Book Reviews

More Books I’ve Read in the Last Six Months #BookReviews

Besides all the readathons I’ve taken part in, I’ve also read several books that don’t fit in anywhere. I’ve added those that I didn’t finish (DNF).

About the Book

When ARKANE Archivist Martin Klein joins the Vatican digital archiving project, he finds an ancient letter mistakenly scanned along with the medieval papal decree Militia Dei, Soldiers of God.

It points to a dark secret the Knights Templar once tried to erase from existence, hidden in a medieval fortress under the heart of Paris for almost a thousand years.

As Martin follows the trail to the hidden Templar crypt, aided by biblical scholar Camara Mbaye, they discover something unspeakable in the vaults below Paris.

Who are the Soldiers of God and why must they rest until needed?

This is a short story featuring Martin Klein and Dr Camara Mbaye from my ARKANE world. It fits after Tomb of Relics, book 12 of the ARKANE action-adventure thriller series, but can be read as a stand-alone story.

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

I enjoyed Martin’s trip to the Vatican archives and then to Paris to explore what he had uncovered in the scanned documents. For Morgan and Jake’s sake, I hope the Soldiers of God stay asleep for a while longer – not sure if they can handle the undead on a holy mission right now. I would like more stories featuring the Knights Templar with ARKANE flair.

4 unicorn star rating

About the Book

A guide to the history and practices of the Druids and the Celtic faith

• Reconstructs the Druidic faith from surviving remnants, parallels with other Indo-European traditions, and dedicated study of scholarly sources

• Details magical rites and ceremonies, methods for consecrating an outdoor temple, and customs for celebrating important festivals such as Beltaine and Samhain

• Discusses rules for firecraft, making offerings to deities and spirits, and the ancient Coligny calendar, including the names of the months in old Gaulish

Druids and their magic, lore, and rituals have fascinated all those who encounter them, from the ancient Greeks and Romans onward. Even today, the mere mention of their name evokes pictures of standing stones, mistletoe, golden sickles, white-robed priests, and powerful sorcerers. But were they really as we picture them?

Drawing on comparative mythology and linguistics, archaeological evidence, and etymology, Teresa Cross offers readers a comprehensive course in the history and development of the Celtic spiritual tradition and its lore, reconstructing the Druidic faith from the remnants that have survived and dedicated study of scholarly sources. She also reveals parallels with other Indo-European traditions, such as the similarities between Celtic and Vedic Hindu beliefs and practices. She chronicles the ethics and spiritual teachings of Druidism and the Celtic faith and examines what happened to these beliefs during centuries of Christianization.

Moving from history to practice, Cross details magical rites and ceremonies as practiced by modern-day followers of Druidactos. She explores the structure of the Touta, which roughly corresponds to “tribe,” methods for consecrating a nemeton, the outdoor temple that offers the optimum sacred space for the meeting of heaven and earth, and the rites and customs associated with important festivals such as Beltaine and Samhain. She also explores the rules of firecraft, the sacred art of giving to the cosmos, making offerings to deities and spirits, sacred food and beverages, and the ancient Coligny calendar, including the names of the months in old Gaulish.

Offering an authentic handbook for starting your own Celtic group led by Druids, Cross reveals the meanings and metaphysics behind the Celtic and Druidic customs and traditions, reuniting the fragmentary remains of long-lost Druid culture with the still-living practices of the Celtic faith.

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

The blurb promises a scholarly look at the early druids and how they lived. Instead, words like “bean sìdhe” which means “fairy woman” is mistranslated as “woman of peace” (and that’s not the worst of the translations). Instead of discussing what druids did, one is told to go read another book to get the historical specifics that this book said it would cover. And the repetitive nature of this book… How many times can one say that Fionn was like Robin Hood before someone says “Move on with it already”? There’s a quick (and inaccurate) summary of the Celtic gods – as someone who has studied Celtic folklore and culture for a decade, I wanted to laugh and weep in equal measure. The author tries to make the Celts stand apart from Greeks, Norse and others, yet she constantly compares and refers cross-culturally (and there are loads of contradictions). And the way she presents Celtic spirituality as a bastardisation of modern psychology and that various fae (the leannan sìth, the gancanagh, the phouka and more) are manifestations of the soul, is certainly making my Irish great-grandfather roll over in his grave.

