Tag Archives: ARC

Book Review: Cynthia Starts a Band by Oliva Swindler (ARC)

Cynthia Starts a Band tells the story of Eleanor Quinn, lead singer of the highly successful band Kittanning. She is also dating her bandmate, who happens to be the most beautiful man in America. Despite her success in her career and ‘love life,’ she decided to walk away from it all. Eleanor’s life is in turmoil behind the scenes, and she knew that she had to leave while she can. 

Free from her band and’ fiance,’ Eleanor decided to change her name to Cynthia, moves in with her cousin in Seattle, and enrolls in a local university’s writing class. Everything seems to be going well until her past started to creep its way into her new life.

This novel was a quick read for me. I thought it has a great concept and a fantastic protagonist in Eleanor/Cynthia. She’s likable enough for someone who’s 27, naive, and just literally based everything on what she’d seen in films. Usually, that would annoy the living crap out of me, but I liked her personally.

The book reads like a YA novel, or maybe many instances show Cynthia’s immaturity and naivety. I feel that that aspect of the story will be a hit or miss for the readers. I don’t mind it that much, but I wished it was more realistic rather than a mere copycat of the movie scenes she’s been referencing throughout the story.

I liked that the author talked about something relevant now but has been taboo in the past. It has the #MeToo movement, the #FreeBritney movement aspect, and just the ugly side of fame that we know but don’t usually get talked about more often. I love the whole narrative of claiming your power, claiming your voice, and I think it is an important topic discussed in the book but is glossed over by the hasty pacing of the storytelling. 

The book really has great potential, and I could even see it as a film in maybe, Hallmark Channel or, I don’t know – Disney adult version if there is one. That being said, I would be happy to read more stories from Olivia Swindler in the future. 

 Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Paperback, 268 pages
Expected publication: October 19th 2021 by Morgan James Publishing

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher,  Morgan James Fiction  via Netgalley for an impartial and honest review.

About the Author
Olivia Swindler was raised in Spokane, Washington but resides currently in Grenoble, France, where she eats approximately a baguette a day. Cynthia Starts a Band is her first book.

Book Review: A Light in the Sky (Clashing Skies #1) by Shina Reynolds (ARC)

A Light in the Sky is an epic young adult fantasy novel and a coming-of-age journey of its protagonist, Aluma Banks, thrusts into the world of politics within their kingdom ruled by an oppressive king and his slew of disciples.

Each year, Rider hopefuls across the kingdom of Eirelannia compete in the Autumn tournament for a chance to join the ranks of the aerial warriors known as the Empyrean Cavalry. The victors of the competition get to earn wings for their stead, given that they pass their subsequent training.

My favorite thing about this story is its very detailed world-building. I loved the combination of this old and modern society ambiance, and it’s vividly different for each ‘kingdom.’ I thought this is where the author excelled the most. 

On to the story itself, the early part of the novel was so fast-paced that it almost feels like I’m missing many details. I know that this is just the first book, but for most of the story’s first half, several characters were introduced but did not get to play significant roles in the second half. I’m probably just impatient for its next installment, but I thought some characters should’ve gotten more “page” time. I’d loved for the secondary characters to get their characters developed fully in the long run, along with the main protagonist.

There is also the inevitable love triangle which I find a bit problematic. I was like, girl, you’re in the midst of war, your father’s life is in peril, and a few days after meeting the guy who saved you, you thought that you’re already in love. Don’t get me wrong, I liked Aluma’s character, and she’s supposed to be smart and all, but she lacked focus most of the time, and it could get frustrating.

As I’ve said earlier, I loved the picturesque and vivid setting of the story. Hopefully, the pacing will settle a bit as we get more character development in the second installment. I won’t delve much deeper into the story because the official synopsis was already a dead giveaway, but I’d say that this is still a fantastic effort from the author.  

Overall, I found this story to be very engaging and entertaining. The characters may not remain with you, but they’re generally likable. I’m looking forward to its second installment!

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Hardbound, 401 pages
Expected publication: November 9th 2021 by Wink Road Press

Pre-order your copy now:

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher,  Wink Road Press  via Netgalley for an impartial and honest review.

About the Author
SHINA REYNOLDS grew up in Nebraska, riding horses through wide-open fields. She wrote her first two books in her sixth-grade English class, the second of which went on to win an award at the Nebraska Young Author’s Conference. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree, graduating with honors in art history and with a minor in anthropology. Before writing her debut novel, A Light in the Sky , she worked in film, music, and modeling. Shina currently resides in Texas, where she spends the majority of the year trying to stay cool and imagining she lives in Ireland. When she’s not writing
, she can be found painting abstractly, exploring the outdoors with her husband, and entertaining her mostly cuddly cat.


