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ARC Review: Love à la Mode by Stephanie Kate Strohm

Summary

Take two American teen chefs, add one heaping cup of Paris, toss in a pinch of romance, and stir. . . . Rosie Radeke firmly believes that happiness can be found at the bottom of a mixing bowl. But she never expected that she, a random nobody from East Liberty, Ohio, would be accepted to celebrity chef Denis Laurent’s school in Paris, the most prestigious cooking program for teens in the entire world. Life in Paris, however, isn’t all cream puffs and crepes. Faced with a challenging curriculum and a nightmare professor, Rosie begins to doubt her dishes. Henry Yi grew up in his dad’s restaurant in Chicago, and his lifelong love affair with food landed him a coveted spot in Chef Laurent’s school. He quickly connects with Rosie, but academic pressure from home and his jealousy over Rosie’s growing friendship with gorgeous bad-boy baker Bodie Tal makes Henry lash out and push his dream girl away. Desperate to prove themselves, Rosie and Henry cook like never before while sparks fly between them. But as they reach their breaking points, they wonder whether they have what it takes to become real chefs. Perfect for lovers of Chopped Teen Tournament and Kids Baking Championship, as well as anyone who dreams of a romantic trip to France, Love à la Mode follows Rosie and Henry as they fall in love with food, with Paris, and ultimately, with each other.

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Review

Hey, everyone! Today, I’ll be talking about Love à la Mode by Stephanie Kate Strohm. Now, I remember first hearing about this book and being really excited. Not only was it about a boarding school set in France, this boarding school is actually a prestigious cooking school as well! I was definitely getting Anna and the French Kiss vibes with some competitive drama to boot! And while it was an okay read, I wouldn’t rank it with my favourite contemporary novels.

Firstly, my main concern was with the main characters. Rosie and Henry were pretty nice together, but alone, they’re kind of boring. While I loved those cute moments between Rosie and Henry, I prefer characters that I could root for based on their personality or empathy for them. Don’t get me wrong: in the beginning, I did like both characters. However, that changes when Rosie becomes a bit bland for me (I think she would have been perfectly fine in the early 2010s, though) and Henry begins to take out his frustrations on Rosie.

I did like the school, though, as well as the experience studying in France. I’ve been a big fan of reading boarding schools since forever, and thought that this book had a fun take on boarding school life. Also, the story really goes into detail about backstory of the school as well as characters within the novel, which I really appreciated. It made things easier to imagine and gave more depth to the story.

Overall, while I didn’t get into Love à la Mode as much as I wanted to, I wouldn’t discourage readers from checking it out if they like cooking or baking. By the way, Love à la Mode can be found in bookstores on November 27th, 2018, for those of you who are interested! Do you have any recommendations for great boarding school books, though? If you do, feel free to leave them in the section below.

Take care, everyone! And keep reading! 🙂

–  Sumaya

I received this copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

ARC Review: Smothered by Autumn Chilkis

Summary

A humorous debut crossover young adult novel about what happens when entering the “real world” means moving back in with your mother, inspired by actress and celebrity Autumn Chiklis’ real life.

Eloise “Lou” Hansen is graduating from Columbia University summa cum laude, and she’s ready to conquer the world. Just a few minor problems: she has no job, no prospects, and she’s moving back into her childhood bedroom. Lou is grimly determined to stick to a rigorous schedule to get a job and get out of her parents’ house. Shelly “Mama Shell” Hansen, on the other hand, is ecstatic, and just as determined to keep her at home. Who else will help her hide her latest binge-shopping purchases from her husband, go to SoulCycle with her, and hold her hand during Botox shots?

Smothered is a hilarious roman à clef told via journal entries, text messages, emails, bills, receipts, tweets, doctor’s prescriptions, job applications and rejections, parking tickets, and pug pictures, chronicling the year that Lou moves back home after college. Told from Lou’s point-of-view, Smothered tells the story of two young(ish) women, just trying to get it right, and learning that just because we all grow up doesn’t mean we necessarily have to grow old. (After all, what is Juvaderm for?)

