Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized

REVIEW: “Cast in Firelight” by Dana Swift


Adraa is the royal heir of Belwar, a talented witch on the cusp of taking her royal ceremony test, and a girl who just wants to prove her worth to her people.

Jatin is the royal heir to Naupure, a competitive wizard who’s mastered all nine colors of magic, and a boy anxious to return home for the first time since he was a child.

Together, their arranged marriage will unite two of Wickery’s most powerful kingdoms. But after years of rivalry from afar, Adraa and Jatin only agree on one thing: their reunion will be anything but sweet.

Only, destiny has other plans and with the criminal underbelly of Belwar suddenly making a move for control, their paths cross…and neither realizes who the other is, adopting separate secret identities instead.

Between dodging deathly spells and keeping their true selves hidden, the pair must learn to put their trust in the other if either is to uncover the real threat. Now Wickery’s fate is in the hands of rivals..? Fiancées..? Partners..? Whatever they are, it’s complicated and bound for greatness or destruction.


I have a confession to make: as much as I claim to love enemies-to-lovers and slow burn, I cannot possibly have more than a 40-60 success rate with actually enjoying books that utilize those tropes. I KNOW. What could be better than the heated romantic tension of two mortal enemies whose hearts betray them at the worst possible time by causing them to fall for one another? What could be more satisfying than the culmination of 300 pages of will-they, won’t-they?

But I’m IMPATIENT. About half of the time I just want them to kiss already by page 200. But…this book? A book so slow-burn that they don’t even admit that they’re in love until, I’m pretty sure, the 85% mark?


“Cast in Firelight,” though it is a slow-burn enemies-to-lovers romance, pulled off those tropes remarkably well because it isn’t just a romance. The mystery, politics, and adventure – and just enough hints of attraction early on to keep the romance gremlin in my brain satiated – were compelling enough that I didn’t even think about the fact that they hadn’t kissed until about 70% of the way through. What? I know! And a lot of that owed to the worldbuilding, especially in relation to the magic system that is used.

It’s a little complicated to explain in a concise fashion, but essentially, “Cast in Firelight” takes place in a pre-technological world that seems to be inspired by India where many people are gifted by the gods with the ability to perform one or more of nine types of magic. I have a thing about magic in YA because it’s so freaking common and so freaking easy to mess up, but the system Swift came up with for the world of “Cast in Firelight”…actually makes sense. Magic use has a cost, it’s governed by consistent rules, and it has real-world impacts in other spheres – politics, medicine, commerce, crime, you name it. If magic existed in the real world, it would obviously have far-reaching affects on nearly every part of life, so that makes sense and comes off as very real and I’m a sucker for well-thought-out magic in YA fantasy so good on ya, Dana Swift. Plus, the system that’s set up has a ton of potential to create tension, drama, and bad*** action scenes since it’s so versatile, and a lot of those fun possibilities are paid off. That part of the story was really well done and the mystery (I won’t get into it but it involves organized crime, drug dealing, and the wrongful exploitation of technology) kept me on my toes – you never knew who you could trust. Loved that.

And the characters! Ugh, I adored both Aadra and Jatin. They didn’t even know each other’s real identities until about 65% of the way through, but if anything, that actually made things more fun because they got a sort of do-over. This was, of course, delightful on my end because I knew who they were, and I was just waiting for them to figure it out. Every time they had to concoct some increasingly less-plausible lie to explain away something that could blow their cover, I was grinning like an idiot at my Kindle screen like yes, maintain the farce. You will be unmasked, you’ll see. 

[And then you’re totally gonna make out when you do.]

*clears throat* aaaaanyway. The mistaken-identity thing added a lot of interest to the classic enemies-to-lovers storyline, which is pretty common in YA fantasy but rarely done like this. In addition, both protagonists were very likable but obviously flawed, easy to root for both as individuals and together. And THE CHEMISTRY, AHHHHH. Their chemistry was better than the chemistry in my completely BS’d answers on the AP Chemistry exam this year. They had this crackling tension between them from the start, but they also made a great team (bc nothing is sexier than teamwork, y’all!) and watching them play off each other both in mystery-solving and in their banter was so much fun. I was reminded of Esha and Kunal from “The Tiger at Midnight” trilogy in that they shared the reluctant-allies-with-insane-chemistry energy, even though the tone of this novel was totally different. And omg. The twists. There were so many, and they kept getting undone and redone and no one ever knew what was going on and none of them were huge, so they totally snuck up on me and I didn’t feel like I was being smacked in the face but I STILL got chills a few pages later when it hit me what that meant and why is this such an egregious run-on sentence? IDK, it’s 1 A.M. and I might never actually be able to answer that.