So, druids were lore-keepers, judges, and advisors to kings – nothing I didn’t already know. (And one can learn loads more about druids in season 3 of Teen Wolf than in this book…) I only read part one – it was painful and didn’t deliver on the promise of the title or the blurb.

DNF

About the Book

After her car breaks down, Beth Kennedy is forced to stay in Florida, the target of Hurricane Sabrina. She stocks up supplies, boards up windows, and hunkers down to wait out the storm, but her plan unravels when she witnesses a car accident. Risking her life, she braves the winds to save the driver. Just when she believes they are safe, she finds out the man she saved could possibly be more dangerous than the severe weather.

Donovan Goldwyn only wanted to hide from the police, but the hurricane shoved his car into a tree. Now he’s trapped with a beautiful woman while the evidence that can prove his innocence to a brutal crime is out there for anyone to find.

As Hurricane Sabrina wreaks havoc, Beth has no other choice but to trust Donovan to stay alive. But will she survive, or will she become another hurricane crime?

Content Warning: police brutality, violence, gun violence, animal death, snake

Heat Rating: Medium (sexual tension/behind-closed-doors)

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

There are a couple of POV issues and the sex was unnecessary and a bit unbelievable (who jumps into bed with someone they just met while a hurricane is out to kill them and the other person might be a murderer?). The intense kisses conveyed the emotion and desperation of the moment better. Too much backstory, could have cut to the action. The hurricane and everything about it was brilliantly written. I like the thriller aspect. And the way she stops the bad guy – totally kick-ass. But weren’t there supposed to be two bad guys? Guess the other one will feature in some future crime.

3 unicorn star rating

About the Book

An Internal Affairs Investigator was murdered and his brother, Donovan Goldwyn, was framed. Now Donovan is desperate to prove his innocence. And the one person who can do that is the woman who saved him from a deadly hurricane—Beth Kennedy. From the moment their fates intertwined, passion consumed him. He wants her in his arms. More, he wants her by his side in his darkest moments.

Beth Kennedy may not know everything about Donovan, but she can’t deny what she feels for him. It’s her love for him that pushes her to do whatever she has to do to help him get justice, including putting herself in a criminal’s crosshairs.

When a tip reveals the killer’s location, they travel to California, but then an earthquake of catastrophic proportions separates them. As aftershocks roll the land, Beth and Donovan have to endure dangerous conditions while trying to find their way back to one another. Will they reunite and find the killer, or will they lose everything?

Content Warning: on page sex, strong language, trauma/PTSD, death of a loved one, corpse, drug dealer, violence, guns

Heat Rating: Hot (Steamy scenes but NOT erotica)

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

Lots of flowery prose. Donovan acts a bit like an idiot, going to see the corpse of his brother (contaminating the iffy crime scene and getting nightmare images to haunt him forever).

Bit of a slow pace for romantic suspense: chapter 8 and he hadn’t gone after his brother’s killer yet as he said he would. And Donovan isn’t my type of hero: at the slightest hint of trying to get to know him better, he’s sure Beth doesn’t trust him and thinks he’s a psycho killer. Urgh. Romance heroes need to be likeable.

As much as I wanted to like this book, I’m DNFing at 24%.

DNF series.

About the Book

Following a 7.1 earthquake in Guatemala, Thorn and Amanda, volunteering for the American Red Cross, help survivors in any way that they can. They hand out food and water and offer comfort to the people shaken by this event.

A sudden tremor knocks everyone off their feet, only it’s not an aftershock of the quake. One of Guatemala’s many volcanoes is erupting—a disaster on top of a disaster.

Thorn and Amanda now must do whatever they can to help each other and the survivors of the quake endure this natural phenomenon.

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

I like Amanda and Thorn. There’s enough backstory scattered throughout that one knows their story without having to have read the previous book. I enjoyed the way the volcano and ensuing chaos was described. And though I like Thorn and Amanda, reading about the trauma they’d dealt with in the previous book, I’m not going to be reading it.

4 unicorn star rating

About the Book

“It doesn’t matter what you believe. The time is here regardless, and they are coming. After so long, the gods are rising again.”

Ben Henare turned away from the gods of his ancestors to follow his own path, choosing the modern world over myths of demons and monsters.

But when New Zealand is shaken by earthquakes and dark powers are released, Ben must fight his way north through ice caves and oceans, battling the evil god Whiro and the creatures of the earth and sky.