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Book Review: Hugh by David Lawrence (ARC)

I often find historical novels quite heavy, but this one was entirely unexpected. It’s a coming-of-age story of Hugh Entwistle as he steps into the world of the wealthy and a society bounded by rules, with secret dalliances on the side that must always remain secret.

At first, I didn’t feel that involved with the story, but when Hugh meets his three relationships – the beautiful, the sublime, and the indifferent. Yep, from Edmund Burke’s A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautifulthe story’s narrative just flowed smoothly.

I loved Hugh. I loved his sassy and captivating persona. His internal monologues are also so much fun to read. I also loved the secondary characters, which seems to fall right out of those old renaissance-themed movies. 

I liked that the romance wasn’t as dragged out, although I thought the narrative suffers a bit on the second half of the book because it feels like there’s a lot of telling more than showing.

The author also has an excellent grasp of the language of the time, which I appreciate here. Each character has a distinct vibe. His humor is on point; I find myself chuckling now and then.

Overall, I found this to be really sweet, humorous, and very interesting. It’s quite a different take from the usual queer historicals I’ve read before and is well worth my time.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

An advance review copy was provided by the publisher, The Book Whisperer via Netgalley for an impartial and honest review.

Date of Publication: September 21, 2021

About the Author
A native of the American Southwest, David Lawrence has spent much of his life in Great Britain, France, and Finland. He now lives in a the American Northwest – Helena, Montana – with his Finnish partner.

By day he loves hiking under the Big Sky of his beautiful adopted state.
By night, however, he prefers editing lost manuscripts and wandering the byways of 18th century London…

You can learn more about David Lawrence and his penned works by visiting his website: https://www.aherowithoutanovel.com/ and subscribing to his newsletter.

Book Review: Chasing Alexander by Christopher Martin (ARC)

Chasing Alexander: A Marine’s Journey Across Iraq and Afghanistan is a memoir of the author, Christopher Martin recounting his days as a Marine and his experience in war-torn Iraq and Afghanistan. I enjoyed his book. It reads more like a journal, and Martin’s writing style was quite simplistic and very relatable.

What I loved most about this book is its rawness. You could feel the honesty in it. The author shared minute details of his life pre-military to his Bootcamp until his overseas deployment.

In between chapters, you can also read snippets of Alexander the Great’s conquest, which inspired the author into joining the military, thus the title of his memoir where he’s trying to emulate the greatness of Alexander. I loved these little bits in the book. It’s like reading two books, and the parallelism of the progression of Alexander’s life and Martin’s military career was a great touch in his story.

I don’t read many memoirs, but this got me hooked up from the very beginning. As mentioned earlier, I loved its simple, honest and relatable writing. If you’re looking for a quick read and have an interest in military life, then you should pick this book up.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Expected publication: September 28th 2021 by Notional Books

An advance review copy was provided by the publisher, Notional Books via Edelweiss for an impartial and honest review.

About the Author
Christopher Martin enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in 2007 and served until 2011. He deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan as a mortarman with 2nd Battalion, 9th Marines. After leaving the Marines, he attended Denison University, where he graduated Phi Beta Kappa. He currently lives in Colorado.

Book Review: The Sound of Violet by Allen Wolf (ARC)

The Sound of Violet centers on Shawn, a young male adult with high functioning autism looking for his one true love. At a company party, he meets Violet, whom he invited for a date without realizing that she is working as a prostitute. And through Shawn, Violet saw a glimpse of a hopeful future.

I loved how Shawn and Violet’s relationship develops over time; it’s heart-achingly sweet, and their dynamic is just engaging. There are moments in the book that are very emotional but are not dramatic if you know what I mean. I also adore Shawn’s brother, Collin. I loved his ever-supportive nature towards Shawn. The grandma’s character confused me a bit because she was very likable initially but had a 180 degrees character change that I didn’t get.

Overall, I find this book highly compelling and very enlightening, even though the writing was very simplistic. It talks about such heavy topics – autism and human trafficking. It gives its readers a front-row seat into these worlds that we don’t usually see mixed together. It was in-depth but done with sensitivity. The scenes were fast-paced and read like a screenplay. I truly enjoyed this quick read. Now, I’m excited about the film!

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

An advance review copy was provided by the publisher, Morning Star Publishing via Netgalley for an impartial and honest review.