But basically? This one was a gem. Great worldbuilding, lovable characters, a romance you won’t even care takes forever to get going – please pick this one up.

Rating: 5/5 worth the midnight rant.

Posted in Reviews

REVIEW: “The Code for Love & Heartbreak” by Jillian Cantor


Emma Woodhouse is a genius at math, but clueless about people. After all, people are unreliable. They let you down—just like Emma’s sister, Izzy, did this year, when she moved to California for college. But numbers…those you can count on. (No pun intended.)

Emma’s senior year is going to be all about numbers, and seeing how far they can take her. When she and George, her Coding Club co-president, are tasked with brainstorming a new project, The Code for Love is born—a matchmaking app that goes far beyond swiping, using algorithms to calculate compatibility. George disapproves of Emma’s idea, accusing her of meddling in people’s lives. But all the happy new couples at school are proof that the app works. At least at first.

Emma’s code is flawless. So why is it that perfectly matched couples start breaking up, the wrong people keep falling for each other and her own feelings defy any algorithm? Emma thought math could solve everything. But there’s nothing more complex—or unpredictable—than love.


It’s no secret that I love rom-coms AND classic lit retellings, so requesting this one was kind of a no-brainer for me. I mean, a modern-day “Emma” retelling about STEM nerds? YES PLEASE. So I was thrilled to get this ARC – and for the most part, it didn’t disappoint.

Seeing as this is very obviously an “Emma” retelling (most of the characters even keep their names), I will admit that having read the original book beforehand helped me get into this. I knew what role each character would play, the basics of the plot, and what was probably going to happen. But it definitely departs enough from the plot of the book (non-spoilery examples: the Harriet/Robert subplot doesn’t exist, and Jane Fairfax plays a very different role in “Code for Love” than she does in the Austen version) enough that it’s easy to follow along with if you haven’t. And if you HAVE read the original, like I have, there’s enough that’s new here to interest: the emphasis on computer science is really fun and technology is integrated super well, making a dated story feel perfectly at-home in the modern world. The premise was really fun, and for the most part, I really enjoyed it.

The characters were fun, too: Emma was just as lovably flawed as her source-material counterpart; I actually liked this Jane even more than the original version; and I loved what Cantor did with Izzy, Emma’s older sister. (I found it kind of hilarious that Izzy goes to UCLA in this because I’m going to USC next year, so every mention of UCLA made me smirk like mad because hehe, rivals. I’m so freakin’ immature, I know.) They were easy to like and, unlike in the original, there were less sleazy potential love interests, which is always cool. As to the story itself…well, you can’t go wrong with Jane Austen. Just sayin’.

Though it didn’t have the instant “oomph” of my absolute favorite books, “The Code for Love and Heartbreak” was a really fun read that I’d highly recommend.


Content: pretty much none! Unless I’m forgetting something, the ONLY adult content I can remember reading was a single, vague allusion to the possibility that two characters are sleeping together (and it’s literally just that – an incredibly vague two-sentence reference). It’s always nice to see books as clean as this one!

Rating: 4.5/5 Confused Llamas

Posted in Reviews

REVIEW: “Roman & Jewel” by Dana L. Davis


If Romeo and Juliet got the Hamilton treatment…who would play the leads? This vividly funny, honest, and charming romantic novel by Dana L. Davis is the story of a girl who thinks she has what it takes…and the world thinks so, too.

Jerzie Jhames will do anything to land the lead role in Broadway’s hottest new show, Roman and Jewel, a Romeo and Juliet inspired hip-hopera featuring a diverse cast and modern twists on the play. But her hopes are crushed when she learns mega-star Cinny won the lead…and Jerzie is her understudy.

Falling for male lead Zeppelin Reid is a terrible idea–especially once Jerzie learns Cinny wants him for herself. Star-crossed love always ends badly. But when a video of Jerzie and Zepp practicing goes viral and the entire world weighs in on who should play Jewel, Jerzie learns that while the price of fame is high, friendship, family, and love are priceless.


I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned this, but I was your garden-variety high school theater kid. I obsessively listened to Broadway cast recordings, starred in every school production, and tried to pretend I could belt when I was home alone and/or driving (spoiler alert: I couldn’t). So my delight when I saw that there was a musical theater-themed YA contemporary coming out was unmitigated.

