Monday, October 31, 2022

October Wrap-Up

Hello, all!

I feel like I had a lot of meh reads this month which is so annoying because I was looking forward to all my spooky reads, but oh well. Hopefully I'll have better luck in November!



Audio:

Slewfoot: Brom; 3/5
Babel- R.F. Kuang; 3/5
The Princess and the Scoundrel- Beth Revis; 3/5
The Sporty One- Melanie Chisholm; No rating for memoirs, but so good!
In the Shadow Garden- Liz Parker; 3/5
Reluctant Immortals- Gwendolyn Kiste; 3/5
Not Good for Maidens- Tori Bovalino; 2/5
Fever- Mary Beth Keane; 3/5

Digital:

Everything is Ok- Debbie Tung; 4/5
A Very Merry Bromance- Lyssa Kay Adams; 5/5
Better than Fiction- Alexa Martin; 3/5
Beauty Tempts the Beast- Lorraine Heath; 4/5

Physical:

The Blood Trials- N.E. Davenport; 3/5
The Clackity- Lora Senf; 3/5
Sign Here- Claudia Lux; 3/5
Fairy Tale- Stephen King; 3/5
Four Weeks of Scandal- Megan Frampton; 3/5
The Dead Travel Fast- Deanna Raybourn; 3/5
House of Hunger- Alexis Henderson; 2/5
Witchful Thinking- Celestine Martin; 4/5
The Earl Takes a Fancy- Lorraine Heath; 5/5
Hallowe'en Party- Agatha Christie; 2/5
This Earl of Mine- Kate Bateman; 4/5

Some favorites were: A Very Merry Bromance, The Earl Takes a Fancy, and The Sporty One. Some least favorites were: Hallowe'en Party, House of Hunger, and Not Good for Maidens.

How was your reading month? What was your favorite/least favorite read?

Thursday, October 27, 2022

Mini Thoughts

Hello, all!

Pub Date: 8-30-22
Adult - Horror

Suburban Hell- Maureen Kilmer: Amy, Liz, Jess, and Melissa all live in a quiet suburb where they spend their time mocking the PTA and drinking wine during their monthly girls' nights. It was during one such night that the ladies concoct the brilliant idea of building their own She-Shed in Liz's backyard, where they can all go to get away from their husbands and kids. When the four get together to christen their clubhouse, they can't help but notice a shift in the air. They all brush it off, but then they start noticing strange happenings. There's a foul odor overpowering the neighborhood, burn marks on their skin, and dolls moving on their own. It doesn't take long before the group realizes that they've unleashed a terrible evil onto their cul-de-sac, and it's latched onto Liz. Can Amy, Jess, and Melissa save their friend and neighborhood before it all goes straight to hell?

I read the premise of this and immediately knew it was going to be right up my alley. It was so good. I loved the idea of these four suburban moms accidentally unleashing a demon that ends up possessing one of them. It sounded like a ridiculous episode of Supernatural, and I was here for it. Kilmer's writing was sharp and biting and never took itself seriously. The banter between Amy and her friends felt so natural, which made them feel like real people, not just characters on a page. Since this is categorized as horror, I expected it to be a little more intense, but it was the perfect mix of humor and creepy. It felt like those horror comedies from the '80s, like The 'Burbs, which I love. If you're a fan of My Best Friend's Exorcism, I recommend checking it out.

Rating: 4/5

Pub Date: 8-23-22
Adult - Fantasy/Romance

The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy- Megan Bannen: As a marshal, Hart spends his days patrolling the borders of Tanria, protecting its citizens from the zombie-like drudges. Hart faces unpleasantness every day, but he'd take drudges over dealing with Mercy Birdsall any day. Ever since the first day he stepped foot into her family's undertaking business, the pair have been at odds. After one such encounter, Hart pens an anonymous letter simply addressed to "A Friend." To his surprise, a reply comes back, and a friendship blooms. Hart has never been an open book, but he finds himself being more vulnerable with each letter. Unbeknownst to Hart, he's been pouring his soul out to none other than Mercy, who also has no idea who her secret pen pal is. Soon, Hart and Mercy find themselves growing closer in real life, but as the dangers in Tanria grow, will their relationship survive off the page?

