BOOK REVIEW: ECHO NORTH BY JOANNA RUTH MEYER

  • STAR RATING:  5 stars
  • PAGE LENGTH: 389 pages
  • DATE PUBLISHED: January 15, 2019
  • PUBLISHER: Page Street Publishing Co
  • CONTENT WARNINGS: Torture, Violence, Emotional abuse
  • IF YOU LIKED THIS, TRY:  Half A Soul by Olivia Atwater, Curse of the Wolf King by Tessonja Odette

SYNOPSIS

Echo Alkaev’s safe and carefully structured world falls apart when her father leaves for the city and mysteriously disappears. Believing he is lost forever, Echo is shocked to find him half-frozen in the winter forest six months later, guarded by a strange talking wolf—the same creature who attacked her as a child. The wolf presents Echo with an ultimatum: If she lives with him for one year, he will ensure her father makes it home safely. But there is more to the wolf than Echo realizes.

In his enchanted house beneath a mountain, each room must be sewn together to keep the home from unraveling, and something new and dark and strange lies behind every door. When centuries-old secrets unfold, Echo discovers a magical library full of books-turned-mirrors, and a young man named Hal who is trapped inside of them. As the year ticks by, the rooms begin to disappear, and Echo must solve the mystery of the wolf’s enchantment before her time is up, otherwise Echo, the wolf, and Hal will be lost forever.

Before I get into my review, I have to thoroughly thank Stephanie for recommending Echo North to me! I knew I would enjoy this book, but I had no idea how much I would absolutely adore it! I completely fell in love with the world that Meyer sets up — much of the novel takes place in a magical house, and it is that setting that I really just fell head over heels for. I’m a sucker for a magical house, and well, Echo North‘s house did not disappoint.

Echo is our main character — she’s extremely intelligent, clever, and wants the best for her family. She’s also heavily scarred on her face — a wolf attacked her when she was young, and left it’s mark. Much of the villagers think she is marked by the devil because of her scars. Echo is shunned in town, and lives a very lonely life as she grows up. Some things happen — cue me being extremely vague on purpose — and Echo must choose between her life or her father’s. She, of course, chooses her father’s life. This bargain is where things really kick off in the novel. It feels very much like a Fae bargain — one that means you get what you want, but at the expense of something else you hold dear. For Echo, it means that her father will live, but she will have to live with the wolf in his house for one year. At first, you’re not sure if you (and Echo) should trust the wolf. He is, after all, the same wolf that scarred her when she was young. But then, as you read, you realize that he is so much more than just a wolf.

I mean, it’s obvious, because he’s a talking wolf, but still. Meyer did a phenomenal job of weaving the story in just the right way that you aren’t sure if you’ve figured out the mystery at the core of the book or not. You’ll be guessing until suddenly the answer is right in front of you, staring you in the face. It was done masterfully, and I thoroughly enjoyed being led around here! The characters are all done fantastically — a few are straight up archetypes, but that works for a fairy tale retelling. I do wish we had seen more of Echo’s father actually fathering — I wanted to see him show his love for her more on page, but we did get a small snippet that made me happy. Echo’s brother never treated her any different because of her scars, and I loved how much he loved her.

The Beauty and the Beast story is only vaguely retold here — the wolf was obviously once a man — but I didn’t care that it didn’t follow the original story closely. Hopefully, you won’t either. Echo North borrowed from a few other myths and fairy tales, but none of it feels like an exact copy. It feels as if Meyer really wove something new here, something both heartbreaking and completely lovely. I will admit I was a bit confused by the ending of the book, but it all shakes out by the time you’re done reading. In fact, it even makes some prior things in the book make sense! (If you’re wondering who all those things in the house belong to, I promise you get your answer, but it’s not spelled out for you.) And yes, before anyone asks, this does have a happy ending. Anyway, now that I’ve basically word-vomited about this book at you all, I give it five stars. Was this a review? I’m not sure. Oh well.

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

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BOOK REVIEW: MIXED SIGNALS BY BK BORISON

  • STAR RATING:  5 stars
  • PAGE LENGTH: 339 pages
  • DATE PUBLISHED: August 30, 2022
  • PUBLISHER: Still can’t find a publisher anywhere!
  • CONTENT WARNINGS: Sexual content, toxic relationship, Misogyny
  • IF YOU LIKED THIS, TRY:  People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry, Lovelight Farms by BK Borison

SYNOPSIS

Layla Dupree has given up on love.

