Anticipated ARCs Everyone Should Check Out | Book Rambles

The ARC Gods have been quite generous and I feel that I must share some ARCS Im so excited to read. Some of these have been on my highly anticipated reads list and some Ive discovered via NetGalley.

Six Crimson Cranes • by Elizabeth Lim
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Retelling
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Publish Date: 8 July 2021

Why I’m excited to read it:
– fan of Elizabeth’s writing (written Spin the Dawn)
– intriguing premise
– arranged marriage trope

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These Hollow Vows • Lexi Ryan
Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Fantasy
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Publish Date: 20 Jult 2021

Why I’m excited to read it:
– promising premise! desperate to read it
– love stories to do with Fae
– love triangle (lol we know I love the drama)

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She Who Became the Sun • Shelley Parker-Chan
Genre: Adult, Historical Fiction, Fantasy
Publisher: Pan Macmillan, Mantle
Publish Date: 22 July 2021

Why I’m excited to read it:
– historical fantasy re-imagining of Zhu Yuanzhang!!
– intriguing premise
– tragedy, yearning, ambition, and magic

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Not Here to be Liked • Michelle Quach
Genre: Romance, Young Adult
Publisher: Usborne Publishing
Publish Date: 16 September

Why I’m excited to read it:
– rivals to lovers!!
– features an unlikeable female character & intersectional feminism
– coming of age

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Little Thieves • Margaret Owen
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Publish Date: 5 October 2021

Why I’m excited to read it:
– huge fan of Margaret Owen (author of The Merciful Crow)
– LOVE the premise!
– unlikeable MC, yes please!

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Iron Widow • Ziran Jay Zhao
Genre: Science Fiction, retelling
Publisher: Oneworld Publications, Rock the Boat
Publish Date: 7 October 2021

Why I’m excited to read it:
– retelling of Wu Zetian!!!
– FINALLY! A Polyam instead of a love triangle!
– Im in love with the premise, the cover, everything

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Within These Wicked Walls • Lauren Blackwood
Genre: Young Adult, Retelling, Fantasy
Publisher: St. Martins Press
Publish Date: 9 November 2021

Why I’m excited to read it:
– Ethiopian inspired retelling of Jane Eyre
– Okay, Ive never finished reading the original Jane Eyre but Im excited
– Intriguing premise, gothic atmosphere


Have you read any of these books? Or are any of these books are on your radar?

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The Wolf and the Woodsman | Book Review

Title: The Wolf and the Woodsman
Author: Ava Reid
Publisher: Del Rey
Genre: Adult Fantasy, Historical Fiction
Rating: ★★★★
Where can I get this? Goodreads | Booktopia | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble
Recommended for: fans of atmospheric reads set in a magical forest setting, fans of intricate world-building, fans of enemies to lovers
CW: torture, animal deaths, death, self-harm, gore (dismemberment, amputation, mutilation) antisemitism, child abuse, cultural genocide and ethnic cleansing

Check out the Goodreads synopsis below!

In her forest-veiled pagan village, Évike is the only woman without power, making her an outcast clearly abandoned by the gods. The villagers blame her corrupted bloodline—her father was a Yehuli man, one of the much-loathed servants of the fanatical king. When soldiers arrive from the Holy Order of Woodsmen to claim a pagan girl for the king’s blood sacrifice, Évike is betrayed by her fellow villagers and surrendered.

But when monsters attack the Woodsmen and their captive en route, slaughtering everyone but Évike and the cold, one-eyed captain, they have no choice but to rely on each other. Except he’s no ordinary Woodsman—he’s the disgraced prince, Gáspár Bárány, whose father needs pagan magic to consolidate his power. Gáspár fears that his cruelly zealous brother plans to seize the throne and instigate a violent reign that would damn the pagans and the Yehuli alike. As the son of a reviled foreign queen, Gáspár understands what it’s like to be an outcast, and he and Évike make a tenuous pact to stop his brother.

As their mission takes them from the bitter northern tundra to the smog-choked capital, their mutual loathing slowly turns to affection, bound by a shared history of alienation and oppression. However, trust can easily turn to betrayal, and as Évike reconnects with her estranged father and discovers her own hidden magic, she and Gáspár need to decide whose side they’re on, and what they’re willing to give up for a nation that never cared for them at all. 

𝐆𝐔𝐒𝐇:
• rich and evocative world-building, great atmospheric read
• compelling, lyrical writing
• Jewish mythology inspired
• Prideful prince brought to his knees
• Évike’s (MC) relationship with a certain family member

𝐆𝐑𝐈𝐏𝐄:
• pacing especially the last 10%
• I wish we could witness more resolution regarding certain aspects

Writing:
The writing style immediately drew me in. Whimsical and magical at times, there’s a dark and gritty atmosphere throughout the novel which is quite fitting to the tone of the story.

