Book Review Roundup

text: book reviews, picture: someone reading surrounded by books

A roundup post of some of the book reviews I’ve left recently. The genres range from a poetry book to an audiobook to a few children’s books to a short story and to a historical fiction! Check ’em out!

Rainbow’s Red Poetry Book by Lily Lawson:

When the first sign of light breaking
takes the darkness from my sight,
the dawn of early promise
shines in the blackened night.

I quite enjoyed this little book of poetry! This is my second read of Lawson’s poetry and I really enjoy their style! Looking forward to the next collection of poems!

Demon in the Wood (Grishaverse, #0) by Leigh Bardugo:

Really enjoyed this audiobook! Ben Barnes and the cast do a great job of voicing the characters. Can’t wait for season two of the show!

Blue Badger and the Beautiful Berry by Huw Lewis-Jones:

Hahah, aww, this little tale is just super cute and wholesome and berry-filled. The art is absolutely stunning and I adored the badgers being all awkward and sweet and uncertain with each other. Definitely worth checking out!

Are You a Monster? by Guilherme Karsten:

Awww, this little book is very cute with fun, colourful drawings and an adorable little monster protagonist trying to find everyone’s inner monster. A charming, interactive tale that kids will surely adore!

A Column of Fire (Kingsbridge, #3) by Ken Follett:

As ever, Follett is a masterful storyteller when it comes to blending history, romance and political intrigue. I didn’t love Column as much as I did Pillars and World Without End, but still found it a solid addition to the Kingsbridge series. I really enjoyed Ned, Sylvie and Margery’s stories in particular! Looking forward to the prequel and to book four!

How to Cook and Eat the Rich by Sunyi Dean

“Did you hear about the cannibal who was late for dinner? He got the cold shoulder!”

A dark dark dark little tale about greed and scarce resources in a polluted, destroyed future that has been ruined by those who take from those who have none to begin with, and still want more. Very well written and the twist was WHOA.

Book Review: Safe & Sound (2022)

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Safe and Sound by Rachel Bowdler

She was beginning to suspect that Shea was just the sort of woman you had to keep trying with if you wanted to really know her. A matryoshka doll with infinite figures hiding within, all different sizes and faces.

Safe & Sound is a suspenseful romance novella that follows Ruby Bright, a singer-songwriter for Gen Y, a popular singing duo who are struck by profound tragedy. When her singing partner and best friend Ezra is killed in an explosion on their tour bus, she finds herself being targeted by an unknown suspect and forced to disappear for a while until they find out who’s after her. Ruby is sent to a farm for her own protection and it’s there she meets Shea, a brooding, grumpy, acerbic former officer healing from her own trauma.

Where Ruby is nervous and broken by everything that’s happened to her, Shea’s gone the other way and become downright caustic and biting. She’s anything but kind to Ruby at the start, projecting her own stereotypes of privilege onto Ruby that, while understandable in light of Ruby’s successes, are anything but true. Ruby’s life and history are dark and full of turmoil and she honestly doesn’t remotely fit a stereotype. (I felt very protective of Ruby at the start, poor thing!!) For her part, Ruby tries to get along with everyone as she struggles to deal with her grief and the awful treatment of her band’s management group.

I really liked the farm setting and the novella’s themes and focus on healing and growth. Ruby and Shea are both jagged edges who slowly soften each other up as time passes on the farm and they work together gardening and looking after the animals. I do wish Shea had been a bit kinder to Ruby at the onset, but she grew on me once she started to let go of her preconceptions and realised that she was projecting a lot of unfair untruths onto Ruby. Bless Ruby, my heart just went out to her throughout the whole book and I’m really glad she finally had someone on her side in Shea once they passed those initial hurdles! And they made a very dynamic, capable, wholesome couple by the end! (Fans of bodyguard romances will surely enjoy the climax of the novella!)

Overall this is an emotionally grounded and fast-paced romantic suspense novella that romance readers should definitely check out!

Fire at Her Fingertips

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I’m so absolutely chuffed by this! An orange banner! Huzzah! I’m so genuinely thrilled! I really enjoyed writing this little short story and I’m so glad people are enjoying it, too! Thank you so much to everyone who’s given it a chance!

