Beach Read By Emily Henry @PenguinRandomCA

** Thank you Penguin Random House Canada for providing me with an ARC in exchange for my honest opinion **

Genre: Women’s Fiction, Contemporary Romance

Pub Date: 05. 19. 20

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

“Here’s the thing about writing Happily Ever Afters: it helps if you believe them.

Here’s the thing about me: I did until the day of my father’s funeral.”

I’ve been on this horror, zombie, thriller sorta binge lately.
Lovey dovey reads was so not what I was in the mood for, but this. This ladies & gents was worth the read!

For those who haven’t read it yet, I suggest stopping right here and going in knowing as little as possible!

I buddy read this one with Norma @readinginthecountry and so glad I did!
I loved that we both had very similar thoughts and feelings about the story and the characters and their relationships.

I was definitely caught off guard by how hot and heavy this book got! 🔥🔥
It was blue ball territory.

“I dreamed about Gus Everett and woke up needing a shower.”

*gush* I really liked Gus! January was frustrating at times, but I loved watching her and Gus’ relationship develop.

Both Norma and I felt the last 25% of the book lost a bit of steam. Although loose ends were tied, I wanted more from the Sonya storyline. I just felt the whole point of January going to the beach house was to get answers and closure about her dad’s other relationship. Instead, that part was short and still left me unsatisfied. I would have also liked to hear her mother’s side of that story.

Overall, it was a wonderful story. One that would make an excellent book club selection.

A romance writer who no longer believes in love and a literary writer stuck in a rut engage in a summer-long challenge that may just upend everything they believe about happily ever afters.

Augustus Everett is an acclaimed author of literary fiction. January Andrews writes bestselling romance. When she pens a happily ever after, he kills off his entire cast.

They’re polar opposites.

In fact, the only thing they have in common is that for the next three months, they’re living in neighboring beach houses, broke, and bogged down with writer’s block.

Until, one hazy evening, one thing leads to another and they strike a deal designed to force them out of their creative ruts: Augustus will spend the summer writing something happy, and January will pen the next Great American Novel. She’ll take him on field trips worthy of any rom-com montage, and he’ll take her to interview surviving members of a backwoods death cult (obviously). Everyone will finish a book and no one will fall in love. Really.

[#BlogTour] The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi @alkajoshi @HarperCollins #MIRABooks

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publication Date: March 3, 2020

Publisher: MIRA Books

Hey Book sharks! Today is my stop on the Blog Tour for The Henna Artist.

After fleeing an arranged marriage as a fifteen year old to an abusive older man, Lakshmi Shastri steals away alone from her rural village to Jaipur. Here, against odds, she carves out a living for herself as a henna artist, and friend and confidante to wealthy, upper caste women. Surviving by her wits and talents, she shares her knowledge and keeps their secrets in a delicate balancing act amid the changing 1950s social mores brought about by Indian Independence. Vulnerable to opinion and innuedo, at any point her intentions might be misunderstood, and she could fall prey to a damaged reputation or worse. Still Lakshmi manages to save to build a house with the dream of bringing her aging parents here to live with her and redeem herself in their eyes. Then one day her ex-husband arrives in town seeking her out with a girl in tow, a sister she did not know she had. Her sister is both passionate and reckless by nature, and all of a sudden the caution that Lakshmi has carefully cultivated is threatened, along with her livelihood. But she preseveres, and in doing so manages to lift up the others around her with her success.

Vulnerable to opinion and innuedo, at any point her intentions might be misunderstood, and she could fall prey to a damaged reputation or worse. Still Lakshmi manages to save to build a house with the dream of bringing her aging parents here to live with her and redeem herself in their eyes. Then one day her ex-husband arrives in town seeking her out with a girl in tow, a sister she did not know she had. Her sister is both passionate and reckless by nature, and all of a sudden the caution that Lakshmi has carefully cultivated is threatened, along with her livelihood. But she preseveres, and in doing so manages to lift up the others around her with her success.