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Review

Hey, everyone! Another day, another review! Today’s review is on Smothered by Autumn Chilkis. Now, when I first heard about Smothered, I was pretty eager to read it. Not only is it more crossover than YA, it deals with what happens after college, how people attempt to become employed in today’s society, and whatnot. I’ll be honest: that was probably the main reason I wanted to read it. The smothered part was all secondary to me; I just really thought that the content would be relatable. But, in that regard, I was wrong…

First of all, it focused more on her relationship with her mother, which makes sense since the book is called Smothered. These moments were actually pretty funny, and I love how bold Lou’s mother could be at times, especially in comparison to Lou. She’s just trying to help Lou in the best way she knows how, even if it’s not exactly right for Lou. They just have to figure out a new dynamic to their relationship if Lou wants to be treated like an adult.

I also really liked the different formats of communication within the novel – such as emails, texts, Facebook messages – integrated into Lou’s POV. It made for some funny dialogue!

The only thing I didn’t like about the novel was that Lou’s privilege really shows. I think it’s intentional, since the writer has both Lou’s father and her boyfriend call her out, but it sure can be annoying at times. I get it; she’s from an upper-middle class family, living in LA, which probably means she will have a mindset geared towards that privilege and might not even realize it. This doesn’t mean that I didn’t cringe when she describes her hunger level at one point in a juice cleanse equivalent to Africa. Or when her friend Natasha goes to India to study and report about cultural violence against women. Firstly, not everyone in Africa is starving, and the fact that she thinks they are says a lot about her. That’s a whole continent of people! Obviously, there will be people who are struggling and people who aren’t, just like in any other place in the world. Secondly, it doesn’t make sense to me that her friend had to go all the way to India to study cultural violence when she cold have easily gone to a women’s shelter in her city. Maybe there’s some logical explanation for it all and I’m just overreacting. But just reading that one sentence got me ranting about how this all stems from the idea that Western countries are more civilized than Eastern countries, which is a dangerous idea to have. But I should cut this off before I start ranting even more.

Well, that’s all I have to say about Smothered by Autumn Chilkis. While I do appreciate more crossover novels in general and liked the mother-daughter dynamic, I feel as if this book could have benefited from removing assumptions about other cultures. If it’s meant to show how privileged Lou is, then readers can already get a sense of that without perpetuating these dangerous ideas and conceptualizing people in that way.

For those of you who are still interested though, Smothered hits stores this Tuesday, August 7th.

Have a nice day, everyone!

– Sumaya

I received this copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

ARC Review: Sadie by Courtney Summers

Summary

Sadie hasn’t had an easy life. Growing up on her own, she’s been raising her sister Mattie in an isolated small town, trying her best to provide a normal life and keep their heads above water.

But when Mattie is found dead, Sadie’s entire world crumbles. After a somewhat botched police investigation, Sadie is determined to bring her sister’s killer to justice and hits the road following a few meagre clues to find him.

When West McCray—a radio personality working on a segment about small, forgotten towns in America—overhears Sadie’s story at a local gas station, he becomes obsessed with finding the missing girl. He starts his own podcast as he tracks Sadie’s journey, trying to figure out what happened, hoping to find her before it’s too late.

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Review

Trigger Warning: emotional abuse and molestation 

Hello, fellow readers! It’s been a while, but I’m back with another review, this one being on Sadie by Courtney Summers. While I haven’t read any of Courtney Summer’s other books, as soon as I heard about this one at the latest TeensRead event, I knew I wanted to read it. It’s kind of surprising, since I’m not a huge fan of thrillers, what with me questioning every decision the protagonist makes, but this one seemed different. Possibly because of the podcast element. And I wasn’t wrong.

First of all, I loved the chapters alternating between Sadie’s POV and the podcast transcript. There was just so much story in both. For instance, as one chapter ends, the next POV would carry on seamlessly. The podcast would fill readers in on anything Sadie might have left out in her narration and vice versa. Plus, the storytelling elements for both of these POVs were superb.

