Posted in Book Review

Shadowsong by S. Jae-Jones

Read Dates: January 18, 2022 – January 23, 2022
Publication Date: February 6, 2018
Source: owned hardback

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From Goodreads:
Six months after the end of Wintersong, Liesl is working toward furthering both her brother’s and her own musical careers. Although she is determined to look forward and not behind, life in the world above is not as easy as Liesl had hoped. Her younger brother Josef is cold, distant, and withdrawn, while Liesl can’t forget the austere young man she left beneath the earth, and the music he inspired in her.

When troubling signs arise that the barrier between worlds is crumbling, Liesl must return to the Underground to unravel the mystery of life, death, and the Goblin King—who he was, who he is, and who he will be. What will it take to break the old laws once and for all? What is the true meaning of sacrifice when the fate of the world—or the ones Liesl loves—is in her hands?

Alright… bear with me because, even though I’ve slept on it and it’s been two days, my thoughts on this book are still all over the place. One thing I can tell you for sure, though, is that two days later, this book has no special place in my heart or my head. It just was. It used to be. I read it and now I’m done with it.

They say the Hunt rides abroad when there is an imbalance between the Underground and the land of the living.

Alright so, Wintersong. I really did enjoy Wintersong! It was enjoyable and I was fangirling at the references and nods to the movie Labyrinth. When I finished Wintersong, I immediately went to Amazon and ordered the second book. I wanted, nay, NEEDED to know what was going to happen with the Goblin King and Liesl. But what I got from this book just wasn’t fulfilling.

So, it’s been half a year, and Liesl has abandoned music and is pouring herself into work at the Inn. The synopsis up there, yea, not correct. The girl hasn’t touched music since Wintersong. She refuses to. She “can’t”. Even though she promised the Goblin King she was going to play her song for him so he would hear and remember her and he could hold onto his humanity and whatever. But no. This character who changed SO MUCH in Wintersong has reverted right back as if the first book never even happened. Even the second part of the synopsis… Liesl doesn’t find her way back to the Underground until the very end! It makes it sound like she’s back in the Underground for a majority of the book but she’s not. Not at all! She doesn’t even try until almost the very end.

“Ah,” she said softly, “but what’s the use of running” – she lifted her eyes to mine – “if you are on the wrong road?”

The beginning of the book is a series of letters Liesl has written to her brother that have gone unanswered. But there isn’t really any investigation there either. Liesl doesn’t think to find a way to investigate her brother’s well-being. Not until a letter is received asking Liesl to come to Vienna and it appears to be in Josef’s handwriting. So it takes a frantic cryptic letter to get her to worry enough to investigate her brother’s well-being. Except… she STILL doesn’t! The letter gets talked about and ultimately thrown off to the side. It’s not until ANOTHER letter comes from a well-to-do individual who claims they are sheltering Josef and offers the money and means of travel to get Liesl and her sister to Vienna to join them. Now, finally, Liesl is heading to her brother. But, still, it feels like the pleading letter is completely forgotten. It’s not even mentioned when they get there! That’s the first inconsistency I’m going to mention.

Another thing that I can’t really go into too much detail about without giving things away, is a couple of characters that get introduced. Like, why? Thinking back, they didn’t have much of a purpose. They didn’t do anything significant. They didn’t drop any bombs. THe didn’t help. They didn’t hinder. They were just there.

Oh! Oh! Not to mention, Constanze, the grandmother. She starts talking all crazy calling Liesl and Kathe by her sister’s names and it turns out that was basically pointless too. It didn’t really go anywhere. I was thinking “Ooo. I bet that’s significant somehow.” Meh. Not really.

There just weren’t any exciting or “ah-ha!” moments in this book. I wasn’t really wow’ed. I suppose the end was kind of exciting. I just, I don’t know, I wasn’t impressed. There were inconsistencies, there was filler content, or what I felt was filler content. I just feel like the two books could have been condensed into one really awesome book.

My final complaint is The Goblin King. He was barely in it! Yes, we got his back story and that was cool but we hardly got any time with him in the state he’s in now. I felt like I didn’t know him anymore by the time we got to the end of the book. Which kind of made the end of the book fall flat for me.

He reaches out for her one last time, pressing his name onto her heart.
Keep me safe, he thinks. Keep me human. Keep me whole.
And then he is gone.

This wasn’t a love story about Liesl and The Goblin King, this was a love story about Liesl and her brother Josef. Which is fine, but, that wasn’t what I signed up for. I was in this story for the Goblin King and, honestly, that’s probably on me for having expectations going in. I’m just feeling a bit betrayed by this synopsis that is completely misleading and the story that felt like one of those movies that feels like it’s 4 hours long because of how much content there is that is just boring and doesn’t seem to matter in the grand scheme of things. The one where you keep checking your watch and marveling at how it’s only been half an hour and you just wish things would either get better or just hurry along.

I will say, I did enjoy the way this book was written. I enjoyed the first one for the same reason. It’s sort of poetic and old-timey and it was really fun to read. Well… Until it wasn’t. There were a lot of times something was said either in German or French or Latin and there was no explanation as to what it meant. That was a bit annoying.

Anyway, this one just wasn’t for me. I’m really disappointed and I am off to find more Labyrinth-inspired stories. I feel unfulfilled. I feel like I HAVE to find another series now to fill the hole that was just left in me from reading this duology.

Now I always say this, and this book is no exception but… there’s a chance you’ll love it! There are people who do! I just didn’t. So if what I’ve described intrigues you, by all means, go read it! It’s definitely a cool world S. Jae-Jones has built.

✌💛

Posted in Book Review

Pestilence by Laura Thalassa

Read Dates: January 19, 2022 – January 22, 2022
Date Published: September 14, 2018
Source: ebook

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From Goodreads:

They came to earth–Pestilence, War, Famine, Death–four horsemen riding their screaming steeds, racing to the corners of the world. Four horsemen with the power to destroy all of humanity. They came to earth, and they came to end us all.

