A Girl Like Her by Talia Hibbert


Read in February for the Dragons & Tea Book Club!

Goodreads Synopsis:

She’s the town pariah. He doesn’t give a damn.

In Ruth Kabbah’s world, comic books are king, silence is golden, and human contact is a pesky distraction. She doesn’t like people, which works out just fine, because the people in this small town don’t like her. The exception to that rule? Evan Miller, her way-too-charming next-door neighbour…

Ex-military man Evan is all tattooed muscle on the outside—and a big, cuddly teddy bear beneath. He’s used to coaxing prickly people from their shells, but he’s never met a woman quite like Ruth. Blunt, sarcastic, and secretly sad, she’s his exact opposite. She’s also his deepest desire.

Soon, Evan’s steady patience and smouldering smiles are melting Ruth’s reserve. But when small-town gossip from her past begins to poison her future, she’s forced to make a choice. Should she trust Evan completely? Or is her heart safest alone?

Please be aware: this book contains mentions of intimate partner violence that could trigger certain audiences.

I had never heard of Talia Hibbert before, but the second I found out she’s a romance writer who is always boosting body positivity and consent, I WAS THERE FOR IT. Now I want to own every single book by her. Please, if you want to support an independent, ownvoices author, pick up her books! I truly think you’ll be in for a real treat.

This book follows Ruth, a black, plus sized woman who creates web comics and prefers to stay home and keeps to herself. She lives in a small town called Ravenswood, where she’s been labeled a “pariah” and rumors about her are constantly flying. But she’s just trying to move on from her past where she was involved in an abusive relationship. Ruth is also autistic and she tends to not trust new people. She is only close to her sister and mother, but that all starts to change when Evan moves in next door.

Evan is white, ex-military, and he’s very soft spoken and incredibly loyal. He also has a past where he was hurt, and he’s just trying to move on. He’s kind and constantly giving to others. He notices Ruth and slowly befriends her. After he sees Ruth’s horrible diet and learning her cooking skills are… nonexistent… he starts cooking her food every day and brings it over. AND OMG MY HEART.

There’s nothing I love more than two people connecting over food, and I just loved how understanding and patient Evan was with Ruth. He never pressured her to confront him about her past, and once their relationship evolved, there was always so much consent and body positivity.

What I really loved about Ruth was that she was so fiercely loyal to her family, and she knew how to stand up for herself. But she also completely shuts down when any mention of her ex was brought up, because she was always so focused on guilt and blaming herself for the abuse. This topic is brought up a lot, but Talia Hibbert really does such a tasteful job at addressing it. Ruth’s anxiety is also so relatable, and I just know so many people are going to understand and just GET her character. Also? Her favorite attire is pajamas and that is such a mood.

Please use caution going into this book if you are a survivor of abuse. And there are triggers for anxiety, slut shaming, and ableism language toward autism. But I seriously can’t recommend this book enough if you are looking for a good book in the romance genre. Trust me, I don’t read a ton of romance (where there is a whole lotta steam!) but this one was so incredibly well written and you will fly right through it!


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The Simple Wild by K.A. Tucker



Title: The Simple Wild

Author: K.A. Tucker

Pages: 388

Genre: Contemporary romance, new adult

My Rating: ★★★★★

Goodreads Synopsis:

Calla Fletcher wasn’t even two when her mother took her and fled the Alaskan wild, unable to handle the isolation of the extreme, rural lifestyle, leaving behind Calla’s father, Wren Fletcher, in the process. Calla never looked back, and at twenty-six, a busy life in Toronto is all she knows. But when Calla learns that Wren’s days may be numbered, she knows that it’s time to make the long trip back to the remote frontier town where she was born.

She braves the roaming wildlife, the odd daylight hours, the exorbitant prices, and even the occasional—dear God—outhouse, all for the chance to connect with her father: a man who, despite his many faults, she can’t help but care for. While she struggles to adjust to this rugged environment, Jonah—the unkempt, obnoxious, and proud Alaskan pilot who helps keep her father’s charter plane company operational—can’t imagine calling anywhere else home. And he’s clearly waiting with one hand on the throttle to fly this city girl back to where she belongs, convinced that she’s too pampered to handle the wild.

