Tag Archives: arc

ARC: Diamond City by Francesca Flores

Thank you to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for sending me a free advanced reader copy of this book for an honest review. Diamond City debuted January 28th.

I requested an ARC for Diamond City because I’m a Sarah J. Maas fan, and (flawed though it may be) I think the conflicted lady assassin trope is pretty fun. The first chapter or two of Diamond City started in an okay spot, but it unfortunately went swiftly downhill from there. Where Maas was able to make her main character assassin mostly work, Flores unfortunately flounders; the MC in this book often wonders things like, Would my parents be proud of me even though I kill people for a living? or Do you think this cute boy and I might have a romantic future even though I tried to kill his older brother?

As people funnier than me have said, the short answer to both these questions is no. The longer answer is noooooooooo.

I just can’t buy the main character. She’s a badass assassin, but she’s deathly afraid of spiders, opts for knives over guns, and spares key characters’ lives at multiple points in the book. It’s an issue I often see with these types of killer characters: they’re supposed to be oh-so-hardcore, but the author can’t let the characters be their brutal selves on the page because it will turn off readers.

But even beyond the characters, I couldn’t find much to recommend this book. The world-building is a confusing mishmash of heritages and cultures that were difficult to keep straight, all with a vague backdrop of an outlawed religion and magic system that places heavy importance on diamonds–diamonds which are traded at high price on the black market, but actually there are oodles of them around. (???) The language of the book, too, did not help matters; the fight scenes especially were wooden and very “this happened, then this, then this”–not good for a book about assassins where there’s bound to be a lot of fighting. There’s also not much of an artistic or lyrical quality to the prose, and I found myself predicting plot points at every turn, so… without compelling characters, beautiful language, a riveting plot, or engaging world-building, I really came up empty on this book. I do feel bad about the poor review for this debut author, but Diamond City is in need of significant revision and critique.

ARC: Shall We Dance? by Shelley Shepard Gray

Thank you to NetGalley and Blackstone Publishing for sending me a free advanced reader copy of this book for an honest review. Shall We Dance? debuts January 28th.

Shall We Dance? started with a cute premise; a woman getting to know her two birth sisters purchases a dance studio and moves in with them above the studio. As she’s getting to know them, she’s simultaneously falling in love with her hot cop student.

Unfortunately, the plot spiraled off into a side plot that took away most of the attention from the main romance: the hot cop’s sister is hard at work overcoming her PTSD from a gang rape when she realizes she’s being stalked by one of her previous attackers. Normally I’m a big fan of strong subplots in romance, but this was such a large part of the book that it often felt like the romance plot between the MC and the cop had been entirely abandoned. Wooden dialogue did not help, nor a host of missed opportunities for good scenes. One of my romance pet peeves is when the author skips over important life events, and this book missed several, namely the proposal and the wedding. Surely I am not the only one out there who thinks it is absolutely senseless to gloss over a wedding when the entire point of the book is supposed to be the romance? Anyone with me on this? Because I see it allllll the time.

Anyway, Shall We Dance? remains very surface-level from start to finish; it never got past lukewarm for me, whether in the character relationships, the chemistry, or the plot. There will of course be sequels to this book–romance authors adore their big families!–but I won’t be picking up the next in the series.

ARC: A Violet Fire by Kelsey Quick

Big note at the beginning of this review is that not only did I receive an ARC of A Violet Fire for a free and honest review by the author, but that Kelsey Quick and I have become author buddies along the way! I helped her with some of the late-stage editing of AVF, provided cover feedback, and we also talk shop about author stuff. So this review is biased fo sho! But I still wanted to get up a review. 🙂

I had tons of fun reading A Violet Fire. Anyone who’s spent time around these parts knows I’m a big vampire fan, and A Violet Fire was just the right strain of different to keep me glued to the page. I loved the world-building; save for The Passage by Justin Cronin, which I didn’t entirely get along with, I’ve never read a vampire book where vampires have taken over the world. The premise here is simple and makes for great romantic power dynamics: vampires in this universe own humans like cattle, and our human MC, Wavorly, is a blood supply unit of hot vampire bad boy Zein. Yeah, it sounds a little fucked up on paper, but if you’re like me and love a Beauty and the Beast backbone, then this is a book to put on your list.

