On These Black Sands (Aisling Sea, #1) – Vanessa Rasanen [ARC Review]

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Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Synopsis:

AN HEIR ON THE RUN

In one month, Aoife Cascade will turn twenty and take her seat on the Council of Cregah, an honor she’s been preparing for her whole life. But when she lets a secret slip to her mother with devastating consequences, all her plans for the future crumble. Believing her people to be better off without her, she flees Cregah, stowing away aboard a pirate ship bound for dangerous waters.

A PIRATE CAPTAIN WHO NEEDS HER HELP

Captain Declan McCallagh is young compared to the pirate lords, but after twelve years on the grueling sea, he has earned a well-respected ship and the attention of the lords, who’d like nothing better than to see his ruin. All he wants is to leave the Aisling Sea-and his past-behind him. But when his sister demands he find the enchanted dagger her rebel faction needs to overthrow the ruling Council, he’ll have to decide whether to cast off all family ties or take the perilous voyage to waters guarded by sirens, only passable with the help of the last remaining fae, currently imprisoned by the Council.

With murder and betrayal at every turn, can Aoife and Declan learn to rely on one another?

Or will the secrets they carry destroy their people-and each other?

Review:

Massive thank you to Vanessa Rasanen and Book of Matches Media for sending me this e-arc! All opinions are my own.

So I had been hearing rumblings about On These Black Sands for a while and I was definitely intrigued. And then the fates aligned and I was able to sign up for the ARC tour with Book of Matches Media. I was so excited to be chosen and to get my hands on an early copy of this incredible book.

On These Black Sands is a fantasy pirate adventure full of snarky characters, swoon-worthy pirates, and an absolutely fascinating world that I am dying to learn more about. There’s swashbuckling adventures, political intrigue, romance, betrayal, and some truly crazy twists!

On These Black Sands is primarily told through two perspectives: Aoife and Declan. Aoife is a naive young woman and former heir whose entire world has just been shattered. Declan is a young pirate captain desperate to prove himself and keep his painful memories at bay. These two characters have a magnetic pull to each other. Their connection was evident from the first time they meet and it only grew with each interaction. On These Black Sands is an excellent slow burn romance. It takes a while and we really only get a taste, but I can’t wait for more of Aoife and Declan. One of my favorite things about their relationship is that there’s an instant attraction and connection, but they don’t act on it. No instant love here! Aoife and Declan spend countless hours just talking and getting to know one another. This builds on their initial connection and creates such a beautiful bond. Some of my favorite scenes were just Aoife and Declan together in the captain’s quarters. I adore their sassy banter!! Plus there’s an “only one bed” trope which is one of my favorites! Not to mention . . . Declan is totally swoon-worthy!

There are also a few side characters who I am dying to get to know more. AKA TOMMY! I can’t wait to get more of him (and the rest of the crew) in the next book. There’s also Declan’s sister, Cait, who has a few of her own POV chapters that were super intriguing. I really want to know more about Cait and her rebel group, the rogues. My one complaint about On These Black Sands is that I wanted more. Cait’s chapters and story arc were all very vague. I feel like I still don’t really know what her purpose with the rogues is and who they really are. I’m guessing that this is all coming in the upcoming books.

On These Black Sands is definitely a “set-up” book. What I mean by this is that there is a whole lot that is introduced and that I am dying to know more about. There is action, adventure, and more, but there is a lot of world-building and set up for the rest of the series. I was totally captivated by this story and I cannot wait to continue on this adventure with Declan, Aoife, and the crew of the Siren’s Song. There is so much more coming in the rest of the series. I am especially looking forward to more of the fantasy elements (the fae, magic dagger, etc.) coming into play.

The ending of On These Black Sands is epic. The twists and cliffhanger are crazy and have me so dang excited for the next book in this series. That cliffhanger is perfect. I don’t know how I am going to wait to find out what happens next. Curse of being an early reader, I guess?

Some random things that I loved about On These Black Sands:

  • The colorful and vibrant towns. Vanessa’s writing is so descriptive and vivid. I loved the imagery!
  • The Irish influence!! My last name is McCarthy so I love the Irish inspiration! I will say that I am so grateful that Vanessa included a pronunciation guide.
  • Anxiety and panic attack representation. I love seeing mental health rep in fantasy books. As someone who also struggles with generalized anxiety disorder and panic attacks, I truly appreciated the way Vanessa depicted Aoife’s anxiety.

On These Black Sands is a fantastic book! I was hooked from the very beginning and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it! If you love pirates, a good slow burn romance, well written characters, and fascinating world building then you should definitely check out On These Black Sands by Vanessa Rasanen!

On These Black Sands is set to release August 10th, 2021. Preorder your copy today!!

Six Crimson Cranes (Six Crimson Cranes, #1) – Elizabeth Lim [ARC Review]

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

Synopsis:

A princess in exile, a shapeshifting dragon, six enchanted cranes, and an unspeakable curse… Drawing from fairy tales and East Asian folklore, this original fantasy from the author of Spin the Dawn is perfect for fans of Shadow and Bone.

“A dazzling fairytale full of breathtaking storytelling.” – Stephanie Garber, New York Times bestselling author of Caraval.

Shiori’anma, the only princess of Kiata, has a secret. Forbidden magic runs through her veins. Normally she conceals it well, but on the morning of her betrothal ceremony, Shiori loses control. At first, her mistake seems like a stroke of luck, forestalling the wedding she never wanted. But it also catches the attention of Raikama, her stepmother.

A sorceress in her own right, Raikama banishes the young princess, turning her brothers into cranes. She warns Shiori that she must speak of it to no one: for with every word that escapes her lips, one of her brothers will die.