Then there were the characters. These were fleshed-out people whose story cannot be contained in a single novel, but the author did an outstanding job in giving readers a glimpse. What I’m trying to say is that the author gives us characters that aren’t good or bad – with the exception of some – but have their own story to tell alongside Sadie’s. And for most of these characters, you feel some level of empathy for them. Especially Sadie. As I’ve said before, a lot of time when I try to read thriller or mystery, I find myself constantly questioning the protagonist and their motivations. Not this time. I understood exactly why Sadie was doing what she was doing and empathized with her throughout the entire novel.

Well, that’s all I have to say about this novel for now. If you’re into true crime podcasts, Macmillan made a fake one for Sadie called The Girls (the name of the podcast in the novel). The first episode is available right now, too! As for the novel, I honestly would recommend this to anyone who likes to read thriller or mystery; it gets you questioning the sad truths about missing girls and how people shouldn’t simply fit them into a stereotype just to make it easier. Fair warning though: the ending will leave you with more questions than answers. And for those of you are interested, Sadie comes out on September 4th, 2018.

Also, after reading Sadie, I plan to read more of Courtney Summer’s novels. If anyone has read one of them and they would like to recommend it, feel free to share the title in the Comments Section below!

Thanks for reading everyone!

– Sumaya

I received this copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Review: Sweet Black Waves by Kristina Pérez

Summary

Not you without me, not me without you.

Two proud kingdoms stand on opposite shores, with only a bloody history between them.

As best friend and lady-in-waiting to the princess, Branwen is guided by two principles: devotion to her homeland and hatred for the raiders who killed her parents. When she unknowingly saves the life of her enemy, he awakens her ancient healing magic and opens her heart. Branwen begins to dream of peace, but the princess she serves is not so easily convinced. Fighting for what’s right, even as her powers grow beyond her control, will set Branwen against both her best friend and the only man she’s ever loved.

Inspired by the star-crossed tale of Tristan and Eseult, this is the story of the legend’s true heroine: Branwen. For fans of Graceling and The Mists of Avalon, this is the first book of a lush fantasy trilogy about warring countries, family secrets, and forbidden romance.

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Review

My rating:

green25

Hi, there! I’m back with another review, this one being on Sweet Black Waves by Kristina Pérez. I received this book via NetGalley by being one of the first few people to request the ARC and read it. Now, at the time, it did really seem intriguing, being a Tristan and Eseult retelling. I remember enjoying medieval romance a lot during my time at university. But then this book reminded me why I didn’t like Tristan and Eseult when studying it briefly in school and almost wish I didn’t request it.

Don’t get me wrong; I liked some elements of the book. For instance, the sisterly bond between Branwen and Eseult was one of the best things to come out of the novel, in my opinion. The way they cared for each other, even when Eseult was being self-centred or Branwen stoic, had me rooting for this femship. They’re each other’s balm and comfort, often referencing the hazelnut and honeysuckle tree that are entwined, neither being able to live without the other (from the original tale). Also, this book got me thinking about arguments and how even though Eseult had a point in that she’s being treated more as a symbol than a person, she seems to be in the wrong because a lot of the time, she acts like a petulant child. Meanwhile, everyone else acts calmly about the fact that she’s being married off to a person she didn’t choose, worse yet because their kingdoms are enemies. But everyone else sees this as an opportunity to stop the warring between the countries and don’t see it as a problem if she marries for duty rather than love.

A main reason I gave this novel a low rating though, wasn’t because of the writing style, but because by the time I figured out that the retelling included the love potion, I knew it was only a matter of time before it was administered. The only problem was that I didn’t know when. So afterwards, I couldn’t get into the story the same way as I did before. Maybe the sequels will add some more interesting twists…

Well, that’s all for now! If you’re interested in reading medieval retellings, I would suggest reading Sweet Black Waves, since the writing style is pretty engaging. If you have any comments or questions about this book, though, let me know in the Comments Section below.

Have a nice day, everyone!

–  Sumaya

ARC Review: Star-Touched Stories by Roshani Chokshi

Summary

Three lush and adventurous stories in the Star-Touched world.

Death and Night

He was Lord of Death, cursed never to love. She was Night incarnate, destined to stay alone. After a chance meeting, they wonder if, perhaps, they could be meant for more. But danger crouches in their paths, and the choices they make will set them on a journey that will span lifetimes.

