Book Review: Trail Markers (2021)

Trail Markers by Cym Aros

He would lay down his life, though, before he would let Hell have his brother.

I really should read Westerns more than I do. I love Western films and shows, especially space Westerns i.e. Firefly, but for some reason I just haven’t read many. The first thing I’ll say is that I should have bought the paperback because this is a large tome and for larger books, I tend to sink into them faster in paperback. So, I will definitely be rereading this one once I get my hands on the paperback! And as this is a whole trilogy, I’ll for sure be picking up book two in paperback as well, haha 😉

Now, despite the lack of Westerns in my repertoire, what I do adore more than anything is a story about close siblings. And boy oh boy, was this a story about brotherhood. One of the things I loved from minute one is the relationship Aros develops between the siblings.

He was avoiding their eyes. He did not want to see their worry, did not want to see his battered, messed-up self reflected in their eyes. He could feel their gaze like an unwelcome hand moving over his skin.

The detail and focus on the characters is excellent, visceral and most assuredly intense. Certainly not a tale for the faint of heart, with Aros putting her characters through it all, bless their hearts. Aros really spends a lot of time developing the characters, their relationships, their predicaments and conflicting emotions, building the story towards an exciting finish. And, as a reader, it’s impossible not to care about Cole, Jesse and Jacob.

“You can’t outlast me, boy. I will keep on, and keep on, until I crush you. I will make your brother watch. And then I will crush him.”

Rather than being a typical Western with characters as bank robbers and bandits, this book is more a long form character study, with lots of conversations and musings from different points of view. Salinger-esque, if you get me. The time switches back over about a decade or so, flashing from the 1860s to the 1870s. This story really reminded me of Days Without End by Sebastian Barry, actually, which I absolutely adored and is probably the only other Western I have read (surely I’ve read more?? Goodness, must rectify soon).

Overall, Trail Markers is character and dialogue driven, and moves along at a brisk pace, flashing forwards and back in time to detail how the brothers ended up as they are and taking the reader on a journey alongside them. This book definitely gets dark and twisty, fitting right in with the genre!

If you like Westerns, or stories about brothers who would do anything for each other, then be sure to check this one out! Series: Trail Markers // Thanksgiving // Nox.

On to book 2!

Book Review Roundup

The Tap-Dancing Pigeon of Covent Garden by Serena Hassan

Oh my goodness, this book is just the cutest. A pigeon, just out of the nest, learns what life is like in the big city and discovers that his passion and joy rests with dancing and song. This book is filled with gorgeous art and fun prose, definitely worth a read!

The Gift Of Life II: Darkness Follows by Sean Stevens

As I embark,
upon this lesson,
left or right,
adverse progression

POETRY IS JUST FREAKING GROOVY OKAY?

It would be really hard to pick out my favourite poems from this collection because there were numerous ones that just impacted me, yanno? But I pulled out some of the quotes that really hit me.

Had we known
What time was left
Would our values still be pride?

And,

A writer for history
For whom I’ve become,
Eternal battles: What’s living?
To those who have none

There’s some truly fantastic writing in here, along with some lovely photography! Sean Stevens is definitely a poet worth checking out! I can’t wait to read more of his poems.

Thank you to the author for the review copy.

Book Review: I Love You S’more (2021)

I Love You S’more by Wendy Dalrymple

She wanted to remember this moment forever, no matter what happened after the weekend. The sound of the night. The scent of the pine logs burning in the fire. His gorgeous, fun, friendly smile, still perfect and imperfect all at once after all these years. Even the way that their sons had become fast friends in the same way that she and Julian had. She didn’t want it to end.

What a sweet, wholesome, perfect-for-the-summer romance! I Love You S’More is my first read by Wendy Dalrymple and I’m definitely going to be devouring the rest of her books! This is filled with summer camp fun, second chance romance and more descriptions of s’mores than my hungry self could handle. I’m now so hungry it’s ridiculous. Must find s’mores!