Penniless, voiceless, and alone, Shiori searches for her brothers, and uncovers a dark conspiracy to seize the throne. Only Shiori can set the kingdom to rights, but to do so she must place her trust in a paper bird, a mercurial dragon, and the very boy she fought so hard not to marry. And she must embrace the magic she’s been taught all her life to forswear–no matter what the cost.

Weaving together elements of The Wild Swans, Cinderella, the legend of Chang E, and the Tale of the Bamboo Cutter, Elizabeth Lim has crafted a fantasy like no other, and one that will stay with readers long after they’ve turned the last page.

Review:

Huge thank you to Knopf Books for Young Readers/Random House Children’s and Netgalley for providing this e-ARC in exchange for my honest review. I was a huge fan of Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim so I was thrilled to see she was coming out with a new book! Six Crimson Cranes immediately grabbed my attention with that absolutely G O R G E O U S cover! I could seriously stare at it all day. Major props to the cover artist!

Overall, I really enjoyed Six Crimson Cranes! It is part fantasy part fairytale that features East Asian folklore and tells a truly beautiful story. Elizabeth Lim is a fantastic storyteller. My favorite part of Six Crimson Cranes was the imagery and setting. Every single scene . . . from the snowy mountain view in Iro to the nettles on Mount Rayuna and even Raikama’s garden . . . was stunningly crafted. I am in awe of Lim’s ability to create a scene and truly pull the reader in.

I also really loved Shiori’s interactions with the dragons plus her relationship with her brothers. I was initially a bit concerned about this story because there were several plot points that seemed to be very similar to those in Spin the Dawn. Both books feature a female lead with brothers + the female lead is on a mission to craft/sew/weave a magical object in order to save her family. I’m happy to say that the similarities ended there.

The reason that Six Crimson Cranes was only 3.5 stars for me was the pacing. The first part of the book was good, but it didn’t really capture my interest. It wasn’t until Shiori arrives in Iro that I was fully hooked by the story. The climax and last part of the story were so exciting and had me on the edge of my seat. I wasn’t surprised by any of the twists or the ending, but I still was totally captivated. However, the last line of the book totally blew me away because I did not see that coming.


Six Crimson Cranes was a really good story that featured some truly beautiful scenery. If you are a fan of Spin the Dawn then I definitely recommend this one. I can’t wait to find out what happens in the next book!

SIX CRIMSON CRANES BY ELIZABETH LIM IS SET TO BE RELEASED JULY 6TH, 2021.

The Saltwater Heir – Cassidy Clarke [ARC Review]

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Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Synopsis:

Princess Soren of Nyx is no stranger to loss after a decade-long war with the neighboring kingdom of Atlas. But with her best friend slowly succumbing to a cruel Atlas poison, she hatches a reckless plan: kidnap the enemy prince from the battlefield and use his life to barter for the antidote.

But when that prince calls her by a different name…the name of his sister, whose death began the war ten years ago…everything changes.

Stolen away to Atlas, trapped behind enemy lines, Soren must navigate a kingdom she knows nothing about, surrounded by a family she doesn’t remember, and work to hunt down the antidote only Atlas possesses, all while strange memories fight to take over-memories of a different life, a different home, a different girl.

And memories aren’t the only thing awakened by Soren’s return. Dark, forbidden magics begin to stir, threatening both her new life and her old. With death stalking in every shadow, the lost princess must fight harder and sacrifice more than she ever dreamed to save what she holds most dear.

Review:

Huge thank you to Sapphire Ink Press and Cassidy Clarke for providing this eARC in exchange for my honest review!

When I first heard about The Saltwater Heir through Sapphire Ink Press I was instantly intrigued by the synopsis. I signed up for the cover reveal and was then blown away by this S T U N N I N G cover. With that cover + synopsis I knew I absolutely had to read The Saltwater Heir!!

The Saltwater Heir is Cassidy Clarke’s debut novel and it is phenomenal! This book is magical, unique, and totally captivating. This was just the fantasy refresher I needed. A lot of YA fantasy feels the same these days, but TSH blew me away. The writing is stunning and the world building is so well done. The Saltwater Heir is NA fantasy but so much more . . . there’s mystery, romance, and familial bonds. All set in an epic world that is full of magic and lore!

The Saltwater Heir tells the story of Soren, the princess of Nyx. Through a series of events, Soren discovers that she is actually the long thought dead princess from the rival kingdom, Atlas. Soren must deal with her new identity and the life she knew, plus get to know a whole new family and kingdom all while trying to save her best friend. Soren’s memories slowly awaken, but dark magic also begins to stir in Atlas.

The Saltwater Heir is told through multiple points of view . . . Soren/Soriel, Elias, Kallias, and Finn. Sometimes too many POVs can be distracting and pull the reader away from the story, but this was absolutely not the case here. There was absolutely no break in the flow. Each POV added so much to the story and allowed me to get to know the characters so much more! Each POV offered a different perspective to the events happening in the palace which really elevated the story. My favorite POV is definitely Finn. He’s also my favorite character. I saw a review that described Finn as Nikolai Lanstov meets Loki and this is so perfect. Finn is so loveable and witty. I looked forward to every scene that involved him.

I also really enjoyed Soren/Soriel’s POV and character. I especially love her relationship with Finn. The Atlas siblings are all fantastic and I love the dynamic between them, but there’s just something extra special about Finn and Soren/Soriel. I definitely have fallen the Atlas siblings!

