Thursday, September 10, 2020

{Weekend Reads: 09/10-09/13} Catching Up on eARCs, audioARCs, and Buddy Reads!


Hey, guys!

I used to update you all via Goodreads and blog updates on what I was reading, but I decided to start it back up this weekend to touch base with you all and push out some books that I definitely recommend.

A weekend doesn't usually include a Thursday, but I'm being quarantined for the next couple of days, so I'm including it because who knows when I'll be cleared to go back to work.

I've been attempting to get used to a new work schedule, so my reading time has been considerably cut and it's been a process to get used to working full time. The past four years were taken up by school, working 2 part-time jobs, and attempting to keep up with social obligations. Being in quarantine from March to Jun was such a weird change, but going back to a regular schedule is just as strange. 

This (long) weekend, I plan on catching up on the four books that I've started in the past couple of weeks before diving into two buddy reads that start on Monday.

#1] The Switch by Beth O'Leary, 

performed by Daisy Edgar-Jones & Alison Steadman

Current Reading position: 80% (2 hours left)
-audioARC provided by NetGalley & Macmillan Audio-


When overachiever Leena Cotton is ordered to take a two-month sabbatical after blowing a big presentation at work, she escapes to her grandmother Eileen's house for some long-overdue rest.

Eileen is newly single and about to turn eighty. She'd like a second chance at love, but her tiny Yorkshire village doesn't offer many eligible gentlemen.

So they decide to try a two-month swap.

Eileen will live in London and look for love. She’ll take Leena’s flat, and learn all about casual dating, swiping right, and city neighbors. Meanwhile, Leena will look after everything in rural Yorkshire: Eileen’s sweet cottage and garden, her idyllic, quiet village, and her little neighborhood projects.

But stepping into one another's shoes proves more difficult than either of them expected. Will swapping lives help Eileen and Leena find themselves…and maybe even find true love? In Beth O'Leary's The Switch, it's never too late to change everything....or to find yourself.

My Thoughts So Far:

- This is an excellent audio experience. I love the narrators and the quality of this production. 
- I love Leena and Eileen. They're so similar, yet so different and bring so much to the story. 
- I think I prefer Eileen's half of the story to Leena's. That isn't to say that Leena's is bad, but Eileen is so hilarious and lovely. I'm just drawn to her story more. 
- The romances in this story do not take up the majority of this story. It's more a story of healing and growth, which I adore. I cannot wait to see how this story ends. However, I'm not the biggest fan of Leena's love story. It hasn't come to its climax, but I know how it's going to go. It's been done before and it isn't anything new. Eileen, however -- I hope it turns out how I'm envisioning. 
- This is my first Beth O'Leary novel, but I'm eager to listen to or read The Flatshare soon. 

Anticipated rating: 4 stars

#2] Blood & Honey (Serpent & Dove #2) by Shelby Mahurin

Current Reading position: page 110/528
-personally pre-ordered-

I'm so behind on this buddy read! I was supposed to have this finished on Thursday, the 10th, but it definitely hasn't happened. This past weekend and this week have just been odd. I'm not sure why I haven't finished this book because the first 110 pages were fantastic. I just need to pick it back up. I've been carrying it around the house? But I haven't opened the book? Just odd.


After narrowly escaping death at the hands of the Dames Blanches, Lou, Reid, Coco, and Ansel are on the run from coven, kingdom, and church—fugitives with nowhere to hide.

To elude the scores of witches and throngs of chasseurs at their heels, Lou and Reid need allies. Strong ones. But protection comes at a price, and the group is forced to embark on separate quests to build their forces. As Lou and Reid try to close the widening rift between them, the dastardly Morgane baits them in a lethal game of cat and mouse that threatens to destroy something worth more than any coven.

First Thoughts:

- Wow, I already love this so much and I cannot wait to read more.
- Witchy goodness right off the bat? Hello, yes, please!
- Lou and Reid are just going to go right for it, huh? Geez, I love love.  Let's go.
- I know that I'm going to be hurt by this book... is that why I haven't picked it back up yet?

Anticipated rating: 5 stars

#3] All Scot and Bothered (Devil You Know #2) by Kerrigan Byrne

Current Reading position: 5% (loc. 256/4928)
-eARC provided by NetGalley & St. Martin's Press-


They are a dangerous duke, a fierce lord, and an infamous earl—dark, bold, brave men who know exactly what they want. And there is only one woman who can bring them to their knees...

He is first and foremost—at everything. A man who's made his own way in the world through ruthless cunning and sheer force of will. A strong and imposing Scot who can turn on the charm but does not suffer fools. His title: Lord Chief Justice of the High Court. His name: Cassius Gerard Ramsay. His mission: To investigate the goings-on at London's most notorious gaming hell, owned and operated by one of the most intriguing and desirable women he's ever met.


