Book Review | Calculated

Some books are hard to review, because I love them and don’t know how to put into words all the reasons why…especially without accidentally spoiling anything! Calculated by Nova McBee is one of those books.

This book was gripping and intense but also full of heart. I couldn’t put it down.


Here’s a quick synopsis:

Set in Shanghai and Seattle, Calculated is a gritty, modern day blend of the Count of Monte Cristo and Mission Impossible.

She has many names – Octavia, Double 8, Phoenix, Josephine. She’s a math prodigy, a calculating genius and everyone wants her.

In seventeen-year-old Jo River’s complicated world of numbers, there’s no such thing as coincidence. When she is betrayed by someone she loves, kidnapped by the world’s most wanted smuggler, and forced to use her talent to shore up a criminal empire, Jo deems her gift a curse—until she meets Red.

Fellow captive and unlikely sage, Red teaches Jo to harness her true potential, so she can do more than just escape. Before he dies, Red reveals a secret about her enemies and makes her vow to right his wrongs. But Jo has a vow of her own.

With help from Chan, a bitter billionaire, and Kai, his off-limits son, Jo rises into a new role, ready to take down those who ruined her life. Until a mathematical error comes back to haunt her with a threat much more dangerous than the criminals on the loose.

To beat the odds, Jo must decide who she really is and if risking everything is worth it.

After all, history is not made—it’s calculated.

With themes of revenge and forgiveness, loss and identity, brainpower versus brutality, and the triumph of right over might, it will resonate with readers everywhere.

I’ve had trouble finishing the books that I’ve tried to read these past few months. In fact, I’ve put down nearly all of them except for re-reads or heartwarming middle grade books, but Calculated pulled me in from the first chapter and kept me reading until the very end.

I love that it touches on the very real, and important topic of human trafficking, but without being overly graphic or pain-filled in the way it deals with it.

I also love that while the main character is an extraordinary prodigy with an almost magical gift for numbers, she’s still immensely real and relatable, and her voice is engaging. I loved seeing how all the threads of her story came together. While there were some bits that I saw coming, I enjoyed seeing the way that they played out, and this ending was quite satisfying. That said, it also left me anxious to get my hands on book two so I can find out what happens next.

This was a solid five star read for me, and one of my favorite books this year! Thanks to NetGalley for giving me an eARC in exchange for my honest review, and to Nova McBee for gifting me a physical copy (as well as a few beautiful handcrafted goodies, so delightful).

Book Review | Kingdom of the Wicked

Kingdom of the Wicked by Kerri Maniscalco was a fun, witchy read that kept me turning the pages well past my bedtime! I loved the quick pace, compelling voice, and atmospheric setting!

Here’s a quick synopsis:
Two sisters.

One brutal murder.

A quest for vengeance that will unleash Hell itself…

And an intoxicating romance.

Emilia and her twin sister Vittoria are streghe – witches who live secretly among humans, avoiding notice and persecution. One night, Vittoria misses dinner service at the family’s renowned Sicilian restaurant. Emilia soon finds the body of her beloved twin…desecrated beyond belief. Devastated, Emilia sets out to find her sister’s killer and to seek vengeance at any cost-even if it means using dark magic that’s been long forbidden.

Then Emilia meets Wrath, one of the Wicked-princes of Hell she has been warned against in tales since she was a child. Wrath claims to be on Emilia’s side, tasked by his master with solving the series of women’s murders on the island. But when it comes to the Wicked, nothing is as it seems…


Parts of the book were a tiny bit repetitive and predictable, but overall there was great character development and tons of intrigue. I only read book one of Stalking Jack The Ripper (also by Kerri Maniscalco) and didn’t love it, but I enjoyed this a lot more! The ending was intense and I can’t wait for book two! I’d recommend it for fans of witchy contemporary books with unique settings, like Wicked Like A Wildfire, and Winterwood. Thanks Jimmy Patterson Books for the free ARC.

Love & Olives | Book Review

What was the last book that exceeded your expectations?⁣⁣⁣⁣ Love & Gelato  by Jenna Evans Welch has been a favorite of mine since the moment I read it…and now I think I may love LOVE & OLIVES  even more!!!