Lucy Campion is a trainee doctor, a rational scientist with no belief in demons. When her parents are killed and her sister is threatened, Lucy is tasked with carrying an ancient talisman north to where the oceans meet. But both human and supernatural foes stand in her way.

As the people they love are threatened and New Zealand begins to crumble, can Ben and Lucy find each other again and save the country from the wrath of the Risen Gods?

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

An action-packed adventure across New Zealand with loads of natural disasters, Maori gods out to cleanse the land, and some beautiful scenery. The stakes are high for Lucy and Ben, they see a lot of death and lose a lot of loved-ones. I liked the appearance of the horses to help them. And the kraken-like creature of the sea out to get them… Awesome!

There are some issues with the book (POV jumping in scenes, a lot of characters getting POV time just to die, typographical space splitting scenes that shouldn’t be split), but it doesn’t detract from the story. Much.

A thrilling adventure that can be read in one sitting.

4 unicorn star rating

About the Book

We had no warning that she’d come back.

Hollow’s Edge used to be a quiet place. A private and idyllic neighborhood where neighbors dropped in on neighbors, celebrated graduation and holiday parties together, and looked out for one another. But then came the murder of Brandon and Fiona Truett. A year and a half later, Hollow’s Edge is simmering. The residents are trapped, unable to sell their homes, confronted daily by the empty Truett house, and suffocated by their trial testimonies that implicated one of their own. Ruby Fletcher. And now, Ruby’s back.

With her conviction overturned, Ruby waltzes right back to Hollow’s Edge, and into the home she once shared with Harper Nash. Harper, five years older, has always treated Ruby like a wayward younger sister. But now she’s terrified. What possible good could come of Ruby returning to the scene of the crime? And how can she possibly turn her away, when she knows Ruby has nowhere to go?

Within days, suspicion spreads like a virus across Hollow’s Edge. It’s increasingly clear that not everyone told the truth about the night of the Truett’s murders. And when Harper begins receiving threatening notes, she realizes she has to uncover the truth before someone else becomes the killer’s next victim.

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

It’s good. It’s all about the secrets and lies hidden beneath the veneer of having the perfect life. And how anyone who doesn’t fit into it perfectly can easily be ostracised – or framed for murder. It has some social commentary about irresponsible teenagers, people’s obsession with how others perceive them, how guys stick together, how mothers would do anything for their children, and how flawed the justice system is (among other things).

The supposed twist fell flat for me. I get the social commentary behind it, but I would have preferred something more dramatic.

A good read if you want a mystery to solve while getting a massive hit of social commentary – and a mostly unreliable narrator.

Oh, the swearing sprinkled throughout was unnecessary and felt forced.

3 unicorn star rating

About the Book

In West Adams, a rapidly changing part of South Los Angeles, they’re referred to as “these women.” These women on the corner … These women in the club … These women who won’t stop asking questions … These women who got what they deserved …

Ivy Pochoda creates a kaleidoscope of loss, power, and hope featuring five very different women whose lives are steeped in danger and anguish. They’re connected by one man and his deadly obsession, though not all of them know that yet. There’s Dorian, still adrift after her daughter’s murder remains unsolved; Julianna, a young dancer nicknamed Jujubee, who lives hard and fast, resisting anyone trying to slow her down; Essie, a brilliant vice cop who sees a crime pattern emerging where no one else does; Marella, a daring performance artist whose work has long pushed boundaries but now puts her in peril; and Anneke, a quiet woman who has turned a willfully blind eye to those around her for far too long. The careful existence they have built for themselves starts to crumble when two murders rock their neighborhood.

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

I was looking forward to this book as it came recommended by a friend and the premise of the book sounded promising, but the cursing (in an attempt to appear gritty) is so overwhelming that it blots out the story. DNF 2%

About the Book

An NAACP Image Award Nominee, I’m Not Dying with You Tonight follows two teen girls—one black, one white—who have to confront their own assumptions about racial inequality as they rely on each other to get through the violent race riot that has set their city on fire with civil unrest.

Lena has her killer style, her awesome boyfriend, and a plan. She knows she’s going to make it big. Campbell, on the other hand, is just trying to keep her head down and get through the year at her new school.

When both girls attend the Friday-night football game, what neither expects is for everything to descend into sudden mass chaos. Chaos born from violence and hate. Chaos that unexpectedly throws them together.