I will pick up anything that's compared to You've Got Mail, and this was pretty much a fantasy carbon copy of it. I thought the relationship between Hart and Mercy was fun. I wouldn't say it was enemies to lovers, but it was antagonizers to lovers. They had great banter, and I liked watching them rile each other up. The letters between them were so sweet, and I liked watching them open up to each other without knowing who was on the other end. Also, I really loved the two mail carriers-- one was a fancy owl, and the other a crude talking rabbit--and thought they stole the show. I only had two issues with this: one is the length, and the other is the world-building. There was no reason for this to be over 400-pages. While it never felt slow, my attention kept wavering. As for the world-building, it could've used a heck of a lot more. After reading it, I still didn't have a firm grasp on the world, its lore, or even how the drudges came about. Despite all that, I'd still recommend it if you're looking for a cozier fantasy romance to read this fall.

Rating: 3/5

Pub Date: 9-20-22
Adult - Fantasy/Romance

The Kiss Curse- Erin Sterling: Things in Gwyn Jones' life are going great. She has a loving family, a successful business, and has even started mentoring some of the younger witches in Graves Glen. But then a dark cloud comes to rain on her parade in the form of Llewellyn “Wells” Penhallow. Wells' family helped found the town, and he's come back not only to re-establish their connection but to set up a new life for himself. Wells has spent years playing the dutiful son, but now he's ready to strike out on his own. But when he sets up a magic shop across from Gwyn's, he gets more than he bargained for. It doesn't take long for their bickering to turn into something more, but with a powerful new coven lurking around town and Gwyn's magic mysteriously fading, they'll have to get to the bottom of what's happening before it's too late.

I enjoyed The Ex Hex when I read it last year, but this one was so much better! Gwyn was so quirky and funny in the previous book, so I couldn't wait to follow her, and her relationship with Wells was highly entertaining. It has slight enemies-to-lovers vibes, and the bickering between them was so good. The pair had great chemistry, and I thought they complemented each other well. Aside from their dynamic, I enjoyed the plot of this one a lot more. It still had all the charm and coziness of the first book but held my attention more. If you're looking for a cute contemporary for the Halloween season, I recommend checking it out.

Rating: 4.5/5

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Blog Tour: Sign Here Review

Hello, all!

I'm always on the hunt for fun horror books to read during October, and Sign Here by Claudia Lux was one I've had my eye on for a while. Big thanks to the publisher for having me as part of the blog tour!

Pub Date: 10-25-22
Adult - Horror/Fantasy

Peyote Trip has worked his way up from torturing the souls of Hell to damning them for all eternity by getting desperate humans to bargain them away. The deals department may not be the most glamorous position, but Peyote has a plan. Peyote has been making deals with the Harrison family for as long as he can remember, and all he needs is one more member to sign their soul over to complete his set, and then he can kiss Hell goodbye.

On the outside, the Harrisons seem to be your typical loving family, but underneath it all, they harbor dark secrets. They spend every summer at their lake house, where years ago, a young girl was killed by one of the family members. Silas Harrison and his wife, Lily, have spent years trying to move on from the tragedy, but when their daughter brings along a new friend on the trip, old memories begin to swim back up to the surface. With so many secrets coming to light, Peyote must strike while the iron is hot if he hopes to achieve his goal.

I didn't know what to expect going into this, but I enjoyed it. Lux's writing was darkly morbid with a biting sense of humor. There were a few times the phrasing felt clunky, but overall, it was entertaining. I loved the idea of Hell having this corporate vibe, filled with minor inconveniences like pens that are always out of ink or towels that never fully dry, rather than being all fire and brimstone. I liked following along with Peyote as he tries to find a way back to humanity, but I was more interested in the Harrison's storyline. I liked learning more about what happened in their past and how it played into current events. My only real complaint was that it took forever for anything to happen. Other than that, I liked this and would recommend it, especially if you like The Good Place, as it gave off the same vibes.

Rating: 3/5

Thursday, October 20, 2022

Babel Review

Hello, all!

Something about the fall screams "dark academia," so I was very excited to pick up Babel by R. F. Kuang.