Quick has a voice for YA, and the book moves swiftly. It does have a first book feel; by that I mean that you can tell it’s gone through a lot of editing and has some patches, but I don’t really deduct for that since every author has a first book. It was all the little touches I enjoyed most: Wavorly’s friendships, the way she uses French to her advantage, her insistence on human dignity, the dark and lush imagery. Reading AVF is kind of like eating candy; the two are nothing alike story-wise, but I was reminded of the momentum I felt when I read The Selection a few years back. It’s just fun.

I’m excited for the sequel to AVF, which I believe is slated for release next year. Vampires are back in YA, thank the lord! And a big congratulations to Kelsey again; as I said in my interview with her, I’ve never seen an indie author put so much effort into a release, and I admire her as a fellow author businesswoman. I will definitely be reading book two.

Blog Tour + Review: The Princess Plan by Julia London

Thank you to NetGalley and Harlequin for sending me a free advanced reader copy of this book for an honest review. The Princess Plan debuted November 19th.

Hey, everyone, I’m “alive”! Quotation marks because I’m just barely kicking; NaNoWriMo is attempting to beat me to a bloody pulp. I’ve been really pushing myself this past week, and even hit a new personal best for a daily word count: 2083. I’m really satisfied with my progress on my WIP, but also reaching a point of absolute exhaustion. Seven more days, and then I can be a normal blogger again…

Anyway! Today I get to participate in my very first blog tour–oooh. I’m new to Julia London, and everything about The Princess Plan was speaking to me when I signed up, from the almost fairy tale premise to the cover. Let’s get the nitty gritty out of the way, then get down to the review…


The Princess Plan 
London, Julia 
FICTION/Romance/Historical/Victorian 
Mass Market | HQN Books | A Royal Wedding 
On Sale: 11/19/2019  
9781335041531
$7.99 USD
$10.99 CAN

Blurb

Princes have pomp and glory—not murdered secretaries and crushes on commoners.

Nothing gets London’s high society’s tongues wagging like a good scandal. And when the personal secretary of the visiting Prince Sebastian of Alucia is found murdered, it’s all anyone can talk about, including Eliza Tricklebank. Her unapologetic gossip gazette has benefitted from an anonymous tip about the crime, prompting Sebastian to take an interest in playing detective—and an even greater one in Eliza.

With a trade deal on the line and mounting pressure to secure a noble bride, there’s nothing more salacious than a prince dallying with a commoner. Sebastian finds Eliza’s contrary manner as frustrating as it is seductive, but they’ll have to work together if they’re going to catch the culprit. And when things heat up behind closed doors, it’s the prince who’ll have to decide what comes first—his country or his heart.

Author Bio

Julia London is a NYT, USA Today and Publishers Weekly bestselling author of historical and contemporary romance. She is a six-time finalist for the RITA Award of excellence in romantic fiction, and the recipient of RT Bookclub’s Best Historical Novel.

Social

www.julialondon.com/newsletter
www.facebook.com/julialondon
www.twitter.com/juliaflondon
www.instagram.com/julia_f_london

Buy Links

Harlequin | Amazon | Apple Books | Barnes & Noble | Books-A-Million | Google Play | IndieBound | Kobo

Review

This is my first foray into Julia London, but I’m already a fan. I thoroughly enjoyed The Princess Plan; it’s swoony, it’s funny, the prose is rock solid, and the character voices were excellent. The MC, Eliza, is a real hoot, and she’s smart. It often takes me a bit of time to build up rapport with the female leads in romance, but with Eliza I was on her team from page one. The prince male lead, too, was great; you can’t help but feel for him as he tries to navigate a world of politics, all while falling head-over-heels for a woman too far beneath his royal station.

Speaking of character, there wasn’t a single character in this book that made me groan. So often in historical romance the female MC is surrounded by friends who are either a) one-dimensional, or b) annoying to the extreme. I actually loved the relationships between Eliza and her friends; their repartee was charming, and I’d love to see more of these characters. (And I’m sure that we will, given that there’s already a second book in the series listed on Goodreads.)

I also want to commend the author on incorporating a suspense plot that kept me guessing. I’ve read a decent amount of historical romance this year, and I’ve learned that I really appreciate a strong non-romantic plot thread; this book delivers on that front, all while keeping the heart-pounding bits front row center. Basically this book kind of has it all, and I was engrossed the whole way through. If you’re looking for a historical romance, I’d definitely keep this one on your radar.