Cecelia Teague was an orphan facing a rather dire future—until a secret benefactor from her mother's scandalous past swept into her life. Sent to a prestigious boarding school and later to university, Cecelia believed high society was at her fingertips...Then, from out of nowhere, she became the inheritor of a gambling establishment. Now Cecelia must live two lives: one as a proper lady who finds herself undeniably drawn to Lord Ramsay and the other as a savvy gaming hell owner trying to save her business from the very same man. He has no idea she is both women...and Cecelia would like to keep it that way. But what happens when consuming passion and escalating danger threaten to reveal the truth?

First Thoughts:

- I've never read a Kerrigan Byrne novel before, but I'm already invested and enjoying her style of writing and the way she's developed her characters. 
- Most times when I'm starting a new historical romance novel, I can tell within the first 50 pages if I will enjoy it as intensely as I love my favorites. This has a lot of promise. 

Anticipated rating: (it's honestly too early to tell, but...) 4 stars (probably)

#4] Crazy Stupid Bromance (Bromance Book Club #3) by Lyssa Kay Adams

Current Reading position: 17% (loc. 856/5079)
- eARC provided by NetGalley & Berkley-


A hacktivist and a cat café owner decode the friend zone in this romantic comedy from the author of Undercover Bromance.

Alexis Carlisle and her cat café, ToeBeans, have shot to fame after she came forward as a victim of a celebrity chef’s sexual harassment. When a new customer approaches to confide in her, the last thing Alexis expects is for the woman to claim they’re sisters. Unsure what to do, Alexis turns to the only man she trusts—her best friend, Noah Logan.

Computer genius Noah left his rebellious teenage hacker past behind to become a computer security expert. Now he only uses his old skills for the right cause. But Noah’s got a secret: He’s madly in love with Alexis. When she asks for his help, he wonders if the timing will ever be right to confess his crush.

Noah’s pals in The Bromance Book Club are more than willing to share their beloved “manuals” to help him go from bud to boyfriend. But he must decide if telling the truth is worth risking the best friendship he’s ever had. 

First Thoughts

- This is so excellent! I was instantly hooked and caught up in where the story left off in Undercover Bromance.

- I honestly forgot about the computer genius, Noah, but I've already fallen in love with him. He's a Whovian (Doctor Who), he's a total sweetheart, and has a rival that's Alexis's cat! How adorable.

- Alexis is peak-bad bitch material. I adore her. She obviously has a lot of trauma to get past after dealing with the events of Undercover Bromance, but even more hardship has been added onto her plate. We will see how this goes. 

- I love that we get to see more from Liv and Mack. Give me all of the happy endings, snark, and groomzilla energy from Mack.

Hopefully, I can finish these books this weekend. I'm aiming to finish The Switch this afternoon and get to the halfway mark of Blood and Honey as well. 

Anticipated rating: 5 stars

What are you reading this weekend?
Happy reading!
Liv the Book Nerd ~

{Review} Take A Hint, Dani Brown (The Brown Sisters #2) by Talia Hibbert Take a Hint, Dani Brown: A Novel (The Brown Sisters Book 2)  eBook: Hibbert, Talia: Kindle Store

Page Count: 361
Published On: June 23, 2020
Published by: Avon
Genre(s): Adult contemporary romance
Steam: 4/5 (5 being super steam)
TW: the death of a parent and sibling, panic attacks 

My Rating: 5 stars

Goodreads synopsis:

Danika Brown knows what she wants: professional success, academic renown, and an occasional roll in the hay to relieve all that career-driven tension. But romance? Been there, done that, burned the T-shirt. Romantic partners, whatever their gender, are a distraction at best and a drain at worst. So Dani asks the universe for the perfect friend-with-benefits—someone who knows the score and knows their way around the bedroom.

When brooding security guard Zafir Ansari rescues Dani from a workplace fire drill gone wrong, it’s an obvious sign: PhD student Dani and ex-rugby player Zaf are destined to sleep together. But before she can explain that fact, a video of the heroic rescue goes viral. Now half the internet is shipping #DrRugbae—and Zaf is begging Dani to play along. Turns out, his sports charity for kids could really use the publicity. Lying to help children? Who on earth would refuse?

Dani’s plan is simple: fake a relationship in public, seduce Zaf behind the scenes. The trouble is, grumpy Zaf’s secretly a hopeless romantic—and he’s determined to corrupt Dani’s stone-cold realism. Before long, he’s tackling her fears into the dirt. But the former sports star has issues of his own, and the walls around his heart are as thick as his... um, thighs.

