Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Heartfelt and Authentic: A Review of 'Girls Like Girls' by Hayley Kiyoko

Girls Like GirlsGirls Like Girls by Hayley Kiyoko
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Year read: 2023

"Girls Like Girls" by Hayley Kiyoko takes readers on a heartwarming journey of self-discovery and love. At the heart of the story is Coley, a 17-year-old who finds herself grappling with the recent loss of her mother, thrusting her into a new environment and leaving her vulnerable and uncertain. Kiyoko's portrayal of Coley's emotional journey is incredibly poignant, allowing readers to connect deeply with her vulnerability and doubts.

When Coley crosses paths with Sonya, an immediate connection ignites. Kiyoko masterfully weaves their relationship, capturing the exhilaration, tenderness, and uncertainty of first love. Coley's doubts about her own worthiness of love and Sonya's journey as someone who has never been with a girl before adding layers of depth and authenticity to their evolving connection.

Set in a small town in Oregon, this book beautifully explores the challenges of teenage life and the courage it takes to embrace one's true self. With relatable characters and a celebration of LGBTQ+ experiences, Kiyoko's storytelling captures the essence of love and acceptance. "Girls Like Girls" was a captivating read.

Disclosure Statement:

I received a free Advance Reader Copy (ARC) of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way influences my opinions or the content of my review. My feedback is voluntary and unbiased. My thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for providing me with an opportunity to read and review this book.

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Glitter, Guts, and Growth: A 5-Star Journey with "Pumpkin" by Julie Murphy

Pumpkin (Dumplin', #3)Pumpkin by Julie Murphy
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Year read: 2023


"Pumpkin" by Julie Murphy is an absolute gem and another five-star addition to her Dumplin' series. Julie Murphy's ability to create heartwarming stories with authentic characters is remarkable, and "Pumpkin" is no exception. This book brings Waylon's journey to life delightfully while seamlessly weaving the stories of Dumplin' and Puddin' into the background.

What sets Julie Murphy apart is her commitment to portraying youth with the depth and complexity they deserve. In "Pumpkin," Waylon is a refreshing protagonist—a fat, openly gay boy navigating the challenges of a small West Texas town. His journey towards self-acceptance and embracing his true self is redemptive and touching, making it a story that resonates with readers of all ages.

One of the standout features of "Pumpkin" is the authenticity with which Murphy writes her characters. Rather than resorting to stereotypes, she portrays today's youth as intelligent, self-assured, knowledgeable, and kind. This portrayal is refreshing and reflects the reality of our time's diverse and resilient youth.

Another aspect that deserves applause is how the author handles the high school bully character. Instead of giving him unnecessary page time, Murphy focuses on Waylon's personal growth and the positive aspects of his journey. This subtle yet effective approach allows the story to shine even brighter.

The publisher's description gives you a taste of the chaos that ensues when Waylon and Hannah are nominated for prom court. The mishaps, glitter, and the unexpected connection between Waylon and Tucker Watson add depth and humor to the narrative. It's a story that beautifully showcases the importance of living in the moment and embracing who you are, all while making us laugh and tear up.

In conclusion, "Pumpkin" is a must-read for fans of Julie Murphy's previous works and anyone who appreciates a heartwarming, authentic, and genuinely enjoyable story. It's a testament to the power of self-discovery, friendship, and the courage to be unapologetically yourself. I can't wait to see what Julie Murphy has for us next!

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Monday, September 25, 2023

Unveiling the Potential: A Review of 'Fire & Ice' by Michele Barrow-Belisle

Fire & Ice (Faerie Song Trilogy, #1)Fire & Ice by Michele Barrow-Belisle
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Year read: 2015 

Full disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. All the opinions I express here are entirely my own.

There's no denying that this book brims with potential. However, this inaugural installment falls short of fully realizing that potential. The primary issue lies in the need for more rigorous editing. There were moments where the dialogue felt hurried and underdeveloped, so much so that I wondered if I had somehow missed pages in my ebook. Numerous plotlines were introduced and then seemingly abandoned, leaving me longing for closure.

Lorelei, our protagonist, struck me as a character who sometimes bore an uncanny resemblance to Bella Swan from the Twilight series. She appeared to lack substantial growth or development, consistently rushing headlong into situations that landed her in the damsel-in-distress role. When we meet her at the book's outset, she presents as a strong, silent loner with hidden talents. The rapidity with which Lorelei succumbs to swooning over Adrius feels somewhat incongruent with the girl we first encounter.