The Saltwater Heir also features a mix of present day with flashbacks and memories. I really liked how Clarke wove in these memories into the story so seamlessly. A huge part of TSH is Soren’s journey to discover her identity and come to terms with her past and present. She has to find a way to love and accept both parts of herself . . . the Nyxian raised with the Atlas born. I loved going on this journey with her and I truly felt like I was there. I really felt like I was with all the characters . . . Finn as he explores the city streets, Kallias as he struggles with his duties, Elias as he comes to term with his fate. Every single character’s arc and journey is vital to the story!

Really quick before I wrap things up, I have to touch on the world-building and imagery. This world is beautiful! Atlas, with its beaches and festivals was especially gorgeous. I could totally picture everything as it happened. I definitely want to visit! Which brings me to the downright creepy part of The Saltwater Heir . . . necromancy! Clarke did a brilliant job writing the scenes with the army of the dead. She depicted it so well that I was totally creeped out! Especially a certain scene in Soren’s room! I am so impressed with Clarke’s world building and ability to create such strong imagery!

The last part of The Saltwater Heir tore my heart out and put me through an emotional rollercoaster. I truly did not see the twists coming. I figured out a small part of the big reveal, but I had no idea the extent of it. My jaw kept dropping with each twist! Even though it hurt, the ending was totally epic. And the cliffhanger has me dying for the sequel!

As you can probably tell I LOVED this book! The Saltwater Heir is a fantastic debut (seriously I’m so impressed with Cassidy Clarke!) that is a refreshing YA fantasy full of magic, twists, and incredible characters. I highly recommend this book!

THE SALTWATER HEIR IS SET TO BE RELEASED JUNE 25TH, 2021.

The Nature of Witches – Rachel Griffin [ARC Review]

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Rating: ⭐️⭐️

Synopsis:

For centuries, witches have maintained the climate, their power from the sun peaking in the season of their birth. But now their control is faltering as the atmosphere becomes more erratic. All hope lies with Clara, an Everwitch whose rare magic is tied to every season.

In Autumn, Clara wants nothing to do with her power. It’s wild and volatile, and the price of her magic―losing the ones she loves―is too high, despite the need to control the increasingly dangerous weather.

In Winter, the world is on the precipice of disaster. Fires burn, storms rage, and Clara accepts that she’s the only one who can make a difference.

In Spring, she falls for Sang, the witch training her. As her magic grows, so do her feelings, until she’s terrified Sang will be the next one she loses.

In Summer, Clara must choose between her power and her happiness, her duty and the people she loves… before she loses Sang, her magic, and thrusts the world into chaos.

Practical Magic meets Twister in this debut contemporary fantasy standalone about heartbreaking power, the terror of our collapsing atmosphere, and the ways we unknowingly change our fate.

Review:

Huge thank you to Sourcebooks Fire, Netgalley, and Rachel Griffin for providing this e-arc in exchange for my honest review.

I stumbled upon The Nature of Witches while scrolling through Netgalley and I was instantly intrigued by the title, cover, and synopsis. I love all things w i t c h y so I was very excited to read this. Unfortunately, The Nature of Witches fell flat for me.


I’ll start with what I liked!

My favorite part of The Nature of Witches is the magic. It is such an incredibly cool magic system. Every witch has seasonal based powers based on the time of year they were born. There are Autumn, Winter, Spring, and Summer witches. Each season witch is strongest during their season and can control that season’s weather. Clara is an Ever Witch, an incredibly rare type of witch who is able to use magic of all four seasons. I loved all the scenes where the witches were using their magic. It was so cool to see them control the weather and combat natural disasters like catastrophic tornadoes, heat waves in the winter, floods, etc. If I were a witch in the world of The Nature of Witches I would definitely want to be an Autumn witch. No surprise there since it is my favorite season!

While I didn’t feel especially connected to any of the characters, I did really like two of them. One is Paige because she calls out Clara on her shit and I loved it. Clara could get very frustrating so it was nice to have Paige there to slap the sense into her for me. The other is Sang. He is the most pure and kind person. I really liked how his character affected Clara.

I also loved the message about the environment and protecting the earth!


And now I’ll briefly touch on what I didn’t like about The Nature of Witches.

The plot was just meh. There were moments of excitement during the weather scenes, but otherwise it was pretty boring. I feel like not much happened. And while I know that the stakes were high (saving the planet from environmental ruin caused by non-witches), it didn’t feel that way. It didn’t feel like there was any urgency.

Clara is also a very difficult MC to like. I understand and felt for her struggle with the consequences on her power, but the self-pity could be too much. She came across as very immature at times (which she is only seventeen so I’ll allow it). As I said earlier, Clara could get extremely frustrating so it was great to have Paige there to knock some sense into her. Despite this, I did enjoy Clara’s journey towards self-acceptance and self-love. It was just annoying to read her somewhat whiny narration.


Overall, I thought that The Nature of Witches was just ok. Honestly, the magic and weather scenes saved it from being a one star read. I’m bummed because I loved the concept and the magic is so cool!

Have you read The Nature of Witches? Let me know what you think in the comments!

The Nature of Witches is set to be released June 1st, 2021 by Sourcebooks Fire.

The Prison Healer (The Prison Healer, #1) – Lynette Noni [ARC Review]

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Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Synopsis:

Seventeen-year-old Kiva Meridan has spent the last ten years fighting for survival in the notorious death prison, Zalindov, working as the prison healer.

When the Rebel Queen is captured, Kiva is charged with keeping the terminally ill woman alive long enough for her to undergo the Trial by Ordeal: a series of elemental challenges against the torments of air, fire, water, and earth, assigned to only the most dangerous of criminals.