They aren’t friends. They hardly understand the other’s point of view. But none of that matters when the city is up in flames, and they only have each other to rely on if they’re going to survive the night.

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

An interesting enough story about two girls who end up stuck in riots – one at their school and one on their way home. It’s fast paced, full of emotion, and the girls will obviously be friends after sharing this experience together.

But… This book came highly recommended with loads of hype about how ground-breaking it is – and I felt a bit like “what was the point?” when the book ended. I kept reading, hoping for more story and less sensationalism. Maybe it’s my own friendships and life-experiences, but there was nothing in this book that I’m not familiar with. Sure, the words and logos of the protesters are different in the book than in my country, but the riots and the reasons behind them are all too familiar.

I’m not going to get into the sheer stupidity of the girls to find themselves in a second riot (Why not call an adult? Why willingly walk into a danger zone – after a boy who clearly doesn’t care one whit? Why not just walk home?).

I’m not going to get into the language or stylistic issues either, but this really bothered me: There’s a point when Lena snaps that ghetto isn’t a place, but a person. *face palm* The term “ghetto” comes from Venice, Italy, in 1516 when they created a settlement near a foundry (a different spelling of ghetto, but that’s where the name came from) specifically for Jews. This trend to create ghettos for Jews in Rome, Frankfurt, Prague and other cities continued late into the 17th century. Yes, it is traditionally a poor neighbourhood in a city, filled with minorities, but it isn’t a word exclusively owned, or even coined, by Americans.

The sensationalist nature of describing the riot on Seventh avenue was in bad taste – just like the media would do it to get more ratings. If you’ve actually been in a riot before, you’d most likely agree.

Perhaps someone privileged enough to not have lived through something like this book can learn from it. But with all the loose ends, unresolved plot issues, and the lack of true character growth, this was a meh read for me and not one I would read again or recommend.

2 unicorn star rating

About the Book

A timely and powerful look at how our culture treats the pain and suffering of women.

‘Women are in pain, all through their bodies; they’re in pain with their periods, and while having sex; they have pelvic pain, migraine, headaches, joint aches, painful bladders, irritable bowels, sore lower backs, muscle pain, vulval pain, vaginal pain, jaw pain, muscle aches. And many are so, so tired … But women’s pain is all too often dismissed, their illnesses misdiagnosed or ignored. In medicine, man is the default human being. Any deviation is atypical, abnormal, deficient.’

Fourteen years after being diagnosed with endometriosis, Gabrielle Jackson couldn’t believe how little had changed in the treatment and knowledge of the disease. In 2015, her personal story kick-started a worldwide investigation into the disease by The Guardian; thousands of women got in touch to tell their own stories and many more read and shared the material. What began as one issue led Jackson to explore how women – historically and through to the present day – are under-served by the systems that should keep them happy, healthy and informed about their bodies.

Pain and Prejudice is a vital testament to how social taboos and medical ignorance keep women sick and in anguish. The stark reality is that women’s pain is not taken as seriously as men’s. Women are more likely to be disbelieved and denied treatment than men, even though women are far more likely to be suffering from chronic pain.

In a potent blend of personal memoir and polemic, Jackson confronts the private concerns and questions women face regarding their health and medical treatment. Pain and Prejudice, finally, explains how we got here, and where we need to go next.

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

As someone who suffers from chronic pain and a lot of the diseases mentioned in this book, I was horrified by the treatment a lot of the women written about in this book have suffered. I’m lucky enough to have an awesome doctor who not only believes me, but knows how to treat and manage my health conditions. It is mind-blowing that women the world over – especially first world countries – have their pain dismissed or normalised; that their doctors have the attitude that it’s normal for women to live in pain. My doctor told me firmly that I don’t have to live this way a couple of years ago – I’ve been healthier and happier for it. And yet, women are ignored the world over when they tell their healthcare providers what is wrong, where the pain is – or even diagnosed as hysterical. Ouch.

I think this is an important book on a subject – women’s health – that is usually dismissed, ignored, or treated like it’s abnormal (which it is compared to men’s health. Duh.). And though studies and circumstances cited are mostly UK, US and Australia based, I think it has universal truth: disease only affecting women (e.g. menstrual pain) doesn’t get attention from research done in a patriarchal society as it isn’t life-threatening and mostly keeps women from competing with men at work and dependent on the men in their lives for physical and emotional support. Wouldn’t it be better to be equal, happy, healthy partners if the option is available?

