ARC Review: Steel Tide

Steel Tide (Seafire, #2)

I could hardly wait until the next book in this series came out because I loved… loved Seafire so much. This series is proving to be such a sleeper powerhouse and I’m thrilled that it is happening. It is full of badass females, action packed scenes, and no forced romance (WHOO!).

Book 2 picked up right where Book 1 ended. Caledonia had been gravely injured during her epic battle, lost her ship, and lost her crew. What else does she have? Determination – that’s what. She had been rescued and taken in by the most unlikely of groups – former Bullets known as Blades. Caledonia teamed up with the Blades and set out with the plan to take back her crew she called her sisters, and her ship, if possible. On top of that, she wanted… no, needed to find out what happened to her brother Donnelly and if she could save him at the same time. Does Caledonia have a few tricks left up her sleeve? Can she pull this all off?

This was such a wild roller coaster of an adventure! I had no idea Parker could take a female pirate crew and turn it into one of the most action packed adventure I’ve read in the longest time. The cast was just as brilliantly written in this book as they were in the first. They all continue to grow, learn, develop, and mature while still retaining their flaws that made them come across relateable and human. Caledonia was and will forever be my most favorite lead female character. She rose to nearly every challenge she was faced with with humility, confidence, and determination. Those alone were admirable enough. The fact that she was also realistic and believable. She knew the dangers she would put herself and the new crew in, but she didn’t force anyone to do anything they were not comfortable with. Then, if the situation changed, she would step back, reassess and make a new plan. Brilliant. The rest of the characters were just as enjoyable, especially Pine and Triple.

The pacing of the story was masterfully done. Dare I say this book could possibly outshine the first in the series? This did not read like a second book in a series, nor did it suffer from second book syndrome. It was everything I always needed a second book to be. Parker did not let me down and I’m grateful for that.

As you can tell, I’m struggling to write this review because this book was just SO GOOD! Plus, I don’t want to give anything away! I want you to read this series and gush about these characters, this world, this story as much as I am. Please put it on your TBR if you have not already.

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ARC Review: Frankly In Love

Frankly in Love

This book slayed me. I mean… GUTTED me in the best way possible. Do not let this simple cover fool you – this book has been sent to destroy you. I’m going to do my best to give you a spoiler free review. Enjoy!

Frank Li wanted to find love and not with a girl that his parents pick for him. He had his eyes set on one in particular but she would never have his parents’ approval. So what does a good son like Frank do? He fakes a relationship with a girl his parents do approve of so he can pseudo-date the girl he really wants to date. What could possibly go wrong?

While this seemed like a simple book of “boy who wants to find love”, it is anything but that. The story that lies in between the pages of David Yoon’s debut will leave you in tears. Yoon tackled topics like racial profiling, privilege, culture, and more. He took a hard look at these hard hitting and sensitive topics and presented them with the grace and beauty they deserved. It was nothing short of masterful.

Frank Li, the protagonist in this story, was complex, gritty, real, flawed, and relatable. He was nothing more than an dork with a solid best friend that would help him hide a dead body if necessary who thought he knew what he wanted out of love and life, but life had other plans for him. He had moments where he was serious, others where his wit had me in tears with laughter, and yet more where he couldn’t say something without sticking his foot in his mouth. I wanted nothing more than to be his friend in real life. He was brilliant.

There really is so much I want to say about this book but I cannot because I won’t give anything away. GAH – it is SO DANG GOOD. Please, please get this when it comes out! I need people to gush with! It will leave you a bit spell-bound, wonder struck, and wondering how the hell this could be Yoon’s debut. The author writes like he’s done this a billion times before. This was everything I never knew I needed in a book.

ARC Review: Hello Girls

Hello Girls

I want to ask for your forgiveness up front. I know this review will be a struggle for me to write as I loved this book with every ounce of my being and will trip over my words. I know I will not be able to properly express my thoughts & feelings in the right way so please have patience with me.