Suddenly, the easy lay Dani dreamed of is more complex than her thesis. Has her wish backfired? Is her focus being tested? Or is the universe just waiting for her to take a hint?

~ ~ ~

 Hey, guys!

I'm back with another gushing review. Once again, Talia Hibbert has blown me away with her characterization, representation, and overall writing style. 

Reading a Talia Hibbert novel is like breathing a breath of fresh air after a long stuffy day inside. I adore everything about this novel and I just adore Talia's writing style.

When I first read Get A Life, Chloe Brown in 2019, I fell in love with Talia's witty, smart writing style, her ability to include the perfect amout of steam and romantic/sexual tension, her flawless execution, and her delightful characters. It became an instant favorite of the year and it's one of the few books that I've already reread this year. 

This book has:
-fake dating
-a romance that stems from a viral video
-Zafir: a Muslim ex-rugby player with anxiety who uses his experience to teach mental health seminars for young rugby players 
- Dani: a fat, Black, bisexual witch with commitment issues
- a quirky, addicting writing style that you won't get sick of

From the first page, I knew that I would adore Dani Brown and her story. Not only was she instantly captivating and relatable, but there were also factors that went into her personality that I didn't expect -- but loved so much. Dani is such a blunt and fascinating character. Not only is she a practicing witch, in the midst of her journey toward a doctorate in a literature-based degree (and she has the best focus of study that she's immensely passionate about! I love it so much!), and she has the best confidence. 

While this concept is usually quite a cliche, Dani isn't like other characters. Hear me out. Dani is so freaking realistic. I saw so much of myself and so many facets of my friends in her. I related to her so much. She's so intensely passionate about her goals and aspirations, but she works hard for it. Additionally, she's Dani isn't like so many characters that I have read about. She's passionate, hard-working, and she guards her heart. There are so many romance novels where the character will just jump into the new relationship and they don't really worry about guarding their heart. 

Zafir was the perfect love interest. The representation of his anxiety disorder was done so well (in my opinion and based on my own experiences). I can't really go into it too much, but I cannot rave about Talia Hibbert's ability to discuss mental health gently and respectfully enough. 

This book is just so phenomenal. Read it!

Happy reading!
Liv the Book Nerd ~

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

August 2020 Reading Wrap Up


Hey, guys!

August has been so busy. I've been hired for a new job, I've started a whole new schedule, and -- just a lot of things have been going on. This month, I hadn't read as much as my previous reading months, but I'm really excited about what I've read this past month. While this past month was primarily taken up by audiobook reading, which is really surprising considering my stats last month, it doesn't really feel like I mainly listened to these stories. I've found a few new tropes and new authors that I adore (and dislike). Here are the books that I read this month!

Take A Hint, Dani Brown by Talia Hibbert
Read physically
5 stars

I will have a review up for this book in the next week, but holy cow this was everything I could have hoped for. If you love quirky, romantic, steamy romances, you will love this book so much. Dani and Zafir are such a lovely couple and I cannot push this book at you hard enough. Please read these stories about the Brown sisters! 

{Picture credit: me via Instagram}

Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo
Read via audio
4 stars

Since reading Elizabeth Acevedo's The Poet X, I've managed to pick up her releases as they've come out. Last year, With the Fire On High was one of Julia and I's bookclub picks and it was one of my all-time favorite 2019 reads as well. Her writing is always so beautiful, lyrical, and so well developed. It's really magical how fantastic her writing is. 

Once again, Acevedo didn't disappoint! This was such a beautiful story. It was written in verse and the audiobook was narrated by Acevedo and Melania-Luisa Marte -- what a powerful duo! Having the two narrators really added to the story and added the depth that I didn't know I needed. I loved how each narrator emphasized the differences in the poetry styles, the characters' personalities, and the little nuanced details. It's such a fantastic stylistic choice that I cannot get over. 

The topics and discussions in Clap When You Land are such important ones. While I do not want to spoil you, I do need to let you know that there are trigger warnings for stalking, assault, loss of a family member/parent, cheating, and plane crashes.

{Picture credit: me via Instagram}

King of the Libertines by Pam Godwin
2 stars

August was the month of romance-booktube! Naturally, I stumbled across Jess's channel (PeaceLoveBooksxo) and discovered her love for Pam Godwin. While I really didn't enjoy King of the Libertines, I'm eager to actually read the full-length novel that follows the characters in this novella. 

King of the Libertines follows the characters of Sea of Ruin, explaining their relationships and (I suppose) adding onto their dynamic. However, I felt like this novella was SO rushed, so surface level, and just not enjoyable at all. There were typos, grammar mistakes, and the character development was so unrealistic. I couldn't fully integrate myself into the world or actually care about the characters. It just wasn't for me. I'm hoping for more from the full novel, Sea of Ruin. 