Anyhow, read the book. Make everyone you know read the book – and if they refuse, tell them everything you learned in this book. It’s the only way to bring awareness of something we’re culturally predisposed to not talk about or only whisper about in vague terms.

5 unicorn star rating

About the Book

From magical winged Pegasus to legendary horses which help their owners in impossible quests, this brilliant selection of folk tales about horses will thrill and entertain. Stories from countries as diverse as Russia and Gambia and traditions as different as the Navajo people and the ancient Greeks make this a really inclusive anthology, perfect for any horse lover.

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

An enjoyable collection of folktales involving horses. A quick read appropriate for audiences of all ages. The last tale about the heroic horse and his hero was my favourite.

4 unicorn star rating

About the Book

If you go down to the woods today…
You’d better not go alone…

Discover the secret world between the trees where fairies, unicorns and even monsters dwell. Take a stroll through enchanted woods and dance with pixies and dryads by the light of the stars. Escape Baba Yaga and fall in love with a prince in disguise. Taste the fruit at the goblin market and be whisked away on a magical adventure.

Among ancient trees, find beauty, danger and adventure in these enchanting short stories by award-winning, best-selling, and up-and-coming fantasy authors.

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

I love stories that play off in forests and even more so when they include the magical and fantastical – and that is what this anthology offers.

Gems of Fae and Foolery by Alice Ivinya

An enjoyable story about two dwarf girls fleeing enslavement at the mountain to a forest full of free dwarves. Along the way they accidentally turn a fae into a frog and take him along for better and worse. What I liked was that though the frog continually harped that dwarves aren’t pretty and that he needs a fair maiden to kiss him to break the spell, the dwarf girls are never tempted to take a beauty potion to get rid of him – they know they are beautiful just as they are.

4 stars

The Lucky Tortoise by Ben Lang

Besides the silver tree and the tortoise, I didn’t much like this story.

2 stars

Feather Green by Jennifer Kropf

I liked the forest, but Estheryn is a cross of Katniss Everdeen and the story of Esther in the Bible (not a bad thing) – but the story feels like a prequel and very unfinished.

2 stars

Apple and the Dead Forest by Xander Cross

I liked this dystopian tale showing the effects of what will happen to the forests, the planet, and the surviving humans if we don’t stop destroying the earth. And there’s a dragon!

4 stars

To Snare a Prince by Sky Sommers

I liked the animals, the use of Baba Yaga as Greta’s grandmother and all the fun shenanigans – until the story ended on a cliffhanger expecting you to buy and read the novel that follows if you want to know what happens to Hans and Greta (yeah, that fairy tale). Another unfinished story which is a prequel to something else in this anthology.

2 stars

Blood of the Unicorn by NDT Casale

The main character doesn’t care about anyone but herself (her attendant is old, yet she throws stuff on the ground the woman needs to pick up, she refuses to take up the crown to protect the people despite there being no-one else) – then she yells at her grandmother that she hates her. Yeah, not someone I want to spend time with.

DNF

Dimension of the Sasquatch by Donna White

I liked it – especially the forest and how it is different from those in our dimension. The focus on clothes, skincare and food detracted from the action, IMO. A good prequel to the series that follows as the adventure has a satisfying end.

3 stars

The Fern Flower by Elena Shelest

I liked the forest and folklore. Even the romance developed nicely. But healing her scars – especially changing her on the outside – felt like a betrayal of all she had been through (and it is saying that you have to have clear skin to be beautiful).

2 stars

Willow Daughter by Astrid VJ

It reads like a Grimm fairy tale and was absolutely delightful! What I’d expected when I’d agreed to read the anthology.

5 stars

One Fair Eve by Lyndsey Hall

Music, faery bargains, a trip to Faerie – my favourite story in this collection.

5 stars

So I enjoyed half the stories and only DNFed one – not bad compared to many anthologies I’ve read.

*I received an ARC from the authors and this is my honest opinion.

3 unicorn star rating

About the Book

The rules are clear—until they’re broken. Lauren Layne puts a New Adult spin on Pygmalion, also the inspiration for Pretty Woman, and gives the classic love story its edgiest twist yet.

“Who knew that pretending you’re not falling for someone would be so much more difficult than pretending that you are?”

