Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Review: The Heir and the Spare by Emily Albright


Evie Gray is an American attending Oxford. Her parents met and fell in love when they were at Oxford and her mother really wanted her to have the same experience. Her mother died when she was young, but she left a number of mysterious letters that arrive on her birthday each year. In addition, she started receiving letters with various quests that need to be completed before she will receive the next letter. 

On her first day at Oxford she meets Edmund Stuart, who is the equivalent of Prince Harry in line to the British throne. He is the second son of the current King and Queen. The two share an interest in history and art and hit it off from the start. There situation is complicated because his family wants him to marry the daughter of another aristocratic family, but Edmund has no interest in her. Evie believes she doesn't have a chance since she doesn't have a title or come from a prestigious family...but what if she does?  That is the premise behind this story. Evie is on a quest to discover a secret her mother kept from both her and her father, which just might open more doors to her than she ever could have imagined. But does she even want to be part of that world? Her mother made her decision years ago and she is now giving Evie the chance to make her own decision.

This is such a cute story. I absolutely loved Evie, Edmund, and all of their friends. Preston is Edmund's best friend. He also has a crush on Evie, which becomes a bit of an issue as jealousy rears its head on occasion. In addition, Jacqueline...AKA Jax, is the entitled wannabe girlfriend who keeps showing up to lure Edmund. She is downright nasty and it doesn't take long to discover why Edmund isn't interested. 

Interactions with the paparazzi, Edmund's security detail, and vacations to Royal estates are just some of the things Evie experiences while dating a Prince. She knows how she feels about him, but she isn't sure if the feeling is mutual. She wants to make sure he is choosing her because of who she is and not because of a title she may possess.  I don't think she ever needed to worry about that, but I could understand her initial concern. 

I absolutely love anything involving the Royal family, so this was almost a sure winner for me. I have no idea why I left it sitting in my TBR pile for so long!

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Review: Scavenge the Stars by Tara Sim

Goodreads Overview:

When Amaya rescues a mysterious stranger from drowning, she fears her rash actions have earned her a longer sentence on the debtor ship where she’s been held captive for years. Instead, the man she saved offers her unimaginable riches and a new identity, setting Amaya on a perilous course through the coastal city-state of Moray, where old-world opulence and desperate gamblers collide.

Amaya wants one thing: revenge against the man who ruined her family and stole the life she once had. But the more entangled she becomes in this game of deception—and as her path intertwines with the son of the man she’s plotting to bring down—the more she uncovers about the truth of her past. And the more she realizes she must trust no one…


Scavenge the Stars was the book selected for OwlCrate's January YA box. Below is a photo of everything that came in the January box. I am using the Hobbit banner to display my OwlCrate pins, I have already burned the entire candle while reading, and have definitely been enjoying the Crooked Kingdom socks and Harry Potter mug. I haven't had a chance to use the little mirrored pill box yet, which was inspired by Nevernight, but I think it will come in handy when traveling. 

Scavenge the Stars is a gender-swapped retelling of The Count of Monte Cristo.  I am not familiar with the original story, but after reading this book, I am interested in reading it to see where the stories overlap.

At the beginning of the story we are introduced to Amaya, who has been working on a debtor ship for 7 years and has almost worked off her family's debt. She is excited to be reunited with her mother and will be released just in time to surprise her on her birthday. As she is planning her departure, she rescues a man (Boon) who was drowning. The captain isn't happy about it because he is nothing more than another mouth to feed, but Amaya is intrigued by him. They both manage to escape the ship and discover they have a common enemy. Boon prepares Amaya to return to Moray, where she grew up, to impersonate a Countess and lure in the son of the man they both want to take down. Cayo has a bit of a reputation as a party boy, but he has actually changed his ways. He is nothing like Amaya expected and they begin to develop a friendship.

Cayo is caught in a difficult situation. His sister is ill and needs an expensive medicine or there is virtually no hope for survival. He has grown up in a wealthy merchant family, but for some unknown reason they have fallen on hard times and can't afford the medicine. He searches out the Countess in hopes of playing her to get the medicine. The Countess is nothing like he imagined and he decides he can't go through this his plan. He will have to find another way to get the money.

This was a very entertaining story. I absolutely loved seeing how Cayo and Amaya worked through their layers of deception and are now working together to achieve their goals. They now have a better understanding of the truth and know who the true enemies are. Things ended a little shaky for them, but I am hopeful they can forgive each other and start over now that everything is in the open. They seemed to have a genuine connection that I can only hope will continue to flourish throughout the series.    

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Review: Hot Six by Janet Evanovich


This is the sixth book in the Stephanie Plum series. Stephanie works for her cousin Vinnie as a bounty hunter, but is more luck than skill. This time around Ranger is wanted for questioning in the murder of a known arms dealer, but has gone missing. He is out on bail and Vinnie wants Stephanie to find him, but she knows there is no way anyone will find Ranger if he doesn't want to be found. She turns the job down and lets her enemy, Joyce Barnhardt, work the hopeless case. 

Ranger does make several appearances and Stephanie helps him try to uncover the truth behind the murder, which he says he was not involved in. She is being tailed by a couple of thugs who have been hired to locate Ranger for a different kind of questioning than the police are interested in, but Stephanie manages to dodge them in a number of humorous ways.

