thorough picture of what has occurred among this interconnected group of characters; and what a group of characters they are.

Janice Hallett’s The Appeal is definitely a fun change of pace in the standard Murder Mystery genre.

The format was unique and well composed. I felt like I was getting a secret peek into these people’s lives that I shouldn’t have been having. A bit illicit, if you will.

With this being said, the mystery itself wasn’t super-engaging for me. Even when I found out who was murdered, I wasn’t particularly bothered by it, or really compelled to discover who did it.

There were a ton of shady players, involved in all sorts of super shady activities. I’m frankly surprised only one person ended up dead.

So, while I give the author top marks for thinking outside the box and getting super creative with her format, the story itself was just average for me.

I think it is a good book that a lot of Readers will enjoy, it just didn’t blow my hair back as I expected it to.

Thank you to the publisher, Atria Books, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I appreciate the opportunity to provide my opinion.

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Review: The Golden Couple by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

The Golden CoupleThe Golden Couple by Greer Hendricks
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Avery Chambers is an unconventional therapist with a promise to cure your woes in just 10-sessions.

Hearing about Chambers from a friend, Marissa Bishop seeks Avery’s help to aide in repairing her damaged relationship with her husband, Matthew.

Marissa had one night of infidelity. She doesn’t dare tell Matthew on her own, therefore, Marissa saves her confession for their first session with Avery.

From all appearances, Marissa and Matthew are a golden couple, perfect in every way. They intrigue Avery and she is anxious to see how Matthew will react to Marissa’s secret.

Although angered, Matthew takes it surprisingly well and agrees to commit to Avery’s therapy to repair their relationship.

Thus, Avery’s treatment begins.

Alternating between Avery and Marissa’s perspectives, this novel pieces together the truth behind Marissa and Matthew’s marriage, while also providing a background for Avery’s character as well.

I enjoyed my time learning about all of these characters. They were all interesting and provided plenty of drama to keep my head spinning.

Overall, I would say this is a pretty straight-forward story, as far as Psychological Thrillers go, but that doesn’t make it any less fun.

If you enjoy some rich people Domestic Drama, you should absolutely give this one a go. Personally, I’ve had great success with this author duo and I look forward to picking up anything else they may choose to write together.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Macmillan Audio, for providing me with a copy to read and review. As always, I appreciate the opportunity!

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Review: The New Girl by Jesse Q. Sutanto

The New GirlThe New Girl by Jesse Q. Sutanto
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Arriving at Draycott Academy, Lia Setiawan is thrust into a world she is completely unfamiliar with.

Draycott is a super prestigious private boarding school on the West Coast, one Lia can only attend due to the full-ride scholarship she has received to run track.

On the first day, Lia’s nerves seem to be getting the best of her. She is like a deer in the headlights amongst all the wealthy, confident Draycott students.

Track practice doesn’t get off to the best start either. The other girls seemed more threatened by Lia’s incredible speed, than they are happy to have a new teammate.

It doesn’t take long before heated words are exchanged and thinly-veiled threats bandied about.

Not all is a loss though. Lia does make a few friends, including a cute boy, Danny, who has a cultural background similar to her own. They share some sweet moments and for a bit, it seems like Draycott won’t be all bad.

Lia is never given the chance to get too comfortable in her new place, however. Through a rumor-style app known as Draycott Dirt, DD, Lia begins to be incessantly bullied by anonymous classmates.

It’s awful and unfortunately, doesn’t stop with online torment. Their hurtful comments and behavior continue into the classroom, with teachers doing nothing to stop it.

The whole school is a complicated, toxic mess, as far as Lia can tell. Even her English Lit teacher is corrupt. Lia suspects he is giving preferential treatment to certain students, while she is close to failing no matter how hard she works.

She needs to pass every class in order to keep her scholarship, but this guy is making it impossible!

The New Girl follows Lia through her tumultuous first days as a Draycott student. I’ll tell ya, there’s one hell of a learning curve to this Academy.