Overall, I felt like this was a whole lot of nothing.

What Happens in Scotland by Jennifer McQuinston
ebook & physical
2 stars

Another disappointing read...

This was such a shallow read. The pacing was just horrible and it was just so unbelievable and annoying. I've been enjoyed the majority of the historicals that I've read this year, but this one was one of the worst. I'm debating even reading more from McQuinston's list of releases. 

Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik
audio and physical 
5 stars

This is probably one of my newest all-time favorite books. This was such a phenomenal read. The audio experience was perfect and the care and detail that the audio narrator put into their performance were just flawless. I was discussing this book with one of my friends that had read and they had said they rated it 4 stars because it was a bit difficult to tell which character was narrating when the perspectives would change, but I found that that wasn't the case when listening to the audio. When I eventually switched to the physical book (sometimes I will do that when I get closer toward the end of a book), I found I didn't have that issue because I had become so used to the ways the characters would differentiate themselves. Naomi Novik is a masterful writer and I cannot wait for her next novel, A Deadly Education; which is released September 29. I cannot stress enough that you should absolutely pick this book up.

The Scandalous, Dissolute, No-Good Mr. Wright by Tessa Dare
4 stars

Tessa Dare is such a feel-good writer. Anytime I pick up one of her books, it's like visiting a friend you haven't seen in the longest time. I'm always excited to read her novellas because, honestly, they're always hit or miss for me, but they're always ridiculously fun. This novella, I won't reiterate the very very long title, was so much fun! I'm so thankful for the lovely lady who gifted it to me in early August. 

Sometimes -- heck, most times! -- historical romance novellas don't do it for me. The pacing is wonky, the characters and their romances are uninteresting or hard to believe, or the writing is just bad. Thankfully, Tessa Dare is a queen, and does this story so much justice. Not only does she tackle an important topic in less than 150 pages, but she also does it well! The romance was so well developed, realistic, and it gave me Pride and Prejudice vibes. 

The only reason that this didn't get 5 stars was that, naturally, the cliches were just a bit much for me (emphasis on "for me"). Because I've read so many Tessa Dare novels this year, I feel like I can make an opinion regarding her writing capabilities. She can write the cheesiest and most ridiculous tropes red hot and so well done. This novella was short, so I just felt like the added depth that I so love in her work was just missing. I wish this was a full-length novel. It's so delightful. I wanted more!

Say Yes to the Marquess (Castles Ever After #2) by Tessa Dare
3 stars

If you couldn't tell from my ramble above, I adore Tessa Dare. I think she is such a phenomenal writer. She creates such likable characters with such swoony romances that I cannot help but love and root for. I really enjoyed Clio's strong character and Rafe's personality. While the entire situation surrounding their romance is something I hadn't seen before (granted, I haven't read much historical romance), I still felt like it was missing a little something-something. This novel is one of her earlier novels so that definitely contributes to the quality of her writing (for me), this just lacked some of the elements that I really enjoy in her books. The relationship was swoony, but it didn't have as much chemistry and it kind of dragged in some areas. 

This was so fun, but not my favorite of her backlist. 

A Kiss at Midnight (Fairy Tales #1) by Eloisa Jams
4 stars

This book! This book was so lovely! I think I've found a new historical romance author that I want to explore. This retelling of the Cinderella story was so wonderful. 

It felt a little rushed toward the end, but I adored this book. 

Storming the Castle (Fairy Tales #1.5) by Eloisa James
4.5 stars

This was so short, but so freaking fun. 

When Beauty Tamed the Beast by Eloisa James
4.75 stars

Phenomenal! I cannot wait to read more from Eloisa James, especially her Fairy Tales series. I cannot get enough of these characters and the different dynamics James' writing brings to the historical romance genre.

Please read Eloisa James' Fairy Tales series!

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid
3.75 stars

This book started out really strong and intriguing, but around half-way, I really started to question where the novel was even going. I really really enjoyed the discussions that this book had surrounding performative allyship and racism, but really wished that there had been more of a focus on Emira's character development and growth. I loved her character and I just didn't think she shone like the side characters did. Alix was, of course, a massive part of the story, but I just wanted more about Emira. 

Total Books Read: 11

Audio: 7
Physical: 3
e-Copy: 1

Favorite read: Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik
Least Favorite read: King of Libertines by Pam Godwin

What did you read in August?

Liv the Book Nerd ~

Thursday, August 20, 2020

{Review} An English Bride in Scotland by Lynsay Sands


Page Count
Published On: June 25, 2013
Published by: Avon
Genre(s): Adult historical romance
Content Disclosure: does contain steamy content
Content Warning: misogyny

My Rating: 2 stars

Goodreads synopsis:

The first in a new historical series set in the Highlands of Scotland, from Lynsay Sands, the New York Times bestselling author of the Argeneau vampire series and countless historical romances.