Jonah is probably right, but Calla is determined to prove him wrong. Soon, she finds herself forming an unexpected bond with the burly pilot. As his undercurrent of disapproval dwindles, it’s replaced by friendship—or perhaps something deeper? But Calla is not in Alaska to stay and Jonah will never leave. It would be foolish of her to kindle a romance, to take the same path her parents tried—and failed at—years ago. It’s a simple truth that turns out to be not so simple after all.

I just finished reading this book and knew I had to immediately write my review while all my feels are still fresh. Y’all, I don’t read a lot of romance, but I have been so lucky that the romance books I read in 2018 were stellar. The Simple Wild is no exception, and I’m so happy I got to end 2018 with this piece of joy.

This book pretty much had everything I ever wanted: atmospheric wilderness, enemies-to-lovers, found family, small town feels, hot pilots, and AIRPLANES. Like… you don’t understand. I used to fly planes. Having an entire book centered around aviation made my heart so damn happy.

In a nutshell, we follow Calla, a 26 year old woman from Toronto. She and her father never had a relationship after her mother left her father in Alaska. However, one night Calla receives a phone call asking her to come visit because her father is ill. When she arrives she is greeted by a rather moody bush pilot, Jonah — and their strange and kind of wacky relationship blooms from there.

I really loved how K.A. Tucker painted the romance; it wasn’t an insta-love situation, yet the male and female love interests weren’t horrible to each other, either (which is what I dread sometimes going into an enemies-to-lovers plot). I’ve read some romances where the man is just way over the top mean, but he really wasn’t at all! And this book has more witty banter and silly pranks which I thought were so fun. The romance is definitely a slow burn, but it all played out organically and realistically. (And let’s just say there’s a cabin scene and you KNOW that shit makes me weak.)

I also loved how Calla is into fashion blogging and instagramming, because it felt like I was reading about myself. Trying to capture that perfect instagrammable photo, thinking of the perfect captions, and perhaps over packing a little too much for a trip. Yeah, that’s relatable af to me.

And, of course, you can’t have an aviation-centered book without me picking it apart! Sorry! But I can honestly say K.A. Tucker did such an amazing job researching everything from aircraft mechanics, avionics, terminology, and aircraft types. It was fun for me to come across a plane and be like, “Oh! I’ve flown one of those before!” I was living for all of the flying scenes, and they’re abundant but so different from each other. Bangor, AK is a fictional town but it’s based off of Bethel, AK (according to the Acknowledgements) so I creeped the Bethel airport. Sure enough, it’s quite similar to how the Bangor airport is described in the book, and it surprised me they have a control tower, too! (tbh I thought Bangor was much smaller than the real town it’s based off of, but hey, it’s a fictional book so I won’t drag it.)

But I digress. I just simply loved the dynamics between these characters so much. There’s the found family between Jonah, Wren (Calla’s father), Agnes, and Mabel… and just everyone in town and nearby villages who all know and love each other. The sense of community is real in this book. And I loved how Calla and Wren were able to reconnect their father-daughter relationship. The message in this book really resonated with me; how we can’t expect others to change, but it is okay to still love and support the choices they make.

I will say that one thing that bugged me was how much Jonah made Calla feel bad for enjoying things like beauty and fashion, It’s so common for men to believe women put on makeup to please men or for other shallow reasons, when really I personally put on makeup for myself. I like makeup, and I like the way it looks. I’ve grown used to going make-up-free as I’ve gotten older, but I still love buying it and using it. I’m not saying Jonah is in any way a “toxic masculinity” character, but his constant griping about women and makeup got to be annoying. But I can’t let Calla off the hook, either. She refers to Jonah as a “yeti” a lot because of his long hair and beard, and that got pretty old, too.

There’s also the constant reminder that Jonah is the “best damn pilot” out there and it’s like, okay, I get it — let’s stop with the overused shtick from 1980’s action films, please. Being a good pilot is one thing but he does make some unsafe decisions so… [insert KermitSippingTea.jpg]

But seriously, I loved this book so much, and I did not expect it to punch me so hard in the feels. I was worried I was going to be angry with the way Wren’s illness was handled, or how the aviation was going to be portrayed, or that the love interest was going to be horrible — but none of that happened. I wholeheartedly recommend this book especially if you’re an enemies-to-lovers fan. I will definitely be reading more books by K.A. Tucker soon!

Trigger warnings for cancer, talks of cancer treatments, parental separation.