Stephanie Kendrick gave up her whole summer to ace her NYU film school screenwriting course, so she’s pissed to be stuck with a preppy, spoiled frat boy as her writing partner. Then again, with her piercings, black-rimmed eyes, and Goth wardrobe, Stephanie isn’t exactly Ethan Price’s type, either. He’s probably got his eye on some leggy blonde with a trust fund… or does he?

As the summer scene kicks off in the Hamptons, Ethan is desperate to make his snobbish mother forget the pedigreed girl who broke his heart. While Stephanie’s a stretch as a decoy, the right makeover and a pastel cardigan just might do the trick. She may not love the idea of playing Ethan’s brainless Barbie girlfriend, but the free rent and luxurious digs make a tempting offer. So does the promise of a ready-made screenplay idea inspired by their charade.

But when Stephanie steps into Ethan’s privileged world, the “acting” begins to feel all too real. The kissing and touching that were intended to fool the Hamptons crowd wind up manipulating “them.” And Stephanie faces a question she’s too afraid to ask: Is Ethan falling for the real her or for the dolled-up princess he wants to see?

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

A fun, cute romcom set at NYU during the summer. There’s the scary film student scene and the snobby uppercrust – Hamptons and all. And through it, in true Pygmalion style, Ethan and Stephanie fall in love while pretending to be in love. A tope I absolutely enjoy, FYI.

But all the cursing, using the Lord’s name in vain, and some proofreading issues where clarity lacked, was a major turn-off.

The only reason I pushed through to the end was because the book came recommended to me by a friend. So I won’t be continuing this series.

If you like make-believe relationships where one person has to pretend to be someone they’re not to fool others, and you can stomach a lot of cursing and blasphemy, then read it.

3 unicorn star rating

About the Book

At school Connell and Marianne pretend not to know each other. He’s popular and well-adjusted, star of the school soccer team while she is lonely, proud, and intensely private. But when Connell comes to pick his mother up from her housekeeping job at Marianne’s house, a strange and indelible connection grows between the two teenagers – one they are determined to conceal.

A year later, they’re both studying at Trinity College in Dublin. Marianne has found her feet in a new social world while Connell hangs at the sidelines, shy and uncertain. Throughout their years in college, Marianne and Connell circle one another, straying toward other people and possibilities but always magnetically, irresistibly drawn back together. Then, as she veers into self-destruction and he begins to search for meaning elsewhere, each must confront how far they are willing to go to save the other.

Sally Rooney brings her brilliant psychological acuity and perfectly spare prose to a story that explores the subtleties of class, the electricity of first love, and the complex entanglements of family and friendship.

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

This book came highly recommended by someone some time ago. No idea why – the opening is as boring as the title. And looking at the chapter headings (no numbers) it hops along merrily with no story arc (nothing important, anyway). And the dialogue isn’t clearly marked, either.

So it starts with a description of what a girl is wearing, greeting a guy at the front door, followed by inane conversation about marks received in school, his appalling manners towards his mother… Yeah, not caring about these characters.

I’m in no mood to wait around to find out what’s going on – especially with the brief impression I got of them.

DNF 2%

1 unicorn star rating

About the Book

Among the seminal texts of the 20th century, Nineteen Eighty-Four is a rare work that grows more haunting as its futuristic purgatory becomes more real. Published in 1949, the book offers political satirist George Orwell’s nightmarish vision of a totalitarian, bureaucratic world and one poor stiff’s attempt to find individuality. The brilliance of the novel is Orwell’s prescience of modern life—the ubiquity of television, the distortion of the language—and his ability to construct such a thorough version of hell. Required reading for students since it was published, it ranks among the most terrifying novels ever written.

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

I know this is supposed to be dystopian fiction at its best, a novel before its time, but the main character isn’t likeable in the least and the story feels a bit blah despite the good bits of social commentary. DNF.

1 unicorn star rating

About the Book

Each year, eight beautiful girls are chosen as Paper Girls to serve the king. It’s the highest honor they could hope for…and the most demeaning. This year, there’s a ninth. And instead of paper, she’s made of fire.

In this richly developed fantasy, Lei is a member of the Paper caste, the lowest and most persecuted class of people in Ikhara. She lives in a remote village with her father, where the decade-old trauma of watching her mother snatched by royal guards for an unknown fate still haunts her. Now, the guards are back and this time it’s Lei they’re after — the girl with the golden eyes whose rumored beauty has piqued the king’s interest.

