Tag Archives: netgalley

ARC: Safe Harbour by Christina Kilbourne

Thank you to NetGalley and Dundurn for sending me a free advanced reader copy of this book for an honest review. Safe Harbour debuts December 10th.

Safe Harbour is one of a few books I’ve read this year that I’d put in the category of “issue books,” i.e., books that focus on particular real world situations that might not affect all readers, but help give insight and understanding. Myself I wouldn’t normally peg as an issue book kind of reader since I can really bristle at anything that feels too preachy, but Safe Harbour really spoke to me; I was rooting for the MC from page one, especially because she’s in such a perilous situation: a fourteen-year-old on her own in Toronto waiting for her transient father to arrive on his boat. All she has to her name is a tent, a meager stash of cash, a maxed-out credit card, a phone, tuna cans, and soda crackers–oh, and she has a dog that she also has to provide for. And winter is coming, and the MC, who is used to warmer Florida weather, has no idea of the scope of a northern winter.

It’s an unlikely story, but Kilbourne does a great job helping readers see how events could have led to this point. Be prepared for a harrowing story: Safe Harbour illustrates real nice and clear how easily someone can become a victim of sex trafficking, lose a finger to frost bite, or let love (for example, for a pet or a family member struggling with mental illness) keep you from taking steps toward safety. Things worked out okay in the end, but I was praying for the MC along the way.

The characters are the shining feature of this story. For once, I was fully on board the unreliable narrator wagon–I’m not always into unreliable narrators, but I thought it worked splendidly for Safe Harbour. I did think the end wrapped up a bit too neatly and wasn’t that believable, but it didn’t spoil the book in any way. If you’re looking for an issue book that will take you on a roller coaster of emotions and doesn’t get too preachy, Safe Harbour is a good choice.

ARC: Hart & Seoul by Kristen Burnham

Thank you to NetGalley and Mascot Books for sending me a free advanced reader copy of this book for an honest review. Hart & Seoul debuted June 4th.

I’m digging all the Korean- and K-pop-themed YA recently; this is the first of them that I’ve read, but I have a whole slew of them on my TBR. I used to be a big K-pop fan back in middle and high school–ya know, a hundred years ago or thereabouts–so it tickles me pink that everyone’s feeling the Korea love nowadays. 🙂

Anyway, Hart & Seoul is a cute, fast read that is not without its flaws. I enjoyed the MC’s voice, and I especially liked the banter between her and her K-pop star love interest. The details about the K-pop super fans were tons of fun, and I was so craving Korean food by the middle of this book that I had to make a pit stop at Bonchon on the way home from work.

However, I had some difficulties with this book. First off, I initially had a hard time placing Hart & Seoul as a YA book; for some reason I was getting the impression that it was New Adult from the first chapter, then had to walk back the age of the MC in my mind by a couple years. I also found all the plot twists very predictable, most of them by at least fifty pages. Reading was still enjoyable, but I was forever waiting for the very obvious other shoe to drop. I also wasn’t satisfied with the love interest’s explanations for some of his behavior at the end of the book. His words seemed cheap–no spoilers, but I wouldn’t keep dating this guy. Of course, I’m also a thirty-year-old lady, so I’m not exactly smack dab in the middle of this book’s target audience. 😉

I think if you’re into the K-pop scene or interested in Korean culture then you should really consider reading this book. I had fun with it, but that’s fun** with a couple asterisks attached. Now let me wrap up this review quick, before I start craving Korean barbecue again. 😀

ARC: A Midnight Clear by Sam Hooker, Alcy Leyva, Laura Morrison, Cassondra Windwalker, Dalena Storm, and Seven Jane

Thank you to NetGalley and Black Spot Books for sending me a free advanced reader copy of this book for an honest review. A Midnight Clear debuted November 5th.

I’ve made a concerted effort this year to read more short fiction; the vast majority of my weekly Short Tuesday series focuses on dark genre fiction. So I was intrigued by this short story collection from Black Spot Books, which has a dark holiday focus. Like a lot of short story collections, this one was kind of all over the place. I’m going to give each story a mini review, since there’s only six of them.

