Sunday, May 16, 2021

The Sunday Post [64]

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimberly at the Caffeinated Reviewer! It's an opportunity to share news, post a recap for the previous week, showcase books, and highlight what's planned for the week ahead.


Hello, lovelies! I  am enjoying this wonderful warm weather we've been having. It's not summer hot yet, so we haven't gone to the beach, but it's been stay-outside-all-day kind of weather. We've been going on walks, riding our bicycles, visiting the various playgrounds in our area, and generally enjoying not being stuck inside all of the time. The kids were hesitant about not wearing their masks outside, but we've relaxed our rules a little based on the information from the CDC. It's been so great seeing them play with other kids and have normal childhood experiences. Although, it does mean they are exposed to more germs and likely the reason we all had a cold last week.

I had an amazing Mother's Day with my monsters! Breakfast in bed followed by a day of used bookstores, Ethiopian food, and ice cream. All of it was wonderful. 

Soccer season has come to an end, so we're enjoying a brief reprieve from some of their extracurricular activities. It's been nice not having to be somewhere every single day. My son's almost done with school, but we're thinking about doing a summer session to help him catch up on what he missed while everyone was virtual this year. He has been doing so much better with in-person instruction, and he comes home so happy each day. I'm sure being able to socialize with kids his own age has really helped, too. We did our best with virtual learning, but there are just some experiences you can't replicate at home. 

My last Sunday Post I mentioned my job and how terrible they were being, so I'm happy to report that I no longer work there. They've actually had a pretty high turnover rate since I left, and blame me for "starting something," when I put my two week's notice in. It's not true, obviously. I had no idea 5 other people would quit after I did. Maybe treat your employees better? Pay them more? I doubt that will happen, but the minimum wage is being increased in Virginia. It's still not what people deserve to be paid, but it's better than nothing. 

I've started buying multiple copies of my favorite books, because people don't return them. ThriftBooks has been a lifesaver in that regard. I want to share my love of reading, and I'm happy to loan out books from my collection, but you have to give them back. I expect you to fall in love with them - that's why I let you borrow them in the first place - but you can't keep them just because you loved them. BUY YOUR OWN AND GIVE  MINE BACK. 

Previous week on the blog:

Sunday: Nothing to see here...

Monday: Nothing on this day either... 

Tuesday: Mary Jane by Jessica Anya Blau - Review

Wednesday: My Weekly Pull [167] & Can't-Wait Wednesday [142] - Post

Thursday: Nada...

Friday: Past Due Reviews [8] - Post

Saturday: Mary Jane by Jessica Anya Blau [Sticky Notes Edition + Giveaway] - Post

What I'm currently reading:

The Accidental Apprentice (Wilderlore, #1) by Amanda Foody 馃摫
Astrid Sees All by Natalie Standiford 馃摉
Spells Trouble (Sisters of Salem, #1) by P.C. & Kristin Cast 馃帶

I started Accidental Apprentice with my son last night. We're both enjoying it so far, especially since they just mentioned a dragon. The boy loves dragons, haha. Astrid Sees All is one I've been reading for a few days, but I'm having trouble losing myself in the story. I love the setting, but the characters are meh. I'm not giving up on it yet, so hopefully it gets better soon. Spells Trouble is my current audiobook (received a physical ARC from the publisher and an audio ARC from NetGalley). Unfortunately, the narrator really isn't working for me, so I'm thinking about switching to my physical copy.

What I plan on reading next:

The Soulmate Equation by Christina Lauren 
The Summer Job by Lizzy Dent

What I'm watching:

We just finished Falcon and Winter Soldier, so we're all caught up on our MCU stuff. I'm still watching One Piece and Black Clover, and I think I'll start season four of Attack on Titan soon (always creeps me out, but sooo good). 

Challenge updates:

Saturday, May 15, 2021

Mary Jane by Jessica Anya Blau
[Sticky Notes Edition + Giveaway]

If you're looking for the book's synopsis or want to read my original review, please click here. This isn't a comprehensive review of the book, just my thoughts as I was reading it (or at least the ones I jotted down).