Annabel was about to take the veil to become a nun when her mother suddenly arrives at the Abbey to take her home… so that she can marry the Scottish laird who is betrothed to her runaway sister! She knows nothing about being a wife, nothing about how to run a household, and definitely nothing about the marriage bed!

But from the moment Ross MacKay sets eyes on Annabel, he is taken with his shy sweet bride… and the fact that she's blessed with lush curves only makes him utter his own prayers of thanks. But when an enemy endangers her life, he'll move the Highlands themselves to save her. For though Annabel's not the bride he planned for, she's the only woman he desires…

~ ~ ~

Hey, guys!

These past few months I've read so many books, I've met my Goodreads goal, and I've discovered new genres and tropes that I adore. One of those genres is historical romance and just the overall romance genre. I've loved diving into the different variations and finding new story types and character types that I adore. I've been a member of the BaeCrate Facebook group for a while, but I hadn't been able to participate in the discussions and buddy reads that they hosted. One of the books discussed on their page was An English Bride in Scotland and the author, Lynsay Sands.  

An English Bride in Scotland is about a young woman who taken from her place in a convent, Annabel. Annabel is taken by her family to take the place of her sister and marry her sister's betrothed, a Scottish laird named Ross McKay. She has no idea what it means to be a wife -- she had been trained to be a nun and commit herself to the church, so when she is taken to her new husband's keep, she is a bit in over her head. Ross McKay is instantly attracted to Annabel. She has a great figure and he's very attracted to her breasts (there is quite an emphasis on this, my dudes). When a strange figure begins to attack Ross and Annabel -- specifically Annabel, they must investigate the attacks to make sure they can continue with their lives. 

While this novel was fairly entertaining, it wasn't my favorite. It lacked the sort of complexity that I look for in my romance reads. It was a pure bodice ripper and that wasn't what I was really looking for. While I didn't expect the most intricate of literature, I did pick this up because of the many positive reviews and recommendations. Specifically, I was drawn to the way others described Ross. According to those who recommended the novel, Ross was very forward-thinking and adored and respected Annabel immensely. While that's true, it wasn't that ground-breaking. There was still quite a bit misogyny that I didn't enjoy -- however, you can't really escape it when you're in the era the novel was written in. That's just how it comes. It was still really annoying and grated on my nerves at times. 

Additionally, there was a massive lack of world-building. The setting was pretty nonexistent and very very hard to imagine. I was hoping for some beautiful Scottish vibes, but I couldn't find it. It was a major let-down.

Like I had mentioned above, there was quite an emphasis on Annabel's assets. Everyone noticed her massive boobs and everyone was just infatuated with them. At first, the subplot and discussions about her body were fun because it was nice to see so much love for a bigger woman, but it quickly turned into a sort of leering, creepy situation that I just didn't like. Honestly, I would have DNF'd this book if the ridiculousness hadn't kept me turning the pages. I was really hoping for more. Maybe a solid plot would appear?

Speaking of the plot, there was one! Huzzah! Now, don't get me wrong, the plot was pretty decent, but the build-up and pacing to actually get to the interesting parts of the story took forever to appear. The pacing -- it wasn't great. The main twists happened toward the end of the novel and the majority of the interesting action didn't occur until the last third of the novel. It was just okay for me. It wasn't all that impressive. 

Overall, this book was long-winded, frivolous, and two-dimensional. I'm all for a long-winded and frivolous read, but this book was not the right kind of long-winded and the frivolity made it more annoying than entertaining. I really hoped for a couple that I could root for and an interesting Scottish setting that I could get lost in. However, this was just so blah for me. I don't recommend it, but I know many people enjoyed this. 

Happy reading and stay safe!
Liv the Book Nerd ~

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

{DNF Review} Simmer Down by Sarah Smith


 Page count:  320

Published on: October 13, 2020

Published by: Berkley
Genres: Adult contemporary romance

Rating: DNF

Goodreads synopsis:

In this finger-licking good rom-com, two is the perfect number of cooks in the kitchen.

Nikki DiMarco knew life wouldn’t be all sunshine and coconuts when she quit her dream job to help her mom serve up mouthwatering Filipino dishes to hungry beach goers, but she didn’t expect the Maui food truck scene to be so eat-or-be-eaten—or the competition to be so smoking hot.

But Tiva’s Filipina Kusina has faced bigger road bumps than the arrival of Callum James. Nikki doesn’t care how delectable the British food truck owner is—he rudely set up shop next to her coveted beach parking spot. He’s stealing her customers and fanning the flames of a public feud that makes her see sparks.