Pub Date: 8-23-22
Adult - Historical Fantasy

After the death of his mother from cholera, orphaned Robin Swift is brought from Canton to London by the curious Professor Lovell. Here, Robin learns Latin, Ancient Greek, and Chinese, in the hopes of enrolling in Oxford's prestigious translation institute, known as Babel. Not only is it the world's center for translation, but it's also known for the magical art of silver-working, or manifesting meanings lost in translation.

When Robin arrives in Oxford, he is amazed at the wealth of knowledge available at his fingertips. Soon, Robin realizes that with that knowledge comes a power that, inevitably, will be turned against people just like him. As his studies progress, Robin finds himself torn between Babel and a shadowy secret organization dedicated to sabotaging the silver-working plans for colonization. With a war between Britain and China on the horizon, Robin must decide what side of the fight he's on and what he's willing to sacrifice for what's right.

Ok, listen. Was this story impactful? Yes. Was the writing stunning? Absolutely. Did it confront the darker side of academia? A million percent. Then why didn't I enjoy this more? I never found myself invested in the story, and it came down to one simple reason: I didn't feel intelligent enough to read this. It might sound silly, but it's true. I don't feel like I fully grasped all the nuances and intricacies Kuang wove throughout it. I appreciated all the representation and the dynamic between the characters. I thought the world-building was rich and well done, and I genuinely think it's a brilliant book. All the hype surrounding this book is more than warranted, but it just didn't work as well for me.

Rating: 3/5

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

Mini Thoughts

Hello, all!

Pub Date: 4-26-22
Adult - Thriller

The Children on the Hill- Jennifer McMahon: Dr. Helen Hildreth is a well-known and respected psychiatrist working in Vermont in the late 1970s. Most praise her for her work with the mentally ill, but to Vi and Eric, she's just Gran. They understand her work is important, but that's about it. One day, Gran brings home a child to stay with the family. Iris is a strange girl; she's skittish, unkempt, and doesn't like to speak. But Vi is thrilled to have another playmate and soon takes Iris under her wing. Vi invites Iris to join her and Eric's monster club, where they gather and talk about monsters and how to defeat them, and soon Iris starts to come out of her shell. Now, in 2019, Lizzy Shelley is the host of a popular monster podcast investigating a case in Vermont. A young girl was abducted, and the locals are in an uproar believing it to be the work of a monster. Lizzie is determined to get to the bottom of the case, especially when the clues point to a monster she's very familiar with: her sister.

Honestly, I didn't have high hopes going into this because McMahon's books are very hit-or-miss for me. I'm happy to report that I enjoyed this one, but it wasn't without faults. I thought the first half of the book was slow and boring, and it was difficult for me to feel invested. But once we hit the midway point, the pacing and the action ramped up. I liked all the twists that McMahon threw in here. I thought I had figured out where she was going and how the plot would play out, but then I got whiplash by how fast everything turned on its head. The dual timelines worked well with fleshing the story out more, and I liked the little snippets of the monster book the kids created. If you're in the mood for a creepy read for the fall, I think this would be a fun one to pick up. Just skip the epilogue because it's unnecessary.

Rating: 3/5

Pub Date: 9-28-21
Adult - Horror

Horseman: A Tale of Sleepy Hollow- Christina Henry: Everyone in Sleepy Hollow knows the tale of the Horseman and how he ran a young man named Crane out of town. Many speak of the Horseman in whispers, but Ben Van Brunt has never feared him. Ben's grandfather, Brom Bones, was there twenty years ago when the events occurred, and if he says its legend, then that's what Ben believes, too. But when Ben and a friend stumble upon a headless boy in the woods, he wonders if maybe the Horseman wasn't village gossip after all. When more bodies turn up, Ben decides to investigate and discovers he can feel the presence of the Horseman and is shocked to find it's been protecting him all this time. Ben quickly realizes there are secrets about himself and his family that he never knew, and he may be the only one who can rid Sleepy Hollow of the darkness forever.

I love a reimagining of classic stories, so I knew I had to pick this up. I thought Henry did a fantastic job making this story her own. I enjoyed Ben and how sure of himself he was. He was a trans person during a period where if you were even remotely different than your peers, you'd be labeled an outcast or a witch, but still, he never hid. It was interesting seeing how Henry wove together his storyline with the Horseman's and how it all tied in with Ben's ancestry. The writing was super atmospheric and nailed the creepy, unsettling vibes. The horror elements were done well, and it was a bit gorier than I anticipated. My only issues were that the pacing felt off, and sometimes the dialogue was too wishy-washy. Other than that, I enjoyed this and would recommend it if you're looking for a spooky book to add to your TBR.

