Monday, December 31, 2018

What a month! With the holidays and time off work, I thought I'd have more time to read but that it might be interrupted reading time, and I was totally right. Except that I spent a large amount of my reading time re-listening to some favorites because I had very little attention to pay to anything new. Plus, I was watching A LOT of Hallmark Christmas movies. 😆

I got a few books for Christmas and some even cooler bookish accessories. Sabrina and I will be putting together a bookshelf tour soon because that's the best way to get to know someone new -- or new to you -- and because I spent some of my vacation reorganizing my shelves and I'm quite proud of them. But that's a post for another day.

I didn't quite hit my unofficial goal of a book a day (365 total) but I got really close with 352. That's over 100 more than my Goodreads goal was. 😜

And without further ado, here's what I've been reading lately...

(More on why I've gone to this format here in lieu of traditional reviews for each.)

Y O U N G   A D U L T

The Dark Days Deceit - This is one of my absolute favorite YA series. It combines the supernatural with a historical setting and gives off serious Buffy vibes, and although I wasn't ready to see it end, I absolutely love how it went out with a bang. I've long suspected who the ultimate villain was and it was rewarding to have my suspicions confirmed, especially since there was still the matter of how it would all go down. So many twists and turns in this book left me wondering who to trust, with the exception of a chosen few, but it definitely kept things interesting. I could've used a few more chapters featuring the two halves of the Grand Reclaimer bond there at the end, or even just an epilogue, but it was still a great conclusion. 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

Beauty - I feel like I've been on hold for this book forever, and to be fair, it's been since September since my last mini-Robin McKinley binge and since June that I read Rose Daughter. I loved Rose Daughter, especially the way it left off, but I guess that left me with some pretty high expectations for Beauty. I adore BatB retellings, even ones that stick pretty close to the original tale or vary so widely that they almost don't feel like a retelling. Beauty is the former. And it was beautiful. It just seemed kinda basic? I mean, there was something like 20 years between the two books, with Beauty releasing first, so I guess it's understandable. I liked it, but I didn't love it. 🌟🌟🌟

Carols and Chaos - I've pretty much adored all of Cindy Anstey's previous works, and this book was no exception. I wish I'd realized that this was a companion to Suitors and Sabotage, though, so I could have re-read that book first and refamiliarized myself with the lords and ladies above stairs before setting out to solve this caper with characters from below stairs. This was a sweet romance full of Yuletide cheer, while also maintaining and air of mystery, and while it wasn't the most compelling of Anstey's books thus far, I still found it charming. A lovely read for this time of year! 🌟🌟🌟

*ARC received from publisher for review purposes. This does not affect my review in any way.


A Daring Arrangement - This was my first Joanna Shupe novel and I quite enjoyed it. Though I pretty much always enjoy the fake relationship trope to some degree, I really liked how it was handled in this story: gorgeous daughter of a duke makes a deal with a roguish American financier that should get her sent packing back to England post-haste...what could go wrong? Fires, former paramours, and bad deals from the past...that's what. Not to mention an English-bred lady with debauchery on her mind and a rogue trying to mend his wicked ways and enter high society with her on his arm...and in his bed. It was fun. It was flirty. And it was definitely daring. I may have found a new historical romance author to binge! 🌟🌟🌟

Hate Notes - I really enjoyed the first 2/3 of this book, and then it just got sappy. The banter and ball-busting and will they won't they of pages before disappeared and things got real...and unrealistic. These two characters were super-invasive, prying into each other's private lives because of a shared attraction, and yet neither was bothered by that fact, not really. And listen, I'm a romantic, but that ending was just too perfect, even for the likes of me. Coupled with the epilogue, I was ready to hork rather than swoon. I did enjoy the match-making grandmother, though. I feel that'll be my calling later in life: interfering granny. 🌟🌟🌟

The Harlot Countess - Ah, how many novelized relationships have I seen go up in flames due to a lack of communication? Too many to count. But this might be the first time I've actually seen a debutante ruined because of it...and not intentionally so. I appreciate the timeliness of this novel because even in this day and age, it's so much easier for the world at large to believe a man over a woman. It's taken ten years for the heroine and hero of this story to come to terms with the past meet on the battlefield of love once again, and this time, he's not letting her get away. Blackmail, art, and sedition all contrive to keep this couple apart, even now, but a love this long in the making isn't going to die easily. I didn't like these characters as much as those in A Daring Arrangement, but it was still a lovely second chance romance. 🌟🌟🌟

