BOOK REVIEW: HOUSE OF SKY AND BREATH BY SARAH J. MAAS

the book cover for House of Sky and Breath by Sarah J Maas
  • STAR RATING:  5 stars
    PAGE LENGTH: 805 pages
  • WHAT SERIES? The Crescent City Series
  • WHAT BOOK DO I START WITH? House of Earth and Blood
  • HOW MANY BOOKS IN THE SERIES? Currently unknown, but I’m betting 4.
  • DATE PUBLISHED: February 15th 2022
  • PUBLISHER: Bloomsbury Publishing
    CONTENT WARNINGS: Sexual content, violence, death, slavery, torture, war

  • IF YOU LIKED THIS, TRY: A Court of Thorns and Roses series by Sarah J. Maas, The Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas, or the Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs

SYNOPSIS

Bryce Quinlan and Hunt Athalar are trying to get back to normal―they may have saved Crescent City, but with so much upheaval in their lives lately, they mostly want a chance to relax. Slow down. Figure out what the future holds.

The Asteri have kept their word so far, leaving Bryce and Hunt alone. But with the rebels chipping away at the Asteri’s power, the threat the rulers pose is growing. As Bryce, Hunt, and their friends get pulled into the rebels’ plans, the choice becomes clear: stay silent while others are oppressed, or fight for what’s right. And they’ve never been very good at staying silent.

In this sexy, action-packed sequel to the #1 bestseller House of Earth and Blood, Sarah J. Maas weaves a captivating story of a world about to explode―and the people who will do anything to save it. 

My hold at the library came in for this book on Sunday, and I couldn’t help but literally leap at the chance to read this. I had been EXTREMELY ANXIOUS picking House of Sky and Breath up, because I’d seen everyone else’s reactions to the ending of this book. I was so, so sure that something awful happened to one of the main characters, that Maas had broken her usual MO and done something horrible. While bad stuff does happen, the ending isn’t at ALL what I thought was going to happen.

Holy sh*t, guys.

That’s all I’m going to say, but if you’ve read this and are looking for someone else to scream at, PLEASE COME FIND ME ON TWITTER.

ANYWAY, I fell into House of Sky and Breath much easier than I did the first book in the series, House of Earth and Blood. I had a harder time with that one, because it wasn’t like anything by Maas I had ever read before, and the world-building was somewhat of a shock. Not so with House of Sky and Breath! It was like crawling home at night — I knew where we were, what was happening, I knew the characters, etc. I loved watching Hunt and Bryce circle each other, and I love that they finally just gave in. They are adorable (and extremely, steaming hot) together!!!

The plot itself was interesting, too. A rebel boy goes missing, and literally everyone under the sun is looking for him. I felt horrible for the kid, because no one cared about him, personally, only what he could do for the rebel cause. Bryce was the only one in the whole book who wanted him to be safe for who he was, not what he was. Sewn into that plot are more mysteries about Danika, which I’m torn on. Half of me thinks its super interesting to have books wrapped all up in a dead character, the other half of me thinks its sort of a cop out? Like because Danika is dead Maas can say all sorts of things about her, because we’ve never really seen her on page. I’ll reserve my judgement until the end of the series, I think, because it worked pretty well on page in this book.

The reveal about the Asteri was…whoo boy. Something, huh? I can’t wait to see where that plotline goes.

Overall, I’d say House of Sky and Breath is another five star read from Maas for me. I love how she weaves incredible storylines together, and I love how much romance she pours into all her books.

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BOOK REVIEW: PARADISE LOST & FOUND BY JENNIFER KNIGHTLEY

Book cover for The Kingdoms by Natasha Pulley
  • STAR RATING:  3.5 stars
    PAGE LENGTH: 410 pages
  • DATE PUBLISHED: June 14th 2022 
  • PUBLISHER: King & Knight Publishing
    CONTENT WARNINGS: PTSD, anxiety & panic attacks, mentions of surgery, sexual content

  • IF YOU LIKED THIS, TRY: The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren, but this recommendation is a het romance.

SYNOPSIS

Falling hurts . . . even falling in love.

What happens if you meet the perfect person, in the perfect place, and then the holiday ends?

