Thursday, February 21, 2019

Book Review: Devil's Daughter (+Giveaway)

West Ravenel is a man with an disreputable past that he knows will taint the future of anyone he happens to be associated with. And he knows that he’s not worthy of Phoebe, the beautiful widow of a man he bullied at boarding school when they were children. But that doesn’t prevent sparks from flying between them when they first meet at a family wedding. It doesn’t stop the attraction and relationship that springs up between them. And it won’t stop Phoebe, the daughter of a stubborn wallflower and a former devilish rake, from going after what she wants. Will they be able to put the past behind them to embrace a future together?

I had so much fun reading Devil’s Daughter, friends. I was craving an enjoyable romance read when I picked this novel up, and that’s exactly what I got! This story plays out the way readers will expect – with a lot of miscommunication preventing the main characters from getting together until something rather alarming occurs to make them realize that they can’t be apart any longer and then everything ends with happily ever after. You’ll hear no complaints from this quarter, as that’s exactly what I signed up for! But I wanted to take the opportunity to highlight a few of the things I enjoyed about Devil’s Daughter.

  • The nods to the Wallflower series – If you’ve been a long-time reader of this blog, you’ll know that I absolutely love the Wallflower series. It’s my go-to historical romance series recommendation, and a series I’ve returned to many times over the years. It was so special to get to see mentions of all my beloved Wallflowers in this story, as well as getting a bit of quality time with my favorite couple of that series – Sebastian St. Vincent and his wife Evangeline. I won’t lie – all these mentions made me so giddy, and it elevated my enjoyment of this story tremendously.
  • The humor and the banter – Between hilarious scenes and such witty repartee, I must give Kleypas props for how funny this novel was. I don’t know if it was because the character personalities perfectly set themselves up for the situations and exchanges, but it worked well in tickling my funny bone!
  • West’s attitude towards Phoebe’s ability to run an estate – I wanted to mention how much I appreciated the fact that West always encouraged Phoebe and believed she could manage the work required to run an estate on behalf of her son until he was of age. It’s an attitude that the men related to West and Phoebe also share about the women in their lives, and I can always get behind a man who doesn’t think traditional gender roles are the end all, be all for women.
  • The romance – I really do enjoy watching romances develop between two individuals who are trying so hard to fight their attraction. It’s personally satisfying to watch them eventually give in to their feelings for one another, and it was no different here. While their miscommunications could get very frustrating, I was still rooting for them to find a way to make it work and, in the end, if I can get behind the main romance in this genre, I’m pleased.
  • The main characters – West and Phoebe were equally enjoyable to read about. I loved seeing how West has transformed since his appearance in the first novel of the series, going from a scandalous mess to a capable, wonderful man. I enjoyed seeing how Phoebe puts so much effort into doing what’s best for her children, is willing to learn new methods in order to improve her son’s eventually legacy and weighs her decisions carefully before she makes any moves. They’re both so deliciously complex individuals, and it was fun to follow their own individual journeys too.

Devil’s Daughter was every bit as wonderful as I was hoping it would be (and not just because I got to see my favorite historical romance couple ever on the page). It made me laugh out loud (to the point where Macky asked me what the heck was happening), it gave me the feels and it just left me with the warm, fuzzy feeling I like all my romances to have by the time we hit the last page. TL;DR – Devil’s Daughter is a great romance read, and I’d recommend picking it up. (Also, I’ve really been enjoying the Ravenels series overall, and I’m still hoping for another story (Cassandra’s, please!) to wrap it all up.)

Devil's Daughter by Lisa Kleypas | Series: The Ravenels #5
Publisher: Avon | Publication Date: February 19, 2019
Note: I received an early finished copy from the publisher in exchange for this honest review.

Thanks to the generosity of the folks over at Avon Books, you have the chance to win a paperback copy of Devil's Daughter for your very own! All you need to do is enter via the Rafflecopter form below. This is open to residents of the US & Canada (or those with an address in either country) only. Good luck!

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Friends with ARCs | The Blood Spell + The Beast's Heart

The Blood Spell is a Cinderella-inspired tale set in the same world as the rest of the Ravenspire series. It follows two main characters: Blue de la Cour (a girl with magic in her blood who desires to use her ability to find a way to help Balavata’s homeless) and Kellan Renard (the crown prince who must balance politics and power as he chooses his future queen from among the head families of Balavata). The pair have known each other since childhood, though there’s no love lost there as Blue has been a constant foil to all of Kellan’s adventures and Kellan has always been a thorn in Blue’s side. But when mysterious forces put the kingdom and its citizens in danger, Blue and Kellan must team up to figure out what’s going on and how to save everyone… no matter what the cost.

I do love a fairytale retelling, but it’s a rarity for me to enjoy the ones inspired by Cinderella. Additionally, I was a little concerned going into it, as I hadn’t enjoyed the last novel set in this world all that much. So, it was with a little hesitation that I dove into this story. Friends, I’m pleased to report that The Blood Spell surpassed all the expectations I had for it! I really enjoyed immersing myself in this tale from start to finish. Redwine expertly wove elements of the original Cinderella tale (in ways that were recognizable, yet specific to her retelling) into a story rife with political intrigue, magical mayhem and a healthy dash of family, friendship and romance. But what particularly cemented my love for this novel were the two main characters, Blue and Kellan, who both popped off the page from the very start and who won me over almost immediately – both as individuals and as a pair. I’m happy that I adored The Blood Spell so much (I’m seriously giddy just thinking about it) and, in case it wasn’t obvious, I’d highly recommend checking this one out. 