Book Review: Along for the Ride (2021)

Along for the Ride by Rachel Bowdler

“Are you sure you want tae do this, Stripes? I’m not bringing you back if you get cold feet halfway to Dover.”

Oh my gosh, this is the perfect summer romance read. Fancy a day at the beach? Bring this book. Going on a hike? Bring this book. Going to the café? Yup, this book is perfect with your iced coffee! If you want escapism, sunshine, romance and sweet joy, this the book to read!

I really loved Rachel Bowdler’s Paint Me Yours, and I’m so happy that Along for the Ride is just as much fun. The story begins when Emmy, a young photographer seeking candid subjects on the streets, runs into Lachlan, a motorcyclist on the run from a grumpy landlord. On a whim, the pair become unintended buddies on a multi-country tour across Europe. As the days pass, their friendship grows, each realising that they are happy to be themselves around the other.

“My mum used to call me Plain Jane because I never really had an interesting face. I take pictures of all these different people, but I never feel like one of them.”

I really liked getting both perspectives and seeing how the romance was developing for both sides. Emmy and Lachlan are such lovely, relatable characters. Bowdler’s descriptions make the characters easy to like and you fall into their lives without effort. I was rooting hard for these two crazy kids from the get go.

He had no answer, no way to evade or deny or explain. Because it was true. He didn’t have a home; hadn’t for a while now. He just kept running, hiding, always looking for something better, something that didn’t exist. A better job. A better city.

Emmy was wonderful, but I do wish Lachlan had said something about his destination choice earlier in the story. He was so clearly smitten with her haha. Still, I thought the resolution was wonderful and original, and I really liked how Bowdler wrapped everything up.

Overall this is a fun, wholesome, sweet book that is definitely worth a read. And now on to my next book by Bowdler (here’s looking at you Partners in Crime)! [I swear, I’m gonna end up reading her entire library before the year is through at this rate. 😉]

Book Review: Hoglets’ Christmas Magic (2021)

Hoglets’ Christmas Magic by Lynette Creswell

Prickles and Primrose left the safety of their home in search of a new star.

This is a great little Christmas book for kids! The illustrations in this lovely little book are just so precious. The Hedgehog family are truly the cutest! I also liked that there was a good amount of storytelling and prose in the book despite being only 32 pages. It reminded me of older stories for kids, like The Wind in the Willows and Frog and Toad.

The author spins a detailed, wholesome little story of the Hedgehog family trying to save Christmas. When the Hedgehog siblings encounter Santa, who has misplaced a toy, they instantly offer their help. Adventure and hijinks follow!

Thank you to the author for a review copy.

Book Review: Gathering of the Four (2021)

Gathering of the Four (The Serrulata Saga #1) by A.E. Bennett

Gathering of the Four is the first book in A.E. Bennett’s Serrulata Sage and is set in the Realm, a futuristic place where Xanthcraft, a sort of magic, exists. Those who wield Xanthcraft have different skills and abilities that are natural to them. This is a big book, coming in at over 400 pages, and I really wish I’d read it in paperback! I handle big, fantastical books better in paperback, so this is definitely going on my will-be-reread list for sure! ebooks are great, but for big fantasy, it takes me a long time to sink in to the story and I have trouble doing that without a paperback. ANYWAYS, I digress …

“But outside of the Realm, if they follow the calendar of the Ancients, it’s 4385.”

I really appreciated this line, as it gives you a sense of how far into the future the Realm is and how much things have changed. When Leora learns that her stepmother and her father plan to sell her into ‘servantry’, she runs away. She soon meets Roland Shallowbrook and the pair become fast friends.

“Before New Market, I thought—and I know this is so silly but—I thought I was the only one. I knew it wasn’t true, but I’d never seen anyone else with eyes like mine. And then I saw Xanthi in New Market, and now I’ve met you and, well…it’s been very nice.”

We get other characters and POVs as well. I really enjoyed the relationships Bennett develops between the characters and the world-building of the Realm. Each character comes from a very different place and you get to spend time with the characters before their paths and storylines start to collide. One of the romances took me by surprise in the best way, too. BUT I SHAN’T SPOIL! 😉

Each chapter also begins with an excerpt that adds to the worldbuilding and I seriously loved them. You start to get proverbs from the Realm towards the end of the book that were wicked cool.