Paradise Lost & Found is the perfect beach read, exploring an LGBT romance set in a tropical paradise.

Honeymooning alone after being left at the altar, Adam Callaghan is hoping two weeks in a tropical paradise will clear his head and soothe the ache in his heart. But with the romantic setting weighing on him, Adam soon realizes he’s made a mistake. He’s about to throw in the towel when fate—and a mix up with the hotel’s reservation system—brings him together with the charismatic Kip Carter, a guest at the resort for his sister’s destination wedding. Sparks fly, and as they enjoy the island together, bringing out the best in each other and exploring emotional baggage they’ve both tried to bury deep, Adam grapples with the possibility of letting himself move on. But with the clock ticking on their time together, what will become of their burgeoning romance once their two weeks are up?

If you’re looking for a ‘slow burn’ summer romance with ‘only one bed’, elements of fake dating, and idiots in love that will make you want to dip your toes into the ocean, then this is the book for you.

If you’ve known me for awhile, you’ll know that I was hugely involved in the Steve Rogers/Bucky Barnes part of the MCU fandom. I still consider myself a part of the fandom, but I haven’t written anything vaguely resembling fanfic in a long, long time. Despite that, when I found out that a fandom writer was publishing a contemporary romance book based on one of their fics, well, I jumped at the chance to read it.

Paradise Lost & Found is a cute story, it really is. Adam (the Steve replacement) has been left at the alter by Vanessa (Peggy). Instead of losing money on the honeymoon, Adam goes on his own. While there he meets Kip (Bucky), who is there for his sister’s wedding. There’s a whole debacle with a room — they end up sharing one — and well, they fall in love over the course of a two week vacation. It’s adorable. The premise is solid.

Unfortunately, think it could have used another pass by an editor before being published. The book clocks in at a little over 400 pages, which felt much, much longer while reading. Paradise Lost & Found is dual POV, which I normally like. However, each time the book changed POVs, there was a rehashing of what had just gone on. This was completely unnecessary and made the book much longer than it needed to be. There were also frequent UK-isms in the text, which was slightly jarring as both Adam and Kip were from the US. A few examples off the top of my head: cooling box = cooler, tin = can, whilst = while.

On the romance side of things, Adam and Kip were steamy together, with rock-solid chemistry. You couldn’t help but feel how attracted they were to each other. This part of the book was top-notch. But I do wish the steamy scenes had actually been steamy, instead there was a lot of vague references, and some fade-to-black.

Overall, Paradise Lost & Found is a cute book. Cute, but not something I’ll probably pick up again for a long while.

Add to your Goodreads, or preorder at at the following links:

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ARC REVIEW: AUGUST KITKO AND THE MECHAS FROM SPACE BY ALEX WHITE

the book cover for August Kitko and the Mechas from Space by Alex White
  • STAR RATING 4.5 stars
    PAGE LENGTH464 pages
  • DATE PUBLISHEDJuly 12, 2022.
  • PUBLISHEROrbit Books
    CONTENT WARNINGS: Cursing, death, suicidal thoughts, sexual content, body horror
  • IF YOU LIKED THIS, TRY: An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green

Thank you to Netgalley and Orbit Books for providing an ARC copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

SYNOPSIS

When an army of giant robot AIs threatens to devastate Earth, a virtuoso pianist becomes humanity’s last hope in this bold, lightning-paced, technicolor new space opera series from the author of A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe.

Jazz pianist Gus Kitko expected to spend his final moments on Earth playing piano at the greatest goodbye party of all time, and maybe kissing rockstar Ardent Violet, before the last of humanity is wiped out forever by the Vanguards–ultra-powerful robots from the dark heart of space, hell-bent on destroying humanity for reasons none can divine. 

But when the Vanguards arrive, the unthinkable happens–the mecha that should be killing Gus instead saves him. Suddenly, Gus’s swan song becomes humanity’s encore, as he is chosen to join a small group of traitorous Vanguards and their pilots dedicated to saving humanity. 

