ARC Review: Act Your Age, Eve Brown

Talia gave us Chloe Brown’s book, then Dani’s. Now it’s youngest Brown sister Eve’s turn, and I was excited to get stuck in to the final book in one of my favourite romance series. This book is grumpy and sunshine at his best, Eve is probably the sister that I relate to the most, and it has neurodiversity representation.

Star rating: 5 stars

Eve can’t seem to stick with one career. She doesn’t really know what she wants to do with her life. Her latest attempt at wedding planning was fun but an incident with some doves leads to a bad review, putting an end to that one. Her parents are very frustrated and give her an ultimatum. Eve, furious, leaves the house and finds her way to a B&B – which happens to be looking for a new chef. Is it meant to be?

Jacob put his heart and soul into his B&B, but when his chef wins the lottery and leaves him stranded before a big event, he starts looking for a new one. Then Eve Brown walks into his life with her sunshine attitude. He thinks she’ll be an absolute disaster, but when an accident leaves him indisposed, he has little choice in the matter but to hire her…

Honestly, I loved the characters in this book so much – Eve in particular. I related to her struggles in passing her driving test, having to listen to music to concentrate, fear of failure and difficulty making friends. She also cares a lot about people and has a really strong empathetic nature. Jacob is also the perfect grumpy in the pairing – I loved his passion for the B&B, how he did so much to make his guests comfortable (even offering weighted blankets which was a nice touch). He’s also really comfortable with his autism diagnosis.

The romance is probably my favourite of the series! I love how considerate the characters are towards each other. Both characters get a point of view and I enjoyed both. The plot is also good – not too much drama which is always appreciated. It was good to have Chloe and Dani cameos too, I miss those two and now I want to re-read.

Overall, a perfect final book in this trilogy and probably my favourite overall. I was so happy that it also had autistic representation, especially in women. I wish their was a fourth Brown sister because I’m really not ready for this to be over!

Have you read any of the Brown sister books? I love them all, if you like adult romance you should definitely check them out.

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Book Review: The Switch

The Switch is a heart-warming contemporary novel with some romance, but it’s about much more than falling in love. It follows a Grandma – Granddaughter duo who have both lost their way a little through the tragic loss of a family member. The two decide to swap places for two months which forms the basis of the plot.

Star rating: 5 stars

After Leena loses her sister to cancer, she’s falling apart and using work to escape. But once anxiety driven disaster (oh Leena, I relate), her boss sends her on two months leave. Eileen, Leena’s Grandma, is single after her useless husband cheated on her. Now it’s time to move on, but the dating scene in rural Yorkshire really isn’t looking all that appealing.

When Leena visits her Grandma, the two decide to switch places – Leena will take over Eileen’s duties in the small village community, and Eileen will live with Leena’s flatmates in London. During the two month life swap, both women learn new things about themselves and each other, and bring a different perspective to the new people they befriend.

I absolutely adored both points of view. This is a really hopeful family story, and I loved the close relationship between Leena and Eileen. The side characters are also wonderful – both the oldies in Eileen’s village that Leena gets to know, and Leena’s friends back in London who are charmed by Eileen.

The romances in the book are also really, really sweet. I saw both coming from a mile away but it was so, so cute. I loved how the romance didn’t dominate the story though, there is so much more to it than that including the importance of family and friendship, and learning to live with loss and grief. There’s even a domestic abuse story, that shows that abuse is not age-confined in the slightest.

Overall, a charming book that made me laugh and cry, that has humour amongst it’s serious moments. I honestly think most people would enjoy this story, it reminded me of my own family during a time when I can’t visit them.

Have you read any Beth O’Leary books? After enjoying The Switch and The Flatshare, I’m really excited for The Road Trip.

ARC Review: Winter’s Orbit

This was a science-fiction romance novel that I didn’t know I needed. Everina Maxwell has created an excellent book with a rich military and political influence – I very much enjoyed the small details included. The romance is cute, the plot is fast-paced and intriguing and the characters are just out of this world.

Star rating: 5 stars

Kiem is the prince with a reputation for partying in causing trouble. He’s all over the news for his outrageous antics, but he uses his people and diplomacy skills to get himself out of trouble. One day, the Emperor, his grandmother, arranges a marriage for him to a representative from the planet Thea, in order to save a treaty. Jainan is the exact opposite of Kiem – he’s academic, socially awkward and quiet. He lost his previous husband and has to marry Kiem to save the treaty that keeps Thea part of the Iskat Empire. Will it be the case of opposites attract?

