Mini Reviews #21 – ARC Edition

Hello readers, and welcome to Mini Reviews, where I talk about some of the books I don’t write full length reviews for. This installment is a little different, since all the reviews are for ARCs I received last year that I haven’t yet reviewed and I’ll be discussing The Secret Society of Salzburg, Seoulmates and Nubia: The Awakening.

The Secret Society of Salzburg – Renee Ryan

Rating: 4 out of 5.

London, 1933
At first glance, Austrian opera singer Elsa Mayer-Braun has little in common with the young English typist she encounters on tour. Yet she and Hattie Featherstone forge an instant connection—and strike a dangerous alliance. Using their friendship as a cover, they form a secret society with a daring goal: to rescue as many Jews as possible from Nazi persecution.
Though the war’s outbreak threatens Elsa and Hattie’s network, their efforts attract the covert attention of the British government, offering more opportunities to thwart the Germans. But Elsa’s growing fame as Hitler’s favorite opera singer, coupled with her secret Jewish ancestry, make her both a weapon and a target – until her future, too, hangs in the balance.
From the glamorous stages of Covent Garden and Salzburg to the horrors of Bergen-Belsen,  two ordinary women swept up by the tide of war discover an extraordinary friendship—and the courage to save countless lives

Thank you to the publisher, Harlequin, for providing me with an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

This was an amazing read about a pair of British sisters who meet a famous German opera singer and form the unlikeliest of friendships that grows into an alliance as they form a network to help Jews escape Nazi persecution and bring them safely to England. WWII novels feature frequently on my TBR now, but as I always say, each both has something new and brings a different perspective, and this book is partly based on a true story too, of two sisters who helped many Jewish refugees. The characters were well developed and both Elsa and Hattie’s POVs were interesting with the story flowing smoothly. The author has done a very good job with setting the scene and it was easy to visualize this time period, making this an immersive read.

The one thing I thought could have been done better with this book was using a linear narration instead starting with a future timeline cliffhanger. While I’m usually a fan of dual timelines, it just didn’t work for this story and the tension could have been better maintained with a single timeline. And speaking of maintaining tension, the premise certainly set up an exciting set of events, but once the story really got started, I felt that Elsa and Hattie’s friendship and interactions kind of took center stage over the secret network they built and their covert operations to rescue Jews. There wasn’t enough focus or page time on it so it became, in my opinion, more of a tell rather than show and reduced some of the excitement of the whole thing. Overall though, this was a solid read and I loved reading about the historical background it was based on. I would definitely recommend this book for fans of the genre!

Publishing Date: December 27th, 2022 (Love Inspired Trade)

Seoulmates – Susan Lee

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Hannah Cho had the next year all planned out – the perfect summer with her boyfriend, Nate, and then a fun senior year with their friends.

But then Nate does what everyone else in Hannah’s life seems to do – he leaves her, claiming they have nothing in common. He and all her friends are newly obsessed with K-pop and K-dramas, and Hannah is not. After years of trying to embrace the American part and shunning the Korean side of her Korean American identity to fit in, Hannah finds that’s exactly what now has her on the outs.

But someone who does know K-dramas – so well that he’s actually starring in one – is Jacob Kim, Hannah’s former best friend, whom she hasn’t seen in years. He’s desperate for a break from the fame, so a family trip back to San Diego might be just what he needs… that is, if he and Hannah can figure out what went wrong when they last parted and navigate the new feelings developing between them.

Thank you to the publisher, HCC Frenzy for providing me with an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

This was the first contemporary novel I’d picked up in quite some time, but it sounded like a too cute of a read to ignore. Though I don’t know much about K-dramas myself, this was an interesting read and there was enough context to follow along easily enough. This is the perfect book for a lazy summer afternoon and I finished it in one sitting. I have a couple of similar books on my shelf, in particular Once Upon a KProm, which I’m now even more excited to try!

The characters were pretty straightforward and likeable enough, and the story had a nice message too. On the downside, I felt that the storyline was extremely predictable and followed typical tropes which made it so that after a point there was nothing left to anticipate. Nevertheless, this was a fun read and if you’re in the mood for a book that’s lighthearted and easy to read, I would definitely recommend this!

Publishing Date: September 20th, 2022 (Inkyard Press)

Nubia: The Awakening – Omar Epps

Rating: 3 out of 5.

For Zuberi, Uzochi, and Lencho, Nubia is a mystery. Before they were born, a massive storm destroyed their ancestral homeland, forcing their families to flee across the ocean to New York City. Nubia, a utopic island nation off the coast of West Africa, was no more, and their parents’ sorrow was too deep for them to share much of their history beyond the folklore.

But New York, ravaged by climate change and class division, is far from a safe haven for refugees, and Nubians live as outcasts, struggling to survive in the constantly flooding lower half of Manhattan, while the rich thrive in the tech-driven sky city known as the Up High.

To many, being Nubian means you’re fated for a life plagued by difficulties and disrespect. But Zuberi, Uzochi, and Lencho are beginning to feel there might be more. Something within them is changing, giving each of them extraordinary powers. Extraordinary and terrifying powers that seem to be tied to the secrets their parents have kept from them.

And there are people Up High watching, eager to do anything they can to become even more powerful than they already are. Now Zuberi, Uzochi, and Lencho will be faced with the choice – do they use their inheritance to lift their people, or to leave them behind. The fate of their city, and their people, hangs in the balance.

Thank you to the publisher, Penguin Teen Canada, and NetGalley for providing me with an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Ever since I read came across this book earlier this year, I was very excited for it, especially as it sounded similar to Ballad and Dagger which I really enjoyed. The world building and magic system was rich and well described, though honestly, it was a bit much for one book. The plot was interesting, and I liked how in this urban fantasy novel, topics relevant to today’s climate like global warming, racism, classism, discrimination and more fit in so well even in this magical world. Plot aside, this was clearly a character focused book. All three POVs were well written and the character development was excellent, making them feel real and easy to connect to.

Unfortunately, despite a promising premise, this didn’t live up to expectations for me, and a large part of that was due to the pacing. There was quite a lot of information revealed all at once and it seemed to take forever for things to actually get started. And until it did, I found this to be a rather confusing read. I’m not quite sure if the sequel will be on my TBR, but overall, this book didn’t really work for me, but I would definitely suggest it to other readers.

Publishing Date: November 8th, 2022 (Delacorte Press)

Have you read any of these books or do you plan to? I’d love to hear your thoughts on them!


4 thoughts on “Mini Reviews #21 – ARC Edition

  1. Anoushka January 3, 2023 / 10:22 pm

    BNDFHNBFVB THE PREMISE OF NUBIA SOUNDS SO SO INTERESTING HOW HAVE I NEVER HEARD OF IT BEFORE?? books dealing with climate change + discrimination mixed in with magic ARE OFFICIALLY THE BEST EVER. i need this?? but also infodumping sucks sometimes I’M SO SORRY THIS DIDNT LIVE UP TO EXPECTATIONS 😭 yayy to enjoying seoulmates though!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Raji (@journeyintofantasy) February 8, 2023 / 9:29 pm

      Nubia had a great concept but not the best execution unfortunately. Seoulmates was such a cute read, just what I needed after a couple of disappointing reads in a row! Thanks for reading and commenting!


  2. Fransic verso January 6, 2023 / 10:20 am

    Great reviews, would love to read about the secret society and read more about the sisters.

    Liked by 1 person

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