If there’s one thing you need to know about me before we get into this review, it’s that when Pacific Rim came out in 2013, I went and saw it approximately 238472394 times in the theaters. I adore that absolutely absurd movie. It is fun all wrapped up in a Transformers movie, dipped in a kaiju movie. Is it supposed to be taken seriously? Absolutely not. Does August Kitko and the Mechas from Space scratch that same ridiculous itch? 100000%.

Giant robots come to Earth (and all the human-colonies) in an attempt to upload their minds and kill their bodies. Basically, they’re trying to wipe out the human race in whatever horrible, violent way they can. A few of these robots betray their cause and actually switch sides to help the humans fight off the other robots. But these traitors need humans to act as conduits — basically pilots. Is this sounding familiar at all???

One of the main characters — the aforementioned August Kitko — is a depressed, semi-sort-of-famous pianist. He is frequently mopey, but does his best to do what he can to help humanity. He is a fine main character. He does the job. The other main character, and Gus’s lover/joyfriend, Ardent Violet, steals the show. They are a non-binary rock star with an outrageous personality, and a fabulous sense of style. I loved reading their chapters, and frequently found myself wondering when they would be back on page. Gus and Ardent’s relationship is a little insta-love, a lot of teasing, but they really do care about each other, and it’s a joy to watch.

If you enjoyed Pacific Rim at all, if you like giant robots fighting other giant robots, then you will enjoy August Kitko and the Mechas from Space. The fight scenes are awesome, the chase scenes are scary, the tech described is just phenomenal. I can’t recommend this one enough.

AUGUST KITKO AND THE MECHAS FROM SPACE comes out JULY 12, 2022.

Add to your Goodreads, or preorder at at the following links:

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BOOK REVIEW: THE KINGDOMS BY NATASHA PULLEY

Book cover for The Kingdoms by Natasha Pulley

STAR RATING3 stars
PAGE LENGTH: 448 pages
CW: Death, gun violence, slavery, animal death, child death
IF YOU LIKED THIS, TRY: A Marvellous Light by Freya Marske for the male longing, or To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis for the time travel

SYNOPSIS

Joe Tournier has a bad case of amnesia. His first memory is of stepping off a train in the nineteenth-century French colony of England. The only clue Joe has about his identity is a century-old postcard of a Scottish lighthouse that arrives in London the same month he does. Written in illegal English—instead of French—the postcard is signed only with the letter “M,” but Joe is certain whoever wrote it knows him far better than he currently knows himself, and he’s determined to find the writer. The search for M, though, will drive Joe from French-ruled London to rebel-owned Scotland and finally onto the battle ships of a lost empire’s Royal Navy. In the process, Joe will remake history, and himself. 

The Kingdoms has been recommended to me about a million times over as a book that I would very much enjoy. It’s got the male x male romance, it’s got time travel, it’s got historical events. All things I’m extremely fond of. So why didn’t The Kingdoms work for me as much as I wanted it to?

One — I think I read it way too fast. This is a known problem for me, because I tend to zoom through a book and not savor it. I think if I had savored this one a little, I wouldn’t feel so entirely lost. I was having a great time with The Kingdoms until about 80% of the way through, and then I was LOST. I mean, I have no idea what was going on. I think perhaps if I do a reread I would catch things a little better, and maybe understand what was going on with the time-travel.

Highlight to reveal a SPOILER-FILLED discussion on my confusion. Seriously, do not read if you haven’t read this book.

So by the end of the novel, there are THREE timelines? How do none of these result in a paradox? Or do they? I am so very confused. The original Joe we start the novel with was Jem, right? And when he “wakes” up on the train, he ends up as a slave, taking the place of whatever original Joe started in that timeline. Where does Jem come from, then? And then where do Kite and Joe go at the end of the book? To Kite’s original timeline? SOMEONE PLEASE WALK ME THROUGH THIS.

Another problem I had with The Kingdoms is that I really didn’t feel the romance between the two leads at all. They had chemistry together, sure, but there was no real…longing until the very end of the book. I didn’t feel romantic love between them for a long, long time in this book, and when I did it felt very out of nowhere? Maybe I’m the only one who feels this way. Who knows.

