BOOK REVIEW: Kaitlyn Deann “The Brand of Anem”

41xtnkquoclTitle: The Brand of Anem

Author: Kaitlyn Deann

Genre: Dystopian/Romance

My Rating: 4.5/5 stars

 

A brand is a divine marking that results out of intimacy and is considered beautiful… unless you’re unwedded.

Margaret James is the Duchess of Deneb and the daughter of the highest political figure in their city: Judge Mark James. She is expected to follow the rules without fail and to never, ever falter to her flesh. She has been pledged to the chief officer, William Lach. But there is one problem with this arrangement…

Margaret James shares a brand with Carson Owens.

Carson belongs to the infamous Owens family and to the Middle Class, which means it’s impossible for him to marry the woman he loves. Despite the rules, the two of them bound themselves together as young teenagers, and now they will do everything in their power to hide the brand given to them by Anem, the goddess of souls. If caught, they will suffer dire consequences.

Getting caught is inevitable.

The first in a series of novellas to follow, The Brand of Anem is a wild ride from start to finish.

Described by the author as an afternoon read, this book, while short, packs a punch. Deann manages to fit a lot of information in a limited number of words, and the story flows in an easy, simple way. We’re introduced to the characters and are immediately swept up in their lives and their forbidden love.

The Brand of Anem poses a lot of interesting questions about right and wrong, morality, sin and love. This will leave the reader with both a wonderful story and hopefully an engaged mind.

I found the world building fascinating and I’m excited to see the author develop on this in the next books. There was the obvious air of mystery regarding the Owens family and their history, and what lies in store for Carson and Margaret. The cliffhanger of this book was devestating and if I don’t get the next installment soon, I’m gonna lose my mind. (Trying to remain professional but on the inside, I’m screaming and using lots of exclamation points. Take that however you’d like.)

Definitely can’t wait to find out what happens next, and I highly recommend this special read!

Kaitlyn Deann: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

The Brand of Anem: Amazon | Goodreads

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BOOK REVIEW: Colleen Hoover “It Ends With Us”

817vqET828LTitle: It Ends With Us

Author: Colleen Hoover

Genre: Contemporary/Romance

My Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Ouch, this book hurt.

First of all, I almost didn’t read this. My first experience reading Colleen Hoover was November 9, which I despised. I hated it so much that I DNF’d it. I won’t get into it here, but I’ll just say: gross, controlling male MC. No, thank you.

Yet I decided to give Hoover another chance. I saw that It Ends With Us was a Goodreads Choice Awards winner, so I figured there had to be something good about it. The audiobook was available, so the stars were aligned. I read the book.

Holy crap, it hurt so much.

It’s difficult to talk about what this book is about without giving away too much; let’s just say that one of the heavier topics is domestic abuse. This wasn’t at all what I expected, but in the best way possible. It was beautiful and heartbreaking and so so difficult.

The main character, Lily, faces a few different abusive men in her life, the first of which was her father. Given her circumstances, it’s made her sure that if she ever found herself in a relationship with a man like that, she would never stand for it. She would never go back to him. She would be different.

Yet when she finds herself in a relationship with a man who does hurt her, she finds it’s so much harder when you’re the victim. She justifies it, makes excuses, and tries to write it off. He’s different, he’s not like her father.

When some new information comes to light about her current abuser, I was afraid that Hoover would make it seem like it was okay to stay. Encourage it even. In the end, though, I felt that the topic was dealt with really well. With such a sensitive subject, this book could have easily gone off-course; thankfully it didn’t.

I’m so glad that I gave Hoover another shot and hope to read a few more of her books. Comment your recommendations below!

A Year Full of Beautiful Covers

Listen, I’m not saying I judge books by their covers. I’m just saying, they’re nice to look at, and I’m more inclined to take pictures of them and display them on my shelves and okay maybe I judge books by their covers.

It’s just so hard not to when the books coming out are so dang pretty, and this year’s releases are no exception.

My blog is full of posts talking about books and their contents and reviews of those books. I think I’m entitled to be shallow every once in a while and bask in the beauty of a butt-load of book covers.

So here we go.

51ub94q0GWL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_Even though I may not have loved A Very Large Expanse of Sea, the writing on this cover is so aesthetically pleasing. This combination of colors and pretty fonts is perfect, and I’m just disappointed I couldn’t love the inside as much as I loved the outside.

91JGnozCxiLThere is something so wonderfully ghostly about this paranormal re-imagining of Jane Eyre, My Plain Jane. I also happened to really enjoy this read, even more than I did My Lady Jane! Although I’ve never read Jane Eyre before, it definitely made me want to get into the original! And anything that inspires me to want to read classics is a win in my book.