And it was EVERYTHING.

“Roman & Jewel” is insanely readable: it’s fast-paced but doesn’t feel frantic and has a pretty quick start, so it never feels like it drags; the characters are compelling even if I hated them (look, I *know* we’re supposed to sympathize with Cinny at least a little bit, but I COULD NOT STAND HER OKAY???), the author’s knowledge of the inner workings of a theater is evident, and the rehearsal scenes are *magical.* I couldn’t wait to read more about the musical itself, which is a modern retelling of Romeo & Juliet – basically, for all you fanfiction readers out there, this version of the play is a reincarnation AU (yes, I just outed myself, and yes, I’ve written 50k+ words of Zutara fanfic in the last month, SHUT UP) where the leads have to find each other in all of their lifetimes. The way Davis described the rehearsals, songs, and choreography made me feel like I was really watching, and it was impossible not to root for Jerzie. She was perhaps the only major character who wasn’t at least a little bit morally grey, but that honestly worked in her favor. By setting her up as the only reliable source of information we had (and even that was a little debatable given how many people deceived her, though that obviously wasn’t her fault), it gave us ample reason to root for her. Add that to her easy likability, and Jerzie made for a protagonist I could get behind. And although the romance wasn’t always my favorite (SPOILER I know he turns out to be a good guy but uhhh…what was going on in the middle there?), it certainly kept me guessing.

Simply put, “Roman & Jewel” was the compulsively-readable musical theater romance of my dreams, and EVERYONE needs to run out and get this when it’s released!


Best Scene: the “I Think I Remember You” scene, DUH.

Most Underrated Side Character: Jerzie’s brother was SO SWEET. He was protective but knew when to back off, which reminded me a little bit of my own older brother (we have the same age gap as they do) if he weren’t determined to rat me out to our mother every time I so much as liked a boy. :/

Content: some cursing, one instance of drug use (not glamorized and the character makes a point of saying she doesn’t intend to do so again), and one kiss scene that gets a little…*spicy.* Other than that stuff, this was a pretty clean read.

Rating: 5/5 Confused Emu

Posted in Reviews

REVIEW: “The Archer at Dawn” by Swati Teerdhala


The Sun Mela is many things: a call for peace, a cause for celebration, and, above all, a deadly competition. For Kunal and Esha, finally working together as rebel spies, it provides the perfect guise to infiltrate King Vardaan’s vicious court.

Kunal will return to his role as dedicated Senap soldier, at the Sun Mela to provide extra security for the palace during the peace summit for the divided nations of Jansa and Dharka. Meanwhile, Esha will use her new role as adviser to Prince Harun to keep a pulse on shifting political parties and seek out allies for their rebel cause. A radical plan is underfoot to rescue Jansa’s long-lost Princess Reha—the key to the stolen throne.

But amid the Mela games and glittering festivities, much more dangerous forces lie in wait. With the rebel Blades’ entry into Vardaan’s court, a match has been lit, and long-held secrets will force Kunal and Esha to reconsider their loyalties—to their country and to each other. Getting into the palace was the easy task; coming out together will be a battle for their lives.


Confession: I barely remember the plot of “The Tiger at Midnight.” [If you’ve not read it, that’s the first book in this series. This is a sequel. You probably know that, but I though I should mention it anyway.]

I KNOW, I KNOW. It’s weird, because I loved that book, and I have absolutely no idea why I’d completely forget what the plot was when it’s only been a year since I read it. (The same thing happened with “Aurora Rising,” though, so I guess it’s a common thing with me.) But I did know that I really liked it, so I jumped into “The Archer at Dawn” without much preparation. And you know what? That worked just fine.

Although some of the plot points of the first book, which were referenced here, had me scratching my head because I’d forgotten what exactly happened, it wasn’t hard to immerse myself in this world again. The action, the politics, the twists, the romance – it was all strong enough to stand on its own even with my limited knowledge of the last book. And while I wouldn’t recommend reading this as a standalone (at all! Don’t do that, you’ll be ??? the entire time!), it’s a testament to the strength of the writing that it’s a fantastic book even with a few knowledge gaps. Filling those in would explain parts of the plot that went over my head, but I still really enjoyed the book without them.