One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid



Title: One True Loves

Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid

Pages: 352

Genre: Contemporary romance

My Rating: ★★★★

Goodreads Synopsis:

In her twenties, Emma Blair marries her high school sweetheart, Jesse. They build a life for themselves, far away from the expectations of their parents and the people of their hometown in Massachusetts. They travel the world together, living life to the fullest and seizing every opportunity for adventure.

On their first wedding anniversary, Jesse is on a helicopter over the Pacific when it goes missing. Just like that, Jesse is gone forever.

Emma quits her job and moves home in an effort to put her life back together. Years later, now in her thirties, Emma runs into an old friend, Sam, and finds herself falling in love again. When Emma and Sam get engaged, it feels like Emma’s second chance at happiness.

That is, until Jesse is found. He’s alive, and he’s been trying all these years to come home to her. With a husband and a fiancé, Emma has to now figure out who she is and what she wants, while trying to protect the ones she loves.

Who is her one true love? What does it mean to love truly?

Emma knows she has to listen to her heart. She’s just not sure what it’s saying.

I think this is one of those books where you’re either going to end up loving or hating the ending. I fell into the “love it” camp, but I totally understand why others may not agree!

I am also always intrigued by “what would you do?” scenarios. And I know Taylor Jenkins Reid is quite the master at weaving those kind of stories. This book felt very pure and realistic, and I very much fell in love with all the characters.

In a nutshell, this book follows Emma. She marries her high school sweetheart, Jesse. They both felt trapped and bored in their home town, so once they got married, they vowed to always travel and be on the move. They lived very spontaneous and adventurous lifestyles. Until one day, Jesse is presumed dead from disappearing after a helicopter crash.

Emma moves back to her home town and eventually pieces her life back together. She finds happiness in running her parents’ book shop and then becomes engaged to Sam. After all those years, she finally was able to move on with her life. Then Jesse returns.

This book completely resonated with me because it really does split a life into “before” and “after”. Do you have one of those moments that split your life into two? For me it was falling ill with an incurable illness. One moment I was health and happy, and then “after” I was sickly, bedridden, and unable to achieve the goals I previously wanted. This book really hit me because I really did change as a person between my late 20’s and early 30’s. And after a lot of time grieving that part of me that I “lost”, I am now in a much better head space and happier.

I loved how this book followed not just Emma’s relationship with Jesse but also her relationship with Sam. Each man in her life was not painted in a negative light, so it was difficult to decide who to ‘ship’ her with. But ultimately I’m happy with the decision she made in the end. It all felt very realistic (despite some of the decisions Emma made.) I will warn you that Emma does sleep with both Jesse and Sam, and that cheating is still cheating. So please keep that in mind if that’s something that will bother you.

Overall I truly loved this book and recommend it. I really loved how TJR was able to seamlessly weave together Emma’s “before” and “afters”, and how it is okay and normal to change the paths in our lives.


Buddy read with Melanie and Sue!




Winter in Paradise (Paradise, #1) by Elin Hilderbrand



Title: Winter in Paradise

Series: Paradise, #1

Author: Elin Hilderbrand

Pages: 320

Genre: Contemporary, mystery

My rating: ★★★

Goodreads Synopsis:

A husband’s secret life, a wife’s new beginning: escape to the Caribbean with New York Times bestselling author Elin Hilderbrand. Irene Steele shares her idyllic life in a beautiful Iowa City Victorian house with a husband who loves her to sky-writing, sentimental extremes. But as she rings in the new year one cold and snowy night, everything she thought she knew falls to pieces with a shocking phone call: her beloved husband, away on business, has been killed in a plane crash. Before Irene can even process the news, she must first confront the perplexing details of her husband’s death on the distant Caribbean island of St. John. After Irene and her sons arrive at this faraway paradise, they make yet another shocking discovery: her husband had been living a secret life. As Irene untangles a web of intrigue and deceit, and as she and her sons find themselves drawn into the vibrant island culture, they have to face the truth about their family, and about their own futures. Rich with the lush beauty of the tropics and the drama, romance, and intrigue only Elin Hilderbrand can deliver, Winter in Paradise is a truly transporting novel, and the exciting start to a new series.

This was my first time diving into an Elin Hilderbrand novel and I am… intrigued. This book was a 4-star read for me until the end but I have high hopes for the rest of the trilogy and I’m looking forward to them!