Then a coded message from Kiva’s family arrives, containing a single order: “Don’t let her die. We are coming.” Aware that the Trials will kill the sickly queen, Kiva risks her own life to volunteer in her place. If she succeeds, both she and the queen will be granted their freedom.

But no one has ever survived.

With an incurable plague sweeping Zalindov, a mysterious new inmate fighting for Kiva’s heart, and a prison rebellion brewing, Kiva can’t escape the terrible feeling that her trials have only just begun.

From bestselling author Lynette Noni comes a dark, thrilling YA fantasy perfect for fans of Sarah J. Maas, and Sabaa Tahir.

Review:

HUGE thank you to HMH Books for Young Readers & Netgalley for providing me with this eARC in exchange for my honest review!

I was browsing Netgalley one day when I came across a cover that caught my eye. It was The Prison Healer by Lynette Noni. I was immediately drawn in by the title and cover. Plus, while I had never read anything by Noni, my book bestie has read her The Medoran Chronicles series and is a massive fan! So suffice to say that I was thrilled when I got approved for an arc! And holy cow. Guys. The Prison Healer was freaking amazing!

The Prison Healer tells the story of Kiva Meridan. Kiva was imprisoned with her father ten years ago and she has been fighting to survive ever since. She works in the Zalindov prison as — you guessed it — the healer. Kiva spends everyday caring for the inmates of the brutal prison while maintaining hope that her family will rescue her. But everything changes when the Rebel Queen is captured and Kiva is placed in charge of the sick woman’s care. The Rebel Queen is sentenced to the Trial by Ordeal, but Kiva receives a message from her family to keep the queen alive. Kiva sacrifices everything and volunteers to take the Trials in the queen’s place. What comes next is intense, action-packed, and full of all kinds of twists and turns.

I absolutely loved The Prison Healer. I was immediately hooked by the atmosphere and high-stakes setting. The prison is intense, grim, and full of danger around every corner. I found myself so nervous as Kiva explained the day to day life of the prison. It is simply terrifying. Lynette Noni did an exceptional job of crafting this world and creating an all-encompassing, tension-filled atmosphere. I truly felt Kiva’s terror as she dealt with both the horrors of the prison and the Trial by Ordeal tasks. Kiva encounters abusive guards, aggressive fellow inmates, and truly terrifying trials. I was so on edge during the trials . . . especially the Trial by Fire. I’ll keep this spoiler free, but all you have to know is that I was petrified during this trial. Once again, Noni did such an incredible job of making me feel like I was with Kiva. I was with Kiva throughout the entire book and I couldn’t put it down. I had to know what happened next!!

One of my favorite parts of The Prison Healer is the healer aspect. As a nurse, I love to see characters who are passionate about healing and healthcare. Kiva was so incredibly inspiring with how she was truly selfless in her care. She cares for everyone who comes through her door the exact same way. It doesn’t matter who they are or what they’ve done. It’s what we all are trained to do as healthcare workers and I love seeing it represented so well in a fantasy book! I saw parts of myself in Kiva as she cared for her patients!

I was also fascinated by Kiva’s research and investigation into finding out the cause of the stomach virus plague that has overrun the prison. It was so fun (lol I am such a nerd) watching Kiva reason through the outbreak and come up with a plan to investigate. I am a huge nerd so I was loving all of the research and evidence based experimenting that Kiva was doing. Yay science!! This subplot was not only super interesting, but it also was another way that Noni was able to illustrate the injustices taking place at the prison.

And now for what you’ve all been waiting for . . . the romance. There wasn’t an overwhelming amount of romance in The Prison Healer. There are definitely moments and the start to more, but the romance was not the overall focus of the book. I was initially worried that the romance/love-interest was a bit too insta-lovey. It seemed liked that was the direction the story was going, but I definitely changed my mind. I think what started in the beginning as an initial attraction/insta-love became a supportive friendship that slowly developed over time. The way that Jaren supports Kiva throughout the story was amazing. I was definitely swooning! Even in his prison disarray . . . Jaren is dreamy!

As much as I love Jaren, he is not my favorite character from the book. That title belongs to Tipp!!! He is absolutely adorable and such a sweet kid. I loved all of his scenes. It’s heartbreaking that a sweet, innocent eleven-year-old is in a horrible prison, but Tipp is such a light in the darkness. He really pulls Kiva out of herself and I love it. Tipp, Jaren, and Naari (a prison guard) were all fantastic supporting characters. Shout out to Mot too! The whole cast of characters is so well done. Even the bad guys . . they were so creepy and truly evil, but so well done!

The Prison Healer ends with several major twists and a huge cliffhanger! I suspected a couple aspects of some of the twists, but I had no idea the extent. I was shocked! There are so many reveals and truly EPIC twists that my jaw dropped. And that ending?! Are you kidding!? I need book two now!!

As you can see I absolutely loved The Prison Healer! This book was incredible. The world-building, cast of characters, plot, and twists were all exceptional. My only problem now is that I need more. The Prison Healer hooked me from the start and kept me on the edge of my seat. It is definitely one of my new favorite books and I cannot recommend it enough!

The Prison Healer is set to be released April 13th, 2021.

Namesake (Fable, #2) – Adrienne Young [ARC Review]

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Rating: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ 

Synopsis:

Trader. Fighter. Survivor.

With the Marigold ship free of her father, Fable and its crew were set to start over. That freedom is short-lived when she becomes a pawn in a notorious thug’s scheme. In order to get to her intended destination she must help him to secure a partnership with Holland, a powerful gem trader who is more than she seems.