In case you haven't guessed, I dog-ear my books while reading. I fold the top corner down when I want to mark my spot, and I fold the bottom corner up when I want to refer back to something on a specific page (usually a quote). I also make small marks on the pages (asterisks) to make it easier for me to find what it was that caught my attention, and will occasionally make small notes in the margins. However, there are times when sticky notes are needed to fully convey my thoughts on something I've read, which makes it easier for me to write reviews. I also like using sticky notes when reading library books (can't write in those), or when it's a book I plan on giving away after reading (people really don't like dog-eared pages).

Thus, the Sticky Note Edition was born! I will review a book like normal, then a few days later (when applicable), I will post about the same book using only the things I've scribbled onto sticky notes throughout the pages. They will be posted unaltered and in order, which I think will give people an interesting look at what goes on inside of my head while I'm reading. Normally, I just toss the sticky notes in the trash once I've written my review, but this seems like more fun (just don't judge my spelling and grammar too harshly, haha). I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I did posting it!

WARNING: Possible spoilers if you haven't read the book!

Said penis 8 times on this page, 7 times on the next. Does one really need to say it 15 times in 2 pages?

So many racist comments on just two pages. Sooo happy to trash Jews until Jesus gets brought up. Wth, people.

Adults should not undress in front of children - especially those there to babysit

I feel like all of the "adults" are putting a lot of expectations on a 14-year-old.

I'm all about being open and honest with your kids, but walking around naked in front of your 5-year old and her babysitter is NOT okay. 

Issy should know what a penis is, what it's used for, but she should not have seen "lots" at her age. Especially her father's. 

Number of times "penis" was said on this page: 6

Why are there so many penises in this book?

OMG. SO. GROSS. This is a health hazard for their child. 

This is the second time MJ has mentioned the Cones' failing/forgetting to bathe their child. 

Um...that seems a little racist. 

Why are they so concerned with what a 14yr old thinks? Who cares if her parents like the president? 

So now she does the cooking, cleaning (and there's a lot), the grocery shopping, and the parenting of their child? And this makes her happy?

That shouldn't be MJ's responsibility. I get that their "free" lifestyle is supposed to be "enlightening" or whatever, but they are using a 14 yr old as a maid. 

I'm all for normalizing topics and words in front of kids, but there are some things you just don't expose them to, especially when they're 5.

Unsafe environment. C'mon people. Wtf?

MJ and Izzy should NOT be the ones cleaning this up. FFS. Why is she even trying?

Oh hey! Someone acknowledged how wrong it was for kids to be in the middle of their adult madness. 

I am choking on the racism. I don't know if it accurately reflects the 70's - probably - but I'm not sure how we got started on this topic of conversation.

Why don't they bathe their child?

For a psychiatrist, this is very shitty problem solving. Why isn't anyone addressing the real problem? They have a 14yo doing EVERYTHING.


Why isn't anyone commenting on the fact that Mrs. Cone mimics everything Sheba does?

So. Inappropriate. It's okay to talk about sex and anatomy, but describing the dick you've had in great detail is too much. Again, she's 14. 

Seriously? Wtf, people? Even I don't know what that one means. 

Yep. This married mom is def. trying too hard to get the attention of a married man that has zero interest in her.

*Rolls eyes*

Funnnyyy how a 14yr old notices what adults do not. 

Not her job. People should stop putting her in these situations. 

Again, the 14yro is the only one with a shred of responsibility and rationality. You do not leave a 5yro alone in a house.

How did no one see that coming?

Why is THAT what made her mother proud?

Giveaway Rules:

This giveaway officially starts on May 15th and ends on May 29th at 12 AM. The winner will be announced on May 30th on this post within the Rafflecopter form, and also notified via email. The winner will have 48 hours to respond or I will have Rafflecopter select another winner (read my full giveaway policy here).

International friends -- your giveaway will be a little different! Instead the book mentioned above, you can choose one book (up to $15) from The Book Depository! Just make sure they ship to you, which you can check right here. I know it's not the same thing, but I don't want to leave anyone out! If this happens, I will have Rafflecopter select a second winner for the physical copy shown. Good luck!