“The Dauntless” by Sam Hooker was a strong start to the collection. Great prose, fun details, and a gripping premise: the ensuing legal fallout when a ship of Santa’s elves is sent to deliver Christmas joy to one of Lovecraft’s monsters. If you’re a Lovecraft fan, I could see picking up A Midnight Clear just for this story. 4 stars.

“Tidings of the New Moon” by Alcy Leyva was well-written, but didn’t grip me–more a me thing, I think, than anything else. I’m generally a fan of werewolves in fiction, but this story was maybe a bit too on-the-nose for me in terms of some of the details. Nevertheless, Leyva is clearly a talented writer. 3 stars.

“Movin’ On Up” by Laura Morrison was a fun one for me, since I’m letting a Hell-themed project percolate in my mind right now, and that’s what this was: a trio of three inhabitants of Hell trying to persuade a woman destined for Heaven to venture downstairs instead. I wish this story had been given more room for growth, by at least a few thousand more words; it felt rushed. Yet it was tons of fun overall. 4 stars.

“The Poetry of Snow and Stars” by Cassondra Windwalker was a story that I unfortunately did not get along with. It has an adverb-soaked voice and tons of backstory that put me in mind of those romances you read where the author is trying to catch you up on all the previous characters in the series–I’ve never been a fan of that myself, and that sentiment counts doubly for a short story, where no word should be wasted. The maybe-murder-maybe-not plot didn’t catch me, and the Stanley Hotel setting felt wasted. 2 stars.

“Sleep, Sweet Khors” by Dalena Storm is actually the second work I’ve read by this author in 2019; I was introduced to her by her debut novel, The Hungry Ghost. Like Ghost, this story has a strong mythological spine, this time from the Slavic tradition. I didn’t like the mythology infodump in the middle of the story; I always prefer these kinds of details to get threaded through the narrative. As with Ghost, this author feels like she is currently developing her voice; she has some great ideas, and I’m digging the mythology threads she interweaves with her stories, but I’d like to see a bit more lyricism to her prose. 3 stars.

“Snow Angel” by Seven Jane was a weaker end to the collection, sadly. The prose felt overworked, and much of the narrative was spent in the main character’s head, which got tiresome for me as a reader because the MC was just bemoaning the holiday season the entire time–I didn’t want to spend any more time with her than need be! When we got to the big magical climax, I had a difficult time believing that all this was happening to the main character; was she really special enough to have all this magical attention lavished upon her? So this story and I sadly didn’t mesh. 2 stars.

In sum, this collection was a bit of a bumpy ride, but there were some fun, bright moments. If you’re looking for some Christmas-themed stories and you like your fiction with a dose of darkness, consider giving this a go.

ARC: Escaping Exodus by Nicky Drayden

Thank you to NetGalley and Harper Voyager for sending me a free advanced reader copy of this book for an honest review. Escaping Exodus debuts October 15th.

The seemingly acid trip-inspired cover of Escaping Exodus does the words inside justice: this book is unabashedly weird.

Just look at this cover, omg. I want it on my wall.

Drayden chronicles a matriarchal society that has made the innards of a gargantuan, living space beast their home; when one space beast is on the way out health-wise, they literally jump ship (har har) to the next one in the herd. It’s mad, it’s trippy, it’s body horror at times, and it’s the kind of book you really need to experience for yourself.

I inch closer to the pond of cool, debris-ridden slime that rims the sphincter. It pulses, back and forth, back and forth, a putrid-looking pucker of flesh. Adalla sticks both of her hands in the hole and pulls hard, her muscles rippling and bulging. The rim tries to hold tight, even looks like it’s tugging against her, but eventually it gives, and the hole widens just enough for a person to slip through.

And is the book YA? The main characters are certainly the proper age, but I’d say not really; it doesn’t have the tone you’d expect, which I chalk up to the MCs living in such an alien society and feeling so young and brash that they’re completely unrelatable. There were times I had a really hard time buying the decisions of the MCs; for people living in a society that faces the constant threat of extinction, they have no issues throwing caution to the wind at every opportunity.