Lakshmi’s tenacity and spirit see her join the ranks of other brave women of historical fiction, such as Farough Farrokhzad in Jasmin Darznik’s Song of a Captive Bird.With gorgeous prose and urgent themes, the novel will captivate readers of Shobha Rao’s Girls Burn Brighter, and those who seek a narrative both compelling and necessary.

BUY LINKS

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Prologue

September 1955

Ajar, State of Uttar Pradesh, India

Her feet step lightly on the hard earth, calloused soles insensible to the tiny pebbles and caked mud along the riverbank. On her head she balances a mutki, the same earthenware jug she uses to carry water from the well every day. Today, instead of water, the girl is carrying everything she owns: a second petticoat and blouse, her mother’s wedding sari, The Tales of Krishna her father used to read to her—the pages fabric-soft from years of handling—and the letter that arrived from Jaipur earlier this morning.

When she hears the voices of the village women in the distance, the girl hesitates. The gossip-eaters are chatting, telling stories, laughing, as they wash saris, vests, petticoats and dhotis. But when they spot her, she knows they will stop to stare or spit at the ground, imploring God to protect them from the Bad Luck Girl. She reminds herself of the letter, safe inside the mutki, and thinks: Let them. It will be the last time.

Yesterday, the women were haranguing the Headman: why is the Bad Luck Girl still living in the schoolteacher’s hut when we need it for the new schoolmaster? Afraid to make a sound for fear they would come inside and pull her out by her hair, the girl had remained perfectly still within the four mud walls. There was no one to protect her now. Last week, her mother’s body had been burned along with the bones of other dead animals, the funeral pyre of the poor. Her father, the former schoolteacher, had abandoned them six months ago, and, shortly after, he drowned in a shallow pool of water along the riverbank, so drunk he likely hadn’t felt the sting of death.

Every day for the past week, the girl had lay in wait on the outskirts of the village for the postman, who cycled in sporadically from the neighboring village. This morning, as soon as she spotted him, she darted out from her hiding place, startling him, and asked if there were any letters for her family. He had frowned and bit his cheek, his rheumy eyes considering her through his thick glasses. She could tell he felt sorry for her, but he was also peeved—she was asking for something only the Headman should receive. But she held his gaze without blinking. When he finally handed over the thick onionskin envelope addressed to her parents, he did so hastily, avoiding her eyes and pedaling away as quickly as he could.

Now, standing tall, her shoulders back, she strolls past the women at the riverbank. They glare at her. She can feel her heart flutter wildly in her breast, but she passes, straight as sugar cane, mutki on her head, as if she is going to the farmers well, two miles farther from the village, the only well she is allowed to use.

The gossip-eaters no longer whisper but shout to one another: There goes the Bad Luck Girl! The year she was born, locusts ate the wheat! Her older sister deserted her husband, never to be seen again! Shameless! That same year her mother went blind! And her father turned to drink! Disgraceful! Even the girl’s coloring is suspect. Only Angreji-walli have blue eyes. Does she even belong to us? To this village?

The girl has often wondered about this older sister they talk about. The one whose face she sees only as a shadow in her dreams, whose existence her parents have never acknowledged. The gossip-eaters say she left the village thirteen years ago. Why? Where did she go? How did she escape a place where the gossip-eaters watch your every move? Did she leave in the dead of night when the cows and goats were asleep? They say she stole money, but no one in the village has any money. How did she feed herself? Some say she dressed as a man so she wouldn’t be stopped on the road. Others say she ran off with a circus boy and was living as a nautch girl, dancing in the Pleasure District miles away in Agra.

Three days ago, old man Munchi with the game leg—her only friend in the village—warned her that if she didn’t vacate her hut, the Headman would insist she marry a widowed farmer or demand she leave the village.

There is nothing here for you now,” Munchiji had said. But how could she leave—a thirteen-year-old orphan girl with no family or money?

Munchiji said, “Have courage, bheti.” He told her where to find her brother-in-law, the husband her older sister had abandoned all those years ago, in a nearby village. Perhaps he could help her find her sister.

Why can’t I stay with you?” she had asked.