Rating: 3/5

Pub Date: 9-6-22
Adult - Historical Romance/Fantasy

Angelika Frankenstein Makes Her Match- Sally Thorne: Every Frankenstein has found their match the old-fashioned way, except for Angelika. She's run out of potential suitors, and the clock is ticking to spinsterhood. While assisting her brother on his ground-breaking experiment to re-animate a body, Angelika has a grand idea. If she can't find a suitor, she'll make one. But Angelika wasn't ready for the disarray that would come along with her make-shift suitor. When her resurrected would-be fiancĂ© is more focused on figuring out his true identity than courting Angelika, she decides to put her feelings aside and help him investigate. As the pair are digging up clues, Angelika catches the eye of another suitor, and she can't help but wonder if perhaps she was too hasty in building her perfect man.

Take whatever you thought you knew about Sally Thorne and throw it out the window. It was so unlike anything she's written before. It was so strange and Tim Burton-esque. Frankenstein is one of my favorite classics, so I was interested to see how Thorne would put her spin on it, but it didn't quite work for me. Angelika and Victor left such a bad taste in my mouth. I thought they were too arrogant and obnoxious. Also, I didn't love the relationship between Angelika and Will. It wasn't believable, and I felt zero chemistry between them. I felt bad for Will and everything the Frankensteins put him through. Romance aside, I couldn't get behind the plot. If you can suspend your disbelief for 384-pages then maybe it would be a fun Halloween-y read, but it wasn't for me.

Rating: 2/5

Thursday, October 13, 2022

The King of Crows (The Diviners #4) Review

Hello, all!

I read The Diviners series by Libba Bray a few years ago and fell in love with it, and only just now realized I never put up a review of the last book, The King of Crows (you can read my review of the third book here.) 

*Potential spoilers ahead*

Pub Date: 2-4-20
YA - Paranormal/Historical Fantasy

When a devastating explosion claims one of their own, the Diviners find themselves wanted by the US government and forced to flee New York City. As Evie and the gang desperately try to stay under the radar, Jericho returns after escaping from Jake Marlowe's estate, where he's uncovered the secrets behind the King of Crows plans and the machine Marlowe has built. In the ensuing chaos, the group is separated, but thanks to one of Isaiah's visions, they have one common goal: get to Bountiful, Nebraska and find the mysterious Diviner girl who may be their only chance at stopping the sinister King of Crows.

As each group picks their way across the country, they start hearing strange rumors of towns becoming deserted and the dead resurfacing with incredible power, leaving the Diviners to speculate that the war they've been preparing for is a lot closer than they anticipated. When they all finally reconvene in Bountiful, they expect their luck is starting to look up as they find Sarah Beth Olson, the Diviner girl who's been sending visions to Isaiah, and begin training together. But when yet another betrayal puts them right into the path of the King of Crows, will the Diviners be able to gather their strengths to destroy their enemy and save not only the nation but the entire world from darkness?

I've loved this series since the first book, so it pains me to say that this final book was disappointing. It was so lackluster. For most of this, all the characters are just meandering around the country, and it takes forever for anything substantial to happen. Then when you finally get to the action, everything gets conveniently wrapped up in a snap. Bray spent the last three books building suspense over the King of Crows and this supernatural war that's brewing and making it seem like a do-or-die situation, and when it came down to it, it was like, "Oh, that's it?" The resolution felt too easy and like a cop-out. It just didn't have the same feel as the other books. Besides the pacing, the dialogue felt off, and there wasn't that spunky banter I've come to adore. Even the characters themselves felt different. Every interaction between the group felt very surface level with no real emotional depth underneath. There were some sweet moments between characters here that didn't even impact me as much because they just felt like throw-away scenes. I did like seeing how different characters were forced to work together that haven't interacted much in previous books, but everything else I could take or leave. This isn't necessarily a bad book, it's just not what I was hoping for, and so it was a bit of a letdown.

Rating: 3/5

Tuesday, October 11, 2022

Top 5: Books to Read in October

Hello, all!