I did, however, enjoy seeing the historical elements of this book. Watching naval battles through Joe’s eyes was horrifying. The Napoleonic Wars happen right there on page, and the descriptions are both macabre and terrifying. It’s all really well done.

I love time-travel books, and I love when they include love in them, but The Kingdoms — as of my first read — has left me wanting some clarity. I’m not giving up on this book, though. I do plan to reread it and give it another go.

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ARC REVIEW: THE VERY SECRET SOCIETY OF IRREGULAR WITCHES BY SANGU MANDANNA

the book cover for The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches by Sangu Mandanna

STAR RATING: 4.5 stars
PAGE LENGTH: 336 pages
CW: Abandonment, child abuse, sexual content, homophobia, racism, death
IF YOU LIKED THIS, TRY: The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune

Thank you to Edelweiss+ and Berkley Books for providing an ARC copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

SYNOPSIS

As one of the few witches in Britain, Mika Moon knows she has to hide her magic, keep her head down, and stay away from other witches so their powers don’t mingle and draw attention. And as an orphan who lost her parents at a young age and was raised by strangers, she’s used to being alone and she follows the rules…with one exception: an online account, where she posts videos pretending to be a witch. She thinks no one will take it seriously.

But someone does. An unexpected message arrives, begging her to travel to the remote and mysterious Nowhere House to teach three young witches how to control their magic. It breaks all of the rules, but Mika goes anyway, and is immediately tangled up in the lives and secrets of not only her three charges, but also an absent archaeologist, a retired actor, two long-suffering caretakers, and…Jamie. The handsome and prickly librarian of Nowhere House would do anything to protect the children, and as far as he’s concerned, a stranger like Mika is a threat. An irritatingly appealing threat.

As Mika begins to find her place at Nowhere House, the thought of belonging somewhere begins to feel like a real possibility. But magic isn’t the only danger in the world, and when a threat comes knocking at their door, Mika will need to decide whether to risk everything to protect a found family she didn’t know she was looking for….

The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches is an absolute delight of a book. If you’ve read and enjoyed The House in the Cerulean Sea and desperately wanted more books that have the same sort of feel, well, look no further. This is the exact same sort of book, and I’m so glad that I read it. This is found family to a T, and well, you need to read it immediately. Especially if you’re looking for a cozy hug in a book.

That’s not to say there weren’t parts that I disliked. I desperately wished we had gotten to see more of the main character, Mika, and the love interest, Jamie, together. They do spend time alone, but it’s not very often in the book, and glazed over rather frequently. Mika and Jamie are absolutely sunshine and grump, though, so if you love that pairing, you’ll like this book. There are no real steamy scenes, however. The sex is the fade to black sort, with minimal descriptions of anything. Mika is extremely sex positive throughout the whole book, so this sort of threw me for a loop. I was expecting at least one high-steam scene, and ultimately, I was left disappointed.

BUT, the rest of the book’s absolute adorableness made up for it. The three child-witches were amazingly well done, though one of the kids was sort of…glossed over and didn’t have a real personality, unfortunately. Again, this didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the book. The other adults at Nowhere House were also, just fantastic characters. Ian, in particular, was a favorite. I do also want to mention that Mika is an absolute ball of sunshine, and I loved her to pieces. I love when main characters are just bubbly and lovely.

This is a standalone novel where everything gets wrapped up beautifully at the end. I think this is going to be a perfect book to break people out of reading slumps. I can’t recommend this one enough.

the very secret society of irregular witches comes out AUGUST 23, 2022.

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BOOK REVIEW: RULES OF ARRANGEMENT BY MAREN MACKENZIE

The Rules of Arrangement book cover

STAR RATING4 stars
PAGE LENGTH: 344 pages
CW: Sexual content, suicide attempt, toxic friendship/relationship, death of parent
IF YOU LIKED THIS, TRY: Always be My Duchess by Amalie Howard for the arrangement side of things, or Wolf Gone Wild by Juliette Cross for the artistic side

SYNOPSIS

A ten-page paper on the Cold War? Three hundred dollars. Need it by tomorrow? Four hundred. Want an A? Five.