Here’s a quick blurb about it:  “From the New York Times bestselling author of Love & Gelato comes a Mamma Mia–inspired tale about a teen girl finding romance while trying to connect with her absent father in beautiful Santorini, Greece.”  Click here to learn more.

The magical undertone of hunting for Atlantis immediately pulled me in. I couldn’t wait to see if they actually found proof of its existence! ⁣⁣⁣⁣I smiled so many times as the main character’s friendship with the new guy she met in Greece blossomed, and I loved watching her form relationships with everyone there. The complicated father/daughter relationship was written so well, it was nuanced and rich and I truly felt for both of them. I rarely actually cry during books, but there was a moment in this one where real tears were rolling down my cheeks as I read. ⁣⁣⁣⁣

Still, overall it was incredibly heartwarming, and I also LOVED the important mental health topic that was covered in a sensitive, genuine way.⁣⁣⁣⁣

This is also the first book that has filled me with wanderlust for a place that I never even considered wanting to travel to before, but the descriptions of the island of Santorini, Greece were so incredible I found myself longing to go see it in person (and to eat all the delicious food, too). ⁣⁣⁣⁣I couldn’t put it down, and I know this is one that will stick with me for a long time. ⁣⁣⁣⁣

Thanks NetGalley and Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers for the free eARC to review. ⁣⁣

 

Book Review | Written in Starlight

Written in Starlight by Isabel Ibañez is the follow up to her whimsical, unique debut novel, Woven in Moonlight!

Written in Starlight is a gorgeously written, intense and immersive story! I couldn’t stop turning the pages!!!

Set in a lush, dangerous jungle inspired by the Bolivian Amazon where Isabel’s dad grew up this book truly transported me! There a bits of magic everywhere, and beauty mixed with danger. I was prepared to hate the main character, Catalina, based on what we knew of her at the end of Woven in Moonlight but I ended up loving her! And I fell in love with this book even more than book one! It’s fast paced, while still filled with fantastic world building and wonderfully satisfying character arcs. And it includes my favorite romance trope (but I won’t spoil anything by telling you which trope that is.) 🙂

It gave me tons of The Girl Of Fire And Thorns vibes, which makes me soo happy, because that’s one of my all-time favorite books. I recommend it for fans of ya fantasy with unique magic systems, survival stories, and diverse reads. Thank you Page Street Publishing and NetGalley for the free copy to review!

 

Recommended for You | Book Review

Recommended for You by Laura Silverman is a fun, festive read…especially fans of enemies-to-lovers romance!

I loved the bookstore setting, and the December time-frame from Hanukkah through Christmas. I always love to read a few holiday books in December and this one would be perfect. That said, I should have paid closer attention to the synopsis, and realized it was going to be hate-to-love…because I’m probably the one person in the world that is usually just super annoyed by all the angst and drama that comes along with that trope.

Which meant that this book was hard for me to get into. It started with the setup that I’ve seen over and over, and it drives me crazy every time…the MC decides a guy is her enemy, from their first interaction, for no good reason, while also having insta-lust thoughts every time she looks at his lips or smells him, which she’s constantly doing. I nearly DNFed. She also continues to antagonize him, because she’s pissed that he didn’t just laugh off the fact that she was super rude to him, and gets mad that he reciprocates the antagonism. It made me struggle to care about anything that was happening.

Also, for a long time, the fact that it was set at Christmas/Hanukkah time was dampened by the fact that it’s from a retail worker “this season sucks” point of view. (The cynicism doesn’t last forver, and there is some fun cheer eventually, though.) Still, for awhile, the only redeeming quality, for me, was the fact that it’s set largely in a bookstore and the MC is a booknerd.

Once the hate finally begins to turn to friendship I was much more into the book. And I did love that the MC and her love interest are both Jewish, which I don’t see represented often. I got caught up in the teens and their plight for awhile, and was really enjoying the holiday vibes, but then it felt like it sort of just…ended. I’d hoped for a greater reward for not giving up when all the “I hate him, but I have a crush on him” drama was driving me crazy. Still, I think this book is probably a phenomenal read for all y’all who, unlike oddball-me, love the trope. It’s probably a 3.5 star read for me, overall.

Thanks so much Simon & Schuster and NetGalley for giving me the free eArc to read.