The solution? Let the upcoming Maui Food Festival decide their fate. Winner keeps the spot. Loser pounds sand. But the longer their rivalry simmers, the more Nikki starts to see a different side of Callum…a sweet, protective side. Is she brave enough to call a truce? Or will trusting Callum with her heart means jumping from the frying pan into the fire?


Hey, guys!

A couple of months ago I was approved to read Sarah Smith's 2020 novel, Simmer Down; however, this reading experience didn't go as expected. Unfortunately, I didn't enjoy it as much as I anticipated. In fact, I DNF'd it. 

If you've been following me on Instagram and Goodreads, you've probably seen the massive amount of romance novels -- a romance binge if you will. However, Simmer Down just wasn't what I was looking for. I've heard so many wonderful things about the author's work, but I was really let down by this novel. When going into this novel, I was really excited to read about food trucks, Hawaii, Filipino foods, and the promise of a heavy familial influence was really promising. However, when hitting the half-way mark of this story, I began to lose interest. By the 60% mark, I was completely bored and any of my interest in the story had disappeared.

This was just not for me. 

By 60%, I had begun to feel like the romance was forced and the angst and predictable conflict that naturally develops in romances just felt boring and uninspired. Their relationship, unfortunately, didn't really develop as I had hoped. They got together far too quickly, it wasn't even shown on-page, and it just was really frustrating. The moments that you would want from a romance -- the scenes where they begin to actually fall for each other -- were glazed over and their happiness in their relationship was established far too quickly. The angst that could come from the slightly forbidden aspect of their relationship was just nonexistent. The scene that allowed the characters to come into continuous contact was just really unrealistic and the heroine's behavior drastically changed in order to let that scene pan out.

Overall, I didn't like this story. I DNF'd at 60% and I don't plan on picking it back up. I know that this romance will definitely be something that other readers will enjoy, but it wasn't the kind of romance that I enjoy.

Happy reading!
~Liv the Book Nerd~

Monday, August 10, 2020

{Blog Tour: Excerpt} Lobizona by Romina Garber

Hey, guys!

Who's ready for a badass fantasy novel based on Argentine folklore mixed with phenomenal, relevant themes? If you love fantasy stories based on lush mythology and lore, paranormal aspects, werewolves, and fascinating characters, you will love Lobizona!


Some people ARE illegal.

Lobizonas do NOT exist.

Both of these statements are false.

Manuela Azul has been crammed into an existence that feels too small for her. As an undocumented immigrant who's on the run from her father's Argentine crime-family, Manu is confined to a small apartment and a small life in Miami, Florida.

Until Manu's protective bubble is shattered.

Her surrogate grandmother is attacked, lifelong lies are exposed, and her mother is arrested by ICE. Without a home, without answers, and finally without shackles, Manu investigates the only clue she has about her past—a mysterious "Z" emblem—which leads her to a secret world buried within our own. A world connected to her dead father and his criminal past. A world straight out of Argentine folklore, where the seventh consecutive daughter is born a bruja and the seventh consecutive son is a lobizón, a werewolf. A world where her unusual eyes allow her to belong.

As Manu uncovers her own story and traces her real heritage all the way back to a cursed city in Argentina, she learns it's not just her U.S. residency that's illegal. . . .it’s her entire existence.

{Buy Here!}

Lobizona: A Novel by Romina Garber, Hardcover | Barnes & Noble®

Early Praise:

“With vivid characters that take on a life of their own, beautiful details that peel back the curtain on Romina's Argentinian heritage, and cutting prose that shines a light on the difficulties of being the ‘other’ in America today, Romina Garber crafts a timely tale of identity and adventure that every teenager should read.”–Tomi Adeyemi New York Times bestselling author of Children of Blood and Bone

“Romina Garber has created an enthralling young adult fantasy led by an unforgettable Latinx character Manu. In Manu, we find a young girl who not only must contend with the injustice of being undocumented she also discovers a hidden world that may explain her very existence. I fell in love with this world where wolves, witches, and magic thrives, all in a rich Latinx setting!” –Lilliam Rivera, author of Dealing in Dreams and The Education of Margot Sanchez


Chapter 2

I awaken with a jolt.

It takes me a moment to register that I’ve been out for three days. I can tell by the well-rested feeling in my bones—I don’t sleep this well any other time of the month.

The first thing I’m aware of as I sit up is an urgent need to use the bathroom. My muscles are heavy from lack of use, and it takes some concentration to keep my steps light so I won’t wake Ma or Perla. I leave the lights off to avoid meeting my gaze in the mirror, and after tossing out my heavy-duty period pad and replacing it with a tampon, I tiptoe back to Ma’s and my room.