Friday, May 14, 2021

Past Due Reviews [8]


Have you ever read a book and then forgotten to review it? Yeah? Well, that happens to me all the time! That's how I got the idea for Past Due Reviews. They won't be long posts, they'll likely contain a lot of comics, and my memories of the books themselves probably won't be that great (some of them were read months ago, and I didn't sit down and review them for this or that reason). Hopefully the content is still relevant and helpful! 

In a Holidaze by Christina Lauren

Synopsis (via Goodreads): One Christmas wish, two brothers, and a lifetime of hope are on the line for hapless Maelyn Jones in In a Holidaze, the quintessential holiday romantic novel by Christina Lauren, the New York Times bestselling author of The Unhoneymooners.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…but not for Maelyn Jones. She’s living with her parents, hates her going-nowhere job, and has just made a romantic error of epic proportions.

But perhaps worst of all, this is the last Christmas Mae will be at her favorite place in the world—the snowy Utah cabin where she and her family have spent every holiday since she was born, along with two other beloved families. Mentally melting down as she drives away from the cabin for the final time, Mae throws out what she thinks is a simple plea to the universe: Please. Show me what will make me happy.

The next thing she knows, tires screech and metal collides, everything goes black. But when Mae gasps awake…she’s on an airplane bound for Utah, where she begins the same holiday all over again. With one hilarious disaster after another sending her back to the plane, Mae must figure out how to break free of the strange time loop—and finally get her true love under the mistletoe.

Jam-packed with yuletide cheer, an unforgettable cast of characters, and Christina Lauren’s trademark “downright hilarious” (Helen Hoang, author of The Bride Test) hijinks, this swoon-worthy romantic read will make you believe in the power of wishes and the magic of the holidays.

I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. My thoughts and opinions are my own. Any quotes I use are from an unpublished copy and may not reflect the finished product.

Sadly, In a Holidaze didn't wow me like other Christina Lauren books I've enjoyed in the past (The Unhoneymooners, Josh and Hazel's Guide to Not DatingAutoboyography). I think it was supposed to be a warm and fuzzy romance, but it was very light on both. Romance-lite? Diet Romance? The story and characters were mostly meh (think Roomies and The Honey-Don't List). I believe this book would have benefitted from a duel POV, but we only get Mae's perspective. When she finally admits her feelings for Andrew, he just seems to go with it. There wasn't any tension or buildup to their relationship. It was kind of like she said, "Hey, I really like you," and he said, "Cool." 馃槾馃挙

Uncle Benny was easily my favorite character and I wish he'd been given more page time. (Obviously, we need a Benny spinoff now.) I liked his hippy vibe. The weird love-triangle-that-wasn't-really-a-love-triangle was unnecessary and really should've been left out. Mae ends up admitting to something that didn't actually happen in her current timeline (don't you just love time loops?), which starts a conflict with Andrew that didn't need to happen. It was also a really weird thing for them to "fight" about, to be honest. It happened, but it also didn't happen. I think this is why I dislike books that mess with time without fully explaining how everything works. You can't just scream at the cosmos every few pages looking for answers. WE need the information, too.  After a while, everything just started to feel repetitive (her days AND her relationship with Andrew). What exactly was Mae supposed to be doing? Finding her happiness? It was very vague, and some of her resets didn't really make sense. Why couldn't she be happy in any of the other versions of her life?

We're also told from the start (by Mae) how much she loves Andrew. She has always loved Andrew, but I never actually saw their connection. I wish we'd seen more affection (and not the brotherly kind) between the two of them instead of simply being told over and over again that it was there. They only saw each other once or twice a year, so when did she have time to fall deeply and madly in love with him? Why was his affection immediately returned without anything really leading up to it? It was a little corny and a lot unbelievable. I also hated that she avoided Andrew's brother (can't even remember his name) instead of smoothing out the weirdness that only she was aware of. He felt avoided and didn't know why, and then she dismissed his feelings without a second thought (remember the love-triangle-that-wasn't-really-a-love-triangle?). 