Over weeks of training in the opulent but oppressive palace, Lei and eight other girls learns the skills and charm that befit a king’s consort. There, she does the unthinkable — she falls in love. Her forbidden romance becomes enmeshed with an explosive plot that threatens her world’s entire way of life. Lei, still the wide-eyed country girl at heart, must decide how far she’s willing to go for justice and revenge.

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

This book (and series) came highly recommended, but it’s not for me.

So the book starts with a warning of violence and sexual assault, so I know what to expect. But the sheer violence of murdering her dog at the end of chapter two made bile rise in my throat and made the decision for me: DNF.

1 unicorn star rating

About the Book

The key to a house, the key to a heart, the key to a secret—Oyeyemi’s keys not only unlock elements of her characters’ lives, they promise further labyrinths on the other side. In “Books and Roses” one special key opens a library, a garden, and clues to at least two lovers’ fates. In “Is Your Blood as Red as This?” an unlikely key opens the heart of a student at a puppeteering school. “‘Sorry’ Doesn’t Sweeten Her Tea” involves a “house of locks,” where doors can be closed only with a key—with surprising, unobservable developments. And in “If a Book Is Locked There’s Probably a Good Reason for That Don’t You Think,” a key keeps a mystical diary locked (for good reason).
 
Oyeyemi’s tales span multiple times and landscapes as they tease boundaries between coexisting realities. Is a key a gate, a gift, or an invitation?

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

I didn’t bond with the characters, perhaps as the story is told instead of shown, and lost interest.

DNF 5 %

1 unicorn star rating

About the Book

Frozen meets The Bloody Chamber in this feminist fantasy reimagining of the Snow White fairytale.

Sixteen-year-old Mina is motherless, her magician father is vicious, and her silent heart has never beat with love for anyone—has never beat at all, in fact, but she’d always thought that fact normal. She never guessed that her father cut out her heart and replaced it with one of glass. When she moves to Whitespring Castle and sees its king for the first time, Mina forms a plan: win the king’s heart with her beauty, become queen, and finally know love. The only catch is that she’ll have to become a stepmother.

Fifteen-year-old Lynet looks just like her late mother, and one day she discovers why: a magician created her out of snow in the dead queen’s image, at her father’s order. But despite being the dead queen made flesh, Lynet would rather be like her fierce and regal stepmother, Mina. She gets her wish when her father makes Lynet queen of the southern territories, displacing Mina. Now Mina is starting to look at Lynet with something like hatred, and Lynet must decide what to do—and who to be—to win back the only mother she’s ever known…or else defeat her once and for all.

Entwining the stories of both Lynet and Mina in the past and present, Girls Made of Snow and Glass traces the relationship of two young women doomed to be rivals from the start. Only one can win all, while the other must lose everything—unless both can find a way to reshape themselves and their story.

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

The story of two girls – Mina and Lynet – cursed by one magician being in their lives. Mina’s story takes place before Lynet’s as she is her stepmother, but it all works well together.

More in the tone of Disney’s “Brave” and “Frozen” where the relationship between mother and daughter/sisters are examined and celebrated.

Lynet does find love in the young surgeon at the castle, Nadia, but it’s new and sweet and not the centre of the story.

I liked that they had power over that which is part of them thanks to the magician they are cursed to know.

A good Snow White retelling with a great twist.

4 unicorn star rating

About the Book

From the author of the New York Times bestselling Stiletto and Oxford series, the first in a sizzling new series following the unlikely friendship of three Upper East Side women as they struggle to achieve their dreams and find true love and happiness in the city that never sleeps.

For as long as she can remember, Bronx-born Naomi Powell has had one goal: to prove her worth among the Upper East Side elite—the same people for which her mom worked as a housekeeper. Now, as the strongminded, sassy CEO of one of the biggest jewelry empires in the country, Naomi finally has exactly what she wants—but it’s going to take more than just the right address to make Manhattan’s upper class stop treating her like an outsider.

The worst offender is her new neighbor, Oliver Cunningham—the grown son of the very family Naomi’s mother used to work for. Oliver used to torment Naomi when they were children, and as a ridiculously attractive adult, he’s tormenting her in entirely different ways. Now they find themselves engaged in a battle-of-wills that will either consume or destroy them…

Filled with charm and heart and plenty of sex and snark, this entertaining series will hook you from the very first page.