Paperback, 226 pages
Expected publication: September 21st 2021 by Morning Star Publishing
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About the Author
Allen Wolf is an award-winning novelist, filmmaker, and game creator. He is also the host of the popular Navigating Hollywood podcast.

His debut novel “The Sound of Violet” has won multiple accolades and is described as “Entertaining, well-paced, and highly visual” by Kirkus Reviews. It is now a major motion picture. (www.TheSoundOfViolet.com)

He has won 39 awards for his games that are available as books, including You’re Pulling My Leg! and You’re Pulling My Leg! Junior. They’ve brought smiles to hundreds of thousands of people around the world.

As a filmmaker, Allen wrote, directed, and produced “In My Sleep,” which was released worldwide, won multiple film festivals, and is available on iTunes and Amazon Prime. Hollywood Reporter raved, “In My Sleep never rests, a credit to the tight, psychologically astute pacing of filmmaker Wolf.”

Allen graduated from New York University’s film school. He married his Persian princess, and they are raising two kids together. He enjoys traveling around the world and hearing other people’s life stories. Allen also cherishes spending time with his family, eating chocolate, and visiting Disneyland. See more at http://www.allenwolf.com.

Book Review: Stranded by Sarah Goodwin (ARC)

I’ve been so lucky getting to read really good books lately, and Stranded by Sarah Goodwin is one of those books I absolutely enjoyed reading. It has a very simple premise: A reality show/ social experiment type of thing with eight contestants that are to live on a secluded island and try to survive for a year, pretending that the world is ending and they are the only remaining survivors. I mean, what a very interesting scenario!

I was absolutely hooked from the very beginning. Maddy is the protagonist of the story. She had a unique upbringing and lost her parents prior to joining the show. I loved her voice and characterization because she’s very relatable, and she’s not your usual KatnissBellaor Hazel Grace; and she’s basically just a socially awkward adult who grew up without any friends at all. I know it may sound weird for me to say that I loved that she is all that prior to meeting the other seven contestants, but it’s just fun to see how she’d overcome all of those things and see her in group dynamics. There were times in the book that I got frustrated and annoyed by her, but in hindsight, her whole demeanor kinda worked with the whole set-up of the ‘game.’

It has a “Lord of the Flies” feel, with the whole power-grabbing, and we see here how wicked people are with the things they’re willing to do in order to survive. See, after their initial rations run out, it became clear that this whole thing was very serious – and it really did turn graphic, I’m telling you. It’s fascinating in a sickening way, and I think this is what makes this book worth reading. I got really into it midway, and I just couldn’t put it down. It’s very engaging, compelling, exciting, frightening, and just a whole lot entertaining.

I’d definitely recommend this book if you’re looking for an exciting and delicious thriller. Absolutely worth your time and dime!

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

An advance review copy was provided by the publisher, Avon Books UK via Netgalley for an impartial and honest review.

Paperback, 400 pages
Expected publication: September 16th 2021 by Avon
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About the Author
Sarah Goodwin is a novelist who grew up in rural Hertfordshire. She was raised on ‘The Good Life’ ‘Anne of Green Gables’ and ‘Little House on the Prairie’ by her parents, who turned a blind eye to her dabbling in herbal medicine, feminism, eco-warrior ideals and witchcraft. They were understandably unsurprised when she developed the lifetime ambition of building a hut in the woods and living there like a soothsayer.

Her second preferred career, was author.

At Bath Spa University Sarah studied for a BA in Creative Writing and self-published many novels across various genres, including YA magical realism, contemporary women’s fiction, romance and horror.

Sarah graduated in 2014 with an MA in Creative Writing from Bath Spa University. After writing several historical novels, she decided to return to her roots and write instead about the wild, the darkness and survival, which led to her coming up with the idea for ‘Stranded’ which would become her first professionally published novel.

Book Review: My Heart Went Walking by Sally Hanan (ARC)

Expected Date of Publication: February 15, 2022
Publisher: Fire Drinkers Publishing

My Heart Went Walking is a family story set in the 1980’s Ireland, which follows Una as she navigates life through love, loss and redemption. When Una found herself pregnant at 16, she decided to leave her little hometown, leaving her family behind, and her bestfriend Cullen – the father of her child. Little did she know that this action would cause everyone’s lives to change dramatically.

I’ve been trying to read books from new authors and as I have discovered, it is a kind of a hit and miss for me. This one though, is definitely a massive hit. Initially, I really thought that this would be a very difficult read given its quite foreboding summary but after reading the first chapter, I found myself just breezing through it.