When Pestilence comes for Sara Burn’s town, one thing is certain: everyone she knows and loves is marked for death. Unless, of course, the angelic-looking horseman is stopped, which is exactly what Sara has in mind when she shoots the unholy beast off his steed.

Too bad no one told her Pestilence can’t be killed.

Now the horseman, very much alive and very pissed off, has taken her prisoner, and he’s eager to make her suffer. Only, the longer she’s with him, the more uncertain she is about his true feelings towards her … and hers towards him.

And now, well, Sara might still be able to save the world, but in order to do so, she’ll have to sacrifice her heart in the process.

Is this my first five-star of the year!? I think it is!

So this was actually a spur-of-the-moment read because my best friend started reading it and told me she was about 70 pages in and felt like it was going to be a 5/5 for her. So I took a pause on the book I was currently reading and dove into this one. I’m so glad I did.

Now, I get the mixed reviews. This isn’t your conventional romance novel. It doesn’t really fall into any one romance category for me. It was just… different. It was so different from the romance novels I’m used to. I read contemporary, paranormal, historical, YA… this book doesn’t fit into any of them. It was in a league all its own.

So, our main characters for pretty much the entirety of the book are Sara and Pestilence. Sara is a firefighter who volunteers to take the last shift before evacuation. She also happens to be the firefighter who pulls the black straw, meaning she is the one who will stay behind and carry out a plan she and her coworkers came up with to attempt to kill Pestilence and end the plague that he carries with him. Despite shooting him point-blank and setting him on fire, Pestilence lives and he takes Sara captive intending to make her suffer showing no mercy the way she showed him no mercy. And so begins the story.

“Oh, for the love of—” “God?” he finishes for me, raising his eyebrows. “Do you really think He is going to help you?”

Now here’s the thing… this book stood out from its brethren in substantial ways. First of all, there wasn’t that immediate sexual interest that you get from the very first encounter in most of the romance novels (especially paranormal ones) I read. It wasn’t immediately, as my best friend put it, putting fire into anyone’s loins. Some of the things Pestilence did to make Sara “suffer” were particularly cruel. It wasn’t just one cruel instance, it was many. It went on until it didn’t. It was BELIEVABLE. That’s the big one for me. The way this book was written was completely believable. Sara tried to kill him and didn’t waver when he asked her for mercy. Then Pestilence caused Sara to suffer and, in turn, did not show Sara mercy when she asked it of him. We don’t get to hear Pestilence’s side of things but from Sara’s perspective, she hates him. She hates the way he keeps her alive and causes her hurt and it all makes SENSE.

Now, I must say, I do have a strange fascination with Stockholm Syndrome type books. I mean, Beauty and the Beast is one of my all-time favorites… so… I guess maybe that’s the difference between me and the people that didn’t care for this book. But I thought it was incredibly refreshing that the beginning of their relationship wasn’t romanticized. It was anything but. As most of these situations should be, right? Even if you *are* kidnapped by a tall, handsome, RIPPED specimen of a man.

Pestilence frowns. “Anyone who tries to get close to us is doomed. You are safe, Sara.” But I’m not. Not from him, and not from my own heart.

Another thing I noticed people complaining about was the decisions the two made being questionable to their characters but, if you ask me, they really weren’t! They totally made sense to me. I don’t want to give too much away here but there were moments when, even though Pestilence was coming to care for Sara, he would do things to upset her. Let me just explain this to you guys in one sentence, “He IS Pestilence.” He was made to spread disease. It’s his purpose. He doesn’t know human customs and values. He only knows what he was made to do and what he’s been existing to do all his life.

He rises to his feet then and walks to the door. He pauses there. “For good or for ill,” he says over his shoulder, “I have been indelibly changed by you.”

Both of these characters were just really likable for me and I’m definitely, without a doubt, going to read through the next three books in the series. I just worry that they won’t live up to this one because this one, for me, was so so so good. I mean, I gave it five stars. That’s a really hard rating to get out of me. This book had me feeling frustrated when I couldn’t get any free time to read. I wanted nothing more than to sit and read the entirety of this book in one sitting. It made me feel all the things. I had literal pangs in my chest multiple times. It made me cry for heaven’s sake. The scenes we got where it showed normal everyday people in their homes getting the plague and how they handled it… just everything about this book was so incredibly wonderful and refreshing and startling and I really hope the next three are just as good. I am especially anxious to read Death’s book.

If you like paranormal romance novels, chances are you’ll like this one. As long as you’re not super attached to the immediate sexual tension. As long as you’re willing to witness the ugly truth of this kind of situation in order to get to the romantic parts. I loved Pestilence and he was so worth it. Onto the next!

Pestilence, his crown perched upon his brow. War, with his steel blade held high. Famine, a scythe and scales at hand. And Death, blighted Death, his dark wings folded at his back, a torch of bilious smoke tight in his grip. And so it was, and so it shall be, for the Age of Man is over, and the Age of the Horseman has begun. They came to earth, and they came to end us all.

✌💛

Posted in Book Review

Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones

Read Dates: December 25, 2021 – December 28, 2021
Publication Date: February 7, 2017
Source: Owned hardback

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From Goodreads:

The last night of the year. Now the days of winter begin and the Goblin King rides abroad, searching for his bride…

All her life, Liesl has heard tales of the beautiful, dangerous Goblin King. They’ve enraptured her mind, her spirit, and inspired her musical compositions. Now eighteen and helping to run her family’s inn, Liesl can’t help but feel that her musical dreams and childhood fantasies are slipping away.

But when her own sister is taken by the Goblin King, Liesl has no choice but to journey to the Underground to save her. Drawn to the strange, captivating world she finds—and the mysterious man who rules it—she soon faces an impossible decision. And with time and the old laws working against her, Liesl must discover who she truly is before her fate is sealed.