Winter in Paradise is about family secrets and lies. Irene receives devastating news that her husband died in a helicopter crash in St. John (US Virgin Islands). So she, along with her two adult children, Baker and Cash, go to the island to figure out what happened. They soon discover that Irene’s husband had a mistress and a totally secret, lavish double life.

This really was such a fun, page-turner of a mystery. And I adore books that tie in secret families. I also enjoyed the character development, especially the back stories about Baker and Cash. They all have complex and complicated family dynamics. And not only are they trying to solve their father’s mysterious secret life (and death), they’re also figuring out things about themselves.

So without giving away spoilers (ugh reviewing mysteries is complicated for me!), I will say the mystery surrounding the dead husband/father kind of takes a back seat. I think since this is the first book in a trilogy, it’s setting us up more for what’s to come. So we really get more insight into the lives of the locals on the island and the relationships they form with Irene and her sons. I was hoping to get a lot more dark secrets and intrigue.

Overall I would categorize this more as a lighthearted mystery. There are serious topics such as cheating and marriage separation, but it doesn’t delve into any dark or disturbing/graphic scenes. But one character does something at the end that just really pissed me off, and how things wrapped up was a ridiculous (and predictable) cliffhanger.

I read this book as part of TistheSeasonAthon, which was a holiday themed readathon I co-hosted with my lovely friends!




One Day in December by Josie Silver



Title: One Day in December

Author: Josie Silver

Pages: 416

Genre: Contemporary Romance

My rating: ★★★★

Goodreads Synopsis:

Two people. Ten chances. One unforgettable love story.

Laurie is pretty sure love at first sight doesn’t exist anywhere but the movies. But then, through a misted-up bus window one snowy December day, she sees a man who she knows instantly is the one. Their eyes meet, there’s a moment of pure magic…and then her bus drives away.

Certain they’re fated to find each other again, Laurie spends a year scanning every bus stop and cafe in London for him. But she doesn’t find him, not when it matters anyway. Instead they “reunite” at a Christmas party, when her best friend Sarah giddily introduces her new boyfriend to Laurie. It’s Jack, the man from the bus. It would be.

What follows for Laurie, Sarah and Jack is ten years of friendship, heartbreak, missed opportunities, roads not taken, and destinies reconsidered. One Day in December is a joyous, heartwarming and immensely moving love story to escape into and a reminder that fate takes inexplicable turns along the route to happiness.

For some reason I was expecting this to be one of those Serendipity-like stories where a guy and girl miss their first chance at love so they spend the next several years searching for each other. But really this book is so much more than that; it goes beyond “love at first sight” and focuses on life and friendships that spans over the course of ten years. I truly had such a great time reading this book and it was even better that I got to read this while co-hosting TistheSeasonAThon!

This isn’t your typical romance or holiday story. In fact, I found the “Christmassy” vibes to be very minimal. I truly think you could read this during any time of year.

This book follows two POVs: Laurie and Jack. Laurie is a journalist who happens to be on a crowded double-decker bus when she locks eye with a man at a bus stop. They feel an instant attraction but the bus is too crowded for her to get off and for him to get on. Laurie spends the next year trying to find “the bus boy”. She even has her roommate, Sarah, helping to track him down. Then one day Sarah introduces Laurie to her new boyfriend, and… you guessed it. Sarah’s boyfriend, Jack, is “the bus boy.”

Now, if this were normal life, Laurie would tell Sarah that Jack is the bus boy and they’d probably have a good laugh about it. But in true rom-com fashion Laurie keeps it a secret. And so does Jack.. because he recognizes Laurie as “the bus girl.”

All of this is unveiled early on in the book, so I was pleasantly surprised how much depth we got from all the characters as the story progressed. Over the course of several years we follow Laurie’s life as she navigates love, family, and personal growth. She even spends some time in Thailand — so that gets major points from me. It was really refreshing to read a romance that wasn’t solely focused on one main relationship. You follow all the ugliness of friendships and marriages, and how as we get older, we change into different people (or not at all).

I will admit that I wasn’t a huge fan of Jack from the get-go. He’s moody, indecisive, and quite bratty. But I liked that he (and others) are flawed. And it felt like each character’s personalities and actions were portrayed in a realistic way.