She’s waded through all of the fish in the sea, each one more disappointing than the last. Apparently owning the bakery at Inglewild’s most romantic destination does not help one’s love life—despite her best efforts. All she wants is a partner who gives her butterflies, not someone who ghosts her at dinner and leaves her with the check.

Good thing Caleb Alvarez has the perfect solution.

After saving Layla from another date gone bad, he has a simple proposition: One month of no-strings dating. He’ll do his best to renew her faith in men while she rates his dating game. It’s a win-win situation. All the benefits of dating, without the added pressure of feelings and unmet expectations.

But there’s one ingredient they haven’t considered. The chemistry between them is red hot and the urge to take things to the next level is more tempting than Layla’s double fudge mocha brownies.

Will the heat between them boil over? Or will it be another case of mixed signals?

Okay, so I’m not really sure if I should really write a review for this one, or just link you to a picture of me screaming at the top of my lungs, while also holding my kindle to my heart. I don’t know what BK Borison slipped in between the lines of text, but woah is it addicting. I absolutely adored every second I spent reading this series, and Mixed Signals was no different. I think I had a stupid grin on my face for most of the book. Look — if you like men who are absolutely stupid in love with their partners, then you’re gonna want to pick up this series. Every single one of these books had the best hero. They were all MADLY AND WILDLY in love with their women, and it was absolutely no secret to anyone in the book.

Needless to say, I loved Mixed Signals just as much as I loved the previous two books in this series. Caleb stole a huge chunk of my romance-reading heart away from Luka and Beckett, but I couldn’t pick between them if you begged me. They were all so wonderful in a million different ways. But Caleb was extraordinarily kind and soft with Layla, a family man — he loved his whole huge family, and you could tell, and most of all Caleb there for Layla when she needed him. No questions asked. THAT’S HOW IT SHOULD BE WITH A ROMANCE HERO, PEOPLE.

ANYWAY.

I’ve loved Layla since she first appeared on page in Lovelight Farms, and thankfully I just grew to love her even more in her own book. I wanted to shake her a couple of times, but that’s pretty normal for me when it comes to heroines in romance novels. JUST TALK TO EACH OTHER, PLEASE. Use your damn words! But regardless, Layla is enormously competent and deserved the moon handed to her on a platter. (Also was anyone else like REALLY HUNGRY for baked goods during this book? GIVE ME BROWNIES, LAYLA.) I do wish we had seen more of her family, and that problematic relationship, but not a big deal. I loved the story that we got.

BASICALLY, if you haven’t given this series a shot, please do so. The entire thing is on KU, and it’s worth the read. Especially if you need something lighthearted and fun to ease you into the new year.

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

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BOOK REVIEW: IN THE WEEDS BY BK BORISON

  • STAR RATING:  5 stars
  • PAGE LENGTH: 410 pages
  • DATE PUBLISHED: April 18, 2022
  • PUBLISHER: Still can’t find a publisher anywhere!!!
  • CONTENT WARNINGS: Sexual content, Mental illness, Panic attacks/disorders
  • IF YOU LIKED THIS, TRY:  People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry, Lovelight Farms by BK Borison

SYNOPSIS

Evelyn St. James isn’t the kind of woman you forget.

Beckett Porter certainly hasn’t. One incredible weekend in Maine, and he’s officially a man distracted. He’s not unfamiliar with hot and heavy flings. He knows how it goes. But Evie wove some sort of magic over him during their tumble in the sheets. He can’t stop thinking about her laugh. Her hand pressed flat against his chest. Her smiling mouth at his neck.

Also, her eyes. And her legs.

So when she suddenly appears on his farm as part of a social media contest, he is … confused. He had no idea that the sweet and sexy woman he met at a bar is actually a global phenomenon: social media influencer Evelyn St. James. When she disappears again, Beckett resolves to finally forget her and move on.

But Evelyn St. James has a problem. Feeling disconnected from her work and increasingly unhappy, she’s trying to find her way back to something real. She returns to the last place she was happy, Lovelight Farms and the tiny town of Inglewild.

It has absolutely nothing to do with the hot farmer she spent two incredible nights with.

Nothing at all.

To absolutely no one’s surprise, I loved In the Weeds just as much as I loved Lovelight Farms. I really love how Borison writes — the characters just leap right off the page and stand next to you while you read. In the Weeds takes the side character of Beckett from the first book and explores him and his relationship with the social media starlet, Evelyn St. James. They were adorable together, and steaming hot when it got to that part, but woof. I wanted to shake them by their shoulders in the standard third act break-up.