“Will you marry me, Elisabeth? the little boy asked, and the little girl did not wonder at how he knew her name.
Oh, she replied, but I am too young to marry.
Then I will wait, the little boy said. I will wait as long as you remember.
And the little girl laughed as she danced with the Goblin King, the little boy who was always just a little older, a little out of reach.

Listen. I LOVE David Bowie. I also LOVE the movie Labyrinth. I also pick up every single book I can find that claims to be a retelling of such or even just one that is inspired by the film. So… when I heard about this one, I ran to my local bookstore. They didn’t have it. So like any rational person on the face of the Earth, I bought it and had it rush delivered to my house. Perfectly reasonable, I know.

So anyway, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked the story. I admit, it was a bit slow going in the beginning… but then… but THEN…

I also have to mention how incredibly giddy it made me when I read a sentence that was taken straight out of the movie Labyrinth but used in a different way that fit this adaptation. I marked them all with my cute little sticky notes and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t clap after placing each one down on a page.

“I’ve given you everything you’ve ever wanted. I’m tired of living up to your expectations.

So Liesl is a plain girl living in the shadow of her beautiful sister, Kathe and her talented brother, Josef. She loves music but she is forbidden from practicing it or taking classes to hone her natural talent for it. One day while running an errand at the market for their brother, Liesl and her sister Kathe run into some merchants that turn out to be goblins. The goblins isolate Kathe and spirit her away to the Goblin King. So begins Liesl’s journey to the Underground (**squeals internally**) where she must find a way to rescue her sister and beat the Goblin King.

I must admit, I didn’t care for Kathe at all and I really did dread having to read about her. But I suspect that was the intention. Kathe is beautiful and she knows it. She flirts with all the boys she meets. She enjoys nice things like shopping, accessories fashion, and fancy confections. She’s just a lot. For my personal taste at least. Maybe that’s your thing?

Josef was a bit the same for me. He’s very timid. Liesl is living in his shadow but he is also nothing without her. He’s very emotional and lacks any self-esteem. Liesl helps him navigate through those feelings. When she leaves, he literally has no idea what to do. It’s wild. He is the baby brother though. So I guess it makes sense.

I just didn’t really want to read about anyone except Liesl and the Goblin King. But, of course, most of the beginning chapters of this book were about Liesl’s family. Which is fine, I mean, we have to learn about the things that make our main character tick. But, while we’re on the subject, this was a big reason for my taking away of stars (cats). It’s not the book’s fault in any way, it’s mostly a fault of mine. I love music but I have no clue about composition. A lot of this book was about composing music. Those parts would lose me a little bit. Especially in the beginning where that was 90% of the main focus.

Liesl was enjoyable to read. She is strong and independent and level-headed even though she is very unsure of herself and lacks self-esteem. This was ok with me, though, because it fits the character. As I said before, she lives in the shadow of her siblings so this totally makes sense for her. Where her sister was told how beautiful she was by everyone she came across and her brother was told how talented he was in music, Liesl was never given any compliments where her talents and looks were concerned. She was always just the glue that held the family together. She took on keeping her family happy and her household running smoothly.

Also, I did enjoy the way the author wrote Liesl as being “plain” and “unattractive.” Even the Goblin King admits that she’s nothing to look at. The focus here is that there are other traits a person can have that make them wonderful. This is a constant throughout the story and I found that so refreshing. At no point did Liesl gussy herself up and make herself beautiful. She didn’t need to. All she needed was the one thing she was sure of about herself: her music. I was incredibly impressed by the consistency with this as well as how much it was pushed on the reader.

The Goblin King… *sigh*. He was so interesting. I kept wanting to know more about him. He captivated me. He was hot and cold and he came and went as he pleased. He was just… I don’t know… mysterious. There was also some indication that he was a broken man, regardless of his immortality and his stature. Which I guess makes sense for the next reasoning for deduction of stars. I got a bit dizzy with the back and forth of their relationship. Every time they came together it was good and then it was bad. I was left feeling incredibly confused about the two of them which left me not believing how they felt about each other by the end of the story. The relationship part just wasn’t there for me. It felt toxic. Maybe that was the intention. I don’t know. I do intend to read the second book to hopefully find some clarification.

“Oh, Elisabeth,” he said, “I would go anywhere with you.”

The thing about Liesl, though, is she doesn’t take any of the Goblin King’s crap. She goes toe to toe with him and never backs down. She’s fiercely protective of her family and she’s willing to do just about anything to ensure their safety… including outwitting the Goblin King. She wants to beat him, yes, but she also wants to know him. She’s always had a thing for the Goblin King, ever since she was a kid. She remembers playing games with the Goblin King when they were young and she has always fantasized about the two of them being together. So when she’s basically dropped in his lap, of course she feels that pull to learn more about him. I just… I don’t know. I didn’t believe it when all was said and done.

I feel the need to tell you guys, too, that if you’re not a fan of a less than ideal ending, then this isn’t the book for you. I’m not going to give away any spoilers here, but just know, there is little resolution at the end of this book. No fairy tale endings to be found in this one. It’s honestly kind of a sad ending. However, I’m hoping that the second book will clear this bit up for me so I refrained from letting the ending reflect in how I rated the book as a whole.

One last thing I think is worth mentioning: this is labeled as a young adult novel but, well, it’s not. It certainly didn’t feel like one. The language (not foul, just… poetic?), the sex… it just didn’t feel like a young adult novel at all. I just wanted to mention this, though, for those who might be wondering if this book is ok for their younger reader. Expect them to read quite a few sex scenes. None of which are overly detailed or super explicit but it’s very clear what they’re doing.

All in all, I enjoyed the book. I enjoyed the little snippets we got from the author calling back to David Bowie’s Labyrinth. I enjoyed the concept and the world-building. I SO enjoyed the magic. It was an, overall, enjoyable read!

✌💛

Posted in Book Review

A Deal with the Elf King by Elise Kova

Read Dates: November 21,2021 – December 1, 2021
Publication Date: November 6, 2020
Source: Owned hardback

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“You are perhaps the one thing in Midscape I find terrifying.”