This isn’t a “fluffy’ romance, nor is it a sugar-coated “chick-lit” book, either. It’s fun and easy to fly through but it also deals with heart break, loss, and angst. It’s definitely a slow burn but I found it so worth it in the end!

Trigger/content warning: loss of a sibling (not on the page), loss of a parent, cheating (kissing).




The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware



Title: The Death of Mrs. Westaway

Author: Ruth Ware

Pages: 368

Genre: Mystery/thriller

My Rating: ★★★

Goodreads Synopsis:

On a day that begins like any other, Hal receives a mysterious letter bequeathing her a substantial inheritance. She realizes very quickly that the letter was sent to the wrong person—but also that the cold-reading skills she’s honed as a tarot card reader might help her claim the money.

Soon, Hal finds herself at the funeral of the deceased…where it dawns on her that there is something very, very wrong about this strange situation and the inheritance at the centre of it.

While this book was really well written and I loved the setting, I felt the pacing was a bit too slow and the ending wasn’t a huge shock. I really want more darkness and more suspects. Maybe I was expecting the ending to totally blow me away? Don’t get me wrong, I was really loving this book until I got to about the last quarter.

This slow-burn thriller follows Hal, a young woman who is recovering from the death of her mother. She is having trouble making ends meet, her tarot-reading job isn’t quite pulling in enough cash, and now a shady loan lender wants his money back. Hal feels like her financial prayers are answered when she receives a letter from a will executor stating she’s inherited a small fortune from a dead relative.

But Hal is certain she isn’t related to the dead woman, Mrs. Westaway. In fact, she doesn’t have any family at all. Hal, out of desperation, decides to visit the Westaway estate in hopes she can at least leave with enough cash to pay off her debts.

In usual Ruth Ware fashion, she rounds up our cast of characters under one roof (very Agatha Christie-like) and we have to figure out who is the shadiest one of them all. There are so many secrets each family member holds, and we are left second-guessing a lot. And alternating between the present story we also get to read letters from the past. The author of these letters is unnamed and we are left guessing who it is.

I loved the family dynamic between all the Westaway children. Even the cold and grumpy Mrs. Warren had me loving to hate her. The story overall is very atmospheric; I love anything set in England, and having it take place in the winter is an added bonus. Seriously, this is such the perfect book to read in the fall/winter.

So, why three stars? For one, I was hoping to get more “thriller” vibes in the first half of the book. While I loved the mystery, I felt like the pacing was too slow and things didn’t start to pick up until the last 60’ish pages. I also had a lot of theories but ultimately the most obvious theory (for me) turned out to be correct. I was really hoping for a more unpredictable twist.

But, huge props to Ruth Ware for not giving us more unreliable narrators. I was really rooting for Hal (even though she did a lot of things toward the end that made me question her judgment). I also loved how tarot cards played a huge role in this book and shaped the themes and characters. I really think that if you’re into a slow-burn domestic thriller that feels super atmospheric then this will be the perfect fall read for you. But if you’re looking for something with darker, suspense/thriller vibes, then I would recommend books by Karin Slaughter, Chelsea Cain, and Peter Swanson.


The Death of Mrs. Westaway was read during week 2 of #FridayFrightAThon. Each week in October we are picking up a new thriller! We will be discussing each book using the hashtag #FridayFrightAThon on Twitter and Bookstagram.

#FridayFrightAThon is hosted by Melanie @ Meltotheany, Jen @ Pinot and Pages, Chelsea @ Chelsea Palmer, and me, Amy @ A Court of Crowns and Quills!



The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah



Title: The Nightingale

Author: Kristin Hannah

Pages: 440

Genre: Adult fiction, historical

My rating: ★★★★

Goodreads Synopsis:

In love we find out who we want to be. In war we find out who we are.

FRANCE, 1939

In the quiet village of Carriveau, Vianne Mauriac says goodbye to her husband, Antoine, as he heads for the Front. She doesn’t believe that the Nazis will invade France…but invade they do, in droves of marching soldiers, in caravans of trucks and tanks, in planes that fill the skies and drop bombs upon the innocent. When France is overrun, Vianne is forced to take an enemy into her house, and suddenly her every move is watched; her life and her child’s life is at constant risk. Without food or money or hope, as danger escalates around her, she must make one terrible choice after another.