I really loved the way this book handled sexuality – each culture had their own way of expressing gender which was super cool. It was up to the people to choose what they expressed and nobody challenged it. The romance is also adorable – these two guys are absolute disasters but both of them are so cute in their own way.

The plot is very fast-paced and includes plenty of opportunities for Kiem and Jainan to showcase their unique skills. I loved how the characters supported each other’s differences. The side characters are also great – I particularly enjoyed Bel, who is Kiem’s personal aide. She was very no nonsense and definitely kept Kiem in check!

Overall this is a really heartwarming story, though it does contain some darker elements such as domestic abuse. I really liked the integration of military with politics, it made for a realistic alternative universe. Really happy I got approved for this arc, I wasn’t expecting it to be quite this good!

ARC Review: Liberté

I was super excited for the sequel to Enchantée by Gita Trelease and I felt like this follow up was as strong as the first book. The book has a more feminist focus than the debut, re-uniting us with Camille, Sophie and Lazare whilst also introducing new characters in The Lost Girls. In a world where France has ordered all magicians to be killed, Camille must do what she can to survive.

Star rating: 4 stars

After the events of book one, Camille and Sophie are living in Seguin’s mansion, no longer struggling to find food and pay rent. Sophie is still making hats that are in demand across the aristocrats, and Camille finally has her printing press. One day, Camille saves a flower seller, Giselle, from a man who wishes to hurt her. After this, she is introduced to The Lost Girls.

I really enjoyed the introduction of The Lost Girls and the stories that Camille prints about them. Their story made for a good plotline in addition to the magician hunting too. I wish The Lost Girls had a larger role to play in the story!

Gita writes so beautifully – I loved the continuation of the romance between Camille and Lazare. The other side characters also return such as Chandan and Blaise. There are some really heartbreaking moments in the story, amplified by Camille’s strong emotions.

Overall, this was a solid finale to this duology (at least I think it’s a duology, it wrapped up very neatly). I enjoyed the ending a lot, and can’t wait to see what else Gita writes in the future.

ARC Review: Winterkeep

When I found out Kristin Cashore was releasing another book in the world of the Graceling series I was ecstatic – it was one of my favourite series as a teen, with Fire still being on my all time faves list. So, what did I think of Winterkeep? Well, I read all 500 pages in one sitting, that’s what.

Star rating: 5 stars

Winterkeep expands the universe the series is set in, through new lands to explore and a mix of new and old characters. We are re-united with Queen Bitterblue (5 years after Bitterblue the book ended) and Giddon, and introduced to Lovisa, a teen from Winterkeep.

After two of her men go missing, Bitterblue and Giddon head to Winterkeep for the first time – a nation that has advanced technology beyond their wildest dreams. What happened to her men? What can she learn? Will she see her ex-lover Katu over there since he hasn’t been in touch?

Lovisa is a new character – she’s studying politics at Winterkeep’s school being the daughter of two prominent politicians, uniquely from opposing political parties. I enjoyed Lovisa’s character, but I won’t say too much because of spoilers.

My absolute favourite part of this book was its love of animals and the environment. There are telepathic foxes (one even gets a point of view), seal like creatures called silbercows that can communicate through images, cats, poodles and farm animals. I loved it, it was so comforting and made me happy cry in places.

So while I may have not had the same attachment to the characters as I did in Graceling and Fire before this, I loved the world-building so much. Overall, this is such a great follow up in one of my favourite series (thank you Kristin!)

Book Review: Allegedly

After loving Monday’s Not Coming I just had to try the other audiobook of Tiffany D. Jackson that my library had. That book is Allegedly, her debut. It is a Young Adult mystery / thriller with very, very dark themes, and it worked well in audio format. Did I really expect to pick up a book about a girl that allegedly killed a baby when she was nine years old? Not really. Do I regret it? Absolutely not.

Star rating: 4 stars

Mary B. Addison killed a baby when she was just 9 years old, or so they think. She lived in baby jail for 6 years, before ending up in a group home with other girls that committed crimes of varying severity. The book delves into Mary’s past through various interviews and records from after she killed Alyssa, along with Mary’s only reflections on what happened. I loved this multiple source approach to Mary’s character, it was difficult to tell what the truth was.

Mary has a complicated relationship with her mother, and this is one of the main things the book centres on. She was often neglected as a child, and her mother had an abusive boyfriend who assaulted Mary too. Mary’s mother visits her every couple of weeks at the group home, displaying signs of mental illness.

Group home life isn’t easy for Mary – her story is famous (there are books about it and it is studied in law schools) so the other girls don’t like her. She spends her time reading and prepping for the SATs, hoping to make a better life for herself despite her criminal record. She also volunteers at a nursing home, where she meets Ted, her secret boyfriend (a very morally grey boyfriend, to be honest).