Cash-strapped college senior Adelaide Wright doesn’t give discounts—she can’t afford to. Writing papers for other students is an expulsion-worthy risk, but Adelaide thinks she might actually make it to graduation day—until Declan, her art history TA, threatens to reveal her secret.

Declan won’t turn her in to the university on one condition: she must recover his stolen paintings from a notoriously cutthroat art dealer.

Jack Nolan is older, wealthy, and exacting, a power player in a world where money, sex, and high art rule. Adelaide’s only way into his exclusive circle is through an arrangement that leaves her at Jack’s beck and call. But can she handle being his arm candy without revealing her true motives? And as the chemistry unexpectedly sparks between them, is it possible that Jack isn’t quite the villain Declan described?

As Adelaide’s relationship with Jack intensifies, so do Declan’s demands. Soon the only thing holding her in place is a delicate tangle of secrets and lies that threatens to unravel at any moment… 

Rules of Arrangement by Maren Mackenzie wasn’t quite what I expected it to be. I was hoping that art would take more of a forefront here, but sadly, it really doesn’t. The art dealing world was just a backdrop to a rather steamy story. (I also somehow thought this was about an art heist? Dunno where I got that idea from.) Despite that, I really enjoyed Rules of Arrangement for what it was: a romance book with a contract.

I don’t know that I’ve ever read a contemporary romance with a contract in it, but I liked the trope in this book! I might have to seek out more like this one, to be honest.

Adelaide Wright is an excellent leading lady. For much of the story, people are telling her what to do, when to do it, why she should do it, etc. When she finally stands up for herself, it is a triumph. I loved watching her come to realize that she had the power to do whatever she wanted, regardless of the consequences. That was nice. Jack Nolan, the leading man, was frequently a horrible person. He is stubborn, he is used to getting his way, and on top of all that, he’s rich as hell. Did I end up liking him as the story went on? Yes, I did. He still drove me nuts in some scenes, though. Declan, the artist who blackmails Adelaide, was straight-up insane most of the book. The author did a fantastic job of showing him just spiraling into insanity throughout the story.

Adelaide and Jack had amazing chemistry together that you could really feel as you read. Their sex scenes were steamy, and their conversations (where they actually talked) felt real. Despite their age difference (She’s 22, and he’s…38? I think?), it felt like a definite match between them.

I really enjoyed Rules of Arrangement — I read it in a matter of hours, actually. I just couldn’t put it down!

Add to your Goodreads, or preorder at at the following links:

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ARC REVIEW: HIGH TIMES IN THE LOW PARLIAMENT BY KELLY ROBSON

STAR RATING: 3 stars
PAGE LENGTH: 160 pages
CW: Drug use, blood
IF YOU LIKED THIS, TRY: Honestly, I am baffled to come up with anything similar to this — maybe any of T. Kingfisher’s books set in the World of the White Rat?

Thank you to Netgalley and Tordotcom for providing an ARC copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

SYNOPSIS

Kelly Robson is back with fairies, scribes, and many many kisses in High Times in the Low Parliament.

Lana Baker is Aldgate’s finest scribe, with a sharp pen and an even sharper wit. Gregarious, charming, and ever so eager to please, she agrees to deliver a message for another lovely scribe in exchange for kisses and ends up getting sent to Low Parliament by a temperamental fairy as a result.

As Lana transcribes the endless circular arguments of Parliament, the debates grow tenser and more desperate. Due to long-standing tradition, a hung vote will cause Parliament to flood and a return to endless war. Lana must rely on an unlikely pair of comrades—Bugbite, the curmudgeonly fairy, and Eloquentia, the bewitching human deputy—to save humanity (and maybe even woo one or two lucky ladies), come hell or high water. 

High Times in the Low Parliament is an incredibly quick read. It’s not even 200 pages, so you’ll plow through this one if you’re anything like me. So…did I like it? Yes, and no. It’s kind of middling, for me. High Times in the Low Parliament is not a book that takes itself seriously. The main character, Lara, peddles and does drugs for most of the story, describing the hallucinogenic effects while dealing with what’s going on plotwise. She’s also frequently flirting with whoever is nearest to her. — Lara does nothing seriously the entire book. There’s some rather funny moments, however — I caught myself laughing out loud a few times while I read.