Romance:
If you’re a fan of enemies-to-lovers that are not only stuck with each other but must work together, boy, do I have a book for you. There’s a romance that will bring you to your knees. Your knees.

Setting & World-Building:
As previously mentioned, this novel is inspired by Hungarian history and Jewish mythology. Additionally, the author states that this is a work reflecting and exploring nation-building. Therefore, brutal themes such as cultural genocide, ethnic cleansing, and religious persecution are explored in this novel.

Also, the scenes and experiences in this novel may give off visceral reactions. There were times where I had to physically put down the book and think, pace around the room, and pick the book up again. For me, being in the diaspora, struggles with identity and searching for a sense of belonging evoked such feelings and emotions I can’t quite articulate yet as I witnessed Évike’s journey. Évike is a character that is both heartbreaking and hopeful. Despite exploring heavy themes, Reid ensures that joy, wit, and hope are woven throughout the story and I adored it. This is particularly evident when Évike is reunited with a certain character and certain interactions with characters.

Overall, The Wolf and the Woodsman is a riveting read, a book that must be savoured upon reading.

“𝐁𝐮𝐭 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐮𝐧𝐝𝐞𝐫𝐬𝐭𝐨𝐨𝐝, 𝐚𝐬 𝐈 𝐝𝐨, 𝐭𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐬𝐮𝐫𝐯𝐢𝐯𝐚𝐥 𝐢𝐬 𝐧𝐨𝐭 𝐚 𝐛𝐚𝐭𝐭𝐥𝐞 𝐭𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐰𝐢𝐧 𝐨𝐧𝐥𝐲 𝐨𝐧𝐜𝐞.
𝐘𝐨𝐮 𝐦𝐮𝐬𝐭 𝐟𝐢𝐠𝐡𝐭 𝐢𝐭 𝐚𝐠𝐚𝐢𝐧 𝐞𝐯𝐞𝐫𝐲 𝐝𝐚𝐲. 𝐀𝐧𝐝 𝐬𝐨 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐭𝐚𝐤𝐞 𝐲𝐨𝐮𝐫 𝐬𝐦𝐚𝐥𝐥 𝐥𝐨𝐬𝐬𝐞𝐬 𝐬𝐨 𝐭𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐜𝐚𝐧 𝐥𝐢𝐯𝐞 𝐭𝐨 𝐟𝐢𝐠𝐡𝐭 𝐭𝐨𝐦𝐨𝐫𝐫𝐨𝐰.”

𝑻𝒉𝒆 𝑾𝒐𝒍𝒇 𝒂𝒏𝒅 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝑾𝒐𝒐𝒅𝒔𝒎𝒂𝒏, 𝑨𝒗𝒂 𝑹𝒆𝒊𝒅

𝐓𝐡𝐞𝐦𝐞𝐬: culture, religion, and identity are explored in this novel

𝐑𝐞𝐜𝐨𝐦𝐦𝐞𝐧𝐝𝐞𝐝 𝐟𝐨𝐫: fans of atmospheric reads set in a magical forest setting, fans of intricate world-building, fans of enemies to lovers

𝐂𝐖: torture, animal deaths, death, self-harm, gore (dismemberment, amputation, mutilation) antisemitism, child abuse, cultural genocide and ethnic cleansing

Thank you to @NetGalley and the publisher (@DelRey) for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

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ARCs I’m Excited to Read in February 2021 | Thoughts and Rambles

I must really thank the ARC gods because somehow I’ve been approved to read and review some of my highly anticipated reads this year. Here’s a few: 

 

Title: Hall of Smoke
Author: H.M. Long
Genre: Adult, Fantasy, Epic Fantasy
Pub date: 19 Jan 2021

GOODREADS LINK HERE

Why I wanted to read this:
• Gorgeous cover.
• Intriguing premise.
• A warrior main character on a mission for redemption? YES, I WANT IN.


An epic fantasy featuring warrior priestesses and fickle gods at war

Hessa is an Eangi: a warrior priestess of the Goddess of War, with the power to turn an enemy’s bones to dust with a scream. Banished for disobeying her goddess’s command to murder a traveller, she prays for forgiveness alone on a mountainside.

While she is gone, raiders raze her village and obliterate the Eangi priesthood. Grieving and alone, Hessa – the last Eangi – must find the traveller, atone for her weakness and secure her place with her loved ones in the High Halls. As clans from the north and legionaries from the south tear through her homeland, slaughtering everyone in their path, Hessa strives to win back her goddess’ favour.