Shades of Milk and Honey - I saw this recommended in a blog post on GR, I think, and for some reason I want to attribute the rec to Maggie Stiefvater but I can't find the original post now. Anyway, it sounded like the perfect book to get me over my sadness that the Lady Helen series is at an end. But I almost gave up after listening to a few minutes of the audio because it was grating and tinny with an echoing quality. However, I normally listen at at least double-speed, so I tried it at a lesser speed and though slower than I would have liked, it was much more pleasant to listen to, especially once I discovered that the author herself narrates. This book took me back to my Jane Austen re-read last year: it was just so authentic in tone and speech and even had the characteristic dry wit and understatement of a Jane Austen novel. And then there was the magical aspect. It wasn't flashy or obnoxious, the way supernatural elements can sometimes appear when included in a historical setting. Instead it was artfully described and was in fact used as a demonstration of art and magical talent in this story, those with the affinity using it to create splendid tableaus. I'd love to explore this magical system further in subsequent books, since I've also discovered that this is only the first book in a series. 🌟🌟🌟🌟

A Touch Wicked - Did you know that Elizabeth May writes smexy historical romance under the pen name Katrina Kendrick? Neither did I until she tweeted about checking out her steamy books over the Thanksgiving holiday. ;)

The Weaver Takes a Wife - Sometimes you just want a fun romp into historical romance, and that's exactly what I got with this book when I grabbed it via the ARP. The summary is what caught my attention, having never read anything by Sheri Cobb South previously. I do so enjoy a romance where the two love interests come from different walks of life and have to overcome the obstacles associated with a difference in class. This one was sweet and the narration done well. It sort of reminded me of a Marion Chesney/M.C. Beaton novel, and I'll definitely be checking out more from the author when I'm looking for a quick foray into this genre. 🌟🌟🌟

I Adored a Lord - I found My Lady, My Lord to be quite divine when I read it ages ago, so when I saw that Hoopla had added a whole slew of Katharine Ashe novels to its catalog, I jumped at the chance to try another. The premise for this one sounded quite extraordinary, so even though it is the second book in a companion series, I couldn't help myself. It's a fault of mine, but it hasn't been my downfall yet. I Adored a Lord was elegant and fanciful and everything I'd been hoping for. With a murder mystery afoot and a prince's affections to win, the clever yet hoydenish Ravenna has a lot on her hands, even if she cares more about the former than the latter. This story was intricate, but while on the long side, it was never plodding. In fact, I adored (heh) the slowness of the revelations that came as Ravenna worried at her attraction to Vitor, the prince's bastard brother, and how their relationship evolved. The story was sweet and romantic and one of the better additions to the historical romance genre. 🌟🌟🌟🌟

Clean Sweep & Sweep in Peace - After thoroughly enjoying the Hidden Legacies series last month, I thought I'd give this author duo another chance. I put the first Kate Daniels audiobook on hold at the library, but I DLed the first in the Innkeeper series using an Audible credit because it sounded worthy of it. It was...different. Maybe I didn't read the summary very well but I was not expecting all of the interplanetary alien stuff, especially not with the mention of vampires and werewolves. Supernatural I was expecting, even looking forward to because I'm familiar with that lore. I only read the first two books in this series and decided to call it quits because it really wasn't holding my interest. They were chock full of information, from galactic warfare to breakdowns on each species and every planet they inhabit, and it was just overwhelming. I like sci-fi and I understand the need for such intense world-building. I just wasn't here for that with this series, and it almost pains me to stop reading here. I want to know what happens to Dina and Sean and Arland and Her Grace, but I want to enjoy myself while finding out, and that's just not gonna happen right now if I push myself to read more of this when I'm not specifically in the mood for it. Definitely a case of "it's me, not the book" and I wish it were otherwise. 🌟🌟🌟

One for the Money - I never had any intention of reading this series. There's something like 25 books and I just cannot commit to characters for that long, nor do I anticipate an author can sustain their own characters for that length of time. But I can't concentrate at work without an audiobook in my ear, and I didn't have one queued up and this was a freebie or title I picked up on sale on a whim way back when I first started listening to audiobooks and didn't know any better. Oh, and I saw someone on GR the other day griping about Stephanie's inability to choose between Morelli and Ranger and they were on book 19 or thereabouts, and since I don't despise love triangles, I thought I'd finally check it out. There must be something about those guys if she can't decide after that long. ;) That being said, I didn't hate it. It was a little over the top and ridiculous, but it was entertaining and even a little funny at times. I'm not disinclined to listen to the next book, and I don't think I'd ever see the movie based on this first one. But I'm still not willing to commit to all 25 books. 🌟🌟🌟

