A to Z Challenge Book Reviews

My Languishing TBR: A #AtoZChallenge2023 #Books #BookReviews

A is for ARCs

ARCs are Advance Reader Copies authors and publishers send out to select reviewers.

Learn more about the challenge here.

I’m doing folklore and book review posts to reach and please a larger audience. Previous years have shown select interest in both and to minimise blogging throughout the year, I’m focusing my efforts on April.

Focusing on an A to Z of my TBR (to be read) list, each letter will have books starting with that letter on my list, a book I’ve read and reviewed (with the review!) and one of my books matching the letter with a link about more info about the book (I’ve published some new books, so take a look).

I chose the books this year quite randomly from my Goodreads Want to Read page. Some are quite creatively added to letters.

I know there were suggestions in last year’s Reflection post that I skip my TBR and just get on with the review, but I like knowing what I have left to read for each letter (and how far I’ve come with all the reading challenges I’ve done) so things are staying the same. Scroll down to the reviews if you’re not interested in what my TBR still contains. FYI, you might encounter issues with commenting if you don’t tick all the boxes marked as mandatory (especially the privacy one).

Let the fun begin!

If you’d rather check out my folklore post for today, go here.


About the Book I’ve Read

Twice Upon a Name by various authors

Double the name and double the magic, mystery, and mayhem

Once upon a time, a fairy tale name generator issued a challenge to a group of authors. Volume Two of these quirky stories brings double trouble.

In this clean YA anthology, spy on thieves discovering their princely identities, accompany villains seeking redemption along with accident-prone geese, and rejoice in the reunion of siblings separated at birth. Side with twins split between good and evil, giggle over mistaken identities, and discover the secrets of royal doppelgängers. When fates are intertwined by a namesake, mayhem and mischief are sure to follow.

Venture into this collection of adventurous stories by award-winning and up-and-coming authors and see if what happens once . . . happens twice!

Pssst…some characters from Once Upon A Name might make a comeback, but the two sets and all stories in them can be read as standalones.

All proceeds donated to charity in support of reading and literacy.

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

There are good stories, there are meh stories and then there are stories I just couldn’t read. The ones which are in italics for parts (for reasons beyond my understanding) wasn’t accessible in the sense that I just couldn’t read italics, so the DNF has nothing to do with the story, just that I couldn’t read it. My favourites were “Bloody Mary’s Day Off” and “Games Egyptians Play”. The blurb says it’s a YA fantasy anthology, yet the only obvious YA was “Bloody Mary’s Day Off”. Some were Fantasy Romance, some were Urban Fantasy, and some were Historical Fantasy. Reviews of stories below:

O Time, Untangle This

It took a while to realise that this is supposed to be fantasy romance, but once that realisation comes, the story is enjoyable with all its hijinks. Would have liked more of a hint of genre at the start.

Siren Songs

I’m getting the impression it’s a fantasy romance anthology… A cute story about the sirens, a muse and the girl who keeps them all alive. There’s a bit of romance and music, too.

The Lies of Lady Roseberry

Okay, so not a fantasy romance anthology… An interesting story about con artists, kingdoms, successions, and how apologising for the wrongs you’ve done can free you.

Poison Queen

A good story with fae and treason. Felt forced to be short as the story has novel-length potential.

To Walk in Royal Shoes

An okay story about realm jumping, doubles, and mistaken identity.

Born to Prove

The italics this story is in made it impossible for me to read. DNF.

Hippolyta Goes Hunting

All the talk about slaughtering and eating a mule without any context just put me off the story. DNF.

The Twin Ambers

The author’s note was interesting, but all the talk of family stress and war just didn’t work for me. DNF.

For Osian

I liked the dark elf. Not sure I like the human and vampire…

To Find a Queen

I think I’ve read this story before… Or at least a version of it in a previous anthology. DNF.

A Feast of Wills

So much telling… DNF

Star Dancer

Climbing a cliff without giving a reason why it’s important… DNF

Haunting King Ezra

A good story. I liked the use of alchemy. Feels like I’ve read it before, though, especially the cemetery scene.

Bloody Mary’s Day Off

A deliciously dark tale of a teenage witch out for revenge. I liked her skull sanctuary.