Beset by zealot soldiers, deceitful gods, and newly-awakened demons at every turn, Hessa burns her path towards redemption and revenge. But her journey reveals a harrowing truth: the gods are dying and the High Halls of the afterlife are fading. Soon Hessa’s trust in her goddess weakens with every unheeded prayer.

Thrust into a battle between the gods of the Old World and the New, Hessa realizes there is far more on the line than securing a life beyond her own death. Bigger, older powers slumber beneath the surface of her world. And they’re about to wake up.


Title: Spellmaker 
Author: Charlie N. Holmberg
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Historical
Pub date: 9 March 2021

GOODREADS LINK HERE

Why I wanted to read this:
• Love the premise.
• MARRIAGE OF CONVENIENCE TROPE YES!
• Okay, time for a confession: I didn’t realise this was a sequel so I binge read the first book and LOVED it.


Dead wizards, stolen enchantments, and broken promises force a young spellbreaker out of the shadows in the next thrilling installment of the Spellbreaker series by the Wall Street Journal bestselling author of The Paper Magician.

England, 1895. An unsolved series of magician murders and opus thefts isn’t a puzzle to Elsie Camden. But to reveal a master spellcaster as the culprit means incriminating herself as an unregistered spellbreaker. When Elsie refuses to join forces with the charming assassin, her secret is exposed, she’s thrown in jail, and the murderer disappears. But Elsie’s hope hasn’t vanished.

Through a twist of luck, the elite magic user Bacchus Kelsey helps Elsie join the lawful, but with a caveat: they must marry to prove their cover story. Forced beneath a magical tutor while her bond with Bacchus grows, Elsie seeks to thwart the plans of England’s most devious criminal—if she can find them.

With hundreds of stolen spells at their disposal, the villain has a plan—and it involves seducing Elsie to the dark side. But even now that her secret is out, Elsie must be careful how she uses the new abilities she’s discovering, or she may play right into the criminal’s hands.


Title: The Shadow in the Glass
Author: J.J.A. Harwood
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Retellings
Pub date: 18 March 2021

GOODREADS LINK HERE

Why I wanted to read this:
• Because I haven’t read any Cinderella retellings, okay?
• I’m so intrigued with the wishes and the price to pay!
• Look at the cover. I would love that on my shelf.


Once upon a time Ella had wished for more than her life as a lowly maid.

Now forced to work hard under the unforgiving, lecherous gaze of the man she once called stepfather, Ella’s only refuge is in the books she reads by candlelight, secreted away in the library she isn’t permitted to enter.

One night, among her beloved books of far-off lands, Ella’s wishes are answered. At the stroke of midnight, a fairy godmother makes her an offer that will change her life: seven wishes, hers to make as she pleases. But each wish comes at a price and Ella must to decide whether it’s one she’s willing to pay it.

A smouldering, terrifying new spin on Cinderella – perfect for fans of Laura Purcell and Erin Morgenstern. 


Title: Ace of Spades
Author: Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé
Genre: Young Adult, Mystery/Thriller, Contemporary
Pub date: 10 June 2021

GOODREADS LINK HERE

Why I wanted to read this:
• A Thriller!! Based in school.
• LOVE the cover.
• The premise, the themes… I need it all.


An incendiary and utterly compelling thriller with a shocking twist that delves deep into the heart of institutionalized racism, from an exceptional new YA voice. Welcome to Niveus Private Academy, where money paves the hallways, and the students are never less than perfect. Until now. Because anonymous texter, Aces, is bringing two students’ dark secrets to light. Talented musician Devon buries himself in rehearsals, but he can’t escape the spotlight when his private photos go public. Head girl Chiamaka isn’t afraid to get what she wants, but soon everyone will know the price she has paid for power. Someone is out to get them both. Someone who holds all the aces. And they’re planning much more than a high-school game… 


Title: Marion Lane and the Midnight Murder 
Author: T.A. Willberg
Genre: Adult, Historical Fiction, Mystery
Pub date: 10 June 2021

GOODREADS LINK HERE

Why I want to read this:
• Love the premise.
• MYSTERY! MURDER! MAYHEM!
• Have I pointed out the cover? Because it is so beautiful.


The letter was short. A name, a time, a place.

Marion Lane and the Midnight Murder plunges readers into the heart of London, to the secret tunnels that exist far beneath the city streets. There, a mysterious group of detectives recruited for Miss Brickett’s Investigations & Inquiries use their cunning and gadgets to solve crimes that have stumped Scotland Yard.