The story was poignant, bittersweet and very heartwarming. I loved that not only we get the main character’s POV, we also got the POV of the other two characters she’s very much involved with.

I loved Una’s dynamic character. I liked the fact that she didn’t act like a damsel in distress in the situation she unexpectedly found herself into and when she set her mind into something, she’d really go and see it through. I mean, despite her young age, I loved that she’s got the nerves of steel. I wish I had the courage she shad when I was 16.

This is a family story and there’s nothing particularly new about the plot, but I really liked how the author made each character relatable and very human. Una’s sister Ellie is the perfect sister but not annoying in any way. The bond she shared with Una may have been tested, but at times, blood really is thicker than water. I loved that Una’s mom was realistically portrayed as someone who is not perfect but would do everything for her children. There really is no other love like a mother’s love for her child.

I’ve never been to Ireland, but I’ve always been fascinated by the beautiful sceneries I’ve seen on travel blogs and videos and some books set in Ireland which I’ve read in the past, so I guess I was really looking forward to reading more of these beautiful settings which are not too many here. It’s understandable though, because this book is more plot-focused which I appreciate too. That’s just me nitpicking so don’t mind me. Hah!

To sum this up, Sally Hanan’s debut is an absolute gem! The ending was perfection leaving me smiling and feeling so good. I really cannot wait to see what she has in store for us in her next book!

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

An advance review copy was provided by the publisher, Fire Drinkers Publishing via Netgalley for an impartial and honest review.

About the Author
Sally Hanan is an Irish import to the US. She made the eight-hour crossing back in the ’90s with a husband and two young children in tow. Since then she has managed to raise her above-average kids, develop a solid addiction to Facebook, and clean up when someone is about to visit.

On a more professional note, Sally has been counseling people for more than twenty years and is a certified life coach and a former teacher at the Texas School of Supernatural Ministry. She also runs a writing and editing business on the side, because she gets bored easily and she loves fixing words as well as people.

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Book Review: He Gets That From Me by Jacqueline Friedland (ARC)

I got this from Netgalley a couple of days ago and started reading it yesterday morning and was able to finish it by midnight. This book just sucked me in from the very beginning. I totally devoured it. I seriously could not put it down, and I just had to finish it right away!

He Gets That From Me has two storylines that weave in and out of the narrative: One is with Maggie Fischer, a young mother who helped out a gay couple as a surrogate in order to afford to go to college, and the other one are the Rigdales, the gay couple who are trying to build a family of their own. But nothing in life is black and white as ten years after the twins were born, the Rigdales and Maggie found out a shocking revelation about one of the twins.

This book just holds the readers’ attention from start to finish because of its well-conceived and deftly drawn characters. It was told through a dual POV — Maggie Fischer and Donovan Rigsdale, and I loved that their voices are so authentic, so vivid that it feels like I personally know them. Even though I couldn’t fully relate with Maggie, I could feel her pain and her anger towards her life and her situation. With Donovan, maybe I am biased because I am a gay man myself, but I feel like I could resonate with him more and that I understood more where he’s coming from. It’s really the emotional complexity and intensity of their situation that really pulled me in.

The writing puts me inside these characters so that I know them and feel them because Friedland wonderfully captures a little of the essence of that humanity in these situations they found themselves in. It navigates two families’ responses to such unintentional incidents along with the resolution that each party could think of in order to resolve it. It wasn’t very pretty that I could tell you, but there is much to be gleaned from it. It’s absolutely engaging with a brilliant structure too!

After finishing it, I sat back and reflected on what its central message was: what family truly means, how far you will go for your child, and that love (this is cheesy) will always lead that way no matter what.

I’d definitely recommend this book. It is heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time. There is so much to this book that a short review does not do any justice. I just have to say that this is by far the best book I’ve read so far this year – an absolute must-read!

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

An advance review copy was provided by the publisher, SparkPress via Netgalley for an impartial and honest review.

Paperback, 256 pages
Date of Publication: September 14th 2021 by SparkPress
Pre-order your copy below:

About the Author
Jacqueline Friedland is the author of award-winning novels Trouble the Water and That’s Not a Thing. A graduate of The University of Pennsylvania and NYU Law School, she practiced as an attorney before returning to school to receive her MFA from Sarah Lawrence College. She lives in New York with her husband and four children. For contact info, tour dates, and book clubs please visit http://www.jacquelinefriedland.com and Instagram @jackiefriedland

Book Review: An Unexpected Kind of Love by Hayden Stone (ARC)

First, let me just tell you that I devoured this book in one sitting after receiving a copy yesterday. It’s that engaging and I was pleasantly surprised to find out that this is also the debut work of the author! Yay!