But despite laughing, I think my struggle with this book is that I don’t really understand what the point was. It’s not really a feel-good story, it’s not a love story, it’s not a real “fantasy” — by which I mean there’s no quest, no big baddie. And no, stories don’t need a point to be worth telling, but at the end of this one I was just left a little aimless.

The world building done by Robson in High Times in the Low Parliament is fascinating. There are no men in the entire world presented in this novella. Children are conceived when a woman asks for blessing from the natal fairy. Women do literally everything else. I thought this was a unique aspect of world-building, but I’m not sure why this choice was made. Did men ever exist? I did wonder while I read, but answers are not forth coming in the text.

I think High Times in the Low Parliament was not really for me. I just didn’t get it.

HIGH TIMES IN THE LOW PARLIMANT comes out AUGUST 9, 2022.

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ARC REVIEW: DARK EARTH BY REBECCA STOTT

The book cover for Dark Earth by Rebecca Stott

STAR RATING 4.5 stars
PAGE LENGTH: 336 pages
WHAT SERIES? This is a standalone.
CW: Blood, violence
IF YOU LIKED THIS, TRY: Sistersong by Lucy Holland

Thank you to Netgalley and Random House Publishing Group for providing an ARC of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

SYNOPSIS

In Dark Ages Britain, sisters Isla and Blue live in the shadows of the Ghost City, the abandoned ruins of the once-glorious, mile-wide Roman settlement Londinium on the north bank of the Thames. The native Britons and the new migrants from the East who scratch out a living in small wooden camps in its hinterland fear that the crumbling stone ruins are haunted by vengeful spirits.

But the small island they call home is also a place of exile for Isla, Blue, and their father, a legendary blacksmith accused of using dark magic to make his firetongue swords. The local warlord, Osric, has put the Great Smith under close guard and ruled that he make his magnificent swords only for him so that he can use them to build alliances and extend his kingdom.

For years, the sisters have been running wild, Blue communing with animals and plants and Isla secretly learning her father’s trade, which is forbidden to women. But when their father suddenly dies, they find themselves facing enslavement by Osric and his cruel, power-hungry son Vort. Their only option is to escape to the Ghost City, where they discover an underworld of rebel women living secretly amid the ruins. As Blue and Isla settle into their new life, they find both refuge and community with the women around them. But it is all too fragile. With the ruins collapsing all around them, Blue and Isla realize they can’t elude the men who hunt them forever. If they are to survive, they will need to use all their skill and ingenuity—as well as the magic of their foremothers—to fight back.

Did you know that after the Romans left Britain in 420, Londinium was left abandoned for over 400 years? And did you know that most of the people living in the area around the ruined city, thought it to be haunted, or bad luck, and therefore avoided the ruins? I had no idea. Rebecca Stott got the idea for Dark Earth after hearing about an archeologist who found a Saxon brooch buried deep within the Roman ruins. This outlier of history made Stott question who the woman was that dropped her brooch. What was she doing in the ruins? Why did she enter when so many did not?

It’s those, and many more questions besides, that Stott plays with in Dark Earth. Speaking of — the name of the novel comes from the stripe of dark earth that sits above all Roman ruins in London. This dirt comes from the 400 years that Londinium was unoccupied, where nature was doing her best to retake the land.

I wasn’t sure what to make of Dark Earth at first. Is it a fantasy novel? A retelling of history? A simple story, set on the backdrop of actual lore? I would say it’s all of these combined. There are definite elements of fantasy woven through this story, the biggest one being that one of the sisters, Blue, has the ability to see the future in her dreams. The retelling of history is a little murkier — it’s unclear when you read the book if some of these people actually existed or not. However, the story itself certainly seems plausible.

The two sisters are the daughters of a great smith, known for making fire-tongued swords. (I assumed this meant damascus steel, but I’m not sure if this is actually the case.) After a raid on their settlement leaves them without a mother, the sisters and their father are banished to an island in the Thames. There, their father is made to make more fire-tongued swords for the local chief/leader/king/person. All is well-enough, until their father dies. Then, everything goes wrong.