I’m always disoriented after lunaritis, so I feel separate from my waking life as I survey my teetering stacks of journals and used books, Ma’s yoga mat and collection of weights, and the posters on the wall of the planets and constellations I hope to visit one day.

After a moment, my shoulders slump in disappointment.

This month has officially peaked.

I yank the bleach-stained blue sheets off the mattress and slide out the pillows from their cases, balling up the bedding to wash later. My body feels like a crumpled piece of paper that needs to be stretched, so I plant my feet together in the tiny area between the bed and the door, and I raise my hands and arch my back, lengthening my spine disc by disc. The pull on my tendons releases stored tension, and I exhale in relief.

Something tugs at my consciousness, an unresolved riddle that must have timed out when I surfaced . . . but the harder I focus, the quicker I forget. Swinging my head forward, I reach down to touch my toes and stretch my spine the other way—

My ears pop so hard, I gasp.

I stumble back to the mattress, and I cradle my head in my hands as a rush of noise invades my mind. The buzzing of a fly in the window blinds, the gunning of a car engine on the street below, the groaning of our building’s prehistoric elevator. Each sound is so crisp, it’s like a filter was just peeled back from my hearing.

My pulse picks up as I slide my hands away from my temples to trace the outlines of my ears. I think the top parts feel a little . . . pointier.

I ignore the tingling in my eardrums as I cut through the living room to the kitchen, and I fill a stained green bowl with cold water. Ma’s asleep on the turquoise couch because we don’t share our bed this time of the month. She says I thrash around too much in my drugged dreams.

I carefully shut the apartment door behind me as I step out into the building’s hallway, and I crack open our neighbor’s window to slide the bowl through. A black cat leaps over to lap up the drink.

“Hola, Mimitos,” I say, stroking his velvety head. Since we’re both confined to this building, I hear him meowing any time his owner, Fanny, forgets to feed him. I think she’s going senile.

“I’ll take you up with me later, after lunch. And I’ll bring you some turkey,” I add, shutting the window again quickly. I usually let him come with me, but I prefer to spend the mornings after lunaritis alone. Even if I’m no longer dreaming, I’m not awake either.

My heart is still beating unusually fast as I clamber up six flights of stairs. But I savor the burn of my sedentary muscles, and when at last I reach the highest point, I swing open the door to the rooftop.

It’s not quite morning yet, and the sky looks like blue-tinged steel. Surrounding me are balconies festooned with colorful clotheslines, broken-down properties with boarded- up windows, fuzzy-leaved palm trees reaching up from the pitted streets . . . and in the distance, the ground and sky blur where the Atlantic swallows the horizon.

El Retiro is a rundown apartment complex with all elderly residents—mostly Cuban, Colombian, Venezuelan, Nicara- guan, and Argentine immigrants. There’s just one slow, loud elevator in the building, and since I’m the youngest person here, I never use it in case someone else needs it.

I came up here hoping for a breath of fresh air, but since it’s summertime, there’s no caress of a breeze to greet me. Just the suffocating embrace of Miami’s humidity.

Smothering me.

I close my eyes and take in deep gulps of musty oxygen, trying to push the dread down to where it can’t touch me. The way Perla taught me to do whenever I get anxious.

My metamorphosis started this year. I first felt something was different four full moons ago, when I no longer needed to squint to study the ground from up here. I simply opened my eyes to perfect vision.

The following month, my hair thickened so much that I had to buy bigger clips to pin it back. Next menstrual cycle came the growth spurt that left my jeans three inches too short, and last lunaritis I awoke with such a heightened sense of smell that I could sniff out what Ma and Perla had for dinner all three nights I was out.

It’s bad enough to feel the outside world pressing in on me, but now even my insides are spinning out of my control.

As Perla’s breathing exercises relax my thoughts, I begin to feel the stirrings of my dreamworld calling me back. I slide onto the rooftop’s ledge and lie back along the warm cement, my body as stagnant as the stale air. A dragon-shaped cloud comes apart like cotton, and I let my gaze drift with Miami’s hypnotic sky, trying to call up the dream’s details before they fade . . .

What Ma and Perla don’t know about the Septis is they don’t simply sedate me for sixty hours—they transport me.

Every lunaritis, I visit the same nameless land of magic and mist and monsters. There’s the golden grass that ticks off time by turning silver as the day ages; the black-leafed trees that can cry up storms, their dewdrop tears rolling down their bark to form rivers; the colorful waterfalls that warn onlookers of oncoming danger; the hope-sucking Sombras that dwell in darkness and attach like parasitic shadows . . .

And the Citadel.

It’s a place I instinctively know I’m not allowed to go, yet I’m always trying to get to. Whenever I think I’m going to make it inside, I wake up with a start.

