ARC REVIEW: Ashlords – Scott Reintgen

42281865Title: Ashlords
Author: Scott Reintgen
Rating: ★★★½

ARC provided by the publisher through NetGalley. 

What is this book about? Ashlords follows the point of views of three characters from three very different backgrounds as they enter an annual competitive race featuring phoenix horses. Is it as awesome as the premise sounds? Yes.

What did I like? The premise of Ashlords is unlike any other I’ve read. Scott Reintgen did such an amazing job creating the plot and the world in this book. The entire concept of phoenix horses and using alchemy to rebirth different breeds of the horses was so well-developed and extremely interesting. Once I got into the meat of the novel, it was hard to pull my attention from its pages.

I also really loved the characters. The story follows three different protagonists from very different backgrounds. Ashlords focuses on more than just the horse race, but also on the political intrigue and the unrest brewing between the different people of the empire. The characters–Imelda, Adrian, and Pippa–become important pieces in the war and revolution to come.

What didn’t I like? Pippa’s POV was told through second person, which was hard for me to get into in the beginning of the book, but after a while I became accustomed to reading her chapters. I understand that it was done to help distinguish from the other POVs, but Scott Reintgen did such a great job making each voice unique that I didn’t think it was necessary.

Overall thoughts: Ashlords was a fun, fast-moving story about phoenix horses, a troubled empire, and meddlesome gods. Once the plot got going, it was hard to put this down and I’m looking forward to reading the sequel!

REVIEW: Husband Material – Emily Belden (ARC)

42867745._SY475_Title: Husband Material
Author: Emily Belden
Rating: DNF @ 58%

ARC provided by the publisher through Netgalley. 

Unfortunately, I had to call it quits shortly after the halfway mark. I skimmed quite a few parts from the remainder of the book, so I have a fairly good idea of what happens and I’m sorry to say that had I finished it, my final opinion would have been just as bad.

What is this book about? Husband Material follows our protagonist, Charlotte, a widow who lost her husband five years ago from a freak accident. She’s made a new life for herself in LA, however, a misfortunate event causes the ashes of her deceased husband to appear at her front door five years later, along with the reappearance of his best friend. Do not let the fact that this book keeps showing up under the romance genre; Husband Material is a not a feel-good, lighthearted romance novel. I sort of feel like I misled in that aspect? Instead, the story is about grief, secrets, and forgiveness.

What did I like? Charlotte was a pretty decent character. I really felt for her throughout the story and the incredible circumstances she’s had to overcome.

What didn’t I like? The first issue I had was the overly descriptive writing. There were so many unnecessary specifics and I felt like the author kept name-dropping expensive brands just for the sake of it. A lot of time in the book was spent describing every little detail of the book and characters; I don’t need to know the color, type, and label of the pajamas the character was wearing – just say she was in pajamas in move on!

The “love interest” – if you could even call him that – was terrible. There was absolutely zero chemistry between him and Charlotte and I could not for the life of me even figure out why she would be with him or even like him?? There were hardly any genuine moments of tension or buildup between the two of them to convince me of any kind of feelings. Not to mention that he is a thief and a liar and a terrible person!! The title of this book is ironic because he is most decidedly NOT husband material.

Overall thoughts: Husband Material has been marketed as a romance book and so I was expecting an entirely different kind of novel. Regardless, between the overly descriptive writing and the horrible “love interest” this was not something I wanted to continue to read and ended up quitting halfway.

REVIEW: To Love and to Hoax – Martha Waters (ARC)

48341787._SY475_Title: To Love and to Hoax
Author: Martha Waters
Rating: ★★★★★

ARC provided by the publisher through NetGalley. 

Had the publisher not reached out to me about this book, it probably would have missed my radar altogether. I haven’t seen the title on any upcoming lists, I hadn’t hear of this debut author, and in all honesty, one look at that cover and I would have skipped right over this (please can it get a makeover?). That being said, I am extremely thankful that I received that email about this upcoming rom-com, otherwise I would have missed out on this brilliantly written, laugh-out-loud funny, hate-to-love story.

What is this book about? To Love and to Hoax is a the best of two genres: rom-com meets historical romance. After an argument led to a falling out between them and cold detachment between the couple for the past four years, James and Violet begin a series of hoaxes and manipulation in the attempt to up-stage one another while insisting there are no feelings left between them. To Love and to Hoax is a second-chance romance story full of pranks, miscommunication, and a plethora of angst and sexual tension. Basically, everything I love best.