Admittedly, there were moments of frustration in this book. However, Michele Barrow-Belisle has crafted a captivating world filled with intricate details and vivid descriptions. Despite the book’s challenges, I was irresistibly drawn into the enchanting realm of faerie, brimming with magical creatures and boundless possibilities.

Now, in complete honesty, I won't be reading the sequel, "Bittersweet." While this book certainly intrigued me with its world-building, the character development and plot execution left something to be desired. With this series's potential, I earnestly hope it receives the attention of a skilled editor and undergoes revision. Such a revision could elevate it to greatness, but I'll be exploring other literary realms for now.

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Unlocking the Magic of "Secrets and Scallywags": A Five-Star Journey into Cozy Mystery Adventure

Secrets and Scallywags (Magical Mystery Book Club #5)Secrets and Scallywags by Elizabeth Pantley
My rating: 5 of 5 stars


"Secrets and Scallywags" by Elizabeth Pantley is a delightful addition to the Magical Mystery Book Club series, and it deserves a solid five-star rating! This book takes the cozy mystery genre to a new level, offering readers a unique and enchanting experience.

One of the standout features of this series is the imaginative concept of book club members stepping into the world of the books they choose to read. In "Secrets and Scallywags," we embark on a swashbuckling adventure alongside the club members as they become entangled in the mysteries of pirates and stolen treasure. It's a refreshing departure from the typical murder-centric cozy mysteries, making it perfect for those who prefer a lighter, more whimsical approach to the genre.

Elizabeth Pantley's storytelling prowess shines brightly in this installment. The island community setting is charmingly vivid, and the mystery of the washed-up pirate boat with its rumored treasure adds excitement and intrigue to the plot. As the club members meet the spectral crew of the ill-fated ship, the story takes on a magical quality that keeps you glued to the pages.

What sets this book and the entire series apart is the camaraderie and diversity of the book club members. Their quirky personalities, unique strengths, and humorous interactions add depth and charm to the narrative. It's easy to become invested in their adventures and root for them as they strive to solve the mysteries that bind them to the books.

The ultimate quest to find the treasure and release the ghosts is a thrilling ride filled with clever twists and unexpected turns. Pantley masterfully keeps you guessing while delivering heartwarming moments of friendship and courage. The resolution is satisfying, and the journey is one you will remember.

"Secrets and Scallywags" is not just a cozy mystery; it's a delightful escape into the world of books within books. It's a reminder of the magic that can be found in reading and the power of imagination. Whether you're a fan of cozy mysteries or simply looking for a unique and engaging read, this book—and the entire Magical Mystery Book Club series—is an absolute gem. I've enjoyed the whole series and can't wait to see where Elizabeth Pantley takes us next!

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Monday, September 18, 2023

Magical Mystery: 5-Star Review of 'Whiskers and Lies' by Sofie Kelly

Whiskers and Lies (A Magical Cats Mystery, #14)Whiskers and Lies by Sofie Kelly
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Year read: 2023

"Whiskers and Lies" by Sofie Kelly is an absolute gem in the beloved series that keeps improving with each installment. As a devoted fan, this book deserves a stellar 5-star rating and more!

Kathleen Paulson, our favorite librarian, once again finds herself in a perplexing mystery, and this time, it's a thrilling ride from start to finish. The Halloween-themed backdrop adds an extra layer of excitement to the story, and the author's vivid descriptions of spooky cupcakes had my mouth watering.

The real stars of the show are Kathleen's enchanting feline companions, Hercules and Owen. Their magical abilities and unwavering support make every adventure all the more enchanting. The bond between Kathleen and her cats is heartwarming and beautifully portrayed.

Sofie Kelly's writing is as enchanting as ever, with her knack for weaving an intricate plot while keeping the reader thoroughly engaged. Her characters are relatable and endearing, and her storytelling prowess shines brightly in "Whiskers and Lies."

In summary, "Whiskers and Lies" is a must-read for fans of the series. Fans will also be excited by the surprise ending! It's a delightful combination of cozy mystery, magical elements, and unforgettable characters. I can't recommend it enough, and I eagerly anticipate this excellent series's next adventure!