ARC: The Speed of Falling Objects by Nancy Richardson Fischer

Thank you to NetGalley and Harlequin Teen for sending me a free advanced reader copy of this book for an honest review. The Speed of Falling Objects debuted October 1st.

If there ever was a book to convince me that I don’t want to visit the Amazon rain forest, this is it. The book progresses from a page one plane crash to poison dart frogs, killer snakes, leeches, and all the creepy crawlies you could ever want. MC Danny, short for Danielle, must confront all these and more as she and her survival TV star father, along with a reality television crew and a teen heartthrob movie star, endeavor to make their way to safety.

But this book isn’t just about the perils of the Amazon. Danny’s mission is to use the time in the jungle to get closer to her dad, who, to put it bluntly, is a total dick. She hardly knows him, but has spent most of her life obsessed with his wilderness survival television show. Much of the book revolves around her hopes and expectations about her father being summarily dashed; she has to learn who her father really is and whether she can accept that reality or not. The book was a bit introspective for my taste, but that’s a personal preference thing.

The writing is strong, and Fischer holds no punches. The inclusion of the teen heartthrob character made me think at the outset that this would be a bit of a fluffier read, but it’s definitely not. People die in this book, permanently, and not just the ones you’re kind of hoping might. If you’re looking for a wilderness-themed page-turner, this is definitely a book to pick up!

ARC: Seduction on a Snowy Night by Madeline Hunter, Sabrina Jeffries, and Mary Jo Putney

Thank you to NetGalley and Kensington Books for sending me a free advanced reader copy of this book for an honest review. Seduction on a Snowy Night debuted September 24th.

Well, here we are; it’s not yet October and my Christmas ARC reviews are starting to go up. And from the publisher’s side of things, I get it, I get it, but I don’t necessarily have to like it. 😛

So Seduction on a Snowy Night caught my eye because it seemed like a great way to become acquainted with some more regency romance authors; I have not read anything by these authors prior to this. The book includes a novella by each author, with each story taking place during the Christmas season.

A Christmas Abduction by Madeline Hunter

The first novella revolves around a baron making his way home on the holidays who finds himself kidnapped at gunpoint by a woman who harbors a mysterious grudge against him. She brings him to her estate, where the baron must figure out the reason he’s been kidnapped and what to do about it. Of course, the chemistry between him and his captor is fierce, grudge notwithstanding, and even once the baron is allowed a bit more freedom, he finds that he might not want to return home.

I enjoyed this story, especially the baron’s POV sections. Hunter’s prose gets out of the way of the story, which is a quality I find absolutely crucial for romance in particular. I did feel that readers weren’t allowed to get to know the female MC as well as the baron, so it was a bit more difficult to identify with her. All in all, though, this was a great start to the book.

A Perfect Match by Sabrina Jeffries

Jeffries’s novel also involves a kidnapping, though this one is a bit more voluntary. Female lead Cass and her cousin Kitty are spirited away from Kitty’s dangerous suitor in the nick of time by the handsome Colonel Lord Heywood. Cass is an heiress who pretends at future poverty so that whoever is wooing her is only doing so out of true love. Heywood is swiftly falling in love with Cass, but knows he can only marry someone with a substantial dowry, for his own funding is meager.

This was probably my favorite story of the bunch by a hair. The chemistry between the two MCs is great, and we get to know each of them well. Jeffries’s writing wasn’t distracting from the story either. My only wish is that there weren’t so many family members introduced in the latter half; I have a feeling that most of them are characters from other books. I know this is a thing in romance, but it personally irritates me; I’d rather focus on the story than suddenly have all these inside jokes and call-backs to other books foisted on me as a reader. Just my two cents.

One Wicked Winter Night by Mary Jo Putney

This was the one novella of the three that I did not get on with. The premise is that a woman who has been in India for the past long while returns to England and immediately encounters the man who she was previously in love with, even sharing a kiss with him at a masked ball. Despite loving the male MC back in the day, she rejected his advances, but now in the present they find that they are both tempted to rekindle their relationship.

A good part of my grievances with this third novella came down to Putney’s voice; it’s not a close enough 3rd POV for my taste, so there was a lot of “she realized/thought/wondered/etc,” which is mega-distracting to me. Different strokes for different folks, of course, but the writing style to me just felt a bit dated. I was also annoyed by the focus on cats in this book; it was too cutesy for my taste, even though I have nothing against cats.


