Book Reviews

More Books I’ve Read this Year #BookReviews #Books #2023reads

All the books I’ve read this year that didn’t fall into my April reading challenge.

The Books I Enjoyed

About the Book

The Witch’s Curse (A Marsden Hall Short Story) by Debbie Johansson

Their crimes are her revenge…

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After the death of her husband, Abigail Muller yearns for a peaceful life. The community, led by the lecherous Pastor Thomas, believe she is in the thrall of the devil.

Will her protestations save her life, or will the community be cursed forever?

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

This story is set in a time when religion and superstition live closely together – and the word of men are law.

Abigail, barely widowed, is accosted by the county pastor who has only lust and power on the mind. She escapes his unwelcome advances, only to be tried as a witch by him and some of the congregation.

There are a lot of trigger-warnings that should be issued with this story: wrongful persecution, spousal abuse, near-rape, physical abuse by a group, drowning, to name a few.

The writing is vivid and pulls you along to the pulse-racing end.

A good prequel for a series I now look forward to reading.

4 unicorn star rating

About the Book

The She-Wolf of Kanta by Marlena Frank

The daughter of a werewolf hunter will become so much more.

Thirteen-year-old Mercy Pinkerton thought her days of cleaning house, fixing the barricade, and wiring electric prongs were over. She would finally get to train to be a werewolf hunter, what she has always wanted.

She doesn’t know that there are worse monsters in Kanta than the werewolves that plague Kanta each night. Danger lurks around every corner. She’ll have to avoid her father’s temper and follow his orders, even if it means risking her life.

It is supposed to be Mercy’s big day, but will take a drastic turn for the worse. She’ll have to keep her wits about her, remember her training, and prepare for the ultimate test of bravery if she hopes to survive.

The She-Wolf of Kanta is a re-release of the acclaimed novella, now expanded into Book 1 in The Wolves of Kanta series.

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

I enjoyed it for the most part. Some steampunk stuff, werewolves, a dystopian feel, and a mad scientist. Her father beating her, not so much. And the chapter from his POV felt unnecessary to me – his final actions were more powerful.

Can be read as a stand-alone, though I do want to know what happens to Mercy next!

4 unicorn star rating

About the Book

Midlife Bites by Jen Mann

A smart, personal, darkly funny examination of what it’s like to be at the crossroads of a midlife crisis, from the New York Times bestselling author of People I Want to Punch in the Throat.

Jen Mann had what appeared to be the perfect life: a successful career as a bestselling author and award-winning blogger, a devoted husband, teenage kids who weren’t total jerks, and a badass minivan. So imagine her surprise when, at forty-seven years old, a midlife crisis kicked her straight in the ladybits.

In an attempt to deal with the resulting range of emotions and physical changes in midlife, Mann posted a completely honest now-viral post, “Anyone Else Falling Apart Or Is It Just Me?” The response was instantaneous and overwhelming. Women from all over the country flooded the comments section, glad to see they weren’t the only ones experiencing this feeling of isolation and dissatisfaction. It was the beginning of a movement. Midlife Bites encompasses these important conversations and observations and creates a space for women to navigate through this major point in their lives together, offering valuable insights and takeaways.

Mann shares her own story as well as advice and wisdom from the online community she built. Please note, this is not your mother’s midlife crisis. Different from the typical self-help author, Mann tackles everything that bites about midlife, and nothing is off-limits with her no-nonsense approach. Subjects include: raging hormones; sex (after forty); finding your purpose; learning to make new friends (yes, even as a grown-up); moving out of your comfort zone; having conversations that count, no more small talk; and how to deal with rogue chin hairs (and other nuisances).

Midlife Bites is Mann’s call to action. She is leading the movement to create a new space where middle-aged women can share openly and honestly with one another. This no-BS collection of essays will help start the conversation and keep it going, because as women, we all have a right to be happy, fulfilled, and whole, no matter what stage of life.

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

A LOL funny book about women face in midlife (40-60) and some advice on how to navigate this treacherous road that “nice women don’t talk about”.

Not for everyone, as the author uses a lot of F-bombs and is the angry type with a list of people she wants to punch in the throat. I loved this book and will recommend it to all the older women in my life who need to know that they’re not alone.

4 unicorn star rating

About the Book

How to Write Non-Fiction by Joanna Penn

Do you want to write a non-fiction book but don’t know where to start? Or perhaps you worry that you’re not ‘the expert’ or have enough authority in your niche to write a book on it?

Are you ready to help other people and change your own life with your words?

The first non-fiction book I wrote changed my life. Sure, it helped other people, but mostly it altered the course of my life – so much so that 10 years later, I make a living with my writing.

I’ve written seven other non-fiction books and co-written two more and built a multi-six-figure income around my non-fiction eco-system. In this book, I’ll share everything I’ve learned along the way and save you time, effort and frustration on your author journey. The book includes:

PART 1. Before You Write: Mindset

Why write a non-fiction book?
Can I write a book if I’m not the expert?
Originality. Or, there are so many other books on this topic
Who are you? Personal stories and the writer’s voice
The day a non-fiction book changed my life
Fear and self-doubt

PART 2. Before You Write: Business

Types of non-fiction books
Business models for non-fiction books
Who is your book for? Identify your target market
Decide on the topic for your book
Decide on your book title
Your author name and pseudonyms
How long does your book have to be?
How long will it take to write the book?
Your perspective on time
Writing a book proposal

PART 3. Writing and Editing

Gather and organize existing material
Research, interviews, surveys, and social listening
Structure and organize the book
How to write the first draft
How to dictate your book
Turn your blog/podcasts/videos/talks into a book
Speed and quality
Focus and shiny object syndrome
Writer’s block
Co-writing a non-fiction book
How to turn a boring book into an engaging read
Elements of fiction in non-fiction
Truth and perfectionism
Legal issues: Using real people, quotes, lyrics, images, and citing sources
Self-editing a book
How to find and work with professional editors

PART 4. Publishing and Product Creation

Your publishing options
The different formats for your book
Non-fiction book covers
Book formatting for non-fiction
Pricing your book
Your book sales description
Categories and keywords
Turn your non-fiction book into a multimedia course
Updating your books over time

PART 5. Marketing Non-Fiction

Two models of marketing and the importance of mindset
Book-centered marketing
Paid advertising for non-fiction books
Author-centered marketing. The power of a personal brand
Build your author website
Build an email list
Integrate email marketing with your book
Content marketing for non-fiction books
My non-fiction marketing journey
Conclusion and your next steps.

It’s time to (finally) write your non-fiction book. Download a sample or buy now and start writing.

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

An interesting take on writing non-fiction. I liked that what could be trivial to me could be exactly what someone else needs to learn. The quotes throughout were fun. I especially liked the chapter on dictation.

4 unicorn star rating

About the Book I’ve Read

How to Survive Load Shedding by J.B. Meyer

Load shedding doesn’t have to leave you in the dark!

J.B. Meyer looks at the realities of living in South Africa in 2023 and how load shedding affects everything from personal hygiene to education.

He busts myths, shines a light on harsh reality, and offers hope in a time when Government fails everyone – especially the average South African.

Though this book might anger some – the truth usually does – it is time for South Africans to stop being in denial.

J.B. looks at the big picture to help people take action:
• What is load shedding?
• How load shedding impacts the economy.
• How load shedding impacts the individual.
• Order of triage.
• Minimal investment options.
• Taking it up a notch.
• Going for the long haul.
• And more!

We have a lovely saying in South Africa: ‘n Boer maak ‘n plan [A Boer makes a plan]. So stop waiting for Government to do something about this mess we’re in and start helping yourself.

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

I like how the author took the time to explain everything in a manner that makes it easy to understand, even if you don’t hold a degree in electrical engineering. I also liked the no-nonsense attitude towards the real issues behind load shedding. The tips are practical, the math sound, and though I would have liked sources cited, a quick search on Google showed all the facts stated in this book were true. (For those who don’t know — from the blurb — a Boer is a farmer, usually a white South African man.)

A short book that packs a punch. Highly recommended to all South Africans.

About the Book

I read this one as part of an IWSG book club reading challenge.

Small Town, Big Magic by Hazel Beck

A witchy rom-com in which a bookstore owner who is fighting to revitalize a small midwestern town clashes with her rival, the mayor, and uncovers not only a clandestine group that wields a dark magic to control the idyllic river hamlet, but hidden powers she never knew she possessed.

Witches aren’t real. Right?

No one has civic pride quite like Emerson Wilde. As a local indie bookstore owner and youngest-ever Chamber of Commerce president, she’d do anything for her hometown of St. Cyprian, Missouri. After all, Midwest is best! She may be descended from a witch who was hanged in 1692 during the Salem Witch Trials, but there’s no sorcery in doing your best for the town you love.
Or is there?

As she preps Main Street for an annual festival, Emerson notices strange things happening around St. Cyprian. Strange things that culminate in a showdown with her lifelong arch-rival, Mayor Skip Simon. He seems to have sent impossible, paranormal creatures after her. Creatures that Emerson dispatches with ease, though she has no idea how she’s done it. Is Skip Simon…a witch? Is Emerson?

It turns out witches are real, and Emerson is one of them. She failed a coming-of-age test at age eighteen—the only test she’s ever failed!—and now, as an adult, her powers have come roaring back.

But she has little time to explore those powers, or her blossoming relationship with her childhood friend, cranky-yet-gorgeous local farmer Jacob North: an ancient evil has awakened in St. Cyprian, and it’s up to Emerson and her friends—maybe even Emerson herself—to save everything she loves.

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

The blurb says it’s a witchy rom-com, but I honestly didn’t see the rom-com so much as the small town witch story with a bit of romance, friendship and some funny jabs at the patriarchy. I’ve read paranormal romance novels with more romance and humour, so rom-com is misleading. The first chapter is so meh, I nearly DNFed it – which would have been a shame. It’s a good story about love, magic, family – and doing what’s right instead of what’s easy. I’d say it’s more paranormal women’s fiction than anything else, except here the protagonist is in her twenties instead of her forties (as most PWF).

There’s an awesome bookshop, a quaint town, varied awesome friends, a broody love-interest, snarky familiars in the form of birds, dogs and more – and the requisite evil nemesis and busy bodies.