Vianne’s sister, Isabelle, is a rebellious eighteen-year-old girl, searching for purpose with all the reckless passion of youth. While thousands of Parisians march into the unknown terrors of war, she meets the compelling and mysterious Gäetan, a partisan who believes the French can fight the Nazis from within France, and she falls in love as only the young can…completely. When he betrays her, Isabelle races headlong into danger and joins the Resistance, never looking back or giving a thought to the real–and deadly–consequences.

The Nightingale was such a powerful story about survival, love, and hope. I haven’t read very much historical fiction set during WWII, but this story really helped open my eyes at all the horror that took place in German occupied France in 1939-40’s.

This book follows two sisters, Vianne and Isabelle, who are very much polar opposites. Vianne has a daughter and lives in a small French village with her husband who is drafted to the war. Isabelle is rebellious and sharp-tongued, and she is sent away to go live with Vianne after she’s kicked out of way too many finishing schools.

But this book also flash-forwards to the present, 1995. We don’t know which sister is narrating this part and I was really loving this mysterious element as I tried to connect the dots and follow all the bread crumbs Kristin Hannah left for us.

I can never claim to know what the war truly felt like, or what it felt like to live in the aftermath of that horror, so I don’t feel comfortable stating my opinion on what I liked or disliked about Kristin Hannah’s depiction of the occupation. All I know is that I can’t even imagine the terror everyone felt and the sacrifices they had to make to survive. It is truly heartbreaking and gut wrenching.

But I really think I would’ve rated this book higher if some of the things Isabelle did didn’t piss me off. Usually I love badass, rebellious characters, but her carelessness and lack of critical thinking put her family in jeopardy — I wanted to scream. And even though he was a Nazi, I really wanted Beck’s character to be more fleshed out. I am not saying I sympathized with him by any means, but he was complex, and in a really fucked up way, he was Vianne’s key to survival. And I just hated how things happened the way they did with his character. My conflicted feelings toward him was what kept me turning the page, but once I reached a certain point, I became less invested.

So this was probably more of a 3.5 star rating for me, but I’ll round it up to 4 because it really was such a brutal, moving, and powerful book with such important themes and horrific events that we need to remember. And I’d never read a book from the perspective of someone living in an occupied country who did NOT get taken to a labor camp, so this was something different for me. But please be warned there are several triggering topics regarding slavery, rape, abuse, and war.


Buddy read with Melanie!



Vengeful (Villains, #2) by V.E. Schwab



Title: Vengeful

Series: Villains, #2

Author: V.E. Schwab

Pages: 480

Genre: Fantasy, urban fantasy

Vicious Rating: ★★★★★

Vengeful Rating: ★★★★★

Goodreads Synopsis:

The sequel to VICIOUS, V.E. Schwab’s first adult novel.

Sydney once had Serena—beloved sister, betrayed enemy, powerful ally. But now she is alone, except for her thrice-dead dog, Dol, and then there’s Victor, who thinks Sydney doesn’t know about his most recent act of vengeance.

Victor himself is under the radar these days—being buried and re-animated can strike concern even if one has superhuman powers. But despite his own worries, his anger remains. And Eli Ever still has yet to pay for the evil he has done.

The following review will contain spoilers from Vicious, book 1 in the Villains series.

Oh how I’ve waited so long for this sequel and I was not disappointed! I fell in love with our favorite antiheroes, Eli Ever and Victor Vale, a few years ago when I read Vicious. And I just knew Vengeful was going to pack an even bigger punch.

Vengeful isn’t your typical good vs. evil or heroes vs. villains story.  It is more than a villains origin story. This is a series about power, revenge, faith vs. science, and humanity. Schwab loves to toe that grey line of morality so much that I’m constantly questioning who to root for.

This book follows several POVs in the past and present timelines. While this format may not be everyone’s favorite, I truly feel like Schwab pulled this off very well, and the multiple timelines created so much build-up for the end. Schwab’s prose and world building is so much more extensive in this sequel. And the voices she gave to each of these characters had me flip flopping so much between love/hate/understanding.

Vengeful starts with a bang — one of my favorite opening scenes in a book this year — where we are introduced to Marcella: the power-hungry wife of a mobster. And if you’ve read Vicious then you’ll know how an EO (ExtraOrdinary) is born, and oh man, you are going to LOVE this murderous, angry, powerful woman.