Stephanie also has some additional car trouble in this book, which is an ongoing joke in the series. She can't seem to keep a half way decent car without something happening to it. Fire, bomb, etc. She always ends up driving the family's old Buick, which is an indestructible tank. In addition, trouble is brewing at her parents house and Grandma Mazur decides to live with Stephanie for a while. She wants her independence and even starts taking driving lessons, looks for her own apartment, and tries to get a job. Things become a bit crowded at the apartment and Stephanie can't get any sleep. 

Joe Morelli is Stephanie's long time on-and-off love interest that dates back to elementary school. It appears things are heating up and may eventually become more serious in the future, but Ranger is still a mystery that I think Stephanie is still interested in exploring. I'm sure she would like the stability and a family with Joe, but there is definitely some undeniable attraction between her and Ranger that I'm sure will continue in the series.

Overall, this was another great murder mystery. As always, there were a number of laughs and I was hooked from the very beginning. It was a very quick read that I flew through in only a few days. If you are looking for a light and entertaining mystery series, I have really enjoyed this one so far. It is nothing like some of the more dark and detailed crime series such as the Kay Scarpetta or even the Women's Murder Club books, which I also enjoy reading.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Review: Get Dirty by Gretchen McNeil

Goodreads Overview:

The members of Don’t Get Mad (DGM) aren’t just mad anymore . . . they’re afraid. And with Margot in a coma and Bree stuck in juvie, it’s up to Olivia and Kitty to try to catch their deadly tormentor. But just as the girls are about to go on the offensive, Ed the Head reveals a shocking secret that turns all their theories upside down. The killer could be anyone, and this time he—or she—is out for more than just revenge.

The girls desperately try to discover the killer’s identity as their personal lives are falling apart: Donté is pulling away from Kitty and seems to be hiding a secret of his own, Bree is under house arrest, and Olivia’s mother is on an emotional downward spiral. The killer is closing in, the threats are becoming more personal, and when the police refuse to listen, the girls have no choice but to confront their anonymous friend . . . or die trying.


I have read several murder mystery series and they are usually independent stories.  You could pick up any book in the series and follow the mystery from beginning to end without any difficulty. That certainly is not the case with this series.  Get Dirty is a continuation of the story that began in Get Even. We were left completely hanging at the end of the first book with multiple dead bodies, no suspect, and a main character on the brink of death. 

This book picks up pretty much where Get Even left off. Bree is in juvie/house arrest and Margot is in a coma for most of the book. With the loss of Bree and Margot's skill sets, Olivia and Kitty decide to recruit some additional DGM members to help solve the cases. Nobody knows who to trust and it appears the school and the police don't want to look any further than pinning the murders on the members of DGM. They just don't know who the members of DGM are. Their only hope is to solve the murders before the evidence stacking up against them becomes insurmountable.

I really enjoyed the characters and the story, but I didn't feel like it gave readers a realistic opportunity to solve the mystery. There were some crazy revelations at the end that pulled everything together, but I honestly can't think of many clues along the way that I should have picked up on that would have shed much light on the situation. 

Overall, I gave both books 4 stars and was entertained by the story, but it would have been better if it had been condensed into one book. Some of the events in the second book were a bit far fetched and in my opinion could have been eliminated. In contrast, the first book had me sitting on the edge of my seat in anticipation.  I stayed up late to read the final few chapters because I simply HAD to know who the perpetrator was. This could have been a 5 star mystery if everything had concluded there. As it was, I felt like the additional time invested in reading a second book to solve one mystery was a bit more than I had originally bargained for and detracted from the overall enjoyment of the story.

Friday, March 6, 2020

Review: The Golden Tower by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare

Goodreads Overview:

The final, thrilling installment in this extraordinary series from bestselling authors Holly Black and Cassandra Clare.

A generation ago, powerful mage Constantine Madden came close to achieving what no magician had ever achieved: the ability to bring back the dead. He didn't succeed . . . but he did find a way to keep himself alive, inside a young child named Callum Hunt.

Facing up to what he is, Callum has battled chaos and evil across four years of magical training at the Magisterium, eventually defeating the armies of chaos in an epic battle.

It came at a cost.

Now, triumphant and heartbroken, Callum Hunt has just about had enough, and is ready to complete his training. But the evil Callum faced has not given up just yet...


The Golden Tower is the fifth and final book in the Magisterium series. This is a middle grade series with a lot of elemental magic that often reminded me of the Harry Potter series. The kids attend a magical school called the Magisterium and there is all sorts of drama with a character that turned evil. The major difference is this series stays in the middle grade range and doesn't delve into all of the death and darker elements that crept into the final books in the HP series. 

Overall, I enjoyed the Magisterium series, but I felt like it could have been condensed. Five books is a large commitment for younger readers.  On several occasions, the content tended to drag on longer than it needed to. In addition, Callum's inner dialog slowed down the pace of reading and would have caused my son to lose interest. When I first started reading the series, I thought it would be something I could get Preston to read, but there is no way he would commit to a fantasy series of this length. He is more of a non-fiction or contemporary reader and doesn't get into books with a lot of fantasy, sci-fi, etc. Mysteries, action, and adventure are more his thing as long as it fits into a real life scenario.

In retrospect, I don't think I would invest the time in reading this series if you are beyond middle school. I love some of Holly Black and Cassandra Clare's other books and series and really wanted to see how this collaboration would turn out. Perhaps younger readers will have a more favorable opinion of it, but it wasn't really for older YA readers in my opinion.