Maybe there’s something wrong with me… there’s probably something wrong with me.
So when I saw this book had a Hades and Persephone/Beauty and the Beast type feel, I was ALL IN.
Those are two of my absolute favorite stories. Again, because there’s probably something wrong with me. Stockholm syndrome you say? Yes, please.  

Anyway…

So this book is about a girl named Luella. She lives in a town where, for centuries, the elves have come to take a human queen. The human queen brings about the seasons and prevents the elves from being plunged into an eternal winter. In exchange for their human queen, the village receives longer life spans and protection from the wild fae and other dangerous creatures that lurk outside their borders. Unfortunately, the human queen has not presented herself and the elf king is growing impatient.

Luella is a healer within her village and she believes she is just an ordinary girl. But when the elf king comes to demand his human queen, she is revealed to have the same magical abilities every human queen before her had and is whisked away to Lafaire, the Elf King’s kingdom. She has to learn the ways of the elves and endure their harsh and unusual treatment of their human queen as well as learn how to use her new powers. Most human queens are discovered at a young age and are trained to use their magic, but Luella was not.

Let’s start with Luella. I actually really genuinely enjoyed Luella throughout the book. She didn’t exasperate me like so many main female characters in stories similar to this do. She trusted herself and questioned the things that her predecessors had not been willing to. She truly wants to do good for her people and she believes going with Eldas is the right thing to do for them. She does feel sad, however, that she is leaving her village as their only healer. The people in her village even donated money so that she could go off to school to become a better healer. She feels indebted to them, yes, but she also just feels this love for everyone in her community. It’s also hard on her as she is carted off as a plague has broken out in her village. She’s just an all-around great character with a good head on her shoulders who just genuinely cares. It’s refreshing.

Eldas. Now, of course, he’s tall and brooding and mysterious… so… Yea. He had my full attention. Eldas is just as duty motivated as Luella. He wants to do right by his people and he wants to keep his subjects happy and comfortable. He feels the need to continue on with this tradition of taking a human queen to bring about the end of winter. However, he also feels a bit trapped by this old tradition. Not to mention, he has started to maybe start to have feelings for Luella.

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t see the plot of this book and where it was heading. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it. This was honestly such a good read with two incredible main characters and equally enjoyable secondary characters who just made my heart so happy. The entire thing was so so so good. The plot, the character building, the relationship building with not only our two main characters but with all the other characters as well. The story was just *chef’s kiss*.

I will say, there were times when I was desperate to have chapters showing Eldas’ point of view. But this didn’t take away from my liking of the book at all. I was still so entranced and so enchanted by the whole thing.

Now, I will say… there’s not a whole lot of “adventuring” in this book. I typically like my fantasy books to have a bit of adventure if only for the sake of seeing this world the author has envisioned for the characters. This book takes place, for the most part, in the Elf King’s castle. So, if you’re off-put by a book without adventure, this isn’t the one for you.

I honestly enjoyed the simplicity of this story though. It was just the story of two people bound by duty who lived for others but in the end, helped each other find themselves. It was incredibly enjoyable and I honestly got a lot of David Bowie’s “Labyrinth” vibes which is pretty much an instant two thumbs up from me!

✌💛

Posted in Book Review

The Retreat by Sherri Smith

Dates Read: October 11, 2021 – November 6, 2021
Date Published: August 13, 2019
Source: ebook via Forge and Sherri Smith in exchange for an honest review

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Four women.
Four secrets.
A weekend that will change them forever…if they survive.

Katie Manning was a beloved child star until her mid-teens when her manager attacked and permanently scarred her face, effectively ending her career and sending her on a path of all-too-familiar post-Hollywood self-destruction.

Now twenty-seven, Katie wants a better answer to those clickbait “Where Are They Now?” articles that float around online. An answer she hopes to find when her brother’s too-good-to-be-true fiancé invites her to a wellness retreat upstate. Together with Katie’s two best friends–one struggling with crippling debt and family obligations, one running away from a failed job and relationship–Katie will try to find the inner peace promised at the tranquil retreat. But finding oneself just might drudge up more memories than Katie is prepared to deal with.

Each woman has come to the retreat for different reasons. Each has her secrets to hide. And at the end of this weekend, only one will be left standing.

****First off, I feel like it’s worth mentioning right out of the gate some trigger warnings.****
-Molestation of a teenager including later recounting of the molestation
-Drug use and addiction including alcoholism
-Childhood cancer

I will always love a good suspenseful who’dun’it type story. ALWAYS. Even when it takes me almost a month to read it and I’m a little bored most of the way through. We’ll just add it to the list of my toxic reading traits. I WAS interested in this book. I was. Just not the way I wish I had been. I found that I was incredibly annoyed and bored in the beginning with all the talk of “Shelby Spade” and all the high school girl banter back and forth between Katie, Ariel, and Carmen. Even when we got further into the book, we kept getting snippets of Shelby Spade episodes and how they were similar to the real situations Katie was in. I powered through them and I guess they sort of served to set the stage of Katie’s childhood, but I feel like in the grand scheme of the book, they held no weight. They were pointless.

Anywho, so we are following four girls on a wellness retreat. Who do we have?
Katie: our main character. Former child star whose career went down the crapshoot following an accident.
Ellie: Katie’s soon-to-be sister-in-law. She is engaged to Katie’s brother, Nate, and was the one who suggested they visit the retreat together to hopefully bond and help Katie with her alcoholism.
Ariel: One of Katie’s college friends who Katie invited on the retreat
Carmen: Another of Katie’s college friends who was also invited by Katie to the retreat

The book jumps back and forth from each girl’s perspective and is also split up into each day of the retreat. (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday)
The first third of the book kind of just annoyed me. It was all just Katie being a brat, Ariel and Carmen being annoying, and of course, the author setting the stage and providing little details and snippets that would prove to be a bit important later on. The first third was why it took me so long to get through this book. I struggled to sit and read this ridiculous high school mean girl drama unfolding on the way to the retreat and on their first night there. We have to read about Ariel sulking because she didn’t get to room with Katie and Katie not caring about anything other than keeping her phone instead of putting it in the basket with everyone else’s during their stay. But again, I get it, the stage was being set. And I don’t think we were ever meant to really like any of these characters. Which… I didn’t.