Additionally, there were a lot of secondary - very flat, one-dimensional - characters, which made it hard to keep up with who was who at the start (so many family members and their many children). Overall, In a Holidaze was a quick read that wasn't terrible, but it also wasn't memorable. (★★★☆☆)

Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston
Narrated by Ramon de Ocampo

Synopsis (via Goodreads): A big-hearted romantic comedy in which the First Son falls in love with the Prince of Wales after an incident of international proportions forces them to pretend to be best friends...

First Son Alex Claremont-Diaz is the closest thing to a prince this side of the Atlantic. With his intrepid sister and the Veep’s genius granddaughter, they’re the White House Trio, a beautiful millennial marketing strategy for his mother, President Ellen Claremont. International socialite duties do have downsides—namely, when photos of a confrontation with his longtime nemesis Prince Henry at a royal wedding leak to the tabloids and threaten American/British relations.

The plan for damage control: staging a fake friendship between the First Son and the Prince. Alex is busy enough handling his mother’s bloodthirsty opponents and his own political ambitions without an uptight royal slowing him down. But beneath Henry’s Prince Charming veneer, there’s a soft-hearted eccentric with a dry sense of humor and more than one ghost haunting him.

As President Claremont kicks off her reelection bid, Alex finds himself hurtling into a secret relationship with Henry that could derail the campaign and upend two nations. And Henry throws everything into question for Alex, an impulsive, charming guy who thought he knew everything: What is worth the sacrifice? How do you do all the good you can do? And, most importantly, how will history remember you?

I REALLY loved this book! Red, White & Royal Blue was one of my favorite reads last year, and I cannot wait to read the author's next book, One Last Stop. Alex and Henry were amazing characters, and I enjoyed their family dynamics (though they did have completely different experiences and lifestyles). Seeing a female President was the icing on the cake - bonus points for Alex being of mixed heritage and from Texas - and the fully fleshed out secondary characters were the sprinkles lovingly tossed on top. They really came alive in my mind, and most of them were people I wanted to be friends with. Casey McQuiston has written a brilliant, thoughtful story about impossible love and what it means for different people.

If you're looking for your next enemies-to-lovers romance, look no further. Alex and Henry hated each other, despite not always knowing why (so many laugh-out-loud moments). Their animosity at an event landed them in hot (international) water, which resulted in them being forced to play nice and go on outings together. They started off pretending to be friends (old chums from way back), but it quickly turned into something more. Their late night (or early morning depending on the perspective) phone calls melted my heart and made me love them both so much. They really opened up to one another, and I enjoyed seeing them grow together and on their own. There were some obvious roadblocks, but I thought they were handled well and thoughtfully resolved (even if the outcome wasn't always what they wanted). 

Everything about this book felt authentic and was so believable I wanted it to be real. I wanted these characters to exist so their story wouldn't end. Sadly, their story did come to end, but I was happy with where the author concluded things. Alex and Henry were left feeling hopeful about their respective futures, and McQuiston made me feel hopeful for ours. She showed us an America that chose to do better. Be better. Red, White & Royal Blue was such a refreshing read. It's definitely one to look for, if it's not already on your list! (★★★★★)

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

My Weekly Pull [167] & Can't-Wait Wednesday [142]

My Weekly Pull is something I do every Wednesday to show which comics I had pulled for me that week! If you're into comics, or you're looking to start, please join me! If you decide to do your own post, there's a link-up at the bottom. I would love to stop by and check it out!

Seven Secrets #8 by Tom Taylor, Daniele Di Nicuolo
Proctor Valley Road #3 by Alex Child, Grant Morrison, Naomi Franquiz 
Silver Coin #2 by Chip Zdarsky, Michael Walsh 

Jacob's comics (and the kiddos) for the week!

Spider-Man Spider's Shadow #2 by Chip Zdarsky, Pasqual Ferry, Phil Noto
My Little Pony Friendship is Magic Annual 2021 by Jeremy Whitley, Brianna Garcia

Seven Secrets is easily one of the best comics I'm reading right now! I'm finally caught up on everything (just comics, but still progress) and it's definitely one I look forward to getting every month. Tom Taylor is an amazing author, and his stories are always entertaining. Proctor Valley Road and Silver Coin are both newer series, so we'll see how they progress. Really enjoying both so far!