The pacing of the book was also strange, to say the least. From start to finish action is stuffed together in a kind of madcap jumble, but then threads of story seem to wither away into nothingness, never to be picked up again. I think the blurb for the book is kind of telling: one big infodump followed by the most blah of final hooks:

And of course there wouldn’t be much of a story if things didn’t go terribly, terribly wrong.

Notice how unspecific that is? There’s too much going on in this book to condense the plot into “If X character doesn’t do Y near-impossible thing, then Z terrible consequence will happen!” We’ve got a lesbian princess and subject forbidden love affair, an underclass uprising, people communicating in code by making out, sex with baby space beasts, an obtuse matriarchal and polyamorous family system with like eight moms and a couple dads per child, court intrigue, clone rights, inter-space beast communications, forgotten histories… I could continue if needed. As per usual, the social justice themes were a turn-off for me, but even that kind of got drowned out by all the crazy, constant details. And yet, for a book with so much detailed worldbuilding, I somehow found it hard to picture exactly what was going on in a lot of scenes, I think because the whole book takes an “everything but the kitchen sink” approach.

Basically, Escaping Exodus felt far too ambitious; I would have liked to see more nuance. Nevertheless, many scenes were absolutely riveting, and some bits have really stuck with me. (I read this book back in July.) It’s obvious that this author has tons of potential, so I’m definitely up for reading more of her work.

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: Five Midnights by Ann Dávila Cardinal

Thank you to NetGalley and Tor Teen for sending me a free advanced reader copy of this book for an honest review. Five Midnights debuts June 4th.

NetGalley’s a funny thing—most of the time all you have to judge a book by is the author name, the publisher, the cover, and a bit of doctored up marketing copy.*** It makes me judgey to the extreme—if I’m accepted to read the book, I’m kind of stuck with it, after all, since I want to keep my NetGalley ratio up. And if you don’t like the book, you’re left in the sticky situation of either giving a bad review or being dishonest with your readers. I always err on the side of honesty, but what I’m trying to say is that the whole ARC game is a grab bag type of situation.

Five Midnights met me halfway there—this is decidedly a three-star type of book, with bits both good and not so good. It feels very “young”; not in terms of its target audience, but in terms of the writing. Take the characters as an example: the MC, a New England transplant in Puerto Rico, has her emotions dialed up to eleven at all times. It’s an attempt at characterization that comes across as a bit jumbled; she doesn’t ever really settle as having a distinct personality. Another example is a fight that the MC has with a friend; the whole argument comes across as ungrounded, in a very “the author wants a fight here” kind of way. The pacing, too, is a bit off; a climactic scene facing off with monster stretches out over many POV switches, in a fashion reminiscent of those ten episode Dragon Ball Z fights.

But other parts are great. All the Puerto Rico setting details cannot be discounted; the author will make you feel like you’re in Puerto Rico, tasting the tastes and smelling the smell as the MC ventures from one unique neighborhood to the next. And though the details are many, they fit the book well, in a way that some other detail-heavy works never accomplish—“Yiwu” comes to mind. I appreciated the Spanish peppered throughout the dialogue (though “Hold the teléfono” maybe stepped a hair over the edge into ridiculousness). And the monster itself was interesting, since I knew literally nothing about this mythical beast.

I’d say that if the premise of the book sounds interesting, then give this a go. I’d be interested to take a peek at this author’s sophomore novel, since I suspect some of my craft complaints here might not surface in the next book.

***Speaking of marketing copy, by the way, can I pause for a minute on the word “unputdownable?” As per a review in the NetGalley description, this book is “flat-out unputdownable.” I’m starting to see this description everywhere; it was fun the first time around, but this word is just so over-the-top that I’m over it. It’s already getting cliched in my mind, and feels fake review-ish. Am I the only one??


Just a real quick reminder that Chapter Nine of The Gold in the Dark releases this Sunday at 11 AM EST! ❤