The second third started to get good… until it fell flat. The third… third… was the most exciting. It was like one of those movies that you sit through and are just “bleh” about until it gets to the last 20 minutes and then everything happens so quickly and you feel like your head is gonna fall off.

So the second third… I was excited. YAY! MURDER! Right off the bat! First page! Now we can start being detectives and try to figure out who it was! But, not even a few pages later, I knew… I knew exactly who did it because it was the only logical explanation. I was just a little disappointed with how easy it was. And THEN I was disappointed that people weren’t dropping like flies after the initial killing. But that’s not the way the story was meant to go, and I get that.

There was a moment in the beginning of the last third of the book where a knife was mentioned and it took me a second to realize they were talking about the murder weapon that killed the first victim. We had spent so long in the middle of the book learning about Katie’s history that I had completely forgotten someone even died. We went from a bloody knife being found to being thrown headfirst into the sea of Katie’s childhood and allllllll of her history. This alone is the reason I took half a star away from the review. I pretty much read the last half of this book without stopping and still managed to be so deterred with other elements of Katie’s convoluted story that I forgot what I was originally here for. MURDER.

I was promised FOUR secrets and I honestly feel like only one of them was a gasp moment when it was revealed. The others weren’t that grand to me. Though, they do play a direct role in the downfall of the characters. So they’re not without purpose.

I feel like I’m being primarily negative though and as you’ve probably noticed, I gave this book 3.5 cats (stars). I did enjoy the story. It was vindictive and manipulative with completely unlikable characters who didn’t make you feel bad for sitting there and cheering on the killer. I LOVE a book where I can be detached from every single character. Not a single main character in this book had any redeeming qualities. We had all of the seven deadly sins and I LOVED that. Pride, greed, wrath, gluttony, envy, lust, sloth… everyone was accounted for. At some point in the book, every one of those sins reared their ugly heads and it was completely entertaining.

Honestly, if some production company were to pick this one up, it would be a good b-list slasher movie. I would watch it.

Overall I did enjoy it. Do I think I’ll remember it later down the road without looking at my notes or someone detailing what the story was about? No. Which is another reason I rated the way I did. But I did definitely enjoy the last half of the book in the moment.

✌💛

Posted in Book Review

Ever Alice by H.J. Ramsay

Read Dates: September 18, 2021 – September 21, 2021
Date Published: August 1, 2019
Source: ebook

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Alice’s stories of Wonderland did more than raise a few eyebrows—it landed her in an asylum. Now at 15 years of age, she’s willing to do anything to leave, which includes agreeing to an experimental procedure. When Alice decides at the last minute not to go through with it, she escapes with the White Rabbit to Wonderland and trades one mad house for another: the court of the Queen of Hearts. Only this time, she is under orders to take out the Queen. When love, scandal, and intrigue begin to muddle her mission, Alice finds herself on the wrong side of the chopping block.

**Thank you to H.J. Ramsay and Red Rogue Press for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review**

Hi. So uhh… as you can see, I finished this book a couple of weeks ago… I’ve honestly been putting off writing this review because I HATE writing reviews on books I didn’t like. But I felt like I needed to be true to the reason I started this blog in the first place and true to the people that read my reviews and let y’all know… I didn’t like this one.

I love retellings. If you follow my blog posts you know I am a serious SUCKER for a retelling. So when I saw this one, I got excited! An Alice in Wonderland retelling where Alice is a psych patient? That sounded AMAZING to me. But it was nothing I hoped. Nothing I expected. I was bored. I wanted to like it! I really did! I really tried to love the story but I was so, so incredibly bored.

When I think “Alice in Wonderland” I think silly, out of the blue, unexpected, straight up NONSENSE. But that’s not what happened.

This book was full of characters I couldn’t connect with. I didn’t feel anything for a single character. There were moments in the book that should have made me gasp and my heart should have ached but it didn’t. It just didn’t. Because I couldn’t have cared less about any of the characters in this book.

Alice annoyed me most of the way through. She wasn’t a constant character. She didn’t stick to one personality. She cycled through many. Which I guess would be appropriate since she’s a psych patient and that’s sort of the point but it made the entire story feel sloppy and forced. She couldn’t do a single thing unless someone told her to do it and it was incredibly frustrating.

Speaking of forced… the elements of Wonderland and some of the happenings felt forced. It felt like the author was trying to shove every well-known element of Wonderland into this story in a new way that we hadn’t seen but it didn’t work for me because, again, it felt forced.

The prince. Let’s talk about the Prince of Wonderland. That whole storyline didn’t make a lick of sense either. I couldn’t connect with him and I couldn’t bring myself to care what he was doing and with whom. His presence wasn’t even needed in this story. I feel like he was just added for a “romance” element that the book could have done without.

Now, I suppose these things would make sense and they would sort of go with the ending of the story, which I saw coming unfortunately, but when I read an Alice in Wonderland retelling, I want to feel the wonder. I want to be dazzled and I want to hear all the silly fast-paced Wonderland banter. Sometimes we would get tiny snippets of that classic Wonderland but then suddenly the book would shift back and it didn’t feel like we were in Wonderland at all. It felt like a regular story in a regular world full of regular characters where regular things happened and nothing out of the ordinary ever occurred.

I’m just sad and disappointed. Maybe it’s my own fault. Maybe I went into this book with my expectations too high and my excitement level a little through the roof. However, I’ve sat on thoughts of this book for weeks and I still can’t get past how utterly plain it was. No story about Wonderland should be so plain. It should stick with you. It should have you recalling moments and laughing at how silly it was. The parts of the story that were meant to be climaxes just continued to feel like the rest of the story. It didn’t feel like anything exciting was happening. I never felt I needed to hold my breath for what was to come because the story held the same monotonous tone the entire way through. This story was forgettable and I’m just really disappointed.