As Fable descends deeper into a world of betrayal and deception she learns that her mother was keeping secrets, and those secrets are now putting the people Fable cares about in danger. If Fable is going to save them then she must risk everything, including the boy she loves and the home she has finally found.

Filled with action, emotion, and lyrical writing, New York Times bestselling author Adrienne Young returns with Namesake, the final book in the captivating Fable duology.

Review:

Huge thank you to Wednesday Books and Netgalley for providing me with this eARC in exchange for my honest review.

Fable was one of my favorite reads from last year so I was totally thrilled to get my hands on an advanced copy of Namesake. I absolutely love this world Adrienne Young has created. This duology is an exciting, action-packed, and fun-filled adventure set on the high seas. There’s ships, traders, rivalries, treasure, and all kinds of sea-faring exploits! Fable ended with a big cliffhanger and Namesake picks up immediately after these events.

Fable ended with the titular character stuck in a very precarious position. We pick up as Fable must figure out what to do next. I have to be honest and say that Namesake did not go in the direction I thought it would. I knew it would deal with Fable’s current status and eventual trip to meet Holland. I just didn’t expect the actual events that occurred. That being said, I really enjoyed the plot of Namesake. It felt a lot faster paced than Fable and went in directions I didn’t necessarily expect. Namesake is a fast-paced story that

I loved being back with the crew of The Marigold. I truly feel like I am a part of the crew . . . which is ok in fictional worlds because I am TERRIFIED of the ocean in real life. I will continue to live vicariously through the crew of The Marigold! One of my favorite parts of Namesake is that we get to know more about the past of some of the members of the crew. I liked discovering what led each of them to this crew. And of course, we get more of our favorite helmsman, West. I loved seeing him and Fable interact more in this book. I will say that some of West’s actions did make him a bit unlikeable at times. I see where he’s coming from, but sometimes I just wanted to slap him!

We meet several new characters this time around . . . Clove, Holland, the Roths . . . and get to know some old characters even more. I especially loved the development of Fable and Saint’s relationship. Their dynamic added so much to the story. Fable’s relationship with her father is the driving force behind the start of this series so it’s nice to see it explored more.

(Small, very unimportant spoiler) I also totally loved getting to know Koy more. I never expected I’d say that after the events of Fable, but dang I actually am glad he was a part of this story!

I do wish that Fable and Namesake were actually only one combined book. It felt like the two stories would have worked better as one continuous plot. Fable had more world-building and Namesake felt more fast paced. It works as a duology, I just think it would work better as one long standalone novel.

Overall, this was a fun read that brought me back into this stunning world that I can’t get enough of. It’s exciting and full of high stakes adventure. I loved how the story was wrapped up! Namesake has an absolutely beautiful conclusion to a beautiful story. I’ll miss exploring this world, but I am so glad to have read Fable’s story.

Also, I will never stop talking about how gorgeous the covers for these books are!! Seriously gorgeous! I can’t wait to see both books next to each other on my shelves!

Fable is set to be released March 16th by Wednesday Books.

Make sure to preorder your copy now!!

The Paris Library – Janet Skeslien Charles [ARC Review]

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Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Synopsis:

Based on the true World War II story of the heroic librarians at the American Library in Paris, this is an unforgettable story of romance, friendship, family, and the power of literature to bring us together, perfect for fans of The Lilac Girls and The Paris Wife.

Paris, 1939: Young and ambitious Odile Souchet has it all: her handsome police officer beau and a dream job at the American Library in Paris. When the Nazis march into Paris, Odile stands to lose everything she holds dear, including her beloved library. Together with her fellow librarians, Odile joins the Resistance with the best weapons she has: books. But when the war finally ends, instead of freedom, Odile tastes the bitter sting of unspeakable betrayal.

Montana, 1983: Lily is a lonely teenager looking for adventure in small-town Montana. Her interest is piqued by her solitary, elderly neighbor. As Lily uncovers more about her neighbor’s mysterious past, she finds that they share a love of language, the same longings, and the same intense jealousy, never suspecting that a dark secret from the past connects them.

A powerful novel that explores the consequences of our choices and the relationships that make us who we are—family, friends, and favorite authors—The Paris Library shows that extraordinary heroism can sometimes be found in the quietest of places.

Review:

Huge thank you to Atria Books and Netgalley for providing this e-arc in exchange for my honest review.

I am a huge fan of historical fiction! I was browsing Netgalley for books to request when I came across The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles. The cover is absolutely gorgeous and immediately grabbed my attention. I read the synopsis and was hooked. I requested and was lucky enough to receive an e-arc!

The Paris Library follows two young women through two timelines. Odile is a young woman living in Paris during the 1930’s-40’s. Odile has just started as a librarian at the American Library in Paris (the ALP). The book follows her journey throughout the Nazi occupation of Paris and WW2. Lily is a teenage girl in Montana in the 1980’s. Lily is a student who is fascinated by everything French. She decides to interview her neighbor, Odile, for a school project about France.


I absolutely adored The Paris Library. It is first and foremost a love letter to readers. The overarching theme of The Paris Library is the power of books and the importance of libraries. I felt so connected to Odile whenever she described her love of books, libraries, and reading.

There are so many fantastic quotes . . .

Breathing in the best smell in the world—a mélange of the mossy scent of musty books and crisp newspaper pages—I felt as if I’d come home.

I loved being surrounded by stories, some as old as time, others published just last month.

I never judged a book by its beginning. It felt like the first and last date I’d once had, both of us smiling too brightly. No, I opened to a page in the middle, where the author wasn’t trying to impress me.