What is your favorite adaptation of Cinderella? I’m going to go a little old school and say that I adored the Rodger and Hammerstein’s Cinderella film released in 1997. First of all, Brandy plays Cinderella and Whoopi Goldberg plays the Fairy Godmother and they are both delightful and well-cast. Second of all, the prince is played by Paolo Montalban… who is Filipino! I just loved this particular version of Cinderella when I was growing up, and now I’m tempted to track down a copy so I can watch it again. (Two other runners-up are Ever After, which is beautifully done, and A Cinderella Story, which puts a fun rom-com twist to the story.)

The Blood Spell by C.J. Redwine | Series: Ravenspire #4 | Publisher: Balzer + Bray | Publication Date: February 12, 2019 | Source: e-ARC downloaded from Edelweiss (Thank you!)

We all know how the Beauty and the Beast story goes – a man treats an enchantress terribly and is cursed to live out a beastly, solitary existence, a father seeks refuge in the Beast’s home during a storm and a daughter exchanges her father’s life for her own. The Beast’s Heart doesn’t stray from this set-up, but it does put its own spin on the classic fairytale by narrating it from the perspective of the Beast.

As already mentioned earlier, I am partial to fairytale retellings, and Beauty and the Beast happens to be one of the fairytales that I am always excited to find retellings for. The Beast’s Heart offers readers a glimpse into the Beast’s mind and heart as the story of Beauty and the Beast unfolds, which is the most interesting aspect of this novel. The author’s writing style did take me a couple of chapters to get used to, but soon enough, I got used to her depiction of the setting, the characters (including the rest of Isabeau’s family) and the relationships. Unfortunately, because it was basically just the same exact story as its source material, it isn’t a standout read. I also found it disappointing that I didn’t feel any more invested in the Beast, since I had expected this novel to offer a chance for me to be more sympathetic to him and interested in his character. It was, to put it plainly, just fine, but I do feel like it’ll ultimately be forgettable to me in the end. 

What fairytale would you want to read from the guy’s point of view? This is actually a difficult question for me to answer! But I think, in the end, I’m going to go with Sleeping Beauty. I’d want to know what motivated the prince to try and slay a dragon and rescue a princess, and whether his reason was really romantic or more on the practical side or maybe something entirely unexpected.

The Beast's Heart by Leife Shallcrowss | Publisher: Berkley | Publication Date: February 12, 2019 | Source: ARC received from the publisher (Thank you!)

Monday, February 18, 2019

A Galentine's Day Out

Last Saturday, I had the chance to celebrate a belated Galentine's Day with my friends Rachel & Kristin. We planned a full day out that included all sorts of food (unsurprising!), bookstore visits (also unsurprising!) and a little shopping to top it all off. It was a lovely day spent with some of my favorite people, full of nonstop chatting and getting to visit some really cool spots in New York City! 

  • We kicked the day off with breakfast at Buvette, a French restaurant I'd never heard of before last weekend but which has a charming little aesthetic and some of the most delicious food (I had a waffle sandwich and a cappuccino, Rachel had French toast and a cappuccino, Kristin had a waffle and tea) I've had in a while. We also got to sit in a cozy, bright little corner, so it felt both intimate and comfortable. 
  • After breakfast, we walked over to the Be Mine mural (on Kenmare and Mott, a piece by Jason Naylor) and visited the Gucci Wooster Bookstore, where we camped out on the surprisingly comfortable yellow couches for nearly half an hour.
  • We went to visit the brand new Modcloth Fitshop. It's definitely a cute little space, filled with all sorts of wardrobe items from the site and it certainly made me want to go shopping. (I definitely snapped a few photos of items to look up again later when I got home!). I want to go back on a day when it's less packed so I can properly browse and perhaps even try things on!

  • The three of us can never hang out without having dessert! For this particular day, we elected to go to Stax Ice Cream, which is an old favorite and a spot I'd highly recommend. I ended up getting a scoop each of peppermint Oreo bark + Fruity Pebbles in a French vanilla cone, topped with the heart sprinkles (their Valentine's Day offering!) and a cookies and cream whale macaron. 
  • We wound up going back uptown to visit Remi Flower and Cafe, a cozy little cafe-slash-flower shop that has a delightful aesthetic. We were lucky enough to snag a table, so we could enjoy our drinks (a lavender latte for me, a rose latte for Rach and an Earl Grey latte for Kristin) amidst all the flowers. I would definitely go back for another visit!
  • It was time to do a little shopping next! We popped into & Other Stories (not pictured) first, followed by a visit to one of my favorite New York bookstores Kinokuniya Books (not pictured). The first floor focuses on novels and non-fiction like most bookstores, but it's the basement and the second floor that I love best! The basement has all sorts of stationery and cute merchandise alongside the Japanese literature, while the second floor is filled with manga (in Japanese and English), anime and other otaku goodies. 
  • We ended our day with a visit to Bryant Park, where we visited the Umbrella Academy pop-up installation (not pictured) and ended our day with poutine from Duck Season.

It was such a wonderful day out with two of my best friends, and I'm so grateful for all that we got to do and for the fact that I get to have such amazing women as a part of my life. Can't wait until our next adventure!


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