By the way, can we stop with the third act break-up? Come up with some other way to introduce tension into the relationship or something, because I am tired of it. We know the two are going to get back together, we know there’s a happy ending at the end (OR I WOULDN’T READ IT.) so most of the time the third act break-up just seems cheap and over engineered. In In the Weeds, there’s just a substantial amount of miscommunication, or just plain no communication. EVERYTHING WOULD HAVE BEEN SOLVED IF THEY HAD JUST TALKED TO EACH OTHER. Like ADULTS.

But oh well. Tis a standard thing for contemporary romance novels, so I guess I should get off my soap box, and just deal with it.

Beckett is a lovely leading man, and I would have read a bunch more starring him. I loved his love for animals, his sisters, his father…all of it. He was so full of love, it was practically leaking out his ears. I loved that he had a sensory issue, and couldn’t be around loud noises for too long. I loved that he wasn’t perfect. It was fantastic representation, so I was very pleased with that. I also really liked Evelyn — someone who was just lost. She was seemingly perfect — everyone loved her, she wanted to help everyone, etc etc. But she was so confused as to what she wanted out of life that she felt relatable. Mush them together, and they were just peaches and cream. Fantastic.

ANYWAY — I really love Borison’s writing, and I think she’s well on her way to being someone I auto-buy. We’ll see how I feel after the next entry into this series, which I already have downloaded and ready to go from KU. Onto the next, my friends.

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

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BOOK REVIEW: LOVELIGHT FARMS BY BK BORISON

the cover for Lovelight Farms by BK Borison
  • STAR RATING:  5 stars
  • PAGE LENGTH: 416 pages
  • DATE PUBLISHED: November 10, 2021
  • PUBLISHER: I seriously can’t find a publisher anywhere, so possibly self-published?
  • CONTENT WARNINGS: Sexual content, cancer mentions, death of parent
  • IF YOU LIKED THIS, TRY:  People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry

SYNOPSIS

Where the lovelight gleams …

A pasture of dead trees. A hostile takeover of the Santa barn by a family of raccoons. And shipments that have mysteriously gone missing. Lovelight Farms is not the magical winter wonderland of Stella Bloom’s dreams.

In an effort to save the Christmas tree farm she’s loved since she was a kid, she enters a contest with instafamous influencer Evelyn St. James. With the added publicity and the $100,000 cash prize, she might just be able to save the farm from its financial woes. There’s just one problem. To make the farm seem like a romantic destination for the holidays, she lied on the application and said she owns Lovelight Farms with her boyfriend. Only … there is no boyfriend.

Enter best friend Luka Peters. He just came home for some hot chocolate, and somehow got a farm and a serious girlfriend in the process.

I can’t remember where I first saw this book, or who recommended it to me, but I owe you a huge, huge thank you. Lovelight Farms was the exact book I needed this holiday season. It’s sweet without feeling overly sugary. It is a romance book, so of course, there are some silly things included, but oh how I really really loved this one. In fact, I moved right along to the next book in the series immediately after finishing this one, if that tells you anything at all.

Stella Bloom owns a Christmas Tree farm, and everything is going wrong. There’s a whole pasture of dead trees, someone keeps vandalizing her property, and the farm is basically hemorrhaging money. But she refuses to give up. Not once does she say she can’t do it, not once does she think her dream is silly. I loved that about her, and I would have read like…eight hundred more pages of Stella and this farm.

AND THAT’S ALL WITHOUT MENTIONING THE LOVE OF STELLA’S LIFE, Luka! These two have known each other for years, and are absolute best friends. Their inside jokes and gentle teasing of each other felt incredibly believable. There were many funny moments, but none of it really felt ridiculous in the way that some romance books can. Lovelight Farms was the perfect friends-to-lovers book. It’s done so well, and they really truly fit together like puzzle pieces. It was absolutely lovely to read, and like I said earlier — I would have happily read much, much more of this book.

I loved the setting, I loved all the mentions of Christmas, I loved the friends and side characters. I loved all of this book. I love how BK Borison writes – the characters feel familiar and warm without feeling overdone. Lovelight Farms is definitely going to be picked up again, probably next year around Christmas. It was the perfect seasoning to this holiday. I can’t wait to read the next books in this series.