Sometimes, though, the ages and even characters’ language use differed throughout the book, but not enough to spoil things. Unless you’re like Emerson who catches all these things…

A delightful dark fantasy romance/paranormal women’s fiction with witches, rivers and obviously more things coming this way.

4 unicorn star rating

About the Book

Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen

In a garden surrounded by a tall fence, tucked away behind a small, quiet house in an even smaller town, is an apple tree that is rumored to bear a very special sort of fruit. In this luminous debut novel, Sarah Addison Allen tells the story of that enchanted tree, and the extraordinary people who tend it.…

The Waverleys have always been a curious family, endowed with peculiar gifts that make them outsiders even in their hometown of Bascom, North Carolina. Even their garden has a reputation, famous for its feisty apple tree that bears prophetic fruit, and its edible flowers, imbued with special powers. Generations of Waverleys tended this garden. Their history was in the soil. But so were their futures.

A successful caterer, Claire Waverley prepares dishes made with her mystical plants—from the nasturtiums that aid in keeping secrets and the pansies that make children thoughtful, to the snapdragons intended to discourage the attentions of her amorous neighbor. Meanwhile, her elderly cousin, Evanelle, is known for distributing unexpected gifts whose uses become uncannily clear. They are the last of the Waverleys—except for Claire’s rebellious sister, Sydney, who fled Bascom the moment she could, abandoning Claire, as their own mother had years before.

When Sydney suddenly returns home with a young daughter of her own, Claire’s quiet life is turned upside down—along with the protective boundary she has so carefully constructed around her heart. Together again in the house they grew up in, Sydney takes stock of all she left behind, as Claire struggles to heal the wounds of the past. And soon the sisters realize they must deal with their common legacy—if they are ever to feel at home in Bascom—or with each other.

Enchanting and heartfelt, this captivating novel is sure to cast a spell with a style all its own….

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

A delightful mix of paranormal women’s fiction and thriller.

I liked the quirky town and the various stories interwoven. And the apple tree is priceless. I liked how love – all the different kinds – and relationships were explored and celebrated. I also liked the garden.

4 unicorn star rating

About the Book

First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen

From the New York Times bestselling author of Garden Spells comes a story of the Waverley family, in a novel as sparkling as the first dusting of frost on new-fallen leaves..

It’s October in Bascom, North Carolina, and autumn will not go quietly. As temperatures drop and leaves begin to turn, the Waverley women are made restless by the whims of their mischievous apple tree… and all the magic that swirls around it. But this year, first frost has much more in store.

Claire Waverley has started a successful new venture, Waverley’s Candies. Though her handcrafted confections — rose to recall lost love, lavender to promote happiness and lemon verbena to soothe throats and minds — are singularly effective, the business of selling them is costing her the everyday joys of her family, and her belief in her own precious gifts.

Sydney Waverley, too, is losing her balance. With each passing day she longs more for a baby — a namesake for her wonderful Henry. Yet the longer she tries, the more her desire becomes an unquenchable thirst, stealing the pleasure out of the life she already has.

Sydney’s daughter, Bay, has lost her heart to the boy she knows it belongs to.. if only he could see it, too. But how can he, when he is so far outside her grasp that he appears to her as little more than a puff of smoke?

When a mysterious stranger shows up and challenges the very heart of their family, each of them must make choices they have never confronted before. And through it all, the Waverley sisters must search for a way to hold their family together through their troublesome season of change, waiting for that extraordinary event that is First Frost.

Lose yourself in Sarah Addison Allen’s enchanting world and fall for her charmed characters in this captivating story that proves that a happily-ever-after is never the real ending to a story. It’s where the real story begins.

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

An absolutely delightful story that ties up all the loose ends from the previous book and ends with possibilities.

I liked the keen observation of the people in town, the descriptions, and the apple tree, of course.

A good sequel about a couple of amazing women – and their magic that is as strange as their beloved apple tree.

5 unicorn star rating

About the Book

The Blue Monsoon (Blue Mumbai #2) by Damyanti Biswas

A ritual murder at a Mumbai temple exposes the city’s dark secrets and ravages the personal life of a detective in this sequel to The Blue Bar.

Amid incessant rains pounding down on Mumbai, Senior Inspector Arnav Singh Rajput is called to a shocking crime scene. A male body is found dismembered on the steps of a Kaali temple. Drawn into his flesh are symbols of a tantra cult. The desecration of a body at a Hindu place of worship puts the city on edge and divides Arnav’s priorities: stopping a fanatic from killing again and caring for his wife who’s struggling through a challenging pregnancy.

Then video footage of the murder is uploaded onto the account of a Bollywood social media influencer, triggering twists in the investigation Arnav didn’t see coming. Caste systems at war. A priest under suspicion. And an anonymous threat that puts his wife’s welfare at risk. When more bodies are found, the savagery of the city begins to surface—and Arnav fears that no one is safe from a bigger storm brewing.

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

Chapter one is completely in italics – as was all chapters from the antagonist’s POV – and it messed with my eyes as italics are wont to. Publishers please: think about those of us who are neurodivergent when you choose fonts, use of italics, etc. I was so busy fighting the italics, I missed out on the story. Besides, on eReaders, fonts and font sizes are changed to suit the reader – so adding italics to the mix (even for clarity of POV) just makes it more difficult to enjoy the story.

I thoroughly enjoyed the book, though.

From the atmospheric writing – taking one to Mumbai midst a monsoon – to the societal pressures women face – in religious, cultural and social situations – this book takes one on quite an exciting ride.

The world-building also nicely ties in with the murders, the reasons for them, and the motives of the one performing the murders.

As for Arnav and Tara: he learns so much from her, which informs his personal and professional life. I enjoyed reading about how they evolved as a couple from the previous book.

Tara is so strong: not letting the fact that she is bound to a wheelchair (possibly forever) get her down. Or the weird way others treat her because of it. I do think she’s a bit foolhardy at times, but looking at her past, one can understand this need she has for agency even when it gets her in trouble.

I liked all the intrigue around Arnav’s job, with him not knowing who he can trust and how he figured it out. Without giving spoilers, that’s as much as I can say.

A grand adventure in Mumbai where the lines between friends and foes are blurry at the best of times – a monsoon and technical difficulties just adds another layer of drama to this well-paced thriller.

Trigger warnings: blood and gore, dismemberment, classism, caste-ism, sexism, able-sim, references to rape.

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

4 unicorn star rating

About the Book

Catacomb by JF Penn

Walker Kane didn’t believe in monsters. Not until they took his daughter.

Beneath the streets of Edinburgh, an ancient evil waits. Each year, the Grendsluagh—a prehistoric monster of insatiable hunger—demands a human sacrifice in exchange for the city’s continued prosperity. A secret society known only as the Cabal has overseen this sinister ritual for centuries, binding Edinburgh to a grim legacy of terror.
When ex-military search and rescue officer Walker Kane’s estranged daughter Emily is taken to sate the Grendsluagh’s appetite, he plunges into a race against time through a treacherous underworld of danger.
Aided by a mythology-obsessed librarian and a daredevil urban explorer with secrets of her own, Walker and his makeshift team must face nightmares at every turn to reach Emily before she is devoured. The deeper they delve into Edinburgh’s serpentine catacomb, the more their resolve is tested—by the mutated monsters of the volcanic depths and the violence of the Cabal.
To save his daughter, Walker will sacrifice everything—even his own humanity—in a heart-stopping confrontation with the monster at the heart of the labyrinth.

A stand-alone action-adventure horror novel from USA Today bestselling author J.F. Penn. Join the exploration into depths that were never meant to be disturbed. The secrets of the CATACOMB are waiting to be unearthed—if you dare.

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

A thrilling adventure under the earth’s surface through abandoned tunnels – natural and manmade – to the centre of it all where a monster awaits. Several monstrous creatures lurk in the tunnels and caverns, taking their turn to devour the three heroes.

I liked the three main characters and felt that they were well developed. I do think the little book found in the library could have done with a bit more information as to the ritual – I would have liked to know how it started.

A chilling read with pulse racing moments and a bittersweet ending.

4 unicorn star rating

About the Book

Herbal Magick: A Witch’s Guide to Herbal Enchantments, Folklore, and Divination by Gerina Dunwich

This book provides you with everything you need to know about the Pagan lore of plants and how to practice powerful magick utilizing roots, flowers, leaves, and bark. It reveals the well-guarded secrets of herbal enchantments from centuries past, touches on many of the intriguing folkloric beliefs connected to herbs, and provides a satisfying helping of east-to-follow spells for many purposes.

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

Want to know something about the magical properties of plants? This is the book to reach for. It has an A-Z of herbal superstitions, herb lore, how herbs can heal and some can show the future, herbs sacred to different cultures, and so much more.

A must-have on the fantasy author’s shelf. (Though I do respect that this was written by a practicing witch.)

5 unicorn star rating

About the Book

This is a series by a couple on Instagram author friends: Once Upon A Prince, a multi-author series of clean fairy tale retellings. Each standalone novel features a swoony prince fighting for his happily ever after. I signed up to read select ARCs (so not the full series.) I’ll be keeping the disappointing books and the ones I DNFed with these.

The Golden Prince by Alice Ivinya (Once Upon A Prince #3)

The Golden Prince, a retelling of Rapunzel, is book 3 of Once Upon A Prince, a multi-author series of clean fairy tale retellings. Each standalone novel features a swoony prince fighting for his happily ever after.

Prince Thomas has always been the perfect prince, but now that his kingdom is falling to famine, he must prove his worth and restore the blessing of Spring. All he has to do is find a mysterious woman from a painting and marry her. It’s a quest he’s been born for. He has everything: the looks, the talent, the perseverance. No matter what peril she is in, he will find and rescue her. And he’ll do so with style.

If Maisie has learned one lesson in her life, it’s not to trust anybody. Having been hurt countless times, she lets people see her mask and no deeper. Her practice at deception makes her a master thief, but now she is forgetting which parts of her are real. However, one thing is certain: she does not need any prince to rescue her. In fact, she needs nobody at all.