I think the reason that this book works so well not just as part of a series, but in its own right, is that Teerdhala is fantastic at balancing action and character work, and both were very well done here. Both the competition scenes at the Mela (an Olympics-type athletic event/festival) and the fight scenes were fast-paced, flowed well, and kept me engaged, but the quieter parts – character and relationship development, worldbuilding, and political intrigue – weren’t sacrificed to leave room for action. Though this was a long book, it didn’t feel like it because its pacing was spot-on. There were always breathers after big action scenes, but not too many, so it avoided the typical pacing pitfalls of the “haunted house effect” (breakneck-paced plotting with one big thing after another and no room to process anything) and being so slow-paced that I lost interest. Only in the last thirty or so pages of a 450-page book did things start moving so fast my head spun, but that was basically one extended scene and it worked.

And CAN WE TALK ABOUT THAT ENDING? BECAUSE I’M NOT FINE. What is it with second books in trilogies ending in batcrap insane cliffhangers this year? I’m just saying! 

This book, while it wasn’t *my favorite of the year*, was both enjoyable and an example of solid writing and storytelling. I’d definitely recommend it to anyone who enjoyed the first book – they’re very similar, so if you liked “The Tiger at Midnight,” you’ll probably like this one too.

RATING: 4/5 stars

A/N: so it’s been forever since I posted here and I’M SORRY. In the intervening time, I’ve graduated high school, written so much fanfiction it’s not even funny, and published a novel! I had time to read and blog, but kind of just…didn’t feel like it. Reading has been a slog lately, so naturally, blogging about it hasn’t been on my mind much. But I’m back, and I can’t wait to share more posts with you!

Also. I know I don’t really have many followers who do book tags, but I’m thinking about making a fun fandom-themed book tag (you’ll see…if I do it) and want to know if anyone would do that sort of thing if I posted one. Anyone?

Posted in Reviews

REVIEW: “Recommended for You” by Laura Silverman


Shoshanna Greenberg loves working at Once Upon, her favorite local bookstore. And with her moms fighting at home and her beloved car teetering on the brink of death, the store has become a welcome escape.

When her boss announces a holiday bonus to the person who sells the most books, Shoshanna sees an opportunity to at least fix her car, if none of her other problems. The only person standing in her way? New hire Jake Kaplan.

Jake is an affront to everything Shoshanna stands for. He doesn’t even read! But somehow his sales start to rival hers. Jake may be cute (really cute), and he may be an eligible Jewish single (hard to find south of Atlanta), but he’s also the enemy, and Shoshanna is ready to take him down.

But as the competition intensifies, Jake and Shoshanna grow closer and realize they might be more on the same page than either expects…


The truest and most positive way I can start this review is by saying that it’s impossible not to notice that this book is incredibly well-meaning. It’s written with such earnestness and belief in its story, and I don’t see that often, so I have to start off by saying that. It’s as cute, bookish, and bright-eyed as it sets out to be. Was it a perfect book? Well, no, few are. But what “Recommended for You” gets right is its chipper tone and commitment to its story and characters.

At first, I didn’t think I would like Shoshanna. She, like me, tends toward the over-the-top, and I can’t tell whether it was because of secondhand embarrassment or just plain annoyance that I didn’t like her. But I’m glad I stuck with it, because a lot of the book is actually about her journey to realizing that about herself and learning to be, er, a little less overzealous at inappropriate times, and she matures without losing any of what makes her Shoshanna. I am all about positive growth, and I’m also all about being true to yourself, quirks and all, so I loved that she was able to do both. Her sincerity was hard not to find endearing after a while. I also loved the bookstore aspect. The work environment was great and I loved the coworkers’ dynamics, and of course, Shoshanna’s bookishness was delightfully relatable.

Where this book fell a little short, eerily similarly to its protagonist, was in its overzealousness. I felt like “Recommended for You” was trying to do a LOT – we have the romance development, the work at the bookstore, the friend drama, the parents fighting…almost every source of conflict that is common in YA contemporary books was here, and it was all just…Much. It was So Much. And there were some really forced conversations about social justice that, while they had good messages, felt extremely shoehorned. In a fast, fluffy read, the weirdly forced social commentary and ~15,000 different conflicts felt like they weighed it down. There wasn’t really a need for that and I think the book would be stronger if it stuck to one or two conflicts instead of subscribing to the “every area of the protagonist’s life must fall apart!” notion.

However, none of that could abash this book’s sunny optimism, and I would recommend it for you. :p (Yes, I had to!)


Best Scene: the baking scene, probably. So sweet.