“I’m Odile Souchet. Sorry to be late. I was early, and I opened a book . . .” “Reading is dangerous,” Miss Reeder said with a knowing smile. “Let’s go to my office.”

The Library is my haven. I can always find a corner of the stacks to call my own, to read and dream. I want to make sure everyone has that chance, most especially the people who feel different and need a place to call home.

“The best thing about Paris? It’s a city of readers,” our neighbor said.

“We’re bookmates,” she said, in the decisive tone one would assert “the sky is blue,” or “Paris is the best city in the world.” I was skeptical about soul mates, but could believe in bookmates, two beings bound by a passion for reading.

Then, with a handful of pages left, I started to dread the fact that this world that I loved was coming to an end. I wasn’t ready to say goodbye. I read slowly, just savoring the scenes.

“Why on earth would you want to be a librarian?” he asked, an étincelle, a sparkle, in his eye. “Sometimes I like books more than people.” “Books don’t lie or steal,” he said. “We can depend on them.” I was surprised, and heartened, to hear an echo of my own feelings.

“But seriously, why books. Because no other thing possesses that mystical faculty to make people see with other people’s eyes. The Library is a bridge of books between cultures.”

“We all have a book that’s changed us forever,” I said. “One that let us know that we’re not alone. What’s yours?”

“Books will outlast us all.”


The Paris Library is very much a character driven story. There is little to no action. Unlike a typical WW2 based historical fiction, we do not see the outright violence and horror of the war or concentration camps. Instead we focus on the loss and devastation that individual people faced on daily basis. We see family members say goodbye to sons/brothers/friends as they leave to fight in the war. We see the women waiting in endless lines for miniscule rations. We see homes left abandoned after Jewish tenants are forced into camps. And, of course, we see the library and the censorship, surveillance, and rules that are forced upon it.

I honestly had never thought about the the impact of the war on libraries. During the Nazi occupation, Jewish and anyone determined to be an “enemy alien” library subscribers were banned from entering the library. However, librarians from the ALP worked together and delivered books to these subscribers at home. Odile is a fictional character, but librarians like her risked everything to make sure that everyone was able to have access to the library. This is just the most beautiful, kind, and courageous act. I can’t imagine how scary it would have been to pass through the Nazi checkpoints while delivering books. But they still did it.

“I decided that words were worth fighting for, that they were worth the risk.”

“Libraries are lungs,” she scrawled, her pen barely able to keep up with her ideas. “Books the fresh air breathed in to keep the heart beating, to keep the brain imagining, to keep hope alive.”

I think Lily perfectly describes how brave and incredible this was . . .

“You were brave,” I told Odile. “Keeping the library open and making sure all people could check out books.” She sighed. “I did the minimum.” “Le minimum? What you did was amazing. You gave subscribers hope. You showed that during the worst of times, people were still good. You saved books and people. You risked your life to defy the fricking Nazis. That’s huge.”

I could not have said it any better.

I highly encourage everyone to read the author’s note at the end of the book. Janet Skeslien Charles did a huge amount of research for this book. So much of The Paris Library is true and/or based in fact and on real people. I love reading author’s notes in historical fiction books because it is so fun to learn where authors get their inspiration from!


The Paris Library is also a story of friendship. There is loss, love, betrayal, and hope. The Paris Library shows the power of a true friend. It beautifully and heartbreakingly illustrates the importance of treasuring that friendship, being open with those you love, and not running away. This is shown through Odile’s relationship with Margaret.

As I said before, The Paris Library is a character driven story. And I came to love so many of these characters! I truly feel like I go to know each and every one of them. It’s like Lily thought after she heard Odile’s story . . .

“Her hand hugging mind, she introduced her cast of characters. Dear Maman and down-to-earth Eugenie. Blustery Papa. Remy, the mischievous twin I would see every time I looked at Odile. His girl, Bitsi, the brave librarian. Paul, so handsome, I fell in love with him, too. Margaret, every bit as fun as Mary Louise. Miss Reader, the Countess, and Boris, the heart and soul and life of the Library. People I would never know, would never forget. They’d lived in Odile’s memory, and now they lived in mine.

The relationships and friendships between these characters are one of the things that makes The Paris Library so special! Odile’s relationship with Remy, the staff at the ALP, and later with Lily are all beautiful examples of friendship. I love her bond with Remy and the way the staff at the ALP all nerd out about reading. However, my favorite relationship is between Odile and Lily. I love how Lily brings joy and light back into Odile’s life. And how Odile introduces Lily to books and the love of reading. I actually equally enjoyed reading both the Paris and Montana timelines.


As you can see I really enjoyed The Paris Library. I could keep gushing about it for a long time. I wrote down so many quotes that I love! The book mates one is my favorite – I sent it to my book bestie because it describes us perfectly!

I actually struggled writing this review because I don’t feel like I’m able to capture the magic I felt while reading The Paris Library. I think I ended up just ranting, but I can’t help it! The Paris Library actually reminded my of Ruta Sepetys’ books . . . a beautiful story that also teaches me something about a lesser known part of history. This is just a very special book that I think everyone should read. I will hold The Paris Library close to my heart forever.

Congrats to Janet Skeslien Charles on this stunning book!

The Paris Library is set to be released February 9th, 2021 by Atria Books.

The Project – Courtney Summers [ARC Review]

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Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Synopsis:

Lo Denham is used to being on her own. After her parents died, Lo’s sister, Bea, joined The Unity Project, leaving Lo in the care of their great aunt. Thanks to its extensive charitable work and community outreach, The Unity Project has won the hearts and minds of most in the Upstate New York region, but Lo knows there’s more to the group than meets the eye. She’s spent the last six years of her life trying—and failing—to prove it.