Y’all, this book had me transfixed. It is an absolutely bats#it crazy story, but man, did it keep me engaged!!! I had so much fun trying to figure out what exactly was going on in Draycott.

Sutanto has a great sense of humor, dry and a bit sarcastic, and even when tackling difficult topics that managed to shine through. There’s a lot going on in this narrative, but it never felt overly heavy or bogged down in details. It still felt fast-paced and intriguing.

There is a lot of intense depictions of bullying, so beware if that is something that could be triggering for you. It’s not for me and even I found it hard to swallow at times. It also explores wealth, privilege, classism, racism and addiction.

Even in its craziest moments, I was rooting for Lia the entire time. While I wouldn’t necessarily agree with all of her choices, I can appreciate she is just a teen trying to do her best under really difficult circumstances.

She was quite literally stuck between a rock and hard place. She never gave up and I loved that about her character. A lot of people would have thrown in the towel after being treated the way she was at Draycott, but not Lia. It just made her fight that much harder.

I would definitely recommend this book to people who go all in for over-the-top YA Mysteries. Sutanto’s got a style all her own and I’m definitely buying what she’s selling.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Sourcebooks Fire, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I appreciate the opportunity!

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Review: The Accomplice by Lisa Lutz

The AccompliceThe Accomplice by Lisa Lutz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars**

Luna and Owen are best friends and have been for well over a decade. Their bond runs incredibly deep, sometimes to the detriment of others in their lives.

From the outside looking in, people are often curious about how close the two are. Maybe it’s because people have a hard time gauging platonic relationships between a man and woman. It makes them suspicious.

Luna’s husband, Sam, and Owen’s wife, Irene, have learned to live with their bestie status. As neighbors, Luna and Owen are frequently getting together and sharing secrets, while their spouses are left behind.

They tell themselves they have an understanding; it’s just how their relationships are, but still, it doesn’t necessarily feel good.

Luna and Irene have established a friendship of their own, however, frequently visiting and even going for runs together.

One morning, Luna heads out to meet Irene for a run at their regular spot, she gets there only to find Irene dead. She’s been murdered!

Luna is shocked. Who would kill Irene? She immediately calls Owen. Yeah, before she calls the police, she calls Owen and he rushes to the scene.

As it turns out, Irene’s isn’t the first mysterious death Luna and Owen have been close to. A girl they knew in college once died under mysterious circumstances. They stood firmly together then as well.

Alternating between 2004/2005 and 2019, the Reader is introduced to the complexity of Luna and Owen’s relationship. The amount of drama they have been through together, as well as the depths they would go to in order to protect one another.

I found this book to be extremely interesting. Luna and Owen were both complex characters. While they seemed a bit aloof with most people, with one another, they were completely different.

They were so attached and enmeshed in each other’s lives. It was fascinating. They came from completely different worlds, but somehow it worked. They found something in each other that they both needed to come out of their shells; drop their walls.

Additionally, the narrative was such a twisted web. My word! Every single person was keeping secrets on some level.

I really enjoyed getting the investigator’s perspectives as well, who were looking into Irene’s death. That gave an extra look into Luna and Owen’s relationship from the outside. I thought that was a nice addition.

I was so happy with how this concluded. It left me with an evil little grin on my face and we all know, I love that!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Ballantine Books, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I had a lot of fun with this one. It will stick with me for a long time to come!

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Review: Black Tide by K.C. Jones

Black TideBlack Tide by K.C. Jones
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Beth is a bit of a hot mess and she’s the first one to admit it. She drinks a tad too much and has been known to flee in the face of responsibility; at least before.

Lately though, Beth has been turning things around. She’s been pet-sitting and feels like she is getting good at it. She’s even getting referred to new clients by happy patrons.

That’s how Beth ends up at a beach house on an empty stretch of the Oregon coast on the day the world ends.