Strengths: fluffy, quick, upbeat, character growth

Weaknesses: too many side plots/too much going on

Content: none! Seriously. The characters don’t even curse??? When was the last time I saw that??? Thanks for that, Laura Silverman, I APPRECIATE YOU. This one’s veeeery clean.

Rating: 3.5/5 Golden Grasshoppers

Posted in Reviews

REVIEW: “The Little Bookshop of Love Stories” by Jaimie Admans


I don’t typically read adult romance because…well. You can probably guess. But I’ve recently started requesting adult books from NetGalley because I’ve all but run out of YA to request (most of it historical/literary fiction – the first adult ARC I read was a short story collection about a Japanese family called “Inheritors” which was excellent, but not reviewed here because I imagine it would have almost no appeal to my readers), and I couldn’t resist this. To my delight, it was exactly as charming, sweet, and clean as its cover appeared, so I’m posting it here because I feel like it might appeal to some YA readers who are looking to dip their toes into adult romance but aren’t so sure about all the sexy stuff that abounds in that genre.


Today is the Mondayest Monday ever. Hallie Winstone has been fired – and it wasn’t even her fault!

Having lost her job and humiliated herself in front of a whole restaurant full of diners, this is absolutely, one hundred percent, the worst day of her life.

That is until she receives an email announcing that she is the lucky winner of the Once Upon a Page Bookshop!

Owning a bookshop has always been Hallie’s dream, and when she starts to find secret love letters on the first pages of every book, she knows she’s stumbled across something special.

Things get even better when she meets gorgeous, bookish Dimitri and between them, they post a few of the hidden messages online, reuniting people who thought they were lost forever.

But maybe it’s time for Hallie to find her own happy-ever-after, too?


The best comparison I can come up with for this book is that it vaguely resembles the British equivalent of a Hallmark movie. However, that’s not a perfect comparison, because even though it has the chaste romance, quirky premise, and predictability of a Hallmark movie, it’s earnest, wholesome, sweet, and swoon-worthy in a way that very few of those are. (I should know. My mother has watched one every single night of quarantine and I am not exaggerating this figure in the slightest.) “The Little Bookshop of Love Stories” never claims to be anything but a sweet, escapist romance for book lovers, but that’s a very good thing to be, in this escape-seeking book lover’s mind. 🙂

I guess what I’m trying to say here is that this book…is good for the heart. (One thing it has in common with cardio, I guess.) It’s wholesome, it’s unabashedly kindhearted, its hero and heroine and their families and friends and neighbors are good people, and it desperately wants to make you believe in love. Yes, it can be sugary-sweet at times, but it means so well and is so overflowing with sincerity that it’s very hard to fault it for that. (Not to mention that its leading man is the kind of guy this world needs a lot more of. Swoon.) The characters’ love of books comes through loud and clear, the romance is a little bit slow-burn (one way it did remind me of Hallmark: it baited me with near-kisses but kept waiting almost the entire book for the one climactic time they finally did!) but earned and heart-melting, and you kind of can’t read it and not want to visit the quaint English country town it is set in. The world is having a time of it right now, and “The Little Bookshop of Love Stories” created an idyllic little pocket of goodness for me to escape into. How could I possibly not love this book?


Best Scene: um, honestly, anything that takes place in the bookshop made me *puppy eyes emoji that I wish I could use here.* And the dancing scene.

What Stood Out: the book’s unabashedly optimistic outlook and earnest sweetness.

What Bugged Me: this book didn’t really need a villain, so the one it had seemed kind of unnecessary.

Content: almost none to speak of – a little strong language (mostly British curse words and/or ones that are considered to be milder in British English than they are in American English) and a few sexual references but otherwise, almost shockingly clean for a romance novel.

Rating: 5/5


Posted in Reviews

REVIEW: “Say Yes Summer” by Lindsay Roth Culli


The perfect book to kick off summer! For as long as Rachel Brooks can remember, she’s had capital-G Goals: straight As, academic scholarship, college of her dreams. And it’s all paid off–after years of following the rules and acing every exam, Rachel is graduating at the top of her class and ready to celebrate by . . . doing absolutely nothing. Because Rachel Brooks has spent most of high school saying no. No to dances, no to parties, and most especially, no to boys.

Now, for the first time in her life, there’s nothing stopping Rachel from having a little fun–nothing, that is, except herself. So when she stumbles on a beat up old self-help book–A SEASON OF YES!–a crazy idea pops into her head: What if she just said yes to . . . everything?