Can't Wait Wednesday is a weekly feature that's hosted by Tressa at Wishful Endings. It highlights the upcoming releases we're really excited about reading! CWW is a spinoff of the feature Waiting on Wednesday (WoW), that was started by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

Dead Dead Girls (Harlem Renaissance Mystery, #1) by Nekesa Afia
Expected publication: June 1st 2021 by Berkley Books

Synopsis (via Goodreads): The start of an exciting new historical mystery series set in 1920s Harlem featuring Louise Lloyd, a young black woman caught up in a series of murders way too close to home...

Harlem, 1926. Young black girls like Louise Lloyd are ending up dead.

Following a harrowing kidnapping ordeal when she was in her teens, Louise is doing everything she can to maintain a normal life. She's succeeding, too. She spends her days working at Maggie's Caf茅 and her nights at the Zodiac, Manhattan's hottest speakeasy. Louise's friends might say she's running from her past and the notoriety that still stalks her, but don't tell her that.

When a girl turns up dead in front of the caf茅, Louise is forced to confront something she's been trying to ignore--several local black girls have been murdered over the past few weeks. After an altercation with a local police officer gets her arrested, Louise is given an ultimatum: She can either help solve the case or let a judge make an example of her.

Louise has no choice but to take the case and soon finds herself toe-to-toe with a murderous mastermind. She'll have to tackle her own fears and the prejudices of New York City society if she wants to catch a killer and save her own life in the process.

*Share your My Weekly Pull post! Please leave the direct link to your My Weekly Pull post and not just your blog's URL. Thank you for participating and happy reading!

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Mary Jane by Jessica Anya Blau

Synopsis (via Goodreads): "Almost Famous" meets Daisy Jones and the Six in this funny, wise, and tender novel about a fourteen-year-old girl’s coming of age in 1970s Baltimore, caught between her strait-laced family and the progressive family she nannies for—who happen to be secretly hiding a famous rock star and his movie star wife for the summer.

In 1970s Baltimore, fourteen-year-old Mary Jane loves cooking with her mother, singing in her church choir, and enjoying her family’s subscription to the Broadway Show Tunes of the Month record club. Shy, quiet, and bookish, she’s glad when she lands a summer job as a nanny for the daughter of a local doctor. A respectable job, Mary Jane’s mother says. In a respectable house.

The house may look respectable on the outside, but inside it’s a literal and figurative mess: clutter on every surface, IMPEACHMENT: Now More Than Ever bumper stickers on the doors, cereal and takeout for dinner. And even more troublesome (were Mary Jane’s mother to know, which she does not): The doctor is a psychiatrist who has cleared his summer for one important job—helping a famous rock star dry out. A week after Mary Jane starts, the rock star and his movie star wife move in.

Over the course of the summer, Mary Jane introduces her new household to crisply ironed clothes and a family dinner schedule, and has a front-row seat to a liberal world of sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll (not to mention group therapy). Caught between the lifestyle she’s always known and the future she’s only just realized is possible, Mary Jane will arrive at September with a new idea about what she wants out of life, and what kind of person she’s going to be.

"The car smelled like pizza. Or was it vagina?"
I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. My thoughts and opinions are my own. Any quotes I use are from an unpublished copy and may not reflect the finished product.

First of all, the synopsis LIED. This book wasn't anything like Daisy Jones & the Six (which I loved). I haven't seen Almost Famous, so I can't really comment on that, but gahhh was I disappointed by this one. Also, the "progressive" family she nannied for was just as bad as her own racist, overly religious, "traditional" family. Their chaos was a stark contrast to her mother's unblemished home and lifestyle, but it wasn't better. She also had no idea what she wanted out of life by the end of the book (more blurb lies). She's only fourteen, ffs. Did she gain a new perspective on life? Sure. Does she still have A LOT to learn? Yes. She's lived by her parents' rules and expectations her entire life, so obviously something new and different would shake up her worldviews. 