The hounds of Winter are gathering, leaving death in their wake. The famine is spreading. If Prince Thomas doesn’t marry Maisie, the kingdom will fall. But how can he learn to love somebody with a shattered heart?

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

My favourite Grim fairy tale retold in an awesome way. I liked how “Rapunzel’s” hair was made to be super magical.

So much character growth, great world-building (I especially liked Winter and Spring), and good pacing that kept me engaged with the story even when I wanted to shake Thomas.

My only issue with the book: the italics used for inner monologue. As someone who is neurodivergent, italics messes with my mind and reading experience.

An enjoyable read.

4 unicorn star rating

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

About the Book

The Wicked Prince (Once Upon a Prince #4) by Celeste Baxendell

A righteous outlaw. A wicked tyrant. A marriage to save their crumbling kingdom.

As regent, Prince John has a never-ending list of problems, including his brother’s expensive war and his subjects’ utter hatred of him. But the biggest thorn in his side? The outlaw Robin Hood.

With an ultimatum from his brother—deal with the outlaw once and for all or be sent to the frontlines to die—Prince John needs a solution and fast. Upon discovering everything they thought they knew about the criminal was wrong—most surprising, Robin Hood is a woman—Prince John’s brilliant scheme is born.

Marry the outlaw. Secure his safety… even if he condemns himself to a wife that despises him and fascinates him in equal measures.

Robin has never come across a trap she couldn’t escape, but when Prince John proves himself as her equal, it’s time to put that to the test. She’d made a vow to fight his tyranny, and the ring on her finger won’t change that.

As long as she believes he is every wicked thing the world says he is, her heart is safe, and even though she might be the greatest thief in the world, it isn’t like he has a heart for her to steal…

The Wicked Prince, a retelling of Robin Hood, is book 4 of Once Upon A Prince, a multi-author series of clean fairy tale retellings. Each standalone story features a swoony prince fighting for his happily ever after.

Check it out on Goodeads.

My Review

A fun Robin Hood retelling with Prince John not nearly as awful as everyone thinks – and Robin Hood not nearly as courageous as reported.

I liked how John and Robin grew together and became better people because of each other. I also liked how John treated Robin as an equal in all matters – and how chivalrous he is (especially when someone insults her).

And that final show of love…! Swoonworthy. It almost made Richard and the Merry Men look like villains. LOL.

A great story to get lost in.

4 unicorn star rating

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

About the Book

The Midnight Prince by Angie Grigaliunas (Once Upon a Prince #5)

A bitter prince. A rejected servant. A revelation that could change everything.

When Prince Kirran of the autumn fey returns home from war, all he wants is food, drink, and sleep. But with his older brothers dead, he’s now the only heir — and he needs a wife. As soon as possible. Which wouldn’t be a problem, except that he’s not over the girl who shattered his heart seven years ago.

Half-human Alia avoids her noble stepfamily by living among the fey king’s servants. Her life of anonymity serves her well and helps her forget how Kirran betrayed her — that is, until they’re thrust back into each other’s lives.

Their hostile reunion leaves both reeling — until they realize their memories of their breakup don’t match, and neither is lying.

With mere days before Kirran has to choose a bride, they must put aside their hurts and fight to uncover the truth.

And in the process, maybe, just maybe, they’ll find a second chance to fight for each other.

The Midnight Prince, a retelling of Cinderella, is book 5 of Once Upon A Prince, a multi-author series of clean fairy tale retellings. Each standalone story features a swoony prince fighting for his happily ever after.

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

Interesting world-building. But loads of confusion. Did the prince return because the war is over or because of his father? Why is a duke’s daughter working as a servant? And why, if they were such good friends, was it so easy to believe the lies that separated them?

The story meanders a bit too much for my taste, suddenly giving (some) of the information ¾ in and then a deluge of Alia’s memories, rushing to the end.

What had happened to Kirran, and who’s behind it, was obvious since chapter 1. But despite the deluge of Alia’s memories, some things remained unanswered (like why she was treated like a servant).

Some great magic, concepts, plot twists, and world-building, but the pacing and unanswered questions don’t work for me.

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

3 unicorn star rating

About the Book

The Poisoned Prince (Once Upon a Prince #6) by Kristin J Dawson

A royal huntsman. An illegitimate daughter. And one heart — delivered on a platter.

Max is training to become the royal huntsman, a respected position his lineage has held for generations. Orphaned Snow is an unremarkable palace servant of questionable origins.

Although Max banters with Snow every morning, and she can sense his mood at a single glance, the best friends are thrown apart when the king winds up dead. Under the queen’s rule, the kingdom devolves into chaos — and Snow is a threat to be eliminated. When Snow is betrayed, Max risks everything to save her life, despite the painful discovery of the secrets she’s been hiding. With the help of seven dwarven allies, they must all work together to dethrone the mad queen.
But as the queen’s magic strengthens, so do the risks.

The longer Max juggles the traitors, lies, and unstable queen, the more he realizes he must choose between his family and the woman he’s grown to love. And it’s painfully clear that he can’t save both.

The key to saving the kingdom may lie in Snow’s unraveling of her past, but her heart lies in the hands of the queen’s huntsman.

The Poisoned Prince is a best friends to forbidden romance retelling of Snow White and is book 6 of Once Upon A Prince , a multi-author series of clean fairy tale retellings. Each standalone story features a swoony prince fighting for his happily ever after.

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

The prologue is completely in italics, which made it difficult to read. Publishers: please think of the neurodivergent when making decisions like this.

All the build-up to when the evil queen wants Snow White dead is so slow, flitting through time, and with Snow’s emotions shut down for magical reasons, it’s not easy to bond with her. And it feels a bit like a second prologue… Then the sudden info-dump… No. Just no. I tried, but this book didn’t work for me.

There’s promise in the worldbuilding, but the characters don’t intrigue.

DNF 23%

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

1 unicorn star rating

About the Book

The Silver Prince (Once Upon a Prince #7) by Lyndsey Hall

A soldier who conjures shadows.
A princess cursed to dance.
A mystery none can solve.

The people of the Silver Isle are brutes. Savages who live in darkness for half the year. They are not to be trusted, or so Princess Isadora has been raised to believe. As Crown Princess of the Golden Isle, she is the shining light of her kingdom. But Issy is hiding a dark curse that cannot be broken. And all who attempt it end up dead…

Anders is a son of the Silver Isle, a soldier afflicted with shadow magic. This alone carries a death sentence when he steps off a ship into the port capital of the Golden Isle and finds himself in the dungeons beneath the Gilded Palace.

Now his life hangs in the balance. Can he solve the mystery of the curse and earn his freedom? Or is he doomed either way?

In the glittering, royal city of Orovía, danger doesn’t lurk in the shadows, it hides in the light. Can a Golden Princess and a Silver Prince work together to uncover the truth before it’s too late? And will their fragile alliance be enough to unite their rival kingdoms?

The Silver Prince, a Twelve Dancing Princesses retelling, is book 7 of Once Upon a Prince, a multi-author series of clean fairy tale retellings. Each standalone story features a swoony prince fighting for his happily ever after.

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

Everything you want in a fairy-tale retelling: magic, adventure, awesome world-building, a twist on the curse, likeable characters, and a well-educated prince.

There were enough red herrings to throw the scent off the real bad guy, though when revealed, it’s quite obvious in a “duh!” way. I did like the idea of the ballet shoes being the issue. LOL.

The ending is satisfying: all the loose ends are wrapped up, a bit more magic sparkles at the edges, the bad guy gets his just deserts, and there’s a HEA for the couple.

I do think the cat is my favourite character, though. LOL.

My favourite in the series with a fresh take on a favourite fairy-tale.

Trigger warnings: false imprisonment, flashbacks to war, loss of appetite, memory loss.

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

5 unicorn star rating

About the Book

The Shoeless Prince (Once Upon a Prince #8)

A shoeless son of a miller. A high-fashion tabby. An adventure far more than they bargained for.

Leo is not a normal cat.

Archie Miller might be a dreamer, but he’s seen the complex mousetraps the stray barn cat builds, and he knows he’s right. When his late father wills him the “magic cat” as his only inheritance, Archie is ready to prove it, making a deal with the supposed faerie to gain his fortune.

But the ornery brown tabby has plans of his own. And when Archie ends up entangled with a shapeshifting ogre and a reckless royal beauty, it seems he has unleashed more magical mayhem than he can handle.

Can the shoeless son of a miller romance a princess, become the hero his kingdom needs, and fit into a very fancy pair of hunting boots? Or will all his dreams become a toe-pinching nightmare?

The Shoeless Prince, a retelling of Puss in Boots, is part of Once Upon a Prince, a multi-author series of clean fairy tale retellings. Each standalone novel features a swoony prince and his flaws, growth, and happily ever after.

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

The cat drew me in from the start. His voice, his actions, is observations, were so quintessential cat, I couldn’t help but like him.

Archie, on the other hand, took a while to bond with. He’s a good guy: strong, steady, sweet. But without the leadership of the cat, he was a bit lost.

I liked how the cat showed Archie his name: Leo. And I enjoyed their adventures and how they hunted the plague animals and finally stopped the source of this magical plague.

Though Archie and the princess made for a cute love story, it was Leo and Tabitha that stole the attention with all they had to overcome (Leo was cursed to be a cat, Leo was a prince, Leo was abducted by fae) and though Tabitha had severe social anxiety, she loved Leo fiercely and saved him – and his growth through the story was impressive.

My only issue with the book: the blocks of italics. I have problem reading lots of italics and this detracted from my enjoyment of the story. Authors and publishers: please consider the neurodivergent when making decisions about italics so books are accessible to all.

The vivid storytelling, the fae magic, the great characters all make for the best Puss in Boots retelling I’ve read.

Trigger warnings: plague, death, kidnapping, loss of a parent, plague-infected animals, hunting.

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

4 unicorn star rating

About the Book

The Awakened Prince (Once Upon a Prince #11) by Alora Carter

A betrothed prince. A mysterious maiden. A secret that could destroy the kingdom.