I know we're already a bit into the month, but I still thought it'd be fun to share some spooky reads if you're looking for something to add to your TBR.



1. Daisy Darker- Alice Feeney: Not only is this a reimagining of an Agatha Chrisite murder mystery, but it's also set on Halloween so it automatically makes in the perfect read for this month. I recently read it and loved the atmosphere.

2. What Moves the Dead- T. Kingfisher: This is another reimagining, this time of Edgar Allan Poe's The Fall of the House of Usher, and would be perfect for fans of Mexican Gothic/light horror. There is a made-up language that Kingfisher introduces in regards to pronouns (the main character is non-binary) that took me a little while to grasp, but other than that, I thought this was enjoyable. 

3. The Kiss Curse- Erin Sterling: I read The Ex Hex last year and thought it was so adorable, and this follow-up companion novel is just as great. I actually liked it a bit more because I loved the dynamic between the two main characters. If you're looking for a cozy-Stars Hollow but make it spooky-kinda vibe, this is the one to go with.

4. Cycle of the Werewolf- Stephen King: I picked this up on a whim from the library, and it became one of my favorites by King. It follows the residents of a small town, and each month someone is brutally murdered by what seems like a werewolf, so they have to figure out who's behind it and how to stop them. It's a novella and every chapter focuses on a different month, so it would be good to pick up if you're craving something fast.

5. Slewfoot- Brom: If cutesy witches aren't your thing, then you should check out Slewfoot. This is a dark and twisted tale of a young widowed woman living in a Puritan society, who turns to a mysterious force in the woods to help her keep her farm. I'll admit, I loved the ambience of this one, but did think the actual plot was a little boring. But if you don't mind a slower paced story, then I'd still recommend checking it out.

Let me know what books you have on your TBR's for this month!

Thursday, October 6, 2022

Kingdom of the Feared Review (Kingdom of the Wicked, #3)

Hello, all!

One of my most anticipated reads for the fall was Kingdom of the Feared by Kerri Maniscalco. I've loved this series since the beginning (review of the last book here), and I'm so sad to see it end!

*Potential spoilers ahead*

Pub Date: 9-27-22
New Adult - Fantasy

For months, Emilia has only had one goal: to avenge her sister's murder. So Emilia is shocked and confused to discover that Vittoria faked her death and is very much alive. Emilia always believed herself to be a simple witch, but her sister seems to know details about their past and lives that Emilia doesn't. But before allowing herself to get pulled into her twin's schemes, Emilia has plans of her own. Mainly, claiming the demon prince Wrath, the King of Hell, as her own. Emilia is ready to secure their marriage bond, but there are still secrets churning between them.

When a high-ranking member of House Greed's court is killed, Emilia and Wrath are called upon to help with the investigation. With evidence pointing to Vittoria and no concrete way to clear her name, she is labeled an enemy of the Seven Circles. Despite her betrayal, Emilia refuses to let any harm come to Vittoria and is determined to clear her name. The deeper Emilia digs, the more she discovers about her past, and how it ties into the Feared, the most dangerous beings of all. But when the truth finally comes to light, it may cost Emilia more than she bargained for.

I'll start by saying that I did enjoy this. Maniscalco did a good job wrapping the series up and answering any lingering questions from the previous two books. That said, I think there was way too much going on here. There were so many different plots happening at once--from Emilia finding out the truth about who she is, to a murder mystery, to trying to prevent a war from breaking out--that my head was spinning at points. I think if it were a little more streamlined, I would've been more excited about it, especially when some of those plots felt rushed. (I am hoping that certain plotlines lead to a spin-off series, though.) Still, I loved being back in this world with these characters. I liked getting to know more about Emilia and her connection with Wrath. Their relationship has always been the highlight for me, so I was thrilled to see it finally come together. The writing and atmosphere were lush and decadent, and despite any minor issues I may have had, it's still one of my favorite fantasy series.

Rating: 3.5/5*

*I had originally given this a 4 star, but after thinking about it, dropped it down to 3.5

Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Mini Thoughts

Hello, all!

Big thanks to the publishers for these copies!