Okay, so where do I even start? Should I start by pointing out how many times the word penis was used throughout this book (8 times on one page, 7 times on the following page)? I'm not against the word or upset that it was used, but did it really need to be said 15 times in two pages? What about all of the racist commentary that goes largely unaddressed? People love to talk about Jews until Jesus gets brought up (which is a topic I really wish the author had talked about more). I'm also not against nudity, but adults should not undress in front of children - especially those there to babysit. You barely know this child, but you're comfortable walking through the house naked or in your underwear? Izzy was five, and Mary Jane was only fourteen. It's fine for Izzy to know what a penis is and what it's used for, but she shouldn't have seen "lots" at her age, and definitely not her father's on a somewhat frequent basis. I know I didn't grow up in the 70's, but please don't tell me this was normal or even remotely acceptable behavior. I know that kids sometimes see their parents naked and that that is normal, but Izzy's parents also exposed themselves around MJ. She was not their child and shouldn't have been subjected to their nudity.

I really didn't like the negative light the author chose to shed on Mary Jane's parents. Yes, there were definitely issues that needed to be addressed, but they weren't abusive or neglectful people (which is also subjective). They cared about their daughter and raised her the only way they knew how. (A father who worked all day and expected his wife to take care of the home. MJ's mom even scooped food onto her husband's plate after he surveyed everything to make sure it was to his liking.) I'm not saying they were perfect, or that they were people you would want to model your parenting style after, but they weren't evil. Racist, yes. Thought they were better than others? Absolutely. Loved their daughter? I think so. Izzy's parents weren't better because they were different. They accepted everyone and didn't have the same self-imposed restrictions, but they weren't great parents. They left their five-year-old daughter alone with a fourteen-year-old every day, and didn't stop her when she started cleaning and organizing their filthy house. She was there to babysit, not to be their housekeeper and cook. Eventually, MJ was cooking all three meals throughout the day, going to the grocery store, taking care of Izzy (getting her dressed, making sure she took a bath, brushing her teeth, putting her to bed, reading her a story, etc.), washing, folding, and ironing their clothes. She also did the dishes, cleaned Izzy's room, organized and alphabetized bookshelves, records, and whatever else she found throughout the house.

The Cone's put a lot of responsibility on MJ, and even though they didn't specifically ask her to do everything, they never told her to stop either. They all needed to grow the hell up and stop letting children take care of everything for them. Don't even get me started on the state of the refrigerator before Mary Jane took over. Things were rotting and mold was everywhere, the smells were atrocious, and they let two kids clean everything out and toss the gross stuff in the garbage. That has to be a health hazard in addition to neglectful parenting (there was a lot of this, so). MJ frequently made a comment about Izzy not being bathed over the weekend while she wasn't there. What parent simply forgets to clean and take care of their child? The way Izzy would smell is something Mary Jane would often comment on, and then she would take it upon herself to get Izzy cleaned up. This should not have been solely her responsibility. 

I'm also all for normalizing topics and words when speaking to children, but there are just some things you do not expose them to at a young age. Like describing all the dicks you've had and what they looked like in great detail. Honestly, Jimmy says something at one point that even I didn't understand, and I'm 31. The adults frequently put Izzy and MJ in unsafe situations, and I can't believe everyone was just okay with it. Breaking, smashing, and screaming - then leaving the mess for two kids to clean up the next morning? FFS. Leaving a five-year-old in a house alone just because she's asleep, and then assuming she'll follow the direction you went outside if she wakes up? NO! She could have walked out and gotten lost, or someone else could have come in. 

Mary Jane was a book about unhealthy behaviors and what a child is willing to do for love and acceptance. She enjoyed feeling seen. However, it's crazy to me that a fourteen-year-old would notice so many things that FOUR adults did not (one of them is a freaking psychiatrist). In the end MJ's mother was proud, but we get zero explanation for it. She's proud her daughter knew how to cook and clean for an entire family plus two guests? Oh, and take care of a child like it was her own? She goes from being banished to her room, to quietly celebrated by her mother. WHY? Where was that character development? I do think Mary Jane's mother loved her in her own way, and I think the Cone's loved her (but still definitely took advantage of her). I just don't think either household was healthy and whole. 