After failing in every attempt to prove his worth, Killian’s betrothal contract seems to be the only reason his father tolerates him. Uniting the kingdoms will save their struggling lands, but the princess he is supposed to marry has been in hiding from a wicked fairy for almost 18 years—or she’s missing for good. Desperate to escape the chaos of the court and his father’s suffocating expectations, Killian trespasses into the Forbidden Forest. There he stumbles into more than he bargains magic and mystery and a beautiful woman who embodies both.

As a Guardian of the Forest, Raela’s duties are honor the sentient elements, foster the life of the forest, and protect them all from the danger of fairy circles. Yet, she finds herself aching for more. After the first man she has ever seen stumbles into her meadow, she begins to wonder questions that she should have had answers to all Where are her parents? What are her aunties hiding? And is there more out there for her after all?

When the fairy returns for revenge, Killian must overcome his fears and fight for his father, his throne, and the woman he loves. He cannot afford to fail now, or he will lose them all.

The Awakened Prince , a retelling of Sleeping Beauty, is part of Once Upon A Prince , a multi-author series of clean fairy tale retellings. Each standalone story features a swoony prince fighting for his happily ever after.

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

If you ignore the italics and foreign language, it’s a good story. Unfortunately, the aforementioned messes with my mind and makes it difficult to read the book. Authors and publishers: please consider the neurodivergent when making decisions about italics so books are accessible to all.

As much as I like the giant wolf Jax and wonder about the magic of the forest, the way the king treats Killian and the obvious issues surrounding the scheming women (did Raela really have no curiosity in all of her life? Was the magic used on her stronger than the obvious magic flowing through her? Did the – goblins? – living with her regularly dose her with a bout of ignorance?), didn’t sit right with me. And when the prince starts suspecting his best friend of – what? – treachery and doesn’t trust him, I had enough. This far into a book, I need to root for someone – and liking a giant sentient wolf isn’t enough.

Loads of promise, but the aforementioned issues make this a reader-book mismatch for me.

DNF 37%

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

1 unicorn star rating

About the Book

Emporium of Superstition by various authors

Heed the warnings, or you could be next.

A society of Old Wives’ comes together in this collection of suspenseful stories. In between these pages, twelve authors draw on ancient tales your grandmothers warned you about. From demons living amongst humans, to ghosts lurking in the shadows, and even gods looming above, these recountings will surely inspire a fright.

Open the book, turn the page, for it may be the last thing you do.

Emporium of Superstition is an anthology full of superstition, suspense, and horror. If you love Survive the Night by Riley Sager, Stephen King, Joe Hill and American Horror Story, then you’ll not want to miss this thrilling collection.

Trigger warning: Violence, Profanity, and Death

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

The prologue immediately pulls one in.

Mirror, Mirror

The story immediately begins with a man and wife getting it on – until blood gushes from her nose. He rushes her to the doctor, as she is clearly dying. Again, the doctor can’t really help. So the man pleads aloud in his house for help. And a voice from the mirror answers…

Your usual Faustian myth that feels quite familiar with the seven deadly sins thrown in for good measure.

An okay story.

An Axe for the Storm

A brutal scene where a man stomps on a pregnant woman’s belly starts it all, so not for the faint of heart.

Storm Raven was my favourite character – vengeance and the way she dealt it was awesome.

Themes of abuse and superstition echo through this story. I liked the world-building and this is clearly a companion story to a larger series, yet is complete with a satisfying end. A bit of a supernatural detective story. I’ll have to check out the series!

Oh Cruel Darkness

Clearly tied with the first story in the anthology, this story follows how the king of nightmares tries to break into the mortal world by attempting to break a mortal mind.

She’s Come Undone

Slightly terrifying in the way doppelgänger stories usually are. Well-written with an ending that keeps you wondering.

One Last Breath

Not a fan of the language. A good story, though. I liked the husky cross they adopt.

Once Upon a Storm Drain

The story is engaging, but it ends abruptly, like it’s the middle of something much bigger. Loads of creepy spiders.

(Hair) Suit

Not a fan of the language choices – or the typos (e.g. “meet” instead of ‘meat”, etc.). A nice twist on the Big Foot myth, though.

Perfection

Some believability issues: Flora is 81, yet she moves and acts like a woman decades younger. Her back pain and arthritis is only briefly mentioned, yet it never seems to bother her. And if a woman her age falls down, she first checks to see if anything isn’t broken – she’s not going to easily get up and rush off.

A good story, though, about always wanting things to be perfect and the cost it carries.

Stay With Me

She’s probably in her twenties, but sounds like a petulant teenager. And the language choices didn’t appeal to me.

Shouldn’t be read by those who’ve suffered severe lung diseases that made them think they’ll die – the story could be severely triggering.

A good ghost story with plenty of horror.

Whistle For Me

So gross. DNF

The Seventh Crow

A great ghost story with some themes from fairy tales and paranormal romance.

Sleepwalker

Really? DNF

I would have thought there’d be an epilogue to tie everything together with the prologue…

Trigger Warning: nudity, on page sex, mental health issues, monsters come to life, demons, bad language.

This horror anthology is not for the faint of heart as it mostly stays in the realm psychological thrills.

3 unicorn star rating

About the Book

A Wizard’s Bestiary: A Menagerie of Myth, Magic, and Mystery by Oberon Zell Ravenheart and Ash “LeopardDancer” DeKirk

Strange beasts of all kinds have crawled, run, swam, and flown through humanity’s imagination and travelers’ tales since the dawn of time. From Gryphons and Unicorns, to Dragons, Mermaids, and even more bizarre and fantastical animals, A Wizard’s Bestiary takes you on a magical journey through the ages and around the world, to discover elusive creatures of myth and legend. Beware-here be Monsters!

The first section lists over 1,000 fantastic creatures from every land in an encyclopedic, alphabetical glossary format, from Aatxe to Zyphoeus. Each entry includes a small illustration, as well as cross-references to other related beasts.

Next, the authors present more in-depth features on some of more interesting of these legendary beasts, such as the Sea Serpent and the Man-Eating Tree of Madagascar. History, myths, and legends of each creature are presented, with particular emphasis on identifying real-life origins of mythical creatures in actual living animals, such as the link between the Kraken and the giant squid. This section is divided into these categories:
• Creepers
• Walkers
• Swimmers
• Flyers
• Demi-Humans
• Animate Plants

Expanded cryptozoological entries include the Loch Ness Monster, Bigfoot, Mokele-Mbembe, El Chupacabra, Mothman, and other mystery monsters reported by eyewitnesses but not yet confirmed by science.They are grouped into the following categories:
• Primates and Hominids
• Bipedal Monsters
• Carnivorous Mammals
• Herbivorous Mammals
• Sea Serpents and Lake Monsters
• Birds
• Reptiles
• Amphibians
•Living Dinosaurs
• Mystery Monsters

A Wizard’s Bestiary is profusely illustrated with old woodcuts, engravings, and other images from historical sources, as well as interpretations by modern artists, including the authors. No other bestiary has been so well-illustrated! Hand-drawn medieval-style maps by Oberon Zell-Ravenheart show purported locales of different beasts on all continents and seas.

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

This amazing collection of fantastic creatures is a must-have on every fantasy author’s shelf. Magical tales and folklore from all over the globe can be found in this lovely illustrated book with insights many others in the genre overlook. If there’s a creature you want to know more about, this is the book to reach for.

5 unicorn star rating

The Books that are Probably Good but Triggered Me

About the Book

The Weight of our Sky by Hanna Alkaf

A music-loving teen with OCD does everything she can to find her way back to her mother during the historic race riots in 1969 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in this heart-pounding literary debut.

Melati Ahmad looks like your typical moviegoing, Beatles-obsessed sixteen-year-old. Unlike most other sixteen-year-olds though, Mel also believes that she harbors a djinn inside her, one who threatens her with horrific images of her mother’s death unless she adheres to an elaborate ritual of counting and tapping to keep him satisfied.

But there are things that Melati can’t protect her mother from. On the evening of May 13th, 1969, racial tensions in her home city of Kuala Lumpur boil over. The Chinese and Malays are at war, and Mel and her mother become separated by a city in flames.

With a 24-hour curfew in place and all lines of communication down, it will take the help of a Chinese boy named Vincent and all of the courage and grit in Melati’s arsenal to overcome the violence on the streets, her own prejudices, and her djinn’s surging power to make it back to the one person she can’t risk losing.

**Content warnings: Racism, graphic violence, on-page death, OCD and anxiety triggers.**

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

I would like to thank the author for the warning to not read the book if one has OCD or anxiety triggers. I read the author’s note, but won’t be reading this book for my own mental wellbeing.

Recommended, but won’t read.

About the Book

The Library of Legends by Janie Chang

From the author of Three Souls and Dragon Springs Road comes a captivating historical novel in which a convoy of student refugees travel across China, fleeing the hostilities of a brutal war with Japan

 “Myths are the darkest and brightest incarnations of who we are . . .”

China, 1937. When Japanese bombs begin falling on the city of Nanking, nineteen-year-old Hu Lian and her classmates at Minghua University are ordered to flee. Lian and a convoy of students, faculty and staff must walk 1,000 miles to the safety of China’s western provinces, a journey marred by the constant threat of aerial attack. And it is not just the refugees who are at risk; Lian and her classmates have been entrusted with a priceless treasure: a 500-year-old collection of myths and folklore known as the Library of Legends.

The students’ common duty to safeguard the Library of Legends creates unexpected bonds. Lian becomes friends and forms a cautious romance with the handsome and wealthy Liu Shaoming. But after one classmate is arrested and another one is murdered, Lian realizes she must escape before a family secret puts her in danger too. Accompanied by Shao and his enigmatic maidservant, Sparrow, Lian makes her way to Shanghai in the hopes of reuniting with her mother.

During the journey, Lian learns of the connection between her two companions and a tale from the Library of Legends, The Willow Star and the Prince. This revelation comes with profound consequences, for as the ancient books travel across China, they awaken immortals and guardian spirits who embark on an exodus of their own, one that will change the country’s fate forever.

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

Such a great premise and gripping narrative. Unfortunately, reading it brings such sorrow, that I cannot continue.