Pub Date: 9-27-22
Adult - Historical Romance

How the Wallflower Was Won- Eva Leigh: The only risks Finn Ransome takes are on the betting tables. He's spent his whole life being belittled for his shortcomings, that he'd rather take his chances with cards than women. But with the clock ticking on his father's demand of finding a wife or being cut off, Finn has no choice but to put himself out there. The only woman to catch Finn's eye is Tabitha Seaton, an intelligent bluestocking who surely has no time for a rogue such as himself. After a humiliating first Season, Tabitha decided to focus more on books than ballrooms. Her one goal in life is to become a member of the Sterling Society, a group of the most brilliant and influential minds in London. Unfortunately, if Tabitha hopes to win a spot in their favor, she has to be married. Since matrimony is the answer to both their problems, Finn and Tabitha concoct a mutually beneficial plan that poses no risks to either's hearts. But try as they might, neither can deny the very real feelings that start to stir once they exchange vows.

After reading The Good Girl's Guide to Rakes, I didn't think anyone could top Kieran Ransome but lemme tell you, he walked so Finn Ransome could run. Tall, dark, and handsome with a penchant for surprising women with libraries? Where do I sign up? He was everything. His relationship with Tabitha felt so natural, and I loved them together. Tabitha was strong-willed and just wanted to use her intelligence to better the world around her, and it was so sweet seeing how supportive Finn was and how he was willing to go to whatever lengths to make that happen. Finn spent his whole life being belittled because of a learning disability, so it broke my heart every time he mentioned how he wasn't smart enough to be with Tabitha. I loved how Tabitha couldn't care less about his brains, she loved him for who he was inside. Neither couldn't care less about the other's shortcomings; they just took each other as they are. Just as in the first book, the writing, banter, and steamy scenes were spot-on, and I couldn't read fast enough. Leigh has solidified herself as a new favorite of mine and I can't wait for the next book.

Rating: 5/5

Pub Date: 10-4-22
Adult - Sci-Fi

Station Eternity- Mur Lafferty: Mallory Viridian has a knack for solving murders, which is helpful since people around her always seem to kick the bucket. Her ability to see clues others overlook doesn't make her friendly with the police but rather an annoyance. No matter where she goes death follows, so when Mallory gets the opportunity to take refuge on a sentient space station, she jumps at the chance. After all, the murders must stop if she's surrounded by aliens, right? But then Mallory's peace is disturbed when a shuttle full of humans arrives at the station. It doesn't take long before humans and aliens start to die, leaving Mallory in the middle of yet another murder investigation that only she can solve.

I loved the premise of this. It sounded a lot like Farscape meets Agatha Christie, and I was all about it. Sadly, it didn't work for me. A lot of that had to do with the writing. I couldn't get into the flow of the story and felt more confused as everything unfolded. The pacing was choppy, and you would think all the alien creatures would be so intriguing, but every character felt underdeveloped. There were some interesting concepts and world-building, but I thought it all needed to be more cohesive. I would still recommend it if you enjoy mysteries or sci-fi, but unfortunately, I didn't click with Lafferty's writing.

Rating: 2/5

Pub Date: 10-4-22
Adult - Contemporary

You're a Mean One, Matthew Prince- Timothy Janovsky: Matthew Prince has grown up with a silver spoon in his mouth and anything he could ever want at his fingertips. But when his outrageous spending goes a little too far, his parents ship him off to spend the holidays with his grandparents in their cabin in the woods. It's bad enough that he has zero cell reception, but he also has to share a bunk bed with Hector Martinez, one of his grandfather's students who is obnoxiously handsome and has no time for Matthew's arrogance. Matthew is determined to do whatever it takes to shorten his imprisonment, even if that means taking over the event planning duties for the town's charity gala. Soon, Matthew finds himself surrounded by a little family of his own making, namely Hector, and starts to feel the ice around his heart begin to melt.

If you turned Schitt's Creek into a Hallmark movie, you would have this book. Matthew gives off such David Rose vibes that it was all I could picture. He was very entitled and pretentious, and it took me a while to warm up to him, but he grew on me by the end. His relationship with Hector started very rockily, but I liked how it developed and thought Hector did a good job grounding Matthew. Their dynamic was just very sweet if a little corny. I liked the setting and the vibe of the small town, and the plot itself was entertaining but super predictable. I don't think this will be very memorable for me, but if you're in the mood for a cute romance for the holiday season, I would still recommend it.

Rating: 3/5