81PYy9EQs1LWhat’s a pretty cover collection without a Schwab title? So I’m mad that this cover isn’t available in the US and I ended up with the blue-ish cover, but I can still admire this beauty from a distance. *soft crying noises* City of Ghosts was such a fun, adorable read, and it has convinced me that Victoria Schwab can literally write anything. Any genre, any age group, anything.

60869Another stunning cover that I think everyone can agree is just jaw-dropping is The Hazel Wood. The gold and silver embossing on this book is to die for; if I hadn’t actually enjoyed this read, I still would have kept it on my shelf just because. This one has such opposing reviews online, but thankfully I found it inventive and haunting and I can’t wait to read the next one!

the-wicked-deep-9781481497343_hrThe Wicked Deep is another obvious one for me, especially for the naked hardcover on the first edition and the beautiful night sky. *heart eyes* Such a lovely, atmospheric read, with writing just as pretty as the cover. I can’t wait to reread this next year around Halloween!

34499221I’ll indulge myself one moment longer and share the cover of To Kill a Kingdom, this beautiful Little Mermaid retelling. I absolutely loved this read, and it gave me hope that retellings aren’t completely hopeless! That’s not to say I don’t enjoy them, but lately they’ve become a little repetitive. To Kill a Kingdom was inventive and unique while still remaining true to the source material.

Thank you for sticking around for my book fashion show. I promise I’ll go back to intelligent musings and discussions after this, but come on. You have to admit. They’re so pretty.

Finally Fall Book Tag

wide angle photo of road

Photo by Craig Adderley on Pexels.com

It’s fall! … but it doesn’t feel like it for me, sadly. I live in Hawaii, which in retrospect is amazing and I know I’m unbelievably lucky to be here. Still, I do miss the temperature getting below 70 degrees and being able to wear sweaters and scarves without getting funny looks (because yes, I do still try to get away with it).

But it’s still fall in my brain, so by golly I’m gonna do this tag.

51bIN6SUb1L._SX321_BO1,204,203,200_Crisp Fall Air – a book that felt fresh and new

It took me way too long to come up with a single book that this applied to, which I suppose is a good thing! This means I’ve read lots of unique, amazing books so far this year. There were many contenders, but the title I decided on was Bird Box by Josh Malerman. This was such a great read and gave me hope that the thriller genre isn’t dead yet. It’s been such a struggle for me to connect with this genre lately, which is a shame because I love thrillers! They’ve just become so bland and predictable lately, and Bird Box breathed life into me again. Read my full review here.

9781250095312Howling Winds – an ending that blew you away

This one was also a close call, between Legendary and An Absolutely Remarkable Thing; and Legendary wins over by just a fraction. The whole book was a wild ride, and the reader was always thinking: Who is Legend? I loved the big reveal, but that cliffhanger was rough. Tella became a new favorite character and I found that I enjoyed this installment even more than I loved Caraval, the first book. Read my full review here.

81Csb1x-vSLComfy Sweaters – a book that gave you the warm fuzzies

So Love and Other Words may be a strange choice because this broke my heart, but it was also undeniably sweet. There’s nothing quite like a childhood love blossoming into adulthood, but this one had angst and tragedy as well. I felt about every emotion on the spectrum during this read, but ultimately, my heart grew and felt warm in the end.

411h5t91y4LBright Colors – a cover with either red, orange or yellow

I chose the first book I came across that applied and ended up with Vicious, a read from October. This book was positively villainous and I can’t wait to read Vengeance soon!

9781619636118Leaf Fight – a book with nonstop action

There was no question what book I would choose for this: Kingdom of Ash by Sarah J Maas. This final installment in the Throne of Glass series was chock-full of action and battle sequences that forced me to keep reading long into the night. Seriously, I stayed up until 4 am to finish this. It was worth it. Read my full review here.

KingofscarsPumpkin Spice – your most anticipated read

This was another obvious one for me; Leigh Bardugo is at the top of my list of auto-buy authors, and Nikolai is my sweet little cinnamon roll. Of course King of Scars is my most anticipated read. I could not be more excited for Nikolai’s spin-off books and I’m ready to just eat this up.

Thank you for joining me today! If you’re reading this, consider yourself tagged!

BOOK REVIEW: Marie Rutkoski “The Winner’s Curse”

thewinnerscurse-marierutkoski__spanTitle: The Winner’s Curse

Author: Marie Rutkoski

Genre: Romance/Action

My Rating: 3.5/5 stars

 

The Winner’s Curse is your classic enemies-to-lovers story about the daughter of a high-ranking general and her slave.