The believability of the story was also a disappointment, because only about half of it was realistic. I don't even want to talk about the ending, or why two super famous people were so enamored by a fourteen-year-old girl that was more servant than honorary family member (which is what they claimed). There were some fun aspects to the book, but too many other parts soured the story for me. Also, don't presume you know more about a kid than their parents just because you live a different lifestyle. Despite feeling frustrated by this book, I will end my review on a positive note. I liked Mary Jane and enjoyed her voice throughout the story. She felt authentic even if her experiences were not. (★★⋆☆☆)

Friday, May 7, 2021

Blood & Honey (Serpent & Dove #2) by Shelby Mahurin
馃帶 Narrated by Holter Graham & Saskia Maarleveld

Synopsis (via Goodreads): After narrowly escaping death at the hands of the Dames Blanches, Lou, Reid, Coco, and Ansel are on the run from coven, kingdom, and church—fugitives with nowhere to hide.

To elude the scores of witches and throngs of chasseurs at their heels, Lou and Reid need allies. Strong ones. But protection comes at a price, and the group is forced to embark on separate quests to build their forces. As Lou and Reid try to close the widening rift between them, the dastardly Morgane baits them in a lethal game of cat and mouse that threatens to destroy something worth more than any coven.

The hotly anticipated sequel to the New York Times and IndieBound bestseller Serpent & Dove—packed with even steamier romance and darker magic—is perfect for fans of Sarah J. Maas.

If Serpent & Dove was an ocean – full of life and possibility – then Blood & Honey was a stagnant puddle of water – muddied and unremarkable.

I just finished Blood & Honey by Shelby Mahurin and I am so disappointed. I'm definitely not okay with how it ended, and I felt like the entire book was pointless in regard to the progression of the story. Everything happened over a span of what? A week? It felt like the characters were rushing from one thing to the next, but without any of the character development and plot devices from the first book. In Serpent & Dove I fell in love with Lou and Reid, Ansel and Coco. They grew individually and developed as a group, but both aspects were absent from Blood & Honey. Everyone basically stayed the same, and their repeated arguments were exhausting to read about. 

What happened to all of the characters I fell in love with? Lou and Reid kept fighting over the SAME things, and most of the time their arguments were superficial and lacked any real substance. Reid still struggles with magic and Lou by association. He hates himself for various reasons, yet is unwilling to look at anything differently (despite everything he’s been through and everything that’s happened). His mother, his wife, one of his companions - they all use magic, but he's too stubborn to set aside his beliefs and antiquated notions. All of the characters were unbearably obnoxious and whiny, and the story dragged despite everything happening in a very short timeline. Lou took things too far, Reid avoided everything he needed to face, and the others simply watched events unfold like little kids watching their parents fight.

I also hated how Ansel was treated the entire book. He more than earned their respect after everything he did in Serpent & Dove, yet they still saw him as a child that needed to be protected. They laughed at him when he tried to learn how to defend himself, and always viewed him as a liability. Over and over again he gets looked over and pushed aside, and I will never forgive Lou for the things she said to him towards the end. I don't care what her reasons were, she was needlessly cruel and should have kept her damn mouth shut. What Coco did to him wasn't any better, and her justifications only made me roll my eyes and sigh with disappointment. She shouldn't have toyed with him, and now the damage is done. Beau was always obnoxious when it came to Ansel. Reid didn't outright make fun of him or belittle his efforts, but he wasn't a staunch supporter either.

BEAU! I really thought we'd learn more about him during this book, but he's still a sadly underdeveloped secondary character. I thought his position and attitude would make him a more interesting character, but he rarely interjected with anything interesting to say. His childish behaviors and commentary got old really fast.

A lot of what happened felt like it was done for shock value, and not necessarily because it needed to happen. I really wanted to love Blood & Honey as much as I loved Serpent & Dove, but the second book lacked everything I enjoyed about the first. Yes, there were several awesome fight scenes, and the conflict between Lou and her mother was still there, but other than the addition of a few interesting new characters, this book didn't really add anything to the overall story. It was definitely a filler book, and I wish this series had remained the duology it was originally meant to be.