ALL THAT BEING SAID, I would never straight up tell someone to not read this book. I’ve seen rave reviews on this book. Lots of them. This book has won awards and has come incredibly close to winning others. It’s been a finalist in many “best book” categories. So if you came here to read this review because this book sounded interesting to you and you thought you might like it, I implore you, go read it! Chances are you’ll think differently than me. Everyone perceives differently. Don’t let my sad review deter you.

Just be warned that there are no happy endings in this book. Which is usually a plus for me, but this time it wasn’t. Things aren’t going to work out the way you want them to in ANY situation. That’s all I’ll say to avoid spoilers but… yea. Go see for yourself if you feel so inclined.

✌💛

Posted in Book Review

Crimson Bound by Rosamund Hodge

Read Dates: September 3, 2021 – September 9, 2021
Publication Date: May 5, 2015
Source: Kindle ebook

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From Goodreads:

When Rachelle was fifteen she was good—apprenticed to her aunt and in training to protect her village from dark magic. But she was also reckless— straying from the forest path in search of a way to free her world from the threat of eternal darkness. After an illicit meeting goes dreadfully wrong, Rachelle is forced to make a terrible choice that binds her to the very evil she had hoped to defeat.

Three years later, Rachelle has given her life to serving the realm, fighting deadly creatures in an effort to atone. When the king orders her to guard his son Armand—the man she hates most—Rachelle forces Armand to help her find the legendary sword that might save their world. As the two become unexpected allies, they uncover far-reaching conspiracies, hidden magic, and a love that may be their undoing. In a palace built on unbelievable wealth and dangerous secrets, can Rachelle discover the truth and stop the fall of endless night?

Another Rosamund Hodge book down! Rosamund is one of my favorite authors for multiple reasons. One: she wrote one of my all time favorite books, Cruel Beauty. Two: she has the most amazing short stories I’ve ever read in my life. Three: she makes me feel eerie and romantic and intrigued, and enthralled all at the same time and I LOVE IT. I could go on and on. Another huge thing for me is her retellings. I LOVE a good retelling. Cruel Beauty gave us a spin on the classic Beauty and the Beast, Gilded Ashes gave us a creepy and incredibly enjoyable spin on Cinderella, and Crimson Bound gave us a magically sinister spin on Little Red Riding Hood with a hint of Rumpelstiltskin. I’m such a sucker for retellings and she NAILS them every time.

That being said, this was actually my least favorite of her retellings thus far. I still got the creepy vibe I love to have but the story wasn’t as enticing as the previous two. Which, I mean, with something like Cruel Beauty in existence, it’s hard to compare. Especially when that was my first Rosamund Hodge novel.

When I read one of her books, I have to take a few days to marinate in what I just read before writing a review. When I come out of one of her books I’m in a trance. A happy, “I wanna go back into the book’s world” trance. This one was no exception. I had all the happy, giddy feels that I always get when I finish one of her stories. So I took a few days to reflect and realized, it wasn’t my favorite.

So in this retelling, Rachelle meets with a forestborn in the Great Forest regularly, feeling like she has made a trusted friend in him. Soon, she is betrayed and is forced into a life as a relentless murderer. She watches over the city as one of the King’s “bloodbound”, killing any woodspawn who enter the city and threaten the villages and their people. Though, her end goal always remains the same: Find the legendary sword, Joyeuse, and kill the Devourer for good, freeing the bloodbound like her and relinquishing the world from the threats of the woodspawn and the forestborn.

“Something my aunt told me once. She said that you always had to choose between the path of needles and the path of pins. When a dress is torn, you know, you can just pin it up, or you can take the time to sew it together. That’s what it means. The quick and easy way, or the painful way that works.”

She ends up forcing the man she’s been charged by the king to protect into helping her locate the sword; as her time is limited with the looming reemergence of the Devourer.

I know what you’re thinking… she’s guarding a guy… sooo…. probably they end up falling in love?

Well, rest easy, this isn’t really a romance novel. Though, I will warn you ahead of time, if you don’t enjoy even the slightest hint of a love triangle… well then… this book isn’t for you. It’s not explored very much. Maybe just a few chapters total. This book is in no way oversaturated with the love triangle aspect. But just know, it’s there. (Love triangles just happen to be one of my guilty pleasures. :D)

Her throat tightened. It was unfair—it was absolutely unfair that his voice could make her heart beat with jagged, idiotic hope…
He grinned at her, and it felt like there was no space or barrier at all between them, like his smile was happening inside her heart. Without meaning to at all, she smiled back.

Anywho, I LOVED the world that was built into this book. The Great Forest, the woodwives and their “witchcraft”, and the building dread we get knowing that the Devourer is on his way to eat the sun and the moon and bring the world into eternal darkness where the woodspawn and forestborn will feast on the living and go on living forever as greater beings. It was a really fascinating book. Everything was so well thought out and executed and I liked it a lot. I just didn’t love it.

They didn’t even care that she was one of the rare women with permission from the King to carry a sword and a dispensation from the Church to wear men’s clothing. Not when her red coat was embroidered on each shoulder with a black fleur-de-lis, symbol of the Royal Order of Penitents. The King’s bloodbound. The King’s pet murderers.

Most of the book was just Rachelle being mean to people and then fretting over it later. Or reassuring herself of why it was necessary to be mean to those people. Granted, her character build is really fun to watch. But it’s also a bit exasperating. I get the need she feels to not trust anyone but herself but she makes some really stupid decisions that, honestly, made me cringe. I understand why they ultimately happened in the book, but that didn’t mean I had to like them. And I didn’t.

Was the ending worth it? I mean, yea? It wasn’t as definitive as I would have liked it to be. The way things happened was super cool and I didn’t see it coming… but I felt like I needed like one or two more chapters.