She is staying with the best good dog, Jake, and all has been going well. She’s been spying a little bit on the man next door, but that’s to be expected, isn’t it?

He’s handsome, in a mysterious, scruffy sort of way. He seems lonely. Beth is all kinds of curious about this mystery man.

So, when she sees him drinking expensive champagne on his deck one evening, she heads over to introduce herself.

His name is Mike and he is a film producer. The two hit it off and spend the evening enjoying each other’s company in every way you can imagine.

That night, at Mike’s place, Beth doesn’t sleep well. Her drunken dreams are full of horrifying images that are still rattling around in her brain upon waking.

She finds Mike and Jake together on the beach. Apparently, Mike had gone to the dog’s rescue. Beth can’t believe she left Jake alone in the house next door overnight.

That’s what the booze can do; great decision-making, Beth.

Mike tells Beth all about the insane meteor shower he witnessed from the beach. There’s still evidence of the destruction it wrought. Plus, there’s the thing that he found.

The power is out, so they have no way of listening to any news. How wide spread was the event and what exactly was it?

They decide to drive up the beach and investigate where they believe one of the meteors actually struck. Maybe there will be someone around who knows more of what’s happening.

Black Tide is the most intense book I have read in a long time. Edge of your seat doesn’t even begin to describe it.

From that very first night, as the meteors start to fall, the tension begins. Driving down the beach the following day, they become stranded and the circumstances continue getting worse for the trio; yes, I am counting Jake.

The entire thing was a nail biter. I was yelling at the book, advising them what they should do: protect Jake at all costs!!

I love Sci-Fi Horror and I found this one to be incredibly fun. The concepts were unique, the character development was great and the build-up of intensity was fantastic.

It had such a claustrophobic feel. Oh My goodness, I am squirming even thinking about it!

I grew to really care for these characters. In particular, Beth and Jake. I felt like I was able to relate to Beth so much. It made the stakes feel a lot higher for me. I just wanted them to be safe.

I would definitely recommend this to any Horror Reader, but particularly to those who enjoy a lovely blend of Sci-Fi and Horror elements.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Tor Nightfire, for providing me with a copy to read and review. Black Tide releases on May 10, 2022.

Be sure to add it to your Spring TBR!!

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Review: Such a Pretty Smile by Kristi DeMeester

Such a Pretty SmileSuch a Pretty Smile by Kristi DeMeester
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars**

Lila Sawyer, at 13-years old, is grappling with many things. One of the largest is coming to grips with her own sexuality. This issue is constantly at the forefront of her mind, but there are other things too.

Someone is taking and murdering girls in her area; girls that are about her age. Because of this her Mom, Caroline, has become really paranoid and strict about Lila’s whereabouts and movements.

It’s more than that though. It’s like her Mom knows something about what is going on and she’s keeping it, and her entire past, secret from Lila.

It appears that the killer, dubbed The Cur by media, has struck before. Lila hears her Mom talking about it; something about the past, about New Orleans.

Caroline Sawyer is a single-mom and successful artist, whose macabre sculptures composed of artifacts from nature, such as twigs and leaves, is heavily disturbed by the murders of the young girls.

She desperately wants to keep her daughter, Lila, safe. This monster has affected her life before and she can’t have it happen again.

Such a Pretty Smile follows the perspectives of both Lila and Caroline; Lila in 2019 and Caroline mainly in 2004. The narrative alternates until past and present slowly begin to merge into one horrifying showdown.

I really enjoyed this story. I found it to be wildly creative, brutal, bizarre and extraordinarily thought-provoking. DeMeester’s got a lot to say and she’s not afraid to say it.

She’s clearly not going to just be quiet and smile pretty. We’re here for it.

While I recognize this won’t necessarily be for every Reader, for me it was an impressive display of feminist Horror. The biting social commentary, my word, I doff my cap.