At the beginning of the book, Mary finds out she’s pregnant and it changes her mindset on what she was accused of as a child, wanting to prove herself innocent so her child is not taken away from her. Mary meets sympathisers and haters throughout the story and I found myself as a reader torn about her character. The book is really thought-provoking in terms of personal morals and ethics.

Overall this is an exceptional debut, and I appreciated the story being told through audio. It was a bit long and repetitive at times, but I was really desperate to know what the ending would be!

Thanks for reading, hope everyone is doing well. I’m in lockdown again, which means working from home a lot. Keep safe.

Book Review: Monday’s Not Coming

So in true jump straight into your goals, I listened to an audiobook from the library! We won’t mention that I listened to a 10 hour audiobook in ten days but this one was really addictive and I enjoyed the narration which is a rarity. Monday’s Not Coming is a crime / mystery YA novel by Tiffany D. Jackson. It includes grief, child abuse, and the realities of friendship in your teens.

Star rating: 5 stars

When Claudia’s best friend Monday doesn’t turn up at school, she’s really confused. There’s no answer when she calls her, and the school office says she’s not a registered student anymore. But Claudia and Monday have always been inseparable, so Claudia begins to worry but nobody else seems to care.

What follows is split into 3 parts. The Before (when Monday is missing but before Claudia knows why), The After, and Before the Before, exploring Claudia’s friendship with Monday. It was really clear which time period was which in the audiobook which I really appreciated.

The two girls have grown up in two vastly different environments – Claudia’s parents are protective and supportive and she’s an only child. Monday has lots of siblings, her Mom is a single parent and Claudia’s never been to her place. The book shows the inequality through Claudia’s young eyes, who doesn’t really understand why her friend is the way she is. Claudia even imagines that Monday has her own bedroom with nice decoration, which couldn’t be further from the truth. Nobody cares when girls like Monday disappear. Claudia tries to explain her worries to so many adults throughout the book, and none really give her the time of day. But when Claudia is missing for a few hours, her parents have the whole church out looking for her.

Claudia ends up talking to Monday’s older sister April a fair bit, and starts to wonder if she knew Monday at all. Monday had to mature so much quicker than Claudia and her experiences are really traumatic. I think everything Claudia discovers is even more damaging to her mental health because she’s so sheltered and innocent.

Overall this is a shocking book that is just so sad. Reading it you just want to slap all of the adults who don’t care. Girls going missing shouldn’t be normal, and they shouldn’t be ignored. I think listening to the audiobook made it even more emotional for me as the narrator had such a young voice.

Have you read any books by Tiffany D. Jackson? I really want to pick up Grown at some point, hopefully my library gets it soon because I’d like to listen to it.

Goals for 2021

Welcome to 2021! It’s going to be my first full year of Toastie Books and I’m excited to get cracking. I thought I’d talk about my goals for 2021 with you guys now.

Goodreads Challenge

So 2020 was my best reading year yet but I’ve set my Goodreads Challenge at 150 books. This is because I’d like to try and do things other than read – I want to learn how to do hand lettering, I need to go on more walks, and maybe try some new video games

150 books

Library!

So I did join my local library in 2020, but my phone couldn’t handle the app. It occurred to me that since I now have a new phone, I should try and use the online library services more! In the UK, that means I’ve downloaded Borrow Box, where my library lets me have 5 eBook loans and 5 Audiobook loans at any one time.

Audiobooks

OK, so I have never really been into Audiobooks – the only one that was bearable to me was Becoming by Michelle Obama. BUT I’d like to try more, using the library app in particular as it will allow me to try Audiobooks for free and return them if I don’t get on with them.

Blogging

I had a good year of blogging in 2020. This year I think I’d like to make sure I write a blog length review for all eARCs that I give 4 or more stars. I tend to review only the best books on this blog as I’d like it to be positive. I’d also like to post one book review a week.

NetGalley

I currently have 11 NetGalley books that I need to read. I think for this year, I’d just like to keep my feedback percentage at 80% and make sure I keep on top of publishing reviews to Amazon, Goodreads and other sites.

Non-Fiction

I set myself a challenge to read one Non-Fiction book per month every year. Despite having read loads of books in 2020, I didn’t keep up with this. So the goal remains for 2021 and hopefully I will be successful this time.

Diversity

I actually read a lot of diverse books in 2020, so I’d like to carry on doing the same, and maybe even increase the diversity of the books I read even more. I should do better and blogging and tweeting about them too.