B I N G E   R E A D S

Kate Daniels series - I didn't enjoy this as much as the Hidden Legacy series but I did like it more than the Innkeeper Chronicles. I didn't read the novellas, which, um, mistake. I felt like I was missing all kinds of info because of that. I also didn't read the final book because after book #9, I feel like I know pretty much what's going to happen and after nine straight books, I'm kinda bored now. 😩

R E - R E A D S

The holidays make it hard for me to get into anything new, so I spent a good portion of December re-reading some favorites. But the ones I re-read also helped me prepare for new books in a couple of the series, so it's a win-win!

Have you read any of these? What did you think? Find any new titles to check out? ;0)

Until next time! Happy reading!

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Listed: Mini Reviews {December 2018}

Wednesday, December 26, 2018 with 3 comments

Hello lovelies! Jen has her own awesome overview post called 'What I've Been Reading Lately," so rather than use the same format and make it confusing about who's posting, I decided to stick to my short review style from The Forest of Words and Pages. Though truthfully, the fact that Jen literally reads 10 times the amount of books as me will also likely be a dead giveaway.

 So, whether I loved these books or not, I’m going to lay out a few bullet-pointed reasons you should, or shouldn’t spend your time reading some of my recent reads.

Like Never Always by Ann Aguirre

Source: Library

✽ Not going to lie, a cover like this always gets me. It screams, "Open me! I'm creepy and exciting!" However, it was the concept of the main character, Liv, waking up after an accident in another person's body that intrigued me most. I just never felt 'wowed.'

✽ I wanted to understand WHY it had happened. I waited and waited and WAITED for it and when it finally came, it was covered very briefly and I wasn't satisfied. I assumed it would be revisited, but nope.

✽ I also must confess that I didn't much like the characters for the first third of the book. Even when I did start to like some of them, a love triangle involving brothers made it a bit hard to swallow. Not to mention the creepy older guy who had some sort of relationship with Morgan, that Liv, now in her body and life, has to extricate herself from. There is a lot to unpack there and a lot of it is messy, dark and unneeded.

✽ While the story wasn't as amazing as I'd hoped, I really did enjoy it enough to keep picking it up. Still, I was hoping for a bit of a thriller based on the cover and synopsis, and I while it did have some intense moments, I was a bit underwhelmed. There were so many details and elements that felt disconnected to me, even by the final pages.

✽ I finished this book awhile ago and it's already fading into the abyss of books I wouldn't call memorable. Was it a 'bad book?' Not necessarily, but with so many unread books on our shelves, I can't honestly recommend it.

Bottom Line: It was okay🌟🌟🌟

To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han

Source: Audiobook from Jen

✽ Yes. It took me 4 years to read this glorious book. However, I'm weird about watching movie and TV adaptions if I haven't read the book. So fortunately, I now totally get it.

✽ HOWEVER, you guys, the word 'daddy' is used in this book too damn much. Too. Damn. Much. Dont @ me.

✽ Obviously, this books was way too cute for me to not get over that and as soon as the letters starting going out to her boys, I was absolutely hooked. Also, I loved the sweetness of the entire book. It was happiness and sunshine on paper and I smiled the whole time I was listening to the audiobook.

✽ This story is a perfect example of a love triangle done right. Yes, Lara Jean has choices. Yes, she's conflicted, but she's navigating her emotions and evolving as a person. I loved her story.

✽ Because it must be said, Peter Kavinsky is now one of my favorite book boys. And the movie only intensified that. ;)

Bottom Line: Loved it! 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

All the Truth That's in Me by Julie Berry

Source: Audiobook from Library

✽ This story is told in such a weird and wonderful way. The chapters are really short at times and longer for others, shifting between the present and the past. Because of this, it is a bit jarring at first, at least if you choose to listen via audiobook, but I quickly became completely absorbed in the story.

✽ Judith is an extremely intriguing character and I loved that as much as I felt like I understood her, she still surprised me. Even the characters you're not supposed to like are so well written that I still found them intriguing and compelling.