What did I like? Everything. I found both James and Violet to be delightful characters, each with their own problems that need to be worked through, and I loved watching their character growth both separately and has a couple. The antics the two of them create with the intention of vexing the other spouse were childish, yet totally believable. Although I am not married myself, I have heard from others on more than one occasion the kind of immaturity people get up to with their spouses that stem from a place of miscommunication and frustration.

The book also had a cast of lovely side characters! I’m really hoping the author decides to continue writing stories about James and Violet’s friends; I’d especially love a story about West and Sophie or Jeremy and Diana! Martha Waters is a debut author, but her writing was absolutely spectacular. I really look forward to reading more from her in the future.

What didn’t I like? Honestly, the only thing I didn’t enjoy about the novel is the cover. Literally that’s it.

Overall thoughts: I loved everything about this: the clever plot, the superb writing, the steamy romance, and the the humor. Martha Waters has written a fantastic hate-to-love rekindled romance that I’m so thankful was brought to my attention by the publisher. I really do think the book needs a new cover however, if only because a lot of people judge books by the cover (even though we swear we don’t) and I truly believe a revamped cover will up this book get the attention that it deserves.

REVIEW: Relic – Bronwyn Eley (ARC)

46218744._SY475_.jpgTitle: Relic (The Relic Trilogy: Book 1)
Author: Bronwyn Eley
Rating: ★★★½

ARC provided by the publisher.

Relic is the first book in a new fantasy trilogy that is sure to impress many readers, myself included. With a strong heroine, excellent worldbuilding, and a very interesting premise, this was one heck of an entertaining story!

The premise of Relic felt really unique and fascinating, which is what originally drew me to the story. The book follows our protagonist, Kaylan, who has been chosen to be the next shadow: a personal servant to the Lord whom basically absorbs all the negative energy and pain given off by their magical relic. The worldbuilding present in the Relic was truly excellent. It was so easy to understand how the world worked without feeling confused or overwhelmed. Bronwyn Eley did a great job with placing the necessary pieces into the story and avoiding any information dumping.

I found Kaylan to be an excellent heroine! She was smart, caring, and resilient. Family and friendships mean a lot to her and are a central part of the story. She showed a lot of grit and determination in trying to solve her predicament, unwilling to simply roll over and accept her fate. I also thought she was very astute and made good decisions. For instance, when learning about a rebellion brewing, rather than joining forces with them straight away, she makes note of the negative consequences that rebelling could have on citizens. I loved that aspect! In many YA books, the hero/heroine jump ship to the rebels without even stopping to think if they were truly any better, or to at least weigh the pros/cons first. Bronwyn Eley excelled with that part of the book.

Overall, I thought Relic was a great debut fantasy book! I really enjoyed the main character and the premise of the story. This is the first book in a trilogy and I look forward to seeing what happens next!

REVIEW: The Girl the Sea Gave Back – Adrienne Young (ARC)

42867937Title: The Girl the Sea Gave Back
Author: Adrienne Young
Rating: ★★★½

ARC received by the publisher through a giveaway.

Sky in the Deep quickly became one of my favorite books after I finished reading it, and so The Girl the Sea Gave Back was something I was highly anticipating. Adrienne Young continues to be a wonderful storyteller and has crafter another novel full of strong characters and powerful writing, however it’s quite capture my attention the same way Sky in the Deep did.

The Girl the Sea Gave Back is a companion novel rather than a sequel to Sky in the Deep, so it is entirely possible to read this alone. I absolutely loved the Viking-inspired world Adrienne Young created in her previous work and she does an amazing job expanding on that world even more in this one with the introduction of new clans and traditions.

As for the rest of the book, it fell kind of flat. And trust me, no one is more disappointed that I didn’t enjoy this that much as I am. The majority of the book had very little action and didn’t seem to be going anywhere. It was missing a lot of the tension and angst that made Sky in the Deep so compelling.

I also didn’t connect as much to the characters. I really enjoyed Halvard and his point of view, but for some reason I couldn’t seem to connect with Tova. I will say that I really enjoyed how Adrienne Young handled the romance aspect (if you can even call it that?). There were many times when she could have pushed those characters together romantically, however, I’m glad she avoided that because it would have come off as forced and inorganic. Although, she does give a teaser at the end of the story that hints towards a possibility of something!

The Girl the Sea Gave Back was missing many of the captivating elements found in Sky in the Deep, and I was supremely disappointed that I couldn’t love this more. This was a very slow moving story without a lot of action or payoff that didn’t keep my attention. Adrienne Young is an amazing writer and I look forward to more stories from her in the future!