So there we go! This collection didn’t bowl me over the head with awesomeness, but I enjoyed two of the three. I’d say if you’re interested in trying out these authors without committing to a full book for each one, this is a solid pick. And if you’re a fan of them already and looking to get into the Christmas spirit, then this collection is an obvious no-brainer.

Specter is on NetGalley through 9/30!

Hey everyone, I just want to drop in real quick to say that Specter is free on NetGalley through the end of this month! Specter is a YA paranormal thriller that is perfect for Stranger Things fans or anyone craving a Halloween read. It received glowing five-star reviews from Indie Author Central and Indies Today, and it has a 4.64 rating on Goodreads, as well as 4.5 on Amazon.

Here are some things people are saying about Specter:

“Ghosts, treachery, risky business and first love bundled into an unputdownable YA adventure.” – author Julie Embleton, Indie Author Central

“You don’t want to miss out on this enthralling, exciting, and eerie book!” – Indies Today

“Would I recommend this book?  Abso-bloody-lutely.” – Bookish Beyond

It doesn’t matter if you get a copy from NetGalley and can’t finish it before the end of the month—a review on Amazon or Goodreads sometime in the future is enough! Here’s the blurb if you’re interested:

Horror aficionado Lanie Adams should be thrilled when two eighties-era ghosts materialize in her bedroom. Yet after a fainting incident unbecoming of a horror nerd, she would rather her haunting just go away—the ghosts’ waterlogged voices and ice-cold auras are more terrifying than any movie. Enlisting the help of Ryan, an entirely-too-cute stoner, she makes it her mission to put the spirits stalking her to rest.

Some sleuthing reveals that their sleepy Connecticut town is host to a shadowy, decades-old conspiracy. If Lanie wants to say a final goodbye to her ghosts, she’ll need to keep digging. But it’s important to tread carefully. The culprit is still in town—and they’ll stop at nothing to keep the truth buried.

All right, I’m all done with the self-promo. Have an amazing start to your weekend! ❤

ARC: The Harp of Kings by Juliet Marillier

Thank you to NetGalley and Berkley Publishing Group for sending me a free advanced reader copy of this book for an honest review. The Harp of Kings debuted September 3rd.

I have a lot of respect for Juliet Marillier for writing the Sevenwaters trilogy. It’s been years since I read the first Sevenwaters book, but I remember it being absolutely fantastic. I also read Wildwood Dancing last year, which I loved, and I’m looking forward to reading the sequel.

So knowing that Marillier is an industry heavyweight and a fantastic writer, I couldn’t request an ARC of The Harp of Kings fast enough. This is the start of a new series, with three books already listed on Goodreads, and the premise seemed great: a shadowy fantasy organization that gets contracted for missions (basically a fantasy CIA), whose latest quest is to recover a stolen harp that is crucial to a coronation ceremony. The three young main characters on the mission are vying to be fully inducted into the organization; this mission will be their proving ground. Cool, right?

So with all this said, you can’t imagine how disappointed I was to read this book and have a difficult time connecting with it. Many of the characters, and especially the dialogue, felt wooden, like it was missing some spark of life. Much of the action also felt too unrealistic for my taste. To give an example, the female MC has an encounter with the detestable heir-to-throne, where he tries to rape her and she shoves him, causing him to fall and hit his head hard. Through the eyes of characters in a medieval setting, this is understandably seen as her attacking the heir. The fall-out from the incident, however, was less than serious; after a bit of politicking, all she needs to do is give him a formal apology and the incident is more or less in the past. This punishment-not-punishment is meted out by the heir’s advisors; despite the fact that he is a man about to take the throne, he’s essentially not able to follow through on his now hatred for the female MC. The whole thing just felt extremely unrealistic to me; I have a very tough time believing that there weren’t more serious consequences for the female MC. (Please understand that I’m not taking the side of the heir, but just questioning the logic of the narrative choices.)

I also had a very tough time with the ending. Spoiler incoming in:

3…

2…

1…

There is a literal hand-of-God moment where the question about who should be the true king is decided by a celestial presence on high shining a light on the one they favor. It was a textbook definition of a deus ex machina.

This then followed by a denouement that featured more wooden dialogue, with all the flair of an HR exit interview.

“What part of this mission gave you the most satisfaction?” This surprising question comes from Illann.