DNF 9%

Trigger warnings: explosions in cities, air raids, war

1 unicorn star rating

About the Book

The Horse, the Wheel, and Language: How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World by David W Anthony

Roughly half the world’s population speaks languages derived from a shared linguistic source known as Proto-Indo-European. But who were the early speakers of this ancient mother tongue, and how did they manage to spread it around the globe? Until now their identity has remained a tantalizing mystery to linguists, archaeologists, and even Nazis seeking the roots of the Aryan race. The Horse, the Wheel, and Language lifts the veil that has long shrouded these original Indo-European speakers, and reveals how their domestication of horses and use of the wheel spread language and transformed civilization.

Linking prehistoric archaeological remains with the development of language, David Anthony identifies the prehistoric peoples of central Eurasia’s steppe grasslands as the original speakers of Proto-Indo-European, and shows how their innovative use of the ox wagon, horseback riding, and the warrior’s chariot turned the Eurasian steppes into a thriving transcontinental corridor of communication, commerce, and cultural exchange. He explains how they spread their traditions and gave rise to important advances in copper mining, warfare, and patron-client political institutions, thereby ushering in an era of vibrant social change. Anthony also describes his fascinating discovery of how the wear from bits on ancient horse teeth reveals the origins of horseback riding.

The Horse, the Wheel, and Language solves a puzzle that has vexed scholars for two centuries–the source of the Indo-European languages and English–and recovers a magnificent and influential civilization from the past.

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

I was looking forward to reading this one… With a title featuring horses so much, I thought horses would be front-and-centre, but they only really start talking horses at chapter 10. The language and tone are fine, but the whole book is a bit highbrow for me in my current state of burnout. I might try it again at a future date.

DNF 5%

1 unicorn star rating

About the Book

When Smoke Rains Down by Cecelia Earl

Just when Julia thought the demons were gone for good…

Julia’s brother is in the hospital and won’t speak to her. She knows something’s up, but heaven forbid someone listen to her for a change.

Even her supposed guardian angel won’t do what’s best and give her her sword so she can protect her own brother.

His rules. His way.

Sick of fighting with him–and sick of thinking about how annoyingly handsome he is when they argue–she decides to take matters into her own hands.

Getting her brother out of the hospital and smiling again is one thing. The ash-colored lines appearing on humans and making them apathetic and frightening are quite another.

Demons are back and they’re able to siphon souls–from the living. Not only that, but lines of demonic poison are traveling through humans’ veins toward their hearts and altering their emotions.

Even after Cole returns–distant and unlike himself–Julia doesn’t know who to turn to for help. So, in order to stop evil from overtaking those she loves, she decides to seek out the one person she’s always mistrusted most–her father.

Especially after a line appears on her own arm.

She has no time to lose.

Being both human and angel is taking its toll, and the poison in Julia’s veins is only confusing her further. When Nicholas finally offers to help, should she trust the growing feelings she has for him? Or are they a byproduct of the poison? She may succumb to the poison before she’s able to save everyone she cares about.

If only humans knew about the invisible dangers lurking around them, Julia might have a chance to save them from uncertain death– or worse, an eternity in hell.

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

It’s good, but Julia irritates me with her self-righteous non-committal attitude. She wants to be an angel warrior? Awesome. She doesn’t want to commit to the angels? WTF? She’d rather be friends with demons? Seriously? No. There are good themes here and I get that her waffling between two sides is about the human condition, and that it’s good to explore these things, but I’m in a place where something is either right or wrong and you have to choose your side. So I’m not going to finish this series.

DNF 26%

DNF series

1 unicorn star rating

About the Book

The Omen of Crows Nest by Cathrina Constantine

No blood. No body. No murder.

That’s what the police found after Penelope spun her bizarre tale. In a hysterical state, she said her father was butchered and eaten by a mob of birds ~ in her bedroom.

They claim she’s crazy.
That she suffers from delusions.
Penelope is dead set on proving them wrong.

After being institutionalized for eight months, Penelope is out and more determined than ever to find answers to her so-called hallucinations. With her father’s untimely disappearance, she’s convinced her family is hiding something sinister.

THE OMEN OF CROWS NEST is the latest masterpiece by the award-winning author Cathrina Constantine, and is sure to leave fans of fantasy gasping!

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

It starts with electrodes in the brain, jumps back to what happened before, jumps to talking to a shrink (which somehow ends in group therapy?) to talking with her mum and then getting paroled from the psychiatric facility for rich people. Yet she tells of her house needing repairs, her mother being sick in bed and then suddenly having her committed to wanting her free.

I like the cover. I like the title. I find the blurb intriguing. But the clear insanity of this MC scratched at parts of my mind better left alone. Not for me. But perhaps someone without my triggers might enjoy it.

DNF 6%

1 unicorn star rating

About the Book

I read this one as part of an IWSG book club reading challenge.

Black Beauty by Anna Sewell

As a young horse, Black Beauty is well-loved and happy. But when his owner is forced to sell him, his life changes drastically. He has many new owners–some of them cruel and some of them kind. All he needs is someone to love him again…
Whether pulling an elegant carriage or a ramshackle cab, Black Beauty tries to live as best he can. This is his amazing story, told as only he could tell it.

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

I’ve heard so much about this book and how it’s an excellent book to read. And it’s easy enough to read with good pacing, worldbuilding and a character you easily bond with.

But as good as his life is at the beginning, and looking at the chapter headings, this one is going to deliver a lot of heartache before it ends happily.

As I read the description of this horse, it reminds me of my own beautiful black horse, Calto, and so I cannot go through the obvious tragedies this book will hold.

Based on what I’ve read, I think someone without my triggers will enjoy it. Loads of great description and characterisation.

DNF 11%

1 unicorn star rating

About the Book

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

After receiving a frantic letter from her newly-wed cousin begging for someone to save her from a mysterious doom, Noemí Taboada heads to High Place, a distant house in the Mexican countryside. She’s not sure what she will find—her cousin’s husband, a handsome Englishman, is a stranger, and Noemí knows little about the region.

Noemí is also an unlikely rescuer: She’s a glamorous debutante, and her chic gowns and perfect red lipstick are more suited for cocktail parties than amateur sleuthing. But she’s also tough and smart, with an indomitable will, and she is not afraid: Not of her cousin’s new husband, who is both menacing and alluring; not of his father, the ancient patriarch who seems to be fascinated by Noemí; and not even of the house itself, which begins to invade Noemí’s dreams with visions of blood and doom.

Her only ally in this inhospitable abode is the family’s youngest son. Shy and gentle, he seems to want to help Noemí, but might also be hiding dark knowledge of his family’s past. For there are many secrets behind the walls of High Place. The family’s once colossal wealth and faded mining empire kept them from prying eyes, but as Noemí digs deeper she unearths stories of violence and madness.

And Noemí, mesmerized by the terrifying yet seductive world of High Place, may soon find it impossible to ever leave this enigmatic house behind.

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

I was looking forward to this book, but I don’t like Noemi and the letter from her cousin is full of triggers.

DNF 3%

1 unicorn star rating

About the Book

Poison Malice Twisted by Steffanie Holmes

She’s sweet, forbidden poison – and she’s the only one who can save him

Aisling is the last witch standing. She guards her family home and the source of their power from the fae eager to devour it. Grief and loneliness mark her days, twisting her up inside until the night she opens her door to a dark stranger…

His malice threatens to undo them both

Even among the fae, Niall is considered broken. War has stoked his lust for blood, for cruelty, for control. All he knows is death and depravity, until the day he steps inside Aisling’s home and finds everything he’s ever wanted…

A forbidden attraction so strong, so twisted, they cannot resist

But Niall’s vow requires that he sacrifice it all.

Every day that Naill and Aisling give in to their twisted desires, the house moves closer to ruin. Corrupted magic seeps from every crack, the walls draw closer, and the house is torn apart between the fae and human worlds.

If the house falls, both their worlds fall with it. But the only way to save it will force Aisling and Niall apart for all of eternity.

Poison Malice Twisted is a standalone dark paranormal romance novel of love, sacrifice, and weird architecture by USA Today bestselling author Steffanie Holmes. This story of a clever witch, a wicked fae prince, and a house with a mind of its own contains scenes that may disturb and delight.

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

I probably should have heeded the author’s warning note at the start of the book… Anyhow, the italics messed with my eyes and head, which is the main reason I stopped reading. Authors and publishers: please consider the neurodivergent when making decisions about italics so books are accessible to all.

There’s a lot to like about this book: a witch house suspended between the mortal realm and Faerie, a fae warrior, the cat…

Great world-building, but a reader-book mismatch.

DNF 33%

1 unicorn star rating

The Ones that Were Merely Okay

About the Book

Perrault’s Fairy Tales by Charles Perrault

Here are the original eight stories from the 1697 volume Contes de temps passé by the great Charles Perrault (1628–1703) in a translation that retains the charming and unsentimental simplicity that has won Perrault a permanent position in French literature. These were among the earliest versions of some of our most familiar fairy tales (“Cinderella,” “Sleeping Beauty,” “Little Red Riding Hood,” “Puss in Boots,” and “Tom Thumb”) and are still among the few classic re-tellings of these perennial stories.

In addition to the five well-known tales listed above, Perrault tells three others that are sure to delight any child or adult: “The Fairies,” a short and very simple tale of two sisters, one sweet and one spiteful; “Ricky of the Tuft,” a very unusual story of a brilliant but ugly prince and a beautiful but stupid princess; and “Blue Beard,” a suspense story perhaps more famous as a classic thriller than as a fairy tale. The witty verse morals that Perrault included in the original edition (often omitted in later reprintings) are retained here in verse translations.

This edition also includes 34 extraordinary full-page engravings by Gustave Doré that show clearly why this artist became the foremost illustrator of his time. These illustrations have long been considered the ideal accompaniment to Perrault’s fairy tales. In many cases they created the pictorial image that we associate with the stories.

Along with the collections of Andersen, Lang, and the Brothers Grimm, this volume is among the great books of European fairy tales. These stories have been enjoyed by generation after generation of children in many countries, and are here, with magnificent Doré illustrations, waiting to be enjoyed again.