Poetry Review: A Graceless & Flourishing Heart (2023)

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A Graceless & Flourishing Heart by Lauren Eve

I’ve been looking forward to reading Lauren Eve’s work for a while now and I was so flattered when she asked me to read an ARC of her collection! Oh my gosh, it’s so pretty. Not just the gorgeous poems, but it’s aesthetically pleasing, too. And the photography complements the poetry in a really lovely way. A E S T H E T I C S, yanno? *chef’s kiss*

It’s so hard to pick a favourite poem in here because so many of them stood out to me and I would probably quote almost every poem (!), but honestly there’s so much to like about these poems from start to finish. I shall settle for sharing this one:

Gold and purple beads scattered
on the sidewalk of New Orleans
abandoned cocktail glasses
left in that hipster bar in Zurich
a forgotten paperback half
in the sands of Como’s beach
remnants of us remain
everywhere but here.

Overall I found this to be a lovely debut by a new poet and this is definitely a book fellow poetry fans should check out! I can’t wait to read Eve’s next book!

Thank you to the author for an ARC.

Poetry Review: Love Lost and Found (2022)

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Love Lost And Found by E.M. McConnell

Love does not need to be
Performed on a stage
For hungry watchers
With gleaming eyes
And emptied hearts

This is my introduction to E.M. McConnell’s poetry and it definitely won’t be my last! These poems are well crafted, moving and thoughtful, focusing largely on deep, personal moments and struggles.

And that is what hurts me
That you sharpen the moments
And point them straight at me

This collection, though filled with individual poems, forms a story of sorts. One of a life filled with love and life changing experiences, the painful and the wonderful, the hardships and the joys. I really appreciated how honest and poignant and raw these poems are – poems on life, love, loss, relationships and more. McConnell’s experiences create a collection of emotional poems that are relatable and touching.

I did not mean to tell you
That I loved you
My words fell unbidden from my lips
And you gathered them up
As if diamonds were scattered
At your feet.
You valued those words
And honoured them so
But I think you did not know
That I uttered those words
But I did not know what they mean.

Poetry fans should definitely check out this collection!

Poetry Review: while the rest of the world dances (2022)

poetry review

while the rest of the world dances by Bryony Rosehurst

two ghosts dance
through concrete
cemetery gates
on a cold October night

I’ve been waiting for Bryony Rosehurst’s poetry collection from the moment she first announced it on Twitter and I’m so glad to finally dive in! This is an incredibly poignant, emotional, touching, relatable collection of poems and prose that focuses on life, love, mental health and personal struggles, and much, much more.

So many of the poems herein really struck me on an emotional level, and I related to so many of them, but this one really stood out to me.

she is a cracked teacup
without a saucer,
stained with age,
faded by strangers’ lips,
leaning lifelessly in
a row of pristine china.
they send her back,
ask for another cup.
this one’s been used already,
this one’s no good.
now she gathers dust.

Rosehurst’s poetry is simply wonderful! Definitely check out this collection! I can’t wait to read more from this truly talented voice!

Book Review: Sordaneon (2021)

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Sordaneon by L.L. Stephens

GENERAL SPOILER WARNING

Nights in Sordan were never dark.

Ooooooh. This book. Epic fantasy and grimdark fans definitely need to check this one out! It’s dark and brutal and epic and intense and shocking and just WOW. Stephens doesn’t hold back at all and by the end of the book I was trying to get to the end as fast as possible to find out what happens to Dorilian, Lev, Marc and the rest. I WAS STRESS. Except Daimonaeris, truly one of the worst.

“How sad it would be if we shunned love rather than let it open us to the bitterness of loss. There, in the dark places of the soul, is where we find our humanity. You, my friend, have never been more completely alive than you are now as you struggle to make sense of what is left to you.”

Throughout the entire book, my feelings basically boiled down to: PROTECT DORILIAN AND LEV AT ALL COSTS! (Although about halfway through I added Marc to the list. I struggled a bit with him at first, but he really grew on me and I was Team Marc and Dorilian by the end.) Like, I don’t care that Dorilian’s a bit of an arrogant, prickly prince. The lads have both freaking earned it with all they’ve been through.

TRAUMA FROM SCENE ONE.

Light yet pulsed in the tiny body, but he knew so little about babies. His tutors had no prepared him for such things as this. He knew only that the baby’s mind was quiet. Not silent—not as his mother’s now was, unfindable—merely quiet. He could tell, though, that his brother knew him.

These poor boys. Like, I do not blame Dorilian one iota for hating everyone and everything around him other than his brother because that opening scene was traumatising to read. It also very much shapes the tone of this epic, political, immensely bloody grimdark fantasy. He and Lev were just wonderful and I loved how their love for each other formed the foundation of the book.