Late one night in April 1958, a filing assistant for Miss Brickett’s named Michelle White receives a letter warning her that a heinous act is about to occur. She goes to investigate but finds the room empty. At the stroke of midnight, she is murdered by a killer she can’t see—her death the only sign she wasn’t alone. It becomes chillingly clear that the person responsible must also work for Miss Brickett’s, making everyone a suspect.

Almost unwillingly, Marion Lane, a first-year Inquirer-in-training, finds herself being drawn ever deeper into the investigation. When her friend and mentor is framed for the crime, to clear his name she must sort through the hidden alliances at Miss Brickett’s and secrets dating back to WWII. Masterful, clever and deliciously suspenseful, Marion Lane and the Midnight Murder is a fresh take on the Agatha Christie—style locked-room mystery with an exciting new heroine detective at the helm.


Title: She Who Became the Sun
Author: Shelley Parker-Chan
Genre: Adult, Fantasy, Historical Fantasy
Pub date: 22 July 2021

GOODREADS LINK HERE

Why I want to read this:
• Okay, let’s first establish the cover is gorgeous.
• A reimagining of the founding emperor of the Ming Dynasty? NEED.
• AHHH the synopsis is giving me Red River vibes and I need it.


Mulan meets The Song of Achilles in Shelley Parker-Chan’s She Who Became the Sun, a bold, queer, and lyrical reimagining of the rise of the founding emperor of the Ming Dynasty from an amazing new voice in literary fantasy.

To possess the Mandate of Heaven, the female monk Zhu will do anything

“I refuse to be nothing…”

In a famine-stricken village on a dusty yellow plain, two children are given two fates. A boy, greatness. A girl, nothingness…

In 1345, China lies under harsh Mongol rule. For the starving peasants of the Central Plains, greatness is something found only in stories. When the Zhu family’s eighth-born son, Zhu Chongba, is given a fate of greatness, everyone is mystified as to how it will come to pass. The fate of nothingness received by the family’s clever and capable second daughter, on the other hand, is only as expected.

When a bandit attack orphans the two children, though, it is Zhu Chongba who succumbs to despair and dies. Desperate to escape her own fated death, the girl uses her brother’s identity to enter a monastery as a young male novice. There, propelled by her burning desire to survive, Zhu learns she is capable of doing whatever it takes, no matter how callous, to stay hidden from her fate.

After her sanctuary is destroyed for supporting the rebellion against Mongol rule, Zhu takes the chance to claim another future altogether: her brother’s abandoned greatness.


Have you noticed a similar pattern with how I pick my books? Why am I so drawn to pretty covers?

What entices you to pick up a book?

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People of Abandoned Character | Review


Title: People of Abandoned Character
Author: Clare Whitfield
Publisher: Head of Zeus
Genre: General Fiction (Adult), Mystery and Thriller, Historical Fiction
Rating: ★★★★☆
Where can I get this? Goodreads | Booktopia | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble
Recommended for: fans of historical fiction centring on Jack the Ripper or set in the Victorian era, fans of mystery and thrillers
CW: domestic abuse, violence, death, anti-Semitism*

*I did feel uncomfortable with the casual anti-Semitism (Jewish characters facing prejudice from other characters). Whilst I can understand the sentiments do not necessarily reflect the author or the protagonist, rather the common prejudices held at that time, I’d like to inform readers it’s there. Also, this does not occur often and the protagonist questions the notions.

An absolute ripper of a book. What would you do if you suspected the man you loved and married was a serial killer?

People of Abandoned Character is a grim and brutal atmospheric thriller convoluted with abrupt twists and dark turns. Some twists I anticipated whilst others were unexpected. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the tumultuous ride and devoured this book in one sitting.

Set in 1880’s Victorian England, this novel follows a young woman named Susannah, as she navigates her life from ward nurse to a newly wedded wife. Charmed by the enigmatic surgeon Thomas, Susannah is swept off her feet into a sudden advantageous marriage. The promise of a life of stability with a loving husband is new and exciting to Susannah. However, upon returning from their honeymoon their once sweet kisses turn sour as Thomas’ endearing demeanour changes. Thomas who was once attentive, devoted, and charming becomes cold, surly, and volatile. With the rising coincidental spikes in crime and her husband’s erratic behaviour, Susannah grows suspicious. What if Thomas is the fearsome murderer?