“It would not be proper,” the old man replied gently. He made his living painting images on the skeletons of peepal leaves. To console her, he’d given her a painting. Angry, she’d almost thrown it back at him until she saw that the image was of Lord Krishna, feeding a mango to his consort Radha, her namesake. It was the most beautiful gift she had ever received.

Radha slows as she approaches the village threshing ground. Four yoked bulls walk in circles around a large flat stone, grinding wheat. Prem, who cares for the bulls, is sitting with his back against the hut, asleep. Quietly, she hurries past him to the narrow path that leads to Ganesh-ji’s temple. The shrine has a slender opening and, inside, a statue of Lord Ganesh. Gifts are arranged around the Elephant God’s feet: a young coconut, marigolds, a small pot of ghee, slices of mango. A cone of sandalwood incense releases a languid curl of smoke.

The girl lays Munchiji’s painting of Krishna in front of Ganesh-ji, the Remover of All Obstacles, and begs him to remove the curse of The Bad Luck Girl.

By the time she reaches her brother-in-law’s village ten miles to the West, it is late afternoon and the sun has moved closer to the horizon. She is sweating through her cotton blouse. Her feet and ankles are dusty; her mouth dry.

She is cautious, entering the village. She crouches in shrubs and hides behind trees. She knows an alone girl will not be treated kindly. She searches for a man who looks like the one Munchiji described.

She sees him. There. Squatting under the banyan tree, facing her. Her brother-in-law.

He has thick, oily, coal-black hair. A long, bumpy scar snakes from his bottom lip to his chin. He is not young but neither is he old. His bush-shirt is spotted with curry and his dhoti is stained with dust.

Then she notices the woman squatting in the dirt in front of the man. She is supporting her elbow with one hand, her forearm dangling at an unnatural angle. Her head is completely covered with her pallu, and she is talking to the man in a quiet whisper. Radha watches, wondering if her brother-in-law has taken another wife.

She picks up a small stone and throws it at him. She misses. The second time, she hits him in the thigh, but he merely flicks his hand, as if swatting away an insect. He is listening intently to the woman. Radha throws more pebbles, managing to hit him several times. At last, he lifts his head and looks around him.

Radha steps into the clearing so he can see her.

His eyes widen, as if he is looking at a ghost. He says, “Lakshmi?”

Excerpted from The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi, Copyright © 2020 by Alka Joshi. Published by MIRA Books.

AUTHOR BIO

Alka Joshi is a graduate of Stanford University and received her M.F.A. from the California College of the Arts. She has worked as an advertising copywriter, a marketing consultant, and an illustrator. Alka was born in India, in the state of Rajasthan. Her family came to the United States when she was nine, and she now lives on California’s Monterey Peninsula with her husband and two misbehaving pups. The Henna Artist is her first novel. Visit her website and blog at thehennaartist.com

Visit her website and blog at thehennaartist.com

SOCIAL:

Author Website: https://thehennaartist.com/

TWITTER: @alkajoshi

FB: @alkajoshi2019

Insta: @thealkajoshi

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/18257842.Alka_Joshi

The Authenticity Project by Clare Pooley

**Thank you Penguin Random House Canada for my gifted copy **

Genre: Women’s Fiction

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

If you like:

✔ Multiple POV’s
✔ Newfound friendships, enemies to lovers
✔ Stories of personal growth

✔ Flawed characters

Yay! I did it! I finished the last book on my list for February! 🥳

This was a cute and charming read. The kind of book you can enjoy at a coffee shop. At one point, I actually felt like going to Monica’s Cafe, but had to remind myself that it was a fictitious place! Bummer!

I do have to be honest though..about a quarter way through the book was a bit slow and I started skimming a large chunk of it. However, the last 30-40% definitely pulled through for me and I loved the ending! Fair warning, it was a bit sad, but completely satisfying. You’d have to read it to know what I mean! 😜

MONICA

I swear I kept picturing Kate Beckinsale for some reason. I couldn’t help but want a happy ending for her. I also kept hoping she’d end up with Hazard.

HAZARD

Sure he was arrogant and an ass, but somehow I was still rootin for this guy to turn his life around.