This story is basically the gay Notting Hill, and who doesn’t love Notting Hill? I mean, tell me, who doesn’t love Notting Hill??! Right? We got the hipster, anti-social, struggling bookstore owner Aubrey Barnes meeting a C-list American actor Blake Sinclair who’s filming in Soho, and we have a crew of crazy and chaotic side characters!

I loved the series of meet-cute between Aubrey and Blake. There was immediate chemistry between them. The first half of the story was quite engaging and with the right pacing as well. It was told through Aubrey’s perspective only, and I really liked his dry sense of humor, his banter with his friends, and just the way he interacts with Blake. It was just adorable.

Aside from our main characters, I really enjoyed Lily, who’s apparently Aubrey’s best friend and confidante. She’s just very interesting and mysterious at the same time. I’d definitely read a book about her if there’s one in the future.

If I were to nitpick the story, I’d say the scene at the tube station didn’t quite work for me. I won’ spoil it, but the setting of this book is very Gen-Z, right? We have social media, and almost everybody has cellphones, so it’s weird that Blake didn’t even think about the repercussions of his gesture and the way he reacted after it came out; I’m like – surely, he knew that this would come out. Also, the grand romantic gesture of Aubrey flying to New York was a bit cliché, but I love cliché, so that was okay. After that, the whole thing felt just a wee bit rushed. It’s still very much enjoyable, but I wished we’ve gotten more before the time skip in the epilogue.

Overall, this was a very feel-good romance. It has solid characters, the story was very engaging, and it has a happy ending, so I’m one happy bookworm!

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Expected publication: August 9th 2021 by Entangled Embrace

I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Pre-order your copy on the link below:

About Hayden Stone
More animal than mineral, Hayden Stone is a writer of queer fiction, especially with kissing. He currently lives in Victoria, Canada, and has previously lived in Vancouver, Canada and London, UK. He knows which is the business end of a trowel, the horror of the wrong kind of leaves on the track delaying trains, and a bit about ancient ruins. Hayden likes strong coffee and is owned by two cats.

Pronouns: he/him

Book Review: What Lives in the Woods by Lindsay Currie (ARC)

Young aspiring writer Ginny Anderson and her family are moving into the mysterious Woodmoor Manor to spend the summer. Having recently found out about Agatha Christie, her curiosity towards the mystery surrounding the spooky manor was piqued even more. There, she discover moving mannequins, heard whispers in the dark, and saw weird shadows, among other things, suspecting that she’s the only one noticing these. She also befriended a boy in town named Will to help her investigate and try to solve these mysteries.

This was a very fun book to read. The characters are well-developed, and all are very likable too. I particularly loved the dynamics between Ginny and her older brother Leo. As for the mystery part of the book, I thought it was well-paced within the story. I loved that there’s this creepy atmosphere about the place and even its people. There was no gore in the book since it’s intended for the middle grade, but the author is still very effective in setting the mood here.

If there’s one criticism I have for the book, it’s probably its ending. It just felt anticlimactic for me. I mean, it was happy and all, but I would’ve pushed a bit, and expanded it a bit more. Overall, as a middle-grade novel, it’s absolutely a fantastic read – there’s mystery, great characters, fun and adventures, and just a feel-good ending. It’s easily one of the most enjoyable books I’ve read so far this year.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Paperback, 320 pages
Expected publication: September 14th 2021

An advance review copy was provided by the publisher, SOURCEBOOKS Kids via Netgalley for an impartial review.

Pre-order your copy below:

About the Author
Lindsay Currie is the author of spooky middle grade novels. While she’s never experienced anything truly paranormal, Lindsay enjoys researching her city’s forgotten history and learning about the events that shaped the many ghost legends in Chicago. When she’s not reading or writing a mystery novel of her own, Lindsay can generally be found taking long walks with her family, chilling with one of her three dogs, or searching the graveyard for her next antagonist.

Lindsay has two middle-grade novels out currently – THE PECULIAR INCIDENT ON SHADY STREET, and SCRITCH SCRATCH. Coming soon, WHAT LIVES IN THE WOODS!

To find out more about Lindsay, please visit her website at http://www.lindsaycurrie.com. Twitter: https://twitter.com/lindsayncurrie Instagram: @lindsayncurrie TikTok: @lindsaycurrieauthor

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