✽ Also, YAY for a positive female friendship that empowers Judith to take a big chance, going against her mother and the puritan town she lives in. It's lovely to watch her bravery awaken.

✽ I really enjoyed that the romance aspect was important, but did not eclipse Judith's own story and growth. Nor was it the most important part of the story. Everything was really balanced and given just the right weight.

✽ The ending was a bit of a shock, but so fitting! I can't wait to read the other Julie Berry books on my shelf!

Bottom Line: Really liked it! 🌟🌟🌟🌟

Have you read any of these? Did you enjoy them? Despise them? Despise my review of them? Let me know in the comments!

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

I'm (We're?!?) BAAAAAAACK!!! 😆🎉💖

Tuesday, December 18, 2018 with 26 comments
So, it's been awhile since I've actually posted something besides a monthly reading wrap-up. And I've kind of missed it. Not the pressure to read and review and post and all that other stuff...but the community and the general fangirling over books. I mean, I do that with my bestie Sabrina -- whom I met right here on this very blog -- regularly, but we got to talking, as we do most every weekend, and she missed it, too. We both wanted to end our indefinite hiatuses. But neither of us has the time or energy to carry on this blogging thing solo -- plus, it's a lot more fun to do with a friend! -- so we decided to collaborate. We'll still do reviews, especially if we just absolutely adore a book, but we really just want to keep it fun and less like the unpaid job it had turned into before we took our extended breaks. For some of you more observant readers, you may have noticed that Sabrina's contacts were added to the sidebar, like, months ago, lol, but for everyone else:

There's a new co-blogger at The Starry-Eyed Revue!
Hello, Starry-Eyed readers! Jen and I have been talking about blogging together for some time now. And the only thing stopping us is that I have been procrastinating writing THIS. Which is a dominant personality trait of mine… best you know right out the gate.

So, it’s lovely to meet you. My name is Sabrina. I live in Michigan and I’m in my 30s. I’m excellent at napping and hoarding books. I adore stories. Especially fantasy, thrillers, historical fiction and anything that makes my heart pound. Some of my favorite authors are Robin LaFevers, Naomi Novak, Alwyn Hamilton, Cat Winters… and so many, many more.  Some of you may already know me from my blog, The Forest of Words and Pages, which I have mostly abandoned for the last year (or two *cries*) and truthfully I haven’t missed reviewing much… up until recently.

I, like many, was burned out from blog tours and review copies that I couldn’t keep up with. I had a color-coded google calendar as my reading schedule and at some point, I realized that I wasn’t even reading the books that I really wanted to read. I felt so much pressure to meet review deadlines and review as many books as possible, that I felt like I didn’t have anything new to say anymore.

There was also an overwhelming feeling that ‘blogger’ was this dirty, shameful word; like we were cockroaches in the library. It hurt my heart every time I saw divisive social media ‘discussions’ where people who shared a love of books were measuring the value of one another and defending their own value. Twitter became a major point of anxiety for me. I saw excellent points on both sides of the spectrum on a variety of issues, but I didn’t sense that many of us were listening to one another.

So I looked at my overflowing bookshelves… all these books I’d bought over the last 5-ish years, with actual dust collecting on them and decided that I was going to read all those damn books instead of stressing myself out. While I have not actually read ‘all’ of those damn books, I have read a lot more of them. Now I read what sounds good to me in the moment and I stop reading when I get bored. I DNF books ALL THE TIME. Something I never used to allow myself to do. Reading has returned to an enjoyable escape for me once again instead of self-inflicted work I always felt behind on.

Best of all, awhile back, Jen and I decided to do what we deemed a “Not-So-Secret-Sister-Swap”  (thank you to the #OTSPSecretSister Project for inspiring us) and we accidentally became best friends. We’ve traveled across the country several times to hang out, have drank (too) many bottles of wine and discussed our nerd love for hundreds of books for hundreds of hours, despite our mutual disdain for telephone calls. Whenever reviewing/blogging comes up in our conversations, we talk about how much fun reviewing would be if we wrote about books together in the same way that we talk about books together. So… no color-coded google calendars, fewer and more carefully chosen review copies, more finishing of series and less pressure to be whatever it was we were trying to be and hopefully, so much more fun.

So thanks for having me. I’m looking forward to geeking out over our favorite stories, characters and talented authors. I hope to recommend a few books that you’ll love and discover many more through you! I confess, I’ve missed this community and I’m so very glad to be back.


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