JULIAN

Ahh..the ever eccentric Julian. I loved this old man! I feel like he’d be such a hoot to have at the dinner table.

RILEY

The Aussie with a beautiful soul! He WAS such a sweet boy ❤ Good man this one was.

ALICE

I think we could all relate to her on some level, whether you’re a mom or obsessing over your Instagram account.

LIZZIE

The nosy neighbour who wasn’t afraid to admit it either! I think we all have one of those! 😜

Overall, I enjoyed the concept of this story. I loved the six degrees of separation and idea of these characters being brought together by a journal called: The Authenticity Project.

Have you read it? Plan to read it?

Julian Jessop, an eccentric, lonely artist and septuagenarian believes that most people aren’t really honest with each other. But what if they were? And so he writes–in a plain, green journal–the truth about his own life and leaves it in his local café. It’s run by the incredibly tidy and efficient Monica, who furtively adds her own entry and leaves the book in the wine bar across the street. Before long, the others who find the green notebook add the truths about their own deepest selves–and soon find each other In Real Life at Monica’s Café.

The Authenticity Project’s cast of characters–including Hazard, the charming addict who makes a vow to get sober; Alice, the fabulous mommy Instagrammer whose real life is a lot less perfect than it looks online; and their other new friends–is by turns quirky and funny, heartbreakingly sad and painfully true-to-life. It’s a story about being brave and putting your real self forward–and finding out that it’s not as scary as it seems. In fact, it looks a lot like happiness.

The Shadow Between Us by Tricia Levenseller @RaincoastBooks @FierceReads

** Thank you Raincoast Books for my ARC **

Genre: YA
Pub Date: Feb 25, 2020

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐



If you like:

✔scheming, scandalous characters

✔a game of clue (murder mystery)

✔ Flirtatious, slow burn romances

✔character driven stories

“They’ve never found the body of the first and only boy who broke my heart.

And they never will.”


I knew from the start I was gonna like this one! I mean, come on. Is that not a killer opener or what?! (Pun intended) 😆

I loved Alessandra! She was the perfect MC: ambitious, cunning, beautiful and unapologetic about her sexuality. A bit of a black sheep.

Her relationship with The Shadow King kinda reminded me of Tella & Legend from the Caraval series.

While I really enjoyed this one, I also wanted to see a bit more action! Particularly from the Shadow King.  I wanted to see much more of his darker side and less of the daily happenings that took place at the palace.

Overall, it was a great standalone with an excellent cast of characters.  I can’t wait to read all her other books!

Have you read it? Is it on your tbr?  Have you read her other books? Alessandra is tired of being overlooked, but she has a plan to gain power:

1) Woo the Shadow King.
2) Marry him.
3) Kill him and take his kingdom for herself.

No one knows the extent of the freshly crowned Shadow King’s power. Some say he can command the shadows that swirl around him to do his bidding. Others say they speak to him, whispering the thoughts of his enemies. Regardless, Alessandra knows what she deserves, and she’s going to do everything within her power to get it.

But Alessandra’s not the only one trying to kill the king. As attempts on his life are made, she finds herself trying to keep him alive long enough for him to make her his queen—all while struggling not to lose her heart. After all, who better for a Shadow King than a cunning, villainous queen?

Darling Rose Gold by Stephanie Wrobel @stephwrobel @SimonSchusterCA @BerkleyPub

** Thank you Simon & Schuster Canada for my advanced readers copy, and to Berkley Pub for providing me with an eARC via Netgalley **

Genre: Psychological Thriller, Suspense

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐


Riddle me this: if I spent almost two decades abusing my daughter, why did she offer to pick me up today?If you like:

-Domestic dramas
-Suspense
-dysfunctional characters
-Alternating POV’s

HOT DAYMN! My first 5-star read of 2020 and book I can’t shut up about!!

I knew I was gonna love this one from the very first page! If it weren’t for the need to sleep or care for a baby and my kids, I seriously would have blew through this in one sitting!