Picturing the black stone wall, I see the thorny ivy that twines across its surface like a nest of guardian snakes, slithering and bunching up wherever it senses a threat.

The sharper the image, the sleepier I feel, like I’m slowly sliding back into my dream until I reach my hand out tentatively. If I could just move faster than the ivy, I could finally grip the opal doorknob before the thorns—

Howling breaks my reverie.

I blink, and the dream disappears as I spring to sitting and scour the battered buildings. For a moment, I’m sure I heard a wolf.

My spine locks at the sight of a far more dangerous threat: A cop car is careening in the distance, its lights flashing and siren wailing. Even though the black-and-white is still too far away to see me, I leap down from the ledge and take cover behind it, the old mantra running through my mind.

Don’t come here, don’t come here, don’t come here.

A familiar claustrophobia claws at my skin, an affliction forged of rage and shame and powerlessness that’s been my companion as long as I’ve been in this country. Ma tells me I should let her worry about this stuff and only concern myself with studying, so when our papers come through, I can take my GED and one day make it to NASA—but it’s impossible not to worry when I’m constantly having to hide.

My muscles don’t uncoil until the siren’s howling fades and the police are gone, but the morning’s spell of stillness has broken. A door slams and I instinctively turn toward the pink building across the street that’s tattooed with territorial graffiti. Where the alternate version of me lives.

I call her Other Manu.

The first thing I ever noticed about her was her Argentine fútbol jersey: #10 Lionel Messi. Then I saw her face and realized we look a lot alike. I was reading Borges at the time, and it occurred to me that she and I could be the same person in overlapping parallel universes.

But it’s an older man and not Other Manu who lopes down the street. She wouldn’t be up this early on a Sunday anyway. I arch my back again, and thankfully this time, the only pop I hear is in my joints.

The sun’s golden glare is strong enough that I almost wish I had my sunglasses. But this rooftop is sacred to me because it’s the only place where Ma doesn’t make me wear them, since no one else comes up here.

I’m reaching for the stairwell door when I hear it.

Faint footsteps are growing louder, like someone’s racing up. My heart shoots into my throat, and I leap around the corner right as the door swings open.

The person who steps out is too light on their feet to be someone who lives here. No El Retiro resident could make it up the stairs that fast. I flatten myself against the wall.

“Creo que encontré algo, pero por ahora no quiero decir nada.”

Whenever Ma is upset with me, I have a habit of translating her words into English without processing them. I asked Perla about it to see if it’s a common bilingual thing, and she said it’s probably my way of keeping Ma’s anger at a distance; if I can deconstruct her words into language—something detached that can be studied and dissected—I can strip them of their charge.

As my anxiety kicks in, my mind goes into automatic translation mode: I think I found something, but I don’t want to say anything yet.

The woman or girl (it’s hard to tell her age) has a deep, throaty voice that’s sultry and soulful, yet her singsongy accent is unquestionably Argentine. Or Uruguayan. They sound similar.

My cheek is pressed to the wall as I make myself as flat as possible, in case she crosses my line of vision.

“Si tengo razón, me harán la capitana más joven en la his- toria de los Cazadores.”

If I’m right, they’ll make me the youngest captain in the history of the . . . Cazadores? That means hunters.

In my eight years living here, I’ve never seen another person on this rooftop. Curious, I edge closer, but I don’t dare peek around the corner. I want to see this stranger’s face, but not badly enough to let her see mine.

“¿El encuentro es ahora? Che, Nacho, ¿vos no me podrías cubrir?”

Is the meeting right now? Couldn’t you cover for me, Nacho?

The che and vos sound like Argentinespeak. What if it’s Other Manu?

The exciting possibility brings me a half step closer, and now my nose is inches from rounding the corner. Maybe I can sneak a peek without her noticing.

“Okay,” I hear her say, and her voice sounds like she’s just a few paces away.

I suck in a quick inhale, and before I can overthink it, I pop my head out—

And see the door swinging shut.

I scramble over and tug it open, desperate to spot even a hint of her hair, any clue at all to confirm it was Other Manu— but she’s already gone.

All that remains is a wisp of red smoke that vanishes with the swiftness of a morning cloud.


ROMINA GARBER (pen name Romina Russell) is a New York Times and international bestselling author. Originally from Argentina, she landed her first writing gig as a teen—a weekly column for the Miami Herald that was later nationally syndicated—and she hasn’t stopped writing since. Her books include Lobizona. When she’s not working on a novel, Romina can be found producing movie trailers, taking photographs, or daydreaming about buying a new drum set. She is a graduate of Harvard College and a Virgo to the core.

Happy reading and stay safe!
Liv the Book Nerd ~