This was the story of two girls from different social circles and backgrounds who found their way to each other and formed the most concrete bond imaginable. Winona was the daughter of the city’s beloved weatherman, Stormy. While he may portray the picture perfect and doting father, what goes on behind closed doors would make skin crawl. Lucille had to grow up too fast. Her mother and brother were basically worthless and if it wasn’t for Lucille, nothing would be taken care of. When both have reached the end of their sanity, they wind up at the same place at the same time and immediately spark a friendship. These two have no idea how important the other will become to them. Determined to break free from the horrors they are individually living, they leave town with nothing more than a few bucks, a boat load of sarcasm, and a Can Do! attitude. What happens to them along the way will only prove that what doesn’t kill them will only make them stronger. Deeper in or dead.

I had no idea I could ship a friendship as hard as I do this one. These were two of the most amazing characters I have read in a very, very long time. While both were from completely different backgrounds and could not be more opposite if they tried, they worked. Hot diggity damn they worked. The were the ying to the other’s yang. I could not get enough of them. Both Winona and Lucille were deeply complex and beautifully flawed. They felt like two girls I would give my left arm to be friends with. While they had gone through hell and back at too young of an age, they still kept a sharp wit about them. They were not afraid to realize nobody was going to save them but themselves.

There are trigger warnings that should be mentioned: abuse (both physical and verbal), manipulation, drug use, murder

That being said, the plot of this story was mind blowing in the best way possible. It was action packed and fast paced. I am not going to give anything away because I want you to read it.

I devoured this book in two days and it pained me to have to stretch it that long. I almost called in sick to work just so I could stay home to read this one. Mother of Pearl I was invested hook, line, and sinker. This book had every ounce of me and never let go. Heck, I’m still thinking about this one!

Please, please, please add this to your TBR now. It releases soon and I urge you to get a copy on release day. You will NOT be disappointed! I need someone to gush with about this iconic duo!

ARC Review: Slay

SLAY

Have you ever come across one of those books that sounds like it will be exactly what you’ve been looking for but once you read it, you feel as if it let you down? That was me with this book. Perhaps it was my fault for putting it on a pedestal but I walked away disappointed with this story.

Seventeen year old Kiera has a huge, HUGE secret: She was the creator and developer of the wildly popular online role-playing computer game, Slay. Slay was her brain child that incorporated anything and everything relating to her African American culture and roots. Kiera escaped into Slay where her identity remains secret and she was able to escape the craziness of the everyday. She had every reason to be proud of her creation, until it became the focus of slander after one of the members of Slay was brutally murdered in his sleep. Suddenly all eyes are on the game, going so far as to say it is “racist” because only African American people are allowed to set up profiles and play. Silently she tried to wrestle with her thoughts/feelings/emotions of how her game could be considered “racist” all while her long time boyfriend, Malcolm, believed video games were “partially responsible for the downfall of the Black man”. How can Kiera keep her two worlds apart when they are violently crashing together?

I was driven to this book for several reasons – I mean the premise alone of a girl gamer had my full attention. What I was not prepared for was the amount of repetitiveness found within the pages of the book. I am willing to bet that 30% or more of this book is nothing but repeating what had already been said just pages before. There was so much reiterated that I found myself skimming HUGE chunks of chapters and never missed anything important. It could have been wildly descriptive paragraphs that did not describe anything important to the story but they took up pages and pages doing nothing more than adding length to an already wordy novel. If you mixed that with Kiera’s constant need to internally rehash arguments with herself, you’ve got a lot of what could be considered wasted space. I get that there was a lot of pondering and wondering and questioning going on with Kiera and her game, but there was no real need to say the same things every couple of pages. Was it to remind the reader of what took place just minutes ago or was there another true reason for it? I may never know but I know skipping did not hinder my ability to follow the story.

