Mini Thoughts

Hello, all!

Pub Date: 5-13-21
Adult - Historical Fiction

The Wolf Den- Elodie Harper: Amara went from being the daughter of a noted doctor in Greece to a slave in one of Pompeii's notorious brothels. The Wolf Den is run by a cruel man who cares more about making money than the welfare of the women in his employ. Amara refuses to let her spirits be broken and finds solace in the friendships she forges with the brothel's other women. They all come from different backgrounds but are tied together by the hopes and dreams they share. Even though they're down, they aren't out. The streets of Pompeii are full of opportunities if one only knows where to look. But Amara quickly learns that freedom doesn't come cheap, and the price might be more than she's willing to pay.

I think my expectations were a little too high going into this. I hyped it up so much in my head, thinking I would love it immediately, and that wasn't the case. I liked it, but it didn't grip me as I was hoping. I thought the setting was unique as I've never read anything set in Pompeii before, but I would've liked more details as it felt like it could've been anywhere. The highlight of this was the characters. Harper doesn't shy away from depicting the brutality of being a slave during this period, but I thought she showcased the strength and perseverance of women beautifully. Amara and the rest of the women in the brothel form a family of sorts, and I loved watching how they looked out for one another. Plot-wise, it didn't feel like much happened at all. The pacing was very slow, and there were times I found my attention wavering. Despite that, I did think Harper's writing was very lush, so I'd still recommend it if you don't mind heavier books.

Rating: 3/5

Pub Date: 3-29-22
YA - Fantasy

A Magic Steeped in Poison- Judy I. Lin: When Ning unknowingly brewed the poisoned tea that killed her mother, she thought her life couldn't get any worse. But now her sister's life hangs in the balance after ingesting the same tea. Ning's only hope of saving her sister lies in a competition to find the kingdom's greatest Shennong-shi--a master of the ancient and magical art of tea-making. Whoever wins the competition will receive a favor from the princess. Ning will do whatever it takes to win, including faking her credentials to get her through the gates. Soon, Ning finds herself tangled up in court politics, backstabbing competitors, and a mysterious boy who holds a shocking secret, and it's clear that there's more at stake than just her sister's life.

I love fantasies that have a competition element to them, and this was so fun. The magic system was unlike any I've read before, and I liked seeing all the different properties of the teas and how they were used. I also thought the world-building and lore were well-done. Lin's writing felt very lush and imaginative. There were times I thought it leaned into those stereotypical YA tropes, but I didn't mind that much. I liked following Ning on her journey navigating this cutthroat competition where you don't know who to trust. I probably would've enjoyed this more had I read it physically as I found it a little difficult differentiating the characters while listening to the audiobook, but I'm intrigued enough in the story to pick up the next book.

Rating: 3/5

Pub Date: 6-21-22
Adult - Thriller

The House Across the Lake- Riley Sager: Casey Fletcher was once a well-known actress but now spends more time at the bottom of a bottle than on stage. After getting fired from her most recent job, Casey is sent to her family's lake house in Vermont. Instead of using the opportunity to dry out, Casey wiles away her time drinking whatever liquor she can find and spying on her neighbors, namely the Royces. Tom and Katherine Royce seemingly have a perfect life, but one night, Casey witnesses the pair fighting, and Katherine disappears. Casey becomes obsessed with finding out what happened to Katherine, but in the process, she uncovers there are darker secrets at play.

Oof, I'm not having great luck with Sager's books lately. He has a specific formula that he never seems to deviate from, and it makes everything he writes feel unoriginal. I liked the first few books I read from him, but now I'm starting to feel as if I've read them all before. This was no exception. Sager focused more on beating into you Casey's drinking problem (we get it, she likes bourbon) than the plot, which is so lackluster. It was stuffed to the gills with all your typical thriller clichés, and it made the writing feel lazy. I almost wish he hadn't incorporated a supernatural element because it felt so outlandish. There wasn't enough backstory for it to make sense. It was just one more twist Sager threw in to try and make the story more exciting, and it didn't work. Unfortunately, everything from the characters to the plot was a big miss for me.

Rating: 2/5


  1. I've been really curious about A Magic Steeped in Poison, but I just haven't been enjoying YA fantasy as much as I used to as of late so I keep putting it off! It's nice that it's only a duology and the final book is already out though! And yikes, I am still planning to read The House Across the Lake, but I have yet to see a positive review for it.


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