Kestrel’s people, the Valorian, conquered the Herrani and made them their slaves. Kestrel’s father has tried to convince his daughter to enlist in the military, but her skills lie not in combat but in her strategy; she has a mind for military tactics and planning.

When she sees Arin for sale at the slave market, Kestrel feels a pull toward him and bids. And wins.

Unsure of what to do with her new slave but in need of an escort due to the backwards rules and traditions of her home regarding women, she asks Arin to fill this role. Soon, rumors begin to circulate between the two of them, and feelings begin to develop, yet their stations in life make it impossible to choose. Loyalty to family, culture and country? Or love?

My thoughts:

Sadly, I almost didn’t finish this. I have many books to read and no enough time to dedication to reading books I’m not loving. The Winner’s Curse wasn’t measuring up in the beginning, no matter how intriguing the concept was. It did start to pick up toward the end but ultimately, this debut novel was very slow.

It wasn’t all bad. I enjoyed both main characters very much, making it easy to continue and remain invested in their lives and their star-crossed attraction. Kestrel was tough, and while she was fairly open about her lack of skills on the battle-field, she constantly proved her intelligence and calculating nature.

Arin was continuously at war with himself and his feelings for Kestrel while also planning a revolution against the Valorians. It was interesting to be in his head.

I loved reading any interactions between Kestrel and Arin; their chemistry was flamin’, and Arin was absolutely precious. So basically any fall-backs that this story had, the romance and the main characters more than made up for it.

While this first installment may not have been my favorite, I can see how it can be improved on in sequels and I am very excited to see what happens considering I’ve seen many rave reviews for the rest of this series. I’ll keep you all posted!

 

Marie Rutkoski: Website | Facebook |Twitter

BOOK REVIEW: Emma Mills “This Adventure Ends”

27779275Title: This Adventure Ends

Author: Emma Mills

Genre: Contemporary/Romance

My Rating: 4/5 stars

 

Sloane isn’t expecting to fall in with a group of friends when she moves from New York to Florida—especially not a group of friends so intense, so in love, so all-consuming. Yet that’s exactly what happens.

Sloane becomes closest to Vera, a social-media star who lights up any room, and Gabe, Vera’s twin brother and the most serious person Sloane’s ever met. When a beloved painting by the twins’ late mother goes missing, Sloane takes on the responsibility of tracking it down, a journey that takes her across state lines—and ever deeper into the twins’ lives.

My thoughts:

This is my second experience reading the work of Emma Mills, and I am forced to come to the conclusion that she is incredibly underrated. The first book I read from her was Foolish Hearts, and both were hilarious, sweet and heartfelt… so basically anything you would want from a good contemporary.

Mills has a special heart and humor to her voice that is just so readable and fun. Very few books have made me laugh out loud like a Mills book has. Her characters feel like actual human beings who I could meet up with in real life, and they’re so easy to love. You come away from a Mills book feeling more enriched and like you’ve learned something about life, family, love.

I absolutely adored every character from This Adventure Ends, and although I hate to sound corny, I did not want this adventure to end. I wanted everyone to leap off the page and be my friends so that I could hug them all.

After finishing this book, Emma Mills has become one of my auto-buy authors, no questions asked. I want to read everything she has and will ever write.

 

Emma Mills: Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

BOOK REVIEW: Jenny Han “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before”

15749186Title: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before

Author: Jenny Han

Genre: Romance/Contemporary

My Rating: 4/5 stars

 

What if all the crushes you ever had found out how you felt about them… all at once?

Sixteen-year-old Lara Jean Song keeps her love letters in a hatbox her mother gave her. They aren’t love letters that anyone else wrote for her; these are ones she’s written. One for every boy she’s ever loved—five in all. When she writes, she pours out her heart and soul and says all the things she would never say in real life, because her letters are for her eyes only. Until the day her secret letters are mailed, and suddenly, Lara Jean’s love life goes from imaginary to out of control.

My thoughts:

So this is actually a reread for me, but I originally read this back when it was first published! I was so intrigued by the concept, especially because I had imagined scenarios similar to Lara Jean’s happening to myself.

That’s why initially, this turned out to be a little bit of a bummer for me the first time around. It wasn’t quite what I expected it to be and I ended up coming away from it with slightly negative feelings.

However, in light of the movie being released soon I decided that a reread was in order; and since I know how the trilogy ends now, I thought that maybe I would be able to read this with a fresh perspective and possibly enjoy it more. Luckily, I was right!