This is the human way, she thought. On the edge of destruction, at the end of all things, we still dance. And hope.

Overall this was really enjoyable. Just not one of my favorites. This book will likely be one of the ones I’ll have to go back to my notes in order to remember exactly what went on. Whereas books like, you guessed it, Cruel Beauty, are still so fresh in my mind even after all these years. Honestly, so is Guilded Ashes. But I highly doubt this one will be. But DAMN IT if it doesn’t have some good lines in it. Classic Hodge, I tell ya.

“The problem with martyrs is that they’re all dead. What have they got to do with those of us who are sinful enough to still be alive? Should we just give up and want to die, because death is better than dishonor? But suicide is a sin too, so then we really are damned if we do and damned if we don’t.”

I’ve been looking at the Bright Smoke, Cold Fire series and I’ve thought about reading it but I’m not huge on Romeo and Juliet unless you’re Leo Dicaprio and Claire Danes. It IS a retelling though, so maybe it’ll be more enjoyable to me than the original was.

Next up on my reading list are a couple of books that I got via netgalley back in 2019. One is a young adult novel and the other is a mystery/suspense. So stay tuned!

Keep spreading kindness and positivity. ✌💛

Posted in Book Review

The Warlord by Gena Showalter

Read Dates: August 10, 2021 – August 12, 2021
Date Published: April 20, 2021
Source: Owned signed and DOODLED hardback

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For centuries, Taliyah Skyhawk has prepared to become Harpy General, leader of the deadliest female army in existence. One of the requirements? Remain a virgin. But, for a chance to save her people, she must wed the fearless leader of the Astra Planeta, Alaroc Phaethon.

The time has come for Roc to sacrifice another virgin bride to his god. There has never been a woman alluring enough to tempt him from his path. No warrioress powerful enough to overcome his incredible strength. No enchantress desirable enough to make him burn beyond reason. Until now.

With the clock ticking, war between husband and wife ignites. Except Taliyah never expected the merciless king to challenge the future she once envisioned. She certainly never anticipated the thrill of their battles turning into games… The problem is, only one spouse can survive.

Love is a battlefield in Showalter’s The Warlord.

Well well well. What do we have here? A new favorite Showalter couple to add to the top of my list? Roc and Taliyah. Who’d have known? I sure wouldn’t have.

I’ve never been a hero. I’ve never wanted to be. I make a better villain.

I honestly thought, before reading this, that I wasn’t going to care for these characters too much. It sounded too much like another couple I had already read and disliked. *cough* William *cough*. Anyway, I was wrong. I liked Roc from the very start. I don’t know what it was about him but he had me. 100% had me. Taliyah was also incredibly enjoyable to read. I enjoyed reading about her history and REALLY enjoyed her spirit. I only rolled my eyes at her like… I don’t know… twice?

“I hear you’re holding auditions for Bloodthirstiest Harpy, and I’m here for my reading.”

The two of them together… even better.

They both learn and grow together so much more fluently than some of the other couples in the series and it made me feel like it was actually a genuine relationship. Some of the others I’ve read felt rushed or like they just straight hated each other and then it all changes at the drop of a hat. This was not that. These two were actually logical people who only wanted to protect themselves and the people they loved. And when they came to realize there was a new “people they loved”, they changed their actions accordingly. Love it. Top notch.

Something else I really enjoyed was the ending. I was reading and reading and realized there weren’t but a handful of pages left and I panicked. So often I find the end coming in a rush and feeling a bit ridiculous… but… THIS ONE MADE SENSE. It was beautiful. I followed it. It was logical. It wasn’t a giant leap and then a sudden crash. It built tension, the tension grew and grew, I realized I had stopped breathing and then BOOM. The climax hit. (For the plot… c’mon get your mind out of the gutter…) But this climax didn’t crash and burn. It hit and it made me read faster. I needed to know how this was going to play out! I needed to know what was going to happen next!

And THAT, my friends, is what I like in an ending. Don’t give me everything in two pages. Build it, work it, let it linger, let it whack me in the face, and then let it plateau for a while. Let the tension stay high for a few pages before you give me my reprieve.

For me, that’s one of the biggest things that set this book apart from most of the other Gena books I’ve read.

If you’ve read any of Gena’s other books, you may be excited to see some other characters you’ve already met. Which ones though?? Hmmmmm? That was a pretty cool part of the book. I must say I get excited when I see people I know. Especially when their stories have already been told and we’re seeing them on the other side of it.

These were two genuinely wonderful characters who played out perfectly and in line with their personality types. I truly enjoyed this book so much.

This book wasn’t so predictable that I could see the ending from the very beginning. I was along for the ride and learning as I went which was another beautiful thing about this story.

I should probably apologize for my tardiness, and I will, just as soon as I’m sorry. As your men are proving with their nineinch salutes, I’m totally worth the wait. Well, he’s giving me ten.” She winked at Silver. “Bravo, sir.”

So, all that being said… there is a second Warlords book coming out February 1, 2022. I have to say, I’m not all that excited for it. I’d rather have had Ian’s story or Roux’s. Even Silver’s! But we’re getting Halo’s. And while I understand why we’re getting his next, I’m not super excited. He was probably my least favorite character throughout this entire story.

Will I end up picking it up anyway? *sigh* Probably. When it comes to Gena I’m like a moth to a flame. I can’t stay away. The little temptress.

I’ll tell ya what I WILL be picking up (as I have already preordered it..) This little diddy:

FINALLY, we get Viola’s book. It’s set to release December 7, 2021, which seems like a LIFETIME away, but I’ll be there for it. I’m a little saddened to see Viola just gets a novella and not a full blown book. I bet Viola would feel the same way, honestly. The keeper of narcissism deserves the biggest book in the series! Am I right?
But regardless, I will be devouring that book the day it hits my kindle. Keep your eyes peeled!