Poison and Gold

Now that her wish for a choice has come true, Aasha struggles to control her powers. But when an opportunity to help Queen Gauri and King Vikram’s new reign presents itself, she is thrown into the path of the fearsome yet enchanting Spy Mistress. To help her friends, Aasha will have to battle her insecurities and perhaps, along the way, find love.

Rose and Sword

There is a tale whispered in the dark of the Empire of Bharat-Jain. A tale of a bride who loses her bridegroom on the eve of her wedding. But is it a tale or a truth?

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Review

My rating:

Hello, fellow readers! Another day, another book read! Today, I’ll be reviewing Roshani Chokshi’s Star-Touched Stories, short stories set in the same world as The Star-Touched Queen and A Crown of Wishes. I was so happy to get a chance to read this as I’ve loved the author’s previous books! And I’m glad to say that these short stories didn’t disappoint!

The collection is comprised of three short stories, focusing on the relationships of Night and Death, Aasha and Zahril, as well as Gauri and Vikram. These stories were pretty engaging in getting into the heads of the protagonist, describing the plight in such exquisite detail! And the romance! Oh, my! The romance between these characters was just amazing! It reminded me of old relationships within the previous books as well while also giving me a burgeoning new relationship that make my heart flutter!

Also, I’ve got to say that I’m a big fan of Roshani Chokshi’s writing style. It’s beautifully descriptive, with imagery that gets you right inside the stories. Even when nothing’s going on at that specific moment, I couldn’t help but enjoy the story because of the writing.

Overall, I really liked reading these short stories, with the only thing I can comment on is the fact that they’re way too short for my liking! 😉 But such is the way of a lot of the stories I’ve been reading and loving lately. I just hope to see more stories from this series! If anyone is a fan of this author’s work or would like a taste of her writing, I would definitely recommend reading Star-Touched Stories. And to those who are interested, the book comes out on August 7th, 2018!

That’s all for now! Have a wonderful day, everyone!

– Sumaya

I received this copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

 

Review: Final Draft by Riley Redgate

Summary

The only sort of risk 18-year-old Laila Piedra enjoys is the peril she writes for the characters in her stories: epic sci-fi worlds full of quests, forbidden love, and robots. Her creative writing teacher has always told her she has a special talent. But three months before her graduation, he’s suddenly replaced—by Nadiya Nazarenko, a Pulitzer Prize–winning novelist who is sadistically critical and perpetually unimpressed.

At first, Nazarenko’s eccentric assignments seem absurd. But before long, Laila grows obsessed with gaining the woman’s approval. Soon Laila is pushing herself far from her comfort zone, discovering the psychedelic highs and perilous lows of nightlife, temporary flings, and instability. Dr. Nazarenko has led Laila to believe that she must choose between perfection and sanity—but rejecting her all-powerful mentor may be the only way for Laila to thrive.

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Review

My rating:

Hi, everyone! I’ve recently finished reading Riley Redgate’s newest novel, Final Draft! I think I liked this one even better than Noteworthy, the other novel I’ve read by her! At first, I was a bit apprehensive about the story not being as good, and didn’t want to read it as much when I thought about it. But I’m glad I did, because I liked it a lot!

If I had to pin down what I liked most about this book, it would be the character development. Our protagonist Laila starts off as unsure and scared to show other people her work. But throughout the novel, we are constantly being shown ways she is taken out of her comfort zone, which definitely helps her grow. Not to say that she didn’t go down a dark path for a bit, but overall, it benefited her to hear criticism about her work and how she should strengthen it.

I did like reading about the other characters as well! I’m liking what I see lately in the books I read where the book isn’t solely focused on the main character and everyone fades into the background. I loved learning more about Hannah, Leo, and Felix. I even got to learn more about Laila’s family and its history. I hope I can read more books like that in the future.

Well, that’s all for now! Overall, I really liked reading this book – way more than I expected, in fact! Have you read Riley Redgate’s other novels? Did you like them? Feel free to answer in the Comments Section below! And any questions you may have are welcome as well!

Have a nice day, everyone!