When a man shows up at the magazine Lo works for claiming The Unity Project killed his son, Lo sees the perfect opportunity to expose the group and reunite with Bea once and for all. When her investigation puts her in the direct path of its leader, Lev Warren and as Lo delves deeper into The Project, the lives of its members it upends everything she thought she knew about her sister, herself, cults, and the world around her—to the point she can no longer tell what’s real or true. Lo never thought she could afford to believe in Lev Warren . . . but now she doesn’t know if she can afford not to.

Review:

Huge thank you to Wednesday Books and Negalley for providing this e-arc in exchange for my honest review!

I discovered Courtney Summers in 2019 when I read her incredible book, Sadie. I was initially drawn to Sadie because of the way it was written . . . in dual perspectives with one being Sadie herself and the other a podcast host who is investigating Sadie’s disappearance. I am a huge fan of true crime and podcasts so I was totally into this. Sadie ended up being an incredible book. It was dark, emotional, and raw, but such a powerful read. So when I saw that Courtney Summers was releasing another “true-crime-esc” book I knew I had to read it! Especially because I am FASCINATED by cults!

The Project tells the story of two sisters whose lives have been forever changed by the group known as “The Unity Project.” The story is told through both sisters perspectives and in both the past and present. The Project is about the bond between sisters and the lengths they will go for each other.

TRIGGER WARNINGS: suicide, trauma/ptsd, cults, mental + physical abuse, and violence

Overall, I really enjoyed The Project. It hooked me from the very first page! The Project is a dark and suspenseful story that illustrates the rise of an enigmatic and charming cult leader. I thought that Summers did an excellent job of showing how vulnerable people are taken in and exploited by cults. The Project is ultimately a story of how loneliness and the desire to belong can affect vulnerable individuals.

On the outside “The Unity Project” appears to be an excellent, service driven organization that does incredible work for the community. But we know, and the lead character (Lo) discovers that there is much more going on than appears. Lev Warren is the quintessential, cookie-cutter cult leader. He wasn’t any different than any other movie/tv show/pop culture cult leader character. I do think that Summers did a great job of showing Lev’s manipulation and how he pinpoints what each vulnerable potential member needs. This is especially true with him and Lo. At some points it was actually hard to read Lo’s journey. I keep using the world vulnerable, but I don’t know how else to describe her. It was difficult to watch her (minor spoiler alert) get taken in by this manipulative man.

The Project is a shorter book at 352 pages so the plot progressed fairly quickly. The journey is intriguing, but it did not wow me. I did guess the reveal pretty early on as well. But I was still expecting there to be a bigger moment of excitement or a big climax. The book just kind of ended without much fanfare. The ending was almost too clean. The plot was wrapped up too quickly and too easily. I even felt like one of the plot points involving a character was sort of dropped and not really wrapped up.

Despite my couple of complaints, I still did really enjoy The Project. I just wanted more! It was super interesting though and kept me hooked from the start. Also I’m obsessed with the cover!! I think it’s so striking and it fits the story so well!

The Project is set to be released February 2nd by Wednesday Books.

Lore – Alexandra Bracken [ARC Review]

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Rating: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

Synopsis:

From the #1 New York Times best-selling author of The Darkest Minds comes a sweepingly ambitious, high-octane tale of power, destiny, love and redemption.

Every seven years, the Agon begins. As punishment for a past rebellion, nine Greek gods are forced to walk the earth as mortals, hunted by the descendants of ancient bloodlines, all eager to kill a god and seize their divine power and immortality.
Long ago, Lore Perseous fled that brutal world in the wake of her family’s sadistic murder by a rival line, turning her back on the hunt’s promises of eternal glory. For years she’s pushed away any thought of revenge against the man–now a god–responsible for their deaths.

Yet as the next hunt dawns over New York City, two participants seek out her help: Castor, a childhood friend of Lore believed long dead, and a gravely wounded Athena, among the last of the original gods.

The goddess offers an alliance against their mutual enemy and, at last, a way for Lore to leave the Agon behind forever. But Lore’s decision to bind her fate to Athena’s and rejoin the hunt will come at a deadly cost–and still may not be enough to stop the rise of a new god with the power to bring humanity to its knees.

Review:

Huge thank you to Disney Publishing, Hyperion, and Netgalley for providing this e-arc in exchange for my honest review.

I was lucky enough to receive an advanced copy of Lore by Alexandra Bracken. I was so excited to receive this arc because I am a big fan of Bracken’s The Darkest Minds series. I also am fascinated by Greek Mythology so I couldn’t wait to get my hands on this book.

I don’t really know how to review this book because it’s super complex plus half of it was brutally slow and hard to get into, but the other half was fast paced and totally awesome! It took me a couple weeks to read the first 50-60% of the book, but then I literally read the last 40-50% in one afternoon. I’ve been going back and forth between 3-3.5 stars.

Lore is basically the Greek Mythology Hunger Games! The synopsis summarizes the basic concept so well . . . “Every seven years, the Agon begins. As punishment for a past rebellion, nine Greek gods are forced to walk the earth as mortals, hunted by the descendants of ancient bloodlines, all eager to kill a god and seize their divine power and immortality.” There is so much more to it, but our story centers around Lore, who is from the line of Perseides. We follow Lore as she is thrust back into this violent world with her heart set on revenge. There are fantastic messages of feminism, deciding your own fate, and the importance of being surrounded by loved ones.