I’m still at a loss for words cause I’m currently hungover from this one.  It’s hard for me to fully articulate my thoughts without giving away any spoilers.  But I will say this: if I wasn’t feeling sorry for these characters, I was hating them and loved every moment of it! It took cray cray to a whole other level.

This was an incredible debut. I cannot wait to see what Stephanie Wrobel brews up next!

Have you read it? Is it on your tbr?

For the first eighteen years of her life, Rose Gold Watts believed she was seriously ill. She was allergic to everything, used a wheelchair and practically lived at the hospital. Neighbors did all they could, holding fundraisers and offering shoulders to cry on, but no matter how many doctors, tests, or surgeries, no one could figure out what was wrong with Rose Gold.

Turns out her mom, Patty Watts, was just a really good liar.

After serving five years in prison, Patty gets out with nowhere to go and begs her daughter to take her in. The entire community is shocked when Rose Gold says yes.

Patty insists all she wants is to reconcile their differences. She says she’s forgiven Rose Gold for turning her in and testifying against her. But Rose Gold knows her mother. Patty Watts always settles a score.

Unfortunately for Patty, Rose Gold is no longer her weak little darling…

And she’s waited such a long time for her mother to come home.

[#BlogTour] Excerpt: Good Girls Lie by J.T Ellison @thrillerchick @HarlequinBooks

Good Girls Lie

Author: J.T. Ellison

ISBN: 9780778330776

Publication Date: 12/30/19

Publisher: MIRA Books

Buy Links:

Harlequin

Indiebound

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

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Target

Google

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Social Links:

Author Website

Twitter: @thrillerchick

Facebook: @JTEllison14

Instagram: @thrillerchick

Goodreads

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J.T. Ellison is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of more than 20 novels, and the EMMY-award winning co-host of A WORD ON WORDS, Nashville’s premier literary show. With millions of books in print, her work has won critical acclaim, prestigious awards, and has been published in 26 countries. Ellison lives in Nashville with her husband and twin kittens.

Perched atop a hill in the tiny town of Marchburg, Virginia, The Goode School is a prestigious prep school known as a Silent Ivy. The boarding school of choice for daughters of the rich and influential, it accepts only the best and the brightest. Its elite status, long-held traditions and honor code are ideal for preparing exceptional young women for brilliant futures at Ivy League universities and beyond. But a stranger has come to Goode, and this ivy has turned poisonous.

In a world where appearances are everything, as long as students pretend to follow the rules, no one questions the cruelties of the secret societies or the dubious behavior of the privileged young women who expect to get away with murder. But when a popular student is found dead, the truth cannot be ignored. Rumors suggest she was struggling with a secret that drove her to suicide.

But look closely…because there are truths and there are lies, and then there is everything that really happened.

J.T. Ellison’s pulse-pounding new novel examines the tenuous bonds of friendship, the power of lies and the desperate lengths people will go to to protect their secrets.

1

THE HANGING

The girl’s body dangles from the tall iron gates guarding the school’s entrance. A closer examination shows the ends of a red silk tie peeking out like a cardinal on a winter branch, forcing her neck into a brutal angle. She wears her graduation robe and multicolored stole as if knowing she’ll never see the achievement. It rained overnight and the thin robe clings to her body, dew sparkling on the edges. The last tendrils of dawn’s fog laze about her legs, which are five feet from the ground.

There is no breeze, no birds singing or squirrels industriously gathering for the long winter ahead, no cars passing along the street, only the cool, misty morning air and the gentle metallic creaking of the gates under the weight of the dead girl. She is suspended in midair, her back to the street, her face hidden behind a curtain of dirty, wet hair, dark from the rains.

Because of the damage to her face, it will take them some time to officially identify her. In the beginning, it isn’t even clear she attends the school, despite wearing The Goode School robes.

But she does.