– Sumaya

I received this copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

ARC Review: Flight Season by Marie Marquardt

Summary

From Marie Marquardt, the author of Dream Things True and The Radius of Us, comes a story of two teenagers learning what to hold on to, what to let go of, and that sometimes love gets in the way of our plans.

Back when they were still strangers, TJ Carvalho witnessed the only moment in Vivi Flannigan’s life when she lost control entirely. Now, TJ can’t seem to erase that moment from his mind, no matter how hard he tries. Vivi doesn’t remember any of it, but she’s determined to leave it far behind. And she will.

But when Vivi returns home from her first year away at college, her big plans and TJ’s ambition to become a nurse land them both on the heart ward of a university hospital, facing them with a long and painful summer together – three months of glorified babysitting for Ángel, the problem patient on the hall. Sure, Ángel may be suffering from a life-threatening heart infection, but that doesn’t make him any less of a pain.

As it turns out, though, Ángel Solís has a thing or two to teach them about all those big plans, and the incredible moments when love gets in their way.

Written in alternating first person from the perspectives of all three characters, Flight Season is a story about discovering what’s really worth holding onto, learning how to let go of the rest, and that one crazy summer that changes your life forever.

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Review

My rating:

blue4

Hi, everyone! Another day, another book! Today, I’ll be talking about Flight Season: A Novel by Marie Marquardt. Funny thing is that I actually wished for this book from NetGalley, but I didn’t think I would get it! But I’m glad that I did, because Flight Season: A Novel was pretty great!

What exactly drove me to liking it? Maybe it was the amazing main characters that basically made up this story! From Vivi to TJ to Ángel, these characters allow readers to peek into their minds and let us into their lives and struggles. Although, out of the three, I think I prefer Vivi and Ángel over TJ, mainly because he’s really rude for no good reason in the beginning, making things harder than they have to be. But by the end, I kind of understood where he was coming from. But still, I felt as if he was a little harsh in judging Vivi based on one experience. I probably feel that way because I access to Vivi’s POV and know that she didn’t deserve that.

And then there was Ángel. First of all, I was really intrigued by the writing style of his POV. It seemed as if he was aware that there was audience, because he is addressing someone as “you”, and it isn’t any of the characters within the book. At the same time, it could be because he’s lonely, lying in a hospital bed all day, unable to do anything without help. And second, I loved any scene that included Ángel because he was bound to liven it up, not just for Vivi and TJ, but for readers as well! But there were also times where I would feel so teary reading his POV, as well as so mad at all the circumstances leading him there, the injustice of it all. His story ends in an open way, which isn’t always satisfying, but in this case, it works.

Well, that’s all I have to say about Flight Season: A Novel by Marie Marquardt. It was an interesting read that I would recommend to anyone who isn’t afraid of a good cry! Flight Season: A Novel comes out on February 20th, so if you’re interested, you don’t have to wait much longer!

And if you have any thoughts or questions about this book, feel free to share them in the Comments Section below. Thanks for reading!

–  Sumaya

I received this copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

ARC Review: This is Not a Love Letter by Kim Purcell

Summary

One week. That’s all Jessie said. A one-week break to get some perspective before graduation, before she and her boyfriend, Chris, would have to make all the big, scary decisions about their future–decisions they had been fighting about for weeks. Then, Chris vanishes. The police think he’s run away, but Jessie doesn’t believe it. Chris is popular and good-looking, about to head off to college on a full-ride baseball scholarship. And he disappeared while going for a run along the river–the same place where some boys from the rival high school beat him up just three weeks ago. Chris is one of the only black kids in a depressed paper mill town, and Jessie is terrified of what might have happened. As the police are spurred to reluctant action, Jessie speaks up about the harassment Chris kept quiet about and the danger he could be in. But there are people in Jessie’s town who don’t like the story she tells, who are infuriated by the idea that a boy like Chris would be a target of violence. They smear Chris’s character and Jessie begins receiving frightening threats. Every Friday since they started dating, Chris has written Jessie a love letter. Now Jessie is writing Chris a letter of her own to tell him everything that’s happening while he’s gone. As Jessie searches for answers, she must face her fears, her guilt, and a past more complicated than she would like to admit.