In the Fierce Shadows

The guy’s a bit whiny… DNF

A Polite Thief

Urgh. The patriarchy oozed off page one. DNF.

The Hummingbird

The physical and mental anguish the MC went through triggered me. DNF

Terror & Twilight

Too much italics made this too difficult to read. DNF

Games Egyptians Play

The story immediately drew me in. I especially liked the Sphinx.

Allie and the Fox

Too many instances of italics for me to read the story. DNF

Cursed Destiny

Starts with italics, which makes it difficult to read. Then there’s mention of a snake named Nagini – too Harry Potter. DNF.

12 DNF out of 21 = 1.75

2 unicorn star rating

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

About the Book I’ve Read

Proof of Existence by J Lenni Dorner

World-ending secrets and threats…

Proof of Existence picks up from Fractions of Existence‘s cliffhanger, where Gwendolyn is among the hostages of the Eyes in the Shadows, a religious sect that has been trying to free humans from the “prison” of life on Earth for millennia. Rescuing her requires the Existence to expose themselves. As omnipotent beings, their work to protect humanity has been mostly in secret for the last two centuries.

Gwendolyn must remember and embrace what she truly is, though fear and doubt stifle her. She risked everything by acting on her attraction to Xavier, but her religious beliefs stop her from taking the important next step. Life-threatening news has her wanting to go home to see her family. Will they still love and accept her, despite her actions and choices? Or could a secret rip her family apart?

Feeling lonely, tormented, and useless, Existence member Heath goes off the grid. A ransom video from Eyes in the Shadows demands he be traded for the lives of others. Can the Existence find him in time to tell him about the threat? Even if Heath can be reached, would his kind really trade him to potentially save someone else?

The Eyes in the Shadows is set to finally end all human life on Earth forever. Only if the Existence is reunited, with all members at full power, could they stand against them. How many will suffer if the Existence should fail? How much damage could possibly be done in the next twenty years? Proof of Existence, the second book of the Existence mythological urban fantasy series from J Lenni Dorner, is set during the first half of 2006.

Trigger warnings can be found on J Lenni Dorner’s blog on the What Are They page with the description for this book.

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

I should preface this review with a trigger warning: it’s quite a dark story with the Eyes of the Shadows abducting tween girls to use their first menstrual blood in some dark rite to destroy the Existence. These girls are brutalised (broken bones, etc.) and made to fear the monsters who abducted them. If they didn’t have to be virgins for the sacrifice, it would have been even worse for them. The air is filled with this menace at the start of the book and woven throughout.

So Wend irritates me even more than in the previous book. For a lot of reasons. She even makes Jez seem sane and nice. I’m glad someone calls her out on the tantrums she throws.

Again, a lot of nudity she disapproves of, Wend throwing up and falling down more than is normal and being carried by Xavier (if she’d wanted that sort of closeness, she didn’t need to pretend). And I could have made a drinking game out of her saying “I want to go home”.

The rest of the book is actually cool with lots of great setting, description, and awesome action scenes when the rest use their powers.

I liked Xavier’s parents and Jez’s mom and Jun’s mom. I’m glad Wend’s mom gets along with Xavier’s parents and that she will have the support she needs.

Seeing Heath pass out because he’s a dad is priceless!

Would have liked more destruction rained down on the Eyes in the Shadows. And is Zoe who I think she is?

Jez’s dalliance with an actor named Tom was actually hilarious and a nice nod to popular culture in 2006.

I think Jun’s powers are the best. (Probably because I’m better at composting than gardening.)

And knowing what I do about various mythologies, where is the rest of the Existence? (Or maybe I’m reading too much into the extra chairs.)

Can’t wait to see what they all get up to in the next book!

4 unicorn star rating

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

About the Book I’ve Read

Return to Silverhills by Sandra Cox

The Wades’ saga continues as Alex and Brandon return to Silverhills, bringing Alex’s friend Lisa with them.
They arrive home just as Jeff Wade, Brandon’s younger brother, is about to head a trail drive across the Chisholm Trail. But there’s a problem, the cattle drive cook has a broken arm.
A week later, Lisa sets out on the drive as the camp cook along with the Silverhills’ cowpunchers and a thousand head of longhorn. Trail drives are always dangerous, but this one has more than its share of perils. Snowstorms, flashfloods, hot lead and rustlers are just a few of the dangers they encounter.
And if that’s not enough for the trail boss to be dealing with, he can’t ignore the white-hot attraction he feels for the petite, lovely blonde who drives the chuckwagon like a seasoned camp cook. Jeff is very much afraid that falling in love could prove more fatal than the bullets flying along the Chisholm Trail.