Pro: Listening to the audiobook was so much better than reading it on my own! I really struggled with the French words and pronunciations in Serpent & Dove, and having a narrator meant I didn't have to worry about butchering anything in Blood & Honey. Holter Graham and Saskia Maarleveld were amazing, despite Graham not really have the voice I imagined for Reid. Oh, and this one ends with a really annoying cliffhanger. You've been warned. (★★⋆☆☆)

*this post has been backdated

Thursday, May 6, 2021

I'll Meet You in Your Dreams by Jessica Young & Rafael L贸pez
[Blog Tour: Review + Guve

Halito! Welcome to the next stop on the I'll Meet You in Your Dreams blog tour hosted by Rockstar Book Tours. Thanks for stopping by today, and don't forget to check out the giveaway at the bottom! For the full tour schedule, please visit the Rockstar Book Tours website.

About the Book:
Author: Jessica Young & Rafael L贸pez
Pub. Date: March 9, 2021
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Formats: Hardcover
Pages: 40
Find it: Goodreads, Amazon, B&N, TBD,

“A tender ode to a family’s ever changing (and neverending) love” (Kirkus Reviews, starred)

I’LL MEET YOU IN YOUR IN YOUR DREAMS by Jessica Young is a heartwarming picture book with visually striking art by bestselling and award-winning artist Rafael L贸pez, that makes the perfect baby gift.

Each evening when the sun has set, as nighttime casts a starry net, I'll hitch a ride on moonbeams, and meet you in your dreams.

This poetic and tender story celebrates the parent-and child bond in its many forms and offers gentle assurance of love across a lifetime. Two parents' dreams of the future with their children—from early dependence for nourishment and basic needs, to the parent as home base for a child in later life—mirror an always-changing but unbreakable relationship.

Written in lyrical rhyme and accompanied by breathtaking art, I'll Meet You in Your Dreams affirms that parental love is a constant force, transcending boundaries of space and time.

I read this with my monsters and we all loved it! I'll Meet You in Your Dreams is about being a parent and how it fluctuates over time. Eventually - and this is what made me sniffle a little bit - the child will no longer need their parents around, but the bond is still there. They've made memories and shared experiences, but every child reaches a point where they start their own adventure - one without their parents. It was such a lovely, heartfelt story. The words were lyrical and perfectly transitioned from one page to the next. I immediately wanted to read it again once we'd finished. 

The illustrations just made everything better! I really enjoyed having to turn the book for certain pages, and I thought it was wonderful how the change in perspective could highlight what words were being said. The artwork really complemented the story, which really does make all the difference. 

Explaining the book to my children afterwards (they didn't understand where the baby went) was probably the hardest thing I've done all day. They said they didn't want me to get old, and we talked about how it was a natural part of life. We all grow up and get old, and if we're lucky we get to watch our children start to do the same. It was bittersweet and emotional, and I love that this book gave us an opening for that conversation. (★★★★★)

About Jessica Young:

Jessica Young was raised and grew up in Northern Ontario and is the author of several picture books including My Blue Is Happy (a Charlotte Zolotow Highly Commended Title and recipient of the Marion Vannett Ridgway Award); Play This Book and Pet This Book; and A Wish Is a Seed. Jessica spends her time writing and researching and doing school visits. Prior to her writing career, she was a teacher for twenty years, and

freelanced for a children's book marketing company. She lives with her family in Nashville.

About Rafael L贸pez:

Rafael L贸pez is an internationally recognized illustrator and artist. He has illustrated numerous picture books, including Just Ask!: Be Different, Be Brave, Be You by Sonia Sotomayor (winner of the Schneider Family Award); Dancing Hands, How Teresa Carre帽o Played the Piano for President Lincoln by Margarita Engle (winner of the Pura Belpr茅 Medal); and The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson (a New York Times bestseller) to name a few. He is the founder of the Urban Art Trail movement in San Diego and currently resides in both San Diego and Mexico.

Giveaway Details:
3 winners will win a finished copy of I'LL MEET YOU IN YOUR DREAMS, US Only.