As for the characters, Blue is a dreamy sort of character, head in the clouds, sometimes not all the way there. She is the younger of the two sisters. Isla is the older of the two, and she’s much more serious. I frequently found Blue to be irritating, but I loved Isla. Honestly, most of the characters are not fleshed out. They are pretty bare bones, but it works in the story. I loved the backdrop of this novel, of learning how people must have lived during this time of history. It certainly seems like a bleak sort of life, one that I am glad I do not have to live. If you enjoy reading about history at all, you will enjoy Dark Earth by Rebecca Stott!

DARK EARTH COMES OUT JULY 19, 2022.

Add to your Goodreads, or preorder at your local indie bookstore, or at the following links:

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BOOK REVIEW: DARK NIGHT, GOLDEN DAWN BY ALLISON CARR WAECHTER

the book cover for Dark Night Golden Dawn by Allison Carr Waechter

STAR RATING almost 3ish stars
PAGE LENGTH411 pages
WHAT SERIES? The Immortal Orders
WHAT BOOK DO I START WITH? Dark Night, Golden Dawn
HOW MANY BOOKS IN THE SERIES? Unknown
CONTENT WARNINGS: Mentions of past abuse by partner, gore,

IF YOU LIKED THIS, TRY: A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness, A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

SYNOPSIS

In a city where the elite are powerful as gods, the season is about to begin. The Immortal Orders will gather, pair and create a spectacle for all of Nuva Troi to witness.

Harlow Krane is a sorcière who wants nothing more than to recover from her most recent breakup in peace. When the season begins, her Order needs her help to save their ancestral occult district from being taken over by the Illuminated, the most powerful immortals in Nuva Troi. They offer to back off—if Harlow agrees to pair with their most eligible bachelor, Finn McKay. But Harlow has been burned by Finn before.

Finn McKay is one of the Illuminated. Rich, powerful, and he isn’t afraid of anyone—except for his parents. When they push him towards Harlow Krane, he knows their purposes are sinister at best. For the past seven years, Finn has done everything in his power to stay away from Harlow and he won’t break his resolve now, even if it means defying his parents. As the season begins, it’s clear something is dangerously wrong but besides Finn, only Harlow seems to notice.

With magic behaving strangely, the balance of power between the Immortal Orders and humans grows deadlier by the day. Harlow and Finn must work together to keep ancient grudges from resurfacing and take back their lives in the process. If they can get over their past, the whole world may have a brighter future.

Dark Night, Golden Dawn should have been a five star book for me. It had so many of my absolutely favorite tropes (vampires, mating, there’s a social season like in historical romances etc.), but ultimately, it fell more than a little flat. My biggest problem with the book lies with the main character, Harlow. For most of the book, she is a limp, boring noodle. She has little personality other than wondering why anyone likes her at all. (The author writes a reason for this into the story, but it didn’t really solve the issue for me.) Despite having the world’s worst self-confidence, Harlow is good at practically everything, other than standing up for herself and doing something to make herself interesting.

Finn, Harlow’s love interest, is slightly more interesting than her. He is the typical alpha male, a perfect specimen with awesome powers. He is protective, and always willing to take a step back to make sure Harlow is comfortable with how things are going. They have a rocky past together, but Harlow gets over this surprisingly quickly.

The plot and the world built in Dark Night, Golden Dawn is vastly interesting. The author has fantastic ideas, but the actual book just does not equal up to a fantastic story. The writing itself tends to be on the more boring side — too simple and plain to really paint a picture of what’s going on. The sex scenes should have been steamy, but instead felt overly bland. We get so much of Harlow hating and doubting herself when we should have gotten more descriptions of the world, of the plot, of what was going on.

I really wanted to like this book more than I did. If I remember about Dark Night, Golden Dawn when it’s sequel comes out, I might grab it. But I have a feeling this book might fade in my memory — it just has no sticking points. Dark Night, Golden Dawn is available on Kindle Unlimited.

