Book Review: A Haunting at Hartwell Hall (2021)

A Haunting at Hartwell Hall by Rachel Bowdler

“Because I don’t like to bother the dead. Usually, when they want to talk, they let me know — but it seems this one wants to be bothered.”

OH. MY. GOSH. YUS.

1920s! Ladies! Ghosts! Big house! Spookies!

I adored this latest addition to Bowdler’s repertoire so much. Blair came in and stole my heart immediately. I loved her characterisation so much. She has the patience of a saint, honestly. I’ll admit, Felicity drove me absolutely bonkers for like the first 80% of the book 😂 but I understood her by the end.

BLAIR IS THE BEST THOUGH AND I LOVES HER. And the ending was PERFECTION.

For a truly fantastic read, definitely pick up this gem! ☆

Also, a great companion read to this is definitely The Murder Next Door!

Book Review: Landfill Mountains (2021)

Landfill Mountains by Rab Ferguson

Despite his lover’s protests, the prince begins to chop away at the first of many trees. He will clear this forest, and build a city upon the land: the greatest city the world has ever seen.

I was so excited to win this book! The cover instantly caught my eye and I really liked the theme of the giveaway. And talk about one amazing opener. Wow.

From the start, this book is absolutely engrossing. The prologue was so good I reread it twice. It hit me. It’s hard to describe. The writing is just so poignant. This book is as much a warning about the ravages of climate change as it is a story about love and connection and survival. In my mind, I kept going back to Mortal Engines, although this book isn’t steampunk the way Mortal Engines is. But I think the ruined, post-apocalyptic future where everything’s barren and horrible just reminds me of the Mortal Engines universe. But Landfill Mountains is a decidedly different tale, one that is cli-fi and post-apocalyptic, and as brilliantly well realised as it is brutal.

Oftentimes, I have a hard time sinking into futuristic settings and it takes me a few chapters to be able to imagine the landscape and the characters. But with Landfill Mountains, it was instant. I sank right into the horrifying wreck of a world the characters have inherited and it broke me from the start. I read the first fifty pages without pausing, which is again rare for me.

‘Back in the old days, when the air was not so hot […] when people lived in the city and talked on phones, watched television and worked in buildings that scraped the sky, there was a man who had a son. His son was not like the other children. He’d never once felt his breath tremble or his heart pound, he’d never been afraid, and he asked his father to teach him what fear was…’

There’s Joe, the MC, who lives with his dad David and his grandfather, the storyteller. Everyone who lives in the mountains has a nickname. Children are rare, everyone is starving, and each day is spent rooting through the rubbish heaps of generations-past that is all they have to live off of. Everything is mouldy, rotted, stale. Sometimes drifters pass through with cars powered by the final dregs of a battery’s charge. Joe’s world extends to his family, his girlfriend Sonya, and those of his community in the landfill.

Without spoiling, this is a simply superb debut from a new author that blends many genres together in a way that is both original and classic. I can’t wait to see what Ferguson writes next!

Thank you to the author for the ARC.

Book Review: Dark (2019)

Dark (Blood Moon, Texas Shifters, #1) by Kat Kinney

‘Just like in fairy tales, I was now the monster who couldn’t be destroyed.’

Okay, paging all my werewolf-loving sistren, this is the book for you! Talk about fun, magical, romantic and paranormal! Welcome to a world were weres (heheh) are part of society; some are born, some are Bitten. There are also vampires, and in this world the sun keeps them in line.

From the start, I really enjoyed Hayden and Ethan’s chemistry. Talk about scorching! Plus, complementing these wonderfully actualised characters is Kinney’s great prose that sets you right into their world.

“I fight so that those who cannot will never have to live in fear.”

There is something so fantastic about urban fantasy romance books and I am so glad to be dipping my toe back into the genre. The characters in Dark are spunky and sassy, the angst and drama are high quality, and the humour swaps for action at a wonderful ratio.

Kinney has created a fun, romantic story with fantastical worldbuilding, and I’m excited to see where book two takes things!

Book Review: Partners in Crime (2021)

Partners in Crime by Rachel Bowdler

I have adored all of Rachel Bowdler’s novellas that I’ve read so far and she’s definitely becoming one of my go-to authors for a lovely romance read. I totally recommend her books!

Firstly, how bloody gorgeous is this cover? I’m absolutely obsessed with it. I picked up the Kindle version of this one with the other cover, but I’m definitely grabbing a copy of the paperback because I am straight up HEART EYES for this cover. Strong noir, graphic novel vibes and I am HERE FOR IT. Secondly, this one is fabulously sapphic.

Partners in Crime features a podcast on true crime, and it’s fitting choice to read this month with the Book Trove book club as I was just watching Only Murders in the Building, which also follows podcasters of true crime. (And is also awesome, FYI.)

Bryce was special, Thea was beginning to realize. She wouldn’t find that same connection anywhere else.

As always, Bowdler manages to pack a wonderful amount into a novella. There’s romance and angst and mystery and suspense. And, like all of Bowdler’s novellas, the characterisation is just wonderful. And Thea and Bryce are impossible not to root for.

Deep down, though, she knew what had really driven Thea here. She knew why her best friend could never let these cases go, knew why she took it upon herself to try to solve them. They rarely covered unsolved mysteries on the podcast anymore. Thea always needed an answer — because she’d never gotten one for herself.

Bowdler really knows how to write characters you feel for and ship from the get go. Coupled with angst and a murder mystery, and you have all the ingredients for a great novella! Can’t wait to read her next one!

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.

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.