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

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ARC REVIEW: MYSTERIES OF THORN MANNER BY MARGARET ROGERSON

  • STAR RATING:  5 stars
  • PAGE LENGTH: 192 pages
  • DATE PUBLISHED: January 17, 2023
  • PUBLISHER: Simon and Schuster Children’s Publishing, Margaret K. McElderry Books
  • WHAT SERIES? Sorcery of Thorns
  • WHAT BOOK DO I START WITH? Sorcery of Thorns
  • HOW MANY BOOKS IN THE SERIES? 1.5 at the moment
  • CONTENT WARNINGS: Child death (in the past, and not shown), Death of parent (in the past, and not shown)
  • IF YOU LIKED THIS, TRY:  Literally any of Margaret Rogerson’s books, they’re all fantastic

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

SYNOPSIS

In this sequel novella to Sorcery of Thorns, Elisabeth, Nathaniel, and Silas must unravel the magical trap keeping them inside Thorn Manor in time for their Midwinter Ball!

Elisabeth Scrivener is finally settling into her new life with sorcerer Nathaniel Thorn. Now that their demon companion Silas has returned, so has scrutiny from nosy reporters hungry for gossip about the city’s most powerful sorcerer and the librarian who stole his heart. But something strange is afoot at Thorn Manor: the estate’s wards, which are meant to keep their home safe, are acting up and forcibly trapping the Manor’s occupants inside. Surely it must be a coincidence that this happened just as Nathaniel and Elisabeth started getting closer to one another…

With no access to the outside world, Elisabeth, Nathaniel, and Silas – along with their new maid Mercy – will have to work together to discover the source of the magic behind the malfunctioning wards before they’re due to host the city’s Midwinter Ball. Not an easy task when the house is filled with unexpected secrets, and all Elisabeth can think about is kissing Nathaniel in peace. But when it becomes clear that the house, influenced by the magic of Nathaniel’s ancestors, requires a price for its obedience, Elisabeth and Nathaniel will have to lean on their connection like never before to set things right.

I got approved for an ARC of this one yesterday around 3:00 pm. It is now 2:00 pm the next day, and I’m already done with this. Whoops. Destiny and I were supposed to buddy read it, but honestly, Mysteries of Thorn Manner just FLIES by as you read it. Those not even 200 pages barely feel like anything at all by the time you’re done. And I don’t mean that in a bad way at all — this was a delightful novella, and I’m so, so glad that I got the chance to read it a little early.

For those you that don’t know, I am a huge fan of Margaret Rogerson’s books (though i still need to read Vespertine!). She’s primarily a YA author, and her books tend to have fairly low stakes, with sweet romances in them. It’s hard to discuss this book without mentioning anything from Sorcery of Thorns, which is the first book in the series. You can read my review of that one here. ANYWAY, Mysteries of Thorn Manner picks up pretty much where Sorcery of Thorns left off, and does not bother to explain to you anything about that novel. It’s just assumed that you’ve read it, and honestly that works 1000% here. No time to waste on that when we have such a short (but delicious) page count!

Elizabeth and Nathaniel are dancing around the edges of what their relationship means, and very quickly it becomes apparently that Thorn Manner wants them to decide what they are and what they mean to each other. There’s barely any plot to this, but I was a-okay with it, because overall, this is a silly, cozy fantasy book. I (like Destiny) was giggling through the whole novella. There’s almost zero stakes really felt, but again, it doesn’t matter. This book exists purely to bring a smile to your face, especially if you are a fan of Rogerson’s past work.

I loved this, and wish it was about 5000 more pages, personally.

MYSTERIES OF THORN MANNER comes out JANUARY 17, 2023.

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ARC REVIEW: EMILY WILDE’S ENCYCLOPEDIA OF FAERIES BY HEATHER FAWCETT

  • STAR RATING:  5 stars
  • PAGE LENGTH: 336 pages
  • DATE PUBLISHED: January 10, 2023
  • PUBLISHER: Del Rey Books
  • WHAT SERIES? Emily Wilde
  • WHAT BOOK DO I START WITH? Emily Wilde’s Encyclopedia of Faeries
  • HOW MANY BOOKS IN THE SERIES? Unknown
  • CONTENT WARNINGS: Blood, Injury/injury detail, Animal death, Kidnapping, Gore
  • IF YOU LIKED THIS, TRY:  The Veronica Speedwell Series by Deanna Raybourn

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

SYNOPSIS

A curmudgeonly professor journeys to a small town in the far north to study faerie folklore and discovers dark fae magic, friendship, and love, in this heartwarming and enchanting fantasy.