That being said, I felt the characters were also lacking substance. I found the side characters, Steph (Kiera’s sister) and Cicada (Kiera’s moderator in Slay), were the most interesting. I really wish they both had larger parts because they seemed the most energetic. There was far too much forced drama between the rest of the characters. It could have been removed because the “tension” was not necessary. The one character I despised the most was Malcolm. That boy reeked of bad news like nobody’s business. He had so much built up aggression that he seemed like he was a reject from a Spike Lee movie. I applauded him for having so much love for his race and culture, but Malcolm took it too far.

The story had moments of being face paced but all of the rehashing and repeating made me quickly lose interest. I did finish but I was not excited about it. The big reveal before the final pages was a surprise but not enough to make me change my mind or feelings about what I read. It was not enough to save this book. The ending felt super rushed, as if Morris had five pages to fit everything into it and make it pretty. It all felt too perfect and not believable. Again, I skimmed and skipped a lot because I really wanted to be done with this. I’m not upset that I read it but I’m disappointed with what I read.

ARC Review: The Revolution of Birdie Randolph

The Revolution of Birdie Randolph

**I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for my honest review**

I am a huge fan of Brandy Colbert and have promised myself to read whatever she writes. Her second book was just as good as the first, if not better. It covered some hard hitting topics but they were done with nothing short of grace and class.

Birdie, aka Dove, Randolph felt like she lived in the shadow of her older perfect sister. Her mom owns and operated a beauty salon and her dad was a sports medicine doctor for the Chicago Bulls. It seems Birdie has an easy life. Things do change once her sister goes off to college and Birdie was left to deal with her parents alone. Her parents had always been rather strict with Birdie – she wasn’t allowed to date a boy until her parents met (and approved) of him. She couldn’t go to a party unless her parents knew all of the details and confirmed with the parents of the teen. Birdie felt she was not allowed to do much other than study for school and help out at her mom’s shop. Things changed even more when Birdie’s aunt Charlene came to stay with them out of the blue. Birdie did not have a lot of memories of her aunt but found out that her aunt had just spent more time in rehab. Tensions were high when the adults (meaning Birdie’s parents and aunt) were together. Birdie found herself drawn to her aunt Charlene and wanted to know more about her. The more Birdie finds out about her aunt, the more secrets come out and soon, everything Birdie thought she knew to be true could turn out to be a lie.

I devoured this book. It was perfectly paced so I was turning the pages faster than I expected. This felt like a very unique take on a topic I’ve read before… Don’t misunderstand me. I haven’t read anything like this before. It will stay with me for a long time because of the topics and the way they were handled. Colbert did not throw around topics like “rehab”, “alcoholism”, “drug use”, or “addict” simply to move the story along. They had a purpose within the story and they were handled with nothing short of respect. They were tastefully and masterfully done. I applaud Colbert for her ability to write such a powerful story.

The story itself was set in Chicago and while I have not visited (yet), I could tell there was a lot of research that went into the story (setting and details). I felt as if I was walking around the city with Birdie. This was lush and very well developed. The same goes for the characters. I really liked Birdie, even though I did not always agree with her decisions/actions. I was once a teenager so I cannot be too hard on the girl. I knew why she was doing what she was doing, I just never rebelled the way Birdie did. I still enjoyed the characters and felt they were well represented. Their voices sounded true and original.

Do I recommend this? Heck yes I do! This felt like a necessary story as I haven’t read anything like this before. I have heard of the premise of the story but the delivery was original and brilliant. I will push this into the hands of everyone I can. I want everyone to give this a chance and add to your TBR now.

ARC Review: Wilder Girls

Wilder Girls

This book was everything I hoped it would be and so much more. It was dirty, gritty, creepy, disturbing, and wonderful. This will be one of my Top Reads of 2019.