DeMeester’s writing is incredibly rich with dark, evocative imagery. I was essentially watching this entire story play out in my mind. I loved how she revealed certain aspects of Caroline’s past and how that played into their present.

This is the first that I have read from this author, although she has been on my radar for a while. I actually own a copy of her short-story collection, Everything That’s Underneath, and definitely plan to pick that up this year.

If you like dark, no-mercy stories, with vivid imagery and brain-rattling social commentary, you should absolutely give this one a shot!

Thank you so much to the publisher, St. Martin’s Press, for providing me with a copy to read and review.

This story will stay on my mind for a long time to come!

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Review: Star Wars The High Republic: Mission to Disaster by Justina Ireland

Star Wars The High Republic: Mission to DisasterStar Wars The High Republic: Mission to Disaster by Justina Ireland
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars**

Mission to Disaster is a Junior Star Wars novel set in the era of the High Republic. Releasing on March 1, 2022, this novel is part of the second wave of HR materials set to be published by Disney and LucasFilms Press.

The events in this novel follow those of the 2021-HR releases, but still 200-years prior to The Phantom Menace.

After the startling events of the Republic Fair, the galaxy has been put on alert. The Nihil are much more of a threat than the Jedi initially anticipated.

They’re cunning and calculated, seeming to have influence everywhere.

Kicking off this novel, I was quickly reunited with one of my favorite new characters from the HR releases, Avon Starros.

Avon, the daughter of a Senator, is gifted in science and invention. She’s currently stationed at Port Haileap, due to her mother’s wishes, but is finally getting the opportunity to research kyber crystals, so that’s a win.

Avon hopes to discover new ways to harness the power of the crystals in a way that will help everyone; think clean energy research. She finds herself in her lab on the day the spaceport comes under attack.

After receiving an alert call from Port Haileap, Jedi Vernestra Rwoh and her Padawan, Imri Cantaros, get sent to investigate.

Arriving to Avon’s lab, Vernestra and Imri are able to discover a survivor of the attack, but she tells them Avon is gone, perhaps captured by the Nihil!

Following clues discovered during their investigation, Vernestra and Imri find themselves on Dalna in the Outer Rim Territories; a known area of operation for the Nihil.

There they work with the government and people of Dalna to the best of their ability, to find Avon and any other children the Nihil may have captured. They face some difficulties there, as the people of Dalna aren’t too fond of the Jedis.

Avon, for her part, is in fact a hostage of the Nihil. Even worse, she is made to aid the Nihil’s version of an evil scientist, Dr. Mkampa, in assembling horrifying weapons.

It’s a race against time, as the Jedi try to help the people of Dalna and hopefully defeat the evil Nihil organization once and for all. Will they be able to rescue everyone before true disaster strikes?

I had such a great time reading this story. I actually listened to the audiobook and as is known with Star Wars audios, the production was magnificent. All of the sound effects really make you feel like you are part of the action!

I was excited to get another HR novel from Justina Ireland. She puts a lot of heart into her stories. The characters are so well developed. I loved being reunited with many characters from this era. I feel like I am really getting to know them.

Following the Great Disaster, the galaxy has become unstable and these young characters have had a lot to deal with. I feel like they’ve shown incredible growth in these stories, now rivaling the maturity level of the adults around them.

This was super fast-paced and exciting. There was never a dull moment. Additionally, I loved learning more about the mysterious Nihil. The full picture is really starting to become clear as far as they are concerned.

I’m really looking forward to continuing on with the High Republic era. This was a quick one, but don’t let the length of this novel fool you. There is a ton of stellar content packed in here!!!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Disney and LucasFilms Press, for providing me with the audiobook to listen to. It was such a treat!

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Review: Feather and Flame by Livia Blackburne

Feather and Flame (The Queen's Council, #2)Feather and Flame by Livia Blackburne
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

Feather and Flame is the second book is Disney’s The Queen Council series.