The Capitol is not an easy building to navigate. Different wings were constructed at very different times throughout the Realm’s history, and it doesn’t take one long to figure out that each new wing was built without a care for what already existed. I do not recommend wandering around alone.

The setting reminded me of The Hunger Games and the Shannara Chronicles in the sense that it feels both new and old. This is only book one and I’m so curious to see where Bennett takes the storyline!

Book Review: The Stars Will Guide Us Back (2021)

girl holding book, text says 'book review'

The Stars Will Guide Us Back by Rue Sparks

This is a collection of thirteen short, fantastical stories. I opted for the audiobook and I must say, I thoroughly recommend it! I’m supremely picky with audiobooks, and I’m delighted to say that Rue Sparks’ The Stars Will Guide Us Back was just wonderful! Lovely narrations by the two readers and exquisite prose by Sparks. I’m definitely going to be checking out Sparks’ next books.

Buddy read this book with The Book Trove. We’re hoping to shine some attention on independent books and authors. These books are picked totally at random and selected by vote amongst the group.

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Book Review: The Wolf and the Water (2020)

The Wolf and the Water by Josie Jaffrey

That was the point, of course: the people of Kepos didn’t understand that there was anywhere else to go. They were hemmed in by the cliffs, the wall and the sea. For as far as they could sail in their little fishing boats, there were only more cliffs and more sea.

Josie Jaffrey’s The Wolf and the Water takes place in a valleyed city inspired by Plato’s account of the island of Atlantis and has a lot of similarities to Ancient Greece. I’m used to reading Jaffrey’s vampires stories, so it was awesome to delve into another of her universes! In terms of genre, TWTW really reminded me of The Winner’s Curse in the sense of it being a fictional historical setting with a focus on the politics, engagements and troubles of city folk and the drama and machinations of those who want to rise higher and higher. Think Spartacus or Agora, with a new adult twist.

In Kepos, the story’s setting, our MC Kala is less than delighted by her mother’s remarriage after her father dies under questionable – at best – circumstances. Her new stepfather is abusive, murderous and disgusting. With the help of her life long friend, confidant and lover Melissa, Kala starts to delve into the mystery of her father and Kepos as a whole.

I adored Kala and Melissa, but Leon was a gem and a half. I just adored his characterisation. Can’t wait to get more of his banter in the next book ♡_♡

I also really appreciated the depth of the world-building in this tale and the detail Jaffrey put into developing the society and mythology. I did have a bit of a hard time keeping track of the names, titles and families, but there’s a helpful diagram at the start with all the family names and lineages.

Overall, I can’t wait to see where it all goes from here! Another Josie Jaffrey must read for sure!

Thank you to the author for an ARC.

Book Review Roundup

Tag and the Magic Squeaker by Sam Hundley

The illustrations in this book are made with scrap art and it’s honestly one of the coolest children’s books I’ve ever seen. The dog, cat and mouse are all made with different parts of metal, etc. I liked that the dog was made with a dog tag, haha. Very cute! The story is fun and endearing, too! Definitely worth a read!

Flower Crowns and Fearsome Things by Amanda Lovelace

never once has she felt as if
she’s interesting enough to be
the daring heroine of her own story,
& she’s oddly okay with that.
—she likes being nobody.

Amanda Lovelace is a new-to-me poet, but I’ve seen her works around. The covers are all cool and minimalist. I was instantly drawn in by the gorgeous cover on this one, too! The poems are short and punchy, focusing on loving yourself and putting yourself first. A good introduction to Lovelace for sure! I’ll definitely check out her other poems soon.

All The Colors of Life by Aisato Lisa

You feel like you don’t know the words to the song the grown-ups are singing.