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

This series was recommended to me. This book is fast-paced and I blew through chapter one. But the focus on name-dropping designer brands and the obsession about what others think is a bit tedious. And three women being fooled by one man at the same time? Contrived. Probably a good book (and series) but not for me. DNF.

1 unicorn star rating

About the Book

A thought-provoking and haunting novel about a creature that escapes from an artist’s canvas, whose talent is sniffing out monsters in a world that claims they don’t exist anymore. Perfect for fans of Akata Witch and Shadowshaper .

There are no monsters anymore, or so the children in the city of Lucille are taught. Jam and her best friend, Redemption, have grown up with this lesson all their life. But when Jam meets Pet, a creature made of horns and colors and claws, who emerges from one of her mother’s paintings and a drop of Jam’s blood, she must reconsider what she’s been told. Pet has come to hunt a monster–and the shadow of something grim lurks in Redemption’s house. Jam must fight not only to protect her best friend, but also uncover the truth, and the answer to the question How do you save the world from monsters if no one will admit they exist?

In their riveting and timely young adult debut, acclaimed novelist Akwaeke Emezi asks difficult questions about what choices you can make when the society around you is in denial.

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

What an amazing book!

I’m not sure where to start this review… Okay, in some ways it’s awkward to read until you get into the flow of the narrative (POV, etc.). Jam is a strange girl as she is almost afraid – I guess? – of speaking aloud (voicing) at the start of the story but is quite comfortable doing so with Pet who by just looking like he does should scare her. And her mother’s paintings are portals between worlds – letting monster hunters like Pet into this world.

I really liked the themes of the book and how, without stating anything directly, it is quite clear what is happening (which means there’s no real reason to add a trigger warning IMO, but I’ll add it anyway). I liked the use of angels, monsters, justice and how Jam’s curiosity leads her to finding truths – even unseen ones. Part of me wants to say it is masterfully written… But I’m not one to heap praise like that.

Though this is a Young Adult book, I think it has a much wider scope that will resonate with older readers.

A mostly HEA – unless you’re a monster. Highly recommended to those who like their monsters to not look like monsters and their heroes to not fit the mould.

I’ll read another book by this author.

Trigger warning: allusions to child abuse, allusions to rape, allusions to a brutal revolution

5 unicorn star rating

About the Book

On the dark streets of Mumbai, the paths of a missing dancer, a serial killer, and an inspector with a haunted past converge in an evocative thriller about lost love and murderous obsession.

After years of dancing in Mumbai’s bars, Tara Mondal was desperate for a new start. So when a client offered her a life-changing payout to indulge a harmless, if odd, fantasy, she accepted. The setup was simple: wear a blue-sequined saree, enter a crowded railway station, and escape from view in less than three minutes. It was the last time anyone saw Tara.

Thirteen years later, Tara’s lover, Inspector Arnav Singh Rajput, is still grappling with her disappearance as he faces a horrifying new crisis: on the city’s outskirts, women’s dismembered bodies are being unearthed from shallow graves. Very little links the murders, except a scattering of blue sequins and a decade’s worth of missing persons reports that correspond with major festivals.

Past and present blur as Arnav realizes he’s on the trail of a serial killer and that someone wants his investigation buried at any cost. Could the key to finding Tara and solving these murders be hidden in one of his cold cases? Or will the next body they recover be hers?

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

Just wow. A thriller that kept me guessing until the end. At one part, I thought I knew who the killer was, but with each new plot twist, plausible possibilities came to light. I did guess in the right direction, but fell into the same trap as Arnav.

A multi-layered story of love, corruption, gender based violence – both sides – and class division.

I liked the cultural immersion – I felt like I was in Mumbai with its highways cutting through the slums, bar dancers dressing up in gaudy versions of sarees, stinking mangroves, and city streets with rats more confident than people.

And once you know why the killer does what he does, you actually feel sad for him.

I liked the social commentary woven throughout.

A richly imagined thriller that grips you until the last page.

Trigger warning: domestic abuse, rape, bullying, stalking, gruesome murders, gender based violence.

*I received an ARC from the author and this is my honest opinion.

5 unicorn star rating

Have you read any of these books?

*FYI, my reviews are my honest opinion and if something bothers me, I tell it straight. How else will anything change? My opinions are based on being a voracious reader and book buyer, not an attack on the author.*

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