And so begins a summer of yes. Yes to new experiences and big mistakes, yes to rekindled friendships and unexpected romances, yes to seeing the world in a whole new way. This book is a fresh and fun take on the coming-of-age novel that explores the quintessential themes of growing up: taking risks, making mistakes, and, of course, love. And who knows? Lindsey Roth Culli’s hilarious and heartwarming debut may just inspire your own SAY YES SUMMER.


I have a soft spot for post-high school books right now, for reasons that are probably obvious if you have read any of my past reviews. Maybe it’s preemptive nostalgia for a time that, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, I will probably never experience. Whatever the cause, though, I’m currently rather enamored of books set in the pre-college summer. This one caught my eye for a few reasons.

As an overachiever in high school, I completely empathized with Rachel’s “really? Is this it?” feelings upon graduating and realizing how much she missed out on. No, I never wanted to get wasted with people I would never speak to again, and I still don’t (shudder), not to mention my dating prospects were nonexistent – but I still felt myself wondering what it would be like to have had a high school experience that stood out. So as dumb and impulsive as it admittedly was, Rachel’s idea of spending the summer saying yes to every available opportunity is something I’m probably just desperate enough to try. Reading about Rachel’s new experiences and relationships felt like living an alternate reality of my own life (other than the hot boy suddenly deciding that he liked me…never in a million years) because Rachel’s coming from the same place that I would be. That made them fun to read about. And the tone of the story is so unabashedly optimistic and upbeat that you can’t help but have fun following Rachel’s new adventures in yes-saying.

So, was this a perfect book? Of course not. A lot of the characters weren’t all that well-developed, most of Rachel’s decisions were kind of insane, and the strange love triangle dynamic definitely rubbed me the wrong way. But the writing was great, and ultimately, reading about someone else’s life-altering post-senior summer was exactly the escape I needed from a senior summer that’s shaping up to consist mostly of me sitting on my bed reading books.


Best Scene: Clayton and Rachel’s Canada date made me want to hop in my car and make for the Mexican border (which…is 20 minutes away from me so that’s not saying much) ASAP.

What Stood Out: reading this felt like drinking a strawberry milkshake: it’s what you drink when you can’t handle anything else because it’s easy to get down, undeniably delicious, and makes you happy.

What Bugged Me: Rachel’s decision to resolve a love triangle by dating both guys behind each other’s backs came off as all kinds of deranged.

Content: scattered cursing and a few innuendos, but mostly clean.

Rating: 4/5 Golden Grasshoppers

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized

REVIEW: “Aurora Burning ” by Jay Kristof and Amie Kaufman


Our heroes are back… kind of. From the bestselling co-authors of the Illuminae Files comes the second book in the epic series about a squad of misfits, losers, and discipline cases who just might be the galaxy’s best hope for survival.

First, the bad news: an ancient evil—you know, your standard consume-all-life-in-the-galaxy deal—is about to be unleashed. The good news? Squad 312 is standing by to save the day. They’ve just got to take care of a few small distractions first.

Like the clan of gremps who’d like to rearrange their favorite faces.

And the cadre of illegit GIA agents with creepy flowers where their eyes used to be, who’ll stop at nothing to get their hands on Auri.

Then there’s Kal’s long-lost sister, who’s not exactly happy to see her baby brother, and has a Syldrathi army at her back. With half the known galaxy on their tails, Squad 312 has never felt so wanted.

When they learn the Hadfield has been found, it’s time to come out of hiding. Two centuries ago, the colony ship vanished, leaving Auri as its sole survivor. Now, its black box might be what saves them. But time is short, and if Auri can’t learn to master her powers as a Trigger, the squad and all their admirers are going to be deader than the Great Ultrasaur of Abraaxis IV.

Shocking revelations, bank heists, mysterious gifts, inappropriately tight bodysuits, and an epic firefight will determine the fate of the Aurora Legion’s most unforgettable heroes—and maybe the rest of the galaxy as well.


As I said in my Theme Party Tuesday post, I ventured out in a pandemic to get this book. So yeah, I think you could say I was pretty excited.


If I’m being completely honest, I remember loving “Aurora Rising,” but it hasn’t stuck in my brain in a super intense way. I vaguely remembered the characters but not their distinct voices; I sort of remembered the plot but no specifics; I forgot a lot of key facts about the world it’s set in. I could probably have used a reread of the first book before diving into this one, but I didn’t care. I was going to get my hands on this book come hell or high water, and it was going to get into my brain as fast as it could.