Cambridge professor Emily Wilde is good at many things: She is the foremost expert on the study of faeries. She is a genius scholar and a meticulous researcher who is writing the world’s first encyclopaedia of faerie lore. But Emily Wilde is not good at people. She could never make small talk at a party–or even get invited to one. And she prefers the company of her books, her dog, Shadow, and the Fair Folk to other people.

So when she arrives in the hardscrabble village of Hrafnsvik, Emily has no intention of befriending the gruff townsfolk. Nor does she care to spend time with another new arrival: her dashing and insufferably handsome academic rival Wendell Bambleby, who manages to charm the townsfolk, get in the middle of Emily’s research, and utterly confound and frustrate her.

But as Emily gets closer and closer to uncovering the secrets of the Hidden Ones–the most elusive of all faeries–lurking in the shadowy forest outside the town, she also finds herself on the trail of another mystery: Who is Wendell Bambleby, and what does he really want? To find the answer, she’ll have to unlock the greatest mystery of all–her own heart.

You all know how much I love books involving The Fae, or Faeries, or anything remotely similar to that. I wrote a whole recommendation post on them, and I’ve seemingly read about six thousand books that weren’t on that list. Basically, what I’m trying to say is, I really like stories about the Fae. Especially when the fae are tricksy, and not exactly nice — the old-school you don’t want to mess with these fae. Those are my favorite.

NOW THAT WE’VE GOT THAT OUT OF THE WAY — I requested  Emily Wilde’s Encyclopedia of Faeries on Netgalley on a complete whim. The cover was cute, and the description sounded like something I’d like. When I got the approval for it, I was mildly surprised (it’s been a hot minute since I’d actually reviewed an arc. Whoops — fully blaming you, reading slump.) , but totally ready to dive into the book. Imagine my surprise at how much I freaking loved this book. I don’t know why I was surprised, as this has all the makings of a book I’d really enjoy. BUT ANYWAY.

I LOVED THIS.

The characters are all amazing, believable and so much fun to read about. My favorite is Wendell Bambleby, who is just about as Howl Pendragon-esque as you could possibly be without actually being Howl. He’s grumpy, lazy, but so, so charming. Willing to help if Emily demands that it needs to be done. Emily herself is curmudgeonly and more interested in scholarship than helping another human being. But despite that, she does spend a great deal if time in this book helping people. I rather liked her for that, even if she did it for altruistic reasons. She still did what she could to make people’s lives better. I also really enjoyed Poe, a tiny fae who Emily befriends rather quickly into the novel. I did wish we saw more of him by the end, but I have a feeling he’ll be in later installments of this series.

I do wish we got more of the romance, but again, I think it’ll get developed in coming books. What we saw was on the sweeter side, which I enjoyed!

The story is interspersed with faerie tales or legends from the local culture. It does read a bit like an actual scholarly book in some ways, but since Emily is writing an encyclopedia of all faerie knowledge, this makes sense. I really had so much fun reading this — I flew through it in a way I haven’t read a book in a while. Please pick this one up when it comes out! Especially if you like the Fae the way I do!

EMILY WILDE’S ENCYCLOPEDIA OF FAERIES comes out JANUARY 10, 2023.

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

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ARC REVIEW: GEORGIE, ALL ALONG BY KATE CLAYBORN

the book cover for Georgie, All Along by Kate Clayborn
  • STAR RATING:  5 ENORMOUS stars
  • PAGE LENGTH: 320 pages
  • DATE PUBLISHED: January 31st 2023 
  • PUBLISHER: Kensington Books
  • CONTENT WARNINGS: Child abuse, Emotional abuse, Drug use
  • IF YOU LIKED THIS, TRY:  In a Jam by Kate Canterbary

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

SYNOPSIS

In this heartfelt tale of one woman’s quest to reinvent herself, the acclaimed author of Love Lettering and Love at First delivers a poignant, witty reflection on how the hopes, dreams, and stories from our past shape our future . . .

Longtime personal assistant Georgie Mulcahy has made a career out of putting others before herself. When an unexpected upheaval sends her away from her hectic job in L.A. and back to her hometown, Georgie must confront an uncomfortable truth: her own wants and needs have always been a disconcertingly blank page.

But then Georgie comes across a forgotten artifact—a “friendfic” diary she wrote as a teenager, filled with possibilities she once imagined. To an overwhelmed Georgie, the diary’s simple, small-scale ideas are a lifeline—a guidebook for getting started on a new path.