I’m not going to talk too much about Eli and Victor’s story lines, but let’s just say they are both out for blood, albeit for different reasons. Eli is serving time while Victor’s life, and powers, seems to be slipping away. They are, quite possibly, my favorite antiheroes ever. Eli’s back story totally added another layer to his character for me, and seeing Victor slowly coming undone was heart wrenching. It is also briefly mentioned that Victor is asexual — rep that I appreciate Schwab confirming.

We are also reunited again with Sydney, Dol, Dominic, and Mitch. They may be an odd bunch, but they make a great team and I especially adored Sydney and Mitch’s relationship (like siblings). Sydney also gets her own POV which added more growth to her character. I felt myself connecting so much to her; I could feel her guilt, her feelings of loss, and her love for her found family.

But there’s another new female character that I want to briefly discuss, and that’s June. June is also extremely powerful and badass, but I couldn’t find myself really connecting with her. She spent several years corresponding with Sydney (a minor) via text, and I couldn’t help but feel awkward that June was basically… grooming Sydney? Her motives for wanting to protect Sydney were never really explained, but June kept building Sydney’s trust over time. I don’t know, maybe I’m missing something and it’ll be explained later in another book (if there is going to be another one?).

I’ll just leave with this: If you love morally ambiguous characters, action, and mayhem, please pick up these books. What some of these characters do is so heinous and sick, and yet I find myself rooting for them and sympathizing with them. I’m not going to sit here and say that these hero-origin or villain-origin stories are original. But I was so immersed in the world and the backstories, and just waiting for the “final showdown” had me on the edge of my seat. There were so many gears turning, so many players in the game, I really didn’t know what was going to happen. I am begging for Schwab to write another Villains book, because I need more EOs , Victor, and Eli in my life.

Content/trigger warnings: domestic abuse, child abuse, suicide, drug use, murder/torture/experimentation.




The Traitor Baru Cormorant (The Masquerade, #1) by Seth Dickinson



Book: The Traitor Baru Cormorant

Series: The Masquerade, #1

Author: Seth Dickinson

Pages: 399

Genre: Fantasy – geopolitical

My rating: ★★★★★

Goodreads Synopsis:

The Traitor Baru Cormorant is an epic geopolitical fantasy about one woman’s mission to tear down an empire by learning how to rule it.

Tomorrow, on the beach, Baru Cormorant will look up from the sand of her home and see red sails on the horizon.

The Empire of Masks is coming, armed with coin and ink, doctrine and compass, soap and lies. They’ll conquer Baru’s island, rewrite her culture, criminalize her customs, and dispose of one of her fathers. But Baru is patient. She’ll swallow her hate, prove her talent, and join the Masquerade. She will learn the secrets of empire. She’ll be exactly what they need. And she’ll claw her way high enough up the rungs of power to set her people free.

In a final test of her loyalty, the Masquerade will send Baru to bring order to distant Aurdwynn, a snakepit of rebels, informants, and seditious dukes. Aurdwynn kills everyone who tries to rule it. To survive, Baru will need to untangle this land’s intricate web of treachery – and conceal her attraction to the dangerously fascinating Duchess Tain Hu.

But Baru is a savant in games of power, as ruthless in her tactics as she is fixated on her goals. In the calculus of her schemes, all ledgers must be balanced, and the price of liberation paid in full.

First and foremost, I want to thank Melanie for sending me this copy of The Traitor Baru Cormorant for my birthday! And it was perfect timing, because this August Melanie hosted her own birthday buddy read. Several people joined in via twitter using the hashtag #meltotheany to discuss this book over the course of a week! I always love group buddy reads and am so thankful I got to participate with all my fellow bookworms.

This book was such a roller coaster and honestly? I had no idea what to expect going into it. And quite early on we learn that Baru is an accountant for an empire… and I’m like, wait. An accountant? I’m going to read about an accountant whose power lies solely on wielding… money? Well, yes. That’s exactly how this book plays out and, ya’ll, it was the most intriguing, powerful, brutal, and beautiful book I’ve ever read.

Baru grew up on Taranoke with her mother and two fathers. But soon the Masquerade invade her home and she’s taken away to a school where she must completely re-learn new “rules”. Baru is forced to learn that polygamy is wrong, being homosexual is “unhygienic”, and that the history and culture she’s ever known is destroyed. As we watch Baru grow, we see her bury her true self for fear of being criminalized. Seeking revenge for the mistreatment of her people and her land, Baru joins the Masquerade by wielding the most powerful tool: coin.