And WOW. Even given the small amount of information I remembered from “Aurora Rising” to begin with, I knew enough to know I felt like I was reading a completely different series. Each character’s voice read incredibly fresh and new: I felt like I was meeting the characters all over again. The fun action set pieces, which were my favorite part of the last book, were just as fun and action-y as they were in AR. I fell in love with their found-family dynamic and individual friendships all over again, probably moreso for having already spent time watching that dynamic develop in the first book. I was swept up in the stakes, taken utterly CAPTIVE by that CLIFFHANGER (WHY????), came away with a few new ships…

Oh yeah. This was a RIDE.

This isn’t a super coherent review, I know, but I just had to gush, dang it, I LOVE this thing. A rare sequel that surpasses its original.


Short Summary: everything you love about “Aurora Rising” turned up to ELEVEN, and it WORKS.

Favorite Scene: there are many. The one in which we learn about Zila’s backstory was a highlight; literally anytime Fin is speaking; also, the scenes where Tyler and Saedii (new character, you’ll love her) are imprisoned together, and noooo, of course it’s not because I totally ship them, why do you ask? *side eye*

What Stood Out: a lot of sequels try to give the audience more of what it loved the first time around and fail miserably. This book tries it and hits it out of the park.

What Bugged Me: the cliffhanger ending, for one. RUDE. Also, my one small critique: some of the romantic scenes between Auri and Kal are…mind-numbingly cheesy. I LOVE cheesy stuff, and sometimes it was cute, but a few other times it was…yikes. I do like them together, but there is a reason that they weren’t my favorite pairing, implied or otherwise, in this book. (Scarlett/Fin slow burn? GIVE IT TO ME. Vaguely implied Tyler/Saedii that could or could not be romantic depending on how you read it? I WANT MORE. But Kal/Auri? Ehhh…)

Objectionable Content: three f-bombs (truthfully, I’ve never read a more well deserved f-bomb in my life…seriously), a small few other uses of strong language, a fade-to-black sex scene, and a lot of non-graphic violence.

Rating: 11/5 Supernovae ❤

Posted in Reviews

REVIEW: “Time of Our Lives” by Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka


Fitz Holton waits in fear for the day his single mother’s early-onset Alzheimer’s starts stealing her memory. He’s vowed to stay close to home to care for her in the years to come–never mind the ridiculous college tour she’s forcing him on to visit schools where he knows he’ll never go. Juniper Ramirez is counting down the days until she can leave home, a home crowded with five younger siblings and zero privacy. Against the wishes of her tight-knit family, Juniper plans her own college tour of the East Coast with one goal: get out.

When Fitz and Juniper cross paths on their first college tour in Boston, they’re at odds from the moment they meet– while Juniper’s dying to start a new life apart for her family, Fitz faces the sacrifices he must make for his. Their relationship sparks a deep connection–in each other’s eyes, they glimpse alternate possibilities regarding the first big decision of their adult lives.


This…could not have been a more timely book for me. Read: I finished this book the day I submitted my college commitment. Yeah. So a book about a prestigious college road trip was…kind of exactly what I wanted right now.

And I loved it. 

There were a couple reasons for this: my deep love for both of our protagonists, the East Coast road trip (I want to do that!), the satisfying romance, the Complications and Angst, the fact that it name-dropped a college I was accepted to (sorry, Carnegie Mellon, you weren’t for me).

But really, I loved this book because it felt like my life.

Seriously. I’ve never read a book that captured the special breed of uncertainty and angst that goes with the college process more truthfully. Both of our protagonists have things holding them back going into college, worries that complicate an already-complicated decision. Both have dreams; neither fully feels they can pursue them. Both put in the work to create opportunities they’re afraid to take. Both are running from something.

And, as a high school senior a lot like both of them, I felt their anxiety and questioning on a visceral level. I don’t have a mother with Alzheimer’s, or a family that won’t let go of me, but I felt like their experiences were mine, because I feel like their situations were specific examples of universal experiences. College is a scary time, but also an incredibly hopeful one. Like Juniper, I’ve looked forward to college since I started high school, but the future is still daunting and lonely. Because of that, though they were rare, I’ve had moments where I would’ve sympathized more with Fitz’s trepidation about his future, too. That said, it was pretty much impossible for me to be objective about this book, but I don’t care. I haven’t fallen this hard for a book since…when was the last time Maurene Goo released a book? Then. Since then.