This was the story of a school of girls trying to survive in a world that was trying to take everything back. The residents of the Raxter School for Girls felt abandoned and forgotten after they were put under quarantine but they did everything they could to survive. They found a way to adapt and overcome the (sometimes) horrific transformations that happened to them physically. They learned they were a hell of a lot tougher and stronger than they realized when push came to shove, and it did when it came to food. Fighting dirty was not frowned upon and the dirtier the better. Hetty and the other girls learned the hard way to not wander past the fence of the school, especially after the Tox hit. That was what caused the strange and unusual changes to happen to the ones that were fortunate enough to survive. Things change for Hetty when her best friend, Byatt, disappeared. Determined to find her, Hetty will risk her life and whatever else she has to in order to find out what happened to her best friend. Will Hetty truly be prepared for the horrors that await her on the other side of the fence? Will she ever be ready for the truth?

Hot diggity damn this book was stunning. I was both memorized and terrified by what was happening. I could not put this book down. I was intrigued by what the Tox was doing to every single girl and how it affected them individually. Power put some serious thought into what she wrote and it showed. This was an incredibly lush world with some deeply developed characters. This was masterfully written, without a doubt.

This this felt like a quick read, the story was anything but simple. There were secrets on top of mysteries wrapped in lies. It was absolutely my cup of tea and this was just were I parked my car. I was thinking about this story when I had to put the book down for other things (like work) but just could not stop thinking about it. The complexity in which the MC, Hetty, found herself was brilliant. The girl wanted nothing more than to find her best friend and then maybe get off of the island – if that was even possible. She fought like hell to stay alive and it was such a great thing to read. I felt her struggle and was cheering her on the entire way. When she was afraid, I was afraid. When she was fighting off tears, I was trying not to cry. She had me by my feels and never let me go.

I won’t give anything away but when the end of the book got close and the big reveal was about to happen, I was both ready and not ready for it. I wanted to say I knew it was coming but I won’t lie to you. I can only say this – with the way the book ended, there has to be a sequel. Give me a novella or something! I want… no… NEED more of these characters, this world, this story. I need it like I need air.

So do I recommend? Absolutely. If you haven’t already picked up a copy, do so now but know this probably isn’t for the weak stomached reader. There are some gory details that could trigger nightmares or keep you awake at night.

ARC Review: Heartwood Box

Heartwood Box

**I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.**

This was blurbed to be Stranger Things meets The Lake House. How does a reader say no to something like that?! Sign me up! It was a valid description, however, the overall story itself felt messy, jumbled, and crammed with too many side stories. I was confused as to what the overall focus of the story was supposed to be. I read sci-fi, contemporary, mystery/thriller, and coming of age. Make up your mind! This would have been so much better as either a sci-fi or mystery/thriller, but certainly not all four genres forced into one.

The contemporary side of the story lacked any real emotion or depth. I never felt a romantic connection between Araceli, the protagonist, and the random boy she was writing letters to. It came across as insta-love and we all know how I feel about that topic. If this had been a contemporary by itself, I would have DNFd without giving a second thought.

The mystery/thriller side of the story was lacking as well because I never felt a sense of urgency. I never felt that Araceli and her group of stereotypical friends were ever in any danger. They were disappearing but I was more curious about why but I wasn’t loosing sleep over this question.

This story had potential but the execution was what ruined it for me. The story had no flow whatsoever. The conversations between character felt forced and awkward. I found myself skipping and skimming a lot of the dialogue just so I could get through this. By the time I got to the end of the story, I was so disappointed. The ending felt rushed and unfulfilling.

I was not able to connect to any of the characters as they felt shallow and undeveloped. I didn’t know their likes, dislikes, characteristics, or anything substantial. I only knew the basic information on Araceli so I could not ever get behind her or her actions. Everything that the characters were good at felt convenient. There is a dance team at the new school Araceli attends and it’s the peak of popularity? Oh good! Because Araceli happens to be amazing at dancing. There are a lot of people disappearing in this new town that Araceli moved to? Swell! Her parents happen to be investigative reporters and know their way around war zones so she knows just what to do! Give me a break. Solutions just came too easy and they were not believable at all.

I am not upset that I read this book, I adore this author, but the overall story that I read was not what I expected.