Georgie’s plans hit a snag when she comes face to face with an unexpected roommate—Levi Fanning, onetime town troublemaker and current town hermit. But this quiet, grouchy man is more than just his reputation, and he offers to help Georgie with her quest. As the two make their way through her wishlist, Georgie begins to realize that what she truly wants might not be in the pages of her diary after all, but right by her side—if only they can both find a way to let go of the pasts that hold them back.

Honest and deeply emotional, Georgie, All Along is a smart, tender must-read for everyone who’s ever wondered about the life that got away . . .

Georgie, All Along is a profoundly lovely story about self-discovery and figuring yourself out. Yes, it’s a romance book, but I found that wasn’t the most important part of it for me. Georgie is lost — she’s been let go from her important assistant job out in Hollywood, and has found herself slinking back to her home town. She’s supposed to be staying her parent’s house while they’re out vacationing, but the first night she’s there a man walks right into the house while she’s dancing in her robe and underwear. That night will forever change her life — in the best way possible.

I love, love, loved this book. Every character in it felt like someone I know in real life. They all were dynamic, and understandable and dang if they didn’t just breathe right off the page. Georgie reminded me so much of myself I wanted to scream. She’s such a lovely, bright, bubbly person but all she does is help everyone else. Once she realizes this, she’s even more lost than she already was — who is she when she’s just taking care of herself? Who is she when she has no one to help? Who is she when she looks forward and stops thinking about right now? Georgie finds the answers to all of these, and gah. I want to be her best friend, but that role is already taken by Bel, another fantastic character.

But even more than I loved Georgie, I loved Levi. What a strong person. What a horrible past. What god-awful parents. I loved that Clayborn gave him such a thorough backstory, but what was best was that she sort of peppered it in. You learn in bits and pieces and then when it all finally comes out you want to take Levi and hold him tight. I love that he took his hurt and used it it improve himself, and make a life that he wanted. I loved that he was silly with Georgie, but generally a quiet man. He took care of her without smothering her — Levi let Georgie be Georgie. He loved her — all of her, not just the palatable bits. Georgie and Levi fit together like puzzle pieces.

It’s obvious I’m just gushing now, but I really adored this book. This one is one I’ll come back to again and again, just hoping for more Georgie and Levi. Go pick this one up the second it comes out, okay?

GEORGIE, ALL ALONG comes out JANUARY 31, 2023.

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ARC REVIEW: THE FOXGLOVE KING BY HANNAH WHITTEN

  • STAR RATING:  5 stars
  • PAGE LENGTH: 400 pages
  • DATE PUBLISHED: March 7th 2023 
  • PUBLISHER: Orbit Books
  • WHAT SERIES? The Nightshade Kingdom
  • WHAT BOOK DO I START WITH? The Foxglove King
  • HOW MANY BOOKS IN THE SERIES? 3
  • CONTENT WARNINGS: Death, body horror, kidnapping
  • IF YOU LIKED THIS, TRY:  Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

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

SYNOPSIS

In this lush, romantic new epic fantasy series from New York Times bestselling author Hannah Whitten, a young woman’s secret power to raise the dead plunges her into the dangerous and glamorous world of the Sainted King’s royal court.

When Lore was thirteen, she escaped a cult in the catacombs beneath the city of Dellaire. And in the ten years since, she’s lived by one rule: don’t let them find you. Easier said than done, when her death magic ties her to the city.

Mortem, the magic born from death, is a high-priced and illicit commodity in Dellaire, and Lore’s job running poisons keeps her in food, shelter, and relative security. But when a run goes wrong and Lore’s power is revealed, she’s taken by the Presque Mort, a group of warrior-monks sanctioned to use Mortem working for the Sainted King. Lore fully expects a pyre, but King August has a different plan. Entire villages on the outskirts of the country have been dying overnight, seemingly at random. Lore can either use her magic to find out what’s happening and who in the King’s court is responsible, or die.

Lore is thrust into the Sainted King’s glittering court, where no one can be believed and even fewer can be trusted. Guarded by Gabriel, a duke-turned-monk, and continually running up against Bastian, August’s ne’er-do-well heir, Lore tangles in politics, religion, and forbidden romance as she attempts to navigate a debauched and opulent society.

But the life she left behind in the catacombs is catching up with her. And even as Lore makes her way through the Sainted court above, they might be drawing closer than she thinks.