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

An enjoyable tale full of adventure, danger, growth and healing (for Lisa), with a touch of romance.

The cute calf born on the trail was my favourite. Except for the horses! So many awesome scenes with the horses.

Jeff is sweet, shown in his interactions with the animals. Cookie is awesome.

Great worldbuilding with rich descriptions and characters to care about. This has made me want to read more Westerns.

4 unicorn star rating

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

About the Book I’ve Read

With a Demon’s Eye by J.F. Penn

Conflict photographer, Sara Miles, loves being embedded with the military out in the desert. Her pictures pay tribute to those who fight, suffer, and die for freedom and the images she captures can turn public perception in the never-ending war.

Her photography matters.

But when Sara is caught in an explosion out on patrol, her eyes are damaged by a face full of shrapnel. She may never be able to see through a lens again.

The military offers her a cutting-edge operation to restore her sight, but it comes with a price …

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

A gut-wrenching tale of war, death, injury and surgery. The twist at the end is brilliant – and made the story for me.

5 unicorn star rating

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

My Book

A Way Back Into Love

I hope you enjoyed this. For more books I’ve read and reviewed, check out either my Pinterest board about reviews or my Goodreads profile. Alternatively, you can check out my reviews on BookBub. Have you read any of the books? Loved or hated any of them?

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

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45 thoughts on “My Languishing TBR: A #AtoZChallenge2023 #Books #BookReviews”

  1. OMG OMG OMG, you’re gonna love and laugh at “T” day on my blog. ✋🏽 Please hang on to this high five for yourself on “T” day. 🪑
    Also, my M touches on your first paragraph of the review.
    Is Heath a dad? Chance Frank Phipps was born in 1948…🤔 You sure the older guy isn’t fibbing?
    (Just kidding, you know you nailed it. 🧠🔗🧠 You’ve got a link to my brain.)
    Jez 💗 Tom. I wrote that part years ago, long before the big-bad controversy of certain series where that young actor had a role. Wait till book 3 though… Jez has some more fellows with which to play.
    I’m so glad you noticed the parents. (Especially Xavier’s mom, who will not be ignored. 😆)
    🌱 Great to see Jun getting some love. Not a lot of my fellow mutes in fiction.

    Horses! That could have been an IWSG book for last month’s reading challenge.
    With a Demon’s Eye — love that cover.
    Well, now you’ve grown MY tbr. LOL. There’s a bout of books readathon in May. Perhaps I can catch up on reading then, as A to Z will be over.

  2. Hello Ronel,

    Great start for the A-Z. I particularly like your comments on DNF as I sometime struggle with the idea to abandon reading a book. Zulu Delta

  3. I have to say, my TBR list pales in comparison to yours! I hope you have a chance to read at least some of these once the A to Z Challenge is over 🙂 And thanks for your visit to my letter A post.

  4. Thanks Ronel for visiting my A-Z post about Australian tree ferns.

    I must admit I am not into reading folklore stories, but ancient Egypt does pique my interest.

  5. Wow, that´s a great TBR list. Last year I´ve also made mine grow as I got a dozens of new books as gifts for ARC reviews or that I won on giveaways. I remember that I read Alice in Zombieland many years ago and I enjoyed it. On the other hand, I wanted to buy and read the Twice upon a name anthology, too bad that many people say that some stories are somehow lacking, I´ve read some stories by a couple of the authors there and really looked forward to reading them.
    Now I´m more intrigued about the Proof of Existence book, I´m reading the blog posts and liking it so far. Thanks for the TW, I know some people may need them.

    Visiting from https://steampunkcowunicorn.wordpress.com/2023/04/02/a-is-for-abask/

  6. OMG how do you read so many books lol. Voracious is one word for it but not sure it does your reading level justice. Such a detailed post. Not really my favourite genre for reading but interesting to see what other people think of books. Thanks for your visit to my blog.

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