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

Fun to read again. A little different from the version I read before – which omitted the ogress mother of the prince who married Sleeping Beauty – making it exciting and new. The previous version I read was very kid friendly and I liked the language used. This version’s odd wording doesn’t work for me.

3 unicorn star rating

About the book

Her Perfect Life by Hank Phillippi Ryan

Everyone knows Lily Atwood―and that may be her biggest problem. The beloved television reporter has it all―fame, fortune, Emmys, an adorable seven-year-old daughter, and the hashtag her loving fans #PerfectLily. To keep it, all she has to do is protect one life-changing secret.

Her own.

Lily has an anonymous source who feeds her story tips―but suddenly, the source begins telling Lily inside information about her own life. How does he―or she―know the truth?

Lily understands that no one reveals a secret unless they have a reason. Now she’s terrified someone is determined to destroy her world―and with it, everyone and everything she holds dear.

How much will she risk to keep her perfect life? And what if the spotlight is the most dangerous place of all?

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

Three POVs giving depth to the story. One psychotic man manipulating three women. Of course, the scene where they have him at their mercy is perfect.

Though there’s enough mystery to keep one reading, I didn’t like the characters. Greer with her passive-aggressive obsession with her job and Lily. Lily with her lack of trust – and trusting the wrong people. Cassie being so naïve I wanted to slap some sense into her.

I liked that it took place in Boston (watching shows like Boston Legal and Fringe made the place more real). I liked little Rowan and her fondness for penguins. I liked the nanny, Petra. And, of course, I liked the dog, Val. I liked Lily’s job, but would have liked to see more than just the superficial stuff, taking anonymous phone calls and running around like a headless chicken.

Some things were a bit predictable – or maybe that’s just me? – which made this book merely okay.

3 unicorn star rating

About the book

Harpy’s Mission (Supernatural Retrieval Agency #1) by Laura Greenwood

Harper has wanted to join the Agency for as long as she can remember, but even she never expected to be thrown in the deep end on her first day.

After she helps uncover a secret crime ring within the city, she’s sent on a rescue mission to get a vital witness to safety. But when the plan goes sideways, Harper and her partner have to work out why, and how they can fix it.

Can this harpy complete her mission?

Harpy’s Mission is book one in the urban fantasy Supernatural Retrieval Agency Series, which includes a romantic m/f sub-plot.

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

The cover is spot-on urban fantasy and the Agency Harper the harpy (don’t get me started on that) goes to work at sounds like it has potential. I liked the harpies and how they work. But: the plot is predictable and the book is riddled with typos.

An okay read. I won’t be continuing the series, though.

3 unicorn star rating

About the book

I read this one as part of an IWSG book club reading challenge.

The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton

Camellia Beauregard is a Belle. In the opulent world of Orléans, Belles are revered, for they control Beauty, and Beauty is a commodity coveted above all else. In Orléans, the people are born gray, they are born damned, and only with the help of a Belle and her talents can they transform and be made beautiful.

But it’s not enough for Camellia to be just a Belle. She wants to be the favorite—the Belle chosen by the Queen of Orléans to live in the royal palace, to tend to the royal family and their court, to be recognized as the most talented Belle in the land. But once Camellia and her Belle sisters arrive at court, it becomes clear that being the favorite is not everything she always dreamed it would be. Behind the gilded palace walls live dark secrets, and Camellia soon learns that the very essence of her existence is a lie—that her powers are far greater, and could be more dangerous, than she ever imagined. And when the queen asks Camellia to risk her own life and help the ailing princess by using Belle powers in unintended ways, Camellia now faces an impossible decision.

With the future of Orléans and its people at stake, Camellia must decide—save herself and her sisters and the way of the Belles—or resuscitate the princess, risk her own life, and change the ways of her world forever.

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

On the surface, this book is about being beautiful and going to lavish parties – and all that entails. But it’s actually a book about monsters who covet beauty above everything else as beauty is power.

And all the emphasis on being perfect can be triggering for any female over the age of twelve…

Though there is intrigue, mystery and more, I won’t be continuing this series. Camellia isn’t very nice and Sophia is horrible enough to make one want to DNF this book several times before finishing it. And the obvious roles the two men in Camellia’s life play along with their obvious plotlines… Nah, there are plenty of books out there with fewer triggers, with MCs worth spending time with and antagonists that don’t want you to hate them purely for the sake of hating them.

There are little hints of Orleans being a bit like New Orleans: The Carnaval and other events, place names like the Bayou, Quarter and the Garden, etc.

Great themes and scenery and world-building, but the characters didn’t hook me.

DNF Series

4 unicorn star rating

The Ones I DNFed

About the Book

The Secret of the Stallion by Bonnie Bryant

The Saddle Club is in England for a show on the grounds of an old estate where a past duke and his beloved stallion died and where, legend has it, the duke buried treasure.

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

I liked the premise of the blurb, but the writing didn’t draw me in. Repeated words in quick succession and an info dump – with a condescending tone implying that the reader won’t keep up otherwise. Ah, no. I love horses, but this is a bit too cringe-worthy to read.

DNF 4%

1 unicorn star rating

About the Book

Gently Falls The Bakula by Sudha Murty

‘Shrikant was restless . . . Holding a bakula flower in his palm, he was wondering why he was fascinated by this tiny flower, that was neither as beautiful as a rose nor had the fragrance of a jasmine or a champaka. And yet, it was very special to him. It held an inexplicable attraction for him.’

Shrimati and Shrikant are neighbours and star students of their school in the small north Karnataka town of Hubli. It leaves no one in surprise when they come first and second respectively in the final Board exams. Soon Shrikant discovers he is strangely attracted to Shrimati, a plain-looking yet charming person, who always does better than him in the exams. Shrimati too falls in love with the amiable and handsome Shrikant and the two get married. Shrikant joins an IT company and starts rapidly climbing the corporate ladder. He works relentlessly and reaches the pinnacle of his industry, while Shrimati abandons her academic aspirations and becomes his uncomplaining shadow, silently fulfilling her duties as a corporate leader’s wife. But one day, while talking to an old professor, she starts examining what she has done with her life and realizes it is dismally empty . . .

Gently Falls the Bakula is the story of a marriage that loses its way as ambition and self-interest take their toll. Written nearly three decades ago, Sudha Murty’s first novel remains startlingly relevant in its scrutiny of modern values and work ethics.

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

Recommended to me years ago for its lyrical prose, I feel confused about everything going on in this 5% I struggled through which read like an essay. Clearly a mismatch.

DNF

1 unicorn star rating

About the book

Bloodless (Witch’s Blood #1) by Neha Yazmin

MISSING WITCH. MISSING BLOOD.

“What’s a powerful witch like me to do when she’s been made redundant? Settle down for the quiet life?
As if!
I love being a witch, using magic to save the day. It’s what I was born to do.
My destiny.
I’m Amber Adams, super-witch, and there’s nothing I love more than hunting down and eliminating evil from this world.
Now, seen as I so crave for action and drama, you’re going to warn me that trouble is sure to find me, right?
Here’s hoping…”

When psychic witch Amber agrees to help search for a missing young woman, she never imagined it would get her entangled in a dangerous game of cat and mouse with a sadistic killer intent on bleeding young witches to death. Could this be the work of a dark wizard or witch, a vigilante or a crazy cult, or are there more dangerous creatures out there, creeping out of the shadows to swallow the light?

And can she trust Callum Dent, the missing witch’s gorgeous boyfriend, who seems to know more about the supernatural than he lets on? Or is this charming male model the murderer that she’s searching for?

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

There’s promise here, but the italics and some misused words (e.g. temper instead of tamper) irked me.

DNF 4%

1 unicorn star rating

About the book

The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen

Twenty-seven-year-old Josey is sure of three things: winter in her North Carolina hometown is her favorite season; she’s a sorry excuse for a Southern belle; and sweets are best eaten in the privacy of her hidden closet. For while Josey has settled into an uneventful life in her mother’s house, her one consolation is the stockpile of sugary treats and paperback romances she escapes to each night …Until she finds her closet harboring none other than local waitress Della Lee Baker, a tough-talking, tender-hearted woman who is one part nemesis – and two parts fairy godmother …

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

This book was recommended to me, but reading about a Southern Belle who hides food in her closet, has to do whatever her mother says (she’s an adult), and the highlight of her day is seeing the mailman, just isn’t my cup of tea. Good pacing, though.

DNF 8%

1 unicorn star rating

About the Book

This was one of the IWSG selections this year.

Spiral of Hooves by Roland Clarke

In Canada, researcher Armand Sabatier witnesses what could be the murder of groom Odette Fedon, but traumatic images from his past smother his memory, and a snowstorm buries the evidence. Harassed by nightmares but fighting through them, Armand remembers the crime a few months later. By then he is in England, where he is dragged into a plot involving international sport horse breeding.

Suspecting everyone around him, Armand is forced to brave the past that he has kept buried. But what made Armand leave France? Where did he learn to survive and fight for justice? Why is the English rider Carly Tanner treading the same path as the first victim, Odette?

Can he save Carly before he has more blood on his hands?

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

I like the premise and the cover. I even enjoyed the horses (wanted more!). But the pace, internal monologue and a bit more telling than showing in Carly’s POV distracted from the thriller aspect. I like fast-paced thrillers, so this didn’t work for me, but it might be exactly someone else’s cup of tea. The writing is evocative and one feels as if you’re there with the horses and Armand.

DNF 11%

1 unicorn star rating

About the Book

Bittersweet Beginning (Grimm’s Dweller Trilogy #1) by Arizona Tape

Always separate, never interfere. Grisella has always plays by the Dweller laws.

Until she meets Wilhelm Grimm and discovers the beautiful stories he creates. When the sickly author asks for her help, she can’t resist the call of his tales and the lifelike characters she meets within them.

Fascinated and immersed in the world she’s supposed to be helping, Gris has to be careful or she’ll lose her grip on reality…


Bittersweet Beginning is book one of the Grimm’s Dweller series, a heart wrenching fantasy journey inspired by Grimm’s fairy tales.

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

There’s something intriguing in the story, but the coarse language choices didn’t work for me.

I liked the blurb, cover and title, though.