This world is incredibly complex. The first half of the book is basically a massive information dump. There is just so much to remember . . . the original mythology, the new gods (plus the new names they have taken), the families, the powers, etc. etc. etc. It was honestly a lot to keep straight while reading. This is part of the reason why the first half of the book was so hard to get into. I was honestly a little bored because of all the information being thrown at me. I feel like all of the world-building, history, and info should have been more a part of the story and less just the characters reciting off info to each other. Although one exception to that is that I did love how the flashback chapters were woven into the story.

One other random minor dislike is that Lore is written in third person. It’s fine, but third person narrations are not my favorite.

Now all that being said . . . the second half of the book was awesome! Like I said, I literally read the second half in one sitting! The first half was a slow walk, but the second half took off running!! The story picked up and did not let go! The plot was fast paced and action packed! There were some truly great twists, turns, and reveals. I was finally completely pulled into the world of Lore. I couldn’t stop reading because I had to know what happened!

I really like that Lore is a standalone. It’s nice to read standalones sometimes! The story wraps up nicely with a definite end. I do think that there is an opening for Bracken to write some companion novels perhaps featuring Miles? Or maybe the other old gods? I think it would be fascinating to find out what the other gods were up to all this time!

I feel like I may need to reread Lore to fully appreciate it. Now that I have a grasp on the world and all its complexities I think I’d enjoy the first half more. Good news is that several book sub boxes are doing Lore for their January box so I will have a physical copy!!

Lore is set to be released January 5th, 2021 by Disney-Hyperion Books!

Kingdom of the Wicked (Kingdom of the Wicked, #1) – Kerri Maniscalco [ARC Review]

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Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

Synopsis:

From the #1 New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Stalking Jack the Ripper series comes a new blockbuster series…

Two sisters.

One brutal murder.

A quest for vengeance that will unleash Hell itself…

And an intoxicating romance.

Emilia and her twin sister Vittoria are streghe – witches who live secretly among humans, avoiding notice and persecution. One night, Vittoria misses dinner service at the family’s renowned Sicilian restaurant. Emilia soon finds the body of her beloved twin…desecrated beyond belief. Devastated, Emilia sets out to find her sister’s killer and to seek vengeance at any cost-even if it means using dark magic that’s been long forbidden.

Then Emilia meets Wrath, one of the Wicked-princes of Hell she has been warned against in tales since she was a child. Wrath claims to be on Emilia’s side, tasked by his master with solving the series of women’s murders on the island. But when it comes to the Wicked, nothing is at is seems…

Review:

Huge thank you to JIMMY Patterson Books and Negalley for providing this e-arc in exchange for my honest review.

Kingdom of the Wicked is my first venture into Kerri Maniscalo’s writing. I have always been super intrigued by her Stalking Jack the Ripper series, but I just haven’t gotten around to it. Gotta love that never ending TBR! Now that I’ve read Kingdom of the Wicked I am definitely hooked on Kerri’s writing.

Kingdom of the Wicked tells the story of Emilia and Vittoria di Carlo, twin witches who live nineteenth century Sicily. The twins spend their days hiding in plain sight and cooking at the family restaurant . . . until Vittoria is brutally murdered. Emilia sets off on a journey full of dark magic and ends up teaming up with Wrath, one of the Wicked princes of Hell.

Kingdom of the Wicked is a solid 3.5 star read for me. It was an exciting story full of action, mystery, and magic. There are parts I loved and parts that I thought were just ok.

My favorite part of Kingdom of the Wicked is the setting. It is simply stunning. Seriously go google pictures of Palermo, Italy and your jaw will drop. Maniscalco did an excellent job with her descriptions and truly painting a picture of the scenery. I have been to Italy, but just Rome and up from there. This story made me want to visit Sicily and Southern Italy. Simply stunning!!

This is also true for the food! My mouth was literally watering with all of the amazing food descriptions. Everything sounded so delicious! I love how Maniscalco seamlessly wove in food and cooking to the story. I feel like I really understand how much cooking is a part of Emilia’s life!

One super random thing that I loved about Kingdom of the Wicked is the mention of the card game Scopa. My mom is 100% Italian so all of our family gatherings are VERY Italian. Members of my family have been playing Scopa at every single gathering since I can remember. I never actually learned to play, but I totally associate Scopa with my family. It was so fun for me to see the game mentioned!

Another thing that I really loved about Kingdom of the Wicked is the Wicked! I am fascinated by the Princes of Hell!!! I was hooked from the second Emilia meets Wrath. He is such a great “enemies to lovers” trope . . . dark, mysterious, and a bit evil! My only complaint is that I want more of him. I feel like we got very minimal actual interaction between Wrath and Emilia. I want more!!! I have a feeling that the sequel will have lots more! And the other demon princes were so sinister! They make great villains!!

And now for the not so great things . . . my primary complaint about Kingdom of the Wicked is the pacing. Everything happened very quickly and felt super rushed. To me, it feels like not a whole lot actually happened in this book. This goes along with wanting more of Wrath and Emilia interactions. I just wanted more, but everything seemed rushed. My other issue was that the plot was fairly predictable. I guessed who the murderer was almost immediately and I also could see Emilia’s journey coming from miles away. That being said, I still really enjoyed the plot. It was exciting, mysterious, and definitely captivating! This was a super fast read and I really enjoyed it!

Kingdom of the Wicked ends on a pretty big cliffhanger. I’m keeping this review spoiler free so all I’ll say is that I am excited to see what Emilia has up her sleeve in the next book! I’m definitely excited to explore more of the Kingdom of the Wicked.

Kingdom of the Wicked will be released October 27th by JIMMY Patterson Books!