Dau catches my eye and we both grin. Neither of us is going to mention that escapade at the wall. “To be honest,” he says, “I spent most of our stay at Breifne feeling anything but satisfaction. I was pleased when Liobhan got Brocc out of that place. And I was pleased when the harp ended up in the right hands.”

“And you, Liobhan?”

“Working as a team. We got better at that. We learned as we went along. Only… without Brocc we’re not so much of a team. Sorry.”

Do you see what I mean? This is a book that has a great, interesting premise, but fell short in the execution. If you are a diehard Marillier fan then by all means check it out (I’m pretty sure it has some Easter eggs in there for her fans), but sadly I won’t be continuing with this series unless I hear very different things about the second book.

ARC: The Warehouse by Rob Hart

Thank you to NetGalley and Crown Publishing for sending me a free advanced reader copy of this book for an honest review. The Warehouse debuts August 20th.

Let’s cut to the chase: this is a book about Amazon. If you’ve ever entertained the question of what the world would look like if Amazon continues going great guns and secures a bit more political power, then this is a must-read. This is a near-future dystopia, where devastating global warming and Black Friday massacres have ensured that consumers are unwilling to leave their houses—basically ever. Enter Cloud, who will drone-ship every product imaginable to your doorstep in the blink of an eye. Their workers live in massive company towns, where you get paid in Cloud credits, eat Cloud burgers, and sleep in Cloud-issued apartments. And if you don’t want to buy into the system, too bad, because unemployment is sky high, so how else you gonna make a buck, bro?

Enter Paxton and Zinnia, two new recruits to Cloud. Paxton is an entrepreneur whose small business dreams were squashed under the weight of pressure by Cloud to lower his production costs. Zinnia is a corporate spy on the most dangerous mission of her life: to figure out how Cloud is really producing their energy. Paxton has a job on the security team, while Zinnia only manages to secure a lowly picker role. If you have any sort of plot intuition, you can kinda see where things are headed from there, and it’s a wild, compulsive read that was hard to put down.

Listen, I like Amazon well enough. To give a personal example, my book is on Amazon in the KDP program, and I truly admire the innovation they have brought to the publishing industry by introducing the Kindle and an ebook marketplace to the world. Believe it or not, at least in the publishing sphere, Amazon has been great for the little guy. Print-on-demand and easy ebook distribution are threatening to topple the long-established gatekeepers of publishing, i.e., agents and publishers, allowing authors to be their own boss and have total control over their final product.

But that’s not to say that everything Amazon does smells of roses; you don’t get to that level of success without trampling over others. So if you’re a fan of dystopian fiction, I would definitely pick this up—it’s a fast, thrilling read that will ironically probably be topping Amazon’s book rankings.


ARC: Lock Every Door by Riley Sager

Thank you to NetGalley and Dutton for sending me a free advanced reader copy of this book for an honest review. Lock Every Door debuts July 2nd.

Lock Every Door by Riley Sager was a binge-it-in-two-days type of read. This is the book you should have in your tote to read on the beach—an addictive and thrilling read that kept my nose glued to the page right up until the end. It’s also a rare specimen of book that advertises itself as having potential paranormal elements and manages to keep you guessing on that front far into the book. There are tons of books where the main character thinks, hmm, this place might be haunted, but it’s obvious to readers that that’s not the case. Not so here. (And I’m not giving anything away! Are there ghosts afoot in the MC’s bizarro apartment building or is everything rooted in the real world? You’ll have to read and see!)

The premise of the book is that a woman down on her luck (laid off, cheating boyfriend, finances in a downward spiral) manages to snag a gig where she gets paid to live in a ritzy, vacant NYC apartment. But, of course, everything is not as it seems, and things get spooky real quick. I was getting serious Rosemary’s Baby vibes throughout, due to the creepy New York apartment high-rise coupled with the young female MC.

I do feel obligated to mention that I picked up on two reveals far before they came. However, the full nature of the overarching plot reveal took me very much by surprise, while at the same time being very satisfying—the surprise is just that, surprising, while still managing to preserve suspension of disbelief. I highly recommend Lock Every Door, and I’m looking forward to reading more books by the author.


A small aside—if you haven’t seen the book trailer for Specter yet, check it out! Specter debuts July 7th, and the paperback and ebook are available for preorder at all major retailers and from Hidden Bower Press.