DNF 15%

DNF series

1 unicorn star rating

About the Book

Woman Last Seen by Adele Parks

Leigh Fletcher: happily married stepmom to two gorgeous boys goes missing on Monday. Her husband, Mark, says he knows nothing of her whereabouts. She went to work and just never came home. Their family is shattered.

Kai Janssen: married to wealthy Dutch businessman Daan and vanishes the same week. Kai left their luxurious penthouse and glamorous world without a backward glance. She seemingly evaporated into thin air. Daan is distraught.

Detective Clements knows that people disappear all the time—far too frequently. Most run away from things, some run toward, others are taken but find their way back. A sad few never return. These two women are from very different worlds. Their disappearances are unlikely to be connected. And yet, at a gut level, the detective believes they might be.

How could these women walk away from their families, husbands and homes willingly? Clements is determined to unearth the truth, no matter how shocking and devastating it may be.

#1 Sunday Times bestselling author Adele Parks returns with her most provocative, compelling book to date.

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

It starts of okay with something intriguing yet to happen, then goes back a couple of days. And then then years – with an info dump that isn’t just annoying, but also riddled with typos.

I don’t like any of the characters and don’t care what happens. For all I know, the person on the other side of the door in chapter one (really a prologue) is the hero.

DNF 10%

1 unicorn star rating

About the Book

The Crown of Embers by Rae Carson

She does not know what awaits her at the enemy’s gate.

Elisa is a hero. She led her people to victory over a terrifying, sorcerous army. Her place as the country’s ruler should be secure. But it isn’t.

Her enemies come at her like ghosts in a dream, from both foreign realms and within her own court. And her destiny as the chosen one has not yet been fulfilled.

To conquer the power she bears once and for all, Elisa must follow the trail of long-forgotten–and forbidden–clues from the deep, undiscovered catacombs of her own city to the treacherous seas. With her goes a one-eyed spy, a traitor, and the man who–despite everything–she is falling in love with.

If she’s lucky, she will return from this journey. But there will be a cost.

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

Perhaps I should have read this book right after finishing the first as I just don’t connect with the characters now. Seems leaving years between reading books in a series doesn’t work.

DNF 15%

DNF series

1 unicorn star rating

About the Book

Myths and Legends by various authors

An Indie Love Anthology

Tales of knights, dragons and curses are not just for children.

Join us as we get up close and personal with mythical creatures, magical moments and dashing quests for love as Indie Love presents The Myths & Legends Collection.

From Egyptian Gods to Arthurian legends, Robin Hood to Hades, there is something for everyone.

With 7 exclusive stories available for a limited time, are you ready for an epic romance?

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

The intro didn’t impress me, but as I’ve read books by two of the authors before, I decided to give it a try.

Mistress of Sky and Stars

The story of how Nut gave birth to her children despite Ra’s curse upon her. Despite knowing the tale, the author had put an interesting spin on it to make it entertaining.

Queens of the Underworld

A fun twist on the Hades and Persephone myth where these are job titles of the Underworld and being the Hades is usually punishment. Cerberus was cute.

Frost and Flame

Blurb intrigued. But going on and on about pain… Grr. If I wanted to read about emotional and physical agony, I’d keep a diary. DNF.

In Search of Ghosts

The blurb is a bit meh. DNF.

Cursed to Love

The blurb is okay. But why the meh prologue? DNF.

I Do It For You

The blurb is full of clichés… so no. DNF.

Dragon’s Heart

The blurb reads like a fated-mate shifter paranormal romance. But something feels off… DNF.

The last story might’ve been good, but something in the blurb kept me from reading. The others I didn’t read just didn’t intrigue me. So this was mainly a DNF…

2/7

1 unicorn star rating

About the Book

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

“What’s the point of having a voice if you’re gonna be silent in those moments you shouldn’t be?”

Sixteen-year-old Starr lives in two worlds: the poor neighbourhood where she was born and raised and her posh high school in the suburbs. The uneasy balance between them is shattered when Starr is the only witness to the fatal shooting of her unarmed best friend, Khalil, by a police officer. Now what Starr says could destroy her community. It could also get her killed.

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

I really wanted to like this book, but the language really got to me.

DNF 9%

1 unicorn star rating

About the Book

The Upside Down of Nora Gaines by Cathrina Constantine

Nora has visions of horrific things. Things that lurk in the shadows and feast on bones. After moving with her mother into an old farmhouse, Nora discovers a blank journal that fills itself with an ominous warning. A cursed beast is coming for her and time is running out. When the blood moon rises, so shall the beast.

Local teen, Rebel, has his own trepidations about the house. His parents, both paranormal scientists, were investigating it when they died under mysterious circumstances. His growing feelings for Nora motivate him to battle the ghosts of his past, if it means keeping her safe.

Allies to turn to enemies. Fiction turns to fact. The past and the present collide. All in an epic battle to claim unfathomable power. Can Nora unlock the secrets buried within the farmhouse in time to save herself and those dear to her from a grisly fate?

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

There’s promise in the story, but some of the descriptions and word use just didn’t work for me.

DNF 3%

1 unicorn star rating

About the Book

Shadow Hunter by Leena Maria

Dana’s best friend Kitty has died in a car accident, and the only ray of light in the misery is when her grandmother appears in her spiffy red sports car to cheer her up. At the same time a nightmarish shadow appears to hunt Dana and she has to flee from her ordinary life with grandma, who turns out to be something quite different than what Dana had thought – a Huntress of Shadows.

The truth about her ancestry is not an easy thing for Dana to accept – she was deliberately created to perform a task, to find something that should stay hidden, or it might threaten the world of humans as Dana knows it. Her existence is tied to the myth of the Nephilim, the descendants of angels, and her creator was someone who commands the forces of chaos and darkness, the source of all horror myths of humankind. Dana learns there is a world of shadows, the afterlife, dreams and time travel, surrounding the physical world, hidden behind a thin veil – and that there are ways to enter it from the physical world.

Dana has no option – she is being hunted by creatures of darkness, and the hunt can only end in either Dana and everyone she loves being captured and turned into creatures of darkness – or Dana finding what she was created to find.

Her hunters have skills no ordinary human can escape – but Dana is not an ordinary human. Nor is Daniel, the leader of a hidden Center fighting the darkness. Together with a chosen team they could travel the Unseen Worlds that surround the physical world, into the past, following a clue written down in ancient Egypt, and then walk the Trail of Angels, and find the hidden mystery before the dark creatures do.

Dana must prepare for a long search in another time and place, knowing that both she and Daniel are wanted and hunted by the darkness. At stake is her love, and the safety of the human kind.

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

*This would have been an IWSG Book Club Member Book.*

Chapter one is an unnecessary prologue which feels like the era of Downton Abbey when it’s actually two decades later (after the 20s no-one was too shocked by women wearing pants or having short hair – the various women’s movements had seen to that. Check out The Old Shelter blog about early 20th century history.).

Chapter two is where the action starts and without chapter one bogging things down, one can immediately bond with Dana and learn about this hidden world with her. The other POV chapters do a proper job of informing the reader about the other world without the need of the clunky first chapter.

There’s a lot of info-dumping with scattered good chapters (e.g. the bookstore scene was good, but the long-winded info-dump on what’s in the book? – that could have been given throughout the story).

Hints of a great story is hidden beneath loads of exposition. I tried, but DNF 14%.

1 unicorn star rating

About the Book

The Guest List by Lucy Foley

A wedding celebration turns dark and deadly in this deliciously wicked and atmospheric thriller reminiscent of Agatha Christie from the New York Times bestselling author of The Hunting Party.

The bride – The plus one – The best man – The wedding planner – The bridesmaid – The body

On an island off the coast of Ireland, guests gather to celebrate two people joining their lives together as one. The groom: handsome and charming, a rising television star. The bride: smart and ambitious, a magazine publisher. It’s a wedding for a magazine, or for a celebrity: the designer dress, the remote location, the luxe party favors, the boutique whiskey. The cell phone service may be spotty and the waves may be rough, but every detail has been expertly planned and will be expertly executed.

But perfection is for plans, and people are all too human. As the champagne is popped and the festivities begin, resentments and petty jealousies begin to mingle with the reminiscences and well wishes. The groomsmen begin the drinking game from their school days. The bridesmaid not-so-accidentally ruins her dress. The bride’s oldest (male) friend gives an uncomfortably caring toast.

And then someone turns up dead. Who didn’t wish the happy couple well? And perhaps more important, why?

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

I liked the blurb. But the style and language choices didn’t draw me in – quite the opposite.

DNF 4%

About the Book

Valkyrie 101 (The Afterlife Academy: Valkyrie #1) by Arizona Tape

Her dream comes at the price of human souls. 

Ylva has always wanted to become a Valkyrie, and now she’s enrolled in her first year at Afterlife Academy, she’s getting her chance. But nothing is simple about bringing souls to Valhalla and she soon finds herself embroiled in ancient rivalries and new friendships. 

With more human souls in need of collection than ever before, Ylva and her classmates are about to get a crash course in death.

– 
Valkyrie 101 is book one of the Afterlife Academy: Valkyrie, an urban fantasy academy series with a lesbian romance.

The Afterlife Academy specialises in teaching paranormals how to help human souls pass onto the next phase, whether that’s by guiding them gently, preparing them for rebirth, or cutting them loose with a scythe.

Part of becoming a Valkyrie includes learning how to:
– Open the gates of Valhalla
– Train your pet wolf
– Harvest a soul
– Earn wings
– Die and come back from it

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

It has a good premise. But the italics, the typos, the swearing, and the MC’s snobbish yet messy attitude didn’t work for me. I did like the idea of elementals at an academy, and how wind magic and dragon magic work.

DNF 9%

Series DNF

About the Book

Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie C Dao

An East Asian fantasy reimagining of The Evil Queen legend about one peasant girl’s quest to become Empress—and the darkness she must unleash to achieve her destiny.

Eighteen-year-old Xifeng is beautiful. The stars say she is destined for greatness, that she is meant to be Empress of Feng Lu. But only if she embraces the darkness within her. Growing up as a peasant in a forgotten village on the edge of the map, Xifeng longs to fulfill the destiny promised to her by her cruel aunt, the witch Guma, who has read the cards and seen glimmers of Xifeng’s majestic future. But is the price of the throne too high?