The fingerprints will prove it. Of course, there are a few people who know exactly who is hanging from the school’s gates. Know who, and know why. But they will never tell. As word spreads of the apparent suicide, The Goode School’s all-female student body begin to gather, paying silent, terrified homage to their fallen compatriot. The gates are closed and locked—as they always are overnight—buttressed on either side by an ivy-covered, ten-foot-high, redbrick wall, but it tapers off into a knee-wall near the back entrance to the school parking lot, and so is escapable by foot. The girls of Goode silently filter out from the dorms, around the end of Old West Hall and Old East Hall to Front Street—the main street of Marchburg, the small Virginia town housing the elite prep school—and take up their positions in front of the gate in a wedge of crying, scared, worried young women who glance over shoulders looking for the one who is missing from their ranks. To reassure themselves this isn’t their friend, their sister, their roommate.

Another girl joins them, but no one notices she comes from the opposite direction, from town. She was not behind the redbrick wall.

Whispers rise from the small crowd, nothing loud enough to be overheard but forming a single question.

Who is it? Who?

A solitary siren pierces the morning air, the sound bleeding upward from the bottom of the hill, a rising crescendo. Someone has called the sheriff.

Goode perches like a gargoyle above the city’s small downtown, huddles behind its ivy-covered brick wall. The campus is flanked by two blocks of restaurants, bars, and necessary shops. The school’s buildings are tied together with trolleys—enclosed glass-and-wood bridges that make it easy for the girls to move from building to building in climate-controlled comfort. It is quiet, dignified, isolated. As are the girls who attend the school; serious, studious. Good. Goode girls are always good. They go on to great things.

The headmistress, or dean, as she prefers to call herself, Ford Julianne Westhaven, great-granddaughter several times removed from the founder of The Goode School, arrives in a flurry, her driver, Rumi, braking the family Bentley with a screech one hundred feet away from the gates. The crowd in the street blocks the car and, for a moment, the sight of the dangling girl. No one stops to think about why the dean might be off campus this early in the morning. Not yet, anyway.

Dean Westhaven rushes out of the back of the dove-gray car and runs to the crowd, her face white, lips pressed firmly together, eyes roving. It is a look all the girls at Goode recognize and shrink from.

The dean’s irritability is legendary, outweighed only by her kindness. It is said she alone approves every application to the school, that she chooses the Goode girls by hand for their intelligence, their character. Her say is final. Absolute. But for all her goodness, her compassion, her kindness, Dean Westhaven has a temper.

She begins to gather the girls into groups, small knots of natural blondes and brunettes and redheads, no fantastical dye allowed. Some shiver in oversize school sweatshirts and running shorts, some are still in their pajamas. The dean is looking for the chick missing from her flock. She casts occasional glances over her shoulder at the grim scene behind her. She, too, is unsure of the identity of the body, or so it seems. Perhaps she simply doesn’t want to acknowledge the truth.

The siren grows to an earsplitting shriek and dies midrange, a soprano newly castrated. The deputies from the sheriff’s office have arrived, the sheriff hot on their heels. Within moments, they cordon off the gates, move the students back, away, away. One approaches the body, cataloging; another begins taking discreet photographs, a macabre paparazzi.

They speak to Dean Westhaven, who quietly, breathlessly, admits she hasn’t approached the body and has no idea who it might be.

She is lying, though. She knows. Of course, she knows. It was inevitable.

The sheriff, six sturdy feet of muscle and sinew, approaches the gate and takes a few shots with his iPhone. He reaches for the foot of the dead girl and slowly, slowly turns her around.

The eerie morning silence is broken by the words, soft and gasping, murmurs moving sinuously through the crowd of girls, their feet shuffling in the morning chill, the fog’s tendrils disappearing from around the posts.

They say her name, an unbroken chain of accusation and misery.

Ash.

Ash.

Ash.

2

THE LIES

There are truths, and there are lies, and then there is everything that really happened, which is where you and I will meet. My truth is your lie, and my lie is your truth, and there is a vast expanse between them.

Take, for example, Ash Carlisle.

Six feet tall, glowing skin, a sheaf of blond hair in a ponytail. She wears black jeans with rips in the knees and a loose greenand-white plaid button-down with white Adidas Stan Smiths; casual, efficient travel clothes. A waiter delivers a fresh cup of tea to her nest in the British Airways first-class lounge, and when she smiles her thanks, he nearly drops his tray—so pure and happy is that smile. The smile of an innocent.