As Baru moves up the ranks, we are presented with so much political intrigue: colonialism, economic strategies, war, treason, and the fall of empires. My favorite character was Tain Hu, the Duchess of Aurdwynn. She is smart and fierce and one of the best political players on Baru’s board. Tain Hu and Baru have obvious feelings for each other, but it all has to be ignored or else they’d be punished. And, wow. their relationship was easily one of my favorites but also broke my heart.

This book is so quiet but important, and it shows you the ugly side of colonialism: genocide, culture erasure, war, and torture. There are also very dark themes and trigger warnings such as mutilation, homophobia, sexism, racism, abuse, plagues, and executions (among many other things that are presented in graphic war scenes.)

And since this is a quiet book, I felt like the pacing got a bit slow at times (which almost made me remove a star.) There is a lot of geopolitical and economic speak for me, and a lot of it went over my head. It felt like I was getting an ECON 101 lesson sometimes. So, because of those reasons, this book may not be for you. But the writing is absolutely superb and the lies and twists are 100%.




The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid – Non-Spoiler Review



Book: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo

Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid

Pages: 388

Genre: Adult fiction, historical, romance

My rating: ★★★★★

Goodreads Synopsis:

Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life. But when she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant for the job, no one in the journalism community is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now?

Monique is not exactly on top of the world. Her husband, David, has left her, and her career has stagnated. Regardless of why Evelyn has chosen her to write her biography, Monique is determined to use this opportunity to jumpstart her career.

Summoned to Evelyn’s Upper East Side apartment, Monique listens as Evelyn unfurls her story: from making her way to Los Angeles in the 1950s to her decision to leave show business in the late 80s, and, of course, the seven husbands along the way. As Evelyn’s life unfolds through the decades—revealing a ruthless ambition, an unexpected friendship, and a great forbidden love—Monique begins to feel a very a real connection to the actress. But as Evelyn’s story catches up with the present, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique’s own in tragic and irreversible ways.

I know I’ve said some other books were my favorites of 2018, but y’all… THIS BOOK. I know this will be my #1 book of 2018, or really, in my life. I will forever recommend this book to everyone for the rest of my life. I can’t even put into words how much this book impacted me and evoked so many emotions. I’m not usually drawn to historical fiction, nor am I really drawn to stories about the Hollywood elite. But, oh man, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo blew me away.

In a nut shell, this is a story about a famous Hollywood actress, Evelyn Hugo. A Cuban immigrant, she lost her mother at a very young age and, as her body quickly developed, she knew she had to get away from her abusive father. What comes next is her hunger to survive, to find any means necessary to leave her old life behind. Evelyn slowly breaks into the film industry, beginning in the 1950’s, and continues to have a successful career. And although she’s an acting legend, the public will always remember her as that woman who had seven marriages.

But Evelyn harbored a huge secret all those years. All through her marriages with men, she kept something so precious and loved quiet, and she felt now is the time to tell her story.

Which brings us to the main plot: Evelyn Hugo, now 79 years old, hires novice journalist, Monique Grant, to interview her. Completely shocked and perplexed, Monique takes the job, but she soon finds out there’s a bigger story to unbury, and how much Monique ends up learning from Evelyn.

All throughout this beautiful reading adventure, I found myself relating so much to Monique and admiring Evelyn’s bold and fierce persona. And since this tale starts with Evelyn’s career in the 50’s, you’ll also get a taste of how “real” things were; the misogyny, homophobia, racism, domestic violence, and all the ugliness of that Hollywood era. (Which we sadly still have in our world.)

This book was so beautifully crafted, engaging, and unapologetic. You’ll feel like you’ve become friends with these characters and you’ll want to laugh and cry along with them. And there are so many twists and scandals that I just honestly couldn’t put the book down!

Thank you to Sophie, Laura, and Clarisa for buddy reading this with me. And thank you to Melanie who recommended I read this beautiful, powerful, and heartbreaking story. I will always be thankful! ❤

You can bet I’ll be trying to request an ARC of Taylor Jenkins Reid’s upcoming book, Daisy Jones and The Six! (Due out March 2019)