Now, Sordaneon is dense. It’s immense. It’s rich and detailed and it took me a little while to sink into the complexity of the world! This is definitely the kind of book where I require a pen for underlining passages, accrue several folded pages, and conduct frequent checks to the Appendix at the back.

Note: I found the Appendix incredibly helpful for wrapping my head around the world building, the various houses and connections between the characters, and the backstory of the world of Sordaneon. I definitely recommend checking it if you, like me, often find yourself overwhelmed the first time you dive into a new epic fantasy world. And this one isn’t just the land, but a massive backstory of the world’s creation and devastation and rebuilding and time and descendants and bloodlines. IMMENSE. I will admit I struggled in the first few chapters to remember who was related to whom, so the Appendix, which had all the names, all the bloodlines, all the houses and entities, was very beneficial for me! The worldbuilding is vast in a truly awe-inspiring way, and honestly reminds me a bit of Tolkien’s legendarium. I will say by about 1/3~ I felt like I had a much better grip on all the competing factions and didn’t have to check it quite as much. If DuneLord of the Rings and Game of Thrones all got together and made a book baby, it would be rather like Sordaneon, which is to say that it’s brilliantly done, but took me a hundred pages to really get the hang of it all, something that often happens to me and epic fantasies. And once I got the hang of all the names and power structures and alliances, it was easy to sink into the world along with Dorilian and the others. I’m absolutely in awe of how many layers Stephens brought to the strange world of the Rill and all those fighting for power.

“Before Hestya, the Sordaneons were one of Marc Frederick’s great conquests. But now look: Marc Frederick wonders if Sebbord has power he never guessed at or if it is in the hands of another. Essera’s masses clamor for Sebbord to open the Rill to Stauberg, and its nobles clamor just as loudly that he must not be allowed to do it. They both want the Rill and fear it. They fear Deben and Sebbord alike! And everyone wonders about you.”

I think this quote really sums up the theme of the book. Everyone wants control, everyone mistrusts everyone, everyone has a game to play, pieces to move, aims to achieve – and no one wants to move an inch in any direction. With Dorilian, who will never move past his mother’s murder and how it impacted his brother for life, this means that the heir is ANGRY. So very, very angry. And each time someone picks at his wounds or tries to direct him, he lashes out. What’s more is that he’s smart. Almost too smart for his own good. Something characters like Marc Frederick, who wants unity and will go to great lengths to enforce that unity, notices long before Dorilian cares to admit it.

Dorilian is a great character and honestly my favourite. While he’s rich and arrogant about his birth right, his opening chapter put me firmly on his side. I just wanted him and Lev to be protected. It’s very clear from the onset that the pair have enemies on all sides, so Dorilian’s attitude made sense to me. He has no reason to like or trust anyone outside of his very small circle because all he’s ever known is being treated as if he’s the enemy. My hope for the series is that he and Lev will end up some place peaceful by the end.

The answer bore a sincere spine. But there was muscle to it, an entire skeleton of other purposes sheathed in cunning ambitions. A viable thing.

The side/supporting characters had that great quality of being fascinating even when utterly frustrating (I am looking at YOU, evil siblings). I did find it really hard to like Stefan throughout pretty much all of it, although once he started to grow up a bit, he was more tolerable. And he was a very interesting, complicated foil for Dorilian and I am curious to see where they go in the next book. Will Stefan and Dorilian learn to get along, as Marc always hoped? I am curious to find out! On the other hand, I quite liked Jonthan, his uncle. (Also, JONTHAN!!!!! WHYYYYYY!!!!) Marc Frederick was in equal measure fascinating, impressive, loving, and someone I wanted to slap with my glove, lmao. (AND BY THE END I ADORED HIM. WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH. ;_;)

I can’t wait to see where Stephens takes the rest of this series and I’m gonna be here, cheering on Dorilian and Lev every step of the way.

Thank you so much to the author for a paperback review copy of the book!

Book Review: Werewolves Don’t Celebrate Hanukkah (2022)

Werewolves Don’t Celebrate Hanukkah by Michelle Franklin

Werewolves prefer their doughnuts jam-filled, because they cannot have chocolate. Some believe that werewolves can eat chocolate in their human forms, but many are afraid to test this, so no one has tried.

OH. MY. GOSH.

Hanukkah is the international day of sock-exchange. Socks make popular gifts because everyone needs them, except werewolves, who slice through the toe bits with their claws. Werewolves love Hanukkah, but not enough to do socks about it.