GOODREADS | AMAZON 

ARC REVIEW: LOCKLANDS BY ROBERT JACKSON BENNETT

STAR RATING: 3 stars 😞
PAGE LENGTH: 496 pages
WHAT SERIES? The Founders Trilogy
WHAT BOOK DO I START WITH? Foundryside
HOW MANY BOOKS IN THE SERIES? 3
CONTENT WARNINGS: Violence, blood, death, torture, mentions of slavery

IF YOU LIKED THIS, TRY: Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch, or An Illusion of Thieves by Cate Glass

Thank you to Netgalley and Random House Publishing Group for providing an ARC copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

SYNOPSIS

A god wages war—using all of humanity as its pawns—in the unforgettable conclusion to the Founders trilogy.

Sancia, Clef, and Berenice have gone up against plenty of long odds in the past. But the war they’re fighting now is one even they can’t win.

This time, they’re not facing robber-baron elites, or even an immortal hierophant, but an entity whose intelligence is spread over half the globe—a ghost in the machine that uses the magic of scriving to possess and control not just objects, but human minds.

To fight it, they’ve used scriving technology to transform themselves and their allies into an army—a society—that’s like nothing humanity has seen before. With its strength at their backs, they’ve freed a handful of their enemy’s hosts from servitude, even brought down some of its fearsome, reality-altering dreadnaughts. Yet despite their efforts, their enemy marches on—implacable. Unstoppable.

Now, as their opponent closes in on its true prize—an ancient doorway, long buried, that leads to the chambers at the center of creation itself—Sancia and her friends glimpse a chance at reaching it first, and with it, a last desperate opportunity to stop this unbeatable foe. But to do so, they’ll have to unlock the centuries-old mystery of scriving’s origins, embark on a desperate mission into the heart of their enemy’s power, and pull off the most daring heist they’ve ever attempted.

And as if that weren’t enough, their adversary might just have a spy in their ranks—and a last trick up its sleeve.

Woof. Okay. I finished this book over the weekend while trying to get my teething 10 month old to sleep. [NOTICE: I wrote this review way back in February, when I finished the book. The published asked reviews to be held until 2 weeks before the book comes out, so here you have the review now.] Sadly, I wasn’t a huge fan of Locklands. If you read my reviews of the previous two books, you’ll know how much I enjoyed them. Needless to say, I am vastly disappointed in how this series ended. Those three stars I gave this book is me being generous.

Locklands is a hot mess compared to Foundryside and Shorefall. The prior two books felt like a natural progression. Shorefall raised the stakes the appropriate amount compared to the first book. The villain got scarier, the world got bigger and more dangerous. The characters developed and generally, it made sense that Shorefall followed Foundryside. Locklands’ problem is that it jumps ahead eight years after Shorefall. I generally do not like time jumps in books. They rarely do what the author thinks they do, and instead just make a series feel jumbled up and messy. We see little of those eight years, and as a result, you feel as if you’ve been dropped into the middle of something. You’re left confused and unsure for a while until things feel slightly more familiar.

There is a huge concept in this book that was extremely confusing to me when they first introduced it — the twinning of minds. It technically was introduced in Shorefall, but Sancia and Berenice pushed this even further in those eight years that we don’t see. The whole conversation/explanation in the text is only made more confusing by the diagram that’s included.

I’m really not a fan when authors introduce a phrase/saying/concept in the last book of a series, and then act like it was a huge part of the series from the beginning. Sancia and Berenice use the saying, ‘There’s no dancing through a monsoon,” over and over in this book. I think the author was trying to reiterate it enough to have some emotional impact on the reader. It didn’t really work on me, though it probably would have if this saying had been introduced in the prior two books.

That’s not to say there weren’t parts of this book that I enjoyed — I really, really liked learning more about Clef, who he was, and what he did that brought about literally everything. What a character. He’s deeply flawed, and at first you feel sorry for him, but by the end of the book everything you know about him changes. Crasedes Magnus, and Valeria/Trevanne get some serious character development, too.

In the acknowledgements at the end of this book, Robert Jackson Bennett shares that he wrote this book during the pandemic. I think that’s why this book is the mess that it is. I’m really disappointed in Locklands, and I hate to say that overall, I didn’t enjoy it.

Locklands comes out June 28, 2022.

Add to your Goodreads, or preorder at your local indie bookstore, or at the following links:

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