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My rating:

green4

Hi, everyone! I’m back with another review! Today’s review is on This is Not a Love Letter by Kim Purcell. Now, when I started this book, I did try to keep my expectations low and it worked! I think I ended up enjoying my reading experience a whole lot more because of this!

First of all, I really liked the author’s writing style. The story was told in Jessie’s POV, focusing on the current situation of her boyfriend Chris missing. But it also used a lot of flashbacks to expand on their relationship, all their ups and downs, and how it might have related to the present. It made the story a lot more interesting than if it were written in a chronological manner. Not only did readers get to learn more about Jessie and Chris, but the flashbacks also served as a way to extend the story. In my opinion, the story would have been either finished much more quickly or stretched out if the flashbacks weren’t embedded  in the story.

Then there were the characters. To be honest, I actually liked how the author portrayed the characters within the novel. They were realistic with a capital R. You may not agree with everything they say or do, but that’s what make them the round characters they are. The point is that you understand these character’s motives and empathize with them, which I did for almost all of the characters (there were just a few characters that I didn’t empathize with). The only character that I didn’t get a sense of that roundness from was Tamara, who filled the role of mean girl for the novel. The author also used these characters to talk about relevant issues regarding racial prejudice, stereotyping, bullying and mental illness.

Overall, I thought that This is Not a Love Letter by Kim Purcell was a pretty good read. I’d recommend it to anyone wanting to read something within the realm of mystery. For those who are interested in This is Not a Love Letter, the novel comes out on January 30th, 2018. Oh, and if anyone has comments or questions, feel free to leave them in the Comments Section below. Thanks for reading, everyone!

–  Sumaya

I received this copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Review: Between the Blade and the Heart by Amanda Hocking

Summary

Valkyries have one great responsibility: to return immortals to the afterlife by slaying them. As a Valkyrie, Malin has always known that the balance of the world rests on her ability to carry out orders. But when Malin discovers that her mother spared the life of an immortal who was destined to die, her world is thrown into chaos.

Malin not only wrestles with the knowledge that her mother might not be who she thought—she’s also thrust into the path of a gorgeous blue eyed guy named Asher who needs her help slaying the rogue immortal who destroyed his family. The balance of the world is at stake. And, as Asher competes with Malin’s ex for her love and loyalty, so is her heart.

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My rating:

purple3

Hey, everyone! I just finished reading Between the Blade and the Heart by Amanda Hocking! To be honest, I didn’t hear about her latest novel until around October, which seems pretty late in the game, but I was still pretty intrigued! I loved The Trylle Trilogy and The Kanin Chronicles, so I couldn’t wait to read this book! Once I started reading it though, I wasn’t as excited for it as I thought I would be…

A good reason for this might be the world-building within the novel. Usually, in the author’s past novels, the mythology is concise and easy to follow. In this case, I felt as if it was all over the place, with different mythologies coming together to create a hodgepodge all-encompassing mythological world. I just wasn’t a fan of mixing mythologies together and then just leaving holes in that world later on because of it. That and the fact that until the end, I had no clue whatsoever about where the book was set. It didn’t really bother me until Malin used some British slang and then I paused to ask myself “Wait! Where is this taking place?” Luckily, by the end, the book hints to take place in the U.S. since they mention Mexico and the border. I’m still not 100% sure… But those are just my opinions! I’m sure there are people who loved the world the novel was set in! 😉

As for the characters, while they were good for all intents and purposes, I didn’t connect with them that much. I mean, I was interested in their actions and whatnot, but that was more in terms of plot and the mystery surrounding them. Plus, I felt as if some of the characters could have used a bit more backstory. Not necessarily Malin and Quinn (I actually like the amount of backstory given to them), but Oona, Asher and even Marlow. Maybe it’s my feelings about the world building that’s clouding my judgement as well, but overall, I just didn’t click with the characters as much as I wanted to…

I guess that’s all I have to say about Between the Blade and the Heart by Amanda Hocking. At least for now. While I wasn’t into this book as much as her other novels, I hope that the second book will be better. If you have any comments or questions about this book as well as any other novels by Amanda Hocking, feel free to share them in the Comments Section below. Thanks for reading, everyone!

–  Sumaya

I received this copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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