Since I was able to set aside my misgivings from my first read-through and just enjoy the adorableness of this story, I ended up loving it so much more!

The things that annoyed me the first time still annoyed me this time… that’s mostly just the lie that makes up the entire basis of this book. I hate when the main characters lie and the entire plot is all about keeping up that lie. It’s so frustrating to me and I have a hard time sympathizing with the characters when things fall apart and people have gotten hurt. Like, you caused this, you literally asked for it.

That being said, this is the perfect, fluffy summer read and I think there are very few who will be immune to the charms of Lara Jean and Peter K.

 

Jenny Han: Website | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

BOOK REVIEW: Taylor Jenkins Reid “Forever, Interrupted”

81CQTisAmcLTitle: Forever, Interrupted

Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid

Genre: Romance/Contemporary

My Rating: 4/5 stars

 

Elsie Porter is an average twentysomething and yet what happens to her is anything but ordinary. On a rainy New Year’s Day, she heads out to pick up a pizza for one. She isn’t expecting to see anyone else in the shop, much less the adorable and charming Ben Ross. Their chemistry is instant and electric. Ben cannot even wait twenty-four hours before asking to see her again. Within weeks, the two are head over heels in love. By May, they’ve eloped.

Only nine days later, Ben is out riding his bike when he is hit by a truck and killed on impact. Elsie hears the sirens outside her apartment, but by the time she gets downstairs, he has already been whisked off to the emergency room. At the hospital, she must face Susan, the mother-in-law she has never met and who doesn’t even know Elsie exists.

Interweaving Elsie and Ben’s charmed romance with Elsie and Susan’s healing process, Forever, Interrupted will remind you that there’s more than one way to find a happy ending.

My thoughts:

I freaking told myself. I said, “Devyn, your husband is deployed for 4 months. It’s not a good idea for you to read sappy/sad romance novels.” Then I picked up Forever, Interrupted and read the synopsis, and I said, “Devyn, do you really think it’s smart for you to read a book about a woman whose husband dies?” But what did I do? I read the stupid book anyway.

Just a glutton for punishment, is what I am.

This was heartbreaking, but there was a big element of healing which is so important. It is tragic to lose a loved one, but it’s important to portray moving on in a healthy amount of time. Of course I say this, but if my husband were to die I would probably rot, so who am I to say?

That’s not to say Elsie didn’t struggle to move on. She did. It was a daily battle waged within herself (and sometimes without), but her and Susan’s story is vital that there is life after death.

To add insult to injury, the sections of the book alternated between the events that occurred after Elsie and Ben first met, and after Ben dies. It’s so difficult to read because during one chapter, I may have had a stupid grin on my face because Ben and Elsie were cute. And then of course reality would set in for the next chapter and Ben would be dead and I’d want to just tear my heart out of my own chest.

I loved the relationship that developed between Elsie and Susan, Ben’s mom. They needed each other to mourn and while theirs was a non-traditional mother-in-law/daughter-in-law relationship, it was special nonetheless. It was such a beautiful part of the story to see the two of them healing and loving together.

The author’s voice was very nice and easy, and her writing was beautiful. I loved her comparison between Elsie and Ben’s love and a supernova:

Have you ever heard of supernovas? They shine brighter than anything else in the sky and then fade out really quickly, a short burst of extraordinary energy. I like to think you and Ben were like that . . . in that short time, you had more passion than some people have in a lifetime.

Ugh, cue the tears again.

I really enjoyed this even though it made me ache for my husband to be home 1000 times more. I can’t wait for him to come back so that I can hold him a little bit tighter and cherish the time that we have together.

 

Taylor Jenkins Reid: Website | Twitter | Goodreads

BOOK REVIEW: Stephanie Garber “Legendary”

9781250095312Title: Legendary

Author: Stephanie Garber

Genre: Fantasy

My Rating: 5/5 stars

 

It almost feels pointless to write a non-spoiler review for this book… I can’t give anything away and I can’t rant and rave about what went on. Why am I even here? And who’s going to read a review of Legendary anyway? Anyone who’s planning to read the book will be avoiding spoilers at all costs, and anyone who isn’t planning to read it simply hasn’t read Caraval yet. (While I’m at that, here’s some self-promotion: read my review, then read Caraval. Just do it.)

Legendary was everything I wanted it to be.

It had heartbreaking romance, magic, mystery, surprise, action. Legendary had everything needed to be the perfect story. I am beyond impressed with Stephanie Garber, and so pleased that she managed to ward off second-book syndrome. There was nothing lacking in this, it didn’t feel like it was a filler novel, and it was perfect.