(Actually, no, that’s kind of a lie. I felt that way about “The Fountains of Silence” too, and that came out a lot later. But you get the point. This was one of my top reads of the first third of 2020 and, honestly, if you’re heading into college, a must-read.)

Add this to the list of “books that make me sad that my first semester of college might be on the internet.”


One-Sentence Summary: it turns out that what these two unlikely friends want out of life isn’t as different as they thought it was.

Favorite Scene: it’s so hard to pick! Maybe the rooftop scene?

Something that Stood Out: I didn’t mention this in the actual review because I was too busy waxing poetic about how much I ~related~ to this book, but the writing itself was beautiful. Oftentimes, style is an afterthought in YA – never for Wibberley and Siegemund-Broka. The quality of their writing consistently ranges from excellent to downright poetic and some of the turns of phrase in this book were actually Kindle-highlight-worthy, which I find rare.

Something that Bugged Me: the cameo from the lead couple in “If I’m Being Honest,” this author duo’s last book. What was the point of including that scene if it was going to undermine all of Cameron’s character development the way it did? Yeah, it sort of tied into the story, but I feel like it was thrown in just to be thrown in and it didn’t sit well with me.

Possibly-Objectionable Content: one sex scene (can’t tell you how bad it was because I didn’t read it), a couple of f-bombs (and, weirdly, absolutely no other cursing), underage drinking, non-explicit discussion of college hookup culture.

Rating: 5.5/5 Befuddled Emu

Posted in Reviews

REVIEW: “More Than Just a Pretty Face” by Syed Masood

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the review copy. MORE THAN JUST A PRETTY FACE releases August 4th, 2020. 


Danyal Jilani doesn’t lack confidence. He may not be the smartest guy in the room, but he’s funny, gorgeous, and going to make a great chef one day. His father doesn’t approve of his career choice, but that hardly matters. What does matter is the opinion of Danyal’s longtime crush, the perfect-in-all-ways Kaval, and her family, who consider him a less than ideal arranged marriage prospect.

When Danyal gets selected for Renaissance Man, a school-wide academic championship, it’s the perfect opportunity to show everyone he’s smarter than they think. He recruits the brilliant, totally-uninterested-in-him Bisma to help with the competition, but the more time Danyal spends with her…the more he learns from her…the more he cooks for her…the more he realizes that happiness may be staring him right in his pretty face.


Oftentimes, the characters I love most in fiction are the ones I’d absolutely hate in real life. Danyal Jilani is one such character. He’s cocky and irresponsible; he knows how attractive he is and hates school – he’d probably drive me crazy in real life. But man, I was rooting for Danyal hard in “More than Just a Pretty Face.” That was consistently how I felt about this book: it was full of heart and charm, and it was almost impossible not to love and root for our leads, Bisma and Danyal. Their romance was sweet, they were compelling characters on their own, and I really felt for them through their struggles. 

Additionally, this is one of those rare rom-coms that’s both plot and character-driven; most, I find, are one or the other. The progression of Danyal and Bisma’s romance, and Danyal’s preparation for the Renaissance Man competition, make up a significant chunk of the story, but so does the character development. (Also, may I just say: I almost never read books with male perspective characters, and I actually really enjoyed reading something in a guy’s voice.) And not only are they balanced, but they feed each other: the character development fuels the romance, and the historical perspective that Danyal gains through Renaissance Man informs his character development – it’s a big part of what teaches him to speak up, which is a major lesson he has to learn throughout the story. I feel like “More than Just a Pretty Face” was trying to do a lot; many books that attempt that fall flat, but this one didn’t. None of the topics that were touched upon felt perfunctory or skimmed-over. 

Overall, this was both a fun read and a surprisingly substantial one, and I highly recommend it.


One-Sentence Summary: he may not start as more than just a pretty face, but trust me, he won’t stay that way.

Favorite Scene: hard to choose…the beach scene? Or anything at Remarquable, the French restaurant Danyal works at – I loved the cooking parts of the book. 

Something that Stood Out: the fact that a contemporary rom-com tackled historical issues that are still felt today – I’ve read contemporary/in-the-moment social issue books, but never one that talked about historical issues. 

Something that Bugged Me: really, can’t think of a lot. Maybe the fact that Danyal’s irresponsible behavior is occasionally glorified? But there really aren’t a lot of cases where that’s true. 

Adult Content: scattered cursing; a character’s sexual history is a big part of the plot and is often referenced (never graphically); lots of terrible parenting. 

Rating: 4.5/5 Befuddled Emu