I knew upon reading the synopsis of this book that it would be right up my alley. I knew it. And reader — I was right. I had been desperately waiting for my ARC copy to arrive in my email ever since Orbit had announced this book was coming. And I know I really should have waited until closer to The Foxglove King‘s publishing date to read it, but uh, I could not wait any longer.

Despite my ongoing reading slump, I found myself diving into The Foxglove King. It is so good. It reads like the best YA adventure novel out there — and I do not mean that as a dig in any way whatsoever. I know people like to rag on YA novels, but they are a lot of fun most of the time. The Foxglove King is NOT a YA novel, but it definitely has the same feeling. There’s a lot at stake here in the plot, and the three main characters are all pretty high up on the so-called totem pole, if you will.

We have Lore, who is something of a necromancer. She’s got a mysterious past that we don’t see very much of in this book, but I fully expect to see more of in the incoming books. I really liked Lore. She never took anything for granted, and was rather fully on her own side. But she also had real feelings, and dang do you feel sorry for her the more you read.

Next, we have Gabe, who is a duke/monk in a death…related…cult? It’s hard to explain without spoiling anything. I promise it makes total sense in the book. He’s got his own reasons behind everything that he does or allows to happen, and while I wanted to like him, and you really really do want to like him, he is so manipulated that you really aren’t surprised by certain things that occur.

Lastly, we have Bastian, the Sun Prince. I love, love, love Bastian. I’m a sucker for a pretends-not-to-care, parties-all-the-time, but-actually-cares-a-lot character. That’s Bastian to a T. I cannot wait to see more of him. His dad is the King (obviously) and wow, do you hate his dad as soon as you meet him.

And yes, there is a bit of a love-triangle situation going on between the three leads. I know who I’m rooting for, but we’ll see where it goes. The romance is NOT a huge part of the book, though, for those of you that are worried about it. It is very much a minor subplot. Lore is not at all worried about her heart when her death magic seems to be strengthening. She has her priorities straight, I promise.

I loved the magic that Whitten included. I love the little hints of the gods that we see — this was actually one of my most favorite parts of the book. The gods are dead, but not, and they seem to be influencing things to go a certain way. It is so vastly interesting, and mysterious without being infuriating that I am now waiting with bated breath for the next entry into this series.

THE FOXGLOVE KING comes out MARCH 7, 2023.

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BOOK REVIEW: IN A JAM BY KATE CANTERBARY

  • STAR RATING:  5 stars
  • PAGE LENGTH: 474 pages
  • DATE PUBLISHED: September 18, 2022
  • PUBLISHER:  Vesper Press
  • CONTENT WARNINGS: Sexual content, abandonment, fatphobia
  • IF YOU LIKED THIS, TRY: It Happened One Summer by Tessa Bailey for grumpy/sunshine

SYNOPSIS

When Shay Zucconi’s step-grandmother died, she left Shay a tulip farm—under two conditions.

First, Shay has to move home to the small town of Friendship, Rhode Island. Second—and most problematic since her fiancé just called off the wedding—Shay must be married within one year.

Marriage is the last thing in the world Shay wants but she’ll do anything to save the only real home she’s ever known.

Noah Barden loved Shay Zucconi back in high school. Not that he ever told her. He was too shy, too awkward, too painfully uncool to ask out the beautiful, popular girl.

A lifetime later, Noah is a single dad to his niece and has his hands full running the family business. That old crush is the farthest thing from his mind.

Until Shay returns to their hometown.

Okay, so I picked In A Jam up after a few different bloggers and authors on Twitter wouldn’t stop praising it. I’m not a huge contemporary romance fan — I prefer historicals — but this one really pushed a lot of my buttons in a great way. Like, I didn’t want to do anything but sit down under a comfy blanket and read this book in one sitting. Unfortunately, life wouldn’t let me do that, but I still devoured this one.

Shay is a very competent kindergarten teacher. She’s friendly, loves to talk to kids, and more importantly, knows how to talk to kids. She wears goofy earrings, isn’t thin as a stick, and is, unfortunately, second guessing every decision she’s ever made. With good reason though — she was basically left at the altar by her no-good ex. I felt so, so bad for her, but what a wonderful group of friends she has that pick her right up and get her moving again. I really, really loved her character.

Noah is a no-nonsense lawyer-turned-farmer, and I love, love, love him. He’s gruff, grumpy, but oh my god does he fall HARD for Shay pretty much instantaneously. I am a sucker for a grumpy hero who does absolutely nothing but simp for his love. Like he is on her team IMMEDIATELY. He’d do just about anything for her, and frequently does. Hell, Noah offers to marry her just so she can inherit her farm! THAT’S NOT NOTHING.