First, I must mention the two major factors that made me thoroughly enjoy this book: the narration and the protagonist. Upon reading the first few pages, I instantly fell in love with the narration. Written in first-person, the voice is distinct and gripping yet humorous at times. The story is well-paced with an engaging protagonist. Susannah is an intriguing character who is both determined yet naïve and unconventional and I enjoyed witnessing the story unfurl from her perspective.

Originally from a lower social class and having little to no prospects, Susannah is no stranger to the poor, unfortunate circumstances and sometimes violent ends women face in that era. Despite that, we witness Susannah grapple society’s expectation using her quick wit and determination. Throughout the novel, you can’t help but cheer for Susannah. Often berated by her grandmother of being a person of abandoned character, Susannah examines herself, questioning her morality and decisions. However, as the audience, we can’t help but empathise with Susannah and her actions despite her flaws.

Also, this book explores aspects such as class and gender, presenting fascinating insight whilst drawing attention to the disparity between the rich and poor and the inequality between men and women. A sad tune that still rings true till this day.

Overall, this was a compelling read with great pacing and intriguing twists. I enjoyed this thoroughly (and was satisfied with the ending!) and would recommend this book. Now I cannot wait for my Goldsboro copy to arrive.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher (Head of Zeus) for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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The Midnight Bargain | Book Review

Title: The Midnight Bargain
Standalone
Author: C. L. Polk
Publisher: Erewhon Books
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Where can I get this? GoodReads | Book Depository | Booktopia | Barnes and Noble
Recommended for: fans of historical fiction set in Regency era, themes of politically arranged marriages, and feminism
CW: themes of misogyny (women wearing collars after marriage to subdue their magic and protect potential children)

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Check out the synopsis below!

Beatrice Clayborn is a sorceress who practices magic in secret, terrified of the day she will be locked into a marital collar that will cut off her powers to protect her unborn children. She dreams of becoming a full-fledged Magus and pursuing magic as her calling as men do, but her family has staked everything to equip her for Bargaining Season, when young men and women of means descend upon the city to negotiate the best marriages. The Clayborns are in severe debt, and only she can save them, by securing an advantageous match before their creditors come calling.

In a stroke of luck, Beatrice finds a grimoire that contains the key to becoming a Magus, but before she can purchase it, a rival sorceress swindles the book right out of her hands. Beatrice summons a spirit to help her get it back, but her new ally exacts a price: Beatrice’s first kiss . . . with her adversary’s brother, the handsome, compassionate, and fabulously wealthy Ianthe Lavan.

The more Beatrice is entangled with the Lavan siblings, the harder her decision becomes: If she casts the spell to become a Magus, she will devastate her family and lose the only man to ever see her for who she is; but if she marries—even for love—she will sacrifice her magic, her identity, and her dreams. But how can she choose just one, knowing she will forever regret the path not taken?

“You will dance. You will eat cake. You will see starlight. You will have a kiss by midnight, and then our bargain is done.”

I liked how this book explores and woven the themes of gender equality, women’s freedom, and independence into the novel. However, I felt like this novel lacked nuance in some areas. I appreciated the rhetoric regarding equality, however, at times it felt too heavy-handed and on the nose, thereby affecting my reading experience towards the 80% mark of the story. In saying that, I do agree that the discussion regarding equality and independence is crucial, and whilst I may find it a bit on the nose at times others may not find it so.

Also, I liked how driven and determined the protagonist (Beatrice) was throughout the story. My two favourite characters were Beatrice, Nadi, and Ysbeta. I particularly liked Beatrice and Nadi’s dynamic. And I liked how Beatrice and Ysbeta grew together, fostering a great friendship.

However, unfortunately, I could not come to love the love interest (Ianthe). I felt like the romantic interest was too perfect in the sense that he was consistently understanding, open-minded despite living in and taking part in a world that constantly benefited him. It felt unrealistic. From the top of my head, I can’t think of any flaws. I mean, the love interest is even good looking and rich.

Despite the constant focus on the romance, the romance felt underdeveloped and rushed. I didn’t feel emotionally invested nor understood the romantic connection between the characters. I feel that there was no romantic build-up for me to really cheer for the two characters.

In terms of the world-building and magic system, I liked how intriguing the magic system was. However, this could be due to my lack of understanding, but I found the magic system vague. Despite that, I did find the magic system fascinating and enjoyed it.

Without getting spoiler-y, I both liked and not-so-liked the ending. I found it unrewarding in the sense of how it opposes certain themes presented throughout the novel regarding marriage, children, and Beatrice pursuing her passion. I felt the ending felt too convenient to be believable. Despite that, I did like how Beatrice chose and paved her own path for both career and family (I’m trying to be as vague as possible here).