Because in order to achieve greatness, she must spurn the young man who loves her and exploit the callous magic that runs through her veins—sorcery fueled by eating the hearts of the recently killed. For the god who has sent her on this journey will not be satisfied until his power is absolute.

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

I liked the premise. But Xifeng is a bit too dark and without any redeeming qualities (that I could see) for me to bond with her. Killing innocent animals purely to eat their hearts to remove a blemish from her “perfect” face was just too much – especially eating them raw and still beating… I like dark stories, but there needs to be something redeeming about the MC for me to stick around and root for.

DNF 17%

1 unicorn star rating

About the Book

Vampire Bites by various authors

Grab your copy of Vampire Bites today and dive into a limited edition collection of vampire tales from bestselling paranormal romance and urban fantasy authors.

Whether you want to fall in love, fight the bad guy, or travel to a different era, each of these vampire stories has something different to offer. So why not grab yourself a copy and take a bite!

This collection is all brand new content and exclusive to Bookfunnel!

Includes the following stories:

Vampire Enchanted by New York Times & USA Today Bestselling Authors, Celia Kyle & Marina Maddix

Carnival Of Lies by USA Today Bestselling Author, Laura Greenwood

Scarlett by USA Today Bestselling Author, Arizona Tape

Blood Love by Quirah Casey

The Vampire Knight by Corinne M Knight

The Rewound Night by Jewel Cassidy

Scarlett The Vampire Hunter by New York Times & Wall Street Journal Bestselling Author, Margo Bond Collins

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

I opened the book and realised that one of the stories is actually a book I’ve read before – and thought wasn’t well-written at all. (You can read my review of “The Vampire Knight” by Corinne M Knight on Goodreads and on my blog.) This just put me off reading the anthology.

DNF

1 unicorn star rating

About the Book

Cendrilla (Perrault Chronicles #1) by Cordelia Castel

Rilla Perrault is not elegant or charming like her step-sisters. She cannot dance, is incapable of serving an elegant tea, and, according to Mother, curtseys like a constipated boar. When Rilla is betrothed, by force to Lord Bluebeard, a man suspected of murdering his previous wives, she escapes to the capital with Bluebeard’s slave, Jack.
Having paid a hefty bride-price, Lord Bluebeard sets his mercenaries on the chase for the runaway pair. Now, Rilla must reach the capital, a place where ogres like Bluebeard are forbidden to enter, before her murderous betrothed and his blood-thirsty servants exact their vengeance.

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

I like fairy tale retellings, but this one just doesn’t work for me. Too much whining on the part of Cendrilla about her lot in life and too much exposition on who’s who and what they look like.

DNF 8%

DNF series

1 unicorn star rating

About the Book

Made You Up by Francesca Zappia

Reality, it turns out, is often not what you perceive it to be—sometimes, there really is someone out to get you. Made You Up tells the story of Alex, a high school senior unable to tell the difference between real life and delusion.

Alex fights a daily battle to figure out the difference between reality and delusion. Armed with a take-no-prisoners attitude, her camera, a Magic 8-Ball, and her only ally (her little sister), Alex wages a war against her schizophrenia, determined to stay sane long enough to get into college. She’s pretty optimistic about her chances until classes begin, and she runs into Miles. Didn’t she imagine him? Before she knows it, Alex is making friends, going to parties, falling in love, and experiencing all the usual rites of passage for teenagers. But Alex is used to being crazy. She’s not prepared for normal. 

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

No idea what’s going on or why it’s important to free the lobsters – and worse: I don’t care.

DNF 10%

1 unicorn star rating

About the Book

The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma

On the outside, there’s Violet, an eighteen-year-old dancer days away from the life of her dreams when something threatens to expose the shocking truth of her achievement.

On the inside, within the walls of the Aurora Hills juvenile detention center, there’s Amber, locked up for so long she can’t imagine freedom.

Tying their two worlds together is Orianna, who holds the key to unlocking all the girls’ darkest mysteries…

What really happened on the night Orianna stepped between Violet and her tormentors? What really happened on two strange nights at Aurora Hills? Will Amber and Violet and Orianna ever get the justice they deserve—in this life or in another one?

In prose that sings from line to line, Nova Ren Suma tells a supernatural tale of guilt and of innocence, and of what happens when one is mistaken for the other.

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

The prose flows, but I’m not bonding with the characters, and the situations are triggering me.

DNF 11%

1 unicorn star rating

About the Book

An Odelia Grey Mystery: Too Big to Miss by Sue Ann Jaffarian

Too big to miss — that’s Odelia Grey. A never-married, middle-aged, plus-sized woman who makes no excuses for her weight, she’s not super woman just a mere mortal standing on the precipice of menopause, trying to cruise in an ill-fitting bra. She struggles with her relationships, her crazy family, and her crazier boss. And then there’s her knack for being in close proximity to dead people . . . .

When her close friend Sophie London commits suicide in front of an online web-cam by putting a gun in her mouth and pulling the trigger, Odelia’s life is changed forever. Sophie, a plus-sized activist and inspiration to imperfect women, is the last person anyone would ever have expected to end her own life. Suspecting foul play, Odelia is determined to get to the bottom of her friend’s death. Odelia’s search for the truth takes her from southern California strip malls to the world of live web-cam porn to the ritzy enclave of Corona del Mar.

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

I was looking forward to this series, but the coarse language is off-putting (and unnecessary).

DNF 3%

DNF series

1 unicorn star rating

About the Book

Fallen (Fallen #1) by Lauren Kate

There’s something achingly familiar about Daniel Grigori.

Mysterious and aloof, he captures Luce Price’s attention from the moment she sees him on her first day at the Sword & Cross boarding school in sultry Savannah, Georgia. He’s the one bright spot in a place where cell phones are forbidden, the other students are all screw-ups, and security cameras watch every move.

Even though Daniel wants nothing to do with Luce—and goes out of his way to make that very clear—she can’t let it go. Drawn to him like a moth to a flame, she has to find out what Daniel is so desperate to keep secret… even if it kills her.

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

I heard loads about this series and decided to finally read it. It reads okay, but the general sense of the book I’m getting is grey, dull and everyone is messed-up. I’m also not bonding with the MC, which is bad.

DNF 5 %

DNF Series

1 unicorn star rating

About the Book

Andy Smithson: Blast of the Dragon’s Fury by L.R.W. Lee

Video games don’t prepare you to fight dragons!
100+ five-star reviews. Experience it for yourself!

Andy Smithson just found out how much the zap of a wizard’s curse can sting. But after an epically bad day, he finds wizards are the least of his problems.

An otherworldly force draws him to a medieval world where fire-breathing dragons, deranged pixies, and vengeful spirits are the way of things. Trading his controller for a sword of legend, Andy embarks upon an epic quest to break a centuries-old curse oppressing the land. It isn’t chance that plunges him into the adventure though, for he soon discovers ancestors his parents have kept hidden from him are behind the curse.

Blast of the Dragon’s Fury is a coming-of-age, epic fantasy adventure featuring fast-paced action, sword fights, laugh-out-loud humor, with a few life lessons thrown in.

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

I was looking forward to reading this one: dragons, magical creatures, video games… But no. The beginning throws one from one place to the next without proper context – a dream sequence. And the MC seemingly always in trouble just grated on my nerves.

DNF 4%

DNF Series

1 unicorn star rating

About the Book

The Changeling by Victor LaValle

One man’s thrilling journey through an enchanted world to find his wife, who has disappeared after seemingly committing an unforgiveable act of violence, from the award-winning author of the The Devil in Silver and Big Machine.

Apollo Kagwa has had strange dreams that have haunted him since childhood. An antiquarian book dealer with a business called Improbabilia, he is just beginning to settle into his new life as a committed and involved father, unlike his own father who abandoned him, when his wife Emma begins acting strange. Disconnected and uninterested in their new baby boy, Emma at first seems to be exhibiting all the signs of post-partum depression, but it quickly becomes clear that her troubles go far beyond that. Before Apollo can do anything to help, Emma commits a horrific act—beyond any parent’s comprehension—and vanishes, seemingly into thin air.

Thus begins Apollo’s odyssey through a world he only thought he understood to find a wife and child who are nothing like he’d imagined. His quest begins when he meets a mysterious stranger who claims to have information about Emma’s whereabouts. Apollo then begins a journey that takes him to a forgotten island in the East River of New York City, a graveyard full of secrets, a forest in Queens where immigrant legends still live, and finally back to a place he thought he had lost forever. This dizzying tale is ultimately a story about family and the unfathomable secrets of the people we love.

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

I wanted to like this book. But I just didn’t connect with the narrative. So I went and read a couple of reviews to see what I’m missing… And it turns out me not connecting with the book at this stage is indicative of what would happen later anyway (the quotes in the reviews have some coarse language that is off-putting), though the themes would still pull me in.

DNF 3%

1 unicorn star rating

About the Book

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

Days before his release from prison, Shadow’s wife, Laura, dies in a mysterious car crash. Numbly, he makes his way back home. On the plane, he encounters the enigmatic Mr Wednesday, who claims to be a refugee from a distant war, a former god and the king of America.

Together they embark on a profoundly strange journey across the heart of the USA, whilst all around them a storm of preternatural and epic proportions threatens to break.

Scary, gripping and deeply unsettling, American Gods takes a long, hard look into the soul of America. You’ll be surprised by what – and who – it finds there…

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

It’s probably good, but the language is off-putting. The storm intrigues, though.

DNF 3%

1 unicorn star rating

my christmas wish list books that won't bore, trigger or offend me. i just want a good book to get lost in... every day of the year. pretty please

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12 thoughts on “More Books I’ve Read this Year #BookReviews #Books #2023reads”

  1. Excellent list of books. Random notice– blue seems to be the dominant color in your book choices. I don’t know why I noticed that.

    What book did you most enjoy this year?
    May joy, peace, and goodwill be with you this season and always.

    J Lenni Dorner (he/him 👨🏽 or 🧑🏽 they/them) ~ Speculative Fiction & Reference Author and Co-host of the April Blogging #AtoZchallenge

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