So, that’s the end of my goals post. What do you think, do you think I can achieve them? What are your goals for 2021?

End of Year Review: 2020

Hello there! It’s my first end of year review. It’s been a wild ride since I started Toastie Books back in August and I’ve really enjoyed joining such a great book blogging community. So, be prepared for some Goodreads and WordPress stats for 2020.

Goodreads

Shortest Book: The Pale Dreamer by Samantha Shannon (90 pages)

Longest Book: House of Earth and Blood by Sarah J Maas (803 pages)

Average Book Length: 391 pages

Total Pages Read: 104, 923

Total Books Read:

268

I read more books than I ever have in a year in 2020, and probably ever will again given the unusual circumstances. The most popular book I read was Twilight by Stephanie Meyer (haha), and the least was Making Relationships Work at Work by Richard Fox.

Average Rating: 4.2 Stars

Average rating is up from 4.1 Stars last year (the first year I tracked every book I read on Goodreads). I think this is pretty good! It means I read a lot of great books this year.

WordPress

Number of Blog Posts: 90

Total Words Written: 39, 532

Average Words Per Post: 439

Average Likes Per Post: 37

Average Comments Per Post: 7.4

Total Likes: 3,333

Total Comments: 546

Followers:

391

Views:

6, 410

Visitors:

2, 732

Honestly I can’t even begin to describe how insane this is for me. When I started this blog in August I had no idea I’d have 391 followers at the end of the year. That’s like 3 times as many as I have on Twitter – wild.

My Top Posts

Most Views:

  1. ARC Review: The Burning God (162 views)
  2. Book Review: The Starless Sea (139 views)
  3. Monthly Wrap-Up: August 2020 (110 views)

Most Likes:

  1. Book Review: The Starless Sea (68 likes)
  2. Book Review: A Deadly Education (60 likes)
  3. Monthly Wrap-Up: August 2020 (56 likes)

So, there we have it, some statistics for 2020!

Thank you to everyone who supported my blog this year, I really do appreciate all of your views, likes and comments. I hope I recommended some good books for you this year, I sure did get some good recommendations from you guys!

Monthly Wrap-Up: December 2020

Hi everyone! Welcome to my December monthly wrap-up post. I am sure these will evolve over time, but for now I’ll include Book Coven book club, fave books you can buy now, books to look out for and books I want to read soon. December has been speedy with work, Christmas and plenty of annual leave. I’ve been listening to Evermore on repeat too, it’s been fun.

Book Club

Every month the mods of the Book Coven get us to suggest books that make up the book club bracket. We then vote all the way through to a final, and that’s the book we read together over the course of 3 weeks. Then the amazing Paragraphs and Pages asks us some super insightful questions and off we go. This month the club read Written in the Stars by Alexandria Bellefleur which I thought was OK, but didn’t fall in love with.

Next month we are reading one of the following (still waiting to finish the vote!):

  1. Grown by Tiffany D. Jackson
  2. The Bone Shard Daughter by Andrea Stewart
  3. Soulswift by Megan Bannen
  4. These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong

Favourites

I read some awesome books this month – including a re-read of A Court of Mist and Fury and A Court of Wings and Ruin which I adored. A standout for me though was definitely The Midnight Library by Matt Haig, which absolutely has made my favourites of all time list.

I re-read The Fifth Season by N.K Jemisin, and it’s sequel The Obelisk Gate. Both of them are fascinating reads that blend science fiction and fantasy in an excellent way. I definitely enjoyed the first book more but I’m very excited to read the last book because the second one set it up perfectly!

I also re-read The Never Tilting Word to follow it up with The Ever Cruel Kingdom by Rin Chupeco. This is an excellent duology with 4 points of view – I couldn’t recommend it any more! I think this is my favourite Rin Chupeco series now.

Finally, I read We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal. This one got a solid four stars for it’s great characters.

Books to Look Out For

I did read some eARCs this month – my favourite being The Galaxy, and The Ground Within by Becky Chambers. This is absolutely one of my favourites of all time, it’s such an emotional book. I can’t believe it’s the last of the Wayfarers books but I’m so excited to see what Becky does next.

Another book coming out soon that I read is We Free the Stars by Hafsah Faizal. This is a solid follow up to We Hunt the Flame with a really good ending.

Next month?

Well, it’s time to kick off 2021! I’m not sure what I’ll be reading – I really want to read Six of Crows and King of Scars again before Rule of Wolves. I’ve also got a few eARCs I should get to in the new year that I’m excited about.

Do you have any planned books for January? Let me know what’s on your to be read!