If you’re curious about my mention of a signed and DOODLED copy of The Warlord, let me just boast a moment. So, I never win anything… ANYTHING. But I won this copy of the Warlord from a really hard “find the differences” challenge given to Gena’s Legions by Gena’s tricky little minx of a social media manager, Naomi. I was so excited I SQUEALED when Naomi posted that I was the winner. Here’s a picture of the doodle inside. I will cherish it forever. 💛

✌💛

Posted in Book Review

Not A Happy Family by Shari Lapena

Read Dates: July 27, 2021 – July 28, 2021
Publication Date: July 27, 2021
Source: Owned Hardback

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From Goodreads:

In this family, everyone is keeping secrets–especially the dead. Brecken Hill in upstate New York is an expensive place to live. You have to be rich to have a house there. And they don’t come much richer than Fred and Sheila Mercer. But even all their money can’t protect them when a killer comes to call. The Mercers are brutally murdered the night after an Easter Dinner with their three adult kids. Who, of course, are devastated.

Or are they? They each stand to inherit millions. They were never a happy family, thanks to their capricious father and neglectful mother, but perhaps one of them is more disturbed than anyone knew. Did one of them snap after that dreadful evening? Or was it someone else that night who crept in with the worst of intentions? It must be. After all, if one of your siblings was a psychopath, you’d know.

Wouldn’t you?

When I see a Shari Lapena book available for preorder, I preorder it. I rarely even look to see what the book is about. This woman consistently brings the most amazing page-turners I have ever read. I finished this book in just three sittings… and I have a 14-month-old running around wrecking things all day. So they weren’t long sessions. But that’s how easy it is to read her books.

I may have said this before in a previous Lapena mystery novel review, but when you begin one of her books, you may think to yourself that there are too many characters and you’re not going to be able to keep up with who is who. There were only a couple, out of her now 6 books, that did that to me – where I felt I had to make a character sheet so I could quickly remember who I was dealing with and how they fit into the story. This book wasn’t one of them.

Lapena writes in such a way that you never lose sight of the big picture because of confusing variables along the way. She keeps things flowing smoothly and efficiently. I never got bored at any point of this book. Which became a real problem because I had to find a stopping point! But there aren’t any! This book was so amazing. It’ll keep you flipping those pages with the determination to finish the entire book in one sitting.

One of my favorite things about this book was that almost none of the characters were likable. One of them was slightly likable but none of them were likable enough for me to root for them or hope they weren’t the killer.

So, Fred and Sheila Merton are dead. The prime suspects? Their three children: Catherine, Dan, and Jenna. But WHO ACTUALLY DUN’IT!? Were two of them (or all of them) in on it together? Was it just one of them acting alone? Was it someone other than one of the three kids?!

I thought I had things all figured out. And I usually do. Butttt I didn’t. At no point in this book did I have anything figured out. Whether it be a side effect from my mom brain or the fact that I was in a trance reading this because of how captivating it was or maybe just because it was THAT well written? I cannot say because I truly have no idea. But this was such an amazing book that I didn’t really care, I was just happy to be along for the ride. This book just catapulted to the top as my favorite Shari Lapena novel to date. She really outdid herself on this one.

As for errors, I only found two. One was the use of “of” instead of “if”. The other was the use of the name Dan instead of Ted. I didn’t mark down page numbers or count against this book in terms of the rating because I simply didn’t have the capacity to do anything other than to hurry along the pages to find out who on Earth killed Fred and Sheila.

I can’t leave here without saying something about the ending. Obviously I’m not going to give anything away but let me just say… THAT ENDING. Omg. I was gaping at my book and then I was smirking and then I may have even giggled a little. I wish I could say more. I’m recommending this book to everyone I know so I can hear them all say, “Ok, but that ending, right!?” Even if I don’t know you, feel free to shoot me a message and give me a, “Girl, that ending though, right!?!”

If you’re a fan of whodun’it books with SO MANY TWISTS where there are no likable characters and they all could be the killer because they’re all terrible people… well then this is your book. What a delightful (but a little too quick, my bad) read.

I know it’s only been two days but I’m ready for the next one Shari! 😀

✌💛

Posted in Book Hype, Cover Reveal

Cover Reveal: Romancing the Gravestone by Gena Showalter and Jill Monroe (Artwork by Leni Kauffman)

I am so incredibly pumped and honored to be able to bring you guys the cover of Romancing the Gravestone which is set to release September 27th!

Gena Showalter is one of my all-time favorites and this time she is teaming up with Jill Monroe to bring us another sensuous story. These two authors are phenomenal and I can’t wait to see what their forces combined will bring us.

Let’s not waste any time here…

She suspects everyone of everything. Sometimes she gets it right.

Jane Ladling is the sole proprietor of her family’s landlocked cemetery, Garden of Memories. She’s responsible for the, er, guests, but there’s a slight problem. Well, besides her moody cat, Rolex, and her sixty-two-year-old best friend’s unrequited crush on the sheriff. An extra body now rests in Plot #39.

Enter Special Agent Conrad Ryan. He’s gruff, he’s gorgeous, and oh, yes, he kind of suspects her of murder. What’s an innocent—and very single, not that it matters—girl to do? Solve the crime herself. Even if she must turn the small town of Aurelian Hills, Georgia upside down. 

The only line she won’t cross? Falling for the first man to make her heart flutter. Nope, not happening. Not even a little.

Would you LOOK at this cover!?

This amazing artwork is done by the wonderful Leni Kauffman who is no stranger to creating artwork for romance novels. She has created her fair share of beautiful covers as well as her own independent illustrations. To see all of her incredible works, here are some links to her social media outlets and her personal website.
Instagram
Twitter
Personal Website

This book is available for preorder using the following links (more to come!):
Barnes & NobleAmazon
If you’re interested in learning more about the authors or seeing some of their previous works you can find them on
Instagram:
Gena ShowalterJill Monroe
Twitter:
Jill Monroe
Facebook:
Gena ShowalterJill Monroe
Or their respective websites:
Gena Showalter

Happy pre-ordering everyone!
✌💛

One more picture because I loooooooove this one!