Or not so innocent? You’ll have to decide that for yourself. Soon.

She’s perfected that smile, by the way. Practiced it. Stood in the dingy bathroom of the flat on Broad Street and watched herself in the mirror, lips pulling back from her teeth over and over and over again until it becomes natural, until her eyes sparkle and deep dimples appear in her cheeks. It is a full-toothed smile, her teeth straight and blindingly white, and when combined with the china-blue eyes and naturally streaked blond hair, it is devastating.

Isn’t this what a sociopath does? Work on their camouflage? What better disguise is there than an open, thankful, gracious smile? It’s an exceptionally dangerous tool, in the right hands.

And how does a young sociopath end up flying first class, you might ask? You’ll be assuming her family comes from money, naturally, but let me assure you, this isn’t the case. Not at all. Not really. Not anymore.

No, the dean of the school sent the ticket.

Why?

Because Ash Carlisle leads a charmed life, and somehow managed to hoodwink the dean into not only paying her way but paying for her studies this first term, as well. A full scholarship, based on her exemplary intellect, prodigy piano playing, and sudden, extraordinary need. Such a shame she lost her parents so unexpectedly.

Yes, Ash is smart. Smart and beautiful and talented, and capable of murder. Don’t think for a moment she’s not. Don’t let her fool you.

Sipping the tea, she types and thinks, stops to chew on a nail, then reads it again. The essay she is obsessing over gained her access to the prestigious, elite school she is shipping off to. The challenges ahead—transferring to a new school, especially one as impossible to get into as The Goode School—frighten her, excite her, make her more determined than ever to get away from Oxford, from her past.

A new life. A new beginning. A new chapter for Ash.

But can you ever escape your past?

Ash sets down the tea, and I can tell she is worrying again about fitting in. Marchburg, Virginia—population five hundred on a normal summer day, which expands to seven hundred once the students arrive for term—is a long way from Oxford, England. She worries about fitting in with the daughters of the DC elite—daughters of senators and congressmen and ambassadors and reporters and the just plain filthy rich. She can rely on her looks—she knows how pretty she is, isn’t vain about it, exactly, but knows she’s more than acceptable on the looks scale—and on her intelligence, her exceptional smarts. Some would say cunning, but I think this is a disservice to her. She’s both booksmart and street-smart, the rarest of combinations. Despite her concerns, if she sticks to the story, she will fit in with no issues.

The only strike against her, of course, is me, but no one knows about me.

No one can ever know about me.

Mini Reviews: Something For you & It’s Okay To be A Unicorn

** Thank you Macmillan Kids Books for our ARC’s **

Genre: Children’s Fiction

Something For You by Charlie Mylie

Munckin Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Mouse’s friend is sick and wants to do something nice for her. So he goes out to try and find a gift that will help cheer her up.

This was a cute little story to teach kids that you don’t always need gifts to make someone happy.

It serves as a great reminder to be thankful for what you have and to appreciate the people in your life.

It’s the thought that counts!

It’s Okay To Be A Unicorn by Jason Tharp

Munchkin Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Did someone say unicorn?! We love unicorns! Especially my 3 year old, so this was the perfect read!

This was a really fun way to teach kids kindness and to embrace diversity. It’s ok to be different.

Serpent & Dove by Shelby Mahurin @shelbymahurin @harperteen @HarperCollinsCa @HCCFrenzy

** Caution: minor spoiler alert **

Genre: YA

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ 1/2

You’ll either love this, or totally roll your eyes and call it a day. But if you enjoyed Six of Crows, Twilight or like the enemies to lovers trope then I think you’ll like this one too.

Not gonna lie, there was a bit of eye rolling on my part. As much as I loved the slow-burn romance between Lou & Reid, I also found their union a bit ridiculous..like watching a cheesy, yet addictive daytime soap. It does end up making sense later on in the story, but it was something I also had to overlook. Which wasn’t that hard.

Regardless, I found myself captivated and mesmerized by the storytelling, which is told in alternating POV’s between Lou & Reid. It read very much like a TV series.