I AM NOT OVER HOW GREAT THIS IS!!!

They would be adept at playing dreidel. They would have to spin the dreidel in their human forms, but once the dreidel is spinning, the werewolves could chase it round in circles, which they’re used to doing, because they often chase their long fluffy tails.

EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE

ISN’T IT THE CUTEST?!?!?

I literally have tears in my eyes from laughing the whole way through this. Every single year I ask for more Jewish-themed holiday books and this was just the most amazing find!! It’s cute! It’s wholesome! It’s hilarious! The art is utterly adorable and just – I’m so impressed and delighted. This is the perfect book to get for any little kid (and adult, clearly! I’m now this book’s number one fan lmao)!

It’s so sweet and lovely and I just want to recommend it to everyone. PLEASE GET YOURSELF A COPY NOW!!!

Thank you so much to the author for an ARC copy.

Book Review: Passenger (2016)

Book cover of Passenger; Manhattan in a bottle, a ship in a bottle reflected underneath.

Passenger (Passenger, #1) by Alexandra Bracken

GENERAL SPOILER WARNING

Softly, Nicholas asked, “Do you really believe I’d take my leave of you without so much as a good-bye? If nothing else, I gave you my word that I would take you away from here if you were in danger.”

“Promise?” Etta whispered.

“Always.”

I really appreciate this book. Is that a weird compliment? Well, I do. I appreciate it. I love time travel stories and I love romances and I love books with historical settings that pay homage to those settings while rightly calling out issues that impacted different people of the time. We get a modern lady and a historical lad and we get commentary on the past and the present and I just – I appreciate it. It’s a very nice book to have picked up.

And the locations!! You’re not just going to one place in history, no. You get MANY. This is a book for history nerds. We also get to travel with Etta and Nicholas from modern day New York City to 1700s Atlantic Ocean (pirates!) to 1940 London and then to France and Cambodia and Damascus (can’t remember the years) – SO MUCH TIME TRAVEL. The settings are so richly detailed, you get descriptions of the fashion, the technology, the lack of technology, the openness of later developed lands, the sounds and smells. Bracken is a really evocative writer.

We first meet Etta when she’s having an overwhelming case of imposter syndrome. We find out this is largely related to her relationship with her mother, whom she feels detached from. The opening really focuses on how much she seeks her mother’s love and affirmation, and I felt quite bad for Etta. Her entire sense of self worth was related to winning her mother’s affection. Her only friend is Alice, her violin teacher.

The night of Etta’s big rehearsal, she suffers a great betrayal, but before she finds her answers, she’s pulled out of the rehearsal and through a passage – a doorway through time. You go to different years, but the same day (1 December 2014 could only bring you to 1 December 1770, etc). The girl who’s brought her to the past, Sophia, tells her that she’s being brought to the wealthy and infamous Ironwood family. A historical time travelling family of whom Etta is apparently distantly related. Worse, most of the Ironwoods are caught up in a scheme to control the timeline (there are other time-travelling families), led by the cruel, racist and abusive Cyrus Ironwood. And it’s Ironwood’s exiled son, Nicholas, who’s been tasked with bringing the ladies to New York.

Nicholas is just wonderful. You get both his point of view and Etta’s. We actually start off with Nicholas, when his brother Julian dies in a time travelling accident. The entire family blame Nicholas for Julian’s death and think he did it out of jealousy. Nicholas put them behind him for a time, but he needs the money Cyrus is offering to be free of them once and for all, and so he’s agreed to a final job. That job being taking Etta to Cyrus.

But what Sophia and Cyrus never told Nicholas is that Etta had no knowledge of her ancestors, no idea what a passage is or how it works – and Nicholas is rightly furious on her behalf. He instantly appoints himself her protector and THEY ARE SO ENDEARING FROM THE START. They fall quickly into guarded friendship and then sparks of romance blossom. Both intend on going in different directions, but they can’t help falling for each other and IT’S SO GOOD. SO LOVELY. I LOVE THEM.

I’m so glad I gave the book a go. It was sitting on my shelf for years and I honestly did not expect it to be what it was and IT WAS SUCH A NICE SURPRISE. I loved the time travel explanation and set up. I loved that it wasn’t just Etta who could time travel, but all of them. You could change time, but you couldn’t erase yourself from the timeline, you got expelled from it instead. It was fascinating! I loved the romance and how they developed together. Pirate partners! And ooooh, the twists at the end. Nice. Definitely going to pick up book two when I can!