Together, they are so, so steamy. They have chemistry right off the bat, and I loved how Canterbary wrote these two together. I will definitely be checking out more of her work, even if I wasn’t super into the first book I tried by her (The Belle and the Beard, in case you were curious.) But this book has me hoping for more like this. I want more like this right now, please. (Send me recs!!!)

The other characters in In A Jam are equally amazing — especially Noah’s niece, Gennie. I loved every second of her, and I ESPECIALLY loved that she actually sounded like a kid, and not like a weird baby-child-combo that some authors write. Shay’s friends were on her side constantly, and it was nice to see support without babying the person being supported. They were all also unique and not caricatures of types of people.

I would have read 92480234 more pages of this one. Five stars.

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BOOK REVIEW: A STRANGE AND STUBBORN ENDURANCE BY FOZ MEADOWS

the book cover for A Strange and Stubborn Endurance by Foz Meadows
  • STAR RATING:  5 stars
    PAGE LENGTH: 544 pages
  • DATE PUBLISHED: July 26th 2022
  • PUBLISHER:  Tor Books
    CONTENT WARNINGS: Rape, suicide attempt, animal death

  • IF YOU LIKED THIS, TRY: A Taste of Gold and Iron by Alexandra Rowland

SYNOPSIS

“Stolen me? As soon to say a caged bird can be stolen by the sky.”

Velasin vin Aaro never planned to marry at all, let alone a girl from neighboring Tithena. When an ugly confrontation reveals his preference for men, Vel fears he’s ruined the diplomatic union before it can even begin. But while his family is ready to disown him, the Tithenai envoy has a different solution: for Vel to marry his former intended’s brother instead.

Caethari Aeduria always knew he might end up in a political marriage, but his sudden betrothal to a man from Ralia, where such relationships are forbidden, comes as a shock.

With an unknown faction willing to kill to end their new alliance, Vel and Cae have no choice but to trust each other. Survival is one thing, but love—as both will learn—is quite another.

Byzantine politics, lush sexual energy, and a queer love story that is by turns sweet and sultry. A Strange and Stubborn Endurance is an exploration of gender, identity, and self-worth. It is a book that will live in your heart long after you turn the last page.

Before I get into my review any further, I do want to make note of the content warnings for this book. There is a rape scene on page. It is fairly detailed. It happens within the first five or six chapters. It is quick, but very easy to see coming. It should be fairly easy to skip over if this would trigger you. I’d give you exact page counts, but I apologize, I don’t have a physical copy.

With that out of the way, A Strange and Stubborn Endurance is an absolutely gorgeously written story. It took me a few pages to get used to Foz Meadow’s writing — it’s a bit flowery compared to what I’m used to — but once I sunk in, it’s like being surrounded by the most beautiful garden imaginable. The world is fantastic — built out just enough to make it feel large and different to our own. The cultures included are so very different, but felt well-rounded and real. But out of everything, I fell in love with the characters, most of all.

Velasin is our main character — most of the story is told through his eyes, in first person POV. He is dealing with some severe PTSD after his sexual assault at the very beginning of the novel. He’s unsure what his place is in the world, and he’s been thrust into an arranged marriage he wasn’t really interested in. He’s got a lot going on, and Meadows does a fantastic job of making the reader feel with him.

Caethari is the other main character — Velasin’s new husband. Despite never meeting Velasin before, he is immediately protective and worried over him. Caethari is a sweetheart — but he’s also quite a badass, too. He never underestimates his new husband, and does everything he can to reassure Velasin that the world they now inhabit is so much different to the one that Velasin grew up in. Caethari was my favorite.

The general gist of the novel is political intrigue. Someone is trying to hurt Velasin, and break the marriage between him and Caethari. A Strange and Stubborn Endurance is a highly political novel, with a romance on the side. (Compared to A Taste of Gold and Iron, another book I absolutely adored, which is a romance novel with some political intrigue on the side.) The romance takes its time forming in the book, which I was thoroughly a fan of. You really get the feel that Caethari and Velasin grow into their love instead of it happening right away. Yes, the story takes place over like…two weeks. Doesn’t matter. It feels plenty long in the book, I promise.

The reveal of who is behind all the stunts and murders is fantastic. I didn’t think the book would actually go there, but it DID, and it was the perfect choice. The ending and solving of everything happens flashbang quick, but is very satisfying. Five stars.

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