Oh man. Oh man, this made me cry. I was not expecting this book at all. I picked it because the cover was really pretty. I was not anticipating the FEELS. It’s a long form illustrated book that contemplates the long winding road of life. That’s the best way I can describe it. Just give it a chance. Seriously. You won’t regret it.

The Little Lion That Listened by Nicholas Tana

Oh my, the artwork in this book is soooo good! I’m seriously impressed. Each page looks like a painting! The story is very sweet and wholesome, too! Little Leo is such a good listener and I liked how lovely and supportive his mother and siblings were.

His father was a bit frustrating, though. I do wish he apologised to Leo. It seemed like he was unsupportive of everything Leo tried to be, and only once Leo did what he wanted (roared), he accepted him. I didn’t like his characterisation much as a result. Kids should know their parents will love them even if they can’t reach a goal their parents want for them, so for a kids book, I’d want that scene of his father accepting him without him having to roar added in, you know? That’s my only nit-pick, though. The story is truly lovely and the art is gorgeous!

The Hiking Viking by Lauren Gehl

This has a similar message to another children’s book I just read, but it’s a very good one if done well: a young kid is different from their family and feels left out, the others learn to accept them for who they are, all is well by the end. It’s an important lesson for kids to learn and believe, and for adults to remember: there’s nothing wrong with being different from your family!

I really liked this book’s take: young Leif is a Viking who likes hiking. His father, mother and sister want him to train and fight so that their clan can win the Viking games! But it’s Leif’s appreciation for their homeland and all that they have which ultimately proves to be just as worthy as the ability to defend it.

I really liked that balance and the thought the book did it well. Given that it’s for a young age range, it’s short and sweet, but I do wish it had an extra page or two to draw out the ending. Just to give it that little bit of extra closure. That said, it didn’t detract from how much I enjoyed the book as a whole!

Overall this is a very cute, fun book! Definitely worth picking up! The artwork is absolutely precious, too.

Brian the Dancing Lion by Tom Tinn-Oisbury

Okay, this is simply lovely. A feel-good story of a lion who loves to dance and the fear he faces telling his friends about it. The reveal and twist are so sweet and wholesome. Cannot recommend enough!

Thank you Netgalley for the ARCs.

Children’s Book Review Roundup

Argyle Fox by Marie Letourneau

Okay, gosh, this is just adorable. We follow Argyle Fox as he tries, tries, tries, tries again to play outside with different toys and games, only to be thwarted by the blustery wind at every turn. Bless his heart!

This is great story about not giving up and the art is absolutely precious. Definitely recommend!

The Truth About Dinosaurs by Guido Van Genechten

This is super cute and very informative! It features a chicken explaining over various pages, and via cute little photo albums, their various dinosaur ancestors. I actually didn’t know all of the dinosaurs that chickens are descended from, so it was cool to learn more! Definitely recommend!

Olive and Ginger by Xenia Mesot

This is a lovely story about a toad and cat, and how they learn to consider things from different perspectives as well as learning to think before they speak. It reminded me of older stories with fables! The water colour artwork is simply gorgeous, and I liked how the book was set up in three acts, too. Overall very sweet and worth a read!

Gilbert the Ghost by Guido Van Genechten

The artwork in this story is absolutely lovely. The cover stole my heart and I immediately wanted to read it!

I thought this was a really cool take on ghosts! They aren’t dead people, but are born and go to Ghost School and learn how to haunt people. Ghosts that have learned to shriek loud enough, and spookily enough, are then sent off to become the resident ghosts of towns.

We follow young Gilbert the ghost who doesn’t like to scare people and doesn’t have a loud ‘Boo!’ and because of this, he’s ostracised at school. The (really horribly cruel) teacher sends him off to the Abandoned Tower because of this, where he meets a cat with whom he can be himself. Soon Gilbert is confident and chilling out with his cat friend and things get better.

I thought this was super cute, but I do wish it was a little bit longer and that maybe there was some resolve to address the teacher sending Gilbert away. He was just such a jerk and I wanted someone to address it with poor sweet Gilbert. Overall though, it was definitely a cute quick read for kids!

Thank you Netgalley for the ARCS!