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Blooming Intrigue: A Review of 'The Chamomile Conspiracy' – A Cozy Mystery with a Botanical Twist

The Chamomile Conspiracy : A Garden Lover Cozy Mystery (Seasons of the Witch Book 1)The Chamomile Conspiracy : A Garden Lover Cozy Mystery by Louise Marvin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I am a sucker for cat mysteries - and this one has some pretty adorable cats. I can't wait to learn more about them and follow along on their continued adventures. The real "sidekick" star of this show is the PLANTS, though. Our heroine, Pax, can communicate with plants. The plant facts and the personalities of each plant that help her along the way really add a new and fun angle to the cozy mystery genre.

Pax's world is upturned when she goes to visit her friend, Miss Millie, for the weekend and finds Miss Millie dying - her final words are accusations of murder and poison! Pax has only known Miss Millie for a couple of years but felt a strong bond and kinship with the sweet nonagenarian instantly. Pax is from the Harbor area but left when she was only 6 years old. Her parents passed away, and her hyper-controlling, emotionally distant grandparents took her to Boston. Pax has always longed for family and to know her history - especially her mother's family, whom her grandparents have denied her learning about. Revelations abound throughout the story as Pax finds herself, her people, and her family.

A fun start to a cozy mystery series. A lot smoother than many firsts! The world-building is already very engaging. I look forward to following along for more adventures with Pax, Sam, Angie, the plants, the cats, and the whole Harbor community.

I received a free copy of this book via Booksprout and am voluntarily leaving a review.

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The Witches of Bone Hill: A Spellbinding Tale of Family, Love, and Redemption - 5 Stars!

The Witches of Bone HillThe Witches of Bone Hill by Ava Morgyn
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A Spellbinding Tale of Family, Love, and Redemption - 5 Stars!

"The Witches of Bone Hill" by Ava Morgyn is an enchanting masterpiece that effortlessly weaves elements of the supernatural, family secrets, and heartwarming romance together. From start to finish, this novel captivated me and left me craving more of the mystical world it brought to life.

One of the standout features of this book is its perfect balance between the eerie and the horrifying. Morgyn's ability to create a palpable sense of unease without diving into gratuitous horror is commendable. The atmosphere she crafts in Bone Hill is tinged with just the right amount of creepiness to keep you eagerly turning the pages without needing to hide under the covers.

But what truly sets this book apart is its portrayal of the bonds between women, both living and dead. The sisters, Cordelia and Eustace, are complex and relatable characters, and their journey of discovery and reconciliation is heartwarming and empowering. The themes of female solidarity and the strength that can be drawn from generations of women coming together to protect one another are beautifully explored throughout the narrative.

The romance between Cordelia and the enigmatic groundskeeper adds a layer of passion and depth to the story. While it may seem fast-paced initially, their connection is palpable. As a reader, I found myself cheering them on, hoping for their happiness amidst the supernatural chaos surrounding them.

As for Eustace and her gifts, I would have loved to delve deeper into her character and abilities. Nevertheless, the story maintains a compelling balance between the different narrative threads, leaving readers eager to explore more of this fascinating world.

The build-up to the climax is intense, and Morgyn expertly keeps the suspense at a fever pitch. You'll find yourself holding your breath as the secrets of Bone Hill unravel, and the resolution is nothing short of redemptive and heartwarming.

In summary, "The Witches of Bone Hill" is a captivating blend of mystery, romance, and the supernatural, all wrapped in a tale of family bonds and self-discovery. Ava Morgyn has crafted a spellbinding story that will enchant you from the first page. It's a must-read for anyone who enjoys stories of witches, family secrets, and the enduring power of love and sisterhood. Five stars don't do it justice; it's a literary gem that deserves all the praise it receives.

Disclosure Statement:

I received a free Advance Reader Copy (ARC) of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way influences my opinions or the content of my review. My feedback is voluntary and unbiased. My thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for providing me with an opportunity to read and review this book.

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Tuesday, September 12, 2023

American Royals (American Royals, #1) by Katharine McGee

American Royals (American Royals, #1)American Royals by Katharine McGee
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

American Royals by Katharine McGee had an interesting premise with the idea of an American monarchy, but it left me feeling somewhat unsatisfied. While I was excited about exploring an alternate universe perspective on American royalty, I found the characters to be hard to connect with or genuinely care about.