Shelby Mahurin really knows how to write a great cast of characters. I loved every single one of ’em, including the ones I hated!

Jean Luc

For those of you who have read it, how much did Jean Luc get under your skin? Didn’t you just wanna sucker punch him?!

Ansel

*gush* And how cute was Ansel? Didn’t you just love him?!!

Reid

As thick headed as he was in his beliefs, his heart was way too good!

Lou

She was a great female lead. I loved her sarcasm and witty banter with Reid.

Coco

She was the kind of BFF you’d want, with beauty other girls would be jealous of.

Morgane

Evil! Picture the evil queen, Lady Tremaine & Maleficent all in one person.

The Archbishop

Tsk tsk..let’s just leave it at that. I don’t wanna say too much or it’ll spoil the story for those who haven’t read it.

My advice/two cents:

– This one is very character driven. The flow is reminiscent of SOC. It may be a tad slow for some to start, but once you get past the first chapter or so, you get sucked right in.

I can’t wait to read the next book: BLOOD & HONEY

Have you read this one? What did you think?

Goodreads

Bound as one to love, honor, or burn.

Two years ago, Louise le Blanc fled her coven and took shelter in the city of Cesarine, forsaking all magic and living off whatever she could steal. There, witches like Lou are hunted. They are feared. And they are burned.

Sworn to the Church as a Chasseur, Reid Diggory has lived his life by one principle: thou shalt not suffer a witch to live. His path was never meant to cross with Lou’s, but a wicked stunt forces them into an impossible union—holy matrimony.

The war between witches and Church is an ancient one, and Lou’s most dangerous enemies bring a fate worse than fire. Unable to ignore her growing feelings, yet powerless to change what she is, a choice must be made.

And love makes fools of us all.

The Institute by Stephen King #TheInstitute

Genre: Horror, Sci-Fi

Oiy..I had to take some time to think about this one, cause I’m a big fan of Stephen King’s previous books and movies, and this is sitting between a 3.5 to 4 stars.

This was part of a buddy/group read on Instagram, so I’m gonna keep this one spoiler free since I finished before everyone else..couldn’t help myself! I was in need-to-know mode.

The story starts off slow (like most of King’s previous books), but picks up at Shots For Dots.

What didn’t work for me..

The story lost momentum at the very end. For me, the last 40% of the book was the best part.

What I enjoyed most..

The setting and characters. Stephen King always knows how to set the stage and create the perfect cast of characters. Some of which, I grew very fond of.

If you’re planning to read this one, here are just some of my two cents:

– If you enjoyed Eleven’s story in season 1 of Stranger Things, you’ll most likely enjoy this as well.

– If you’ve never read any of King’s work, his stories are slow burn with a lot of character building. So that’ll either be something you enjoy or don’t. But if you’re new to his world, this is probably a good one to get your feet wet with, especially if you don’t care for horror.

For my horror & King fans: don’t expect to get scared with one. I would classify this as Sci-Fi and NOT horror.

Overall, it was a good read that kept me entertained and wanting to know what was going to happen next.

In the middle of the night, in a house on a quiet street in suburban Minneapolis, intruders silently murder Luke Ellis’s parents and load him into a black SUV. The operation takes less than two minutes. Luke will wake up at The Institute, in a room that looks just like his own, except there’s no window. And outside his door are other doors, behind which are other kids with special talents—telekinesis and telepathy—who got to this place the same way Luke did: Kalisha, Nick, George, Iris, and ten-year-old Avery Dixon. They are all in Front Half. Others, Luke learns, graduated to Back Half, “like the roach motel,” Kalisha says. “You check in, but you don’t check out.”

In this most sinister of institutions, the director, Mrs. Sigsby, and her staff are ruthlessly dedicated to extracting from these children the force of their extranormal gifts. There are no scruples here. If you go along, you get tokens for the vending machines. If you don’t, punishment is brutal. As each new victim disappears to Back Half, Luke becomes more and more desperate to get out and get help. But no one has ever escaped from the Institute.

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