GUSH:

  •  Gripping, I devoured this book in one sitting –
  • Interesting world and magic 
  • Determined protagonist wanting to pursue their passion and a strong sense of women empowerment

GRIPE:

  • I didn’t feel too invested in the romance
  • Not enough information regarding the world-building and magic –
  • The ending felt too convenient

 

𝘗𝘭𝘦𝘢𝘴𝘦 𝘯𝘰𝘵𝘦: 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘲𝘶𝘰𝘵𝘦 𝘭𝘪𝘴𝘵𝘦𝘥 𝘩𝘦𝘳𝘦 𝘢𝘳𝘦 𝘤𝘪𝘵𝘦𝘥 𝘧𝘳𝘰𝘮 𝘢𝘯 𝘈𝘥𝘷𝘢𝘯𝘤𝘦 𝘙𝘦𝘢𝘥𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘊𝘰𝘱𝘺 (𝘈𝘙𝘊) 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘮𝘢𝘺 𝘣𝘦 𝘴𝘶𝘣𝘫𝘦𝘤𝘵𝘦𝘥 𝘵𝘰 𝘤𝘩𝘢𝘯𝘨𝘦 𝘶𝘱𝘰𝘯 𝘱𝘶𝘣𝘭𝘪𝘤𝘢𝘵𝘪𝘰𝘯.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher (Erewhon Books) for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.


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How to Break and Evil Curse | Review

Title: How to Break an Evil Curse
Series: Chronicles of Fritillary #1
Author: Laura Morrison
Publisher: Black Spot Books
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Where can I get this? Goodreads | Booktopia | Book Depository | Barnes & Noble
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Recommended for: people looking for a different take on fairy-tales, fans of satire, fantasy parodies, and snarky narrators

If you’re looking for a fairy-tale parody, this may be for you.


In ‘How to Break an Evil Curse’, the King’s firstborn is cursed to die if touched by sunlight. Princess Julianna, the unfortunate firstborn to the King of Fritillary is confined in darkness and dreams of a life of freedom. Disgruntled but also determined, Julianna decides to fight fate and live her life by escaping the somewhat nicely redecorated dungeon.

But first, how does one break an evil curse? Simple, really. The evil Wizard Farland admits there is a cure. All Julianna needs is to fall in love with a person that:
1. spent their whole life at sea,
2. whose parents are part of a travelling theatre troupe,
3. said person can play the banjo, accordion, and harpsichord, and
4. is allergic to asparagus.

“It is not impossible for such a person to exist, only improbable.”

Writing:
Firstly, I must state this: approach this with a light-hearted mind. The narration style may not be for everyone. Rather, it may come across as sarcastic to some, with fourth wall breaks, witty comments, and interesting footnotes. However, I feel the narration is a stylistic choice to add to the humorous tone and I find that it works well with the story.

Characters:
There is a large cast of characters in this book, however, they add to the story and it’s quite easy to follow. Although one may find certain characters to be shallow and two-dimensional, I feel like this story doesn’t take itself too seriously for you to do so.  Although I must say, I appreciate how Julianna has initiative. Once she wants something, she goes after it.

Enjoyment:
I can appreciate this book for what it offers—a unique take on classic fairy tales. The humour may not be for everyone as it’s sarcastic and sometimes nonsensical. However, if you enjoy such humour, you may thoroughly enjoy this.

This book may serve well as a ‘palate-cleanser’—when you’re looking for a book that is light-hearted, entertaining, and easy to read. I’d recommend those who pick this up to not take it seriously, and enjoy for what it is. Overall, I find this book to be a quirky and amusing read.

Recommended for: people looking for a different take on fairy-tales, fans of satire, fantasy parodies, and snarky narrators

Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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Kingdom of Sea and Stone | Book Tour | Review

Hello and welcome to my stop. This stop includes a book review with favourite quotes.

You can check out the Tour Schedule here.

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BOOK INFO:

Title: Kingdom of Sea and Stone
Series: Crown of Coral and Pearl #2
Author: Mara Rutherford
Publisher:
Release Date: October 6th 2020
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Where can I get this? Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository | Barnes & Noble | Indigo

Check out the synopsis below!

Ever since Nor was forced to go to a nearby kingdom in her sister’s place, she’s wanted nothing more than to return to the place and people she loves. But when her wish comes true, she soon finds herself cast out from both worlds, with a war on the horizon.
As an old enemy resurfaces more powerful than ever, Nor will have to keep the kingdom from falling apart with the help of Prince Talin and Nor’s twin sister, Zadie. There are forces within the world more mysterious than any of them ever guessed—and they’ll need to stay alive long enough to conquer them…

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Review

Rating: ★★★★☆
Recommended for: fans of YA Fantasy, sea settings,

Writing:
Like the first novel, Kingdom of Sea and Stone was a delight to read. I found the writing style straightforward and engaging. Rutherford describes scenes well without weighing the narrative down with too many descriptions. I liked how I could read both books in a single sitting.