Donatella was a wonderful main character. I wasn’t sure how I would feel about it just based on her character in Caraval, but she was really great. She was strong and independent and funny and so completely human. It was so easy to relate to her and feel for her and did I mention the utterly heart-shattering romance? I adored the love interest in this novel, adored the villain… I have all the love for every aspect of this book.

I think I actually enjoyed Legendary more than the first book, which is saying a lot because I loved Caraval. I can’t wait for the final book in this series, although Garber is welcome to write as many books in this world as she wants to. I will read them all.

 

Stephanie Garber: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Goodreads

BOOK REVIEW: Katie Cotugno “How To Love”

9780062216366_p0_v1_s1200x630Title: How To Love

Author: Katie Cotugno

Genre: Contemporary/Romance

My Rating: 1/5 stars

 

Reena Montero is a bit of  a loner; isn’t really interested in having a big group of friends or going to raging parties like her best friend. What Reena is truly interested in is traveling, seeing the world, and living life.

Then enters Sawyer, who she’s known forever but could never imagine herself with. Sawyer LeGrande seems to notice her out of the blue, all of a sudden. And they connect, they fall in love, etc., etc.

Then leaves Sawyer, and leaves behind Reena who is destroyed, confused, and pregnant.

My thoughts: 

How to Love alternates between being told from two different times: before Sawyer disappears and after he comes back. So basically, we get to see two versions of Reena and Sawyer being totally stupid… It’s been a while since I’ve written a rant review, so here goes.

This is probably one of the worst books I’ve ever read in my life. Actually, I should clarify: one of the worst books I’ve ever tried to read in my life, since I couldn’t actually force myself to finish. Yes, this was a DNF and yes, it’s frowned upon to review a DNF. For How to Love, I don’t care.

For one, this could have been written by a 5th grader. Just so poorly put together and written, plus the author used the word “snottily” on two different occasions. Snottily. The words and sentences did not flow, the dialogue was choppy and unrealistic.

Sawyer’s one of those guys that’s super chill and relaxed and carefree all the time. Even when he’s seeing his ex girlfriend and baby mama for the first time in 3 years. And that just drives me up the wall. What, no remorse? No regret? Nothing to say other than, “Hey, nice to see you, you look good, can’t wait to meet that kid of yours”? You know, like he still doesn’t know that it’s his baby?

This is when the internal screaming began.

Also, in the time since Sawyer left and she’s given birth to her daughter, Reena has found a new boyfriend who’s this really nice guy, right? He’s good to her and patient and understanding when it comes to mom-duties. Not at all intimidated by this. Yet here she is, her mind filled with thoughts of Sawyer.

So okay, maybe I can’t blame her for that. He’s the father of her child after all and the feelings that she had for him and the hurt that he caused still runs deep. But she begins entertaining thoughts of being with him again. She starts lying to her boyfriend about seeing Sawyer and talking to him. She starts to make excuses and justifications for this.

This is when the external screaming began.

Then Sawyer has to outright ask whether the baby is actually his. I may have thrown my book into a wall for this. He decides he wants to be a part of the baby’s life. Understandable. Acceptable. I can work with this. Yes, be responsible and step up. Please.

But then she kisses him.

This is when I lose it.

I just have no sympathy for characters who put themselves in stupid, preventable situations. I have no sympathy for characters who do things they know are wrong but “just can’t help it”. Yes you can. You freaking can help it.

Bullcrap on “they’re meant for each other”. No. The moment he left with no way to contact him, for whatever reason, that should have been the end of it. People like that, who can just up and leave the people they supposedly care about, are not people that you want to keep in your life. These are not the people that you want to keep running back to and letting in. Just no.

Do not fall into this trap. Do not believe that lie that he’s changed or he’s promised to never do it again. Once was too many times, girl.

This may be a work of fiction. In this scenario and in this story, maybe Sawyer did indeed learn how to love. How to stay and own up and be there. But in most cases, ladies, they don’t learn. And in the small percentage of cases where they may have learned their lesson, don’t just welcome them back with open arms. Make them work for it and prove their devotion and dedication, because nobody deserves anything less than this.

Books like this give women false hope that their messed up, lazy, absent boyfriends are going to somehow shape up and step up. Instead, we should be teaching young girls to expect better.

For the love of God, don’t read this book. Don’t feed this to our younger generation to teach young girls that Sawyer’s actions are okay. This is not the example we want set for our sisters, daughters, friends. Don’t.