Throughout the book, the author invests a lot of time building various relationships, only to crush nearly all of them by the end. This left me feeling somewhat frustrated and wondering about the point of it all. The only character who consistently acted in a manner consistent with their personality was the villainous Daphne Deighton, which made her oddly intriguing in a story filled with characters who seemed to lack depth.

As I considered whether to continue with the series, I took a quick look at the reviews for the second book, and they didn't inspire confidence. It seems that my concerns about the characters and their development may persist in subsequent installments.

While American Royals had a promising concept, the execution didn't fully deliver for me. If you're looking for a more immersive exploration of an alternate American monarchy, you might be left wanting.

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Wednesday, September 6, 2023

Playing the Witch Card by K.J. Dell'Antonia

Playing the Witch CardPlaying the Witch Card by K.J. Dell'Antonia
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

"Playing the Witch Card" by K.J. Dell'Antonia had the potential to be a captivating tale, blending elements of romance, magic, and family drama. However, it fell short of expectations due to several key issues.

The book's first chapter left me feeling disoriented and disconnected from the story. It was filled with emo foreshadowing and references to unexplained elements, making it a challenging start for readers. Additionally, the protagonist's conflicting desires regarding her hometown felt implausible. Wanting to return but rejecting the day-to-day aspects of her hometown life seemed inconsistent and made it difficult to relate to her character.

One of the most frustrating aspects of the book was the main character's stubborn refusal to acknowledge the importance of magic despite clear evidence that it played a significant role in her life. Her flimsy reasons for rejecting it added to the frustration. Furthermore, her decision to move back to her hometown under the ultimatum of "learn magic or leave forever" felt contrived and questionable.

The character of Flair is unlikable and comes across as a know-it-all who is willing to disregard the well-being of others to achieve her goals. Rooting for her or becoming emotionally invested in her journey was challenging. Ultimately, unlikable characters, a rushed plot, and unlikely and bizarre character choices hindered the story's potential.

While the publisher's description promised a blend of "Gilmore Girls" and "Practical Magic," the execution fell short of delivering on this enticing premise. Overall, "Playing the Witch Card" had potential but failed to live up to it due to these issues.

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Witches Get Stuff Done by Molly Harper

Witches Get Stuff Done (Starfall Point, #1)Witches Get Stuff Done by Molly Harper
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**Three-Star Review: Witches Get Stuff Done by Molly Harper**

"Witches Get Stuff Done" by Molly Harper presents a mix of magical intrigue and charming characters in a debut installment that promises potential for future growth. While the story's premise and characters are engaging, notable issues hinder a complete immersion into the magical world the author is building.

One of the book's main setbacks lies in its continuity and spatial positioning. The occurrence of characters hugging across counters or moving unconscious individuals with implausible ease disrupts the reader's ability to suspend disbelief. The concept of time becomes somewhat muddled, as when a "few days" are only two days. Such discrepancies are distracting and prevent the seamless flow that a fantasy story demands.

The novel's pacing leans toward the brisk side, resulting in whirlwind relationships and difficulty keeping track of time progression. Relationships that develop rapidly might leave readers struggling to invest fully in the emotional arcs. However, despite these pacing issues, the characters shine as the book's redeeming quality. Their likability and distinct personalities contribute to the overall appeal of the story.

As a first installment in a series, some leniency in judgment can be granted, acknowledging the space for growth and development. The publisher's description of the book alludes to a promising foundation, witchy powers, a ghost-filled mansion, and a captivating coven dynamic. This initial offering lays the groundwork for future exploration of the magical world, allowing room for the series to mature and evolve.

One notable misstep in the book is the awkward placement of a single explicit scene. It feels out of sync with the overall tone and pacing, detracting from the story's cohesion. The impression is that the book tries to cater to a broad audience but attempts too many angles, resulting in a slightly disjointed reading experience.

In conclusion, "Witches Get Stuff Done" introduces readers to a world of magic, ghosts, and potential sisterhood, with engaging characters that mitigate some of the narrative's shortcomings. While continuity, pacing, and thematic focus detract from a fully immersive experience, the groundwork laid for future books in the series offers hope for improvement. Those willing to overlook the initial hiccups might find themselves eager to see how the world of Starfall Point evolves in subsequent installments.

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