Characters:
First and foremost, this novel is solely told in first POV of Nor and I appreciated Nor’s character growth depicted here. As we journey through the story we witness as she takes action and courage whilst remaining the same empathetic and kind-hearted she was in the first book. This book takes a shift and explores themes such as freedom, purpose, and love.

However, akin to the first book I found Nor’s internal struggle to take centre stage (romance in the first book and self-discovery in the second). I appreciate it when books explore a characters internal struggle, however, I found the increased focus on that aspect to downplay other aspects (such as the war, etc.) in the book thereby affecting the pacing. Despite it being slower paced, I appreciate how this book went into great length into Nor’s journey both physically and mentally.

Also, one major aspect I loved in the first book was the twin’s relationship. I adored their strong love for each other and I rejoiced to see them reunite here. Luckily, we get to witness more of Zadie and her interactions with Nor (as well as Zadie/Nor/Sami but the three best friend dynamic wasn’t as depicted as I would’ve liked it). I liked how

There were few recurring characters and some new faces. I quickly grew fond to a few of the new characters and liked how they spiced the story up. There were hidden agendas, unclear motivations, and unexpected twists and I was here for all of them.

Romance:
Whilst some may disagree with me, stating the romance was lacking in comparison to the predecessor, I preferred the romantic resolution presented in this novel. Perhaps I wasn’t as invested in the romance due to it being a little too convenient for me in the first book. However, I did get frustrated at some parts of the book where I feel that a simple straightforward conversation would’ve prevented certain situations but hey, I did enjoy the drama of it all so… 😂😂 Anyway, I can’t complain with how the romance ended (but mind you some may find it lacking).

Setting & World-Building:
I liked how this book explores further than Varenia and Ilara, journeying to a land named Galeth. Rutherford described the scenery well, incorporating little details of the land and culture throughout the story which helped grounded me into this fantastical world. Galeth was refreshingly different to Varenia in various ways (ruling, customs, expectations, etc.). I initially fell in love with how Rutherford depicted Varenia so exploring different lands was quite fun (though I missed the sea).

Overall, this was a pleasant conclusion to the highly anticipated sequel. There is a different shift in terms of pacing and themes compared to the previous book and I did enjoy the thoughtfulness and depth that went behind it all. Be prepared to meet new faces, see new places, and a fun ride!

Recommend for: fans of YA fantasy with political intrigue, character growth depicted in first POV

CW: violence, death


Some of my favourite quotes:

Please note: the quotes listed here are cited from an Advance Reading Copy (ARC) and may be subjected to change upon publication.

Father kissed my forehead. “My girl, take heart. No journey worth taking was ever easy.”

I loved this. I’m a sucker for a good parent/child dynamic and this interaction highlighted a tender moment between Nor and her father. Little do we know how much this quote really sets our story!

“Hope is like a kite. Hold on to it tight enough, and even the fiercest storm can’t claim it.”

A great nod to book one! I adored this!

“Because that was what it meant to be free: I could choose.”

“Ceren had said love was my weakness, once. But I knew now that love was the strength that would sustain me out there in the world, and it was the bond that would ensure I always came back.”

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MARA RUTHERFORD

Mara Rutherford began her writing career as a journalist but quickly discovered she far preferred fantasy to reality. Originally from California, Mara has since lived all over the world along with her Marine-turned-diplomat husband. A triplet born on Leap Day, Mara holds a Master’s degree in Cultural Studies from the University of London. When she’s not writing or chasing after her two sons, she can usually be found pushing the boundaries of her comfort zone, whether at a traditional Russian banya or an Incan archaeological site. She is the author of CROWN OF CORAL AND PEARL (2019), its sequel, KINGDOM OF SEA AND STONE (2020), and LUMINOUS (2021).

Website | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

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Okay, the fun bit… the giveaway!

Prize: Finished copy of Kingdom of Sea and Stone (US Only)

Check out the giveaway here and GOOD LUCK! 

Again, please feel free to follow the next tour stops. The Tour Schedule can be found here.