If you are unaware, this series imagines what happened post-happily ever after for some of our favorite Disney Princesses. Each book is the story of a different heroine written by a different author.

This story follows Mulan after her victory on the battlefield at the end of the animated film.

As the story begins, Mulan is living a quiet life at home. Well, quiet if you consider training her own female militia quiet. But China is at peace and it is a good feeling.

When Shang arrives with an invitation to the Imperial City, Mulan has no idea that her entire life is about to be flipped on its head. Again.

Once there, Mulan is treated to a private counsel with the ailing Emperor. He tells her he has a plan for his succession and it is her. She will be named his heir to the throne.

Unfortunately, the transition occurs more quickly than Mulan would have preferred. She is terrified, but must do what she can to rule her country to the best of her abilities.

With enemies lurking around every corner and the Huns sensing weakness, will Mulan’s reign be doomed from the start?

Mulan is filled with doubt and she’s scared. She feels alone. What if she can’t do this? There’s so much at stake.

Luckily, the Queen’s Council is there to help Mulan find her true destiny. What is the Queen’s Council, you may be asking?

I don’t want to give anything away, so let’s just call it Mulan’s Spirit Advisor. Not spiritual advisor, mind you, SPIRIT advisor.

I had a lot of fun reading this story. It was great to be back with Mulan and to get an extension of her story that I think was greatly needed.

I have always loved Mulan as a character. She has such a quiet grace about her. She is humble, strong and determined in the face of danger. I was so happy to see that she kept all of these wonderful characteristics throughout this story.

This is a highly political story, so for those of you who maybe don’t enjoy a lot of political maneuverings in your stories, you have been forewarned.

For me, I love political fantasy, so this worked for me. I would have been happy with a bit more depth, but overall, I was quite pleased with this one!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Disney Books. I look forward to getting the next installment of this series!

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Review: Anatomy: A Love Story by Dana Schwartz

Anatomy: A Love StoryAnatomy: A Love Story by Dana Schwartz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In 1817-Edinburgh, Hazel Sinnett’s desire to be a surgeon is far from the norm. Seriously, a woman being a surgeon?

It’s true. It was the times. Women of a certain standing were meant to look pretty, take on inconsequential hobbies, be quiet and care for a husband and household.

Hazel isn’t interested in all that, but unfortunately, she knows the realities of her circumstance. In order to protect her position within society, she will need to be married.

In a way, Hazel is lucky. She’s been betrothed to her cousin Bertrand since the two were children. They’ve known each other forever and get along quite well.

Hazel feels that Bertrand may even learn to understand her passion with anatomy and helping people. At least that is what she hopes.

Jack Currer is a resurrection man, digging up recently deceased bodies and selling them to doctors and anatomists within the city.

It’s a dangerous job, but when Jack’s main source of income, his position at a local theater, gets taken away due to circumstances outside of his control, he has no other choice. Jack doesn’t come from wealth and has no family nest to crawl back into.

When their mutual arts of dealing with the dead bring them into contact with one another, Jack and Hazel are each set on a new course that will change their lives.

Anatomy: A Love Story reminded me a lot of my time spent with Down Comes the Night last year. Not because of its content, but because of its darkly gothic vibe that pleasantly took me by surprise.

I really enjoyed this. It had just the right ‘romance to darker bits’ ratio for my taste.

There is mystery, intrigue and a very slow-burn romance. Jack and Hazel are from different worlds, but together they work. They support one another in a way that neither of them have ever experienced before.

It was so comfortable watching their relationship blossom. It seriously filled my heart.

Another strong comparison would be to Stalking Jack the Ripper. Again, not so much for the content, but for the overall vibe.

Hazel is compelling, she doesn’t back down to convention. I always love that. Jack has a good heart in spite of his chosen profession. We stan a bad boy with a heart of gold. They shouldn’t work, but you know you’re going to root for them.

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

I was really impressed with this and look forward to reading more from Dana Schwartz.

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