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Monstrous Heart | Review

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Title: Monstrous Heart
Series: The Monstrous Heart Trilogy #1
Author: Claire McKenna
Publisher: Harper Collins
Genre: Adult Fiction, Fantasy, Romance
Rating: ★★☆☆☆
Where can I find this? GoodReads | Book Depository | Booktopia
Recommended for: Fans of gothic atmosphere, flowery writing
CW: sexual assault, attempted rape, and violence

In Monstrous Heart, we follow Arden, tasked to keep the lighthouse burning with her magical blood. Readers are promised a gothic feel so there’s a melancholic voice in the narration which works well with the story. However, there were some instances where the prose felt excessively flowery to the point of confusion (at the beginning). Despite that, I did like how the narration complemented the story and overall atmosphere of the novel.

Unfortunately, the world-building felt lacking in some areas. Whilst there was focus on certain aspects (such as characters) which was great, the narration never solidified the world thereby leaving readers confused and baseless. For example, terms and concepts were presented yet never fully explored. Also, the novel utilised words and places from our world (‘Fiction’ and ‘Manhattan’) as names of places which felt jarring upon reading.

Despite that, I did like how Arden was portrayed to be determined and hard-working. I also liked and was intrigued by the concept of sea monsters and the world. I just wished the world-building was fleshed out more.

Monstrous Heart held so much promise, however, I feel that this book wasn’t for me. If you’re a fan of flowery writing and a determined protagonist, this may be for you. The elements in this story held great potential and I am curious to see more from this author.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers (Harper Collins) for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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Monstrous Heart | Review

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Title: Monstrous Heart

Series: The Monstrous Heart Trilogy (#1)

Author: Claire McKenna

Publisher: Harper Collins

Genre: Fantasy, Romance

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Where can I find this? GoodReads | Book Depository | Booktopia |

Recommended for: Fans of flowery writing, dark romance

 

In Monstrous Heart, we follow Arden, tasked to keep the lighthouse burning with her magical blood. Readers are promised a gothic feel so there’s a melancholic voice in the narration which works well with the story. However, there were some instances where the prose felt excessively flowery to the point of confusion (at the beginning). Despite that, I did like how the narration complemented the story and overall atmosphere of the novel.

Unfortunately, the world-building felt lacking in some areas. Whilst there was focus on certain aspects (such as characters) which was great, the narration never solidified the world thereby leaving readers confused and baseless. For example, terms and concepts were presented yet never fully explored. Also, the novel utilised words and places from our world (‘Fiction’ and ‘Manhattan’) as names of places which felt jarring upon reading.

Despite that, I did like how Arden was portrayed to be determined and hard-working. I also liked and was intrigued by the concept of sea monsters and the world. I just wished the world-building was fleshed out more. Monstrous Heart held so much promise, however, I feel that this book wasn’t for me. If you’re a fan of flowery writing and a determined protagonist, this may be for you. The elements in this story held great potential and I am curious to see more from this author.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

CW: sexual assault, attempted rape, and violence

 

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Bear | Review

Copy of Copy of to kill a kingdom (1)

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𝐓𝐢𝐭𝐥𝐞: Bear

𝐀𝐮𝐭𝐡𝐨𝐫: Ben Queen

Illustrator: Joe Todd-Stanton

Publisher: Archaia

Genre: Children’s Fiction

𝐑𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐧𝐠: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

In Bear, we follow the paw steps of a guide dog named Bear. As a guide dog, Bear’s job is to assist his owner Patrick, who is blind. Patrick and Bear happily live their lives in-sync until the unthinkable happens—Bear loses his sight. Scared he’ll no longer be useful to Patrick and lose his job, Bear then follows the racoons to find a mysterious bear to teach Bear magic for his sight. Despite making friends in unlikely places, Bear finds trouble and then gets lost.

Bear’s search is rewarded and reunites with Patrick. Upon their reunion, Bear undergoes surgery for his eyes. Whilst Bear states he wasn’t “one hundred per cent” after the surgery, he notes that he gained something far greater than what he thought he ever wanted—he becomes Patrick’s friend.

Bear is such an endearing character and I found it easy to emotionally invest in him and his endeavours. I enjoyed the themes explored in this book and liked the unique premise of the story and how it highlights the importance of guide dogs. The book also educates the readers regarding how blindness impacts people.

This is a heart-warming read with themes of identity, friendship, and perseverance woven into Bear’s journey. Through his blindness and his tireless search, Bear discovers true friendship and acceptance. His emotional journey for purpose showcases resilience in the face of adversity.

Also, I LOVE the illustration! The artwork is adorable and colourful. The art panels are engaging, successfully evoking intended emotions upon reading the book.

This is a book I’d highly recommend and I’d definitely buy a copy. I can’t wait to read this to the kids.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

 

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